Simple idea for a winter gathering: Cook a pot of hearty soup, assemble a crudité platter, buy a fancy dessert and fresh fruit to complete the meal. Invite friends.
I did this recently with my dear friend Olga Naiman, event designer and prop stylist extraordinaire for the likes of Anthropologie, West Elm, and magazines House Beautiful and Domino.
As we often do, I came over to Olga’s place and cooked, while she chose the decor and played hostess. You can read Olga’s take on our supper on her hip new blog, Aparat Live Style, where you’ll find tips on decorating, easy entertaining solutions, and gorgeous images of her boho chic style.
We chose a Persian theme because of my upcoming Persian cookbook, and her stunning collection of dishware and textiles with Middle Eastern flair. You could just as easily make a pot of Texas chili, Russian borscht, or African peanut stew. It’s all up to you and your style.
Fun ideas for your get together:
- Have an aperitif and a small bite ready for when guests come to the door. Make it simple, and something which complements the aperitif.
- Decorate your table with objects that evoke the spirit of the country where the food is from. Even one or two items can help conjure the spirit of a place, and make the meal more of an experience.
- Take it easy on yourself, and buy a dessert that fits your theme. Since you’re not making it yourself, go all out! Get cannolis for an Italian meal or a fancy fruit tart to go with French food.
Our Sunday Supper Menu
Gin and tonic aperitif, with cucumber slices topped with feta
Sabzi khordan: Platter of fresh herbs, flatbread, radishes, walnuts, and feta cheese (recipe below)
Ash-e Anar: Pomegranate soup made with beans, beets, and yogurt (recipe below)
Baklava, Fresh Seasonal Fruit, Pistachios
Sabzi Khordan translates as “herbs for eating.” I love this dish because it gives a meal something fresh and green, and it takes almost no preparation. To eat this dish, you simply tear off a piece of bread, spread it with feta, add a handful of fresh herbs, a radish or two, and a few walnuts, and fold it into a sandwich.
The soup is what brings the meal together. Pomegranate soup, or ash-e-Anar in Farsi, is a classic dish made with pomegranate syrup to give it tartness. There are many variations of this soup, depending on region and family tradition. My version is vegetarian, rich, and full of texture, with some beets thrown in for color.
Once you’re ready to serve, put the soup on the table with the other food, or leave it on the stove. Set out bowls and a ladle and let guests serve themselves.
Put your own spin on this party idea. Cook with love, set a pretty table, and then relax and watch your guests enjoy themselves!
Pomegranate Soup: Ash-e Anar
Yield: Serves 10
This hearty vegetarian soup gets better with time. Cook it the day before, then heat it up again a couple of hours before serving. If the beet greens are intact, chop them up and add them to the soup when you add the pomegranate molasses, and let them simmer a few minutes until tender.
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
1 cup split peas
1 cup lentils
1 cup mung beans
1 cup barley grits or pearled barley
20 cups water or stock
2 large beets, diced small
1 cup pomegranate syrup
2 tablespoons dried mint
2 cups yogurt
In a large stockpot, heat the oil, then add the onions and cook until soft. Add the turmeric, coriander, and cumin, and stir to coat in the oil. Add the garlic, split peas, lentils, mung beans, and barley, and cook for a few minutes until heated through.
Add the water or stock and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until beans and barley are tender, about an hour. Add the beets and simmer, covered, until the beets are just tender, about an hour. Stir in the pomegranate syrup and mint. Salt to taste. Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt.
Fresh herb appetizer: Sabzi khordan
Serves 8-10 as an appetizer
Any combination of the following fresh herbs, stem-on, equal to approximately 2 bunches:
Flatbread, any kind
2 cups soaked walnuts
4 scallions, quartered lengthwise
6 radishes, quartered
1/2 lb feta cheese, sliced
Place everything on a large platter, divided into sections by ingredient. For a single serving, pick up a few stalks of herbs. It’s optional to remove the stems. Tear the flatbread into a manageable-sized piece, and stuff it with the herbs, walnuts, a small piece of cheese, and a radish or 2. Eat like a sandwich.