Planning the perfect dinner party

I’m planning a party for seven health-conscious couples. Can you give me suggestions for both the meal and appetizers?

Fortunately, we’re living in the dawning of a new culinary age. Now you can entertain with nourishing, light and exciting foods – and all your guests will want to leave with your recipes in their hands.

Always place a beautiful presentation of popular and unique vegetables in the cocktail area for nibbling. When choosing a platter, bowl or basket, think of this as a decoration, and pick lots of colorful veggies to complement the obligatory carrots and broccoli florets. Scallions, baby canned corn, cured olives, red pepper, yellow pepper, sugar snap peas, red beets, daikon radish, sweet potatoes and asparagus are a few that come to mind. A cucumber-dill yogurt dip will always be a hit featured in a carved-out tomato, pepper, squash, cabbage or melon.

A favorite at our house is spicy boiled shrimp, peeled and deveined, on skewers. Cocktail sauce or an orange marmalade-horseradish sauce will provide a fine pool for dipping shrimp. If you use a low-fat jalepeno cheese, chicken quesadillas are a good choice. Thinly sliced flank steak woven onto skewers grills or broils easily with a basting of tamari soy sauce. Serve them straight or with a Thai peanut sauce. Bruschettas are also fantastic snacks for the cocktail hour. Spread chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic onto toasted slices of French bread, and lace them with extra-virgin olive oil. Or spread olive tapenade on the toasts.

Chips are really unique and tasty pre-dinner snacks. You can find them in up-scale supermarkets, gourmet shops and health-food stores. Serve them with bean dip, salsa, hummus or baba ganoush.

An easy first course to any sit-down meal is a plate of salad, enhanced with substantial garnishes to create an appetizer: Antipastos fit the bill. Top a typical tossed salad with a piece of fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted red pepper, marinated mushrooms, Calamata olives and a few chunks of albacore tuna. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, just before serving.

My favorite healthful entree is poached salmon. You can serve your favorite salmon recipe. To save time, serve it with the cucumber-dill yogurt sauce. A perfect warm weather partner is blanched asparagus with a freshly squeezed orange tarragon vinaigrette. Chilled couscous pasta salad is an easy side dish.

To guarantee the applause, dessert should be fruit sorbet topped with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Drizzle a raspberry sauce to complete the finale.


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