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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Menus vary, depending on the time of day and the theme, but here are some suggestions:

Brunch: Omelets to order, assorted mini rolls and breads, smoked salmon and cheese wheels, fresh cut fruit in season, Israeli salad (cubed tomatoes and cucumbers with lemon juice, olive oil and kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper) café au lait or English Breakfast tea, muffins and mini-Danish.

Lunch: If the novel or book is about a different land, try choosing a menu that relates to the country, say China or Italy, that the book is about. If you are doing James Michener’s classic book, Hawaii, for example, you can set up a Polynesian table and let people help themselves.

Order in, cook it yourself, or bring everyone to your favorite eatery, everyone will have a wonderful time.

Dinner: A buffet is best, so people can nibble and continue the conversation as they circulate. Again, the décor can reflect the theme—and the benefit “at night” is that you can decorate with candles that add warmth and a flattering glow to any room.

 

FOR ANY FALL OR WINTER PARTY, GARBAGE SOUP IS THE BEST!

With a chill in the air, soup is always a delicious way to fill your guests’ bellies and warm the cockles of their hearts. A hearty, geshmack soup with sandwiches and salads on the side would fit the bill. You can order them in from your favorite caterer or take out place, or take the time to prep your favorites.  Here’s the recipe for a classic:

Garbage Soup, the Hearty Vegetable Soup, aka Pot au Feu

This recipe makes enough  soup for a small army—you will need one of those huge stock pots—you may have to borrow or get one at a local restaurant supply house—unless, of course you do this all the time. And if it gets too thick, just add some red or white wine!

1 lb. of lean beef, cut into cubes * optional for vegetarians

About 2 lbs. of cracked marrow bones * optional for vegetarians

3 medium onions, diced

1 cup of chopped celery

1 chopped parsnip

1 turnip cubed

2 carrots, cleaned and sliced

1 can of red kidney beans

1 can of lima beans

1 cup of sliced mushrooms

1 cup of barley

1 cup of chicken or beef broth base or four cups of your favorite stock, chicken or beef

(increase this to an additional half cup if you aren’t using bones and beef)

* vegetarians can  leave out the meat or use tofu, and use a non-meat soup base like Osem (from Israel) that comes in a variety of flavors, from chicken and beef to onion and mushroom

1 8 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic crushed

2 quarts of tomato juice

1 quart of filtered or spring water  (if you are using real broth, you can cut down on the water—in any case try not to use unfiltered tap water—it contains chemicals that can actually affect the taste of your cooking)

½ cup of olive oil

1 or 2 bay leaves

1 bunch of dill (chop some on the side and reserve)

1 bunch parsley (chop some of it finely and reserve)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 bunch of scallions, (chop and reserve)

Vegetarian version: 1 cup of the grated cheese of your choice—Parmesan is best.

Brown the onions, garlic, mushrooms and beef in the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium heat. When the onions are golden brown and the meat is fairly well browned, add everything to your large pot, except the chopped  parsley and dill. Toss in the tomato juice, the water, the soup base, the bay leaf (or two, depending on your taste), cover and bring to a boil—then lower the flame to simmer and let the flavors blend for at least two hours. Skim the top, and stir often to prevent barley from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  You can add any vegetables you have in the fridge that are getting tired—peas, corn niblets, diced red or yellow peppers, beans, etc. and spice it up with your favorites—from a few pinches of paprika and fresh cracked black pepper to additional garlic and onion powder—if it gets too salty, , just throw in more potatoes! If you want a Mediterranean flavor add a teaspoon of oregano or zatar.

And please don’t forget to fish out the bay leaves before you serve the soup!

This should serve at least a dozen people—depending on how large the bowls are!  Sprinkle each bowl with the freshly chopped dill, parsley and scallions, or pour the soup into a large tureen, sprinkle with the fresh herbs and scallions (and cheese for vegetarians), pile a stack of soup bowls next to the tureen with a large soup ladle. Pile assortments of warm crisp mini rolls and chunks of rye bread or marble bread in baskets and let people help themselves.

You may also serve this with a platter of sandwiches made from various cold cuts or other fillings, like smoked salmon or whitefish salad, and put all the condiments out—from mayonnaise to ketchup, honey mustard and Dijon, to give your guests an array to choose from.

And if you have enough soup left over, you can freeze it and bring it out later in the season and touch it up by adding any of those tired old veggies in the fridge, some more diced onions and garnishing with fresh toppings as described above.

SUGAR SNAP PEA OR GREEN BEAN SALAD WITH RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE

2 lbs. of fresh Sugar Snap peas or very fresh string beans

1 large red pepper, thinly sliced into strips

1 large yellow pepper, thinly sliced into strips

1 small red onion

4 thinly sliced red radishes

1 bunch of chives or lemon grass

½ cup feta cheese for sprinkling on top

Wash everything thoroughly and string and slice the ends of the peas/beans—dunk in boiling water for two minutes, until bright green and transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Slice the onion thinly and soak in a bowl of cold sugar water for 15 minutes, then drain. Clean the stalks of chives, and cut the tops and bottoms, wash thoroughly. Slice the yellow and red pepper into thin strips. Toss everything with raspberry vinaigrette.  Line a pretty bowl with radicchio leaves, as shown and spoon in the salad. Garnish with extra chives, and sprinkle with chopped nuts and craisins. If you are serving dairy, you can also sprinkle feta cheese on the top.

RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

To make raspberry vinegar, you can use three methods. Two of them are quick, and one of them takes more than a month to prepare. Choose your recipe.

Genuine Infused Raspberry Vinegar—the old fashioned way

Fresh raspberries

White vinegar

Wash and drain berries. Fill a one quart jar that has been sterilized with boiling water with berries to within 2 inches of top. Heat white vinegar until it starts to simmer, but not boil, pour over the raspberries in the jar, put plastic wrap across the top and then screw on the jar cap. Store in a cool dark place for six weeks. Strain vinegar through a tea strainer lined with coffee-filter paper. Pour into fresh bottle and cork.

Quick Raspberry Vinegar

Add half a cup of raspberry syrup to a quart to your favorite vinegar, funnel it into a clean bottle and use as needed—or muddle a cup of fresh raspberries into two cups of your favorite vinegar and use it immediately—you may want to add a bit of sweetener or sugar to pump up the taste and take some of the tartness out.

RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE DRESSING I

1 c. raspberry vinegar

1 c. olive oil

1 c. vegetable oil

1 c. pure maple syrup

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon

1 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well in mixer or food processor. Mix until dressing thickens and is well blended.

RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE SALAD DRESSING  II

3  egg yolks

1/4 c. Dijon mustard

2/3 c. raspberry vinegar

3 c. olive oil

juice of one fresh lemon

4 stalks chopped scallions

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c. fresh raspberries (optional)

In mixing bowl place yolks, Dijon and raspberry vinegar. Whisk until blended. Slowly dribble in olive oil until incorporated, whisking continually. Add scallions and juice of 1 lemon. Salt and white pepper. Whisk in raspberries (optional).

 

On Cooks.com there are 3,300 recipes for brownies, each one of them better than the next. Here’s a favorite that’s moist and packed with nuts:

CHOCOLATE NUT BROWNIES

2/3 c. shortening

2 c. sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. chopped nuts, divided*

*pecans, almonds and walnuts are favorites. You can also use hazelnuts to make perfect brownies to go with café au lait.

In a mixing bowl, beat shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla just until smooth. Combine dry ingredients, stir into batter. Fold in half the nuts. Spread into a greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on wire rack. Cut into squares. Makes 2 dozen.

Serving suggestion: Warm the brownies in the oven for a few minutes, top with a scoop of  your favorite ice cream or pareve substitute and pour luxurious chocolate syrup or caramel sauce over the top.

By Jeanette Friedman

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