Q: I'd like to serve an after-work dinner for 10 of my colleagues. We'd all be arriving at my apartment together so I wouldn't be able to get everything ready ahead of time. Do you have some suggestions?
Lynne: This menu is one I've done in the past. Build the meal around a braised lamb stew because it can be prepared the night before, refrigerated, then reheated for 20 minutes or so while you pour wine and pass around some radishes that your guests dip in fresh goat cheese. But don't say it's lamb stew, call it something like Moroccan Inspired Lamb Braise. Put into it some small potatoes, small young onions, carrots, some green beans, and flavorings like lots of garlic, cumin, coriander, tomatoes, and paprika. You could do the dish with chicken instead of lamb also.
With the lamb stew serve couscous that you've heated with a bit of liquid in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or so while the stew heats up. Get fancy if you want by throwing in some cinnamon sticks and raisins.
For the salad, wash the greens a day or two ahead, spin them completely dry, roll them in paper towels and put in plastic bags in the refrigerator to crisp. You can make a dressing ahead and have it in a shaker jar.
Dessert can be fresh rhubarb that you've cooked ahead with sugar and cinnamon and chilled. Serve the rhubarb in little bowls topped with sliced, sweetened fresh strawberries and whipped cream on the side.