Cook This: A Dinner Party Plan

April 26, 2011

Planning a dinner party in advance (even just mentally) makes the end of your week as relaxing as it should be. Carve out a festive weekend meal tonight and all you'll have to worry about is where to market and who to invite.

The Menu:

Gin Rickey (Is it a sin to drink gin before noon?) by Giulia Melucci

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Gin Rickey

A frisky pre-dinner cocktail, anyone? And for wine with dinner, we'd go with interesting but light whites, say Albarino or Verdejo from Spain or even a white Rioja. The meal below is nice and citrusy, so it should pair well with similarly citrusy whites.


Wild Ramp Pesto by saenyc

Wild Ramp Pesto

Notes: This absolutely delicious seasonal pesto (seriously, we can't say enough about its perfection) would be beautiful dolloped on burrata or lathered on toasted levain as a bruschetta appetizer.


Preserved Lemon and Spring Vegetable Risotto with Grilled Pernod Shrimp by The Dog's Breakfast

Preserved Lemon and Spring Vegetable Risotto with Grilled Pernod Shrimp

Notes: Spring in a bowl. Serve a few slices of that toasted bread from course one for guests to mop up the lemony liquid left behind (if there is any, that is.)


Aunt Mariah's Lemon Sponge Cups by ENunn

Aunt Mariah's Lemon Sponge Cups

Tell us these aren't show stoppers. Your guests will want one for the road -- we guarantee it -- but that certainly isn't happening if you're serving them in egg cups as precious as Amanda's in this shot. Stop! Thief!


The Plan: 

Weeknight projects:

• Make your lemon cups: these can be made in advance, then left to cool, and refrigerated (carefully covered) until you're ready to serve them at room temperature. We're actually big fans of them cool too!

• Make the ramp pesto: don't kid yourself, friends, double the recipe here. You can use it all week. On pasta, in panini, with roasted vegetables -- when the season calls, pesto in the fridge is a must.

• Invite your friends with seductive hints like "ramp pesto"..."grilled Pernod shrimp"..."lemon sponge cups": they'll clear their schedules.


The day/night of:
• To market! For the freshest spring peas and asparagus (and to restock your Pernod supply). Get all your prep done ahead of time -- there's no escaping the last minute stirring of risotto, but make sure that's all you have left to do, while your guests gather round and munch ramp pesto crostini and you drink a hard-earned gin rickey.
• Just before your guests arrive, slice and toast the bread for the pesto. Be sure to give it a little brush with olive oil and watch them like a hawk in the oven. Day old bread here, people -- serve the fresh stuff with the risotto course.
• Take the lemon cups out of the fridge so they come to room temperature.
• Make yourself that gin rickey. Almost there!
With this menu, you will, no doubt, enjoy your own dinner. Now that's what we call a party.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • nogaga
  • thirschfeld
  • Jennifer Ann
    Jennifer Ann
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


nogaga April 27, 2011
This is nother great-looking menu!
thirschfeld April 26, 2011
the Gin Rickeys are still a favorite, getting ready to break those out right after Mint Julep season is over
Jennifer A. April 26, 2011
I think I will have to call some family and friends over soon. Thanks so much for putting these lovely menus together.