Your guests will be arriving in a couple of hours. The wine is chilled, the music has been selected, much of the food has been prepped and you're dressed so freakin' cute that no one will probably notice the dinner, anyway.
The first thing to do is double check that you have everything you need. Ice? Enough of everything? Check! If it's all good, pour yourself a glass of
liquid confidence guzzling wine and let's look at what you're making:
Appetizer: Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Chips
Baked Salmon Fillet with Dill and Capers
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli in Lemon Butter Sauce
Baby Greens with Pears and Feta
Dessert: Apple Crisp with Whipped Cream
At this point, I would set the table or set up the buffet, depending on how you plan to serve. Assuming that your guests will arrive earlier than the dinner hour to enjoy wine, appetizers and spicy talk, at two hours before launch, pop that covered dish of Spinach Artichoke Dip you made in the oven: make sure your oven racks are placed in the middle of the oven, probably the second-slot from the top and the second slot from the bottom will work. Turn the oven to 350 degrees (yes, put the dip into a cold oven, and let the dish warm up along with the oven). If your dish doesn't have an oven safe lid, spray a little pan spray on the down side of a piece of foil and cover the dip with that.
While the dip is heating, start getting the butter sauce and the salad ready:
In a small saucepan, put one stick of REAL butter near the back of the stove (where the oven vents) to begin melting. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze half into the saucepan, too. But don't throw away the squeezed half!
Add a good 3 tablespoons or so of parsley, fresh or dried and a generous pinch of salt, kosher preferably.
Wash the greens again and spin them dry. You can also spread them out on a tea towel and toss them around until most of the moisture is gone. Cut the pears into slices the same way you did the apple for your dessert, and rub the slices with that cut lemon. If you need a little more lemon, then squeeze the other half, reserving the juice for the salmon, and use that other rind, too. Whisk together 1/4 cup of the light olive oil with 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar. Add a smidgeon of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, and chop 4 or 5 the julienne strips of sun-dried tomato very finely. Whisk that into your oil and vinegar mixture, along with a nice healthy pinch of parsley and/or basil or a mixture of both. Set your vinaigrette aside.
Toss the pears with the baby greens. Slice the feta if you bought a block of it, and arrange the slices on top of the salad. If you have crumbled feta, sprinkle a plentiful amount on top of the salad, and pop that in the refrigerator. You'll dress the salad right before you serve it, because it would wilt if you dress it now.
When the dip is heated well-through (about 20-30 minutes or so), as evidenced by the bubbling and fragrant situation it's in, take the foil/lid off and turn up the oven heat to about 375. When the top is starting to brown, it's ready to serve. Just warn your guests that the dish is hot.
At 45 minutes before dinner time, while your guests are laughing and admiring you wine choice, get ready to start the final cooking. Put a few inches of water in the bottom of your steamer and turn that on medium heat.
Pull the potatoes and salmon from the fridge and uncover them. How do the potatoes look? Are they a little too dry? If you think so, you can drizzle just a touch more oil on them, toss them well. Pop them into the 375 degree oven on the lower of the two racks. Check your butter. Is it melted yet? If not, you can start melting it over low heat. When it's fully melted, add a generous pinch of cayenne pepper and set it aside.
Get the salmon ready. Chop a few sprigs of the baby dill and squeeze the lemon juice from that remaining half over them. Get about 12 capers from the jar and rinse them under cool water. Then chop them kind of roughly and add to the dill/lemon mixture. Make sure the filet is skin-side down and 30 minutes before you plan to serve the meal, put the salmon in the oven on the upper of the two middle-placed racks. Bake the salmon for 10 minutes and then add the lemon-dill-caper stuff: just pour it evenly over the top and spread it around with a silicone brush if needed. Pinch off 3 to 5 more dill sprigs and lay them evenly over the top. Now switch the potatoes and the salmon, putting the salmon on the lower rack and the potatoes on top. Give the potatoes a stir or a shake before you put them back in. They should be getting nice and browned now? If they aren't, then move that oven rack all the way to the top.
Got your serving dishes ready? You'll be dishing up soon!
Throw the prepared broccoli into the steamer and cover.
Generally, you would cook a salmon filet for 4 to 6 minutes for every 1/2" of thickness. But that is usually done in a faster (hotter) oven. Give yourself just a little extra time in a slower oven.
When the salmon has been baking for 25 minutes (total), give it a little poke with fork. Does it seem flaky? Fully cooked? Perfect! Turn off the oven, shake up your vinaigrette and dress the salad. Now get the salmon, the broccoli and the potatoes onto their platters or bowls or whatever. Stir the lemon butter sauce and drizzle it over the broccoli. Snip a little bit more fresh baby dill onto the salmon and give it a very light drizzle with light olive oil. And you're ready to serve!
If you want to serve the apple crisp warm, you can just put that dish back in the oven (which has been turned off) and let the residual heat warm the dessert a bit while you and your guests enjoy a lovely dinner.