A little late on the delivery, but, as promised, here is a follow-up guide to menu planning. An easy way to begin your menu is by picking a theme–anything from spring to grilling to Mexican. But picking a theme isn’t a requirement for a great menu. Follow these four rules and you’re sure to come out on top!
1. Color– a dinner that features foods of many colors accomplishes two goals, one aesthetic and one nutritious. A plate with many bright colors is more attractive and more appetizing than a plate of all brown or white foods. It also means you are hitting a wide array of nutrients by eating the rainbow (not the Skittles variety).
2. Texture–it’s important to vary the textures in a meal to keep your guests’ mouths and minds interested in the food. While serving a pureed lentil soup, mashed sweet potatoes, and pudding for dinner may hit a variety of colors and nutritional sources (protein, carbohydrate, etc.), it will be boring to eat. Even in a single pureed dish, it might be a good idea to throw something crunchy into the mix, like some spiced nuts on top of the pudding.
3. Cooking method–again, the emphasis here is on variety. You could make a meal of four different types of stewed dishes, but I would recommend mixing it up with something a little lighter, too. It’s also a good idea to have some kind of raw vegetable at every meal, like salad or crudites. By using different methods like braising, sauteing, steaming, boiling, and frying, you’re meal will be more engaging and satisfying.
4. Flavor–of course the most important aspect of a well executed meal is that everything taste good! But just like the other “rules,” you want there to be a mix of flavors as well. While a meal consisting entirely of sweet foods (beet salad, corn, honey-glazed chicken, and babka, for example) sounds delicious and would be fun to eat, most likely you’ll come away from the meal feeling sick and/or unfulfilled. Try to include savory, spicy, sour, bitter, tart, salty, and umami in addition to sweet.