Dedicating our house with challah and simple appetizers

Since last May, we’ve been remodeling our home. Five and a half months later, we’re moving back in, and my dream house is complete! Now we’re ready to start entertaining, and the first event will be our chanukat bayit or “house dedication.” This Jewish practice is referred to in Deuteronomy 20:5, where we are commanded to dedicate a new home to formalize its place and purpose.

The custom is to invite friends and family to the new home, recite the blessing for the mezuzah and the Shehecheyanu, affix the mezuzahs, and eat! It is also a custom to incorporate bread, candles and salt into the housewarming. The bread represents the hope that there will always be enough food, the candles are a symbol of light and joy and the salt is a reminder of the Temple sacrifices and tears shed.

I’m going to keep it fairly simple with appetizers. Tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa are always popular, and for the meat eaters, chicken satay and Spanish meatballs.

Chicken Satay

Makes 16-20 large skewers

1 medium shallot, peeled and quartered

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 1/2 Tbs. curry powder

2 Tbs. sugar

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

16-20 bamboo skewers

Grind the shallots, garlic, curry powder, sugar and salt to a paste in a food processor. Add the coconut milk. Transfer the paste to a bowl. Cut the chicken lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips. Coat the chicken well with the marinade, and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours.

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes. Thread 1 strip of chicken onto each skewer. If you are not going to cook the satay right away, refrigerate the skewered meat. Place the skewers on a preheated grill or under the broiler. Grill about 3 minutes on each side. Serve with peanut dipping sauce.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes 2 cups

1 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 Tbs. Thai curry paste (or to taste)

3/4 cup peanut butter

2 cloves garlic, through the press

4 Tbs. brown sugar

4 Tbs. lime juice

1/2 tsp. salt

Place the coconut milk in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Add the curry paste and stir until it dissolves. Add the peanut butter, garlic and sugar and cook gently until the sauce is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the lime juice and salt.

Albondiguitas (Spanish Meatballs)

Makes about 40

1 lb. ground beef

1 cup fine bread crumbs

1 egg, beaten

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 Tbs. olive oil dash of freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. chopped oregano

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Shape into 1-inch balls, and place them in an oven-safe baking dish. Roast the meatballs in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Serve warm with toothpicks.