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May 8, 2011 11:22 AM

In Need of Ideas for Lunch With No Set Timetable and No Last Minute Cooking - Ready When They Are

My husband is a serious pianist, taking tutoring from a professional musician who stays for lunch at our home after their sessions. Although their "lesson" is for one hour, it runs from 90 - 150 minutes each week. I never know. When they're finished with their piano work, they want to eat. Now.

During the winter, I didn't have much of a problem because a first course could be a soup or something waiting in the fridge, the main in the CrockPot or oven and dessert was either preplated or frozen to be ready when the coffee was served.

Summer is upon us and I'm stymied. Living the the desert southwest, our heat makes an oven at mid-day a very bad idea for the next five months. I should also mention that this is not a sandwich lunch, it is a traditional three course meal for a European professor.

I have served soups, composed salads, antipasti for first course. Seconds have included: baked pasta, braised meats and CrockPot main courses willing to wait. Desserts = fruit, torte, cake, ices and cookies.

Tomorrow's lunch = chilled borscht w/ sour cream & fresh dill, a fresh vegetable-garbanzo bean-shrimp salad and rum-braised pineapple with pecan shortbread.

Any ideas to help me through the summer? On non-piano days, we would normally eat a light noon meal which makes this even more challenging for me.
Edit: I should also mention that our kitchen is open and the piano is directly adjacent. Great for the rest of our lives - he plays and I cook - but it means that virtually no kitchen work goes on during their sessions.

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  1. Quiche or frittata, preceded by charcuterie plate, fresh fruit and good cheese for dessert? Are BLT's too pedestrian? You guys must REALLY like this professor!

    3 Replies
    1. re: berkleybabe

      cold soups like gazpacho or vichysoisse, poached chicken salad, lovely summer fruit and cheese for desert. variations on the chicken salad: shrimp salads, fresh halibut or salmon salad, fruit on the grill, cold duck breast salad, all good pate and charcuterie.

      1. re: berkleybabe

        My first thought, likewise, was quiches, frittatas, Spanish omelet, etc. Great at room temp.

        There are many room-temp salads based in green beens, and I especially like the mediterranean ones emphasizing olive oil.

        I also make a room-temp salad from roasted red and yellow pepper strips, which you let sit in a mixture of olive oil, S/P, garlic to taste, and perhaps capers. Some people do a salad like this with some vinegar, but I usually prefer the mellower approach. This is also good as a crostini/bruschetta topping, another worthy idea for last-minute assembly and serving.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          BB, TZT & BB - my first answer to you three was lost, so I'll try again. Thank you very much for your ideas. Somehow, I'd completely blanked on the idea of a quiche or fritatta. I am a fan of cold soups - serving chilled borscht tomorrow - and generally keep some kind in the fridge. It would be our usual lunch when we're alone but makes a stellar starter for these lunches. Mediterranean platter salads are also a favorite and I just needed a nudge to remember some of the wonderful other possibilities. With the summer vegetable crop arriving, I will certainly have a bounty. Thank you.

          How anyone could forget chicken salad - one of my all-time favorites - is beyond me, but I did. It can be ready and waiting, to be served with something else substantial for our main hot weather luncheon.

      2. My grandmother used to have a lot of drop-in guests, and she would have a rotating supply of some of the following: poached fish, fish mousses, pates, vinaigrette-based salads (bean, potato, beet, green bean, cabbage), roasted meats served at room temp, savory tarts, pickled vegetables, cold roasted vegetables, smoked or preserved meats, cheeses, and things like that. I wouldn't rule out a light broth-based soup, so long as you keep it light and fresh.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Bada Bing

            Yes, she was some grandma. She had a Hobart and two spare fridges in the basement.

          2. re: maxie

            Maxie - you gave me so many good ideas that I will thank you all summer long. As I mentioned above, I have strongly resisted the onset of summer's heat and completely blanked when hit with the reality of triple digits. Having a great stash in the fridge is better than $$$ in the bank. Roasted meats (or, more likely grilled) - chicken and pork being my favorites at room temperature - is a great idea. Some piquant sauces will perk up our luncheon along with a good salad. I really appreciate the opportunity to thank you and your grandmother for the inspiration.
            Edit: I've just remembered a three layer vegetable mousse with cold poached chicken in a mustard-mayonnaise gellee as well as one of my favorites, jambon persilee [a jelled parsley-ham combination].

          3. agree with quiche but also suggesting empanadas - can be baked in the am and served at room temp w/a green salad.

            1 Reply
            1. re: debvil

              I've never eaten a room temp empanada but have enjoyed Cornish pasties that weren't piping hot. This is an interesting suggestion and I would love some filling ideas. Dough? Thank you for taking the time to respond; I look forward to your answer.

            2. A room temp poached or grilled salmon with a dill dressing.
              Cold, boiled prawns with mayo based dipping sauce.
              Brisket with potatoes cooked day before & reheated in oven.
              Short ribs with mashed potatoes or noodles, cooked day before & reheated.
              Soup, steak salad, dessert
              With these, any fresh sides that you deem appropriate.

              Not exactly gourmet suggestions, but my goodness, is he expecting too much?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Gail

                Gail, it's not so much "what he's expecting" but what I want to do for his kindness. This is an international pianist who is taking time from his extremely busy schedule to spend hours here. My husband is the recipient of this largess and I feel, a wonderful luncheon is my way of saying "thank you".

                I have done the short ribs etc during our cool months and we've enjoyed them greatly. They're exactly the kind of food which waits well. Your suggestion os steak salad will be incorporated into my menus. Thank you.

                1. re: Sherri

                  Thanks for the explaination, Sherri, didn't realize he was doing this gratis.

                  More suggestions:
                  Charcuterie platter with cheese, bread & one of the soups below
                  Insalata Caprese
                  Would Mexican dishes work, since you are in the SW?
                  Taco salad
                  Tacos (meat cooked earlier and reheated quickly)
                  Shrimp cocktails (use key limes)

                  1. re: Gail

                    "Thanks for the explaination, Sherri, didn't realize he was doing this gratis."

                    I must have been unclear; shouldn't have used the word "largess" so freely, although my understanding is it means 'gifts freely given'. In our case, there is $$$ involved, the sessions are not gratis. But that, in no way, changes the fact that I want to do this. Money could not buy what my husband receives.

              2. You could try a Muffaletta or Pan Bagnat. They're not *really* sandwiches are they?
                And maybe cold fried chicken?

                1 Reply
                1. re: blue room

                  Last summer I served a fried chicken picnic for one of our lunches ( potato salad + cole slaw with strawberry shortcake for dessert) and it may be time for Rount Two. It was met with great success. Thanks for the reminder.

                  Pan Bagnat and muffaletta are inspired suggestions! Once again, I'm a "duh". Thank you.