A Chavurah Dinner Group
Judy Bart Kancigor
I have to admit, I’ve reached that “certain” age when most of my friends have turned their kitchens into planters. As one of them puts it, “If the Almighty had intended me to cook, he wouldn’t have given us Costco!”
So it’s no wonder that when my husband and I and five other local couples formed a Chavurah dinner group, we decided “dinner” means out, and the kitchen is open for dessert only.
We meet every four to six weeks (synchronizing our calendars has become a bigger chore than cooking), and each couple takes a turn choosing a restaurant near their home. Then we go back to their place for what my family lovingly refers to as “coffee and.”
The table is set as if for a formal dinner. With only one course to worry about, we take turns wowing each other with unusual sweets.
One time when it was my turn (and I must have been in a particularly masochistic frame of mind) I created a champagne poached pear, stuffed with marscapone cheese, apricots and pecans, baked in puff pastry with two sauces: crème anglais and port wine reduction. I’ll not be doing that again anytime soon. (If you have a couple of days with nothing to do and want to try it, let me know, and I’ll be happy to send you the recipe.)
Once a year, however, around the Chanukah celebrations, we do an elegant dinner at home. We dress up, and each couple brings a course. Last weekend’s holiday party was at our house – I told you we have calendar problems! – and as the hostess, my assignment was the main course, and everyone brings something else.
Diane Sachs brought the appetizers – enough for an army! – mock chopped liver, guacamole, tzatziki, veggies…but the showstopper was her pastry-covered Brie.
Lois Goren took the salad. When Lois needs a recipe, she just calls her “cuz,” Barry Saven, caterer to the stars.
Saven gets some pretty lavish requests from his high profile, high-living clientele. “One particular client enjoys fresh truffles,” he told me, “and requested that we acquire white ones, which are really hard to find, to be shaved on top of mashed potatoes. The only place I could find them was Paris. I had them flown in, a FedEx-type scenario, and then prepared them for him on the mashed potatoes. That was the most expensive mashed potatoes anybody has ever eaten!
I served the main course, Horseradish Crusted Salmon, a longtime crowd pleaser. Everything can be measured and prepared in advance, but keep the bread crumbs, nuts, and oil separate. Then mix them with the remaining ingredients just before you are ready to bake the salmon, so the topping doesn’t get soggy.
For our side dishes, Judi Weisman, better known in these parts as “Nana” to the inimitable Sophie (don’t you love it that these names are coming back?) brought Chili Cheese Rice, a recipe she got from her daughter, and Barbara Klingsberg brought her specialty: a gorgeous platter of roasted vegetables, including asparagus, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, celeriac, beets, butternut squash, cipollini onions, carrots and baby squash.
Linda Gomberg always takes the dessert course, and no wonder! This time she brought Double Chocolate Pound Cake, Whiskey Cake, Macaroon Cake, and Ice Cream Cake with homemade Chocolate Fudge Sauce, and of course there’s always frozen yogurt for the – ha! – dieters. Several of her cakes were baked in one of those new cupcake cake pans. Have you seen them? You bake a cake in the shape of a giant cupcake. I won one in the gift exchange and can’t wait to try it with my grandchildren.
All in all, a sweet ending to a sweet holiday celebration! (A little late, but sweet nonetheless.)
Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family” and can be found on the web at http://www.cookingjewish.com.
1 wheel Brie
1 sheet of pastry/crescent roll dough.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Place the Brie round in the middle of the sheet of dough and spread with jam,
3. Wrap the dough over the cheese, completely encasing it, and trim off any excess.
Sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and a little maple syrup.
4. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, Cool 10 minutes and serve with crackers.
Source: COOKING JEWISH: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family by Judy Bart Kancigor
Solid vegetable shortening or vegetable cooking spray, for greasing the baking dish
2 1/2 to 3 pounds skinless salmon fillet, in 1 piece
11/2 cups bread crumbs (see Note)
3/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios or pecans
1 bottle (6 ounces) white horseradish (not creamed), drained and squeezed dry
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch nonreactive baking dish.
2. Place the salmon in the prepared dish. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Press this mixture evenly over the salmon. Bake, uncovered, until cooked to your liking, 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Transfer the salmon to a platter, using two spatulas. Cut it into individual slices, and serve.
Serves 6 to 8
GOURMET CELEBRATIONS SALAD WITH PEAR, GORGONZOLA AND CANDIED WALNUTS
1 head Boston lettuce
1 head romaine lettuce
1 bosc pear
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (if unavailable, substitute any mild kosher blue)
1/4 cup candied walnuts (recipe below)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1. Cut pear in half and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lightly grill on both sides.
When cool, slice into 1/8–inch slices.
2. Tear lettuces into bite size pieces; toss with crumbled gorgonzola, cherry tomatoes, candied walnuts and pear slices and drizzle with vinaigrette.
1 clove garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Roughly chop garlic; sprinkle with a little salt. Using the side of a knife, scrape garlic into a paste; transfer to a small bowl.
2. Add vinegar and mustard; whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking constantly to form a smooth vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the sugar, cayenne and salt.
3. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil; add walnuts and blanch them for 3 minutes. Drain well and then immediately roll the walnuts in the sugar mixture until thoroughly coated. The sugar will melt slightly. Transfer the walnuts to a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Watch carefully because the sugar can burn easily. Let cool completely before serving.
CHILI CHEESE RICE
This dish can be prepared ahead. Bring to room temperature before baking.
6 cups cooked rice
16 ounces sour cream
1 small can diced green chilies, drained
2 cups shredded jack cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9X13 baking dish with vegetable spray.
2. Combine the rice, sour cream and a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce in a bowl.
3. Layer half the rice mixture in the prepared 9X13 baking dish, then the chilies over the rice. Sprinkle with the jack cheese, and cover with the remaining rice mixture. Top with Parmesan cheese and dot with butter.
4. Bake for until the cheese melts and is golden, about 30 minutes.
BAKED WINTER VEGETABLES
Any winter vegetables may be substituted or added (and Barbara does!) - including asparagus, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, celeriac, beets, butternut squash, cipollini onions, carrots and baby squash.
10 baby or small beets (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed, stems trimmed to 1 1/2 inches and root end to 1/2 inch, and halved
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., setting the rack at the middle level.
2. Arrange the beets in a baking dish, cut side up. Pour in water to come about 1/4 inch up the sides. Loosely cover with foil and bake until tender, 50 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Squash and onions:
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus additional
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt, plus additional
8 (1/2-inch) round slices peeled butternut squash, 8 wedges cut from each side
5 or 6 small onions (about 2 inches diameter), peeled and quartered
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F., setting the rack at the middle level.
2. Combine the vinegar and thyme in a measuring cup and slowly whisk in the oil.
3. Pour 2/3 of the oil mixture into a large mixing bowl with 3 teaspoons of the salt, and add the squash wedges and the onions. Transfer the vegetables to a foil-lined pan. Add half of the remaining oil mixture to the mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Toss to coat. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until just tender. Stir every 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, toss the cooked Brussels sprouts in some of the remaining oil mixture and salt. Sprinkle some vinegar and salt over the cooked beets. Add the beets and sprouts to the onions in the pan and cook for another 15 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a warm serving dish.
1 cup shortening (I use about 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup margarine)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup milk
7 ounces flaked coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. Separate eggs: let whites come to room temp before beating, about 1 hour.
3. Beat yolks on high with shortening and butter. Add sugar and extracts. On low speed, beat in flour and milk alternately. Add coconut.
4. Beat whites just to stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, fold in egg whites. Spoon he mixture into the pan and bake for 2 hours. Cool for 15 minutes and remove from pan. Let cool completely.
(Linda makes a loose glaze out of confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle on cake and sprinkle more coconut on top.)