When a friend, daughter of a friend, or son of a friend gets engaged, the first thing we want to do is help. One way to be a big help comes in the form of a question like this, "Can I make a Sheva Brachot for you?" [Sheva brachot literally means 'seven blessings,' and refers to the blessings made to the bride and groom during the celebratory meals in the week following the wedding.]
When the answer is "Yes," take pleasure in the decision and start thinking. What are we going to make? Who is going to be invited? How much is it going to cost? Who can help? Where will it be? Do I need tables and chairs? Will we use regular plates or paper? Do we need music? Who will speak? When are we going to cook? What time do we call it for and when do we really expect people to come? Who will be the "new face" that did not attend the wedding?
How do I know all of this? Because my family just made a Sheva Brachot for a family with whom we feel very close. The bride is also my daughter's best friend.
Our theme was Chinese, consisting of the following menu: Chinese corn soup, egg rolls and dumplings, (hot mustard) avocado with toasted sesame, spinach salad, sweet and sour cucumber salad, celery salad, moo shoo steak, velvet chicken, deep fried paper-wrapped meat, stir fried chicken with peppers and chilies, fried rice vegetable and noodles, and for desert -- solero (frozen sorbet on a stick), wine and soft drinks.
Enjoy some of the recipes we used and Mazal Tov!
Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad
- 1 cucumber
- 2 tbsps. sugar
- 3 tbsps. wine vinegar
- 1 slice ginger root, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
Split the cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut it crosswise into thin slices. Sprinkle with salt and leave for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar.
Drain the cucumber and arrange on a serving plate. Top with ginger. Pour the sugar and vinegar mixture and the sesame seed oil over just before serving.
- 1 bunch celery
FOR SALAD DRESSING:
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsps. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
Discard the root and leaves of the celery and cut into small diamond-shaped pieces by rolling each stalk half a turn every time you make a diagonal cut through.
Blanch the celery in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and place on a plate. Mix the salad dressing ingredients together, then pour over the celery. Chill before serving.
Everyday Velvet Chicken
Prep time: 15 minutes, Chill: 20 minutes, Cook: 14 minutes
- 2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tbsp. plus 2 tsps. corn starch
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. dry kosher sherry
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 3 tbsps. vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
- 3 scallions, minced
Slice chicken breasts very thinly crosswise, then cut into thin strips about 1 1/2 in. long. In a medium bowl, toss chicken strips with egg whites, 1 tbsp. of corn starch, and 1/2 tsp. salt until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. In 1/2-cup batches, poach chicken until white and opaque, about 3 minutes per batch. With a slotted spoon, transfer poached chicken pieces to a plate.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 tsps. corn starch, chicken broth, kosher sherry, soy sauce, remaining 3/4 tsp. salt, and pepper. Set sauce aside.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add ginger and then add chicken pieces. Toss to mix. Pour in reserved sauce and stir-fry 2 minutes, or until sauce boils and thickens. Add chopped scallions and toss to blend. Remove from heat and serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Moo Shoo Beef
- 1/2 lb. lean beef, shredded
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 9 tbsps. oil
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 2 tbsps. dried tree ears, soaked for 20 minutes drained and stemmed, or any type of mushroom
- 2 scallions, shredded
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
Mix the beef with the soy sauce. Heat 6 tbsps. of the oil in a pan. When very hot, add the eggs and stir-fry until set. Cut into thin strips, using a spatula, and transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat. Add the beef, mushrooms and spring onions (scallions), and stir-fry until the beef is cooked. Add the egg pieces and the sugar; mix well. Serve immediately.
NOTE: This dish is traditionally served with Mandarin Pancakes (I used blintz wrappers fried for 30 seconds with a few drops of oil.)
Deep Fried Paper-Wrapped Meat
- 1 1/2 tbsps. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. pale dry kosher sherry
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsps. sesame seed oil
- 1/2 lb. steak, shredded
- 4 slices ginger root, shredded
- 2 scallions, cut into 2-in. pieces
- 1/2 tsp. chili sauce
- 1 1/2 tsps. margarine
- 1/2 lb. boneless chicken, shredded
- 2 large dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked for 20 minutes, drained, stemmed and shredded, or any type
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- oil for deep-frying
Place half of the soy sauce, sherry and sugar in a bowl. Sir in the soy sauce and sesame seed oil. Add the shredded beef and half the ginger and spring onions (scallions); mix thoroughly.
Place the remaining soy sauce, sherry and sugar in another bowl. Stir in more soy sauce, chili sauce and margarine. Add the chicken, mushrooms and remaining ginger and spring onions (scallions). Leave both dishes to marinate for 15 minutes.
FOR PLACING IN PAPER:
Cut out 10 rectangular pieces of greaseproof paper or non-stick parchment, about 25 X 18 cm / 10 X 7 in. Divide both beef and chicken mixtures into 5 equal portions. Place each portion on a piece of greaseproof paper or non-stick parchment and top with a few carrot slices.
Fold each one, envelope-fashioned, enclosing the filling and tucking in the flaps to secure.
Heat the oil to 350°F. Deep-fry about half of the paper envelopes for 21/2 minutes. Transfer this batch to a wok rack or strainer and allow to drain while cooking the remaining batch of envelopes.
When all the envelopes have been fried, return them to the hot oil and fry for a further 1 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Transfer to a heated serving dish and garnish with shredded cucumber and cherries, if liked. Each diner takes his meat parcel and opens the paper with chopsticks.
Stir-Fried Chicken with Green Peppers and Chilies
- 1 tbsp. pale dry sherry
- 2 tbsps. soy sauce
- 1 small egg white
- 2 tbsps. corn starch
- 1 lb. chicken meat, cut into 1-in. cubes
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsps. sesame oil
- 6 tbsps. oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 fresh chili peppers, seeded and chopped, or 2 tsps. cayenne pepper
- 2 green peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1-in. pieces
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic, chili peppers or cayenne, and chicken. Stir-fry until the chicken is golden brown, then add the green peppers and vinegar mixture. Stir fry until the sauce starts bubbling and thickens. Serve hot.
- 11/2 lbs. spinach
- 2 tbsps. sesame oil
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 tbsps. red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsps. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. prepared mustard
Trim the spinach and wash thoroughly in cold water. Cook the spinach in a little boiling water until just tender. Drain well, then refresh under cold running water. Drain again, squeezing out all the water from the spinach. Cut each leaf into 3 or 4 pieces and place in a bowl. Allow to cool. Combine the sesame seed oil, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and mustard in a bowl. Pour over the spinach and toss well before serving chilled.