Summer entertaining season is about to heat up. Barbecue and traditional cookout fare will always have a place in warm weather menus, but sometimes you just want to shake things up a little — and bring some new ideas and flavors to the picnic table.

If you want to spice up your summer entertaining, radio host, cookbook author and Certified Sommelier Jamie Gwen recommends you try these five hot culinary trends:

1. The “It” wine for summer
Summer fare calls for a companion wine that’s clean, crisp and food friendly — and that’s Italian Pinot Grigio. While domestic varieties are lovely for sipping, Italian Pinot Grigios, like those from Ecco Domani, DaVinci and Maso Canali, tend to have a fresh, clean taste that pairs better with food, and especially with the lighter cuisines of summer, Gwen says. In fact, culinary professionals are five times more likely to prefer Italian Pinot Grigio to domestic when pairing with a summer meal, according to a recent online survey of members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. What’s more, you can find a fine Italian Pinot Grigio to fit a range of budgets — from about $10 to $11 for Ecco Domani, $12 to $13 for DaVinci, and $18 to $19 for Maso Canali.

2. The new cupcake
Cupcakes were everywhere last year, from swanky Hollywood soirees to beach weddings. This year, French macaroons are the new cupcake. Made from almond flour or almond paste, French-style macaroons are available in a variety of flavors, such as passion fruit, chocolate, coffee and orange. They’re a light and airy sweet complement to a summer meal, especially when filled with buttercream or lemon curd.

3. The spice superstar
This year, Spanish paprika (pimenton) nudges out chipotle and Sichuan peppercorns as the spice superstar of the season. Paprika is a key ingredient in Spanish cooking and Spaniards use it in everything, from chorizo to scrambled eggs. Hot enough to stand up to summer’s sizzle, this smoked paprika is great for grilling, and adds zesty flavor to grilled chicken and meat.

4. Meatless Mondays
Eating lighter, especially during summer months, is a definite trend for 2011. More Americans will be getting on board with the “Meatless Monday” initiative that encourages consumers to reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent. Reducing meat consumption can lead to better health for you and a better environment for all, proponents say. Plus, light salads and vegetarian dishes make for ideal warm-weather fare.

5. Korean fusion
Food lovers and creative chefs have been blending cultures and ingredients forever, but you can expect to see even more melding of flavors this summer. Korean influences and spicy flavors will be particularly pervasive, popping up in cuisines found everywhere from food trucks to backyard barbecues. Korean flavors will excite the palate and make for an even more delicious summer.


Summer dishes: Italian Pinot Grigio

Here are two summer dishes that feature Italian Pinot Grigio. You can further enhance the flavor by serving them with an Italian Pinot Grigio from Ecco Domani, DaVinci or Maso Canali.


BBQ Shrimp with Pinot Grigio Butter

Serves six.

1/2 cup Italian Pinot Grigio
2 sticks of butter, cut into pieces and softened
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 2 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place the Italian Pinot Grigio in a sauce pot and reduce to two tablespoons. Place butter, garlic, onion, parsley, zests, salt and pepper in a food processor. Add the reduced wine and pulse until it is uniformly mixed.

Season the shrimp with salt and toss with olive oil. Grill shrimp until cooked and top with Italian Pinot Grigio butter.


Chicken and Avocado Salad

Serves four.

For dressing:
1/2 cup Italian Pinot Grigio
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 grinds of black pepper from a peppermill
For salad:
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
3 tablespoons sweet peas
4 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pits removed, chopped
Lettuce, as desired

To make the dressing, reduce Italian Pinot Grigio in a saucepan to two tablespoons, then mix with next six ingredients.

For salad, combine chicken, sweet peas, radishes and avocado with the dressing and toss to coat. To assemble, serve chicken mixture on a bed of lettuce drizzled with olive oil.