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Friends for Dinner (slightly long-winded)

Hi all,
The BF and I are having another couple over for dinner on Wednesday. I've been having trouble finding an appropriate menu considering the number of likes/dislikes I'm dealing with. I would like to go with some sort of theme, but have yet to find something that allows everyone to eat well.

The restrictions: no tomatoes, olives, fish, seafood, cheese, cilantro, kiwi. All of these are due to preference, except kiwi which is an allergy (i.e. no one is lactose intolerant, etc.).

I was thinking of going with an Asian theme and making edamame, a vinagery cucumber salad, cold soba noodle salad, asian marinated flank steak. However, the recipe I have for Asian Flank Steak calls for cilantro and I'm not sure how it would taste if I omitted it (I LOVE cilantro and would only be *slightly* bitter at its omission). What could I make for dessert with this menu?

I also considered a sort of "Fiesta" theme: fresh homemade sala, homemade guacamole, tortilla chips, grilled corn, one other salad (suggestions? jicama slaw?), lime-marinated flank steak, Mexican chocolate brownies with chocolate ganache. Problems here: couldn't put cilantro in the salsa or guacamole...any thoughts on how that would taste if I substituted another herb like parsley? Also, the recipe I have for lime-marinated flank steak is from Martha Stewart Everyday Food - the recipe states that you shouldn't let the marinade sit on the meat for more than 2 hours...when I have made flank steak in the past I have always found it best when marinated overnight. The recipe actually calls for skirt steak - would that make a difference? What would happen if I did marinate it overnight? (Marinade includes soy sauce, jalapenos, lime juice).
Thanks for your help!

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  1. Picky, picky, picky!

    I like your Asian theme over the Mexican theme. Mexican without tomatoes and cilantro and cheese seems silly. You could substitute mint or basil for the cilantro in the Asian steak. As for dessert, what about green tea ice cream. Or mango with sticky rice.

    One of my fave desserts this time of year is fresh blueberries over lemon sorbet -- light and refreshing!

    Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: geg5150

      With all those restrictions, just wanted to mention that mango could be problematic - a lot of people are allergic to them. The fruit is a sumac (same family as poison ivy) and if any of the peel remains and comes in contact with said person, you're talking major rash. I sadly know from experience. Considering one person already has a fruit allergy - I'd steer clear of that one.

    2. A chowhound once suggested substituting celery leaves for cilantro. Haven't tried it myself but thought it was worth passing on.

      1 Reply
      1. First of all, I commend you on being so considerate of your guests!!

        Salsa and guacamole without tomatoes and cilantro would be sad. Between the two options, I'd go with the asian theme...what about indian? or a traditional steakhouse type dinner?

        1 Reply
        1. re: ceegee

          Well it could be a spicy fruit salsa and that could include ripe avocado in it. Mango, avocodo and really spicy hot serranos with some shredded mint (herba buena) to help temper the heat and some lime juice could be very nice. Mantiquilla de Pobre (poor man's butter) simple mashed avocado is traditional too. A creamy seafood stuffed chili relleno, sauces on the side to suit ones tastes, maybe a red tomato chili based sauce and a green tomatillo sauce. Look into Salpicon too, a traditional hot weather salad which can be composed of many different ingredients or a picadillo. Mexican food is far from being all about tomatoes, cheese, and cilantro. Tooo bad pomegranates are not in season chilies in nogada are a very good elegant dish.

        2. Oh, my word: did these friends announce their dietary needs and dislikes when you issued the invitation to dinner? I can't imagine having a dinner party (of, say, three couples) and attempting to accomodate everyone's needs in such great detail!

          That said, your asian theme sounds like it will accomodate all tastes. I don't know what's in your flank steak recipe, but if it has garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, soy, salt, and a little sugar or mirin (rice wine), you won't notice the absence of cilantro. If you're looking for the green/herbal/bitter note usually provided by cilantro, you could substitute green onions or fresh garlic chives in the marinade. A nice addition to the grilled/broiled flank steak would be sauteed/grilled shiitake mushrooms (brush with a little teriyaki or ponzu first).

          I often marinate flank steak overnight in the fridge; the marinade can sometimes overpower the "beefy" flavor, but flank has so much connective tissue that you don't have to worry about the meat getting mushy from the acids in the marinade.

          For dessert, make (or buy) green tea ice cream...serve in tiny scoops in small dishes with thin wafer cookies.

          1. Thanks for all the replies so far!
            Re likes/dislikes/allergies - the other couple consists of my best friend and her boyfriend so I am pretty well-versed in terms of their preferences and limitations. I know forsure no one is allergic to mango - kiwi really is the only thing I *must* eliminate. (But thank you for the heads up, sivyaleah!)
            Sounds like the Asian theme is the one that will work best...Mexican cuisine is certainly not all about tomatoes, cilantro, and cheese but I really have been craving a good fresh salsa and guacamole...suppose I'll save that for the weekend!
            So edamame, soba noodles, vinagery cucumber (and maybe carrot) salad, and flank steak it is! Does this seem like a well-balanced meal? Do I need more green? And I'm thinking of going super-easy for dessert - fresh cut fruit (mango, pineapple, berries, etc) and maybe a light cookie if I'm feeling adventurous.

            4 Replies
            1. re: chowchow985

              I might feel this way just because I'm not a meat eater, but some veg alongside the steak could be nice...chinese broccoli done spicy or some baby bok choy perhaps.

              I like your dessert idea...all those fruits would go well with coconut sorbet too!

              1. re: ceegee

                Definitely agree with the veg. A few more ideas: Japanese cold spinach, spicy green beans or assorted vegatable tempura.

              2. re: chowchow985

                Just a quick follow-up: I presume there is cilantro in the marinade. It will be fine if you eliminate it. But, you can put some cilantro in a small bowl to pass around - those who like it, can add it on top of the meat.

                Regarding your question about marinating: since flank steak is much thicker than a skirt steak, the flank will benefit from the long marinade. The skirt stake may tend to break apart.

                I like the idea of adding carrots to the cucumber salad. I agree with the other poster that a side vegetable dish, or a green salad would be nice.

                Have fun!

                1. re: chowchow985

                  Your Asian theme sounds, to be more precise, Japanese. And it sounds fantastic!

                  If you add green, I'd agree w/the Japanese cold spinach, which can be served w/bonito flakes and soy sauce or ajipon.

                  And for dessert, I'd skip the cookie & go for refreshing summer fruits.

                  Whatever you decide, it sounds yummy!