If you long for the days of intimate dinner parties where close friends gather to share fine food and drink over lively conversation, you’re in luck: the dinner party is back. Rather than throwing large, over-the-top blowouts, today’s at-home entertainers are opting for small gatherings featuring a lovely dinner among friends.
While hosting a dinner party may sound like a brilliant idea, it can also feel like an overwhelming task — especially when you’re planning a meal to satisfy all your guests, from your meat-loving best friend, to your plant-based, health-conscious next-door neighbor.
Thankfully, creating a versatile and, more importantly, healthy menu isn’t as daunting as you may think. There are a number of things you can do to provide nutritious food that will have your guests coming back for more.
Do your homework
If you’re not sure if someone has allergies or dietary restrictions, simply ask. Your guest will be honored to be invited to your gathering and appreciate you taking the time to learn about their dining preferences. If you’re not familiar with their dietary restrictions, ask them what they can eat, rather than what they can’t. This will help ease the stress of learning about their restrictions and running the risk of getting it wrong.
If you have a dinner guest with restrictions you’re not sure how to cook for, ask them to contribute a dish to the meal or give you a recipe they think everyone would enjoy.
Keep things simple
While your first instinct may be to make multiple entrées to please all your guests, keep things simple — and less stressful — by choosing a main dish that’s customizable, such as make-your-own tacos or build-your-own burrito bowls. Put out a spread of taco shells, tortillas, rice, beans, cheeses, proteins and vegetables, then invite your guests to come up with their own culinary creations.
You can also make a large pot of vegetable stew and serve cheese, shredded chicken, and noodles or quinoa on the side to allow for everyone to ladle to their liking. Or prepare a vegan- and/or gluten-free dish as your entrée — such as braised lentils and vegetables, or zucchini noodles with pesto and tomatoes — and serve meat, cheese and bread on the side.
Rely on sides
If you’re famous for your tender roasted chicken or a hearty pot roast made from your grandmother’s recipe, don’t hesitate to serve it — even if you have vegetarians on your guest list. These dishes can be made first and left to roast or cook while you whip up a variety of side dishes — such as a quinoa salad, roasted veggies, and a bean or lentil dish — that will cater to all of your guests dietary restrictions.