Dinner Party Tips

by Amy Ephron
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asparagus1There’s something lovely about inviting friends for dinner, an actual dinner party with table settings and flowers. A group of friends sitting around a table, lingering over the main course, a couple of glasses of wine or home-made Arnold Palmer’s, and finishing with an excellent pie, preferably cherry. But having a dinner party can be a lot of work. And often, unless you have a lot of help, the host and hostess don’t get to always socialize themselves. So, I have a new trick.

Make-ahead sides. And on top of that room temperature sides. The thought is, it has to be a little big elegant, healthy, and, of course delicious.

I’d talked Alan into barbequing small farm raised Greek branzino (supporting the Greeks seemed like an excellent idea.) Then served the appetizers outside so he wouldn’t feel lonely while he grilled. It was a gorgeous night anyway and it’s L.A.

Simple appetizers. Cheese, an assortment of California goat and French triple creme. (Cheese is an indulgence anyway so why not triple creme. Served with an excellent bakery baguette sliced very thin. Olives. Almonds. A sliced pear. And lovely heart crackers because I love the way they look. And raw cut carrots and celery because definitely one of our guests would be only eating that....

Even the appetizers were no fuss. It was lovely and so was the summer corn salad (definitely cribbed from a Wolfgang Puck recipe) and the room temperature asparagus vinaigrette, an invention of my own.

Room Temperature Asparagus with Vinaigrette
Serve as a salad or a side!

Fill a large frying pan with about an inch and a half of water. And bring to a boil. Add a squeeze of lemon just for fun. Cut the end stalks off about 24 asparagus. Turn the heat down slightly and add the asparagus to the water and blanch for about five minutes or until the asparagus are al dente (almost completely cooked but not quite, just a tiny bit crunchy). Drain in a colander and spread out decoratively on a platter, with thin lemon slices on the sides for garnish.

Dressing:

Chop half a shallot very fine. Chop the oniony part of two scallions.

Mix 1/3 cup of white balsamic vinegar with 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Add one heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard and blend with a fork. Add a pinch of fines herbes and toss in the shallots and scallions, a quick grind from the pepper mill and a tiny tiny bit of salt.

When the asparagus have cooled for at least fifteen minutes and about twenty minutes before you’re ready to serve, drizzle the asparagus with the dressing.

You can make the asparagus and the dressing ahead of time. And all you have to do is stir the dressing again with a fork and drizzle the asparagus with the dressing twenty minutes before you serve! Extremely delicious as a side-dish to fish!

What’s your favorite make-ahead side?

 

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