No kids. Something I can make in advance and pop in oven.
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Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.
When my girls and I get together, we like doing small plates. Stuffed mushrooms, roasted shrimp cocktail, spanakopita triangles, chopped salad, champagne, tiramisu and a snifter of brandy for dessert.
I've made this a couple times for girls' dinners...it does take a lot of prep and putting-together. But it's so, so good. http://www.nytimes.com...Having said that I agree that a selection of small plates is a good option (my friends and I also do a big bowl of pasta with homemade pesto and good tomatoes and grilled shrimp for those so inclined). Also prosecco.
It looks like the link is broken. Can you try again? I'd love to see what it is.
I like really simple lunches: a soup (new contest) and salad, frittata and a salad, seared tuna salad, salad nicoise served with some good crusty bread and olive oil, or how about making a bunch of open faced toasts and cold soup shooters?
Nancy is a trusted home cook.
Seasonal ideas (late summer to early fall, 2 prep-ahead & put in oven - Ratatouille (Thomas Keller & others have fine recipes) for main, fruit crumble with ice cream for dessert. Antipasto or small plates for appetizers, if you need them.
Here's a different link that might work...I hope. It's mushroom lasagna adapted from Home/Made that was featured in the NY Times magazine in November 2011. http://www.nytimes.com...Maybe not a great summertime meal though...it's a pretty heavy meal.
HalfPint is a trusted home cook.
How about a taco bar?
Make some carnitas or pulled pork (you can do this in advance and freeze it; I've even made pulled pork in a slowcooker). Then the night of, warm the meat and the tortillas (wrapped in foil) in the oven. Buy some fresh salsa, grated cheese, sour cream & guacamole. Chop some lettuce, and tomatoes, and slice up some radishes and limes. Then everyone can make their own tacos. Sides can be charro beans and mexican rice, which can also be made in advance and reheated. Margaritas and limeade for beverages, there are some decent mixes in the liquor aisle. And dessert can be store-bought cake or fruit tart.
I love doing "adult" finger foods, things that are fun to eat with cocktails and sparkling wine. Stuffed mushrooms, spanakopita, onion tart, spring rolls, crostini, kebabs, meatballs, quiche, etc.
I love the Kale and Quinoa quiche. It's gluten free and vegetarian, which covers a lot of bases with my social group, and can be made in advance.
I like to do a Spanish themed menu which works perfect for the warm weather of summertime. I make a couple of pitchers of Sangria, one red and one white. I make a cheaters gazpacho by taking advantage of those beautifully fresh made salsas that all the supermarkets carry. I add one cup of my favorite bottled Bloody Mary mix to each 16 oz container of a mild fresh salsa, one cup of peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber, the juice from one lime, one tsp of balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon of honey, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. I set aside some of the mixture for topping the soup and puree the rest in a blender and serve in small bowls or cups topped with a teaspoon of the mixture I held back. I make a Paella Rice Salad, which can be served warm or room temperature. I use a converted rice like Uncle Ben's rather than the traditional short grain rice, since it holds better and doesn't get mushy and clump or stick together. I saute onions and garlic with a little smoked paprika and oregano in the pot I cook the rice in, then add the rice and saute a bit. I add a splash of wine to deglaze and add flavor. Cook until the wine is mostly cooked off, then add some crushed tomatoes and chicken stock in place of the water usually called for. Cook as directed. Meanwhile, saute some sliced Spanish chorizo, (not Mexican) in a bit of olive oil until it renders some of its fat and is heated through, set aside for now and cook a pound of shelled and deveined shrimp in the same pan in the chorizo fat, set aside and cook some chicken thighs in the same pan, set those aside when cooked through. You can get away with just those three main protein ingredients and add some cooked frozen peas and some sauted diced sweet red peppers, or some diced canned piquillo peppers added to the cooked rice along with the chorizo, shrimp, and chicken, and arrange the whole thing on a lovely serving platter. I also like to add some steamed mussels or clams and some firm fish such as mahi mahi, opah, or halibut as well. For dessert, peaches are beautiful right now so cut some up, macerate in a little sugar to get a bit of syrupy goodness and serve over vanilla ice cream with some almond cookies crumbled on top for a bit of crunch.