A Ladies Lunch for 24
I host a lunch for my study group every year. It's one of my favorite events. I love planning the menu, executing and the event itself. A co-host is assigned to me and sometimes they participate and sometimes they just write a check. Whatever is fine with me. It's an opportunity to get out the heirloom linens and contemplate the people who gave them to me. I'm lucky to be the beneficiary of beautiful things that belonged to my mother, my mother-in-law, two grandmothers and a great grandmother.
My research into spring salads began months ago with ideas old and new. I wanted to make a retro 1950s version with clear gelatin and layers of spring vegetables served on frisee, an emotional relative of my mom's splendid tomato aspic. That experiment ended up all over the counter. My math skills must be getting weaker. My final choice was a Thai style salad with herbs, fresh tomatoes, Persian cucumbers and shrimp that my sister has had good luck with. The dressing was heavy on lemongrass but sadly didn't deliver as much lemony flavor as I wanted so I ended up supplementing with Meyer lemon zest. I find lemongrass is time consuming to work with and isn't always as fresh with bright aromas as it should be, but you can't tell that by looking at it in the store. I added a toasted coconut and peanut garnish for crunch and a second level of coconut to compliment the coconut milk in the rice. It was beautiful on the plate.
For dessert I choose Kulfi, my favorite big crowd recipe because it's easy and everyone loves it. The hardest part is creating two or more tablespoons of ground cardamom seeds. Even after crushing the pods with a pestle, it's tedious to open the pods and collect the precious inner seeds to grind to a powder, but worth it. Cardamom adds a warm, sweet, mysterious other world flavor and aroma that ties in with the Thai spices.
Although I have made the recipe several times and always struggle with the math, I think I forgot to do the math because I was surprised when 24 5-ounce servings resulted in enough remaining to feed at least 10 more people. The genius I live with laughed at me and said, "The leftover gods are with us today!"
My co-host provided lovely flower arrangements that were the perfect icing on the table.