Grocery Store Staples to Have on Hand for Last-Minute Summer Parties

Stock your kitchen smartly, and you can whip up any of these three-ingredient party-ready dishes in a flash.

Summer's Simplest Dishes

Too many of us have greeted unexpected guests with a half-empty bag of pretzels and not much else. But this season, prove yourself the effortless host by trying this trick: As you grocery shop, think in combos. Certain summer ingredients are simply meant to go together — such as tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, or marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. Here are 10 more delectable combinations that instantly brighten a backyard barbecue (and will impress all your friends!).

Ingredients: Prosciutto + Nectarines + Blue Cheese

Dish: Summer Charcuterie

Move over, melon. This smoky Italian ham is also a delight with the stone fruits of summer: Wrap a slice of peach, nectarine or plum with a strip of prosciutto, tuck in a wedge of a creamy blue and then spear with a toothpick for the perfect partner to sangria, punch and other warm-weather cocktails.

Ingredients: Brie + Honey + Baguette

Dish: Warm Cheese Spread

This campfire go-to works at home, too. Place a wheel of Brie or Camembert in heavy-duty foil, drizzle with honey and seal. Place the packet over a low grill or in a medium oven and bake until runny. Serve with slices of crusty bread, crackers — or just spoons. 

Ingredients: Corn + Lime + Cayenne

Dish: Mexican Street Corn

Grill ears until slightly charred and serve with lime wedges and a sprinkle of cayenne for a zippy alternative to corn and butter. 

Ingredients: Shrimp + Mayonnaise + Za'atar

Dish: Grilled Mediterranean Shrimp

You can add mayo to your list of surprisingly flavorful grilling marinades. Toss peeled and deveined large shrimp with your favorite sandwich spread and za'atar (or dried oregano or thyme). Grill, turning once, until just cooked through. The shellfish make a great topper for a pile of snowy basmati rice, sauteed greens or a deluxe Caesar salad. 

Ingredients: Pork + Apricot Preserves + Red Onion

Dish: Glazed Pork Kebabs

Skewer alternating cubes of pork and red onion wedges and grill, turning and basting occasionally with warmed apricot preserves. 

Ingredients: Herbed Goat Cheese + Lemon + Rigatoni

Dish: Creamy Lemon Pasta

Stir together a log of herbed goat cheese with some water from your pasta pot in a large bowl until creamy. Add some freshly grated lemon zest and toss with hot pasta, adding more pasta cooking water if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency.

Ingredients: Blueberries + Basil + Gin

Dish: Tipsy Parfait

Fifteen minutes or so before serving, toss lightly crushed blueberries with a drizzle of gin. Let sit, then sprinkle with fresh basil leaves for a refreshing and grown-up finish to a farmers market meal. Too racy? Try the classic combo of sugar-tossed strawberries sprinkled with aged balsamic vinegar. 

Ingredients: Gingersnaps + Whipped Cream + Caramel

Dish: Ginger Icebox Cake

For an easy no-bake dessert, arrange some gingersnaps in a circle on a serving plate (dab the bottoms with sweetened whipped cream to make them stick). Spread more cream over the cookies and add another layer of cookies. Repeat 5 or 6 times to create layers, finishing with a layer of whipped cream on top. Refrigerate overnight lightly draped with plastic wrap. Drizzle with caramel sauce just before serving. 

Ingredients: Watermelon + Sea Salt + Mint

Dish: Minty Fruit Salad

A scattering of salt — try Maldon, sel de Guérande or even kosher — intensifies the sweetness of juicy cubed watermelon. Fresh mint adds a cooling snap.

Ingredients: Yogurt + Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread + Cookies

Dish: Chocolatey Fro-Yo Pops

Upgrade homemade vanilla, coffee or chocolate yogurt pops by stirring in a swirl of chocolate-hazelnut spread, nut butter or speculoos cookie spread before freezing. Or create strata layers of treats using different yogurt flavors: Fill pop molds a third of the way with one flavor; freeze until firm, add another layer, freeze again and repeat for a total of 3 layers. If you're feeling fancy, try stirring sweet mix-ins like cookies (chocolate or vanilla wafers are nice), granola or miniature chips into each flavor of yogurt before layering.