Birthday Shabbat Dinner – now with pictures!

Posted: November 10, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

For most people, birthdays are a time when you try to put aside stresses and responsibilities; at least, that’s in an ideal world. Since I enjoy coming up with ideas and executing them, I insisted on undertaking and cooking a full three course birthday Shabbat dinner (with help from a friend) as part of the festivities this year. Doing it my way would sidestep the usual overly heavy, starchy and store-bought meals that tend to be the case when it comes to such dinners, and it can be as healthy and unique as I want! Woo!

The menu was mentioned in a previous post, but basically everything I made was a veggie since my friend took care of the salmon appetizer and spiced baked chicken main. There were also pumpkin swirl brownies. I am very happy to have discovered such a potent, delicious recipe!

Here’s how it went down. Once the menu was set and the ingredients purchased I spent a couple of days prepping like seeding a pomegranate myself instead of paying $6 for fresh pomegranate seeds and spending about 45 minutes handwashing four bunches of rainbow chard, but it was all totally worth it, because everything came out great except the quinoa. Can’t win ‘em all.

The day before the dinner I prepared the beets, the chard and the butternut squash and sweet potato puree; the rest was made at my friend’s apartment. Now, I like experimenting but for this dinner everything came from a recipe. The beets with cumin and tamarind dressing is something my mom tends to make as one of the salads at a Shabbat meal and I don’t often experience such a dish anywhere else, so I consulted my copy of Aromas of Aleppo the Syrian-Jewish gourmet cookbook. It calls for ot’ (pronounced “oot”), which is a tamarind syrup found easily in the Syrian-Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn but nearly impossible to get anywhere else. Luckily I had some in my fridge. The cookbook also has a recipe for making your own.

Diced beets in cumin and tamarind dressing

The rainbow chard came out great. The recipe I used called for regular swiss chard but rainbow chard is more colorful and festive.

Rainbow chard stems Rainbow chard with golden raisins and pine nuts

The puree recipe came from a leaflet at a farmers market. I’ve been collecting the recipes they give out at farmers markets for years and put them in a three-ring binder to consult later. This particular one originally came from The Hudson River Valley Cookbook. It’s pretty easy, but time-consuming.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Puree

Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes
1-pound butternut squash
1 cup fresh orange juice – I halved this
1 tablespoon unsalted butter – I used margarine
A 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
I added 1/2 cup of brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the sweet potatoes in half. Cut the squash in half vertically and scrape out the seeds. Put the veggies, cut side up, in a baking pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake, uncovered, until they are very soft, at least 1 1/2 hours. Scoop the potato and squash out of the skins, combine them and smash until smooth.

Put the orange juice, butter, cinnamon stick and brown sugar in a small saucepan and reduce until it is about 1/4 cup syrup. Discard the cinnamon stick. Stir the orange syrup into the mashed vegetables, season with salt and pepper, transfer to a small casserole and reheat gently in the over or on top of the stove.

—-
I doubled this since it was meant for 10. Only using 1/2 a cup orange juice even after doubling the rest is plenty, otherwise the whole thing will be overpowered by the citrus flavor.

The next day I prepared the quinoa, the sesame broccoli and a mixed green salad at my friend’s apartment, where dinner was held. No kidding, I brought a whole pushcart of the prepared food and supplies!

The quinoa was mushy because my friend didn’t have a proper sized lid for the size pot I needed. Oh well. The sesame broccoli was another farmers market recipe, this time coming from something called The Recipe Source. It’s super easy and quick. Just cut the broccoli into florets and cook in boiling salted water until tender, about 8 – 10 minutes, or you can steam it in salted water for about 5 minutes. Mix together sesame oil, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds, and toss. Done! I think properly salted water is key because I needed to add a bunch more soy sauce to make this have any flavor but it turned out alright in the end.

Quinoa with chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and spices

Then, dessert. I had made the brownies the night before so that was all ready to go. They came out denser than I expected and stayed super moist. The comments for the recipe really helped. I will definitely make them again!

Pumpkin swirl brownies

I’m ok with not doing another dinner party for a while. This was a lot of food!


Also

Posted: June 25, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Just so you think this blog isn’t going to be too “serious”, here’s something I whipped up last night.

BEHOLD! Red Velvet Brownies!

Red Velvet Brownies!

Full update later.



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.