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Summer dinner party ideas

We are having a weeknight dinner party... friends are in town from Europe, and a Tuesday evening was the only date we could find. There will be 8 adults, 4 teenagers, and 3 younger kids.

I'm looking for menu ideas...
1) that will be easy enough to pull together in a few hours on a weekday evening (or that can be prepped ahead),
2) that DON'T involve grilling... our grill is broken :(
3) that are still elegant and impressive (these are foodies, French and Spanish nationality, so they know good food)
4) that ideally would work for adults, teens, and kids. But I'd be willing to make a big pan of homemade mac and cheese for the kids if need be.

Thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. I should also say that I'd love to incorporate some fresh, local produce from the farmer's market.

    1. A big pan of home made mac-n-cheese might be a hit with everybody!
      Why not go "All-America?" and do some traditional/soul food? Mac-n-cheese, fried chicken, other local/regional specialties....

      2 Replies
        1. A friend of ours hosted a weeknight party as well for friends visiting from out of the country. She made it a potluck as she works full-time and there were 12 of us and cooked one of the two mains, a moussaka. The moussaka can be made ahead to a certain point. I made a chicken enchilada casserole with salsa verde (very refreshing for Summer dinner).

          Started dinner off with a cheese platter, then salad and mains, and couple of people had brought different desserts (I'd suggest key lime pie or berry trifle). With lots of wine flowing & "catching up" chatter, evening was fantastic!

          ps. I brought some of the leftover moussaka home and my teenage girls loved it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ceekskat

            Thanks, ceekskat. Moussaka is a great idea for a crowd. I would just feel badly about asking the out-of-town guests to bring food. I'll keep Moussaka in mind, though.

            1. re: kristen3

              Didn't realize they were all out of town guests :) No, we didn't make our visiting friend cook either...just the local ones!

          2. This time of year (summer) I go for produce as well.

            I would do a big pasta dish with lots of veggies - could add a protein (chicken?) - and big curls of parm regg - fresh basil. I like a medium sized tube shape for this (any of them are good).

            I find everyone likes it and it is easy for people to "pick around" a specific veggie if they don't like it (thinking kids).

            All chopping and even cooking the chicken can be done ahead - you could even blanch the veggies the night before if you really wanted to do that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: thimes

              That's a good idea. Maybe even a couple of different sauces to choose from, hopefully something for everyone, and they can sauce their own pasta?

            2. white gazpacho
              ratatouille napoleons
              whole baked fish en croute or in parchment
              peach and honey ice cream

              5 Replies
              1. re: charlesbois

                Do you have a recipe for the ratatouille napoleons? Sounds intriguing!

                1. re: kristen3

                  nooo, no recipe. I just wing ratatouille but I can give you approximations, you'll have to scale up though. The nice thing is ratatouille can definitely be made a day or two in advance. Then you just cut sheets of puff pastry and bake, then assemble the napoleons. You can even layer with some whipped herbed ricotta for a sort of deconstructed lasagne affair.

                    1. re: charlesbois

                      But do I dare make ratatouille for a French lady? LOL

                      1. re: kristen3

                        I think if you stay true to a classic recipe and don't puff it off as authentic, they will appreciate it! And might be intrigued by the twist of putting it in another context. Have you thought about serving American wines and/or local beers?