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 cost 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 entree for any guests who are vegetarian.


Balsamic chicken

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

Servings: 10

For the sauce:

• 6-ounce can basil-garlic flavored tomato paste (or a 6-ounce can of tomato paste mixed with a teaspoon of prepared pesto)

• 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 2 teaspoons minced garlic

• 2 teaspoons sugar

• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:

• 5 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 F.

To make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place on two, rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal fire.

Remove chicken from oven and cool for 5 minutes. If desired, remove the skin. Brush the chicken generously with the tomato-balsamic sauce.

Grill the chicken, turning and basting frequently, until well browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Orzo salad

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: Makes about 12 servings


• 1 pound orzo pasta

• 1/4 cup lemon juice

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 pound tomatoes, diced

• 1 seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

• 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

• 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

• Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta. In a colander, drain the cooked pasta, then rinse with cold water and drain well. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta cheese and the reserved pasta. Add the dressing and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper just before serving.

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