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Feb 8, 2013 07:54 PM

Do I need a palate cleanser?

I have a large meal planned for 6 of us with wine pairings. Spanish theme (thanks to all CHers that helped me with the menu).

I am waffling with needing a veggie/palate cleanser component. I love my veggies and would rarely ever go without them, but for this meal, I am open to what ever works. Here is the menu:

Mixed cheese/meat plate
Almond soup (cold)
Garlic Prawns
Lamb stew with chorizo and white beans
Fruit tart with nuts

I was debating throwing in a very light, small salad of bitter greens after the prawns? Or something else. Thoughts?

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  1. You definitely need at least a salad. I'd include a steamed or roasted vegetable dish as well. With seafood, meat stew, beans, and nuts I would scrap the cheese/meat plate entirely.
    Your menu already has a couple of days' worth of protein without that.

    6 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I agree that the cheese and meat plate is too much.

      1. re: sandylc

        Actually the rest of the food is all bought, so no changing them, can add though. I know the crowd, they are happy to eat like this. My portions of everything are quite small.

        Any thoughts on what type of salad?

          1. re: cleopatra999

            I like arugula with good oo and vinegar (love sherry vinegar here) and shaved Parm. I'd probably not do the fennel/apple as that seems more like another course rather than a refresher.

        1. re: Vidute

          I love a good thai salad, but don't feel it would go with the spanish theme. Good thought for another time.

          1. re: cleopatra999

            neither does cole slaw, nor apple slaw.

        2. Small salad sounds entirely appropriate for your Spanish theme. They are our continent's biggest eaters of salad. It's usually served at the beginning of a meal, or as an accompaniment to grilled fish or meat. I would cut out your cheese/meat plate and substitute a simple leaf salad with a simple olive oil & lemon juice dressing.

          I presume you'll be planning a pause after the soup, so you can cook the prawns at the last minute.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            Yes there will be a pause. As you are correct, the prawns cannot be made ahead (although hopefully my mise en place will be in place!) So would you recommend the salad after the soup before the shrimp? or before the lamb.

            As mentioned, I have already bought the cheese/meat, so I will be keeping it as a dish. Also this group would be aghast if we didn't start with cheese plate, regardless of the size or heaviness of the rest of the meal.

            I am not completely married to the idea of the almond soup (I have had it once and found it surprisingly light and refreshing though). If there is something better I am open to suggestions.

            1. re: cleopatra999

              If possible, perhaps serve the meat/cheese plate as tapas, with drinks before the meal.

              Then sit them down and, as I suggested in the earlier post, serve the salad right at the beginning, in the Spanish style. Your friends sound like big eaters, so I'd definitely keep the soup - ajo blanco is lovely.

              1. re: Harters

                i love that soup too, but in my locale right now i would want hot soup. don't know where the op lives?

                i also think of ajo blanco as a great lunch with a green salad. it's a rich start to what is very heavy meal.

                1. re: Harters

                  tapas is exactly how I planned the meat/cheese plate.

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Ah, so not a course but rather in the living room with drinks. Or you could save the meat/cheese for noshing the following day.

              2. re: Harters

                I could do a gazpacho instead, but it is far from the season for it. I would have to use canned tomatoes, not sure if that is offensive!

                1. re: cleopatra999

                  If you want a lighter soup, I've posted a recipe for white grape gazpacho on this board before - I got the recipe from a Spanish-inspired restaurant in Chicago. It's light and refreshing but not dependent on decent tomatoes (it is dependent on decent green grapes, but I've been getting good ones lately despite the cold temperatures).

                  Either way, I think a salad of bitter greens (with a citrus vinaigrette, maybe some shaved fennel as well?) either between prawns and lamb or along with one of those courses is fine. You clearly know your audience, so I wouldn't worry about the meal being too heavy, but a little salad is always welcome. You could even add some grilled vegetables of some type to your meat/cheese starter, if you think the crowd would enjoy them.

              3. a cheese/meat plate as a starter certainly isn't a very mediterranean beginning, but sounds like both you and your guests are wedded to it. :)

                unless you're someplace more temperate than i am (now buried under 2+ feet of snow, lol), i'd also consider switching to a hot soup. small portions of a white bean-chorizo soup, instead of loading up the lamb. or a soup of bitter greens with the beans, based on chicken stock.

                roasted green beans, or a bitter green (if you choose to not go with that for soup) sauteed with some harissa would work as a side with the lamb instead of a salad.

                are you someplace that fruit is in season? i am not, so would likely do a lemon tart with an almond crust. (if not doing the almond soup.)

                8 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I was originally going to do a hot soup, but I sooooo loved the ajo blanco and really wanted to use this occasion to make it. I did find one recipe on a Spanish site for hot ajo blanco, I could switch to that.

                  It has also been crazy warm here lately, so it feels very spring like right now.

                  The fruit/nut tart is actually with dried pears and dates.

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Sounds like a Tarta de Mucisa.
                    Between the Shrimp and the Lamb Sounds like a great spot for a bitter green Salad with a sharp simple Dressing.
                    Chicory and Arugala with Sherry Vinaigrette.

                    1. re: chefj

                      that is exactly what the dessert is. Musician's Tart

                      1. re: cleopatra999

                        We often make it at work. My boss wrote a couple of Spanish Cookbooks and we do a lot of Spanish Cooking.

                        1. re: chefj

                          It sounds delicious. Although finding dried pears was a real challenge. I wound up picking through the mixed dried fruit bins at the grocery store to find a cups worth. *oops*

                          Do you serve it with creme fraiche or a bit of whipped cream? I was thinking creme fraiche, but have a hard time spending almost $6 on it.

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            You can really use any dried fruit you want.
                            I have never seen it served with any accompaniment at all.
                            The top is often decorated with arranged patterns of Nuts and powdered Sugar

                            1. re: cleopatra999

                              Creme fraiche is easy to make. Although I agree it's not necessary.

                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                      Love your soup suggestions. I'm gearing up for a white bean- chorizo as I ahve both in the freezer.

                    3. Why not serve a salad with the prawns? Some spinach, fennel, onions and orange segments, very spanish and would go well with the prawns.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jonhall

                        Salad could work very well with the prawns, depending on how the OP intends to cook them.

                        My favourite Spanish way sees shelled prawns served up in hot olive oil, slices of garlic and chilli - you often see it on menus there as "gambas pil-pil". Great dish but, unfortunately, one that wouldnt really suit a salad being alongside - you need nothing more than some bread

                        1. re: Harters

                          those are the exact prawns I am making I didn't think that it would go well with a salad.

                          Still a little uncertain when I should serve the salad. My gut instinct is before the main, but that could just be the north American in me. LOL.

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            Pil-pil is lovely. We had it only a couple of weeks ago in Tenerife.

                            I know the north American instinct to stick in a salad in places that just seem a bit odd to European instincts. The problem serving it before the main in this case, is that you are, presumably, going to be having an oil based dressing on it immediately following the very oily prawns. Think it might just a bit much.

                            I still reckon right at the beginning is best bet. It will follow your quite rich and fatty tapas (lovely - don't forget some olives) - crisp leaves, zingy dressing, etc - perfect follow-on , to my mind.

                            You're then into the "creamy" cold soup which will be greta after the zingy salad. And then the spicy, oily prawns. And then your keeping up the spicy with the chorizo in the stew. I think that's a pretty much perfect running order. Whatever you do, please come back and tell us how it went.

                            1. re: Harters

                              I think that is a great plan!

                              Everything is coming together wonderfully.