I love hosting dinner parties. Small ones, big ones, I like them all. But my favorite part is planning the menu. For me it is an agonizing artistic event. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes only hours, but it is a process that can’t be rushed. Occasionally, I am helped along by a menu from an entertaining cookbook. But often I build the menu around a dish that I’ve been wanting to make, or I start flipping through cookbooks looking for that dish around which I can construct a menu. I know this doesn’t sound like it should take hours, or even days, but I’m a little bit insane. I almost never want to make something I’ve made before, and I often want to make something that is either ridiculously expensive, or ridiculously involved, or both. So, I tell myself that I have to simplify, and I make compromises. If, for example, I feel I have to make an exquisite dessert, I try to find an entree that is both tasty and easy. I still often need help editing my exuberance, and a phone call to Shannen quite often does the trick. For example, she talked me out of making homemade ravioli for a dinner party in May, reminding me that ravioli is heavy, and not exactly the easiest thing to pull together. Instead, I ended up with this:

homemade salsa fresca with tortilla chips
sauteed bok choy
corn on the cob
polenta corn cakes
grilled salmon with roasted poblano lime butter
strawberry shortcakes

I forgot to take pictures, but it was a great meal. Even though the polenta cakes didn’t want to cohere, and the shortcake recipe was not quite right. The company was great, the wine was plentiful, and the salmon was spectacular. Since you can’t enjoy the company or the wine, I thought I’d share the salmon.

Recipe after the jump