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Dinner Party Menu Help

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I am throwing a dinner party for 8. Not formal, but something more like casual chic early summer gathering. I usually have no trouble with menus & order of food, but I'm a bit sticky on this one. I have a good idea of the food I want, but I could use some help organizing the chaos. I am not sure in what order to serve the following things; nor am I entirely convinced they should all be served. Could use some fresh eyes.

Cioppino
Green salad OR grilled radicchio - with mustard sherry vin
Room temp salad of barley tossed with pesto (this is unreal - narcotic good)
grilled sausage ropes
desserts - undecided: maybe panna cotta; maybe cherry sorbet; maybe strawberry tart with lemon curd base; maybe homemade ice cream truffles (my own very lovely little creation...I make some ice cream, freeze until hard, scoop out with melon ball, roll in cocoa, espresso/cocoa mix, nuts or whatever; freeze until serving - make a little tower..yum)

I could also serve the grilled sausage with some baguette during cocktails for picking..

Any help would be very appreciated!!!

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  1. If you start with the cioppino, I would go with the grilled radicchio next. The bitterness and mustard would be a good foil to the tartness of the tomatoes in the cioppino. In that case, though, is another salad of barley necessary? Not certain if the sausage ropes involve a starch, but I would sub another starch for the barley and end on a rich note since your starters are pretty light. The ice cream truffles and panna cotta both sound lovely.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JungMann

      I agree. Cioppino, then go with the grilled radicchio. This barley salad sounds interesting....can you post the recipe Runnerfemme? I like the idea of panna cotta for desert. Although the ice cream truffles sound good, it also sounds kind of messy to me.

    2. If it's a casual affair, then I'd serve the cioppino first, then lay everything else out next, buffet style and let your guests load their plates. It's the easiest way to do an early summer meal...heck Martha Stewart always has folks doing that in her magazine!

      4 Replies
      1. re: QueenB

        Genius! Thank you everyone. why is it that the simplest solutions are almost always the best and can so easily escape your attention?? Cioppino as first course, then buffet of grilled radicchio, grilled sausage rope (see www.nvo.com) and barley pesto salad. panna cotta dessert - i love that i can make it in the morning or even the day before.

        I don't have a set recipe for the barley salad, but here's what I do. There's a million versions of this online. By the way - you could also use farro, orzo or fregula - which is like coarse Israeli couscous with a toasted, nutty flavor. To serve 4 people, I prep about 1 cup of barley (or whatever you're using) using chicken or veg broth accdg to directions on package; in a food processor - i chop about 1/4 c basil, 1 cup of italian parsley, a bunch of fresh thyme, a few pinches of salt (don't be shy on the salt), ground pepper, 1-2 cloves garlic, enough olive oil to give it the consistency of a loose paste and a splash of red wine vinegar (not balsamic). I give it a whir in the Cuisinart, toss it with the barley and maybe toss in some toasted pine nuts, raisins even and grate some parm into it. Voila. It's delicious and healthy. Making the pesto (without the cheese) the day before really lets those flavors develop too, but I don't toss until i'm about to eat. I have also made this with only basil and also with a bit of chervil added to the mix. very good.

        1. re: RUNNERFEMME

          Wow. Thanks for the barley pesto salad recipe. I'm so making that this weekend!

          Your menu sounds lovely, btw.

          1. re: RUNNERFEMME

            The barley salad sounds great. I'm definitely going to try that sometime.

            Have a wonderful dinner party! I love the idea of panna cotta.

            1. re: QueenB

              Thanks, anzu & QueenB. QB - just read your bio info - we have very similar tastes!