Summer Dinner Party - need to impress
I love cold soup on a hot night-- it looks elegant and is often makes a light first course. Plus, people rarely serve it so it seems somewhat exotic. Double plus, it can be prepared entirely in advance. I like a tomato consommé similar to the other poster but the clarification requires some advance planning. Other ideas include vichyssoise, cucumber-buttermilk garnished with dill and poached shrimp, cold borscht, etc.
I also recommend reducing the amount you normally prepare-- smaller amounts of food on the table feel lighter. A light herb salad served with a single perfect cheese is a wonderful way to end the meal. Again, it feels lighter than cheese at the beginning. Finally, sneak a little spice into the meal because it is wakes up the tastes buds and has a cooling effect on the body.
Our menu last night (below) required some advance preparation but was very easy during the meal itself.
Home-smoked Salmon and Caviar with Dill Crème Fraiche and Toasts
Cold Tomato Consommé (garnished with diced cantaloupe marinated with a little fresh ginger and served with shrimp poached in crab boil and then marinated with lemon zest, basil, and chili)
Leg of Lamb grilled over wild Greek oregano and marinated with parsley, mint, and lemon.
Farro with hints of chili and cinnamon
Herb and Microgreen Salad served with ripe Red Hawk (stinky soft cheese)
Summer Berry Cake-- Perfect Butter Cake (Cake Bible) with Fresh Boysenberry Compote and Crème Fraiche Whipped Cream
Shrimp is good to make when it's hot because it cooks so fast. I have been marinating shrimp in a chimichuri sauce and then broiling it (I live in NYC as well = no grill). I also marinate chicken cubes this way as well.
You could even make the chimichurri shrimp and then buy some lamb sausages at Fairway to supplement. The lamb sausages at Fairway are amazing and have a middle eastern falvor to them.
I once made an amazing appetizer - smoked salmon ice cream ! It consisted of pureeing some smoked salmon in a food processor, adding whipping cream, and then blending them together (sorry, can't remember quantities). Throw into an ice cream maker. Serve in a Martini glass, decorated with some greenery. No cooking involved.
A no-cooking soup I've been enjoying this summer comes from Charlie Trotter. In a blender purée 2 english cucumbers peeled and chopped (or regular cukes peeled, seeded and chopped), 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 cup plain yogurt, salt and white pepper to taste. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (doesn't suffer from being made the day before). To serve, place a small amount of shredded cabbage kimchi in the centre of a bowl, ladle the soup over and garnish with snow pea sprouts, chervil leaves, chive petals or what have you. Served in small rice bowls, this makes a cool and elegant starter.
Do something with jumbo lump crabmeat...like a veracruz seafood cocktail. Shrimp, lump crabmeat, avocado, onions, cilantro, lime juice, a little chopped tomato & tomato juice served in a pretty glass bowl or in individual martini glasses. Or stuff some sort of crab salad into avocado halves...
How about ceviche? You can make it extra special by serving it in martini glasses. A nice starter. I personally like scallop ceviche made with large scallops cut into slices...very pretty.
You could also do a nice tuna tare tare which would be cool, refreshing and for whatever reason seems to impress.
Uncooked mains are a bit harder, and nothing is sounnding too appealing to me right now....I'll sleep on it.
For dessert, I'd go for a granita. Obviously very refreshing, and beautiful and impressive when served in a nice glass cup or bowl with whipped cream on top.
I made dry scallop ceviche last night for a crowd who went totally wild. I added mango, red pepper, cilantro, avocado, chopped sweet red onion, chopped serrano peppers, tons of lime juice and I served it with pieces of cold (microwaved) sweet potatoes and crunchy, salty corn nuts(as they do in Peru.) It's the old sweet, salty, hot, crunchy combo that drives em' wild. My cousin swooned "all of my favorite foods in one dish." So fab and absolutely no heating involved. Serve it really cold.
re: Amuse Bouches
This is the recipe I used, except I added dry white wine instead of water, and I used hot dog buns instead of country bread (use what you have!) I think country bread would be better.
150 g Blanched almonds
3 sl Slightly stale country white bread; crusts removed
4 Cloves garlic
4 tb Extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 l Water
2 ts White wine vinegar
1⁄4 pt Natural yoghurt
10 White grapes; peeled, halved and
Reserving four almonds, put the rest into the food processor along with the bread, garlic, olive oil and half the water and process briefly. With the processor still on, keep adding water until you have the desired consistency - the soup should be smooth and not too thin. Add salt and vinegar to taste, fold in the yoghurt and garnish with grapes.
re: Amuse Bouches
I likw to make a cold mexican crab salad a student taught me about in my teaching days. He called it jaiva, which is just Spanish for 'crab'.
You take a pound of crab leg meat(even surimi works well), about 1/2 of a big white or yellow onion, lemon juice, lime juice (try the sweeter mexican limes), a big old handful of fresh cilantro, and season with salt, pepper and tapatio or other favorite hot sauce to taste. Let it sit overnight or for a few hours in the fridge.
To serve, get some crispy tostadas, spread with a bit of sour cream or mayo, top with the salad and perhaps a dollop of guacamole and salsa fresca. Yum!
How about a whole fish-such as seabass or salmon- stuffed with herbs and lemons and then baked? The best way to cook this is in a foil packet, cooked over a grill or in the oven. It produces a moist tasty fish. Better yet, you might want to do filets as the cooking time will be less. Might want to serve it with an orzo pasta that is served room temp-- tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts and grilled peppers.
Id also look at ceviche, as mentioned before.
I would do a platter of heirloom tomatoes (yellow, orange & reds), fresh mozzarella and good fresh basil. Alternately, lay them on the platter, add a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Sprinkle w/ balsamic & good olive oil. Add a loaf of sliced peasant bread and voila, good eats.
Also, you could get two pounds of large fresh shrimp, cook in salted water for a couple of minutes, let cool. Add 2 tablepoons of fresh dill and 2 stalks of fresh celery, sliced thinly. Make a sauce w/ equal amounts of mayo & sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste, and let sit in fridge for a few hours. I serve on a bed of red leaf lettuce, and another good hot summer night entree.
Just a couple of my summer treats.
If you are thinking of making cold soup I definitely recommend mmruth's Avocado soup.
Also, Dommy's Salad Niscoise from Julia Child's cookbook would make a nice main course. The presentation alone sounds impressive.