Shabbat Dinner for 15!


Oy vey! Fifteen people are coming over Friday night!

What’s a tired Jew to do?

Make everything AHEAD OF TIME.

So I decided to invite fifteen of my closest new friends over for dinner to celebrate the sabbath with me. Not really the religious part of it, just the eating and relaxing part. We’re “reform” Jews-that means we’re Jew-ISH and we pick and choose what we want to celebrate and when we want to celebrate it. The traditions of Shabbat are pretty clear: make chicken and chill out for the weekend. This meal is not particularly Jewish and can really be used for ANY dinner party of your choosing. There’s a slight Mediterranean flare with the humus, pita, couscous and rose water creme brûlée.

I dug up some old favorites for this meal and used my new favorite pita recipe. Did you know it’s IMPOSSIBLY easy to make your own pita?

So, how does one possibly cook enough food to feed fifteen people without kvetching? Well, it takes three days and some patience.

Here’s the menu:

Homemade pita bread

Humus three ways (original, roasted garlic and Kalamata olive)

Carrot Souffle

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Vegetables

Chicken Marbella

Rosewater Creme Brûlée 

rosewater creme brûlée


Here’s how you do it (with a full time job and no paid help):

Assuming your meal is on a Friday, you’ll need to start the prep on Wednesday. Though, harder to find items like foil ramekins and vanilla beans should be purchased the week before. It’s also good to make sure your pantry is stocked with flour and sugar.

You’ll need one of these:

kitchen torch

A week before:

1. Check your pantry for staples. Find out where you can buy fresh vanilla beans and small metal creme brûlée pie tins

The creme brûlée is a bit of a commitment. You’ll need to buy a torch and special ramekins. I HIGHLY recommend you make this investment because torches are badass and creme brûlée is far and above the best dessert ever. Once you have the torch, you’ll need to buy a small canister of butane fuel. ANY kitchen supply store or small hardware store will be able to sell you the right torch and fuel. You can get a perfectly functioning kitchen torch for about $30.00. I’ve had mine since college and have used it at least 20 times. You’ll also need special ramekins. I once owned a set of these but they were lost in a Brooklyn move long ago. Now, I just use disposable metal tins that I got from New York Cake Company in Chelsea. I believe I used 4-inch metal tins. The NY Cake Co. Store is a baker’s paradise. I could have spent hours in there, but they definitely have what you need. It’s on 22nd and 6th ave., only open till 6pm.

Make sure you have on hand:

1. Kitchen torch + butane fuel

2. Creme brûlée tins or ramekins

3. At least 3 cups of white sugar

4. 1 cup of brown sugar

5. 2 vanilla beans (found in gourmet stores, spice stores, Whole Foods)

6. At least 5 cups flour (white + whole wheat (see pita recipe)

7. Dried oregano

8. 1 1/2 cups white cooking wine

9. Rosewater (purchased online or from Buon Italia in Chelsea Market)

Two days before:

1. Do the bulk of your shopping


3 lbs of peeled baby carrots

4 lbs. fresh chicken (I used about 15 thighs and 12 drumsticks)

1 lb. fingerling potatoes

1 lb. dried chickpeas

2 cups dried prunes

2 14 oz cans pitted green olives (about 2 1/2 cups)

18 eggs

3 cups Israeli couscous

1 eggplant (large)

1 pint grape tomatoes

3 heads of garlic

2 quarts heavy cream

2.  Soak the chickpeas in 6 cups water in a large container or pot

3. Marinate the chicken

One day before:

1. Cook the chicken

2. Make the humus

3. Make the creme brûlée

4. Make the Israeli couscous *ALSO roast a whole clove of garlic for use in the garlic humus

Day of:

1. Make carrot soufflé

2. Make pita bread

3. Torch creme brûlée


The recipes


Fresh Homemade Pita

Adopted from The Kitchn

Makes about 8 small pitas (double!) 

You will need:
1 cup warm water from the tap
2 teaspoons Fleishmann’s Active Dry Yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or use another 1/2 all purpose- I think the hint of whole wheat was a nice touch)
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil + more for frying



1. Mix the water and yeast together in a large bowl and stir gently with a spoon for 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, salt, 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms, about 2 minutes.

2. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of extra flour on a wooden work surface or clean counter top. Coat your hands in flour and begin to knead the dough by pressing it out, folding it over, turning it around and so on. You should knead for about 5 minutes and reapply flour to your hands and work surface as needed but don’t over do it.

3. Wash out the bowl and coat it with a bit of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and move it around until it’s coated in olive oil. Cover it with a dishtowel and set it somewhere warm (like the windowsill in the sun: how bucolic) to rise. Allow it to rise for a full hour, undisturbed. It should almost double in size! Science!

4. After an hour, remove the dough from the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into smaller pieces about the size of a golf ball. Roll each ball into an almost perfect sphere and then roll out with your rolling pin (or wine bottle) so the dough disks are about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. It’s best to roll one out at a time and start the cooking process  in step 5.

5. Prepare your pita frying stations. Heat a splash of olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and prepare a plate or basket lined with a napkin. Once the oil is shimmering (about 2 minutes) carefully add a dough disk and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You should start to see bubbles, then flip with a rubber spatula and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. You should see some burn marks and feel free to press down on the pita to force bubbles. Remove the pita to a plate, work quickly to fry the rest and then serve immediately with humus.


Roasted Garlic and Kalamata Olive Humus

Adapted from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook

You will need:

1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup tahini paste
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
5 Tablespoons ice cold water

Optional: 2 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives

Optional: 1 head of garlic

1 teaspoon pine nuts
chopped parsley


1. Cover the chickpeas with lots of water in a large bowl and let them sit overnight or for at least 8 hours.

2. Optional: heat your oven to 400. Cover head of garlic in tinfoil and roast for 30 minutes. Drain chickpeas and add to a medium sauce pan with the baking soda. Cook over high heat for about 2 minutes. Then add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to a simmer. You will see clouds of gross chickpea foam, skim this off with a wooden spoon and discard. Simmer for 40 minutes then drain and set aside.

3. Combine the cooked chickpeas and tahini in the bowl of a food processor and blend for 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice, garlic, a pinch of salt and blend further. With the motor running (if you can manage it), add the ice cold water. Taste and add more salt as needed. Remove “plain” humus and divide into three parts. Return 1 part to the food processor and blend with the olives. Repeat, but with the roasted garlic.

4. Garnish with chopped parsley and za’tar. Optional: toast pine nuts in a non-stick skillet for 1 minute over high heat.

carrot soufflé

Carrot Soufflé

Paula Dean’s recipe!

You will need:

3 sticks of butter, plus more for baking dish

3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced


1 1/2 cups sugar

6 large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a large baking dish (either a rectangle glass pyrex, a soufflé pan or individual ramekin). I used a large dutch oven without the top.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the carrots and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.

3. In food processor, add the sugar and eggs and pulse to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and butter; pulse until smooth. Add the carrots and pulse to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dishes and bake until set, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

chicken marbella

Chicken Marbella

(adapted from

makes 20 servings

You will need:

4 lbs. fresh chicken (I used about 15 thighs and 12 drumsticks)

1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed

1/4 cup dried oregano

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2cup red wine vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

2 cups pitted prunes

2 cups pitted Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers with 2 Tablespoons juice

6 bay leaves

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup Italian parsley

20 fingerling potatoes


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them. Add the potatoes and coat in marinade.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice. (Maybe it was my oven, but the chicken took almost two hours to cook evenly)

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat. (there was soooo much juice, I had to remove some during cooking to keep the chicken from poaching. I wanted a bit of a crust)

To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.

chicken marbella

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes

Serves16 as a side dish

You will need:

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 large eggplant, cut into one inch cubes

10 cloves garlic, slightly smashed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pinch sea salt (I like the extra-flaky Maldon kind)

3 cups Israeli couscous

Israeli couscous


1. Preheat your oven to 400

2. Throw the tomatoes, garlic and eggplants in ceramic roasting pan and toss with olive oil.

3. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes shrink and the garlic browns. Stir it occasionally to cook the vegetables evenly.

4. Make the couscous according to the package directions. Mix with more olive oil and vegetable mixture.

roasted veg

Rosewater Creme Brûlée

You will need:

kitchen torch + butane fuel

16 ramekins or foil baking cups

1 rimmed baking sheet (or re-use one) AKA 1/2 sheet pan*

1 1/2 quarts heavy cream

1 Tablespoon rosewater**

1 1/2 cup sugar

4 tablespoons coarse sugar (I steal packets of Sugar in the Raw from Starbucks)

2 vanilla beans

10 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for an omelet tomorrow)

hot water

*can be purchased from Buon Italia in Chelsea Market

**pro tip: look for good brands of bakeware like Kitchen Aid at discount stores like TJ MAXX and Marshalls


1. Slice the vanilla beans in half with a small serrated knife. Use the back of a spoon to scrape out the pulp and add it to a medium saucepan with the cream and the empty pods. Bring the cream to just boiling (about 10 minutes) and stir. Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk the rosewater, egg yolks and 1 1/2 cups sugar together until completely blended. While furiously whisking, add about a 1/2 cup of the warm cream at a time. You need to constantly whisk to prevent the yolks from cooking. The consistency should be liquid once all the cream is added.

3. Arrange your ramekins on a baking sheet (8 should fit). Use a measuring cup with a spout to slowly pour the liquid cream and egg mixture into the ramekins. Then pour warm water into the tray so the liquid comes halfway up the lip of the tray. You are creating a nice steam bath for your ramekins. Be very careful as you transfer this tray full of water to the oven. Cooking for 45 minutes, remove the first batch and chill. Repeat the process again. Refrigerate over night.

4. Just before serving, evenly sprinkle raw sugar over the surface of each ramekin and slowly torch until the sugar burns. You should get a nice even crust. Wait two minutes for it to harden before serving.

creme brûlée


2 thoughts on “Shabbat Dinner for 15!

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