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Help with my menu for the shixas

I currently live in Northern CA (grew up in NY) where Jewish and Deli food is considered "ethnic."

My women's group (mainly non-Jews) does a quarterly ethnic cooking "get together" (the guys arrive in time for the food to be served) and this time it's the foods that were a constant at my Grandmother's house. Most of the items they have never made or even had before.

I know it's a ton of food (especially carbs) but I wanted to cover all my bases....besides, what's a Jewish meal without leftovers?

Can you take a look at the menu and tell me if there is anything missing that I should add (to late to subtract anything)?

Middle Eastern App. plate with Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Smoked Salmon, etc.
Mini Potato Knishes w/mustard sauce


Matzah Ball Soup

Beef Brisket

Latkes with apple sauce
Stuffed Cabbage (Vegetarian style)
Matzoh Farfel
Noodle Kugel

Dessert (rugeluch, mandelbrot, Hamentashen, babkah, etc.)

Remember, these are common items in the East but out here...it's exotic!

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  1. If you are truly looking for something ethnic and somewhat exotic, I'd go for tongue rather than brisket. And serve it all with Dr. Browns Celray soda.

    4 Replies
    1. re: aivri

      Great idea on the DB's. I think I would have to fly back to NY to find it however. Maybe in LA but not here.

      1. re: MSK

        You can find raw tongue at many butchers, especially if there's a Hisapanic market in your area. It's not hard to make at all.

        1. re: Jennalynn

          Excuse me, isn't this the Kosher Board?

          1. re: skipper

            I guess there aren't many Kosher Hispanic butchers in northern CA. Unless they are from Argentina.

    2. Kasha Varnishkas are my favorite "ethnic" food. Not sure if you want to add another starch though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jes

        Love Kasha! But my thoughts exactly!

        We'll all look like Bubbes by the time we're finished.

        1. re: FeelingALittleBreadish

          I offered CL as a choice for anyone to make but they all said they would rather gag. I tend to agree.

          1. re: berel

            Kishke is a must...I like seeing Smoked Salmon considered Middle Eastern...LOL!

          2. MSK

            This looks wonderful as jfood types and salivates at the same time. But it looks too healthy to be traditional Jewish (guess it's the NoCal influence). You gotta have some shmaltz somewhere.

            Since they already rejected the CL (off with their heads) jfood would recommend a good roasted chicken but leave all the fat on the bird. Then place on a rack with some sliced potatoes underneath to soak up the good juices that the bird release duringthe roasting. Just do not tell them why you made the absolutely best tasting potatoes (jfood is partial to sweet potatoes these days) they ever tasted.

            If you really want to scare them, make a jello mold.

            Mazel Tov on bringing your friends into the 19th century.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              I've been eating, and cooking, 'Jewish food' all my life, and have never actually eaten anything containing schmaltz.

              And I think of jello molds as fifties white-bread American - if you want something gelatinized and Jewish, make them p'tcha/galeh ;)

              1. re: GilaB

                Then you must get to Sammy's Roumanian in NYC, order the chopped liver appetizer, and they will bring a container of schmaltz, pour some in mix it up and serve. Yum yum

                Mayber jfood should have said red jello mold. Red was for jewish and green was for non-jewish households in jfood's neighborhood growing up.

                1. re: jfood

                  My mom would ruin perfectly good jello by mixing in canned fruit cocktail.

                2. re: GilaB

                  If you've eaten kasha varnishkas or chopped live, you've probably had schmaltz.

                  1. re: GilaB

                    I do know that my grandmother's recipe for matzah balls included shmaltz- that's fairly common, so you might have without knowing it.

                3. What, no gelfilte fish?

                  1. Pickles will be a great addition although there's no place here to get them fresh. The only pickles you get here come from a jar. Sacreligious!

                    I hear what your saying regarding Schmaltz. I just can't bring myself to do it. Healthier olive oil will have to do. Am I betraying my tribe??

                    Here was my requirement for an acceptable Gefilte Fish offering:

                    "Gefilte Fish (homemade please.....not out of the jar ....'cause that stuff comes with the jellied pieces of stuff in the sauce........... even though it is discussed at length each year at Passover.........no one really knows it's true origin)"

                    No wonder no one chose it to prepare. I'm such a snob!
                    Realistically though, fresh Gefilte is very difficult to make in addition to the fact that I have no clue as where to find Carp around here. I think they would have to go to the Asian fish market in the city.

                    I had to go to 3 stores to find Matzoh Farfel out of Passover season but I did pick up a jar of Fox's UBet for the family while I was there.

                    It's Wed. and I'm starting to to prep some of the items now. No wonder my mother never worked outside the home!

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: MSK

                      There is actually an edible brand of jarred gefilte fish -- Noam's Gourmet. Not sure where you would find it out your way, though.

                      As for making it yourself, no need to start from scratch, the frozen logs are perfectly acceptable. Again, not sure where you would find those.

                      1. re: MSK


                        Jfood loves the jarred GF's but must be the sweet no-MSG variety. And it MUST have hot horseradish. If you do not sweat onthe forehead the horseradish is not hot enough.

                        A BOTTLE of U-Bets. Jfood can only find squeeze bottles these days. And his housekeeper once threw out the pump he bought for the bottles and he almost fired her (thank you for intervening mrs jfood).

                        Oh man jfood can;t wait for Passover around the corner.

                        1. re: MSK

                          No schmaltz? But surely there must be some in the matzoh ball soup? Somewhere?

                          Ah but what do I know? I'm a shiksa (SP? sorry)

                          1. re: moh

                            I think you actually have the correct spelling....I knew something didn't look right.

                          2. re: MSK

                            I make my own pickles. my mom's been making them for the last 30 years. the pickleman/horesradish grinder on Livonia ave in East NY gave her the recipe before he closed up for good.

                            1. re: berel


                              How about a nice Mitzvah and post the recipe for those pickles. Mrs Jfoods Bubbi made pickles on the porch but unfortunately died with her recipe. Jfood would love to surprise her with some homemades.

                              1. re: jfood

                                ok, here we go

                                You'll need a wide mouth gallon jar
                                1.cut up some fresh garlic and put it in the bottom of the jar with a tablesppon or two of pickling spices

                                2. you need to pack the cucs (approx 5 lbs go into a gallon jar) so that they don't float around and not to tight that they get squished (if they're not backed just right you'll get soft mushy pickles)

                                3. half way thru packing the jar cut up some more garlic and throw it in

                                4. finish packing the cucs, if theres still room at the very top (not enough room for another pickle) cut up some celery to fill the void)

                                5.dissolve 4 tablespoons of salt in some hot water. You need 4 tablespoons of salt for every quart of water you'll be making as the brine.

                                6. fill the cuc packed jar with the brine, seal the jar. Pressure from the pickling process will eventually force water out of the jar over the next few days, so you may need to add water from tim eto time to keep the pickles covered. do not refrigerate until you've recahed your desired sour level. You should have half sour pickles in 2-3 days and a couple of days longer for sour pickles

                                let us know how they turn out

                                1. re: berel

                                  bless you my child.

                                  sounds like a plan. will revert after the yummies come out.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    my father's (actually his mother's) us very similar but instead of pickling spices uses a combination of fresh dill and red pepper flakes - more flakes the spicier -

                                    1. re: weinstein5

                                      the pickling spice I use have a large content of whole red hot peppers. can't make them too spicey as others have to eat them here too

                                      1. re: berel

                                        I learned from my mom, and everyone loves them. Basically lots of garlic, dill and salt water brine. Do the same garlic, dill, cucumbers, just layer up again, end with garlic and dill. Put the salt water,fill up. Now talke a piece of rye bread with seeds and put it on top, and then put on the cap and tighten. The rye bread starts the fermentation process and makes it delicious.

                          3. I'm having fun going down what is memory lane for me.

                            I am also seeing items at the store that amuse me:.

                            I found Manischewitz Sweet Potato Pancake Mix that assures me that no sweet potato is actually included in the product (artificially flavored).
                            They have Joyva Halvah (which I am actually going to add to the dessert tray) which prides itself on being a "nourishing confection."

                            Now I can only hope that eating Bishul Akum (food cooked by non Jews) will be a considered a Mitzvah (a blessing) in this context (can this be considered spreading the word?).

                            1. My mom's favorite "appetizers" to serve before meat meal were chopped liver on "Tam Tam" crackers, and sliced pineapple with cute multicolor toothpicks - sometimes wood, sometimes plastic.

                              Before a milk meal she would serve the same pineapple and herring in cream sauce.

                              I sometimes do the middle eastern thing, but in my parents' day it was considered exotic.

                              1. How about blintzes? If you don't want to cheese fill it with something else or make it for dessert. I too would love to see kasha and varneshkes and lots of sauteed onions. Didn't mention herring, people love it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: paprkutr

                                  I KNEW there was something missing besides chopped chicken liver and smoked fish (not just lox! where's the whitefish?!) - and absolultely yes on the herring....and you cuold actually do mini-blintzes for another app....

                                  1. re: paprkutr

                                    Yes! Blintzes with fresh fruit.
                                    Skip any fish coming out of a container (such as herring) Northern Californians won't eat it. I lived in (and near) San Francisco for 17 years and can promise you that chunks of fish in 'sauce' and whole fish won't go over so well either.

                                    I see nothing wrong with adapting the recipes to suit the palate of the people attending. If they're the type to unequivically nix chopped liver, then I wouldn't try to force other food they wouldn't be into in the name of authenticity. The 'classic' New York Jewish foods were adaptations of the 'original' dishes as well, so 'authenticity' shouldn't be a deciding factor.

                                    Maybe because I grew up with Sefardi foods, I wouldn't eat half the typical Ashkenazi fare unless paid or very, very hungry.

                                  2. So far I picked up fresh sour and half sour pickles and some Halvah. The store only had one loaf of cinnamon Babka and I'm really craving the Choc. They're calling me if they can get it delivered in time (not a single bakery makes it in house).

                                    I love Blintzes but always considered it a breakfasty food. Plus, even though we're not making it strictly Kashrut, I was staying away from mixing the meat and dairy.

                                    I agree with the fish in sauce concept mentioned here but have added whitefish to to app. plater.

                                    The Latkes maker had to cancel so I'm grating the potatoes as we speak. In case you need to know for your own reference in the future, 15 ilbs of Brisket takes up the entire 42" Wolf Range.

                                    And finally, the garbage disposal just clogged from 10 lbs. of onion skins.

                                    Shabbat Shalom!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MSK

                                      Trust me, your non-Jewish friends will gag at even seeing tongue on the table. Chicken liver is very neutral on the gag scale, even for folks who wouldn't eat it. AVoid tongue for this gathering! Even Jews who did not grow up loving it, as I did, wouldn't touch it.

                                      If you even get a chance, just for yourself, buy a Kosher buffalo tongue, simmer gently until soft, and enjoy, enjoy enjoy.

                                    2. Well, the evening was a success. I was surprised to hear that many of the guests were surprised that they liked everything so much.

                                      Isreali CD's serenaded us the whole evening.

                                      The matzah balls were so light they floated out of the pot. I'm going to use this recipe as a standard from now on!

                                      The brisket was the big hit. 1 day prior, I rubbed onion soup mix into the beef, covered it in cranberry sauce and baked it for 4 hours in a heavy duty aluminum foil packet. Cooled and refrigerated it overnight, sliced it in the morning and placed it back in the oven for another hour prior to dinner. It was perfect!

                                      I chose not to include tongue, not because I didn't think it would be tastey but mainly because my instincts told me what Bashful3 mentioned abovet. I mentioned it the group over dinner and they agreed with the decision.

                                      What they did not agree with was my classification of Chopped Liver. They all (inlcuding my husband) said they like it and would have enjoyed it on the menu. My bad.

                                      The stuffed cabbage was also great....exactly as I remembered. Others liked it too but the chef of that item preferred her Hungarian version which is much different. I assumed there was some connection to the recipes of this dish since there was a large Jewish population in old Hungary but I'm not sure who influenced who.

                                      My mothers Farfel came out great (3 days to cook) but I'm always afraid to oversalt things as she used to so I think I went too far in the other direction.

                                      Kugel, Latkes and Potatoe knishes where all great too.

                                      There's only one Jewish style bakery in the county but the items do not compare to the ones you can get in NY. No Choc. Babka to be found either!

                                      2 days later and I'm still full! I even have enough leftovers to invite you all!

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: MSK

                                        still full two days later - that is sign of a successful meal -

                                        1. re: MSK

                                          sounds like it was great!

                                          The image of floating matzoh balls was really beautiful. I don't suppose you'd be willing to share that recipe with a poor little shiksa with no bubbie to make her fluffy matzoh ball soup.... All the matzoh balls I can purchase are dense hard balls...

                                          1. re: moh

                                            I will pass on my mother's secret - the box! - I was shocked when she told me but if you follow the instructions they will always come out nice and fluffy -

                                            1. re: weinstein5

                                              Sorry, which box? The box of matzoh meal? which brand?

                                              1. re: moh

                                                I like matzoh balls dense and hard. :-)

                                                1. re: DeisCane

                                                  I understand it is about preferences. I don't mind them dense, but when I have a cold and crave a bowl of matzoh ball soup, I like the softer fluffier ones, as they are so comforting and slide down a sore throat with remarkable ease...

                                                2. re: moh

                                                  the matzah ball mix - either streits, croyden house or maniscewitz will do -

                                                  1. re: weinstein5

                                                    thanks! i have access to Streits and Maniscewitz, and have seen the recipe but have never tried to make it myself. I shall do so now...

                                                    1. re: moh

                                                      The recipe is also on the Manischevitz matzo meal box. I think the secret to less dense is to boil the matzo balls for at least an hour...or longer. Denser balls are generally undercooked. That's my theory, anyway.
                                                      Good luck! p.j.

                                                      1. re: p.j.

                                                        Thanks for the tips everyone, I feel like maybe I do have a nice bubbie after all! :)

                                                        Thanks for adopting a poor matzoh ball-less gal..

                                              2. re: moh

                                                Here is the "floating MB" recipe

                                                Grand Rosie's Matzah Balls
                                                from Judith Ets. Hokin's HomeChef Passover Class

                                                4 eggs separated
                                                4 T schmaltz, rice bran oil or melted butter
                                                4 oz. matzah meal (approx. 1 c)
                                                1 t baking soda
                                                2 t fine sea salt (or to taste)
                                                3 T chopped Italian parsley
                                                4 T hot water
                                                6 Qt. boiling salted water
                                                3 QT rich homemade chicken soup

                                                whisk egg yolks with chic fat or oil. Add matzah meal, baking soda, salt, parsley and 4 T hot water. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into mixture

                                                refrigerate at least 2 hours. form into balls with wet hand and drop into boiling water. lower heat, cover pot and cook 35 to 45 minutes. Store in water until ready to serve

                                                When ready to serve, bring froth to a boil and add matzah balls. Serve when hot.

                                                Makes approx 20

                                                We just cooked the MB directly in the chicken stock and skipped the hot salt water step.

                                                I don't know how this compares with the recipe on the box.


                                                1. re: MSK

                                                  Yay! I am so psyched to try to make this! Just can't buy good Matzoh ball soup here... Thanks for sharing!