Leslie Newman believes that when it comes to serving guests, anyone with money can call a caterer, but money can't buy the magic that turns bones into broth. Nor can it buy the love that goes into making a feast.
Entertaining is something that Ms. Newman -- a food writer and author -- seems to do quite easily. Her New Year's Eve parties for 200 have become legend and her skill for handling groups of all sizes is envied.
In "Feasts" (HarperCollins, $25), Ms. Newman shows how to treat guests with a collection of menus for home-cooked celebrations. She draws not on the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, but on the great feasts served up by the families of peasants and laborers to mark their harvests, holy days, births and marriages.
"A feast is a grandmother's favorite dish, cooked for the family on her 80th birthday," she says.
Ms. Newman, who also wrote the screenplays for "Superman" I, II and III with her husband, David, has done a superb job of selecting suitable menus for gatherings of from six to 30.
The book is divided into meal presentations that follow a theme -- such as a Russian motif, Southern barbecue done in a Northern blizzard and a Chinese sit-down dinner that even includes a chair for the cook. Here are some recipes from the book:
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
2 pounds green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small turnip, peeled and shredded
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
4 red radishes, chopped
2/3 cup finely chopped red onions
1/4 cup very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, preferably superfine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
In a large salad bowl, toss together the cabbage, turnip, carrots, radishes, red onions, parsley and dill.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, black pepper, white pepper, hot red pepper and salt. Add this dressing to the slaw and toss, mixing very thoroughly. Add additional salt to taste and toss again. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for 24 to 48 hours. The longer it stands, the creamier and more peppery the slaw becomes. Just before serving, adjust the seasonings if necessary and stir again.
vTC Lemon veal meatballs
Makes 50 to 60 1-inch meatballs.
2 pounds ground veal
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons mild olive oil
In a large bowl, break up the meat, loosening it with your fingers. Scatter the onions, bread crumbs, parsley, dill and lemon zest over the meat; toss lightly, just to distribute the ingredients evenly. Sprinkle with the ground coriander, salt and pepper. Add the beaten eggs. Using your hands, mix gently but well. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.
Shape into 1-inch balls that are light but compact (loosely formed meatballs will fall apart when sauteed) and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet or large tray. Cover the tray with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before cooking. (The meatballs can be prepared ahead to this point and refrigerated for up to one day, or frozen for up to one month. Freeze the meatballs on the tray until firm, then transfer to a tightly covered container; thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding. Thawed meatballs should be kept cold. Just before sauteing, lay the meatballs on paper towels to blot excess dampness.)
Divide the olive oil evenly between two heavy large skillets (preferably non-stick). Heat the oil and add the cold meatballs, leaving a little space between them so they will cook evenly. Saute over moderate heat; shake the pans often to roll the meatballs around until lightly browned on all sides but still slightly pink inside, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Quickly squeeze a little lemon juice into each skillet and stir. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to warmed serving trays or to a chafing dish. Serve at once.