If I'm correct, there was mention a little while ago about the possibility of a menu planning feature added to the cite. Along those lines, When it comes to menu planning, I often get caught up on achieving the rigt balance of flavors and textures without being redundant (hate that) and while being able to incorporate various new recipes I'd like to use. Curious as to how others go about planning a menu. Wondering whether Amanda or Merrill have some expert words of wisdom on process.
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The Flavor Bible is very helpful to me when it comes to pairing dishes with each other. It's also good to keep in mind any special diets or allergies. Sometimes your menu will emerge directly from looking for gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, or other cuisine. It'll draw your attention to areas of the world where the natural cuisine is already predominantly one or more of these. Gluten-free? Try Mexican, Caribbean, Japanese, Moroccan, or Vietnamese. Soy-free? Try Southern US, French, Greek, or Italian. Vegetarian? Try Indian, Thai, or areas of Africa.
How the food will look on the plate together is a consideration. Elizabeth Andoh's book, "Washoku," although Japanese in cuisine, focuses on the harmony of colors and textures on the plate and can be applied to any cuisine you like.
Consideration for the health requirements of your guests is another important factor.
From there, you can put your own spin on things. As a general rule I never skip dessert. Even if you are busy making other dishes, if you have some ice cream on hand with fresh fruit or cones, it will make your guests so happy. Besides that, anything goes. If you want to make three salads, why not? Soup in the summer? Sure! As long as it's chilled. Ten appetizers and no entrees? Great!
When you are looking for recipes, see how much prep is involved for each and budget your time. Do as much work as possible the day before or even in the week leading up to your special meal. Do as little cooking as possible on the day of, so that you'll be sure to enjoy the company of your guests instead of being stressed.