How to Make a House a Home

One of the most thrilling events for a family is buying and moving into a new home. A house warming, or Chanukat Habayit, is the traditional celebration for this very special time. It is customary to dedicate the dwelling upon moving in with the appropriate blessing, affixing mezuzot to the doorposts, and inviting friends and relatives to share the joy with a glass of wine and a table set with noshes.

What a wonderful way to transform a new house to a Jewish home! Some other practices are bringing bread, salt and candles to the new home. Bread symbolizes abundant food, the salt is a reminder of the temple sacrifices, and candles reflect light and joy.

After the house tour, your guests will be ready for a little something to eat. The following buffet menu provides the perfect way to break in a new kitchen while giving the entire house a sense of warmth and belonging.

Rice Frittata Wedges


6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Tbsp. minced basil leaves
2 Tbsps. olive oil
3/4 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
3 green onions, trimmed and chopped
additional chopped parsley for garnish

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with salt, pepper parsley and basil until well-blended.

Stir in the rice, cheese and green onions.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil.

Pour in the rice mixture. Shake the pan, slip a thin spatula under the frittata and tilt the pan to let uncooked portion flow underneath.

When eggs are almost set, slide the frittata onto a large flat plate and invert frittata back into the skillet. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges and sprinkled with parsley.

Serves 8 to 10.


Pasta Shell Salad With Smoked Salmon and Fresh Chives


1 lb. small pasta shells, cooked
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/4 lb. smoked salmon, cut into strips
1/2 lb. fresh salmon, cooked, skinned, boned and cut into cubes
4 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsps. prepared white horseradish
3/4 cup mayonnaise

In large bowl, toss the pasta with the chives and both of the salmons.

Whisk the remaining ingredients until well-blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salmon mixture; mix well.

Serves 8.


Roquefort Crisps


1/4 lb. butter at room temperature
1/2 lb. Roquefort at room temperature
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup poppy seeds

Place the butter and cheese in a medium bowl, and mix until blended with electric beater or by hand.

Add the flour, cayenne and beat again until smooth. Divide the mixture in half and place one portion on waxed paper.

Form the mixture into a log-shaped roll about 11/2 inches in diameter. Repeat the procedure with the other portion.

Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Slice the chilled rolls into thin wafers, 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 400° oven for about 8 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 60 crisps.


Sweet-and-Sour Eggplant Spread


3 Japanese eggplants or 2 young small eggplants, unpeeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion chopped
6 very ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or a 15-oz. can of imported Italian tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup black olives, pitted and halved
1 Tbsp. capers
salt and pepper
4 Tbsps. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 Tbsps. golden raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons red wine for 1 hour
crackers or toasted pita wedges

Sauté eggplants and onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Combine with rest of ingredients and cook about 8 minutes over very low heat, uncovered.

Stir ingredients every so often to make sure they are not sticking to bottom of pan or burning. This dish should not be overcooked! The vegetables should remain crunchy.

May be served warm or at room temperature with crackers or pita.

Makes 2 cups.


Artichoke-and-Mozzarella Spread


1 jar (12-oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
2 cloves garlic
4 oz. whole-milk mozzarella cheese, cubed
4 Tbsps. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves
12 slices of baguette, toasted

Combine all ingredients (except bread) in food processor until fairly smooth.

Spread on the bread and bake in a 400° oven until topping is bubbly, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.

If making the spread ahead of time, refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

Makes enough spread for 12 servings.


Black-Bottomed Cupcakes


8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 cup chocolate chips
11/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375°.

Line 18 muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Combine the cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.

Fill cupcake papers about 3/4 full with batter. Drop the cream-cheese mixture into center of each. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves 18.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.


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