Plan the perfect summer party with these recipes

Spend less time planning your summer party and more time enjoying it with this list of recipes that are perfect for barbecues, graduations, picnics or family reunions.


How to make the perfect burger at home

It might be among the most basic of grilling options, but there’s an art to cooking a really good burger. You can just slap a pre-made, previously frozen patty on the grill — sure. But with just a little bit more effort, you can make a home-cooked burger that’s better in every way.

Since grilling season has begun, we asked several eateries in Maine that are renowned for their burgers for their best tips on making the perfect burger at home. If you want to up your burger game, follow their advice, broken down by each burger element: bun, cheese, condiments, toppings and, of course, the meat. Hungry yet?

How to top your hot dogs this summer

Want to switch up your hot dog flavors this summer?

Check out a few regional favorites.

Dill quick pickles recipe

Nothing beats the flavor of produce grown close to home and allowed to ripen naturally.

So, grab some of those Maine-grown cucumbers and whip up a batch of these easily, tasty pickles for your backyard gatherings this weekend. No one needs to know how simple it was to make them. The secret to these pickles is in how they are prepared.

Eat these pickles alone or, better yet, pile a few on your freshly grilled burger or hot dog to turn an ordinary sandwich into something special.

German-style roasted cauliflower salad with lovage

This salad has tender, caramelized pieces of roasted cauliflower, salty bits of bacon, piquant bits of red onion, bright freshness from lovage and parsley and a delightful sweet-tangy dressing. It’s fantastic — and perfect for all those barbecues that are sure to happen whenever the sun comes back.

Start by roasting cauliflower. Toss one-inch pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it at a high temperature until it’s caramelized. Then combine it with crispy bacon, sweet onion, lovage and parsley. Finally, it’s all tossed with a sweet-savory vinaigrette. Let it sit and chill a little before you serve it. These flavors improve and deepen as it rests.

Peppery parsnip fries

These peppery parsnip fries are a great alternative to traditional potato french fries and delicious served with burgers, stuff off the grill or whatever. Making them is pretty simple.

Parsnips are peeled and then cut into a large julienne shape (like fries). Then they’re tossed with cornstarch, which helps keep the outside of the parsnips drier for a nice skin, salt and pepper. This particular recipe is peppery on purpose, but for a less peppery version, you could use half the pepper.

Lemon oregano pasta salad

The base of this dish is simple: veggies, lemon and adorable pasta. You can even use frozen broccoli because it’s readily available and inexpensive. If you use fresh broccoli, remember to cook it a bit longer.

There’s also always garlic, honey and dried oregano hanging about in the pantry. Those seasonings joined with the lemon to make a tangy vinaigrette that takes this dish from basic pasta to something greater.


Chocolate-covered banana cake

This recipe produces a moist, dense cake with big banana flavor. For a lighter cake that’s still moist and full of banana flavor, use baking powder instead of baking soda Then add a layer of rich, sweet milk chocolate spread on top of the cake. It’s somewhere between a ganache and a frosting, and glazes the top of the airy banana cake just right.

This is perfect for serving to guests — you know, in case you’re doing that this weekend. Chocolate and banana? They are always a good pair.

Blueberry cake with fluffy vanilla frosting

This recipe is similar to a one-bowl recipe for cupcakes. It’s so simple, made in a single bowl and baked to a tender crumb. Adding the blueberries to it makes it somehow more special, like something you’d eat to celebrate a small accomplishment or summer holiday.

As for this fluffy frosting, it’s made without any milk at all. It’s a technique that creates a lovely, buttery frosting that’s not too sweet.

Strawberry-rhubarb upside-down cake

This recipe combines a favorite, light, moist cake recipe — it’s vanilla-scented and so easy to whip up using just one bowl — with a buttery, sweet strawberry-rhubarb layer on the bottom of the cake.

It’s great hot from the oven, when the golden exterior forms a crisp crust that hides the tender inside. Cut slices and flip them over to reveal the strawberry rhubarb underbelly. But it’s also great cooled, if you prefer.

However you enjoy it, the combination of sweet-tart, buttery, vanilla goodness is always a winner.