I have been entertaining a lot lately, with more gatherings to come. Seems like everyone decided to come to town within the same week, and I love it.
One of my favorite ways to entertain in summer is to put out about three or four French salads, plus a main dish (such as grilled or roasted fish, chicken, or meat). I love the fact that most of the salads can be assembled in advance, with just a few flourishes to add at the end.
The salads chapter of The Bonne Femme Cookbook offers 30 salads, most of which are well-suited for entertaining in this style. At left, is the menu I served the other night.
With salads, assemble all sturdy ingredients and refrigerate. Bring to cool room temperature before serving, and add anything that can wilt (fresh herbs, tender greens) at the last minute.
So that I’m not trying to entertain guests while also flipping through the cookbook to remember what last-minute flourishes need adding, I label each salad with sticker listing the final ingredients I need to toss in before serving. For example:
Above: With the French Green Lentil, Leek, and Endive Salad (page 51), I add the leeks and herbs at the last minute and toss before serving.
Above: With the Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese (page 49), I toss the ingredients together, put it in a pretty bowl, and top with the blue cheese just before serving. Otherwise, the blue cheese gets stained by the beets. Note that in this case, I did not include greens (called for in the recipe), because the other two salads offered greens. The salad is great without them.
Find the recipe here.
Above: With the Tarragon-White Bean Salad (page 52), the beans, shallots, black olives, and dressing were all assembled in advance. The greens and tarragon came just before serving. Toss; put in a pretty bowl.
I also put together Panko-Breaded Oven-Baked Chicken (page 182) in advance, breading the chicken and letting it sit on waxed paper in the refrigerator before transferring to the greased pan to bake it. I popped it in the oven about 1/2 hour after my guests arrived–it only takes about 15 minutes to bake.
In French fashion, the apéritifs and appetizer part of the meal was incredibly simple. (See my treatise on the French appetizer hour).