Creating menus for special occasions or family meals is, for me, a pleasurable challenge. It can be for you, as well. Simply keep a few guidelines in mind. Consider, for example, how much you can spend, the food preferences of family and guests, the type of occasion, the time of year, the weather, availability of ingredients, the number of persons to be served and the time you have to prepare the meal.
I usually choose an entree first, and work from there. It is best not to repeat flavors or similar foods. However, I like onions, shallots, leeks, garlic and herbs and use them often – sometimes in several dishes in the same meal.
Today’s emphasis on healthy eating and ethnic foods, the growth in prepared foods and in-store bakeries, and an abundant variety of produce, seafood and meat have made meal planning a new adventure. Look for interesting combinations of fruits and vegetables for the entree or an accompaniment.
An appetizer can be a simple salad served before the entree. Or try Mary Etta’s Tomato Sformato. This update of an Italian classic is a molded savory treat filled with fresh basil, parsley, a bit of garlic and sherry vinegar, thickened with gelatin and olive oil. Serve it on individual plates garnished with spring arugula or other greens and shaved Parmesan cheese. See this The Spruce article for more Sformato information.
The Sformato is best prepared a day ahead, as is the vegetable side dish, Chinese Charred Peppers and Zucchini. Prepared in a wok or in the oven, this dish uses red and yellow bell peppers and is served at room temperature.
A lasagna of potatoes and salmon includes fresh spinach and mushrooms, and is cooked in a creamy clam-juice sauce. Salmon is a popular fish that’s easy to find in our markets.
A salsa made with cucumbers and pineapple goes nicely with the entree and the charred peppers.
Top it all off with a delicious strawberry dessert. Shaum Torte — a luscious meringue baked in a springform pan – dresses up any table. And because it is low in fat, your guests may just be up for an after-dinner springtime walk. Thinking of vacationing in Pune? Read some reviews in this article.