Ask Caitlin: Easy Dinner Ideas
Caitlin O’Malley is the culinary director of goop. She gives us recipes, take-out recommendations and advice on anything unrelated to food. She makes us laugh every day. She is wise, what you can see for yourself in the sixth episode of
The Goop Lab on Netflix: “Are you Intuit?“
Dear Caitlin, Now that I’m fully immunized, I can’t wait to organize dinner parties this summer. But honestly, I might not be able to do everything like before – my social stamina is not what it was before last year. Do you have any tips for keeping it relaxed and easy without missing out on the fun? —Julie
Dear Julie, I am here with you! After hosting my first post-vax event (an outdoor birthday lunch for four), I was surprisingly in hiding. I had forgotten how entertaining work can be. I’ve always been drawn to a relaxed, no-frills vibe when hosting – which tends to make your guests feel more comfortable and less efficient for you – and I think this strategy can help us then too. that we are making our reintegration into the world of meetings and dinners. Here are some ideas that might help you.
A REFINED SERVICE PACKAGE
The Falcon enamel cookware set is indeed ideal for baking – it’s safe for the oven, stovetop and even the freezer. But calling it a baking set implies my favorite use for this five-piece set, which is a serving dish for outdoor entertaining. This timeless enamel look has a cool camping vibe. And the pans are both sturdy and lightweight, so no one has to be too valuable to pass the peas. The enamel coating may flake off a bit over time, but the pans will still be safe to use, and these imperfections will give them character and a lively feel. I use them to go straight from the oven to the table, like with chicken, lasagna or roasted vegetables. Or I use them as serving dishes for cold salads or even small sides, like sauces and pickles – the variety of sizes in this set makes it especially useful. And yes, it also works well for baking. Cobblers, pies, cookies, cakes – they can all be baked and served in enamel dishes.
A HIGH-IMPACT LOW-LIFT MENU
No one wants to be pissed off by too many dishes at once while you are hosting. Prepare for success by offering a mix of homemade, pre-made, no-bake, or store-bought items. If your menu is Mediterranean, for example, focus on a great main course like kofta, falafel, or shawarma, and maybe make a simple side dish like a grilled vegetable or salad. Good olives and flatbread can be bought at the store and don’t require baking, and dips like hummus and tzatziki can be made ahead of time or, again, purchased at the store.
A DESIGNED DIY BAR
A DIY bar is super fun for guests, especially if you go the extra mile to have all the accessories available. Fortunately, all of this can be done well in advance, and it ultimately saves you from having to make drinks overnight. Set up a table with an assortment of liquors, mixers, bitters, tonics, seltzer, ice cream, a few different beers and a few different bottles of wine. Set up a mixing station with a shaker; small dishes filled with olives, cocktail onions and cherries; and a citrus bowl, along with a paring knife and cutting board. Fresh herbs like mint and basil are also nice additions to the mix. Some more thoughtful additions: pull out a cocktail book or print out a few cocktail recipes for inspiration. Reusable toothpicks and straws will also come in handy. Oh, and don’t forget a little junk bowl for the citrus peels.