How-To: Spring Dinner Party, Part 2

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springparty20 Today, I’m going to continue my short How-To series on throwing a Dinner Party – today is Part Two!  If you missed last Wednesday’s Part One, click here to catch up.  If you’re all caught up, let’s move on.

springparty21 The dinner party I had a few weekends ago featured fresh Spring produce and light, seasonal fare.  It’s nice in the Spring and Summer to have parties because the food rarely needs a lot of cooking and most people will enjoy lighter meals that require less preparation.  This was my menu:

Appetizers:  Whipped Goat Cheese BrushettaEggplant Caponata and Fried Crab Balls with Spicy Remoulade Sauce
Salad:  Shaved Asparagus and Ricotta Salata Salad
Main Course:  Fresh Cherry Tomato Pasta, Buttered Green Spring Vegetables, and Roasted Garlic and Herb Butter with Italian bread
Dessert:  Strawberry Swirled Lemon Cheesecake

springparty14 The Fresh Cherry Tomato Pasta is probably one of the easiest pasta sauces I’ve ever made, in addition to the most delicious.  Talk about party food…it’s a party in your mouth.  The green vegetable medley was just an assortment of the freshest green veggies I could find at the farmer’s market – nothing super special.  And of course with pasta I served some warmed Italian bread and butter.  However…I stepped it up a notch by mixing the butter with roasted garlic and herbs.  Super simple, but makes a heck of a difference!  The strawberry lemon cheesecake was a twist on my mom’s lime cheesecake (family favorite) and it turned out pretty good – though not as good as hers!  And it was a really nice refreshing dessert.

I hope you try out some of my dishes at your next dinner party.  Even if you come up with your own recipes, following just a few of my tips from my last post or this one can really help you prepare, cook fabulous food AND enjoy your company without stress!

  1. Clean up and decorate your space.  Take time the day before to clean up, de-clutter and decorate your house or dining room.  I usually decorate AND set my table the night before.  This allows you to focus on the cooking and food prep the day of!
  2. The day before I usually end up doing some type of cooking – though it depends on how complicated my menu ends up being.  I always like doing “make-ahead” desserts.  I’m a horrible baker so this leaves plenty of time for a disaster to occur AND be remedied.  Soups and sauces are also great make-ahead dishes and frequently have much better flavor if made the day before.  Read over your recipes carefully to select recipes that you can make the day before and leave you more time the day of.
  3. Set up a beverage station/area, fill pitchers and have plenty of ice on hand before your guests arrive.  Dario is always on “drink duty” and it takes one thing off my plate to do.  If you have a significant other, friend or family member that is willing to help, have them serve water, wine or other drinks to your guests.  This will allow you a little more time to greet guests and finish up anything in the kitchen.
  4. Set up a prep area.  I have a big booze block table in our kitchen that I use to set up plates when I’m ready to serve.  I line up all the plates and then can quickly plate up each dish with ease.  I also line up little bowls with any garnishes that go with the meal.  Having everything set out and ready to go helps me to work on multiple plates at a time.  This is super helpful.
  5. Take a breath, have a drink and enjoy yourself!  This is probably the most important tip I have – which you might think is crazy.  But having friends or family over for a dinner party is supposed to be fun – hello dinner PARTY!  Try not to get caught up with the cooking or presentation or get to worried about how everything tastes.  The most important thing is to enjoy your time with good people.

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