Recently we were asked if we would host a dinner party by a friend for his dear wife’s upcoming birthday. A dinner party for twelve guests with a main dish with wow factor and allergy-friendly side dishes were the only criteria. Nicole (the birthday girl) is an amazing cook who is really creative especially since she’s been on a very stringent diet to try and decipher what foods might be causing her baby’s eczema issues. The non-compliant foods were: dairy, gluten, coconut, sugar and a list of a few vegetables that would need to be pressure-cooked prior to being used in a recipe. Nicole is much more dedicated to staying true to a diet plan as a breastfeeding mom than I ever was and I knew this would be a fun challenge for me. The menu her husband Ben and I came up with was a cream of celery soup (coconut milk omitted for Nicole), endive salad with pears and basil, slow-roasted filet of beef, roasted butternut squash with cinnamon, roasted cauliflower with turmeric, parsnip fries with truffle oil and parsley (my personal favorite), berries with homemade whipped cream (for the guests, not Nicole) and avocado truffles (Ben made these and they were delicious!). All the groceries were bought and we got to work Friday and Saturday before the dinner guests arrived at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night.
I prepped the cream of celery soup the day before the party. The original recipe said the serving size was 2 people (!!) so I more than doubled the recipe. It turned out to be too much soup but having leftovers is never a bad thing.
The only adaptation I made to the above recipe was I omitted garlic (not on Nicole’s approved veggie list) and I garnished it with parsley. If you do make the recipe, I think the serving size is wrong. This soup would easily serve closer to 4-6 people as a starter. It was a very palate-pleasing first course. I omitted the coconut cream from Nicole’s portion.
My original plan for the salad was to have Belgian endive with matchstick-cut pears and cranberries. I was not clear on my shopping list and did not realize that there are different varieties of endive, Ben bought endive greens instead. I changed up the salad and cut up my pears into thin slices, kept them in the refrigerator with some lemon juice and added some fresh basil leaves to the salad. I served the salad with a very simple homemade lemon Dijon vinaigrette and cranberries on top for the guests who could have them (not pictured).
For the parsnip fries with truffle oil and parsley, I prepped the parsnips the day before by cutting them into a French fry length and keeping them immersed in a little bit of water in a ziplock bag in the fridge to keep them from turning brown. On the day of the party, I roasted them with olive oil and salt and pepper and added a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped parsley before serving. My parsnips were mammoth size so the roasting took much longer than the recipe states (over an hour for three full sheet pans filled with parsnips!). This was my favorite side dish of the evening. I found my truffle oil at Tuesday Morning but I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s.
For the butternut squash, I had Ben cut up three butternut squashes into a small dice. (Butternut is my least favorite squash to try and cut up 🙂 ) I then tossed them on a sheet pan with several tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon. Roast at 400 degrees until tender, about 40-45 minutes.
For the roasted cauliflower, I tossed small florets of cauliflower (3 heads) with olive oil, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of allspice and 2 teaspoons of cumin. Ground ginger would have been a nice addition as well. Roast the cauliflower at 400 degrees for 25 minutes and then garnish with chopped basil. This side dish had warmth and a subtle Indian flavor.
I have made slow roasted filet of beef before and it never disappoints. This recipe by Ina Garten roasts low and slow for only about 1.25 to 1.5 hours. I was going to serve this alongside a basil parmesan mayonnaise but I unknowingly used up all my lemon juice for the pears and the salad vinaigrette so I had to nix it at the last minute. Oops! My
sous chef hubby took care of trimming and tying the beef into a neat little package and getting it prepped for the oven. This was so helpful since I’m all thumbs when it comes to tying knots and yes, we made two beef tenderloins! (Go big).
For dessert, I made homemade whipped cream and prepped some berries (something Nicole had just allowed herself to eat for the party!) Her husband, Ben also made some avocado truffles. I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical about what these would taste like but they were really rich tasting and I couldn’t taste any avocado! I am planning on making these, such a great use for avocados…but maybe after the current recall due to listeria. 😦
We had two people back out at the last minute so we only had ten guests at the table which meant more elbow room. 🙂 It was a lovely evening and such a fun celebration of our friend, Nicole!
“Cooking at home shows such affection.” – Ina Garten