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Menu Advice Please

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Some friends will be over for dinner Saturday night and I'm obsessing on the appetizer, sides/salad, and dessert. The only part of my menu that has been settled is the main dish, Pasta a la Greque. That an old stand-by of mine. A mixture of cooked shrimp, diced tomatoes, feta cheese, and sauteed onions is prepared in advance, chilled, and, then, allowed to come to room temperature. This mixture is served over freshly cooked hot pasta.

When you're making suggestions, you do not have to deal with dietary restrictions. The most important criterion is ease of preparation. In fact, I'm even open to assembling food rather than preparing it (e.g. a salumi platter as a starter).

Thanks in advance!

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  1. As an appetizer, why don't you do mezze like houmos, taramasalata, tzaziki and baba ganoush all served with pita triangles? It would continue your Greek theme. I prefer a salad after the pasta as opposed to a side dish.

    1. since you have a nice pasta dish as your main meal - I would do a nice panzanella salad or maybe a spinach salad. maybe a nice bruschetta bar for a hearty app. I'm not a dessert person at all but love those pretty layered desserts - trifles.

      check out this one:http://aggieskitchen.com/2009/01/10/m...

      1. As an app (or even a salad), I would roast some asparagus and drizzle with EVOO and top with some kosher salt.

        As a dessert, if you can find some fresh blueberries or blackberries, I would make a simple blueberry or blackberry pie and top with some creme fraiche, or just serve as is.

        Bottome line, I would look for what's in season in terms of both veggies and fruits and then prepare them as simply as possible. You get the benefits of both worlds -- fresh vibrant tastes of seasonal foods and ease of preparation.

        1. roxlet beat me to the mezze suggestion for appetizers - you can make everything a day or two in advance - things like that taste even better when the flavors have had a chance to meld - and just take them out of the fridge about an hour before you want to serve.

          for a side dish, i like ipse's roasted asparagus suggestion. other options would be some version of horta (warm greens), green beans, or grilled zucchini.

          for dessert, it doesn't get much easier than good-quality Greek yogurt with honey and crushed walnuts or pistachios.

          1. For an easy summer dessert:
            Fold fresh whipped cream into an smallish container of sour cream and add brown sugar to taste. Whomp a bunch of it in a melon slice and top w/ a generous handful of the berry of your choice. It's pretty, easy and tastes good.

            1. A few simple dessert ideas with strawberries...
              Sliced/quartered fresh strawberries served with a dip that's made with one container of marshmallow fluff and a softened brick of cream cheese. I know...it doesn't sound appetizing...I thought so, too...until I tried it. It's a hit at parties that my friends throw.
              Fresh strawberries drizzled with nutella that I've warmed in the microwave a bit and topped with homemade whipped cream.
              Strawberry shortcake...I mascerate my strawberries overnight with sugar and a bit of Grand Marnier. I cheat and buy angel food cake from a bakery or the store. Angel food cake gets sliced ahead of time. Make som whipped cream, and now you have a choice, you can let your guest plate their own desserts or you can assemble for them. I usually let them do it themselves...less work for me :)

              1. For a quick/easy salad, I suggest this cucumber salad. Peel and dice two cucumbers into little squares. Marinate in 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar and two healthy dashes of sugar in the fridge for 30 mintues to an hour. Toss mixture with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Then drain in collander for a few minutes. Can serve immediately or refridgerate until serving time.

                1. If you have access to a middle eastern market, pick up some stuffed grape leaves - dolmades. Set out on a platter with kalamata olives, pitas, hummus, tzatziki. Or even a grilled eggplant dip served with pita chips.

                  Or, for sides, you could do ahead, stuffed zucchini with ground lamb, tomato paste, onion, oregano. Or use zucchini & yellow squash, sliced & sauteed and tossed with evoo, lemon juice & mint. You can also do eggplant rollatini, stuffed with a ricotta & mint mixture. Stuffed tomatoes are also attractive, but you may not want to repeat the tomato.

                  I don't know if it's too much grain, but a nice tabbouleh salad (wheat bulgur with chopped tomatoes, parsley & lemon juice) or a couscous salad served in radicchio cups all go along with the theme.

                  As far as desserts go, I would keep it simple. You can grill (ahead even) some pineapple rounds, then cut up and serve chilled splashed with some ouzo. OPA!!