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Next Saturday I'm going to a friend's house to make dinner for her and her husband. She is about to have a rather important surgery so I'm going there to hang out and spend girl time, and I want to give a good meal to her and her husband.

There's only 3 of us and I want to keep it fairly simple since I'm not used to cooking in her kitchen... so probably no apps. If I do them it'll just be a cheese plate.

I'm planning on making this lemon chicken recipe: http://www.inspiredtaste.net/18649/ea... and this baked risotto with asparagus, peas, and pancetta: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-baked... I've made the chicken before, but not the risotto, so I'm open to other ideas on that.

Dessert will most likely be Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake, probably with some kind of ice cream since my friend is an ice cream fanatic.

Where I'm getting stuck is the dinner part. I feel like I need to do one more item to make it feel like a complete meal. I originally thought of some kind of garlic bread but with the risotto, that's a pretty carb heavy meal...but maybe that doesn't matter I was thinking maybe another vegetable of some kind... maybe green beans? I don't know.

What would you fine Chowhounders do?

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  1. I would simply do a nice tossed salad with a homemade vinaigrette.

    1. IMO risotto is too finicky for a maiden dish in an unfamiliar kitchen. If you want rice, I would do pilaf and a simple green veg or salad.

      1. I agree with Pika that a simple crisp salad will round your meal nicely. I also looked at serving suggestions in the chicken recipe and it says: "Serve with rice and vegetables or with mashed potatoes. Pasta, even." I think it will go very well with orzo. I love serving it because you can cook orzo a night before, toss it with some butter, minced garlic (a bit), parsley or basil, and parmesan; put into a serving dish that goes in the oven and warm it up as the chicken is cooking. Super easy and very tasty. Even simpler but good is short grain brown rice - it is nutty and chewy and nutritious.

        2 Replies
        1. re: herby

          I agree with the orzo idea, but perhaps a bit more of a fancier one, but just as easy.

          Aaron McCargo's Lemon-pepper orzo is so easy and delicious. Here's the link.


          And I 3rd the green salad idea.


          1. re: mcel215

            A friend of mine does an orzo with asparagus tips and fresh peas. Very nice.

        2. salad would be a good additional course. You may want fruity kind of sald since have some vegies in the risooto. Also be sure to check with friend about any dietary restrictions. For ex some docs still insist on restricting green vegies before starting to take blood thiners others just want to maintain status quo so if friend typically eats lots of green vegies then no reason to change.

          1. In the spring, I love to do a medley of petit pois, hericot vert, and asparagus tips. Frozen peas and beans work beautifully, if you have to. Cook separately, then toss in butter to warm all before serving. S&P.

            Save the asparagus stalks for soup or another use.

            Would go great with that chicken recipe. Then you could do the garlic bread with no worries about the risotto.

            Everything else sounds like a great match.

            Good friend.

            1. I also like the green salad as a starter (since you have lemon in your main course and dessert, you might want to consider a dressing that isn't lemony -- maybe green goddess or something else you all like).

              If you go with your asparagus risotto, you have your green veg and starch, so I wouldn't do an additional green veg, but one of my go-to's is to do sauteed cherry tomatoes with garlic or shallots, thyme, parsley or chives, as an additional side. It adds color to the plate (if you can get one of those containers with the mixed colors, it would be especially attractive, but grape tomatoes are great). Sauteed fresh little carrots are another idea.

              Enjoy your weekend with your friends.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Terrie H.

                Roasted carrots, cut on the diagonal would look nice, taste good and be easy to prepare.

              2. It sounds good but I agree with others about using orzo instead of making risotto.

                The other thing that I'm stuck on is the lemon yogurt cake. I love Ina's recipe but I have never had that cake so I don't know how lemon-y it is. Just seems like lemon chicken, then lemon cake is a bit too much lemon. Personally, I'd go with a chocolate cake or something plus, of course, the ice cream :)

                1 Reply
                1. re: valerie

                  Yeah I already ran a few dessert ideas by my friend (including chocolate ones) and she picked the lemon yogurt cake. The lemon chicken isn't that lemony so I didn't think it would be overkill.

                2. Thanks everyone. Lots of great ideas here. I know risotto can be finicky but I figured a baked one would be easy since it's mostly done in the oven. That Aaron McCargo orzo recipe looks really good, but I am trying to keep it on the healthier side... maybe I can tweak that one though.

                  I do have this recipe for an orzo... maybe I could omit the sausage and shallots (husband hates anything onion-like in his food), and add in asparagus to that... same idea as the baked risotto but easier to do: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                  Or can just do nemos idea of a veggie saute sort of thing, and then just do the garlic bread.

                  Or, I also saved this recipe... maybe could serve the chicken on top of something like this? http://www.chow.com/recipes/29517-fet...

                  My friend said her husband's favorite vegetable is asparagus so I really want to incorporate it somewhere. No dietary restrictions (other than trying to keep it on the healthy side).

                  Ack, too many ideas :)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: juliejulez

                    JJ, Donna Hay has simple but delicious recipe for asparagus baked with garlic and olive oil. Or you could boil it for 2 min, shock, slice an add to orzo when reheating.

                    Whatever you decide to make this is going to be memorable dinner - you are very good friend!

                    1. re: juliejulez

                      Oven risotto is easy and to my mind much better than orzo and your recipe includes the asparagus that is desired.

                      Add a crisp salad and you are good. Just no lemon vinaigrette ;)

                    2. Well, I ended up asking my friend what she would like for a side dish, I sent her a bunch of ideas. She ended up picking the baked risotto after all... I guess I know her pretty well :) We'll probably also do a side salad, I'll whip up a quick dijon vinaigrette for that.

                      Thanks everyone for your input, I make this kind of meal a lot at home so I'm bookmarking this thread to try all the different ideas!