This yogurt sumac sauce is easy, unique, and tastes great on everything from scrambled eggs to roast chicken to quinoa salad. Grab this quick, make ahead, no fuss recipe to round out your next dinner party spread.
I’ve heard a number of people refer to this past weekend as “the last weekend of summer”. And symbolically that makes a lot of sense. It’s the last time for a while that we’ll be barbecuing, blowing up pool floats, or slipping out of work a few hours early on a lazy, Friday afternoon. Kids go back to school, work ramps up, people come back from vacay…summer is effectively over.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m totally a lover of all things fall. But technically we’ve still got a few weeks of summer left, and while I’m excited for cooler evenings, cozy sweaters, and delicious fall foods, I think we have to give ourselves a little time to transition naturally. It shouldn’t be all burgers and dogs poolside one day and pumpkin spice lattes the next.
Moving from one season to another shouldn’t be jarring, it should be gradual, relaxed, and fun – kind of like a great dinner party. So I plan on approaching the next couple of weeks as the calm before the storm. A brief period where the weather is still warm enough to chill a bottle of rose, but cool enough to sit out on the patio without melting into a puddle of sweat. A time when our calendars are starting to fill up, but not so much that we can’t enjoy a no-stress evening with friends.
End of Summer, Hassle Free Dinner Party
If you’ve been following along over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite dinner party dishes, specially crafted to fit into a gorgeous but easy end of summer spread. There’s peachy make ahead quinoa tabbouleh, easy to cook as they are addictive crispy chicken thighs, and a showstopping homemade spicy garlic naan bread that’s really just a carby vehicle for drippy garlic butter and swoops of creamy lemon hummus.
Seriously, it’s a great menu for a super fun party. This is the kind of soiree that won’t take years off your life, send you to the grocery store eleven times in two days, or keep you chained to the stove for hours at a time. It starts with mostly store bought snacks, sidles over to make ahead salads, gets comfy with a hands-off main, and the whole thing comes together with a drizzle of this tangy, yogurt sumac sauce and bubbly conversation with dear friends.
Yogurt Sumac Sauce
So before we dive into the party head first, let’s chat about the things we can do ahead of time. Even if you’re not normally a meal prep wizard, when you’re going for that “I woke up like this” brand of carefree entertaining, you’ve (funnily enough) got to have a plan. And that plan definitely involves a little pre-party prep.
Starting with something easy and no-cook like this yogurt sumac sauce will get you in the mood to tackle the rest without putting too much strain on your mid-week, back to school, work deadline, three loads of laundry brain. And because this stuff is so easy to whip up and keeps for a few days in the fridge, there’s no reason not to make it when you have an extra five minutes a couple nights BEFORE your party.
Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room. What is sumac? Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from grinding dried, red, sumac berries. It has a distinctly tangy flavor, and reads a lot like lemon juice. It’s a great thing to have around when you want something a bit zingy, but without the liquid component. I like to sprinkle it over eggs and grilled meats, or use it to finish plates of pasta, or creamy sauces like this one.
Beyond sumac, the ingredient list gets pretty basic. Yogurt – non-Greek and whole milk if you can, a good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, some fresh mint, a squeeze of lemon juice, and Bob’s your uncle – whatever that means. Of course if you want to turn this sauce into more of a dip, feel free to use Greek yogurt instead of plain. But just remember that the lower the fat percentage the chalkier the yogurt. And creamy beats out chalky any day of the week.
This sauce gets whisked up in no time, packed away in the fridge, and brought out to dress salads, meats, veggies, soups, and whatever else needs a cooling hit of tang. It keeps well for a few days, so buzz it up anytime you have a few extra minutes, a day or two before your guests are slated to arrive.
Tips for Throwing an Easy Dinner Party
Of course one yogurt sumac sauce does not an effortless party make. But fear not, here come some hot tips and tricks that will get your guests well fed, while keeping you stunningly sane.
- Plan out your menu: Oh, as if it were that easy! But it can be. I promise. Just stick to a simple formula – one app, one main, two sides, a bread, and a condiment.
- Make things ahead: Out of the dishes on your proposed menu, make sure that at least half of them can be prepped mostly or fully ahead of time – trust me, you never want more than three things in action at once.
- Round out the meal with store bought snacks and dessert: No one said you had to make EVERYTHING. Treat yourself to a few shortcuts. To start a meal, nice olives, some aged cheese, pickles, crackers, dried fruit, and assorted nuts are all things that are easily bought and put out whenever time allows. Dessert can also be procured (from that fancy bakery I know you’ve been dying to try out) and served with good quality grocery store ice cream. Repeat after me: There is NO SHAME in store bought help.
- Accept help: Guests like to have something to do. Obviously don’t ask them to pan fry the chicken or man the bar for the entire evening, but if someone asks how they can help, do have a couple of easy tasks ready to dole out. Chilling an extra bottle of wine or laying crackers and cheese out on a board both come to mind.
- Start the evening with an empty dishwasher (or sink if you’re like me and don’t have a beautiful machine that does all of your dishes): I realize this is not always possible, but as best you can manage, give yourself some empty space to disappear dirty dishes into.
- Make a list: It doesn’t have to be like a crazy Thanksgiving style timeline that’s down to the minute or anything. But it never hurts to have a visual reminder of what needs to get done. I like to pop mine on the fridge and check off items as they’ve been completed.
- Remember that it’s OK if not everything is finished when your first guest arrives: I like to strive for 85% done by the time the doorbell rings. Mostly because it feels a little aggressive to have friends arrive and immediately usher them into their seats lest the food get cold. But also because a dinner party always seems a bit more convivial when people are allowed to get a glimpse at what’s going on behind the scenes. Plus, what’s more relaxing than sitting in the kitchen with a good friend or two, shooting the shit over drinks, while delicious smells waft through the air?
Scheduling out Dinner Party Prep
Making a schedule, even if it’s a rough one, goes a long way to keeping your cool when entertaining any number of guests. Here is how I’d approach my end of summer party menu in the days leading up to dinner.
- Three days out: Shop for groceries and booze.
- Two days out: Make yogurt sumac sauce, cook quinoa, and set peaches out to ripen.
- One day out: Make easy lemon hummus, clean house, and choose music.
- Morning of: Set table, assemble peach quinoa tabbouleh, make naan dough (and refrigerate).
- Two hours out: Roll out naan, chill wine, run dishwasher, and get dressed.
- One hour out: Cook spicy garlic naan (and keep warm in a low oven), empty dishwasher, and set out snacks.
- Thirty minutes out: Assemble sweet and sour cucumber salad and start crispy pan fried chicken thighs.
- When guests arrive: Pour wine, make garlic butter, and finish the chicken thighs.
Tips for Actually Enjoying Your Dinner Party
These are less technical and more mental, but walking into a party with the right mindset is kind of everything, right?
- Remember that it’s the company that matters, not the food: This one can be hard for me, but ultimately your good friends would be happy with delivery pizza and domestic beer as long as they get to kick back with you.
- Memorable doesn’t necessarily mean fancy: Of course some dinner parties can be over the top affairs, but personally I prefer the laid back ones where I can enjoy the experience just as much as my guests.
- Keep the guest list short: I find that more than eight people (six is actually the sweet spot IMO) is too stressful to handle on my own. Anything larger than that involves a different strategy (ie: potluck or catering).
- Have a backup plan, just in case: Hey, shit happens. But it’s how we deal with a tricky situation that really makes the difference. So have some ice cream and store bought hot fudge on hand, or keep your favorite pizza place’s number on speed dial (is that even still a thing btw?). 99% sure you won’t have to use it but having a plan in case of emergencies never hurt anyone.
- Take a deep breath and have fun: You’ve totally got this!
Yogurt Sumac Sauce
Every meal needs a little something extra. This yogurt sumac sauce is the perfect one to whip up and drizzle over all of the things from veggies to meats to grain bowls to salads!
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 0 Minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 Cup 1x
1 C whole milk yogurt
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp ground sumac
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 T chopped fresh mint
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
If you’d like a thinner consistency, add a tablespoon of milk or water.
This sauce is great on meat, fish, as a dip for veggies, drizzled over salads, or stirred into soup. You can make it ahead of time and keep it in fridge for about four days.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from grinding dried red berries. It has a tart flavor, similar to lemon juice. It’s great sprinkled over meats, stews, flatbreads, eggs, or veggies.
Keywords: yogurt dip, sumac sauce, easy no cook sauce