Although the evening before the work week begins is an unlikely time to entertain, I enjoy inviting friends on Sunday nights. There is something so comfy and casual about a Sunday evening. It's the diametric opposite of Saturday night, which is automatically elevated to dinner-party status, complete with cloth napkins and fine crystal.
The trick to throwing a Sunday-night supper is to keep things simple. Comfort foods and casual dinnerware set the tone. Think of recipes that are easy to make, preferably in advance, so you can enjoy your guests.
It's helpful to keep the crowd small -- no more than six people, including the host and hostess. You'll want to serve dishes that are succulent and surprising. Instead of the same old meatloaf or deli sandwiches, branch out to ethnic cuisine. And don't be afraid to mix and match foods from more than one culture.
It's best to invite people on the early side, maybe at 5:30 p.m. Because the pressure of Monday morning lurks in the background, keep the pace moving by not lingering too long over any one particular course.
A Sunday-night supper caps off the weekend on a high note. I find that friends are delighted to receive an invitation at a time when they weren't expecting one, a time that stretches the sparkle of the weekend to its maximum.
Tortilla Soup(Meat or Pareve)
- 2 Tbsps. vegetable oil, or more, if needed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, rinsed, seeded, and diced fine
4 Italian plum tomatoes, diced fine
kosher salt to taste
2 Tbsps. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 can (28 oz.) tomato purée
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsps. fresh cilantro, chopped, optional garnish
1 bag (9 oz.) tortilla chips
On a medium flame, warm the oil in a stockpot or large pot.
Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the green pepper, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stir until they start releasing their juice, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in salt, cumin and chili powder, stirring to blend well.
Pour in the tomato purée and broth, stirring until well-combined. Cover the pot and reduce the flame to low. Continue simmering, stirring every 10 minutes, until soup thickens nicely, about 1 hour. Recipe can be made ahead to this point, refrigerated, and reheated.
When the soup is ready, place tortilla chips on a baking sheet and bake in a 350° oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until warm and crisp.
Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using.
Place 5 chips in each bowl, only partially submerged in the soup. Move the remaining chips to a bowl and serve on the side.
Open-Faced Sausage-and-Cabbage Sandwiches(Meat)
- 1 small green or red cabbage (11/2 to 2 lbs.)
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
kosher salt to taste
4 tsps. paprika
11/2 lbs. kosher chicken, turkey or beef sausage, preferably without skin
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 slices of fresh bread
Rinse cabbage under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Discard coarse outer leaves.
Cut out and discard the cabbage core. Slice the cabbage into thin circles. Separate the circles into ribbons. Reserve.
Heat the oil in a large pot on a medium flame.
Add the onion and some salt and stir. Sauté until the onion wilts, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Sprinkle in the paprika and stir for about 1 minute, until well-combined.
Add the sausage meat. If you purchased sausage in the skin, then squeeze out the meat into the pot. Brown sausage, stirring often.
Add the ribbons of cabbage and the red wine. Stir to blend.
Cover the pot and simmer on a medium-low flame, stirring every few minutes. Add more salt, if needed. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the cabbage is cooked through. Recipe can be served immediately or refrigerated and reheated.
Makes 6 open-faced sandwiches.
Boston Lettuce Salad With Caramelized Onion Rings(Pareve)
- 1 large onion
2 Tbsps. olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup pignoli nuts
1 head of Boston lettuce
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tomato, sliced into wedges
1/8 cup raisins
Peel the onion and slice it. Separate slices into rings.
Heat the oil in a large skillet on a medium flame and sauté onion rings in oil. Sprinkle with salt. Turn onion rings frequently, lowering the flame if they sizzle too quickly and may burn. Sauté until the rings are crisp, brown, and shriveled. Drain on paper towels and reserve.
On the tray of a toaster oven set at 350°, bake the pignoli nuts until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Watch nuts constantly, as they burn easily. Recipe can be made to this point three hours in advance.
Rinse the lettuce under cold water and place in a salad spinner or dry with paper towels. Move to a large salad bowl.
Break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add the pignoli nuts, avocado, tomato and raisins. Sprinkle with salt.
Toss with the Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below).
Sprinkle caramelized onions on top.
- 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice, or more if you like a deep lemon flavor
1/8 cup olive oil
In a jar, mix ingredients together until well-combined.
Drizzle on salad.
This cake tastes best if made a day in advance.
- nonstick vegetable spray
10 Tbsps. margarine
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs (not jumbo)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. vanilla
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced thin
Preheat oven to 350°.
Coat an 11x7-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
In a large mixing bowl, cream margarine and sugar until light.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.
Spoon in the flour, half at a time, and beat until well-incorporated. Add the lemon zest and vanilla; beat again.
Move the batter to prepared pan and spread evenly. Cover the batter with pear slices, overlapping them.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool to room temperature.
Cover loosely with aluminum foil until serving. This cake does not need to be refrigerated for 24 hours. Cut into 15 squares.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at: [email protected] .