I love this time of year. Blue skies, cooler weather, but still warm enough to eat outside for a few more weeks. Despite the fact that we live in a fifth-floor walk-up (with occasional funky smells in the stairwell), all is redeemed by our little rooftop terrace. The views are pretty fantastic and when the weather is nice, it's my favorite place to have a glass of rosé and watch the sunset. We've had friends up many times and even without a grill, it's a fun spot to host a cookout.

The routine goes a little something like this: we start with drinks and appetizers outside, then I'll sneak down to the kitchen to grill some burgers (of fish or chicken), roast some sweet potatoes, and maybe steam some green beans or toss a salad. By then, the apartment is usually filled with smoke–we don't have a hood over the stove–so I'll open all the windows and turn on the fans and start waving dish towels. Finally, I'll lay all the food out on the table, everyone makes a plate, and we all head back up to the roof. I know this isn't a traditional "sit around the table" dinner party, but on a beautiful night, it seems a shame not to enjoy our outdoor space.

Given the weekend ahead (sunshine in NYC!), I wanted to share a few recipes to accompany your outdoor fête. I created these sliders for a party this summer as a healthier alternative to red meat. I decided to use ground chicken (though you could use turkey if you wanted), seasoned it with garlic, cumin, and a touch of cayenne, then added some basil, feta, egg, and–the secret ingredient–grated zucchini. The mixture was a little loose, so I added some breadcrumbs, which helped hold it all together nicely. I seasoned the patties with plenty of salt and pepper, grilled them in a hot grill pan, and served them on little brioche buns with avocado slices and my roasted red pepper chimichurri sauce.

Even though I was totally winging this dish for the party, they turned out to be some of the most flavorful, moist sliders I have ever had. Even Brandon, who hates zucchini, loved these. (Nothing like sneaking a few vegetables into your husband's food!) I've made them since, and realized they taste even better when grilled on a panini press (just an FYI for those of you who actually have a panini press). My non-traditional take on chimichurri sauce–packed with herbs, garlic, and roasted red peppers–is the perfect cookout companion. Delicious on the chicken sliders, it's equally good on burgers, steaks, grilled vegetables, and just about anything else you can throw on a grill.

Enjoy these last few fleeting days of Indian summer with good friends and good food this weekend. And if you have a grill, be sure light it up!


1 small zucchini

1 pound ground chicken

1 to 2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon chopped basil (or mint)

1/3 cup crumbled feta

1/4 cup beaten egg

1/2 cup fine bread crumbs, plus more if needed

8 slider buns

Grate the zucchini with a box grater on the fine setting (or use a handheld cheese grater). Using paper towels or a clean dish towel, squeeze all liquid from the zucchini.

Combine the zucchini with the chicken, garlic, cumin, cayenne, basil, feta, egg, and bread crumbs with a rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper, and add more bread crumbs if the mixture seems too wet. (It should hold together easily when squeezed.)

Using your hands, shape the mixture into eight small slider-size patties. Season the patties with salt and pepper and grill on a hot, lightly oiled grill pan for about 3 minutes per side, or until cooked through. (Or, if you have a panini press, cook for about 5 minutes total, until cooked through.)

Serve the sliders on toasted buns with sliced avocados, arugula, and chimichurri sauce (recipe below).

ROASTED RED PEPPER CHIMICHURRI SAUCEThough this is not a traditional chimichurri (which is usually limited to herbs, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes), I sampled a similar roasted red pepper version in Buenos Aires several years ago and was hooked. This is my attempt to recreate it, and I think it makes just about everything taste better.

Makes about 1 ¼ cup (serves 4-6)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 8-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 cup fresh mint

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the garlic, roasted red peppers, onion, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse several times until combined. Add the herbs and pulse several more times to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a slow steady stream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Feel free to add more herbs, more vinegar, more red pepper flakes—this recipe is very adaptable according to your taste buds!

Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving, for flavors to combine. Also, it keeps well in the refrigerator up to 5 days.