As part of my study and exploration of kashrut, I have been learning about the importance and traditions surrounding vegetarianism in Judaism. It felt like a great time to host another dinner party with a vegetarian theme. The menu went through several changes in the weeks of planning and, although the meal did not include any soy, I liked the title, so I kept it.
This meal was also in contrast with that of the first dinner party, which included meat and thus could not include any dairy in order to be kosher-style.
I think I have reached a comfort zone in terms of keeping moderately kosher. I no longer eat pork. I was never a huge fan of shellfish, so that hasn't been difficult to replace. The idea of not mixing meat and dairy was initially a challenge, but it has gotten much easier. I don't eat a lot of meat anymore, which has been made easier because I bring my lunch to work, and our staff kitchen is vegetarian/dairy only. And most restaurants don't buy kosher meat, which makes ordering in those places a lot easier.
I also feel like I am making better food choices as a result of these changes. I am eating more fruits and vegetables, more fish, and getting more creative with the things I seek out and prepare.
So, without further ado:
Nosh: Challah with goat cheese and fig jam
I made a different, simpler challah than my usual recipe. Honestly, this might become my new standard because it's easy and delicious. Its sweetness also only comes from honey, there's no added sugar. Complimented by goat cheese and my uncle's homemade fig jam, it was a perfect pre-dinner nosh.
- 2.25 tsps. active dry yeast
- One (1) tsp. honey
- 2/3 cup hot water
- Three (3) large eggs
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup honey
- Two (2) tsps. kosher salt
- Four (4) cups bread/all purpose flour
- Sesame seeds (optional)
1. In a measuring cup, mix the water, one (1) tsp. of honey, and yeast, and let sit until the yeast is activated (it becomes foamy).
2. In a bowl, mix two (2) of the eggs, the olive oil, honey, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Add the flour, mixing the dough until it forms a smooth ball.
3. Coat a bowl with some olive oil, roll the dough in it, and cover with plastic wrap. Let this rise until doubled in size. Note: I put my dough in the fridge, then remove it in the morning to rise for several hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5. Once it has risen, separate the dough into three equal strands and braid it. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining egg, then brush the braided dough with it. Sprinkle with seeds or salt (if desired).
6. Bake for about 37 minutes. The bread will be ready when it is a nice golden brown color, and sounds hollow when you tap it. Let it cool for a few minutes, then enjoy plain, with a little salt, or any toppings you'd like to add.
Nosh: Quick pickles
I love pickles. These were super simple to make, and delicious. You can pick your favorite veggies. I chose okra, cauliflower, beets, green beans, and bell peppers. I also made enough brine that I have some leftover to make another batch, or to repurpose (because there are a lot of creative uses for pickle brine). These pickles are ready the next day, but will last for about one month in the refrigerator. I made these about a week before the party.
- You will want about 12 oz. each of whatever veggies you choose; for each veggie, you will make a brine with the following ingredients:
- One (1) Tbsp. mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp. whole green peppercorns
- 1.25 cups cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Two (2) Tbsps. kosher salt
- One (1) bay leaf
1. Clean and prepare the veggies, and put them in glass jars, leaving about half an inch of room at the top.
2. Toast the mustard seeds and peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant, then add the other ingredients. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the brine immediately to the jars. Let them cool to room temperature before sealing. Seal, shake to mix up the contents, then refrigerate until ready to eat.
Appetizer: Spicy watermelon salad with fennel
This salad doesn't necessarily sound like it should work, but it does. Beautifully. Note: The dressing is very spicy, so you should adjust the amount of red pepper as desired.
- Mixed greens (lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, etc.)
- One (1) lb. cut watermelon
- One (1) fennel bulb
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Four (4) cloves garlic, minced
- Two (2) Tbsps. crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Crumbled goat cheese (optional)
1. To prepare the spicy dressing, add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a saucepan. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
2. Thinly slice the fennel bulb using a mandolin, then chop into small pieces. Toss with the greens, watermelon, and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with crumbled goat cheese or feta.
Entree: Ratatouille with herbed cauliflower "couscous"
Ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes, though it is not an easy task to prepare. Or so I thought. My standard ratatouille was Julia Child's recipe. So, I was over the moon when I found Smitten Kitchen's version, which I altered only slightly. And the best part is it's based (loosely) off the recipe in the Disney movie, which is a personal favorite.
The way the vegetables are prepared for this recipe, a mandolin will save you a lot of time and effort. Also, use a Dutch oven if you have one.
Note: I doubled Deb's recipe, as I was cooking for about ten people. I ended up having some of the sauce left over, which I used for some pasta.
- One (1) onion
- Four (4) garlic cloves, minced
- Two (2) cans of tomato puree
- Two (2) Tbsps. olive oil, divided
- Two (2) graffiti eggplants (smaller, and with marbled skin)
- Two (2) zucchini
- Two (2) yellow squashes
- Two or three (2 or 3) long, red bell peppers
- Fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- Two medium heads of cauliflower
- Four (4) Tbsps. unsalted butter
- One (1) Tbsp. herbes de Provence
1. Trim the ends off the vegetables (onion, eggplant, zucchini, squash, peppers), then slice thinly using a mandolin.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Pour once can of tomato puree in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add half of the garlic, half of the olive oil, some salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Add the vegetables in concentric circles, alternating layers, e.g., one layer of eggplant, one of zucchini, then onion, repeat.
4. Add the second can of tomato puree, the remaining garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper, and some sprigs of fresh thyme (about 2 tsps. worth). Cover the Dutch oven and bake for about 50 minutes.
5. For the cauliflower "couscous", break the cauliflower into florets and put in a food processor. Process until you have little couscous-sized grains.
6. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and herbes de Provence, and mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook for about 10 - 15 minutes.
7. Once the ratatouille is ready, serve over the cauliflower. You can garnish with goat cheese if desired.
Dessert: Atlantic Beach pie with a matzoh crust
I wanted to put a "Jewish" twist on this pie - a personal favorite for the summer months - by making the crust out of matzoh meal. Now, the crust didn't turn out perfectly, but the flavor was great. (To compensate, I also served chocolate cake with Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt, which is an awesome combo.)
- Ten (10) oz. matzoh meal
- 1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter
- Three (3) Tbsps. sugar
- One (1) can sweetened, condensed milk
- Four (4) egg yolks
- 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice - I used 1/4 cup of each
- Whipped cream and coarse sea salt to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the butter, matzoh meal, and sugar. Press them into a pie dish, chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes.
3. In a bowl, mix the condensed milk and egg yolks. Add the citrus juice and mix until completely combined. Pour into the crust, then bake for 16 minutes.
4. Let cool completely before serving. (I put it back in the refrigerator for several hours.) Garnish with whipped cream and sea salt to serve.
Signature Cocktail: Skip and Go Naked
I like to have a fun signature cocktail for these events. This is a favorite that some friends used to have at all of their parties when we lived in New York.
- 6-pack of beer (I used Dos Equis)
- Once (1) can of pink lemonade concentrate
- 2 cups of vodka
1. Mix the ingredients in a large container, and serve over ice.
This dinner was a lot of fun. My friend Michael led the group in the havdalah service to mark the end of Shabbat. For many of the people at the table, it was the first time they had ever experience havdalah, which made the experience of sharing it with them more meaningful. There was also some great discussion about kashrut, and some ideas for the next dinner party!
Thank you, and enjoy!