Italian Dinner Menu without Citrus
We`re hosting a dinner for 30+ the weekend after the 4th, and one guest can`t eat citrus, which includes tomatoes. I don`t want her to have to worry about being a bother because it`s not an inconvenience it`s just not how I`m used to cooking - but I love a challenge, it helps me push my boundaries and get more creative in the kitchen. Please help me plan a citrus free menu. When I think Italian a lot is tomato based.... caprese skewers, bruschetta...especially this time of year when my patio tomatoes are beginning to bear fruit.
I need ideas for well... everything. Apps, mains, sides, desserts... Bonus points for items that can be made ahead, or served at room temp. I`m thinking of doing cannoli for dessert, but that`s it so far.
Apps: prosciutto and melon, crostini with goat cheese and black olive tapenade, eggplant caponata crostini. Porchetta-style pork roast (epicurious has a recipe), pesto pasta salad (or hot but cold easier for 30+ ppl) (Epi has a multi-herb version to change things up), arugula-fennel-radish salad. Bread. I''m not much on desserts, but neither are Italians. Maybe panna cotta and fruit. Or that galleygirl tart that recently reappeared on these boards.
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Tomatoes are part of the Nightshade family and not a citrus fruit.
That said, one of my favorite ways to dress pasta without tomatoes is to used roasted red peepers that are pureed and seasoned with fresh basil and oregano, along with a bit of roasted garlic and olive oil.
Since you're having so many people, why not do a combination menu - ..you can still do something with tomatoes, but just have choices that don't contain tomatoes. Perhaps two varieties of pasta, if that's what you want to do...one tomato based, one with a wine & vegetable sauce. It would be a shame to exclude tomatoes for the other 29 people if you can make an option for the last person. Think about it as accommodating someone who is vegetarian, vegan, etc.
I agree with Cheryl.. if you make a ton of crostini, you can feature your tomatoes for the rest of the guests; other traditional toppings include mushroom paté, olive paste which I believe someone mentioned, liver and/or spleen pastes, lardo.. etc.
Make-ahead, room temp. dishes in no particular order:
-A thick potato frittata cut into squares or wedges.
-Pasta with pesto can be served all right as a room temp 'salad'. I sometimes add fresh red bell pepper bits to freshen it up and create a crunchy contrast. You could add cooked grean beans and potatoes as a nod to the traditional Ligurian preparation.
-A savory tart with onions, or spinach/greens
-Cooked green beans are a nice seasonal room temp dish with a sauce of pureed yellow (or red) roasted peppers
-Sauteed spinach with raisins and pine nuts is a nice side if you are serving meat
-The usual suspects of grilled eggplants, grilled zucchini, roasted red/yellow peppers in oil can be antipasti or secondi
-Borlotti or cannolini bean salad with tuna, a bit of onion, oil, s&p
-Cheese platter or course served with fruit conserves and honey
-Vegetable "Molds" seem to be popular, they can have a base of potatoes, polenta, eggs, breadcrumbs or a combination thereof. Look online for "sformato di .." (peas, eggplant, etc.). A pasta- or rice-based mold with cheese/veg. is more often called a "timbale".
-Any kind of salad with good fresh ingredients.. fennel is a very Italian choice but isn't really in season. but you could use broccoli, brussel sprouts.. whatever other non-lettuce/tomato choices as a base. Arugula makes a nice salad; contrast with non-citrus fruit instead of tomato.
One particularly fun (but kind of cheezy) party dish I had in Bologna was called a "fake fish". Basically it was a ton of mashed potatoes mixed up with tuna and (possibly) mayonnaise. On the serving platter or board, this paste was formed into the shape of a fish, and was then decorated with olive (the eye), and thinly-sliced vegetables like carrots and cucumber (scales).
You can see them here: http://tinyurl.com/2d6rn32
Here's a recipe you can make with or without mayo: http://www.divinacucina.com/fakefish....
=>Use Italian tuna packed in olive oil; it makes a big difference in the flavor<=
Cannoli need to be filled just before serving; I personally wouldn't want to have to do that work in the middle of a party. What about a nice gelato or semi-freddo and a cookie tray? To tell the truth, Italians are far more likely to end their meals with fresh fruit rather than actual desserts. A macedonia is attractive and refreshing.