Birthday Dinner for a Bubbe

When my mixologist husband Matt learned that we were hosting Ethel on her birthday, he created a cocktail to honor the occasion. And Ethel, being Ethel, named it “The Matterita.”

My favorite septuagenarian came to dinner last week. When we invited her family for a casual weekend cookout, we didn’t know it was Ethel Goldberg’s birthday, but we were delighted to kick the evening up a notch to fete this special lady.
Ethel is an avid sports fan; her knowledge rivals ESPN. She writes a daily sports e-blast for an audience of about 100 and is conversant in everything from college hoops to the Eagles.
At dinner, the Phillies season came up, and someone mentioned Zach Elfin, the pitcher who threw a shutout recently. Ethel piped up, “He’s the youngest Phillie to do this since Kevin Gross in 1983.” She said this like most people would say, “It rained today.” No one at the table batted an eye; we all get the e-blasts, so we know with whom we have the pleasure, but it is a unique phenomenon.
In addition to her passion for sports, Ethel is an active member of Congregation Rodeph Shalom. She serves on various committees and is involved in a number of their outreach programs.
When my mixologist husband Matt learned that we were hosting Ethel on her birthday, he created a cocktail to honor the occasion. And Ethel, being Ethel, named it “The Matterita.”
¾ cup simple syrup
¾ cup fresh squeezed lime juice (from about 10 limes)
¾ cup añejo tequila
¼ cup Grand Marnier
¼ cup Pama liqueur
Margarita or kosher salt to rim the glass
To make a simple syrup, place ¾ cup water and ¾ cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and melt. Set aside to cool.
Mix all the ingredients in a pitcher and stir well.
To serve, rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip the glass in salt. Fill the glass with ice and pour the drink over it.
Serves 4 to 6
Tahini Grilled Chicken
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 scallions, sliced, white and green parts
2 tablespoons honey
2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
In a large Tupperware or Ziploc bag, mix all the ingredients, then place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. An hour before cooking, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
Heat a grill to high and sear the chicken for about one to two minutes per side. Turn off the heat on one area of grill and move the chicken to the unheated side. If you’re using charcoal, push the chicken to the edges of the grill, where there is the least amount of heat.
Cover and allow the chicken to “roast” on the grill, about six minutes per side, until done. Total cooking time is about 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a plate, cover it with foil and allow it to sit for about five minutes, then serve.
Serves 4 to 6
Tomato Mint Salad
Tomato and basil are about as classic a combo as you can find, but my garden is overflowing with mint, so I gave this a try.
It offered a nice complement to the flavors of the chicken, which had a slightly Middle Eastern vibe with the tahini, and the element of surprise was well received. Everyone expected basil, but the mint was a welcome change.
4 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
⅓ cup mint leaves, chopped in ribbons
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve 4 to 6
Barley Couscous with Scallions
I love couscous year-round for its taste, texture, versatility and “dinner in a pinch” convenience and, as the temperatures soar, it is a great way to avoid heating up your kitchen. A brief stint on the stove to boil the stock is all it needs. Barley couscous is a bit harder to find; if unavailable, whole wheat is a fine substitute.
1½ cups barley couscous
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 scallions, sliced, green and white parts
Heat the stock to boil in a large saucepan. Remove it from the heat, then add the couscous, oil, salt and pepper; stir and cover.
Let it sit for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Add the scallions and stir again.
Serves 4 to 6 generously 



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