Long Live the Dinner Party!

Much to my domestic delight, I just finished reading the NYT’s article Guess Whose Not Coming to Dinner.  Like Karen Mordechai of Sunday Suppers, I grew up in a home where every Friday night the whole family, friends and neighbors sat around the dinner table for a delicious home cooked meal.  Every Shabbat, before the sun set my mom rushed around the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on a soup, salad, fish and main course. Once we lit the candles, there was nothing left to do (no electricity, no gadgets, no TV) but eat and enjoy each others company.

Back in my studio, I would host little cocktail parties, balancing an assortment of hor d’ouerves on my street scavenged faux marble card table.  Here in Dumbo, my mid century dining table can seat up to 10+ people with the extension leaves inserted and I have enjoyed playing hostess to an assortment of friends and new acquaintances throughout the last several years.   Having people over to dine, lounge and get some fresh air while on the roof sure beats screaming over loud music and mediocre entries at a restaurant.  Like meatloaf which is popping up all over menus in Brooklyn,  hosting a dinner party is the epitome of throw back cool!

While I’ve certainly had my fair share of hosting practice and often try to prepare in advance, I still find myself rushing around to get everything ready before sunset; my mother’s weekly frenzy sure set a great example!   Her salad course, a colorful assortment of delicate Moroccan inspired mezze which now makes perfect use of my CSA carrots, beets and swiss chard, is quite labor intensive but never ceases to impress my guests.  For a dinner party, you can’t go wrong with simple home cooking.  Interesting vegetable and grain side dishes, roast chicken or slow cooked brisket are all great options for a big crowd.

In a departure from mom’s traditional mode of  serving, I like to put out edamame, popcorn, or olives before dinner as my contemporaries can be counted on to arrive (more than) fashionably late.  While the Mr. mans the bar and takes drink orders, I put the finishing touches on dinner and get ready for game time.   One tip that came highly recommended by my Aunt L is setting the table the night before  so there is one less thing to worry about before the guests arrive.  I love when my husband walks in with a fresh bouquet for the perfect touch!

I know they say you aren’t supposed to experiment with new recipes on your guests but sometimes I get overzealous and in over my head!  Last Shabbat, I tried a roasted beet and pomegranate seed salad from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. The colors were beautiful, but thankfully I did not pour the dressing on as it was inedible and easily replaced with a simple balsamic one! Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman’s recipes are always foul proof though and last Shabbat Acorn Squash with Lime-Chili Vinaigrette was a hit alongside a roast chicken with braised onions and peppers,  crispy lemon potatoes, a surprisingly easy recipe that packed a punch from prissy Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP newsletter, and a simple salad. For dessert, I was lucky to have my sister over early and micromanaged her as she baked Deb’s Mom’s Applecake, which has an addictive bread pudding type texture and is remarkably similar to our own mom’s oral recipe!

This week we are having a few friends over and I am already planning my menu.  I think lamb chops will make their first ever appearance in my kitchen. Let’s hope I don’t overcook them!


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