How important is it to keep the same flavor profiles in a meal?

ArabellaMillerOctober 1, 2012

Particularly when hosting guests, I try to keep complementary flavors in each piece of a meal, but this past week I deviated, although not in a big way (it's not like I served chicken parm with paneer tikka).

We had two families over along with a few stray kids, so that meant 10 kids, including 3 teenage boys, and 6 adults. One adult only eats fish, one is on the DASH diet and one is just picky (no onions, nothing too spicy). With the kids, there were no nut allergies, but a fish allergy, a dairy intollerance and a few "dark meat only" preferences.

I surved buffet style, with the kids eating in the kitchen off of paper plates and the adults in the formal dining room with china.

I made:

- whole wheat challah (I made 4 of them), half with poppyseeds.

- grilled chicken legs (12 in spicy/sweet BBQ sauce, and 12 in a plain lemon pepper)

- sweet and sour meatballs (half beef, half lamb) with carmelized onions

- grilled salmon with a wasabi ginger glaze.

- quinoa with balsamic roasted vegetables

- baked sweet potato fries

- roasted cauliflower with tumeric and paprika

- roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and honey balsamic

- green beans with pepper and lemon zest

- green salad with ginger balsamic dressing

For dessert, it was fresh fruit, sorbet and mini chocolate bundt cakes.

I realized that I was more concerned with making something for everyone than I was with sticking to complementary flavors. I used tried and true recipes, but I probably could have made some small changes that would have made the meal more cohesive.

For next time, what changes would you suggest to the menu?



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Inviting me would be a good start! It sounds delicious. I don't think the variety of flavours is negative. Quite the contrary. Contrast is good, and it's a buffet so diversity is good.

Any details on the salmon's glaze?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:51AM
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I'm not good at menu planning, so I have to ask, what do you mean by complimentary flavors? I feel like it's a dumb question, but I'm not sure if you mean things that just taste good together, or the same flavor in each item, like lemon in each dish.

Your menu sounded wonderful to me.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:52AM
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I think that is a lovely menu with a very nice assortment of flavors and perfect for the serving style.

I understand what you are asking. This menu looks great to me. There are some things I get a little fussy about. I don't think garlicky tomato-y foods work with a traditional Thanksgiving menu for example. And sometimes disparate cuisines don't really work together on a plate very well.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 8:34AM
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I frequently (like this week....) have multiple dietary profiles to consider. I call it 'culinary contortions' LOL.

Tomorrow night I have a Paleo, Lacto-Pescatarian, and us (pseudo-kosher) to feed. Throw in a vegan on Friday and it gets more interesting.

So your menu looks fine - whatever works!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 8:47AM
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I think that next time I would fix a side or grilled salmon, served with only lemon to be added by the diner and perhaps an orange caper sauce to assortment of oven roasted veggies, an assortment of baby greens, with one or 2 kinds of strawberries, or sliced kiwi, or fresh pineapple with a make your own dressing tray....including 2 or 3 kinds of olive oil and a couple of vinegars, kosher salt, pepper and turbinado sugar and perhaps maple syrup.
Cooked brown rice.....and apple crisp and a choice of plain apple for the DASH guy.
For the kids....just make and parbake a bunch of pizza crusts and present them with an assorment of "stuff".....

Sounds like a fun party!!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Hi Sally, I'm sorry - I probably didn't explain myself very well. But yes, I mean foods that taste good together, Eileen's example is a perfect one. For instance, the meatballs were fine with the quinoa, and the cauliflower, but I didn't like them with the butternut squash. Too sweet-sweet for me. Plus, if you happened to take salmon, sweet potato fries, squash, and cauliflower which had tumeric and paprika, then you had a fairly monochomatic plate. And I HATE that.

Great suggestions, Linda. Brown rice for sure would have been a great addition. And a non dressed salad.

John, the salmon glaze was a mixture of ginger preserves, fresh ginger, wasabi paste and soy sauce. It was easy and delicious.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:53PM
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I agree that it also sounds like a nice variety to me. If people take all the same color foods, then that's their choice, I suppose.

I think that given all the food preferences/requirements, you did darned well!


    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:24PM
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Seems like a very cohesive meal to me the sauces and spices your it together nicely....ginger and balsamic and turmeric....sweet and sour.....lemon.

I knew what you mean though, I tend to have dinners that have a cultural or ethnic theme. I needed to rethink it though , your meal sounds like fun!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:20PM
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I agree with annie and chase, looking good! They don't have to be the same, it's called "fusion" when they're different (wink, wink). Sounds like it was a fun party!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 8:12AM
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Okay, I get it. I feel a little silly not understanding, but then, as I said, I'm lousy at menu planning.

I still, after re-reading your menu, think it sounds great, although I might have not had so much balsamic vinegar. That's the only thing I would change.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 9:20AM
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Your menu sounded great for all the people you had to feed and please.

But your post reminded me of a dinner party DH & I attended at one of his work colleague's homes when we were first married. It was a sit down dinner with 4 couples and the appetizer was a bowl of chicken chili with cornbread, the main course was seafood newburg on puff pastry and eggplant parmesan. Dessert was chocolate lava cakes.

Each thing was good on its own, but we figured the couple either couldn't agree on a menu, or just wanted to offer all their "top hits." It serves as our cautionary tale whenever we begin to veer off course when planning a meal for a dinner or gathering.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:20PM
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You had quite a challenge and met it well. I like the buffet style and who cares if people only go monochrome. Maybe they like it that way. People tease Scandinavians about all the white food. No big deal to me. I'm not sure I'd have the patience to deal with all the dietary issues. I might send invitations on a paper bag and say bring your own! :)

I've got a cousin who has her own cooking challenges. Let's see, she cooks for:
-A granddaughter "vegetarian", who won't eat vegetables
-Husband who's is a hypochondriac and lately is a wannabe Celiac. (And is nearly televangelistic in preaching to anyone who will listen that everyone is Celiac and doesn't know it.) This "Celiac" btw frequents pizza buffets and White Castle. Yep, that's gluten intolerant!
-A friend who's on the Atkin's diet.
-Parents who were "meat & potatoes only" people. Don't add any of that salt & pepper... don't like things spicy!
-Daughter who is a serious diabetic.

Anyone care to plan & cook that one? :)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 3:28AM
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I understand that some times it can not be helped, like the Op problem.
cynic, I feel for your cousin.
I would watch out & cook for the serious diabetic & let the other cook for their own meal.
When I was 14 I told my mother"I am sorry, but I do not like the way you cook my eggs."
She replied "When I finish with everyone breakfast, then you can cook your own" & I did.
I am surprised at how many picky eaters, will eat what is in front of them, when the alternative is to cook for one's
self. I guess it is a guy thing.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 7:38PM
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jolj, that's what I say. There's always enough to eat for a picky eater, most dieters and the like. And the ironic part is the diabetic is the one who complains the least! She knows what she can eat and what she can't. She stretches things a little knowing she can regulate herself after being diabetic since she was in her single digits.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:16PM
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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Of course, you are correct - if someone choses all the same color foods on their plate, why should I care!? (itstillbothersmethough) I was just pleased that everyone found enough variety of foods to eat. I wouldn't call that a gourmet meal by any stretch, none of the components were particularly complex, but it definitely served its purpose.

Funny story, amck! At least I wasn't that bad.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:14AM
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