A Dinner Party a Day--Plus Exams

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To try chipotle-black bean dip, click here for the recipe.

Among a college senior's priorities are homework, finding a job, and writing that all-important senior thesis. An activity I love that makes me so much more able to work on those other three, however, is cooking. And since I can only eat so much alone, I end up throwing a lot of dinner parties.

It's not hard to throw a casual dinner party on a student budget. Potlucks are the obvious choice, and with Web sites like doodle.com to help coordinate times and dishes among friends, minimal individual effort can bring together a meal that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Even playing hostess and doing all the cooking alone does not have to be hard: tell each friend to bring a bottle of wine or a baguette, and plan on make-ahead pasta dishes and dips, with maybe one item left to prepare the day-of. It's a relaxing and fun way to spend time with friends before hitting the library.

Having friends over to eat and nourish our bodies over conversation that nourishes our minds can be the perfect cure for finals-week stress.

Sometimes I can get a little ahead of myself. The week before a major senior essay deadline, I accidentally invited three different groups of friends I hadn't seen in too long around for a meal during the week. Wednesday brought the reunion of the Yale Sustainable Food Project's summer farm interns, and a pasta dish with kale pesto and roasted squash (I made this before the New York Times printed theirs!), plus a quick chipotle-black bean dip and a turnip gratin made with turnips we'd planted at the Yale Farm last summer.

For a Friday brunch, I made maple-bacon scones and pumpkin pie the night before, and then an hour or so before guests arrived I whipped up a quick, nutritious frittata using leftover kale.

Though my academic deadlines still loomed, Friday night I splurged: I took the afternoon off from homework and made tinga, a slow-simmered Mexican dish made with pork tenderloin and chorizo, plus tomatoes and a multitude of spices and peppers. Eaten with warm tortillas, avocado, cilantro, and a queso blanco I'd made earlier in the week, it was the perfect de-stressor from the academic life.

So maybe throwing that many dinner parties is a little crazy. But having friends over to eat and nourish our bodies over conversation that nourishes our minds can be the perfect cure for finals-week stress. And if a dish doesn't turn out perfectly, or you end up with more gifted loaves of bread than plates, what is that among friends? Let's dig in.

Recipe: Chipotle-Black Bean Dip

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Nozlee Samadzadeh was raised in Oklahoma and went to school in Connecticut, where she interned at the Yale Sustainable Food Project. She now lives and cooks in Brooklyn, where she spends her time combining her three favorite things: computers, farming, and food.

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