An invitation to dine entails a pact of sorts. You, the host, offer to properly nourish your guests; they, lucky things, get to show up and adore you for your labors. Nowhere in this social contract does it say you, the host, need to work up a sweat.
Here's a summer menu that's sufficiently impressive without requiring any actual cooking, meaning no heating up the kitchen. Start with a smoked trout pate. Creme fraiche and cream cheese give the spread its requisite richness, while marinated cucumber strips add crunch and tang. The pate can be made and refrigerated a day in advance; freshen it with a splash of lemon juice before serving. Make the cucumber strips just before serving so they maintain their crispness.
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A spicy, saladlike garnish of crab and corn adds interest to each bite of a creamy, chilled avocado and melon soup. Keep in mind that the soup needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to a day. The salad needs to sit for 10 minutes before serving and can be assembled up to 1 hour in advance.
The entree is built upon a store-bought rotisserie bird: Dice the chicken, add white beans, fennel and arugula. Tomato aspic -- a preparation in which the fruit's juices become a savory gelatin -- provides a retro twist.
Finish the meal with a classic icebox cake layered with sophistication. Lemon and blueberry flavor the tiers of cream built on an easy graham cracker base.
Hey, you're still the one who put it all together. So accolades will be earned the honest way.