We frequently host complete strangers at our Shabbat dinner table. They are friends of friends, distant relatives twice removed, a past social encounter passing through for the weekend or just people who need a place for a Sabbath meal.
As a cook and hostess, this puts me at a disadvantage, for more often than not, I haven't a clue to their dietary proclivities and tastes. So I keep the menu as simple and traditional as my creative instincts will allow.
No fancy sauces that may be chic on restaurant menus, but not compatible with home-cooked food. No experimental herbs and spices sprinkled on top of an already appetizing, aromatic dish just to make a "foody" statement.
After all, the goal of entertaining for Shabbat is to make your guests comfortable and cared for at the dinner table, as well as the living room. The food you serve should reflect that special ambiance.
So try a chicken soup with noodles and nutritious greens to begin with, followed by a main course of a light, tasty and colorful chicken dish accompanied by golden brown roasted potatoes. (There is always safety in chicken and potatoes.)
An open-faced apple tart concludes the meal graciously, along with a selection of regular or decaffeinated coffee and tea.
Chicken Soup With Noodles and Chard
- 10 cups chicken stock
3 cups coarsely chopped chard or spinach
6 oz. medium egg noodles, cooked
3 cups diced cooked chicken (optional)
In a large pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer.
Add the chard and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.
Add the noodles and chicken (if using); cook just until heated through.
Chicken Breast With Carrots and Leeks
- 3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and shredded
4 leeks, white part only, shredded or thinly sliced
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup chicken stock
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary
3 Tbsps. prepared mustard
8 boned and skinned chicken-breast halves
salt and pepper
In large skillet, heat the oil.
Sauté the carrots and leeks over medium heat until soft.
Add wine and stock.
Bring to a boil and stir in the parsley, rosemary and mustard. Cook over medium about 5 to 8 minutes, or until liquids are partially evaporated.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and place over vegetables. Cover and cook over low heat 15 to 20 minutes, or until the juices of the chicken run clear when pierced.
To Serve: Make a bed of carrots and leeks and place chicken breast over it. Sprinkle with additional parsley.
Potatoes Roasted With Shallots
- 3 Tbsps. olive oil
3 lbs. small red potatoes, quartered
6 shallots, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
< p>Preheat oven to 425°.
In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with oil and shallots.
Place potatoes and shallots in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in one layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake about 25 minutes, turn potatoes over, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden-brown.
My Best Apple Tart
- 1 recipe tart dough rolled to fit 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, chilled (recipe below)
1/2 cup apricot jam, slightly warmed
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 green apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsps. unsalted margarine
confectioners' sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 400°.
Spread jam on bottom of tart shell. Sprinkle with nuts.
Make an even layer of the chopped apples and arrange the sliced apples in concentric circles over it.
Sprinkle with sugar and dot with margarine.
Bake about 45 minutes.
Allow to cool before removing from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Serves 8 to 10.
- 11/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
10 Tbsps. unsalted margarine, cold
5 Tbsps. water
Combine the flour, salt, sugar and margarine until crumbly.
Add the water and mix just until dough holds together.
Form into a disc, wrap and refrigerate.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at:[email protected].