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Need Menu Ideas

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Will be hosting a small dinner party for a girlfriend who is turning 60 on Saturday. Attending the party is all ladies and we live in the southwest where it is really hot (and humid) right now.

My current thoughts lean towards having some small bites with drinks followed by dinner. I was thinking maybe I would start with a chilled soup using a little low fat yogurt to add the "cream" factor but keeping it light. And then I stumble .. when I was young my mom used to buy the Pepperidge Farm pastry cups, bake them off, and then fill them with a filling of seafood, usually shrimp and scallops, in a light white wine sauce. My sister was talking about these recently - so they are on my mind but not sure they are the right direction for this group. If I made them I would likely just pair them with a very simple green salad. But then I think I would need one other course but not sure what I would add to this menu.

Open to any suggestions!


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  1. For your soup, I highly recommend a green grape gazpacho - it is so refreshing and unusual. Here's a recipe I can vouch for, that I got from a chef in Chicago (it makes a huge restaurant-sized quantity, so adjust as necessary):

    2 lb Green seedless grapes removed from stems
    1 English cucumber peeled and chopped
    1/2 bunch scallions, greens only
    2 oz Cream cheese
    2 1/2 C. Half and Half
    1 1/2 oz. white wine vinegar
    1 1/4 C. plain yogurt
    1 oz olive oil
    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
    2 tbs. Sugar (may need adjusting depending on grapes)
    Salt and white pepper to taste
    1/2 bunch dill
    3 tbs slivered almonds toasted
    1 tbs chives, chopped

    Puree all ingredients, except dill, almonds and chives. Strain. Adjust seasonings. Garnish with remaining ingredients.

    Or one from Food and Wine: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/gr...

    As for your main, does the group like seafood? If so, the dish you described sounds nice, lovely and light with a salad. If you want a more substantial main, a cold poached salmon is nice, and makes an impressive presentation if you serve it whole. You could serve it with an orzo salad, rice pilaf, etc., plus a grilled vegetable of some type.

    If you want to bulk things up further, add a cheese course before dessert!

    1 Reply
    1. re: biondanonima

      i make something similar, but use white grape juice instead of the vinegar and do not use dairy. i whiz avocado in there for body.

      love the idea of a side of poached salmon. dead easy too. :)

    2. I think the Pepperridge Farm Pastry cups with a seafood filling is brilliant. I grew up having my mother fill them with a homemade version of chicken a la king. What about a fruit and cheese course after the main course followed by a light dessert - lemon mousse, pavlovas etc.

      1. What about the pastry cups is "not the right direction?" Is it the rich pastry shells? If so, could you sub out something else or just serve on a bed of greens? I love the idea of the pastry shells, not something I'd eat every day, but if you have friends that don't do gluten, grains, etc... I understand).
        Do you want something warm, or could you go with a hearty seafood salad, chilled?
        is there such a thing as a light cheese course? served along side some fruit?
        What are dessert plans? Traditional cake?

        1. I grew up on the Atlantic seaboard and as a result I think about crab at this time of year. Now I live in Austin. I relate to hot and humid. How about crab cakes, sweet corn, and sliced tomatoes? Follow with a simple green salad and fruit and cheese or some nifty sorbet in hollowed orange halves garnished with a little grated rind macerated in white wine.

          Or crab Norfolk and steamed zucchini and crookneck with green onions and grated Romano.

          Or big scallops seared with butter, miso, and lime juice, served on capellini nests with broiled tomatoes, again followed by green salad. Cherry clafoutis.

          Or make a bunch of pulled pork and a pot of black beans and put out a spread of build your own tacos, a big bowl of jicama and cabbage slaw, and an iced tub of beer with lime wedges. Flan for dessert.

          1. Here is a good Snapper Fried Light recipe. You could turn the fried filets into finger sandwiches.


            1. If you do a veggie based chilled soup, how about some melon to go along with the seafood cups or for dessert?

              1. Sounds wonderful -- does the filling involve a white sauce - e.g., "Seafood Newburg"? I love the Joy of Coooking cookbook recipe for this.

                Would you add a dinner roll of some sort, along with the pastry shell? Maybe a cooked vegetable like sauteed summer squash or steamed asparagus?

                Also agree with others that a fruit course might be nice. We've been enjoying some terrific melon, "Sugar Kiss" variety, from CA this week.

                1. I'm not that keen on smoked salmon but ill eat it this way.
                  butter both sides 7 grain bread and bake turning once. Remove crusts and cut into triangles. Put a piece of salmon on. Top with crem fresh with added sesame oil and a little hot sauce. Top that with toasted black and white sesame seeds. Best served asap but can hang for a while..


                  1. I made a chilled Corn Soup this week that was wonderful--lot of work but worth it. Cut kernels off fresh corn and scraped off "cream." Put cobs in pot with water, onion and carrots. Once done, saved a couple carrots and strained broth back into pot. Added corn and cooked for 5 minutes. Put corn, stock and two carrots into blender along with some chipotle, salt, pepper, and a good splash of coconut milk. Processed it all then pressed through a sieve. Cool and adjust chipotle, salt and pepper. The coconut brought out the sweetness of the corn though it probably would work with yogurt and a bit of something sweet. I had this soup last month poured into a bowl that had scallop tartare in the bottom--excellent.

                    1. I would suggest, especially as a good companion with salad, that you make beforehand, and serve at room temp,, any variation on the European dish which is quiche in France, Tortilla EspaƱa (Spanish Tortilla or Spanish Omelette) in Spain, or Frittata in Italy. There are many variations, with the starch being absent (as often in quiche, which is a pretty full-on cheese custard) to potatoes in the Spanish and Italian versions (but you can also used day-old spaghetti as a starch for a frittata).

                      With the right herbs and seasonings, those are terrific, can be cut into portions ahead of time when cooled, and require no last-minute energy. They are also one of the best savory foods I know that don't require meat, if that matters, although I think bacon, pancetta, etc., are wonderful in them.