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Do I need a palate cleanser?

c
cleopatra999 Feb 8, 2013 07:54 PM

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?

  1. c
    cleopatra999 Feb 11, 2013 09:23 AM

    thanks everyone for all the suggestions. The evening was a huge success. I did not feel that it was too heavy or unbalanced. Our portions were quite small.

    I made a small salad of fennel, oranges, red onion and parsley with a light sherry vinegar vinaigrette. It was perfect between the soup and meat/cheese plate.

    The garlic prawns and the musician's tart were the stars of the night.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cleopatra999
      hotoynoodle Feb 11, 2013 10:46 AM

      wonderful! i love that sort of salad.

      1. re: cleopatra999
        h
        Harters Feb 11, 2013 11:18 AM

        Excellent stuff. That salad sounds bang-on to me.

      2. d
        drloripalooza Feb 9, 2013 01:32 PM

        My favorite salad with Spanish food is shaved fennel, clementine segments, good black olives, and very thinly sliced onions. Of course this would depend on the type of fruit in the tart if you are not serving the salad first. A salad with bitter greens, asparagus, and marinated baby artichokes with a sherry or fig vinegar might be good too.

        If you are looking for a sorbet, I would suggest blood orange with rosemary.

        5 Replies
        1. re: drloripalooza
          c
          cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 01:40 PM

          that salad sounds great, very similar to what I am planning. Unfortunately clementines are not easy to find right now.

          I have some navel oranges? I could use those instead of the apple? I have a red onion I was planning to thin with it as well.

          1. re: cleopatra999
            d
            drloripalooza Feb 9, 2013 01:44 PM

            sectioned oranges would be perfect -- clementines are actually easier to find where I live. I use red onion as well. I would skip apple.

          2. re: drloripalooza
            Terrie H. Feb 9, 2013 03:03 PM

            I love this salad, though I use regular oranges rather than clementines, red onion, and add a few lightly toasted sliced almonds for crunch.

            To cleopatra - In the progression of your particular menu, I suggest serving your salad between the shrimp and lamb stew. It would give a break between to richer dishes.

            I'm sure your guests whill have a lovely evening!

            1. re: Terrie H.
              c
              cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 03:59 PM

              okay, will switch to oranges, I will actually go back to grocery store and see if I can get blood oranges (not hopeful in my small town).

              very light sherry vinegar/olive oil vinaigrette?

              1. re: cleopatra999
                Terrie H. Feb 9, 2013 06:00 PM

                I happen to love sherry vinegar so that's what I would choose in the vinaigrette. Blood oranges would be pretty, but your standard naval orange is more than fine.

                Enjoy your party.

          3. j
            jonhall Feb 9, 2013 12:22 PM

            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
              h
              Harters Feb 9, 2013 01:22 PM

              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
                c
                cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 01:41 PM

                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
                  h
                  Harters Feb 10, 2013 03:22 AM

                  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
                    c
                    cleopatra999 Feb 10, 2013 02:11 PM

                    I think that is a great plan!

                    Everything is coming together wonderfully.

            2. hotoynoodle Feb 9, 2013 08:49 AM

              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
                c
                cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 01:28 PM

                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
                  chefj Feb 9, 2013 04:27 PM

                  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
                    c
                    cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 05:42 PM

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

                    1. re: cleopatra999
                      chefj Feb 9, 2013 05:45 PM

                      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
                        c
                        cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 05:48 PM

                        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
                          chefj Feb 9, 2013 05:55 PM

                          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
                            c oliver Feb 9, 2013 06:06 PM

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

                  2. re: hotoynoodle
                    c oliver Feb 9, 2013 06:00 PM

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

                  3. h
                    Harters Feb 9, 2013 07:19 AM

                    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
                      c
                      cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 07:26 AM

                      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
                        h
                        Harters Feb 9, 2013 08:55 AM

                        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
                          hotoynoodle Feb 9, 2013 09:45 AM

                          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
                            c
                            cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 01:30 PM

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

                            1. re: cleopatra999
                              c oliver Feb 9, 2013 05:59 PM

                              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
                          c
                          cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 07:31 AM

                          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
                            biondanonima Feb 9, 2013 10:01 AM

                            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. v
                          Vidute Feb 8, 2013 09:57 PM

                          thai cucumber salad?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Vidute
                            c
                            cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 07:15 AM

                            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
                              hotoynoodle Feb 9, 2013 08:50 AM

                              neither does cole slaw, nor apple slaw.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                c
                                cleopatra999 Feb 9, 2013 01:31 PM

                                true....

                          2. greygarious Feb 8, 2013 08:23 PM

                            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
                              s
                              sandylc Feb 8, 2013 09:16 PM

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

                              1. re: sandylc
                                c
                                cleopatra999 Feb 8, 2013 09:24 PM

                                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
                                  ipsedixit Feb 8, 2013 09:27 PM

                                  A vinegary coleslaw.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    c
                                    cleopatra999 Feb 8, 2013 09:29 PM

                                    hmmmm, maybe fennel/apple slaw?

                                    1. re: cleopatra999
                                      ipsedixit Feb 8, 2013 09:45 PM

                                      Sure. Why not.

                                  2. re: cleopatra999
                                    c oliver Feb 9, 2013 05:57 PM

                                    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.

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