Self-Catered Kiddush

It is customary to celebrate a wedding with an aufruf at a Shabbat service preceeding the wedding. Since our families are from out of town, it only made sense to do ours the day before the wedding since that was the only Saturday that our families would be around. In honor of the wedding, we also decided to host the kiddush after services. A kiddush is like a snack or a light lunch after services, which typically doesn’t finish until around 1pm. By this point of the day most congregants are pretty hungry and are ready for food.

We happened to be sharing the kiddush with fellow members at our synagogue who were celebrating an anniversary and would be moving to the East Coast permanently. We happily agreed as it would be an honor to share such an event with them, not to mention that the costs would be split by both families. Producing enough food to satisfy 150-200 hungry people is no easy task! We contacted several catering companies who could provide kosher options, but found that in order to host the meal we were thinking of was out of budget.

At this point, I decided to just put in a little elbow grease (and rope some family members) and put it together ourselves. I wanted something relatively easy to do, and our co-hosts desired a Mediterranean menu. All menu items need to be served cold or at room temperature, as no cooking can occur during Shabbat. Also, no meat items since the synagogue kitchen is kosher dairy only. From there, I was able to put together a menu:

  • Summer mixed green salad with strawberries, cucumber, and cherve (4 large salad greens tubs)
  • Pasta salad with feta, olives, and sundried tomatoes (~5 lbs of pasta)
  • Tabouleh (~5 lbs of bulgur wheat)
  • Roasted Vegetables – eggplant, zuchini, squash, asparagus, bell peppers (~2 lbs of each vegetable)
  • Baba Ghanoush (~5 lbs of eggplant)
  • Hummus (~125 oz from Costco)
  • Pita Chips (3 large bags from Costco)
  • Minted Fresh Seasonal Fruit Salad (1 honeydew, 1 cantaloupe, 0.5 watermelon, 2 lb strawberries, 4 lb grapes, 2 lb cherries, 24 oz blueberries, 1 bunch of mint)
  • Crudite Vegetable Platter (2 trays from Costco)
  • Cheese Platter & Crackers (8 lbs of pre-sliced cheese, 1 box of assorted crackers from Costco)
  • Antipasto Platter – olives, pickles, pepperoncini, marinated artichokes (~400pcs of each item)
  • Dried Fruit Platter – apricots, figs, dates, raisins (~1-2 lbs of each type)
  • Mixed roasted nuts – cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans (2 lb)
  • Challah Loaves (4, 1 lb loaves)
  • Assorted Drinks
  • Assorted Desserts – madeleines, palmiers, brownies, biscotti (1 box of each from Costco)

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Note: Imagine this table x2 since we had a 2 table set-up to shorten up the lines. Also, no pictures of the dessert or drink table here. They were all store-bought anyway.

Whew! What a list. Actually, the items that are italicized were store-bought. Yikes, I know – shame on me. But with only a few hours of preparation time in the synagogue’s kosher kitchen and just a few people helping out, it wasn’t possible to do everything from scratch. Most items were procured from Costco, Trader Joe’s and Target. Believe it or not, Target is actually a good source for kosher olives, pickles, and salad dressing. Altogether I spent around $615 in total for everything, including salt, pepper, and olive oil, I probably could’ve spent $75 less as I over-bought on a few ingredients. For anyone who cares to know, to reduce this cost, the menu items to omit would include the antipasto platter and the dried fruit (about $80 less) because they’re ‘bonus’ items that are super nice to have but don’t add much to filling up your guests’ tummies. I also bought things like swiss chard, lettuce and curly parsley just to make the plates look nice. One could totally skip those things too.

I’ve aded links to the items that I got recipes to make. For the salad, we probably only needed 4 Costco-sized salad tubs. To that, we added maybe a pound of sliced strawberries, 2 cucumbers, and 2 logs of cherve. Don’t add the toppings until ready to serve so the greens don’t get soggy or wilty. For the same reason I got 2 different dressings and put them on the side for people to help themselves.

For the pasta salad, we used 5 pounds of Costco short pastas, and added one Costco sized jar of sun-dried tomatoes, one Costco sized bag of black olives, and about one pound of feta cheese. Chop up leaves from one bunch of parsley and toss everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste. This can all be easily done ahead of time. I like to reserve the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and add that instead of adding olive oil to the pasta salad. Add some lemon juice if it needs a bit of acidity.

Roasted vegetables are super easy – heat the oven to 400 ºF, slice up desired veggies and toss in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and za’atar seasoning. I like to do each vegetable on separate trays because they cook at different speeds. Check in about 15-20 minutes or until they’re as tender as you’d like them. Roasted vegetables can be served cold and still taste wonderful.

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