A Simple Dinner Party Menu

3 elegant yet easy dishes to make when having guests over for dinner.

Green salad

We recently sat down with Michael Leva and Nancy Parker, authors of Recipes for Parties, to talk about their secrets for hosting stylish parties without a lot of stress. They shared their tips for setting the perfect table for the occasion, creating stunning flower arrangements yourself, and setting the mood through music and lighting, but creating the right ambience is only half of the task when entertaining. What about the menu?

Leva and Parker both agree that sticking with simple, foolproof, and flavorful dishes is best when hosting a party. They’ve shared some of their favorite go-to dishes with us.


The Perfect Green Salad with French Dressing

“The flavors are simple and clean,” Parker explains, so it pairs well with a variety of dishes. Leva adds that a simple salad “is also the perfect palate cleanser.” When entertaining, Leva and Parker agree that there is nothing easier or simpler than serving a green salad. This recipe is a personal favorite of Parker’s, who inherited the dressing recipe from her mother.

To prepare in advance, put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and then layer the leaves on top. Just before serving, toss the leaves in the dressing. (Photo courtesy of Pieter Estersohn)  


Salt-Crusted Baked Salmon

Roasting a whole fish in salt might seem intimidating, like roasting a whole chicken. Yet, Michael says there aren’t many more main dishes that are easier to serve than this. “There is no way you can overcook it,” he explains. “It is also supremely elegant when brought to the table and the salt coating is cracked in front of the guests.” With a simple herb sauce, it’s a wonderful dinner party dish. (Photo courtesy of Pieter Estersohn)  


Fettuccine with Minted Tomato Sauce

Simple dishes made with fresh, flavorful ingredients are best for entertaining. “Let the food shine,” Leva advises. This light and delicious Leva family recipe is an excellent example. The surprising combo of mint and basil is, according to Leva, normal in Italy and the herbs are used interchangeably.(Photo courtesy of Pieter Estersohn)  

Click here to see Tips for Stylish, Stress-Free Entertaining.