Short Order: The hostess who found herself in the soup

This question foxes even experienced cooks: How much is enough to satisfy your guests?

summer soup 88 (photo credit: )
summer soup 88
(photo credit: )
Long before this column was conceived, I listened with fascination to an acquaintance describing how, at an important dinner she was hosting, she asked the guest of honor whether he'd like another plate of soup - when she knew very well it had all gone. "It seemed polite," she said, "and I was sure he would decline. But he said, 'Yes, please.'" Now I know you shouldn't begin a story you can't finish, and I am sorry I cannot remember what happened next. But it does introduce a question that foxes even experienced cooks: How much is enough to satisfy your guests? "I cook the meal," one hostess told me, "then I make this extra thing, and that extra thing and then something else because I'm afraid not everyone will like what I've already made... and I end up with enough to feed an army." Many readers may sympathize. Part of the answer, surely, is to remember that none of your guests is likely to be suffering from malnutrition; all have probably already eaten that day. Picky eaters know they must take their chances. So prepare a reasonable amount - and leave it at that. And if the soup is finished? Don't offer second helpings. TO QUOTE the title of a book, "Life Is With People." Or to put it differently: It's all about community. And few things embody the spirit of community better than the array of attractive and generally useful cookbooks compiled on a volunteer basis by the friends of different charitable endeavors and the parents' associations of schools. The latest one to find its way to my desk is Talk of the Table, a collection of recipes gathered by the Parents' Association of the Aseh Chayil School in Efrat. The book is dedicated to Yosef Goodman, a graduate of the school and "true hero." An immigrant from the US and a paratrooper, he died in February 2006 in a training accident when he cut his own chute to save a comrade's life. These recipes from the book are, in order, by Yael Ben Pazi, Sima Navon, Sue Epstein, author of Budget Cooking - Elegant Dining and Simply Delicious, and Ronit Hudak. MORE THAN JUST LETTUCE SALAD 1 lettuce, torn in pieces 2 cucumbers, unpeeled and diced 1 large handful frozen peas strips of dried figs to taste mixed nuts to taste 1 handful dried cranberries (optional) fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional) chives or basil dressing: 4 Tbsp. olive oil 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar 2 flat Tbsp. sugar, or less pinch of salt 2 Tbsp. soy sauce MEATBALLS WITH POMEGRANATES AND ALMONDS 1 kg. chopped meat 1 medium onion, grated 1 tsp. salt dash of pepper 1 Tbsp. oil 2 medium onions, chopped 2 cups almonds, shelled, toasted and ground sauce: 1⁄4 tsp. turmeric 1⁄3 cup pomegranate juice concentrate 2 cups water 1⁄2 cup tomato paste 1 cup dried apricots, soaked in water for two hours 1 tsp. allspice Mix the meat, grated onion, salt and pepper and shape into small meatballs. Brown the meatballs in the oil so they retain their shape; remove. In the same oil, saute the onions until golden. Add the almonds and the meatballs. Add the sauce ingredients to the pan and bring slowly to a boil. Mix occasionally so the bottom doesn't burn. Lower the flame and cook, covered for one hour, stirring gently now and then. Serve hot over rice. BAKED SWEET POTATO STICKS 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1⁄2 tsp. paprika 8 sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into quarters Preheat the oven to 200 . Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil and paprika. Add the potato quarters and turn around until coated. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. QUICK MARBLE CAKE 2 scant cups sugar 1 cup oil 4 eggs 1 cup water or fruit juice 3 cups flour pinch salt 2 heaped tsp. baking powder 2 tsp. vanilla essence 3 Tbsp. cocoa Preheat the oven to 180 . Mix the oil and sugar. Add the eggs individually. Add the water alternately with the flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Pour three-quarters of the mixture into a greased oblong baking dish or three foil loaf tins. Add the cocoa to the remaining mixture and mix well. Pour the brown mixture on top of the white mixture and "cut" several times with a knife. (As the doctor told the patient who came to him after swallowing a spoon:) Don't stir. Bake for about 50 minutes.