Food really does make a celebration special, whether big or small

Celebrations come in all sizes. There are the usual big ones like weddings, b’nai mitzvah, Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, britot milah and other milestone happenings. These are usually meant to accommodate lots of people, with special foods appropriate to the occasion. Then there are the small ones; a promotion at work, a child’s greatly improved report card, paying off a mortgage, reaching a difficult goal or a special birthday or anniversary.

Usually these celebrations are more intimate, gathering the people who mean the most to us around the table for lively conversation, appetizing food and to share the simcha on a more personal level.

But one thing is the same: Food plays an important part of celebrations, big or small.

We all have our feeding-a-crowd favorites like make-ahead brisket and turkey, but small-scale entertaining may pose a different type of challenge to the cook. To capture the important moment, an impromptu dinner may be just the thing. Something uncomplicated, a bit festive and hot-off-the-stove fresh and delicious. A simple bouquet picked from the garden as a centerpiece, accompanied by the following menu, and your celebration is good to go.

Winter Squash Soup with Shredded Apples | Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil

1 small onion, chopped

pinch curry powder

2 10-oz. packages frozen

squash puree, thawed

4 cups vegetable stock

1 cup apple cider or

unsweetened apple juice

salt and pepper

1 red or green delicious apple,

shredded

In a large saucepan, heat oil and cook onion until soft. Stir in curry and cook about 30 seconds. Add squash, stock and apple juice. Stir, bring to a boil, then simmer covered about 15 minutes.

Puree mixture and taste for salt and pepper. Serve garnished with apple shreds.

Seared Salmon with Tomato

Tarragon Sauce on a Bed of Chard | Serves 6

sauce

1/2 cup low-salt chicken stock

1/4 cup dry vermouth

1 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves, minced

5 canned whole plum

tomatoes, seeded

and chopped

2 Tbs. heavy cream (optional)

salmon

6 skinned salmon fillets, about 3/4-inch thick

salt and pepper

1 Tbs. oil

2 Tbs. butter

chopped fresh tarragon

for garnish

Combine stock, vermouth, tarragon and tomatoes in a measuring cup. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil until milk solids in butter turn golden. Cook salmon 3 minutes per side.

Remove from pan and keep warm. Add vermouth mixture and boil until reduced by half. Tilt pan and stir in cream until sauce is smooth and glossy.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons sauce over each filet and garnish with tarragon. Serve with chard.

Sautéed Chard

2 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bunches chard, coarsely

chopped

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

salt and pepper

In a large skillet heat butter and oil. Cook garlic until fragrant. Stir in chard and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to the Bulletin or to [email protected]