kosher kitchen

Appetizers are the key to self-catered simchas


After catering several events surrounding my daughter’s wedding, from her shower to her rehearsal dinner for 125, I decided I would self-cater parts of any simcha I would be blessed to host. This saved a lot of money and has been a lot of fun.

Appetizers are some of the easiest foods to self-cater. Many can be made using store-bought components and others can be made well in advance. Lots of fresh veggies can provide healthy foods for munching and good appetizers keep people busy, calm hunger, and foster congeniality. In addition, a large part of any food budget can come from those passed and stationed appetizers, so making your own can be a big budget helper.

Appetizers should be easy to eat and easy to clean up. With so many options, they can satisfy all tastes, from gluten-free- to low-fat, to dairy free, vegan and more. They should be healthfully filling, but not so heavy that your guests completely fill up on them. How many times have we been to events where the passed appetizers are so plentiful and filling that there is no room for the sumptuous dinner that follows?

Super Simple Curry Dip (Pareve)

This can easily be doubled. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. 

1 cup mayonnaise, full, low, or non-fat

3 to 4 tbsp. chili sauce, to taste

1 tbsp. curry powder, to taste

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, to taste

2 garlic cloves, minced, more or less, to taste

1 small onion, finely minced

1 tbsp. white horseradish, to taste

OPTIONAL: pinch cayenne pepper

Process the onion and garlic in a food processor until finely minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse several times to mix. Transfer to a glass or other non-reactive bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped green onion, red pepper flakes, minced chives or minced parsley before serving.

Makes about 2 cups. Serve with raw vegetables, pita, or pita chips.

Addictive Dairy Dip (Dairy)

My kids named this because they say it is addictive. It got them to eat all kinds of raw veggies every day. For a long time, I made this every week and for gatherings of any kind.

1-1/2 cups mayonnaise

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1-1/2 cups plain yogurt

3 tsp. brown deli mustard, to taste

1 small onion, minced

2 to 4 cloves garlic (as many as you like) minced

1 to 3 medium sized shallots, minced

3/4 cup dried parsley flakes

pinch sugar

salt and pepper to taste

2 scallions, white and green parts, minced

Whisk mayonnaise, sour cream and yogurt together. Add the rest of the ingredients except the scallions, and chill, covered, several hours or overnight. Garnish with the scallions before serving. Serve with all kinds of veggies.

Makes about 5 cups.

Crunchy Yam Rounds (Pareve)

4 to 5 sweet potatoes or yams, long thin one work best, peeled

3 egg whites

1 clove garlic, minced or squeezed through a press

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. parsley

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 tbsp. dark brown sugar

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

OPTIONAL: Omit Cayenne and add Garam Marsala spice. Add some turmeric or cumin, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment and set aside. 

Peel the yams and slice them about 1/4-inch thick. Place them in a bowl of cold water while you slice the rest to keep them from turning brown. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites with the garlic. In another shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, salt, parsley, brown sugar and cayenne.

Remove the yams from the cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Dip them in the egg white and then in the crumb mixture. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets. Spray the tops of the rounds lightly with the olive oil. 

Bake in 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip the rounds. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. Check often to make sure that they don’t burn. Rounds are done when they are soft in the middle and golden brown. Test for doneness by sticking the point of a sharp knife into the center of a piece. If it slips in easily, it is done. Let cool. Serve warm, with a barbecue or mustard-type dipping sauce or with the Addictive Veggie DIp.

Makes about 40 rounds.

Spicy Mixed Nuts (Pareve)

You can really use any spice you like including just simple garlic and onion or more.

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tbsp. garam marsala

2 tsp. sugar

1 to 2 tsp. black pepper, to taste

OPTIONAL: 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, more or less to taste

3 tbsp. canola oil

4-1/2 cups unsalted mixed nuts or all one kind 

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 to 2 tsp. kosher salt

Combine the garlic, onion, ginger, garam marsala and sugar in a bowl. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and stir to coat. Continue to cook about 4-6 minutes, until the nuts begin to toast. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the nuts and toss to coat evenly. Cook about 3-5 minutes more. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the nuts and mix constantly until the nuts look dry, about 3- 5 minutes. Pour onto a prepared baking sheet and let cool.

Makes 4 cups. Keeps for 2 weeks in an airtight container. 

‘Kind-of like’ Hummus (Pareve)

I got this from a very old book about catering that I picked up at a yard sale in the ’80s. The book is long gone, but the recipe, called something like “Mediterranean Garbanzo Spread,” remains a favorite that has gone through many changes over the decades.

*Crispy shallots or onion strings, about 2 cups

20 to 30 garlic cloves, peeled (I buy ready-peeled cloves)

1 cup canola oil

2 cans garbanzo beans (15.5 ounces each) drained and rinsed

2 cans white cannellini or white northern beans, (15.5 ounces each) drained and rinsed

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. ground cumin, more to taste

1/4 cup fresh basil, minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

(*To make crispy shallots or onions, thinly slice shallots or an onion or red onions to equal 1 packed cup. If using onions, cut into quarters before thinly slicing.)

Heat 2 cups canola oil in large saucepan or wok, heat until very hot, about 360-375 degrees. Add half the shallots and stir until golden and crispy, about 3-5 min. Use slotted spoon and place on paper towel. Repeat with remaining shallots. Use oil in salad dressings for a delicious flavor. 

For Dip: Place the garlic cloves and the canola oil in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cloves are very soft and golden, about 15-30 minutes, depending on size of cloves. Let cool. Reserve the oil for dips or dressings.

Place garlic, beans and lemon juice in a food processor and process until thick and creamy. 

With the motor still running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube to incorporate evenly. Add the cumin, fresh herbs and salt and pepper and process until mixed well. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper as needed. If you like, add a bit of the shallot oil for flavor. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Warm the crispy onions in a small pan in the oven for several minutes. 

Scrape the dip into a serving dish and sprinkle the shallots over the top. Makes 4-5 cups. Serve with raw veggies, pita or crackers.