Light summer menu to go with cream pies and champagne?
August 22, 2011 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me out with some menu suggestions for a light summer party meal? Must go with cream pies for dessert, and champagne to drink! We're hosting a casual but nice, semi-seated party for 15-20 on Saturday night, and while we have drinks and dessert set, I seem to be totally unable to come up with anything much for the rest...

I'm thinking a salad, a cheese plate, a cold pasta or rice dish, and something else... something chicken based? It's that protein element I'm really stuck on. Do you know a great dish that's light with some spice to it, and would make sense with the elements that are decided?

I'm a good cook and have plenty of time, access to great ingredients, and kitchen equipment, but I want to keep this simple and make just about everything ahead so I can enjoy the party. I have no problem relying heavily on good quality store-bought items either. We'll be cooking for 15-20 people, possibly showing up at different times, and they'll be eating from their laps, so nothing too temperature sensitive or unwieldy.

Any suggestions or recipes welcome. The only banned ingredients are strawberries and mushrooms (I'm allergic to both).
posted by crabintheocean to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
....This makes me think "English garden party high tea" for the menu, for some reason. A bunch of different fussy little tea sandwiches and some cold chicken or ham, maybe.
Or -- pan bagnat. Or something else with seafood.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2011

I love the tea sandwiches idea. Fussy little sandwiches are so much fun. Some ideas: cucumber and cream cheese, tomato and mayo, smoked salmon and capers, goat cheese and watercress.

For a little appetizer/finger food thing, get a cantaloupe and a package of pig candy prosciutto. Make a melon ball and wrap it with a little piece of prosciutto. Stick a toothpick* in it and you're done. It's hard to screw up something as delicious as prosciutto.

*If you don't want to use toothpicks, you can do what I saw the Trader Joe's sample maven doing the other day and use uncooked spaghetti broken into short pieces. So clever!
posted by phunniemee at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

A nice gazpacho to start. The ingredients are at the peak of the ripeness and correspondingly the bottom of their price curve. It's cold, can be made ahead and is easy to scale up for larger groups.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:59 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

real shallow-fried buttermilk marinated chicken would be amazing and unexpected with this menu. It's just as good at room temperature as it is hot; make it in the morning and air out the house before people get there. I am really, really rooting for this option.

But if you don't want to mess around with frying stuff...roast beef served cold or at room temperature would be amazing, too. Make a good horseradish sauce to go with.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:03 PM on August 22, 2011

What about some chilled shrimp kabobs? This is light and nice and summery, fancy yet not difficult. Or make both shrimp and chicken so the guests can have their choice.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:04 PM on August 22, 2011

I will share the menu from a recent small dinner party on a hot summer night - I knew I was finishing with a rich dessert and I wanted everyone to have enough stomach room to enjoy it! So I started by making rosemary and sea salt foccacia (my first time working with yeast and it was very easy!) which I served with pate, olives and some different cured meats. I then served gazpacho as the main course, however I supplemented it with sour cream and avocado, and shrimp and crab. Dessert was balsamic chocolate brownies with raspberries. We drank rose for the whole meal and, even if I do say so myself, it was delicious!


Inspiration for the gazpacho
posted by unlaced at 1:06 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you have a Trader Joe's nearby? There are lots of wonderful one to two bite items in their freezer that are perfect for this sort of party! Just heat and you are ready to go!
posted by Yellow at 1:08 PM on August 22, 2011

A grilled (or roasted) pork tenderloin might be a good protein choice. You can marinate with stuff that will go with your chosen salad and grain accompaniment. (I usually marinate with olive oil, balsamic or other red wine vinegar, S&P, garlic powder, and maybe some soy sauce, plus whatever herbs are available from the garden -- you could add different spices/herbs and use a fruit juice or other flavorful liquid if you like.)

You could also do this in advance and serve it at room temp.
posted by pupstocks at 1:14 PM on August 22, 2011

Baltimore crab cakes! Use Maryland blue crab lump crab meat. Easy to make ahead of time, broil before serving, and still taste delicious at room temperature. Simple to eat as well.
posted by maxg94 at 1:21 PM on August 22, 2011

Ceviche! I add a little jalapeno or up the chili powder to make it spicy. You could keep the serving bowl on a bed of ice if you're worried about the temp, but the pickling aspect helps the dish's resiliency.
posted by *s at 2:17 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with maxg94's suggestion of Maryland blue crab cakes, but start with lobster bisque, or Manhattan clam chowder.
posted by paulsc at 5:52 PM on August 22, 2011

Panzanella! We just ate this for dinner about twenty minutes ago, and man is it good--light, refreshing, and delicious.

The recipe we used was slightly different, with feta, no basil, kalamata olives instead of capers, and cherry tomatoes instead of cubed romas or whatever. I'm sure the recipe is easy to alter to taste, as well. At any rate, it can be set up the night before (I'd leave the croutons out until just before serving) and it should keep well in the temperature.

Totally seconding gazpacho, but having gone back and noticed the chicken requirement--what about chicken satay?
posted by thecaddy at 6:08 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Came in to say panzanella, but was beaten to the punch. Panzanella!
posted by trip and a half at 8:30 PM on August 22, 2011

Thanks so much everyone. I loved all the suggestions, especially gazpacho, which I would totally have gone with for a sit down meal, but was too logistically challenging for a sort of eat off your lap party like this one. Unlaced - thank you especially, I think I will be copying your menu exactly for a future smaller party, it sounds amazing. Here's what I went with in the end:

Drinks - The classic champagne cocktail made with a sugar cube and Peychaud's bitters.
Salad - Super simple arugula with lemon juice/olive oil/sea salt dressing
Protein - This baked salmon with peppers recipe, served cold. The dressing is amazing, it was easy and super popular, and a good choice because we have lots of friends who don't eat meat but they all eat fish.
Carb - Cold orzo with olive oil, lemon juice, plenty of salt and pepper, and finely chopped spinach and tarragon mixed through.
Dessert - Chocolate and coconut cream pies, which came from Whole Foods, and everyone stuffed themselves with, even the people who swore they couldn't!

I also skipped the cheese, because frankly I just couldn't be bothered. It was all delicious, really popular, and perfect for the 90 degree evening we ended up having.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by crabintheocean at 11:55 AM on August 31, 2011

I forgot - we also had some great olives and marcona almonds around for nibbles.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:57 AM on August 31, 2011

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