Dinner Party

9 Aug

We had friends to dinner last night and since “what to make” is a perpetual conundrum for many of us, I thought I’d share our menu and a few tips with you.

The day before dinner, I made a simple pound cake. Any recipe will do. The only fiddling I do with these is to add the zest of one lemon. You won’t be able to pinpoint lemon in the finished cake, but it’ll taste a little brighter than one without.

A few hours before our guests arrived, I zested and juiced lemons and prepared the oil for Giada’s Pasta with Lemon Oil and Shrimp, which is a great entertaining recipe–everyone likes it and it comes together very quickly and easily. The oil is best if you add the lemon zest a few hours ahead, so you might as well deal with the rest of the lemons ahead of time.

I also chopped tomatoes and cucumber for my tomato cucumber salad. I didn’t chop the basil ahead of time–the edges will blacken. Covered that with plastic wrap and set it aside. I also opened and drained a can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, and mixed those with one clove of chopped garlic.

About 20 minutes before the party, I cut a baguette in half lengthwise and toasted it under the broiler. When it was done, I brushed it with olive oil, cut it into slices, topped the oil side with the drained tomato/garlic mixture, sprinkled it with Parmesan, and popped it back under the broiler for five minutes to let the cheese melt. Voila–bruschetta. I set those on the kitchen counter with a bottle of wine and glasses, to kick things off.

While the bread toasted, I whipped half a pint of heavy whipping cream with a tablespoon and a half of powdered sugar and a quarter-teaspoon of vanilla extract. Covered that and set it in the fridge for later.

Once we all settled in, I made the rest of the pasta while everyone sat around the kitchen island with their wine. I love that fettucini recipe but do fiddle with it: I don’t add any pasta water to mine and I replace bitter arugula with sweet basil. I also add a pinch of red pepper flakes and use a little less oil than she calls for. Pine nuts would also be good in this but I didn’t do that this time around.

While the water boiled, I popped the garlic bread under the broiler for a few minutes, and then sliced it, put it in a cloth napkin-lined basket, and set it on the table.

Once the pasta wrapped up, I poured the vinegar and oil over my salad and put everything in big bowls, which went in the middle of the dining room table. We ate family-style, with everyone serving themselves, and it worked beautifully. Dessert was served the same way, with a plate of pound cake slices, a bowl of the whipped cream, and a bowl of blueberries that were all passed. I like family-style parties because everything is passed at least twice so no one feels self-conscious about taking seconds, and it encourages chatting and lingering. We hadn’t seen our friends in awhile, and lingering was welcome.

This meal was perfect for a summer party. It tasted light and fresh, but no one went home feeling hungry and we all enjoyed the evening. Two thumbs up.

2 Responses to “Dinner Party”

  1. Kristen Sayan August 9, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    I think that recipe is pretty similar to Barefoot’s pasta and shrimp scampi recipe, which I love because it is much less oily than traditional scampi, and is very bright with lemon. My kids love it too.

    Sounds yummy!

  2. Kate Wyatt-Burrows August 25, 2010 at 8:47 pm #


    As convoluted as this sounds I am still married to my husband I have a boyfriend of 3 years but every time I read this blog – I WANT YOU TO BE MY WIFE!!lol


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