Cook: Cook up a storm then sit back and relax with the guests

Most of us still do all of our entertaining on weekends, starting with a Friday night Shabbat dinner for family, followed by a laid-back Sunday brunch, and perhaps ending with a casual light supper on Sunday night for friends.

Because our lives are whirlwinds of activity, coming up with a menu that requires lots of last-minute attention is not an option. After all, you want to spend time with your guests, not in your kitchen. I have a bunch of go-to recipes I use, simple and make-ahead, that require not much more than a taste for seasoning and a warmup in the oven.

On Wednesday or Thursday, I prepare a Moroccan-inspired chicken tagine, which actually benefits from being made ahead. Cover and refrigerate, and heat before serving.

Pasta is the perfect Sunday supper. Make sauce a day or two in advance and cook the pasta while the sauce is heating.


Linguine with Eggplant and Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 8

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1⁄4 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste

1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes

28-oz. can tomatoes, with their juices, coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. tomato paste

salt and pepper

11⁄2 lbs. freshly cooked linguini

8 oz. ricotta cheese

grated Parmesan cheese

In large skillet, heat oil. Cook onion and garlic until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and oregano and cook another minute. Add eggplant and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, bring to a boil, and then simmer 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Toss with freshly cooked pasta. Divide among 8 plates and top each with a dollop of ricotta cheese. Pass Parmesan cheese.


Chicken Tagine

Serves 6

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced

1⁄2 tsp. turmeric

1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 cloves garlic, pressed

1⁄4 cup white wine

1⁄4 cup chicken broth

15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained

grated zest of 1 large lemon

1⁄2 cup gently crushed pitted kalamata olives

1⁄4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro

couscous, for serving

Pat the chicken dry, and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the onion, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon and cook until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the garlic and stir for a minute. Increase heat and deglaze with wine, stirring, and allow it to bubble. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes, then remove the chicken and set aside.

To the sauce add the beans, lemon, olives, parsley and cilantro, and then return the chicken to the pot. Heat for 5 more minutes and serve over couscous. n

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