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For Ford's Sake, HELP ME!

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I'm throwing a little party for our friends, my new husband and I. We just got married without telling anyone really, and I wanted to have a little dinner party to celebrate our new life together. Problem is, and I never really thought about it before, all of our friends have food issues:

1. One couple are strict vegans, one is also nut intolerant.
2. My co-worker keeps kosher.
3. My brother is allergic to root vegetables.
4. I eat fish but no meat.

His parents, my sisters and his cousin could really care less what we eat.

I tempted to call the whole thing off or just serve water.

Help. Me. Please.

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  1. The only thing you're missing to make it even more special is someone who has a fish/shellfish allergy (sorry! couldn't resist).

    I've done this little nightmare, but the person who keeps kosher is a strict vegan (which kinda obviates the kosher part), there were food allergies galore, people ate meat because they hated fish.

    Option 1: split the group over several dinners up so that you can concentrate on specifics (which kills off the group conviviality part)
    Option 2: lowest common denominator, which means that you're going to be making a nut-free, root-vegetable-free strict vegan meal
    Option 3: multi-meals, meaning two nut-free vegan mains and the remainder with fish; strict vegan starters and desserts

    I'm very weak on vegan meals but you can do a lot with fish and still respect the kosher requirements. One possibility is a miso risotto using a mushroom dashi instead of stock (toothsome, lots of umami).

    Forgot: lashings of wine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti

      In a similar - but a little easier - situation I served poached salmon, lemon rice, asparagus and a salad with sauces and dressing on the side. That could be elegant and festive and cover everyone including the vegans, for whom you can have plenty of veggies. Then maybe wedding-y cake (you surely deserve something yummy and festive!) and a platter of fresh fruit.

    2. Will people eat Indian food? You could make an entirely vegarian, and in fact mostly vegan, spread that will be really hardy. Perhaps a curried chickpea and spinach dish, and then another with peppers and onions and tomatoes. A big bowl of basmati rice. You could do a cucumber and yogurt salad that the vegans don't need to eat, or do just a cucumber, mint and vinegar salad for them. If you want a seafood, you could make it kosher-friendly using tilapia or cod in a nice gingery broth. Enlist whoever lives closest to an Indian restaurant to pick up naan. Does that sound good? The beauty is, most of this is saucy and can be made-ahead, so you can enjoy the party.

      1. Green, your food issues sound similar to what happens when my family convenes (kosher, pescatarian, vegan). First of all, recognize that not everyone will be able to eat EVERYTHING. If you serve a buffet of choices, more than likely everyone will find SOMETHING they can eat. Here are some suggestions for a dinner buffet with app, entree, and dessert:

        Apps-
        Store bought or homemade tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole
        Smoked salmon with sour cream and dill on toasts or crackers
        Hummus with roasted garlic pita chips

        Entrees/Mains/Veggies
        Spinach, stawberry, red onion salad with raspberry vinaigrette (goat cheese optional)
        Roasted kale & quinoa (served warm)
        Risotto made with veg broth, mushrooms & shallots (parm cheese optional)
        Green beans sauteed with almonds (almonds can be optional)
        Roasted fish (snapper, whitefish, whatever is fresh in your area)

        Desserts
        Find a vegan bakery and buy a nice cake or cupcakes (sorry my vegan desserts are not that great other than fruit)
        Cake, cookies of your choice
        Winter fruit salad (pineapple, oranges, banannas, coconut doused with a little Triple Sec)

        1. Okay, this is going to be a little challenging but not impossible. First thing, with one person keeping kosher it's going to be your main issue because unless you keep your kitchen kosher, everything you use from the kitchen is going to be a problem. You probably already know this but in a kosher home, everything is kept separate from the silverware to the cookware to the food..some homes even have two sets of everything in the kitchen so that there is no contamination. You may need to buy separate dishes and cookware to satisfy this part as well as buy any meat from a kosher butcher.

          Your brother's inability to eat root vegetables is minor because there are other options.I'd start out with a salad of mixed greens, roasted grapes, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, maybe some asparagus roasted. Make a champagne or other vinaigrette and some croutons.

          If it were me, I'd serve a couple of different entrees that would cover everyone like a maybe a whole roasted fish. This would cover you, your kosher guest (keep in mind that they don't eat certain types of fish), and the other guests without restrictions.

          Then, I'd make a dish like pasta- less vegetable lasagna stacks which is roasted veggies with seasoned tomato sauce stacked up and garnished with a sprinkling of cheese. In this case, you can puree together silken tofu with fresh basil and some garlic and drizzle over the top or just leave it off and garnish with some herbs. Then make a dish of rice, couscous, or some type of pasta without dairy, Add another dish of vegetables, maybe another meat option and some bread. Dessert would be a mixed salad of fresh fruit and maybe some vegan cookies. There are a ton of recipes online for vegan dishes, but I'd be glad to give you my recipes for the salad and the lasagna stacks.

          1. >>>2. My co-worker keeps kosher.

            This is vague and ambiguous, there are all types of kosher, strict kosher and he won’t eat food prepared in your kitchen, will he mix dairy and meat? You need to define this.

            10 Replies
            1. re: RetiredChef

              He was also vague and just said he keeps kosher.

              1. re: greenblink

                Let me put it this way, I made a chicken soup for him when he was sick. The only special thing I got was a kosher chicken. Cooked it at my house, no uproar.

                1. re: greenblink

                  So I'm guessing based on my own friends that means that he won't mix meat and dairy and won't eat forbidden foods (pork, shellfish, etc) but is happy to eat off your plates and so on. For the vegans you have to read labels of things really carefully if you use anything that's not from scratch. Good luck, it's a challenge for sure but you have some terrific suggestions here.

                2. re: greenblink

                  Well if he is vague then I wouldn’t really worry about it. Here is my take on it (I’m a cold-hearted sob I guess). I wouldn’t change much about how I cook.

                  People who limit the foods they eat for _________ reason (vegans, etc) will just have to muddle through; I would not purposefully try to create dishes for them. I also won’t purposefully go out of my way to NOT have vegan items either.

                  People who limit the food they eat for religious reasons I will be try to accommodate a little more reasonably.

                  People who limit the food they eat for allergies I will accommodate the most.

                  I would set up a banquet style service and keep all food separate, warn the Kosher and vegan people there will be food there they cannot eat.

                  Crudite platter
                  Some other miscellaneous item, (Shrimp, meatballs, stuffed mushrooms-)

                  Nice salad
                  Soup if you want to

                  Fish entrée
                  Maybe another meat entrée for the meat eaters (unless you refuse to cook it)

                  Rice to go with the fish
                  2 vegetables choices

                  Assortment of dinner rolls / bread, etc.

                  Desserts I would just make what I regularly do and if the vegan’s can’t eat it, that’s their decision – NOT yours. You could always pick up a sherbet and stick it in your freezer for them.

                  (As a surprise one year I made a chocolate TOFU mousse for dessert, it was voted the best mousse that everyone at this get together had ever had, I then told them it was tofu, the looks on their faces was priceless, because three people there had proclaimed tofu was the nastiest food product on the face of the earth and they would never eat it.)

                  The buffet allows everyone to pick and choose what they want, as for actual food recommendations I usually pick a theme of the menu (Italian, Indian, Mexican, Thai, American, etc) and then cater my dishes to that theme and what is available and on sale at my local food stores.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    I called my husband and decided to go Greek in honor of his family and my Grandmother. This should be easy from here.

                    THANK YOU ALL OF YOU!!!!!

                    1. re: greenblink

                      If you're doing Greek, check out this website http://kalofagas.ca/

                      Paula Wolfert's "Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean" also has a lot of Greek recipes.

                3. re: RetiredChef

                  The most basic kosher is not mixing dairy and meat.

                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                    I cater for a synagogue PT and my wife (last name of Klein) came from an orthodox Kosher household. There are a vast variety of different rules that people follow even within that one synagogue.

                    Some people call themselves Biblical Kosher and they will not eat certain foods but have no problem having a cheeseburger even if the meat was not butchered in a Kosher manner.

                    Some people call themselves strict Kosher and they won’t’ mix meat and dairy together but will eat a hamburger (not butchered kosher) and drink coffee with cream in it at the same time.

                    Orthodox Kosher households will have two sets of sinks, two set of silverware, two refrigerators, won’t even put milk in their coffee until X amount of hours after consuming meat.

                    Plus there are thousands of iterations between all of these, you will find people calling themselves Biblical Kosher who will only eat meat that has been butchered Kosher but have no problem with putting cheese on it too.

                    This area can be highly problematic and as the saying goes if you ask two Rabbi’s you’ll end up with 9 opinions.

                    This is why I asked the question, much more problematic than being a Vegan because you know what they mean, ahh scratch that, I just remember my vegan customer that used to always ordered a latte and her vegetarian buddy who loved fish.

                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                      Oh yeah and my other Kosher customer that really wanted me to carry Kosher ham because she loved ham. :)

                      1. re: RetiredChef

                        like my lady that said she was "allergic to bacon AND pork". oy.

                  2. Think middle eastern. You can serve a lot of vegetarian mezzes that will satisfy everyone's requirements (the vegans are the lowest denominator), and no one will feel deprived. The kosher ones will appreciate the nod in that direction as well. Lots of mezzes and good bread. There are lots of middle eastern dishes based on eggplant that are very tasty and satisfying and will fulfill anyone's meat craving. Since these are your friends and you'll be stuck with their culinary limitations going forward, invest in Paula Wolfert' s "Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean", or "Mediterannean Cooking".

                    You can also do vegetarian or fish couscous. Serve a heavy dessert- cheesecake or something in case some people are still hungry, and of course as a fail-safe, lots of wine.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: MarkC

                      Cheesecake is dairy..I don't think the kosher or vegan guests will eat that

                      1. re: Cherylptw

                        kosher keepers can have dairy. just not a hamburger cheesecake. ;)

                        i think checking out wolfert and heading towards mediterranean or middle-eastern will solve your dilemmas. roasted eggplants, sauteed or stuffed mushrooms, grains -- like couscous or tabouli salads, roasted peppers, chickpeas, crunchy salads will all hit the spot.

                        for dessert, nuts and fruit and chocolate wacky cake (totally vegan and totally delicious -- it's my in-a-snap chocolate cake) with whipped cream on the side:

                        http://southernfood.about.com/od/choc...

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I know but basically was referring to those who don't mix meat & dairy in one meal

                          1. re: Cherylptw

                            You're right, vegans won't eat dairy, but kosher eaters won't have a problem, as, from what you say, the rest of the meal will be meatless. No problem mixing fish and dairy.

                            Retired Chef, who are these Biblical Kosher people you speak of? Are they karaites? We have a small community of them where I live (Israel), and I seem to remember that there's a community in New Jersey. They only follow the five books of the Tanakh, and not any of the later commentaries. From what I recall, the orthodox establishment doesn't consider them Jews.

                            1. re: MarkC

                              Mark,

                              They are just part of a conservative Jewish congregation that claims to be torah observant. I have heard the head Rabbi say that the torah comes first and commentaries come second, if there is a disagreement follow the torah.

                              As I stated earlier there are divergent views in this synagogue and much debate, there are some who refrain from eating food I have cooked because my kitchen also prepares non-kosher items.

                      2. re: MarkC

                        this was going to be my recommendation too...
                        hummus
                        baba ghanoush
                        falafel
                        dolmas
                        kosherie - a lentil and tomato dish
                        second the ideas for tabbouleh
                        baklava for dessert or if your group is at all adventurous, ice cream (and non-dairy ice cream) with rose syrup

                        OR go Greek/Mediterranean!
                        Greek Lasagna http://www.theveggietable.com/recipes...
                        Vegan Moussaka
                        Spanokopita - for the non-vegans... or use a vegan cheese, tho these tend not to melt well
                        Hummus
                        Greek Salad - w/ and w/o cheese

                      3. How about a wild mushroom and asaparagus risotto. Use vegi stock instead of fish or chicken.

                        You can have a starter of gazpacho or cold avocado soup. Bittman has a good recipe for avo soup.