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Photo by ToastyKen/Flickr CC


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.

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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