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Non cook hosting dinner party

Ok, so it's really time for me to reciprocate for dinner parties I've been to. But cooking's not really my thing. I'm looking for menu suggestions for an easy to prepare (mostly ahead of time) spring meal that, while simple, shows some sophistication. I was thinking of salmon with a yogurt dill sauce, Persian rice (a bit involved, but I can do it ahead of time and it's delicious!) and asparagus, but then I'm in the kitchen with the asparagus and salmon while everyone else is drinking the frozen margaritas. Please don't suggest enchiladas, this meal must be wheat and sugar free. Help! Oh, we're not talking about a crowd here -- 3 couples. Thanks!

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  1. Your menu sounds great, but I would make couscous (semolina) which takes five minutes instead of the Persian rice. I would also add a green salad to eat with the meal and veggies (carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers) with hummus, olive tapenade, or some other dip for your guests to munch on while you finish the meal.
    Serve the sugar and wheat-eaters berries and ice-cream for dessert and modify accordingly for the people who can't eat sugar (berries only) or wheat (gluten-free ice-cream or sorbet).

    4 Replies
    1. re: kalidaemon

      Couscous has wheat... Semolina is wheat.

      And I've never heard of an ice cream with wheat?

      1. re: Jennalynn

        I don't think Semolina is wheat, but it doesn't matter. Ice cream often has gluten in it so that would be a concern if your dinner guests abstain from wheat products because they have Celiac Disease.

      2. re: kalidaemon

        The secret to dinner parties is to use the oven. Bake the salmon and asparagus. Here's a recipe for the latter.


        Personally, I love cold salmon.

      3. It's spring... so you could do a cold poached salmon ahead.

        Then a nice rice salad, and roasted asparagus. All easy. And all have barely any during party kitchen time.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Jennalynn

          That is exactly what I was going to suggest if you were going to go the salmon route! Très Bien!

          (and a variation on cold salmon would be to smoke the salmon if you have a smoker available and serve it cold)

          1. re: Jennalynn

            Third the suggestion for doing poached salmon ahead. Both the salmon and asparagus can be served chilled/room temperature.

            I love this recipe for poached salmon (the tarragon sauce is to die for):


            If you don't want to serve the asparagus chilled, it's very easy and quick to roast it.

            I like the persian rice idea, and agree you should serve a green salad with dinner as well.

          2. Do you feel comfortable taking them out? Maybe drinks and appy's at your place, dinner out, dessert back at your place with coffee and tea? That way you could monitor the sugar and wheat issues, and they could order for an entree what they know works for them.

            When you say sugar-free, do you mean as in diabetic or just as in dieting folks?

            You could spend your culinary energy on a great appetizer and a sophisticated dessert and leave the rest to Chez Whatever. Just a thought.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                What Sam said.

                You say cooking's not your thing, but there's nothing wrong with your menu planning. You've accommodated the special dietary needs with a dinner that sounds appealing all around. And I'm assuming that you've picked dishes that you're comfortable making, and that's important.

                Relax and have fun.

              2. Good ideas, all. Thanks. Wish me luck.

                1. For your side dish, try the Rice and Vegetable Salad from the Silver Palate Cookbook (page 214 of my softbound 1982 edition). The name doesn't do this salad justice and people really rave about it. And it can be made ahead of time. The salad ingredients are 8 cups of hot cooked rice, 2 cups red wine vinaigrette, 1 each red and green pepper, stemmed, cored and cut into thin julienne, 1 red onion, peeled and diced, 6 scallions, finely sliced, 1 cup of golden raisins, 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced, 1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed and blanched for 3 minutes, 1/4 chopped parsley and 1/2 chopped dill. Pour 1 1/2 cups vinaigrette over the hot rice in a big mixing bowl, toss thoroughly, and cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly, taste and correct seasoning (add S&P to taste here), and add the remaining vinaigrette if you like. Serve immediately or refrigerate, and let come to room temperature before serving. Makes 8 to 10 portions.

                  This is an outstanding salad.

                  1. Depending on where you live, both Trader Joes and Whole Foods have glutten free sections and products.

                    If you live near a costco, you can cheat a bit and get the prepared rotiserie chicken and ribs and make Corn on the Cob, all things that go well with Margs.

                    Good Luck.

                    1. Asparagus is wonderful chilled and that will eliminate some of the last minute work. Your menu sounds wonderful. Cold salmon is lovely! If not that, what about grilling the salmon? If you have a patio with a BBQ, that's a nice way to include everyone

                      Off topic, but this helps me a lot: I figure out what serving dishes/utensils I need, and have them out and ready to fill... saves me the hassle of trying to find stuff on high shelves, where they are always covered with dust!

                      Sounds like a great party!

                      1. Your menu sounds great. I would second/third/fourth the suggestion about the cold poached salmon. You can cut it into serving pieces and poach (which makes it a bit neater than poaching a whole salmon then cutting), then serve cold or at room temperature. I also find that, for less-than-experienced cooks, that timing is the hardest part of a dinner party. Poaching the salmon in advance will help with the timing. And, my best friend must eat gluten free and some ice creams don't comply...there's wheat hidden in a lot of things, particularly ice creams that have nuts or other ingredients mixed in. We usually stick to Haagen Dazs vanilla, chocolate or coffee...those are fine. Good luck!