Last Friday I hosted a Shabbat dinner for 15 of my closest friends. Through a friend at Cornell I found out about this program called Birthright Israel NEXT, which is for alumni of Birthright Israel. One of their programs is called Birthright NEXT Shabbat, which allows alumni of Birthright to host Shabbat dinners that are paid for by their generous donors. This was obviously a dream come true for me as I was able to cook an elaborate dinner for 15 of my friends at no cost to me, which would have been very expensive otherwise. The cool thing about the program is that they give you no rules or restrictions-this was Shabbat my way. I chose the menu, hand picked the wines, and was even able to buy tablecloths and other decorations to make it special. Thankfully my sister was able to come visit me for the weekend and made a wonderful sous chef/kitchen helper extraordinaire. I spent a while thinking about what I wanted to make and looking at all of my favorite food blogs for inspiration. I knew I had a few dietary restrictions to accommodate: vegetarian, gluten free and kosher, which made it a little trickier as well. In the end I decided on curry mustard chicken, mustard roasted potatoes, oven roasted vegetables, turmeric Israeli couscous with caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes, roasted tomatoes and cipollini onions, quinoa salad, and chocolate soufflé cupcakes with mint crème for dessert. I knew this was ambitious, seeing as I had never thrown a dinner party all by myself before, but I was up for the challenge.
Mara and I spent the night before cutting vegetables and prepping the rest of the ingredients so that we could have everything ready to go for Friday.
The final recipe selection
Intense food shopping experience
-bunch of carrots, cut into sticks
-parsnips, cut into sticks
-butternut squash, cut into pieces
-acorn squash, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 400˚ and line baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. On one of them put the beets (It’s best to cook them separately so they don’t stain everything pink). On another put the squash, carrots, and parsnips. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss so that everything is thinly coated. Add some freshly ground pepper and salt and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender when stuck with a fork. The different vegetables may vary in cooking times so be sure to check frequently. Also reach in and shake everything around every 5-10 minutes.
Mara peeling carrots and parsnips
peeling and cutting beets and staining my hands in the process
Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini Onions
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 pound cipollini onions
1 pound small Roma or large cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Few fresh basil leaves, slivered
Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil a small pot of water and blanche the cipollini for 10 seconds, then plunging them into cold water. Use a paring knife to make a small slit in each, and slide them out of their skins and outer layer.
Spread peeled onions and tomatoes in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and a few good pinches of coarse salt. Toss everything together until well-coated and roast in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, reaching in every 15 minutes with a spatula to roll the tomatoes and onions around to ensure all sides get blistered. Sprinkle the dish with the basil and eat at once.
Mustard Roasted Potatoes
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 10 servings
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick or 1/2 ounce) butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3 pounds 1- to 1 1/2-inch-diameter mixed unpeeled red-skinned and white-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges
Position 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Whisk mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add potatoes; sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Divide potatoes between prepared baking sheets, leaving any excess mustard mixture behind in bowl. Spread potatoes in single layer. Roast potatoes 20 minutes. Reverse baking sheets and roast until potatoes are crusty outside and tender inside, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes longer. Transfer potatoes to serving bowl.
whole grain dijon mustard
coating the potatoes in the mustard mixture
Curried Honey Mustard Chicken
Adapted from All Recipes.com and Nancy Dorfman-Tandlich
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup butter, melted or ¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon-style prepared mustard
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
teaspoon of salt
In a medium bowl combine the oil or melted butter/margarine, honey, mustard curry powder and cayenne powder and salt. Mix well. Place chicken breasts in a 9×13 inch baking dish and pour honey/mustard mixture over chicken. Cover and place in refrigerator. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 375˚. Bake for 15 minutes covered and then uncovered until cooked through.
Israeli Couscous with Turmeric, Caramelized Onions, and Tomatoes
(I think this was my favorite dish of the night!)
Adapted from this food blog
8 oz. Israeli Couscous
3 cups chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large yellow onions (Spanish or sweet), halved and sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Bring chicken broth with garlic cloves to a boil. Once boiling, add couscous and cook until al dente (mine cooked for approximately 5 minutes.) The couscous absorbed all of the chicken broth so there was no need to drain.
Meanwhile, caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute, tossing occasionally with tongs, for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar, balsamic, turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon more salt, and continue cooking, and giving a stir or two, over this assertive heat for 5 more minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and cook, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes longer, or until very soft, glisteny, and sweet.
Stir in the cooked couscous, top with the tomatoes, and serve warm, or at room temperature.
Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Creme
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon espresso or instant coffee powder
3 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9 standard-size (3-ounce) muffin cups with paper liners. Stir chocolate, butter and espresso powder together in heavy medium saucepan over low heat mostly melted, then remove from the heat and whisk until it is fully melted and smooth. (I like to put the butter underneath the chocolate in the pan, so that it protects the chocolate from the direct heat.) Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
Using electric mixer (a hand mixer, rather than a stand mixer, actually works best here because the volumes are so small) beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Briefly beat lukewarm chocolate mixture, then vanilla extract, into yolk mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and all of the salt, beating until medium-firm peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups, filling each three-fourths of the way.
Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry to the touch (some may crack) and a tester inserted into the centers comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a cooling rack, where the cupcakes will almost immediately start to fall. It will be all the better to put your mint cream on them.
Beat cream and peppermint extract with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Remove cupcakes from pan, arrange on a platter. Fill each sunken top with a healthy dollop of mint cream. Top with shaved dark chocolate, if you’re feeling fancy. You won’t be able to stop at just one.
Okay! So there you have all of the recipes and pictures I took while prepping. Now here are some pictures from the actual dinner:
Jenna and I saying the blessing over the candles
Nathan saying the blessing over the challah
a plate of my hard work
The whole group!
In the end, all of the hard work was well worth it. The food was delicious and my friends had such a good time. It was one of my favorite nights at school so far and a memory I will never forget. Thanks to Birthright Israel Next, to my sister for all her help and to all of my friends for making this Shabbat so special!