Hey there! This is part two to my dreamy backyard bohemian dinner party!
If you haven’t checked out the first post be sure to give it a read and grab all the nitty gritty details! This post is covering all things food related to the party! We had a super simple and crowd pleasing dinner party menu this evening. The menu is filled with light and bright flavors and tons of fresh produce! I like to keep dinner party menus ultra simple and full of make ahead tricks and items to make your prep so much easier.
Over the years I have had parties that I loved and parties that I felt down right thrashed. I went through a phase where I just tried to go above and beyond and the extra side dish or specialty cocktail was just not worth it. While everyone was sitting down having a great time, I was still wrapped up in an apron trying to finish all the cooking. I hated the feeling of being so tired that by the time I sat down to dinner I wasn’t even really ‘there’ to enjoy it.
But that has changed! I have become so much more strategic and I now finish bottles of wine with my guests instead of just cleaning them up!
I usually start every dinner party off with an HUGE cheeseboard. This guy was probably 16 by 24 inches. The large cheeseboard makes a statement, gets guests excited for dinner and also keeps them active! I wouldn’t ever pass appetizers at a get together. I like to keep an appetizer out that guests can mix and match what they like. I have a great video here on how I like to throw together a cheeseboard. For parties I usually just bulk up my spread with an extra 2-3 cheeses.
Okay on to the menu! This menu is filled with dishes that you can prep ahead in the afternoon on a sheet pan, seal them tightly and bring them back out just 20 minutes before you’re ready to throw them in the oven. I was able to prep every dish before hand in the afternoon except for the cheeseboard!
The salmon filets, bursted tomatoes and broccolini were all prepped on 3 baking sheets and ready to simple go straight from the refrigerator to the oven! I also prep some garnishes in small bowls (things like basil leaves, extra cheese, etc) and have them ready to go onto the dinner table hot and ready! I keep a few baskets of fresh bread on the table as well! Something about fresh focaccia bread and butter just goes with everything!
Scroll down to find these easy recipes to create at your next gathering!
Orzo Pasta Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
This is my end all be all favorite summer pasta salad! Believe me when I tell you people will go freaking nuts over this salad. They just won’t stop eating it and you probably won’t have any left. It’s that good. It’s filled with really simple and light flavors that seem to be a total crowd please. You can make the whole batch the night before or the afternoon before your party! Talk about side dish life saver!
16 oz of orzo, cooked
1 1/2 Cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 Red onion, finely diced
1 Small Cucumber, quartered
4 Oz (1 small container) of crumbled feta cheese
1/2 Cup of sliced almonds
8-10 Basil leaves, finely chopped (+more for garnish)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 Cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 Teaspoons of pepper
2 Teaspoons of kosher salt
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain orzo from water and rinse evenly with cool water until cool to the touch. Pat pasta grains dry and transfer to a large bowl. In a small bowl gently whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and basil leaves. Pour evenly onto orzo and add in the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
Taste to see if the pasta is lacking any lemon, salt or pepper or if you just prefer more! Seal tightly and place in to the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just before serving give the salad a final toss to mix up flavors that have gone to the bottom and garnish with fresh lemon slices and basil leaves.
Salad can be served room temp and made the night before.
Serves 8-10 side dish portions.
Roasted Broccolini with Parmesan
This is one of those secret weapon vegetable side dishes that takes so little effort but tastes like it came straight from a restaurant! I like to make sure I have 3-4 pieces per person. You can find broccolini everywhere but my favorite and easiest way is just a few packs from Trader Joes.
20 Oz of broccolini
Juice from a lemon
1/4 Cup of olive oil
2-3 Teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
3 Teaspoons of kosher salt
2 Teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 Cup of freshly grate parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
Lay broccoli evenly on baking sheet with plenty of space between each floret (this will help it become nice and crisp). Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and toss to evenly combine.
If making ahead cover with foil or plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator. If not, bake for 18-20 minutes or until the broccolini is just fork tender. Arrange onto serving platter and sprinkle middle evenly with parmesan cheese.
This is roughly enough for 6-8 people.
Oven Roasted Salmon with Bursted Cherry Tomatoes
We had originally planned to also make a chicken entree (see the menu) but scratched it last minute because of a few guest cancelations. All and all I was happy we had just did the salmon. I thought it was so sophisticated and flavorful but it couldn’t have been simpler! I like to have between 1/2-1 salmon filet per person depending on the size. These were a little large and could totally be cut in half. You can prep the salmon in the afternoon and just seal it up tight until you bake it off! I used a pre made salmon from Trader Joe’s
6-8 Salmon filets
1 Cup of pesto (store bought or homemade is okay)
3 Cups of baby heirloom or cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoons of freshly minced garlic
Salt + Pepper
Basil leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
On a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper toss cherry tomatoes with a light drizzle of olive oil, minced garlic, a few pinches of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside or seal until ready to bake.
On a separate baking sheet line with parchment paper. Arrange salmon filets evenly so they are not touching. Use two baking sheets if necessary. Sprinkle salmon filets with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add 1-2 tablespoons of pesto evenly onto each filet (more if filet is larger). Bake salmon and tomatoes at the same time. The salmon filet will make for 15-16 minutes and the tomatoes will take about 20 minutes to burst and turn golden.
Arrange baked salmon filets on a serving platter. Evenly distribute roasted tomatoes directly over the salmon. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.