Preparing for a Purim Seudah is always a challenge, especially when you’re preparing for a large crowd. So many people, so little time! I received the following request a few days ago from one of our readers: “I have taken it upon myself to make a Purim Seudah for 40 people BE”H. I’ve never done that before. Any suggestions for a great Seuda – things that taste great, look fantastic and take the minimum amount of time to prepare? I’d appreciate your reply.”
My approach to entertaining for a crowd is to choose recipes that are simple to prepare, multiply easily and are good hot, cold or at room temperature. You can cook many dishes ahead and freeze them successfully – sweet and sour meatballs, roast chicken, brisket and kugels are always great choices. A selection of assorted vegetable, grain and/or bean salads can round out the menu. One of my friends prepares soup in her crockpot and lets her guests help themselves. It can be made in advance and will stay in the refrigerator for a few days or can be frozen.
Baked goods can be made in advance if you have time and can be frozen until needed – they thaw very quickly. And don’t feel guilty – it’s okay to supplement with bought items. You can buy prepared spreads such as hummus, babaganoush and other Middle Eastern items that are available in most supermarkets and serve them with baby carrots, pepper strips, cucumber slices and pita wedges. If you have friends who are willing to help out and bring a dish, don’t be shy – say yes!
Let’s face it. We’re busy moms or harried working mothers and our time is precious. When it comes to cooking, there’s a lot that we want. We want easy, foolproof recipes that we can whip up in a hurry. We want to serve healthy food that will nourish our families. We want delicious dishes that will fast become family favorites. It’s a tall order — what’s a balebusta to do?
You can imagine how delighted I was to receive a copy of Sara Finkel’s latest cookbook, Classic Kosher Cooking: Simply Delicious (Targum Press). In this magnificent second volume of her acclaimed Classic Kosher series, Sara Finkel combines her vast culinary knowledge with years of know-how to create a tantalizing collection of classic and contemporary recipes that you’ll use time and again.
With easy techniques, basic kitchen equipment, and ingredients you’re bound to have in your pantry, Mrs. Finkel shows how to create gastronomic delights in a flash. Her recipes are not exotic concoctions with expensive and hard-to-find foodstuffs — they’re gourmet recipes that are simple to make, and most importantly, simply delicious. Here is an excerpt from her book Simply Kosher with an explanation of Purim as well as some of her favorite recipes for your Seuda. Enjoy!
The preparation of a variety of foods plays an important role in the joyous holiday of Purim. The Purim seudah begins in the afternoon of the holiday and lasts until well after sunset. This seudas mitzvah commemorates the feast that Queen Esther prepared, that resulted in the salvation of the Jewish people and prevented their annihilation by the wicked Haman.
On Purim, costumed children can be seen throughout the streets carrying gifts of food, mishloach manot, to friends and neighbors, in order to express the brotherly love engendered by Queen Esther and Mordechai HaTzadik amongst the Jewish people of Shushan. To fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manot, one must send two kinds of ready-to-eat foods to at least one friend.
Another important mitzvah of the day is matanos l’evyonim, gifts to the poor. This mitzvah is fulfilled by giving a gift of money to two needy people.
Purim is a chag when the balebusta can go all-out in preparing her favorite dishes and various kinds of foods to enhance this joyous festival. If you prepare something homemade to put in your mishloach manot, it would be an extra bonus to include the recipe as well. Whichever way you do it, the most important thing is to experience the joy of giving — the joy of Purim.”
Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her latest book is NORENE’S HEALTHY KITCHEN: Eat YOUR Way to Good Health (Whitecap). For information about her cookbooks, cooking demonstrations and culinary services, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at http://www.gourmania.com