I love to create parties and especially dinner parties where I serve a five-course meal. Seriously Simple Parties by Diane Rossen Worthington came at an opportune time because I was planning a dinner party for six and was contemplating what to serve. I am one who will take a chance and try out a new recipe on guests. As of yet, I’ve never had a failure.
For the purpose of the review, we are asked to test three recipes. For the first, I chose “Arugula Salad.” Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is, but it is different. I purchased the arugula at a local farmers’ market and to this I added roasted Thompson seedless grapes, Manchego cheese and toasted pine nuts. (The recipe called for Marcona almonds but suggested pine nuts could be used.) The vinaigrette was made from roasted shallots and garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, sherry vinegar, and Dijon mustard.
The vinaigrette was flavorful and rich while the salad added the bitter and sweet/sour elements to the palate. I’ve never roasted grapes before, so adding roasted grapes to a salad gave it a very interesting texture. I served toasted foccacia strips with the salad. The salad was a hit and a great way to start the meal.
For the main dish, I chose “Whole Slow-roasted Salmon with Sweet Mustard-dill Aioli.” Roasting the salmon was simple – sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with lemon juice, and bake at 275 degrees F for about 1/2 hour. The aioli is what makes the dish! A combination of mayonnaise, garlic, honey mustard, white wine vinegar, fresh dill weed, salt, and pepper made a wonderful topping. The slow roasting left the salmon very moist and tender, yet flaking at the touch of the fork.
For the side dish, I chose “Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Leeks, Carrots & Zucchini.” At first I wondered if this dish would be too flavorful and overbear the salmon, but it didn’t. The base for the couscous was vegetable broth and to this I added browned leek, softened carrot, and zucchini along with seasoning salt. The dish was a good choice for the side. The next day I added the leftover baked salmon to the couscous; it made a great salad for lunch.
For the dessert, which was served about an hour after dinner, I chose “Mocha Celebration Cake.” The cake was moist and heavy, much like a carrot cake. The ganache frosting was rich with a distinct mocha flavoring. Combined with decaf coffee (there was enough caffeine in the cake to keep one awake all night), the desert was a hit as was the whole meal.
Seriously Simple Parties by Diane Rossen Worthington is a must-have cookbook if you are into entertaining. I especially liked the notes with the recipes indicating how many hours or days ahead you can make a particular dish before serving. As well, I liked the suggested substitutions. Kudos to Worthington! The simplicity and variety of party recipes encourages busy people to go ahead and plan a party. The recipes cover beverages, appetizers, soups and salads, light entrees, seafood/meat/poultry entrees, side dishes, and desserts/sweets. There is also a section of “basics” for the beginning cook. Buy one for yourself and an extra copy to give as a gift!