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Need Ideas for a Pescatarian (or Vegetarian) Christmas Menu


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I am going to be welcoming a group of Orthodox Jews to my lodge in New Zealand for Christmas and Boxing Day. They are kosher, but are willing to eat fish. What kind of starter do you think we can serve them that will be festive and yet not a violation of their religious observance?

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Last year I served a modified take on Heston Blumenthal's edible garden from his at Home cookbook. I bought some small plastic pots and used them as serving vessels. Each pot contained a 'garden' of vegetables (cooked sous vide early in the day and reheated for service). Very easy dish. I wasn't aiming to keep kosher or meet anyone's dietary requirements but it would tick your boxes.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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If it helps, my first thought was the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It's not something I know much about myself but you might find some useful suggestions along those lines.

 

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/holidays/article/feast-of-the-seven-fishes

 

Come to think of it my brother's family likes seafood and I might poke around this myself.

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If it helps, my first thought was the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It's not something I know much about myself but you might find some useful suggestions along those lines.

 

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/holidays/article/feast-of-the-seven-fishes

 

Come to think of it my brother's family likes seafood and I might poke around this myself.

A glance at the link and recipes shows that many include shellfish.  Kashrut (Jewish dietary law) forbids shellfish.

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As far as recipe ideas for a starter course, maybe something incorporating pickled herring?  At a Xmas Eve seafood buffet a few years ago, we were served a pickled herring salad with potatoes and beets and it was excellent.  Sorry I don't have a recipe for it.  

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Smoked fish as part of a composed salad would be lovely and special.  Or a soup, maybe a fish chowder.

 

I know Kosher prohibits combining meat & dairy, but does that hold for fish? That might be a concern for a chowder.

 

You could do something meat-based if you purchase Kosher meat. You just can't use dairy anywhere else. 

Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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I hate to ask but is the 'festive' part for you or for them? Christmas is not something that most Jewish people, Orthodox or not, celebrate I believe (but I am not Jewish so of course I could be wrong). If that is the case though, perhaps meals during that period are just like any others, except perhaps if they are on a vacation (which often does warrant a 'celebratory' meal of some kind but not because it is a 'traditional holiday' for them).

In North America, I have heard that many Jews like Chinese food on Christmas Day. Could you do some kind of Asian dish with or without a bit of seafood (in the form of fish, not crustaceans) but with lots of vegetables? Or if you are just looking for a 'starter', what about some fresh rolls (Thai style, uncooked) with only vegetables (no shrimp).

Or perhaps just a lovely whole snapper presentation on a bed of julienned vegetables?

Edited by Deryn (log)
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I am going to be welcoming a group of Orthodox Jews to my lodge in New Zealand for Christmas and Boxing Day. They are kosher, but are willing to eat fish. What kind of starter do you think we can serve them that will be festive and yet not a violation of their religious observance?

That's a very interesting set-up. Not sure a group of Orthodox Jews will really be concerned about the festivity level for Christmas. It's not exactly a Jewish holiday!

 

Anyway, comments above are correct. No shellfish. (Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher. So no catfish, either.) There's no prohibition against mixing fish and dairy. (Meat and dairy cannot be combined.)

 

You can make gefilte fish for a tongue-in-cheek gesture. Or Moroccan fish balls, which is an old Jewish-Sephardi dish. But they also might appreciate something new, something that you'd serve regularly as a starter in New Zealand that they haven't tried before. (But have something for back-up. Salmon always works.) Good luck.

 

Edited to ask: where is the group from?

Edited by cakewalk (log)
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Sorry, I have no special menu suggestions you.

 

Coincidentally, a few years ago, I spent Christmas and New Year's hiking in New Zealand - great memories of a beautiful country!  

Our group included a Jewish family from NYC and I remember at the lodge where we celebrated Christmas they reported that if they are at home, they always participate in the traditional Jewish Christmas meal of Chinese food.

 

Edited to fix link

Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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For me, festive vegetarian dishes should have special ingredients like mushrooms, artichokes, etc. Breaking down fresh artichokes always impresses guests.

 

Some vegetarian starters:

 

warm stuffed mushroom caps

spinach salad (obviously no bacon) with a medly of warm mushrooms and a warm dressing (balsamic?) made in the saute pan

stuffed baby eggplants (lots of directions you can go with this: Chinese, Italian, plain bread stuffing, etc.)

mini turnovers or tarts -filled with lightly curried vegetables, or many other fillings just cut up smaller

sushi cakes can be made full size and sliced, or individual size -they can be made with your preference of vegetables and/or fish

stuffed artichokes

roasted artichoke crowns topped with lightly sauteed vegetable/leek medley and tarragon cream sauce

 

lots of great soups, don't forget cream of artichoke or cream of mushroom

 

handmade ravioli

vegetable lasagna layered with winter vegetables

 

Whatever you do, make sure to do a test batch first. Don't go in cold with a dish you've never made before!

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Nice ideas. I don't know how religious your guests are (keeping kosher is not monochromatic), but I'm guessing they're modern Orthodox and there is some leeway. (Because they're eating at your place, and I'm assuming your utensils are not kosher.) They might want to steer clear of anything that is derived from grapes. The balsamic suggestion in the above post made me think of this. I don't want to get into the details, but wine and grape derivatives have rules of their own. Speaking of which, were you planning to serve wine? Again, I don't know where these people are on the spectrum of kosher observance, but these are things you might want to consider. (New Zealand does make some very nice kosher wines.)

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The OP should run menu ideas by the guests beforehand; there are some ultra-Orthodox Jews who have problems with dairy and/or milk being served with fish.  

 

Some even eschew a bagel with lox and cream cheese.  As my grandmother would say: Oy vey!  And no, she wasn't Jewish (a strict Catholic), but came to the US from Lithuania and also spoke some Yiddish.  

 

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Rabbis-Claim-Lox-No-Longer-Kosher-86905912.html

 

http://www.jerusalemkoshernews.com/2010/10/the-lox-and-cream-cheese-dilemma/

Edited by gulfporter (log)
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That's interesting, gulfporter, never heard of that one before! I'd venture to guess that at that level of kashrut, the people wouldn't eat on his dishes/utensils at all, no matter what was served. But you're right, he should probably run some ideas by them first.

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Nobody has said anything about the kitchen itself or the utensils/pots/pans/dishes used to cook and serve the food?

 

If these folks are strict Orthodox folks observing kashrut rules in full, the OP will have some serious work to do to make his kitchen kosher even before a single food item is brought into his kitchen and cooked.  Does he have two kitchens he could use and keep them separate? He should ask these folks how strict they are on this issue too, and how relaxed they can be about keeping kosher.

 

http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm#Utensils

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/82667/jewish/Koshering-Your-Kitchen.htm

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/82672/jewish/Koshering-Appliances-and-Utensils.htm

 

ETA: Will they be eating anything else besides the fish dishes, over the course of these two days? Anything at all? :-)  Would they need the ingredients to be certified kosher and other dishes to be kosher (or at least pareve)?  ;-)

 

ETA2: Oh, wait ... cakewalk above did bring up the subject.

Edited by huiray (log)
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It's hard to know how restrictive their kosher rules are. There are some basics like no pork or shellfish and the meat and fowl needing to be killed according to the laws of Judaism to be kosher. No meat or chicken with dairy. But some even need fish to be dispatched in a way to make it kosher and fish need to have fins and scales and not be bottom feeders

It would be a good idea to ask your guests for guidance

Edited by scubadoo97 (log)
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I can't contribute to the knowledge of Jewish kosher observation, but a starter of tempura fried or grilled fin fish and vegetables might be safe and delicious. You could use mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, firm tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, or onion with either treatment, and green beans are very good tempura style.

 

If I didn't know these people well, and wasn't (I'm not) up on orthodox Jewish cooking practices, I would ask my guests, and maybe wind up taking them to a kosher deli or something. I do know that at they very least they keep separate pots, pans, utensils to separate dairy and meat. I don't think they would really appreciate eating anything from my pots, and dishes that have been used for everything from clam chowder with bacon to frying catfish. Hmmm.  :unsure:

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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................How about a little chat about ברוך שפינוזה over dinner? 

“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Thanks for all the replies! I realise now I omitted a few key details! First, I myself am Jewish and originally from NYC and even attended yeshiva for the first five years of my schooling so I know the kosher rules even though I am completely areligious. The guests are from NYC and unfortunately I am unable to communicate with them (they've booked through a travel agent). Also I have learned that one of their number is avoiding dairy, soy and wheat. They know that my kitchen is not kosher (they'd have their work cut out for them looking for kosher kitchens in NZ) and they have requested kosher (mevushal) wine for sabbath dinner (Friday) but are willing to drink non-kosher wine on Saturday night, which leads me to believe they may not be 100% kosher in the first place.

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I love tempura. However, I find that unless one eats it immediately, texture can suffer. I have never successfully made it for more than a couple of people at a time because only so much fits in my wok at one time without dropping the oil temp too much.  Unless your party plans include a cook standing at the stove while everyone else eats, I don't recommend it.

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Lisa Shock, thanks for your reply. In case it was not clear, these are paying guests at my lodge, and I will be the one standing over the stove cooking, so there is no problem with proposing a solution that requires someone manning the stove while the guests eat.

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jamesglu, I see from poking around a little (I was just curious) that you run a very nice lodge with your partner...and you both spent quite some time in China too! Up-scale food for varied guests with varied backgrounds - so that indicates that "keeping strictly kosher" is not really possible in your place, especially if you prepare standard Chinese dishes too (all that pork, for starters).**  But I'm sure you'll manage with these guests you are expecting, especially if - as you explained - you do know the rules of kashrut and suspect the guests are not rigidly kosher.

 

** Unless you went the way of Strict Halal (and certified) Chinese restaurants in Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia (which many have been abandoning over the years, from the ridiculousness and strain of "keeping halal" in a Cantonese-heavy city), or prepared Muslim-Chinese dishes...

Edited by huiray (log)
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Thanks for all the replies! I realise now I omitted a few key details! First, I myself am Jewish and originally from NYC and even attended yeshiva for the first five years of my schooling so I know the kosher rules even though I am completely areligious. The guests are from NYC and unfortunately I am unable to communicate with them (they've booked through a travel agent). Also I have learned that one of their number is avoiding dairy, soy and wheat. They know that my kitchen is not kosher (they'd have their work cut out for them looking for kosher kitchens in NZ) and they have requested kosher (mevushal) wine for sabbath dinner (Friday) but are willing to drink non-kosher wine on Saturday night, which leads me to believe they may not be 100% kosher in the first place.

Non kosher wine? All bets are off....

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This does get interesting. You're probably aware of this, but if you make tempura (or whatever) - are you going to be actively cooking for your guests on Shabbat? If so, I think it's well outside the realm of any type of Orthodoxy. (Not that there's anything wrong with that ...) Keep posting, I'd like to hear about what you decide and how it goes over.

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