Say a Shehechiyanu for your new kitchen

The kitchen has become one of the most glamorous rooms in the house, with polished granite, oak floors, stainless steel, and state-of-the-art appliances.

I can remember, in my early years of trying to be the perfect hostess, the kitchen was entirely off-limits to my dinner guests. How times have changed. Today, I can’t seem to move people out of the kitchen into the dining room when it’s time to eat. So it’s no wonder to me that dining in the kitchen has become a popular, entertaining trend.

If you’ve remodeled your kitchen, it’s a perfect time for a “Shehechiyanu” gathering. No formal affair, just an evening about good friends sharing good food and a good time. One-dish meals such as a great chili, hearty soups or stews are great for this kind of get-together because they can be made ahead.

If you don’t have a table in your kitchen, place some stools along the counter or arrange a few chairs around a kitchen island.

Watercress, Orange and Red Onion Salad | Serves 6

3 bunches watercress, stemmed
3 oranges, peel and white pith removed, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. sherry wine vinegar
6 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
salt and pepper for taste
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
In large bowl, combine watercress, oranges and onion. In small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil and marjoram until well blended. Toss with salad. Salt and pepper for taste and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Lamb and White Bean Ragout | Serves 6-8

1 lb. dried white beans
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
6 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 lbs. lamb stew meat
flour for dredging
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 large leeks, white part only, chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Combine beans and enough water to cover in large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and return to pot. Rinse mushrooms under cold water to get rid of sand. Add mushrooms and chicken stock to beans. Bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet. Dredge lamb in flour and brown lamb on all sides. Add to bean mixture. Add wine to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits. Add wine to beans and lamb. Stir in garlic, cover partially and simmer 30 minutes. Add carrots and leeks and cook another 30 minutes or until lamb and beans are tender. (If ragout is too liquid, remove solids with slotted spoon and boil liquid until thickened to desired consistency.) Salt and pepper for taste and sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Cappuccino Brownies | Makes 12

1 1/2 sticks margarine
4 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 Tbs. instant espresso powder or 2 Tbs. instant coffee
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
powdered sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 9-inch square baking pan. Place butter, unsweetened chocolate, espresso powder and cinnamon in medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until smooth. Cool about 10 minutes. Whisk in sugar and eggs. Stir in flour, then bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out almost clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack. Turn cake out onto cutting surface and cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

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 j. or to [email protected].