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When It has to be Nice

When It has to be Nice

My sumptuous dinner menu.

by

It happens regularly. I opened my email:

Dear Chef Herschel,

We are making a very special event. We need an elegant dinner for 100 people on the roof overlooking the Western Wall. We will be arriving at 9:30, after the awards presentation. It has to be very nice.

One mistake I often make with the menu is choosing too many new recipes that require preparations I'm not familiar with. Be careful to limit it to just a few new recipes so it doesn't get overwhelming. I make the menu diverse, but not bizarre. Most of my recipes are from Bonappetite.com, adapted for Kashrut and product availability. I choose items that I will like -- it keeps my motivation high. I send it out for approval. The answer: "Looks great! Good luck."

It was a beautiful evening, everything was excellent. Here's what I did.

* * *

Gypsy Soup

  • 3-4 tbsps. olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cups winter squash
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup chopped sweet peppers
  • 1 cup sweet potatoes and or winter squash
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 cups stock or water
  • 2 tsps. paprika
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. tamari

Cook the chickpeas (after checking) for a few hours before you use them into the soup. In a soup kettle filled water, throw in onions, garlic, celery and sweet potatoes, and seasonings. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and chickpeas, simmer another 30 minutes or so – until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.

* * *

Lamb Meatballs with Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli

SUN-DRIED TAMOTO AIOLI

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup drained sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsps. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved

Place all ingredients in a processor and puree until smooth. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

MEATBALLS

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tsps. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients gently in medium bowl just to blend. Form mixture into balls about the size of golf balls. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 35 minutes. Serve aioli.

Makes 6 appetizer servings.

* * *

Red Chile Pecans

  • 3 tbsps. margarine
  • 4 cups pecans or almonds
  • 4 tsps. pure red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

Melt margarine in large skillet over medium heat. Add nuts; stir until browned, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with chili powder and salt; toss about 1 minute. Cool completely.

Makes 4 cups.

* * *

Nut-Crusted Salmon with Ginger Sauce

SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup pareve (non-dairy) whipping cream

Boil first 6 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan until almost all liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes. Add pareve cream; bring to boil. Strain into heavy small saucepan.

FISH

  • 1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2tsps. (packed) brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps. honey
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 4 6- to 7-oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • 6 tbsps. margarine, cut into 1/2-in. cubes

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using on/off turns, puree first 6 ingredients in processor until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Heat large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Cook salmon until browned on 1 side, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn salmon over. Top with nut mixture, pressing to adhere. Bake until salmon is opaque in center, about 7 minutes (if nut mixture isn't browned enough, place under broiler briefly.)

Meanwhile, bring sauce to simmer; remove from heat. Add margarine a few tbsps. at a time, whisking until melted smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer fish to plates. Spoon sauce around fish and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

* * *

Horseradish-Crusted Nile Perch

  • 7 chives cut into 2-in. pieces
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2-in. pieces of fresh horseradish (to make 1/4 cup grated horseradish)
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoned flour (2/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper)
  • 2 Nile Perch fillets
  • Salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • oil, for cooking

Prepare the chives and canola oil in the blender, until very smooth. Refrigerate in a squeeze bottle or covered jar.

Peel the horseradish and grate it on the coarse side of the grater. Turn the grated horseradish into one of the flat dishes with the crumbs and mix in the herbs. Whisk the water and eggs together and pour into a second dish. Spread the seasoned flour in the last dish.

Prepare to coat the side of the fillets where the bone was. Season this side of each fillet with salt and pepper. Dredge this top side only in the flour, shaking off the excess; coat the same side with the egg-water mixture, and finally drop into the crumb mixture, pressing firmly to make sure the coating adheres. Set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cooking time.

Fry coated side first in hot oil until golden, second side 2 minutes or until fully cooked.

* * *

Rice with Garlic, Ginger and Cilantro

  • 3 cups rice
  • 3 tbsps. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, 2 in. of bottom stems trimmed and discarded, tops and remaining stems coarsely chopped

Place rice in large sieve; rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Drain. Heat oil in large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and stir 3 minutes. Stir in broth and salt. Sprinkle cilantro over. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand covered 10 minutes. Fluff rice with fork. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

* * *

Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

  • 4 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-lb. Cornish game hens
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
  • 4 large fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • 24 garlic cloves – peeled
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • Additional rosemary sprig (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Pat hens dry with paper towels. Season cavities lightly with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 rosemary sprig in cavity of each hen. Rub hens with 1 tbsp. oil. Season outside of hens lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in heavy large roasting pan. Scatter garlic around hens.

Roast hens 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Pour wine, broth and remaining 2 tbsps. oil over hens. Continue roasting until hens are golden brown and juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices, about 25 minutes longer.

Transfer hens to platter, pouring any juices from cavity into roasting pan. Tent hens with foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic to heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.

Arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

* * *

Grilled Spiced Rib-Eye Steaks

Active time: 15 minutes, Start to finish: 45 minutes

  • 8 (1-in.-thick) rib-eye steaks
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsps. kosher salt

Prepare grill for cooking. Let steaks stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Stir together allspice, cumin and salt. Pat steaks dry and sprinkle spice mixture onto both sides of steaks to lightly coat, pressing to adhere.

Grill steaks in 2 batches on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals 4-5 minutes on each side, or until an instead-read thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into thickest part of meat registers 130°F for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to a platter and let stand 10 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

* * *

Hearts of Romaine Salad with Apple, Red Onion and Cider

For an especially elegant presentation, this salad can be arranged on individual plates instead of one large platter. When trimming the base of the romaine hearts, be sure to leave a small part of each base attached to hold the leaves together.

  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsps. frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tbsps. minced red onion
  • 1 3/4 tsps. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-in. dice (about 1 lb.)
  • 5 hearts of romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

Whisk first 8 ingredients in small bowl for dressing. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate. Re-whisk before using.) Place sliced onion in medium bowl. Add apples; toss to coat. Trim off tips of romaine halves, leaving 5-in. lengths. Cut each romaine half lengthwise into 3 wedges. Fan wedges on large platter. Top with red onion slices. Drizzle salad with dressing, then sprinkle with apples and pecans.

Makes 10 servings.

* * *

Green Beans with Chili Pepper Margarine

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsps. chopped chilies
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 lbs. green beans, trimmed

Blend margarine, chili, vinegar and salt in mini processor until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; drain and pat dry. Can be made 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Melt chili pepper margarine in large pot over medium-high heat. Add beans and toss until coated and heated through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Makes 10 servings.

* * *

Summer Fruit Salad with Mint Sugar

Active time: 20 minutes, Start to finish: 25 minutes

  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint
  • 3 tbsps. Sugar
  • 1 1/2lb. sweet cherries, pitted and halved
  • 3 firm-ripe medium peaches or nectarines, halved lengthwise, pitted and cut into 1/3-in.-thick wedges
  • 1/2 lb. seedless green grapes (1 1/2 cups), halved

Pulse mint and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Sprinkle mint sugar over fruit in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Published: July 28, 2007


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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Ruth Barnash, July 31, 2007 8:51 PM

very interesting

I found Chef Hershel's comments and recipes most interesting. I am an avid cook and I enjoy and learn about new recipes.

(2) mike, July 31, 2007 12:33 PM



Very extensive list; could be useful

(1) simon, July 30, 2007 2:45 AM

I have been making gypsy soup (Moosewood cookbook) and the hearts of romaine salad/salad dressing (Bon Appetite) for years, and guests always rave. I blanch the red onions b/c we don't eat raw onions, and I like to add baby spinach and fennel to the salad and toss it instead of laying out lettuce leaves. Funny to see these recipes here on your chef's menu! Thank you.

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