the perfect party dish

I cannot describe how grateful I am for the women with whom I share a classroom. Besides that we get along splendidly, we linger daily—after the students have been bussed away—to talk and talk and talk food. Yesterday, Brennan and I shared an intense conversation about feta that left us both breathless… and running to the grocery store. And then calling each other from the feta aisle. I’m serious. My week is building towards a feta-jalepeno puree.

While I was planning my birthday bash menu, I wanted a budget buffet of unique, memorable food. I knew this would involve feta. Affordable proteins (shrimp, chickpeas), a three-course dinner with simple hors d’oeuvre, and filling starch allowed me to

feed 17 people

for less than $100

with enough leftovers to act as party favors.

My sister-in-law brought cake, guests contributed their favorite beverages. Entertaining demystified. We don’t have a microwave, so I needed a dish without need for reheating and attention during the party. We’ll talk about the rest of the menu another time. My absolute favorite dish of the night without further adieu:

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo

from Ina Garten, serves 6

Kosher salt

Good olive oil

3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts

1 cup chopped fresh dill (I used generous pinches of dried dill)

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (fresh is crucial here)

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced

1/2 cup small-diced red onion

3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced (I used Dodoni; definitely use imported)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with water, add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a very large bowl (or ceramic casserole, whatever you will use for serving). Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook!

To avoid watery cucumbers: slice the cucumbers in half both directions. Drag a small spoon through the seeds and discard. Slice the hollowed halves lengthwise, and dice.

Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

The second day, I tossed in a little more olive oil and freshly ground pepper before serving. Taste first! This is just as lovely without the shrimp, for finicky vegetarians like me.
Yes, this is an affordable, easy and guaranteed dish for entertaining, but just as lovely weeknight with a platter of pita and olives. Enjoy them, as we did, with homemade foolproof-falafel!The leftovers are even better.


Filed under budget, dinners, health, lickety-quick

2 responses to “the perfect party dish

  1. Thanks for the cooking idea; I will definitely try this out for everybody at the next party situation. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

    • Lovely to hear from you, Jon. Stayed tuned for my falafel recipe as a successful great accompaniment. Some fresh pita chips, soft cheese and you’re set to party ; )

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