The first course is my favorite course of any meal. Those few minutes before everyone comes home from shul, when the table is set beautifully, and there are tons of appetizers, dips and salads plated and scattered so precisely and elegantly over the table top brings me pure joy. My hours spent cooking in my small, Israeli, not-enough-counterspace-or-cabinets-kitchen all become worth it. I look at my table, breath deeply and think to myself how beautiful shabbos really is.

    Then they come home.

    Within minutes every single toy has come off the shelves, out of boxes and thrown all over the floor only to be abandoned seconds later to the more fun, fort building using every one of the blankets taken off of the freshly made beds.

    Even with the all this chaos swirling around my house, when we finally make it to our seats and I see all the mouthwatering dishes confetti-ed across the table I remember what a privilege it is to cook and feed the people we love.

    Now that we’ve established just how important the first course is to me, lets talk about what it actually takes to put out such an array of food.

    It takes a few days of being extremely organized to create a truly spectacular first course. Dips and sauces take time to prepare and if you leave it all till Friday, there just won’t be time. So, I usually start by making anything that is ok sitting in the fridge or meant to be served cold, first. That could include salad dressings, dips, and marinated salads (think carrots or peppers). Next I move on to my more time-consuming elements.  I”ll boil any grains that I’m going to include in salads and roast any vegetables. Lastly, I make my mayo because it has raw eggs and cook my fish so that its as fresh as possible. Then before lunch, all I have to do is cut up whatever fresh vegetables I need and I’m good to go.

    All that is fine, until you have a week where everything is going wrong and cooking becomes an afterthought. So, you have to pull a meal together in an hour. In those situations I make four fast and easy dishes. I make mayo, salsa, tahini and this eggplant.

    It is so simple and so delicious. The cooking time takes about an hour but the active work takes less than 5 minutes. You get so much flavor for such little effort and it looks so insanely beautiful on the table. In fact, I don’t only make this when I’m short on time because no matter how many people you are serving, it always gets finished!

    Cross-hatching the eggplant adds tons of little corners to the eggplant that get perfectly crispy and it makes it so easy to just scoop out the actual flesh. I like to serve it with a drizzle of tehini, some fresh parsley and when I want to get fancy I’ll sometimes add some chopped tomato and shallots.


  • Cross-hatched Broiled Eggplant


    1. 1 firm eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise
    2. 2 tbsp coarse salt
    3. 4 tsps olive oil
    4. 4 tsp montreal steak seasoning


    1. Preheat oven to 180c (350f)
    2. Using a sharp knife, carefully make diagonal slices into the eggplant 3/4 of the way down, 1/2 an inch apart.
    3. Then make a mother set of diagonal slices the other way to direct the cross hatches.
    4. Gently push open the eggplant to create spaces in between the “boxes”
    5. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of coarse salt on each eggplant making sure some it gets into the crevices.
    6. Turn eggplant upside down over the edge of a bowl and set it aside for 35 minutes.
    7. After 35 minutes you should see liquid on the bottom of the bowl that the salt has drawn out of the eggplant.
    8. Gently squeeze out any remaining liquid from the eggplants.
    9. Briefly run eggplant under cold water to rinse off excess salt.
    10. Pat dry with a paper towel.
    11. Place eggplants in a greased baking dish, cut side up
    12. Drizzle 2 tsp of olive oil on each eggplant.
    13. Sprinkle 2 tsp of montreal steak seasoning over each half
    14. Bake in the lowest rack of the oven for 40 minutes
    15. Turn oven up to broil and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the edges get crispy.
    16. Serve hot, cold, or room temp!
    17. Enjoy!

    Tehina Dip/Sauce


    1. 3 cloves of garlic
    2. juice form one lemon
    3. 2 tsp salt
    4. 1 tsp black pepper
    5. 1/2 cup sesame paste
    6. 1/2 cup very cold temperature water
    7. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


    1. Start by crushing your garlic in the mortar and pestle until it forms a paste.
    2. Stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper and sasame paste until combined.
    3. Slowly add in water until you reach the consistency you like. I like mine a little more runny when I’m using it for a salad, but thicker when I’m serving as a dip.
    4. If you are using parsley, add at the end.


    1. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can easily make this in a food processor or blender!

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