Suggestions needed: Outdoor surf & turf dinner: what appetizers, sides & desserts?
For the lat 4 years, I have done a sit-down dinner for my husband and his friends. The main course is lobster and steak and we eat outdoors on the patio. We normally have about 14 people. I desperate for suggestions on sides/appetizers/amuse bouche & desserts that will complement the main courses.
This year I am starting with a scallop and plum ceviche.
FYI - I have already done these (so they are out for this year):
1. Lemon-saffron risotto
2. Asparagus in all its forms
3. Crepe suzettes
4. White-Chocolate-Mint-and-Caramel Parfait in chocolate bowls
5. Creme brulee
6. Caramel flan
7. Potatoes gratin
Thanks in advance for all your creative and exciting suggestions!
Sounds fun! One of my favorite summer side dishes is grilled lettuce tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. For fourteen people I would halve two romaine hearts, quarter 2 - 3 radicchio, and maybe 4 endive. Drizzle with some olive oil and grill cut side down for about 2 - 3 min, turn over and grill the other sides about the same. You don't want it to be mush, but you do want some wilting/char. Pull off the grill and let cool some. Once you are able to touch, cut out the cores and chop. Toss with some balsamic vinegar, a tad more olive oil (I don't like greasy salads), kosher salt and fresh pepper. I have even added Parmesan ribbons (done with a vegetable peeler).
The salad is a bit bitter, so i suggest completing the meal with some roasted sweet potatoes. So good!!!
A few questions first: are you grilling your steaks? Is it hot where you are? How much do you want to be able to do ahead?
And, is the ceviche your starter or the amuse?
Your main dish speaks for itself so I would go simple. Just some random ideas:
You can start with a chilled soup like a Watercress -Spinach Soup, or a Cream of Asparagus. Or a spicy one like an Avocado-cucumber soup. You could serve it in small glasses or shots.
You can use your grill for a salad course, like a grilled Vegetable salad using zucchini, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, any other farmer's market veggies. You can do a caesar or Greek salad, charring the romaine first on the grill, before tearing it up for the salad (so delicious this way). You can opt to do a traditional wedge salad with blue cheese or homemade dressing, bacon crumbles, and an iceberg wedge.
I would also use my grill for the potatoes, and use some parboiled new potatoes, halve them then grill til marked. Toss with some basil oil, pesto or a chimichurri or salsa verde. An orzo would also be good, you can make it a salad, or just as a simply dressed pasta with lemon juice, olive oil & herbs.
As far as desserts, you can also grill your stone fruit, halved, and sprinkle with lemon juice, some brown sugar, even butter. Pineapple works well too. Pound cake is also very good when slices are grilled, then topped with whipped cream and a fruit sauce. Otherwise I tend to go simple & rustic with dessert, since I don't bake much.
I mention the grill a lot, since it's easy and most can be done ahead. But most of this can be made without a grill.
Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup, featured in August '10 Food & Wine magazine.
Two 12 oz. cucumbers - peeled, seeded & chopped
2 Haas avocados, coarsely chopped
2 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 serrano chile, seeded & chopped
One 13 ox can unsweetened coconut milk
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish
10 cilantro sprigs, garnish
1. In a food processor, puree cucumbers until smooth. Add the avocados, curry paste, sugar, lime & chile. Process until blended. Add 3 1/2 cups of water, the coconut milk & lime juice and process until smooth. Transfer the soup to a large bowl and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 15 mins.
2. Meanwhile in a skillet, toast the coconut over low heat, stirring a few times, unitl lightly browned and crisp, 3 mins. Let cool.
3. Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups, garnish with the toasted coconut flakes and cilantro sprigs & serve.
Another thought I just had was to set up a baked potato bar. Bake some jumbo Idahos an hour or two ahead of time with some olive oil & kosher salt on the skins. Then serve with small bowls filled with sour cream, chives, bacon crumbles, bleu cheese, shredded cheddar or monterey jack, steamed broccoli flowerettes, and some softened compound herbed butter. Could be fun and relaxed way to do the potatoes.
Good luck & have fun!