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Party planner tips.

Dining outdoors is one of summer's most appealing aspects in nearly all parts of the West. The party meals and recipes in this special section have built-in logistics that keep events running smoothly. As you plan your own summer parties, use these tips to ensure success. Most important, organize for food safety. Next, keep foods looking fresh, and hold them at their most appetizing temperatures. Finally, have a cleanup plan.

Play it safe

The same temperatures that keep you comfortable provide the ideal environment for bacterial growth in foods, which can cause at least discomfort and at worst serious illness. Simple steps will help you avoid trouble.

Most bacteria that might be present on food surfaces (fruits and vegetables, as well as meats) are destroyed at 160 [degrees]. But even cooked foods can be recontaminated, enabling bacteria to flourish again; this might happen if you stir raw foods, then use the same spoon, unwashed, to stir cooling cooked foods.

The simplest precaution is to assume that bacteria are always present. Thoroughly rinse fruits and vegetables in cool water, and drain on a clean surface (such as a tray lined with a clean towel). To peel or trim, use a clean knife. Clean, dry fruits and vegetables aren't likely to harbor harmful bacteria but can pick them up from surfaces, hands, and utensils.

High-acid foods, such as salads with tart dressings and fruit in wine, resist bacterial growth.

Remember that it is the combination of time and temperature that permits bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels. Some food scientists prefer a built-in safety factor and insist that perishable foods be held for no more than 2 hours at 40 [degrees] to 120 [degrees]. But 3 hours at warm temperatures (mid-70s to 80s) is a safe period if foods are well chilled and come directly from the refrigerator or out of ice.

Three hours is ample time for guests to assemble and dine at leisure on food you have ready and waiting when the party starts.

Keep foods fresh

Not only do you want foods to be safe, but you want them to stay fresh-looking and appealing, too.

The easiest tactic: provide shade. Hot, direct sunlight heats up and dries out foods quickly. Make use of umbrellas, roof overhangs, a building's shadow, or greenery (trees, shrubs, vines). But avoid placing food where debris can drop on it.

Some foods--roasted vegetables, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers--are naturally long-lasting. Large pieces of food stay fresh longer than small ones; opt for chunks of meat or cheese and whole loaves of bread or rolls.

Some foods should be kept on ice: leafy greens and other foods that go limp when hot, creamy dressings and sauces, sliced meats, cold beverages, and other things that simply taste best cool. You can easily improvise an ice-chilled server by resting a rimmed food container on the lip of a larger, deeper unit filled with crushed ice.

Or set the food container into another, larger container (a handsome pan, even an ice chest), and surround the food container with ice. Be sure it is firmly positioned on the bottom of the other container--not on ice--or it is apt to tip as ice melts.

Have a place for all things

To avoid clutter and chaos, be sure to place baskets or bags for litter in several locations. Also have baskets or pans in which to deposit used utensils, plates, and glasses. Cleanup is easier, and the entertaining area stays clear for other activities.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Summer Entertaining; hygiene and food safety for outdoor parties
Author:Di Vecchio, Jerry Anne
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:Garden party bouquets.
Next Article:Salads all ready to go.

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