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Salad Suggestions for a Pre-Wedding Dinner

My husband and I are hosting a pre-wedding dinner the Friday night before our nephew's Sunday June 22nd wedding. We are expecting 40-45 people (family and out-of-town guests) and we're hoping the weather is nice enough to put tables on the back patio, deck, and front porch. That will leave space at the dining room table and the living room as well so there should be more than enough room.

Now I need to work out the menu. I'm planning to get a new smoker and smoke some whole chickens. They are easy to make once they get plunked in the smoker. I think 5-6 chickens should be plenty and I don't mind any leftovers My nephew wanted me to grill steaks but that can be a little difficult since I don't have steak knives for that number. So I was thinking I'd make beef kebabs. I would marinate the meat first so they'll be easy to slice or cube them small enough and I can grill them on the bbq.

We'll probably make a whole bunch of roasted/grilled veggies like peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini and eggplant and I have a great recipe for asparagus with an herby green sauce that my nephew's fiancee loved.

I'll buy hummus and baba ganoush and stuffed vine leaves to serve with pita.

But then I want to make a bunch of salads. Any suggestions on some great salad recipes I can make in advance and then just put out. Anything goes pretty much but they have to be non-dairy please so no cheeses or sour cream or yogurt added, please.

Also, would love some dessert recipes. We'll have a fruit salad and perhaps some cookies.

Any other ideas and suggestions for the dinner?

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  1. For the salads I would suggest a potato salad made with a vinegar base instead of mayo. I have one that I make with blue cheese and bacon but you could definitely leave out the blue cheese.
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
    I would also suggest a simple green salad to act as a foil to other rich dishes. Tabbouleh would be nice too.
    As far as desserts go, a summer fruit pie would be tasty...maybe sour cherry or peach. Since your menu sounds very accessible, I think maybe some homemade browines and cookies woudl go well too.
    Good luck and let us know what you decide.

    1. (1) Currently, we are having salad with a great balsamic just purchased. Bistro Blends Raspberry Balsamic from http://www.spenger.com/ (worth it for this occasion)
      The salad is Fresh Spinach (baby spinach if you can get it at Trader Joe's or something), sliced strawberries, sliced red onion, oil and balsamic (about 3 parts oil to 1 part balsamic), salt and fresh ground pepper. You can add pecans, but better keep it simple in case some older folks can't eat nuts. It has staying power for a few hours, but best to prepare and store ingredients separately, then mix and dress just before service. Really simple.

      (2) Since your grilling veggies already, how about mixing a brown rice salad (or Quinoa) with grilled corn, fresh red pepper (diced in processor) and green onion, dressed lightly with oil and vinegar and seasoned with pepper and Lawry's seasoned salt. Can make ahead one or two days.

      (3) Broccoli Bacon Salad (double the recipe)
      Ingredients:
      2 bunches broccoli, florets only (5 to 6 cups florets
      )1 medium red onion, chopped
      1/2 cup raisins
      10 to 12 slices bacon, fried and crumbled (or Hormel real bacon bits is okay)
      Dressing:
      1 cup mayonnaise
      2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
      2 teaspoons sugar

      (4) Green salad with carrots and cherry tomatoes and side of that herby green sauce as a dressing.
      And, then have the roasted veggies right next to that (in case someone wants to get creative).

      Your menu sounds really good and I look forward to reading this entire thread.

      1. KK, have read some of your other posts, so I know you're a balabusta. There is another thread on this board about chicken for 15 and he/she did 4 chickens. I realize you will have kebabs as well, but unless you are using chickens the size of small turkeys 5/6 won't be enough for 40-45 people. I usually figure 1/4 chicken per person, but to assume 1/8 (wing? thigh?) is very low. Please re-think number of chickens or increase additional protein (grilled salmon or halibut?) If you dont want to do single steaks, how about london broil using marinated shoulder steak you can grill in advance, carve and serve room temp?

        I am pretty sure you are kosher, so here are some suggestions: room temp couscous salad with zesty vinaigrette and crunch veggies like cucumbers, peppers, grape tomatoes, basil or mint for herb? asian cole slaw from ming tsai made with red & white cabbage, rice wine vinegar and other veggies? Israeli salad with cukes, tomatoes, green onions? mexican salad with avocadoes, tomatoes, red onions and spicy vinaigrette? baby spinach, strawberry and red onion salad with vinaigrette? kosher version of cesar dressing with croutons, mayo & anchovies, you can find soy based parmesan cheese at TJ's or Whole Foods?

        Dessert suggestions are hard for me, because I like the taste of real butter, which I am pretty sure is a no-no for you. Brownies, lemon squares, apricot bars, all have appeal as we like simple fare. If margarine is acceptable to you, then any of these should not be a problem. If fruit is in season in your area, something with fresh peaches, cherries or strawberries would be good, perhaps minature tarts? You can bake shells in advance and fill right before party. What do the bride & groom like? Always good idea to consult and serve favorites. Good Luck!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          Thanks for the accolade. "Balabusta" is high praise indeed! You're quite right. For reasons of tradition I keep kosher at home though I am thoroughly schizoid and eat pretty much everything outside of the house.

          I will re-think the numbers of chicken. I usually err in the other direction leaving so much in leftovers I am the butt of many jokes. I was thinking that people would not eat both the chicken and the meat and to cut back a bit. I would never plan on 8 per chicken but something like 5. So I probably should make 8 or 9 chickens then. And that's no problem since I don't mind these being leftover. They are frozen easily and when thawed they are almost as good as just cooked. London broil is not a kosher cut but there are alternatives like the one you mention and serving sliced steak is a nice idea and fairly easy. It saves the work of threading cubed meat on skewers too. How many lbs. of steak would you suggest? Do you think 10 lbs. would be too much, not enough...? I can easily poach some sides of salmon pretty reasonably. Does anyone have a foolproof poaching recipe -- mine somehow come out a little gray at times.

          Generally I don't like cooking with margarine - health reasons and taste reasons as well. I was thinking about a chiffon cake since that is an oil based cake. Nut cakes are too much like Passover tho to me so I prefer not to do that. Someone here mentioned pies and I think that strikes a good note of informality and summery quality so that's a real possibility. The bride I know loves chocolate but I'm not sure my nephew is really even into desserts. Hmmmmm

          Thanks to all for the wonderful ideas. The tabbouleh is one that particularly interests me. I had forgotten about it as an option and I just love it. Anyone have a good recipe for tabbouleh?

          Keep those ideas coming. Thanks!

          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            I agree with Diane - grill a big piece of beef and slice it yourself. It's easier for people to help themselves. My mother often does a lamb loin or beef filet (the long, snakelike shape) which slices easily and beautifully. Can't tell you how much, but if you're doing chickens as well, maybe work on one and a half to two ounces of meat per person??? Can someone else suggest a weight?

            I recently went to a relaxed birthday buffet in a friend's garden, and one of the salads was just a big glass bowl of home made pickles. He used baby cucumbers, halved, and marinated them in a vinegar of wholegrain mustard, chopped dill, minced red onion, cider vinegar, sugar, cracked black pepper and sunflower oil. It was so stunning, especially with the grilled meats, and all the non-salad-eaters adored it.

            1. re: Gooseberry

              Yum. That sounds great. I've never made pickles but there's always a first time!

          2. There's a very simple corn salad that I got from an Ina Garten episode that might be nice.

            Here it is: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

            I made it and liked it, it's super fast and simple.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kuisine

              That looks great, Kuisine. I hope that early corn comes in by then! Thanks for the suggestion. Keep them coming.

            2. A salad with fresh baby spinach, sliced strawberries & almonds with a poppy seed dressing. The spinach holds up extremely well on a buffet table. I made this Easter and had a small amount left over that still was great the next day. I use a recipe off allrecipes.com in the hall of fame section.

              I am not a fan of mayo so when I make potato salad I just boil red potatoes, cut in half, mix with favorite italian salad dressing. Add some green onions and favorite seasonings. Taste better when I make it day before serving so flavors all meld together.

              tomato, cucumber and onion salad is always a hit and colorful on a table.

              1. You can do a nice farro salad with asparagus, almonds, spinach (or arugula), orange pieces and a nice citrusy vinaigrette.

                You can also do an orzo salad with diced bell pepper, green onions, corn, lots of fresh herbs and a vinaigrette.

                Or a potato salad like someone mentioned above. I made one with green beans, salmon and hard boiled eggs (optional) the other day. Recipe here: http://www.bitchincamero.com/mel/2008...

                1. how about fattoush? you have a mediterranean theme going, and it's easy too - baby greens, romaine, chopped tomato, cucumber, red peppers, red onion, oregano - you can even throw in some of your grilled veggies, and toss with a simple red wine vinaigrette and sumac (or lemon juice if you can't find it or don't want to bother). brush pita with olive oil and salt and pepper, cut into strips, and bake until crispy. toss them with the salad about 20 minutes before serving so some soften up.

                  for dessert i agree with the fruit crisp suggestions for no-dairy, or you could make a marjolaine with layers of almond meringue and sorbets - it can be sliced while frozen.

                  1. Your Middle Eastern dips and stuffed vine leaves made me think of the Orange, Black Olive, & Red Onion Salad from Claudia Roden's "Arabesque." It was a cookbook of the month here last spring, and lots of folks were loving this salad. It's delicious and different. I made it for a dinner a few weeks ago. The store had blood oranges, so I mixed those with regular oranges. Beyond tasting great, it was absolutely gorgeous!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Old Spice

                      Thanks all for the suggestions. The dinner was a rousing success. We turned out to be about 40 people including a few children. The weather held so we were able to eat on the deck, the patio, the front porch AND in the dining room. There was enough seating for all. I smoked 8 3 lb. chickens and 10.5 lbs. of londonbroil. About half the chickens went (but that's ok, it's great leftover) and the beef just about disappeared. I had actually asked the butcher for 8.5 lbs. but this was what arrived. It was delicious marinated, grilled and sliced. I made the spinach, strawberry pecan salad that was recommended as well the tabbouleh, roasted asparagus with my great basil sauce I finally found the recipe for, Cook's magazine's potato salad, the cuisinart cole slaw, a tomato salad, cucumber salad, and a bunch of grilled veggies. It was rounded off with hummus and olives of all different sorts. Fruits salad and cookies for dessert were perfect. And I highly recommend Cascadian Farms frozen lemonade. Not too sweet. Four large cans were quaffed quite quickly along with the wine, beer, juices and seltzer.

                      It was a great party. A terrific intro to the wedding weekend if I do say so myself. The happy couple is now on their honeymoon in Mexico and I can rest by going back to work.

                      Thanks to all of you once again!