Summer Dinner Party

Last week after realizing it’s been way too long since we’ve had a dinner party, Ray and I had some friends and their +1s over for a Monday night cocktail/dinner party.  Of course, fitting ten people into any New York apartment is challenge so I kept it really casual and served dinner in the living room around our retro coffee table.

Hosting dinner parties is one of my favorite things in this whole world to do, and I’m finally establishing some good entertaining rules and formulas to keep myself un-stressed, out of the kitchen and in the mix with my guests.  While I don’t follow them all the time, here they are:

1) Make absolutely everything you can the night before, including the cocktail.  (I didn’t follow my own rule and did not have drinks immediately available for my guests upon their arrival, which leads to #2)

2) Have something to eat and drink on the table 30 minutes before your guests are supposed to arrive, even if it’s just some radishes and a bottle of wine or a pitcher of water. Someone is always likely to show up exactly on time.

3) Make sure the night of the dinner party works for the rest of your week. I chose Monday night so I had all of Sunday to shop and cook. It allowed me start off the week with my friends when the rest of the week was filled with business dinners. Friday nights are impossible because you’re tired and there’s no way to shop, cook and clean in time for guests to arrive at a reasonable hour.  Saturday and Sundays night are of course great too.

4) Get the 411 on food allergies and check the menu over with them beforehand.  Ray doesn’t eat meat and I have another friend who’s, well, allergic to everything so instead of getting really creative, I kept it simple.  I made sure my one-pot dish could be easily adapted to serve (almost) everyone. For my friend, I made a “hypoallergenic” pork chop- seasoned with sesame oil, Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar served with white rice.

5) You must have a co-pilot/extra Indian/Sous-chef.  I don’t care if you’re Martha Stewart, you need an extra host. Ray always does an amazing job setting the mood with music, candles and lighting. For this party he had the genius idea to pull a Charlie Chaplin film off of Netflix to play in the background while we ate. Thanks, babe!

6) Candles and music are a must.  Films noir and cats to entertain your guests are a plus.

7) When you’re friends ask if you need help…say yes! I am very verbal and eager to have my friends help me in the kitchen when I am in the weeds, even if they just stand there and give me the latest gossip on their lives while they completely assault a tomato.

8) Eva’s (generally fool-proof) Food Formula: 2 appetizers (at least 1 vegetarian option) + 1 signature cocktail + 1 one-pot dish (that can be made the night before) + vegetable + 1 dessert = dinner party success.

Here are some highlights after implementing the formula for last week’s dinner party:

The Coconut Crusher

The Coconut Crusher

As my signature cocktail, I served a drink I completely made up: Coconut Rum, Vodka, pomegranate and blueberry juice with a mint garnish. It’s possible that I subliminally  stole this idea from a photo my brother’s girlfriend posted on my sister’s Facebook wall, but I think it’s safe to say, I made it completely my own. My original recipe called for white grape juice, but the pomegranate was an awesome substitute.

To make this divine cocktail: tear 6 mint leaves and put at the bottom of a glass, fill to the brim with ice, then add 1 oz vodka, 1 oz coconut rum then top it off with some slammin’ juice–pomegranate, raspberry lemonade, peach, white grape juice, surprise me. Stir. Sip. Smile. Ah.

White Bean, Prosciutto and Arugula Crostini

Smashed White Bean Crostinis with Arugula and Prosciutto. This is a riff on a crostini served at our local Italian restaurant. My interpretation involves 1 can of rinsed, smashed white beans with 2 cloves of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. I spread a little salted butter on the sliced baguette before  spreading the white beans.  Top it with prosciutto and/or arugula and then the party is in order!

Arugula, Radish and Pecorino Salad.

Arugula Salad

My formula calls for a vegetable, this salad is by far the easiest most delicious solution to a large group: washed arugula, shaved Pecorino, sliced radishes. Add tomato and/or hearts of palm if you have them handy.  For the vinaigrette I simply squeezed the juice of one lemon over the lettuce with a hefty splash of good olive oil, salt, pepper. I could eat this salad everyday.

Chocolate Flourless Cake, Black Cherries and Fresh Whipped Cream

Chocolate flourless cake with black cherry coulis and fresh whipped cream. Normally I use this recipe for the cake and jazz it up with a berry sauce.  Last week I chose black cherries, so I heated them on the stove with 2Ts of sugar, 1t of vanilla extract and reduced it until it was a syrupy sauce.  Served with homemade whipped cream, it’s divine!

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