Feeding a crowd need not break the bank

May 14, 2008 

Throwing a barbecue is one of the joys of summer, but it can get pricey.

The secret to backyard entertaining without breaking the bank is to build the meal around foods that are good values or sale items. Pantry items and ingredients that add multiple flavors with one stroke complete the package.

This impressive, yet easy to prepare Mediterranean-inspired meal can comfortably serve 10 people for around $3 a person. Plus, most of the dishes can be prepared ahead, leaving you with more time with your guests.

Tomato-balsamic barbecued chicken starts with chicken thighs and drumsticks, which cost little and tend to be the most flavorful parts of the bird.

A flavorful, tangy glaze takes advantage of pre-seasoned tomato paste and the complex sweet acidity of balsamic vinegar. For this recipe, inexpensive balsamic works as well as more pricey kinds because a bit of sugar is added to the mix.

Mediterranean orzo salad marries perfectly with the flavors of the barbecued chicken. The main ingredient is the traditional rice-shaped pasta, which usually costs around $1 for a 1-pound box.

And because the salad includes a good amount of feta cheese, the dish is substantial enough to serve as an entrée for any guests who are vegetarian.

To finish off the meal there is an indulgent treat that is made with just four ingredients. A simple brown sugar shortbread is layered with rich and tangy jarred lemon curd to make sweet little sandwiches that are both crunchy and chewy.

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