The backyard barbecue is the quintessential summer affair. Simple. Low-key. Emphasis on friends and food, not fuss and frills. One of the few joys that make busy adults feel carefree like kids. Sounds perfect.

Because we all love grilling and gathering (and eating and drinking), we want to pay homage to the tradition before fall rolls around. So what better time than August to introduce a four-part series about entertaining outdoors and throwing an easy, but inspired end of summer party? Over the next four posts, we’ll be sharing our favorite recipes, entertaining items, DIY décor, and outfits to simplify planning and take your barbecue to the next level while still keeping it relaxed and natural.

For part one, it’s all about the food. And Honest Jessica and Honest Christopher have shared their go-to favorites to toss up and serve from the grill.

Jessica never hosts a barbecue without her staple salads. She loves the light, flavorful ones that are reminiscent of her travels in Italy. These sides not only offer a nice balance to the more substantial marinated meats she likes to grill, but they’re honestly known to steal the show.

Jessica’s Favorite Zucchini Salad
From Recipes from an Italian Summer

Ingredients
3 large or 6 baby zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved
1 pinch dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, peeled and sliced (for a quick substitute, we used organic cherry tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste
*Serves four

Thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise—a vegetable mandolin or peeler can speed up this process. Once sliced, mix the zucchini with all ingredients except the tomatoes. Let the salad marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge. Add the tomatoes before serving.

Honest Tip: As an alternative, you can serve this as a warm side dish by cutting the zucchini in thicker strips like French Fries; coating them with olive oil, oregano, and salt and pepper, and grilling them. Similarly, you can roast cherry tomatoes on a kabob on the grill. Once the veggies are done, serve them with some grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Jessica’s Simple Summer Salad

Ingredients
butter lettuce or arugula
olive oil
fresh lemons, juiced
salt and pepper to tasteMake a fresh, light dressing by mixing one part olive oil with one part lemon juice. In a salad bowl, toss your greens of choice with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Honest Tip: Christopher likes a variation of this classic salad by adding organic strawberries, walnuts, and goat cheese.

Christopher’s Wife’s Favorite Turkey Burger

Although Christopher is a vegetarian, his wife Jessica Capshaw loves a good turkey burger. This favorite crowd pleaser is one she made from  Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, My Father’s Daughter.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup peeled and finely minced yellow onion
1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound ground turkey
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ cup grated cheese of your choice
4 whole wheat buns
*Serves 4

Over a low flame, heat the olive oil and add the onion and rosemary and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Once the onion mixture has cooled a bit, mix it with the turkey, salt, and pepper. Divide the mixture in fourths and then divide each quarter into 2 patties. Place 2 tablespoons of cheese onto one patty, then place the second one on top, pressing the edges together until it forms a whole. Cook the burgers on high heat, grilling for 5 minutes on the first side and then 4 minutes or until browned and firm on the second side.

For a sweet ending to summer, the barbecue’s dessert should be uncomplicated. Jessica and Christopher both like the classics—chilled sliced watermelon, local or homemade ice cream/sorbet/gelato with a tasty topping, or a decadent chocolate bar.

Stay tuned for the second post in this series, where we’ll share tips on how to transform your barbecue into an eco-friendly party…