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dinner party ideas!

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Having a somewhat last-minute dinner party tomorrow night. I need ideas!

I am a veg and have never cooked meat, so I guess I would prefer preparing non-meat dishes because I'm more comfortable with that unless it's just something with a non-cooked meat (like prosciutto).

I will have homemade bread. Right now, that's the only thing I know for sure. I need to go to the store today and do prep work this afternoon/tonight.

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  1. Do you have access to a grill? I'd grill a combo of all colors of bell peppers, sliced zucchini, thickly-sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion, corn on the cob, cut into 2- or 3-inch thick rounds. These can be cooked ahead, dressed with a bit of slivered garlic, S&P, oregano and olive oil, and served at room temp.

    Another really fabulous zucchini dish is Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado. Here's a link to the recipe from The New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/06/din...

    It's an impressive-looking dish that seems to go over really well when I've served it. A variation that I want to try next time is to serve it with pine nuts instead of pistachios.

    Then again, there's the Chinese Spaghetti Salad recipe that I found on this board last year. I don't remember who posted it, but I'll always be grateful. There's chicken in it, but you can get a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. Or leave the meat out altogether. I can't find the original link, so here's what I've got.

    Pasta & dressing:
    2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
    4 teaspoons soy sauce
    1 pound spaghetti

    Put the pount of spaghetti up to boil and, in the meantime, combine the sesame oil and soy sauce in a large bowl. Add the drained pasta the bowl and toss it to coat completely with the oil and sauce. Cover and keep warm.

    Salad dressing: (I usually double this recipe, but here's the way I got it
    )1/4 chicken broth (you can probably use vegetable broth for this)
    3 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
    chili oil to taste (a few drops go a long way)

    Combine the above ingredients in a small bowl or a jar and set aside.

    Salad:
    2 cups slivered cooked chicken breast (or cooked shrimp or no protein at all)
    1/2 pound snow peas, cut into 1" pieces, blanched and refreshed in ice water
    2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into easily-managed short strips
    2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
    3/4 cup sliced scallions, including some of the green tops
    3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
    2 tablespoons toasted sesaame seeds

    At serving time, shake up the salad dressing and (if you've doubled the recipe), pour half over the already-dressed pasta and toss. Then add all the salad ingredients to the pasta (told you you'd need a large bowl) and toss again. Serve with the rest of the salad dressing. This is another dish that's quite good at room temp.

    Whatever, hope you have a great party!

    1. Why not an Italian theme? Antipasti platter: marinated artichoke hearts, olives, cheese, etc.
      followed by: pasta marinara sauce with meatballs on the side for carnivores, tossed green salad with avocado, red onion rings, oil/vinegar dressing and your homemade bread. Serve red wine with dinner. Dessert: I might buy this, as you have so little time.

      1. Tomatoes, tomatoes, TOMATOES! I just can't get enough in the summer. Beefsteak, heirlooms, whatever. Just a big platter of sliced tomatoes, a bowl of mayo, lettuce leaves, and bacon (I think you can buy it precooked), and your homemade bread = make-your-own sandwiches. That is, If this is the kind of party where your guests don't mind a little juice running down their arms. Otherwise, just the big platter with some basil and vinaigrette or a thinned-out pesto to dress.

        Call it a Summer's Bounty party. Salads (fresh corn and black bean, green bean and potato, broccoli and pasta), platters of sliced red peppers, roasted or not, the above tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms (which can be served room temp).

        Peaches, plums and nectarines are overflowing my farmers' market. Just slice up, sugar a bit to macerate, a splash of booze if you like, and serve with a good vanilla ice cream. Maybe a crispy cookie on the side.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nemo

          oh yes--I am doing something like this! I couldn't pass up tomatoes, basil, and blueberries. They are so beautiful right now. :)

        2. Do you eat seafood? I make an enchilada style shrimp & grits that has been a hit at two dinner parties (and can be served individually without the shrimp):

          Enough grits to serve the group, cooked with whole milk instead of water, add cheddar cheese, garlic, salt, cayenne pepper. Top with peeled boiled shrimp, enchilada sauce, and fresh cilantro. Super easy.

          If you're leaning toward Italian, I've also made Italian quesadillas with marinated sun-dried tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella. You could add prosciutto, olives, eggplant, etc.

          1. OK-I think I am going to do italian. I would REALLY like to avoid just spaghetti and marinara sauce though...

            My menu so far:
            APPETIZERS:
            stuffed nasturtiums (stuffed wtih goat cheese--there won't be tons of these, probably 2 for each person--I just want to try them)
            italian cheese terrine with crackers
            bagna cauda with fresh veggies for dipping

            MAIN
            (don't know yet, looking for ideas, though I have tons of fresh basil so something with pesto would be good)

            SIDES
            Rustic artisan boule
            Perhaps sliced tomatoes drizzled with balsamic

            DESSERT
            Blueberry galette

            Do I need a salad, d'ya think?

            1 Reply
            1. re: IndyGirl

              I'm stuck with lots of fresh basil at the moment, too, and I've found it easy enough to make a pasta-less pasta out of grated/finely peeled strips of zucchini (at its peak, at this point in the season), tossed with fresh pesto, shards of parmesean or grano padano, toasted pine nuts, and arugula, spinach, or rapini...and a pool of beautiful fruity olive oil...
              topped with some nice fleur du sel, Maldon, or other sea salt...
              (seems like you're going with the market-inspired thing, so this seem appropriate!) No salad needed if you're throwing in greens.

            2. oh...and I totally dig your dinner party menu, by the way. Love your style =)

              1 Reply
              1. re: unturtlesoup

                thank you! I get all my ideas from you guys :)

              2. Wow, did I get the wrong vibes from your message, IndyGirl. I thought you were looking for fast, easy, suiting veg and non. Now you're stuffing flowers with goat cheese. Anyway, I hope your party is great and that you have fun too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gail

                  It was your post that got me thinking italian!! I've never cooked for these friends before and wanted to do fancy for the first time. One of them is a big foodie and I think he will appreciate the effort. I think I did give off the quick and easy vibe because I was stressing out. :)

                  Anyway, here's my menu, which I've already printed--so now I guess I can't change anything! :)

                  ⎯ ANTIPASTI ⎯
                  Stuffed nasturtiums
                  Italian cheese terrine
                  Bagna cauda with crudites
                  Marinated cannellini beans

                  ⎯ MAIN ⎯
                  Potato gnocchi in a pesto cream sauce

                  ⎯ SIDES ⎯
                  Sliced heirloom tomatoes with balsamic glaze
                  Artisan boule

                  ⎯ DESSERT ⎯
                  Blueberry galette with homemade lemon ice cream