Dinner with Friends
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Dinner with Friends

Entertaining this season? Try these easy appetite pleasers!

The Menu

Suggested Wines
Sweet Pear and Cheese Crostini

  • Appetizer course: A dry version of Alsatian, gewurztraminer, or Riesling.
  • Main course: A hearty red wine, such as California zinfandel, Australian Shiraz, or Cotes du Rhone.
  • Dessert and truffles: Champagne or Sauternes.

Sweet Pear and Cheese Crostini Our sources told us that taleggio cheese tastes wonderful with pears -- and we couldn't agree more. We also suggest trying the creamy, rich, tart, and slightly sour cheese with grapes or sprinkled over greens.


Smoked Salmon with Lemon-Thyme Mayonnaise The great thing about this appetizer is that guests can garnish the salmon as they please -- with a sprightly squeeze of lemon or a rich dollop of mayonnaise mixture.


Baby Greens Salad with Oranges and Olives Add the blood orange sections just before serving. Overmixing can cause their festive color to bleed into other ingredients.


Lamb Shanks with French Green Lentil and Sweet Potato Ragout With almondlike tones and a heady texture that's reminiscent of an earthy caviar, French green lentils -- sometimes called Puy lentils -- are definitely worth seeking out.


Country-Style Semolina Loaves Semolina is a coarsely ground durum wheat flour. While it's more likely to show up in pasta than in baked goods, here it brings a pleasantly rustic touch to the loaves.


Festive Jam-and-Cannoli Cake Roll If you've never made a jelly roll, this is a good place to start. You will be surprised how easily the tender cake rolls up -- and guests will enjoy the rich results of your "beginners luck."


Exotic truffles, gourmet fudge

Preparation Timetable

Up to 2 Days before
Baby Greens Salad with Oranges
and Olives

  • Prepare Country-Style Semolina Loaves; store in an airtight container or sealable plastic bags at room temperature.

1 Day before

  • Prepare dressing for Baby Greens Salad with Oranges and Olives; cover and refrigerate.
  • Prepare cake for Festive Jam-and-Cannoli Cake Roll; cover and store rolled in towel at room temperature.
  • Prepare Lamb Shanks with French Green Lentil and Sweet Potato Ragout. Let the mixture cool for 1 hour, then divide it between two large refrigerator containers or 3-quart casseroles. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

2 Hours before

  • Prepare Lemon-Thyme Mayonnaise; cover and refrigerate.
  • Prepare Cannoli Filling, and assemble cake roll; cover and chill in refrigerator till serving time.
  • Chill wine and champagne.

1 Hour before

  • Remove excess fat from chilled, cooked lamb mixture. Return lamb mixture to a large Dutch oven; reheat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Assemble gourmet chocolates on a serving tray; cover and let stand till serving time.
  • Set the dinner table.

30 Minutes before

  • Assemble Smoked Salmon with Lemon-Thyme Mayonnaise; cover and let stand at room temperature till the appetizer course is served.

20 Minutes before

  • Assemble and broil the Sweet Pear and Cheese Crostini, then serve the appetizers with wine.
  • Toss together the salad and divide among salad plates.
  • Slice the semolina loaves.

Just before Dinner

  • Transfer the lamb shanks and ragout mixture to individual serving bowls.

Just before Dessert

  • Prepare coffee.
  • Cut the cake roll into slices, and transfer to dessert plates; if desired, garnish each serving with chocolate shavings.
  • Bring out the gourmet chocolates.

Online Ordering

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The Internet is a great way to get
those hard-to-find ingredients for
your menu.

As you search for world-class ingredients on the World Wide Web, here are a few tips for the best timing, selection, and value.

  • Browse several sites and do a cost comparison. Finding sites that offer gourmet items is as easy as typing in the product you're looking for (e.g. "taleggio") at a search engine.
  • In general, the more items you order, the less shipping costs per item. To keep shipping costs in line, order several items from the same source.
  • Order as far in advance as you can to avoid higher shipping costs for rush or Saturday deliveries.
  • For perishable items, make sure you have an idea when your item will be delivered. You don't want it to sit on your doorstep while you're away for a few days.
  • Many specialty items are made by small producers, which means vendors sometimes run out of much- sought-after items. Try to order nonperishable specialty items as soon as you have planned your menu.
  • If you can't find an ingredient on a Web site, use the search option. Or click on a "Customer Service" icon to e-mail your questions directly to the site's staff.