Summer Entertaining

I love having dinner parties, but they can get hectic and overwhelming.  Especially when the Bob is busy with work, it’s about one trillion degrees outside, and I am faced with preparing a dinner for eight in two hours. My usual go-to for a big group is beef tenderloin or leg of lamb because the presentation is festive and fancy and because they can serve a crowd. This time though, we were faced with non-red-meat-eaters (I know, I know!). They key was keeping the house cool and managing a good deal of the prep before guests arrived so I wouldn’t keep them waiting for ages in between courses (usually I don’t mind a 6 hour party with flowing booze but the aforementioned working Bob and a guest that had to be at the airport at 4:00 am made that option untenable this time).

I decided to start with this make ahead watermelon and tomato gazpacho from Mark Bittman: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/07/21/magazine/watermelon-recipes.html?ref=magazine#Gazpacho.  I think my substitution of sherry vinegar for the lemon juice added depth and my “specks of green be damned” decision to toss in some basil leaves was a good one too. I’m sure this soup or the other options he presents in the same article will be my go-to warm-weather starters for many years to come. Watermelon is beautiful, refreshing, and screams summer, plus it isn’t too filling which is good in the crazy heat we have been having.

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For the main I ran across some Copper River Salmon so my decision was made. I had planned on salmon en papillote, but frankly ran out of time to make the packages so had to roast it instead. I started preheating the oven to 350 when we sat down for the first course and also started a pot of little potatoes boiling. When we were done I slathered the salmon fillets in good butter and tossed them on a baking pan with some herbs and lemon slices. Ten minutes later the main course was done. I had taken that time to dress some previously blanched green beans in a warm walnut and Pecorino vinaigrette and toss the now cooked warm potatoes with the dressing featured here: https://gigglinggourmand.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/grilled-salads/. A meat and two veg just can’t go wrong for a proper seeming meal, especially if you cook that meat in butter :). To end I made strawberry shortcakes.  All the prep was done beforehand so only assembly was required: slicing and heating the biscuits, whipping some cream and scooping some ice cream.  All in all dinner ran smoothly* AND I actually got to spend time with my guests which is a huge plus.

ImageI think the take away here for me is that I can actually serve a three-course meal at a normal pace if I prepare enough food in advance and don’t get too fancy. Not that the six-hour dinner party is a thing of the past, but it’s nice I don’t have to hold guests captive that long to give them a decent meal. I also can’t stress enough to keep the table setting and flowers simple. I love fancy arrangements, but not on days when you’re short on time.  Stick with one kind of flower that can form a big poofy arrangement . It still looks festive, but won’t take hours. Image

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* well mostly- I will tell you about the homemade butter I ended up with while not paying attention to the cream some other time.

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