The Impromptu Dinner Party
A complete menu for a dinner party with a lot of wild cards.
Dear "I don't-know-when-and-I-don't-know-how-many!!",
I received an email two weeks ago from Rabbi Yitz Greenman, the executive director of Aish HaTorah in NYC. He writes: "I am bringing a mission to Aish HaTorah Jerusalem. Weather permitting, we would like dinner on the terrace overlooking the Western Wall Plaza. We don't know exactly how many -- maybe 20-25 -- and we're not sure on the time -- somewhere between 6:00PM -10:00 PM. We want Chef Herschel to cook the meal. The food must be awesome."
These are the kinds of challenges I like -- a challenge to use all my skills and to learn some new ones as well.
I start with the menu, thinking of the good dishes I've done in the past. I look for new ideas I'd like to try. I make a long list and then I begin to thin it down. I look for a theme and then tie it all together.
This mission had a long day filled with important meetings. I decided on a barbecue in a relaxed atmosphere, salads, refreshing fruit and drinks.
I arranged for one of the members of the group to call me a half hour before the arrival so I could start the fires and put the first course on the table.
Here's the menu.
(1) Miscellaneous Assorted Breads arranged in an attractive display on the table.
(2) Herbed Margarine.
(3) Individual Fruit Plates.
(4) Salads: Olivada
(5) Pesto with Walnuts
(6) Sauted Hot Peppers with Garlic and Olive Oil
(7) A choice of Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with a Mediterranean Rub
(8) or Grilled Salmon Steak with Cuminaise
(9) or Grilled Breast of Chicken with Three-Mustard Sauce
(10) Tossed Green Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing
(11) Warm Wild Mushroom Salad
(12) Fried Potato Skins
(13) Chocolate Espresso Cakes with Espresso Whipped Cream
All served with white and red wine and lots of soft drinks with lots of ice.
(1) ASSORTED BREADS
Buy all kinds of bread -- sliced and whole loaves, pitas, bagels, dark bread etc. Slice some of it. Pile it in an attractive manner on a cutting board with a bread knife near by so people can help themselves.
(2) HERBED MARGARINE
I just threw one or two margarines into a blender with salt, pepper, fresh or frozen garlic and any other spice you want. I add a little oil to get a nice consistency. When soft, I place it into a small bowl and I refrigerate it. I take it out of the refrigerator just before use.
(3) INDIVIDUAL FRUIT PLATES
Fun. Cut up any different fruits (vary the colors) into interesting shapes. Arrange it in an attractive manner on a small plate. Pit it on the table just before arrival. Looks great and it's refreshing.
(4) SPICE GREEN OLIVADA
Makes 18 servings
1 cup pitted green olives
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives
Finely chop first 6 ingredients in processor. Blend in 5 tablespoons oil. Transfer to small bowl. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)
(5) PESTO WITH WALNUTS
My version Pareve Pesto is fresh basil sliced thin. Chopped garlic fresh or frozen added to it. Salt and pepper to taste. Chop up walnuts to small pieces and add. Drench in olive oil. Spread it on bread and enjoy.
(6) SAUTED HOT PEPPERS WITH GARLIC AND OLIVE OIL
Saute small green and red hot peppers until soft, not burnt. Let cool. Slice thin, discard the step. Soak in olive oil. Add chopped fresh or frozen garlic. Salt a pepper to taste. Enjoy.
(7) GRILLED RIB-EYE STEAKS WITH MEDITERRANEAN RUB
Makes 8 servings
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 1-pound boneless rib-eye steaks (each about 1 ¼ inches thick), trimmed
8 wedges lemon
Blend first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Mix in oil to form smooth paste. Rub mixture over steaks. Transfer to baking pan. Cover; chill at least 3 hours or overnight.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Sprinkle steaks with salt. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Place on cutting board; let stand 4 minutes. Cut steaks into 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. Transfer to platter. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with lemon. Bon Appetit!!
(8) GRILLED SALMON STEAKS WITH CUMIN MAYONNAISE
Makes 6 servings
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 8-ounce salmon steaks (about 3/4 inch thick)
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Combine mayonnaise, cumin and oregano in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread mixture on both sides of salmon. Grill salmon until just cooked through, about 4minutes per side. Bon Appetit!!
(9) GRILLED CHICKEN WITH THREE-MUSTARD SAUCE
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
1 1/2 cups unsalted beef stock or canned broth
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon Creole mustard or spicy brown mustard
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets
1 tablespoons minced garlic
Combine both stocks and vermouth in heavy medium saucepan. Boil over high heat until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 25 minutes. Add all mustards and whisk to blend. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season sauce to taste with pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Rub chicken breasts with garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.
Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon sauce over and serve. Bon Appetit!!
(10) CREAMY GARLIC DRESSING
See Salad Dressings
(11) WARM WILD MUSHROOM SALAD
Makes 4 servings
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini and stemmed shiitake), sliced
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
4 cups torn mixed greens
Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar and thyme in small bowl to blend.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and shallots; saute until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Cover skillet; cook until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Uncover; simmer until any juices evaporate. Mix 2 tablespoons dressing and chives into mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss greens with remaining dressing in large bowl. Top with mushrooms.
(12) FRIED POTATO SKINS
Scrub potatoes and pat dry. Pierce in several places with a fork. Bake potatoes about 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly and then cut in half. Scoop out flesh, leaving 1/8- to 1/4- inch (1/2- to 3/4- cm) shell. (Reverse flesh for recipes calling for mashed or riced potatoes.)
Using a kitchen shears, cut the shells in half and then in half again, giving you 8 sections for each potato. Heat vegetable oil in deep-fat fryer to 360°F (180°C) and fry skins until they are crisp. Drain well and sprinkle with salt
(13) CHOCOLATE-ESPRESSO LAVA CAKES WITH ESPRESSO WHIPPED CREAM
These individual soft-centered cakes are baked and served in ovenproof mugs. (As an alternative, eight-ounce ramekins or souffle dishes can be used.)
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 teaspoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) salted margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
12 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 cup chilled Pareve whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Sift flour, cocoa powder, 5 teaspoons espresso powder and baking powder into medium bowl. Place margarine in large bowl; add both sugars and whisk until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter among six 1-cup ovenproof coffee mugs (about 1/3 cup in each). Top each with 2 tablespoons chocolate chips. Gently press chips into batter. Cover and refrigerate mugs at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Combine cream, powdered sugar and remaining 1-teaspoon espresso powder in medium bowl; whisk until peaks form. Chill up to 1 hour.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Let mugs with batter stand at room temperature 5 minutes. Bake uncovered until cakes are puffed and crusty and tester inserted into center comes out with thick batter attached, about 30 minutes. Cook cakes 5 minutes. Top hot cakes with espresso whipped cream and serve.