Saturday, September 11, 2010

Themed Entertaining - August 30, 2010

I'm the first to admit that themed meals can be a little cheesy. But every once in a while, embracing a particular concept for cooking is a both fun and a helpful way to get organized! I hosted a group of nine girlfriends - my old college roommates - over the weekend. I wanted to do as much shopping and prep as possible in advance in order to be able to enjoy their company without distraction. So I decided on an ethnic approach, which turned out to be totally fun!

The first meal was Mediterranean and began with easy, assembled apps from the store: kalamata olives, tzaziki and hummus garnished with cucumbers, pita triangles and baby carrots as dippers. For the main dish, my thoughtful husband took a moment out of wrangling our munchkins to grill (on other way, he says) chicken that I had marinated in tangy buttermilk, about 15 crushed garlic cloves and a baseball sized portion of chopped rosemary from my backyard. For a side, my girl Ina helped me out with her recipe for orzo with roasted vegetables and feta. For this dish, please cube a block of good feta and not the crumbled stuff. It is just worlds better!! (

One of my friends made homemade yogurt (wow!), which we layered with granola, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey for breakfast the next morning. With a (four) cup (s) of coffee on the side, it was a glorious start to our day.

I opted to assemble rather than cook for lunch, and laid out an Italian Panini bar. I cut out a picture of this concept from Marth almost a decade ago, but it was only recently that I actually tried it. As it was easy, collaborative and fun (as well as tasty...clearly a necessity), I thought it would be the perfect approach for a group of 10. I sliced individual ciabattas that each person could dress with her choice of meats, cheese and a smorgasbord of marinated things**, and press into a crusty sandwich literally oozing with flavor... **I actually found a considerable selection of interesting jars (cippolini, olives and about 400 varieties of peppers) at World Market. Who knew?

We went Tex Mex for our final feast and kicked it off with Sangria! It was a refreshing combination of sauvignon blanc, sliced oranges, plums, raspberries and apples, sweetened with superfine sugar. The recipe - which I actually can't find now...sorry - called for vodka. As this was not so much a vodka-swigging group, I opted for a splash of Pellegrino instead. (PS - I've heard brandy is lovely in this too!). A couple of the girls contributed guacamole and salsa with chips as appetizers, which we enjoyed while prepping the main course: fish tacos. I love this dish. It is light, simple and totally yummy. While a friend sautéed tilapia filets simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, I made the slaw. This consisted of shredded red cabbage, sliced scallions, diced jalapeños and chopped cilantro tossed with a yummy marrying of sour cream, lime juice, salt and pepper. I always make a fairly ridiculous quantity of the dressing, because it is a gorgeous added burst of flavor when dolloped on top of the assembled taco.

You may be wondering why I haven't discussed dessert. Did we have it, you wonder? Of course we did. I'm not so sure you can have a real party absent of dessert... perhaps I'll chat about that another time. But I wanted to focus today's babblings on the "theme" theme as an idea for a low-stress, festive way to host a gathering. Ole!


Courtney said...

Yea Barn! Delicious food that weekend Em. Definitely going to do those fish tacos - would love the slaw recipe for that.

Christy said...

I'm just reminiscing...loved your theme and your amazing dishes!

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