On the occasion of my son's Bris I asked my rabbi: "How much should I spend? On one hand, it's a special joyous occasion, but on the other hand, we want to keep it modest and there is not a surplus of money to spend." The rabbi said, "Spend until you feel it, not until it hurts you." And that has been the guideline for all our joyous occasions.

Sometimes almost any expense can hurt. A friend of mine recently called and asked for help making a Bar Mitzvah. I wasn't able to cater the affair but I offered this: We'll put together the menu and make the shopping list. You buy all the stuff and have it ready in your house a day before the Bar Mitzvah. Get a lot of pots and pans ready and refrigerator space. I'll bring several copies of the recipes. Invite a lot of your friends; tell them to bring knifes, cutting boards and aprons; we'll have a party making a party.

Everyone was excited and happy to help -- and we had a blast doing it.
Here's the menu:

SALADS

Haitian Coleslaw
Judy's Peppers
My Favorite Spinach
Greek Salad with Walnuts

SIDE DISHES

Asian Noodle Salad
Parsley Potatoes

MAIN DISHES

Barbecue Salmon
Horseradish Fried Perch

Contributions from Generation Neighbors 

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Haitian Coleslaw

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsps. vinegar
  • 2 tbsps. mustard
  • 2 tbsps. fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 hot peppers, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. coriander seed
  • 8 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded carrots

 

Mix all ingredients except for the cabbage and carrots. Then add cabbage and carrots. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold. 

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My Favorite Spinach or Beet Greens

This one has no exact measurements -- improvise!

  • a bunch of spinach or beet greens
  • a dollop of mustard
  • a spill of oil
  • a throw of sugar
  • a splash of soy sauce

 Steam spinach or beet greens. Squeeze out the liquid and chop. Add all of the ingredients. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot or cold. 

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Judy's Peppers

Improvise here too.

  • Several red peppers
  • Yellow peppers
  • Green peppers
  • Orange peppers

 Fry or roast the peppers, let them cool and cut into finger-length pieces. Marinate with fresh or dry rosemary, coarse pepper and garlic (any form), fresh basil, chopped olive oil (or any vegetable oil), sugar and vinegar.

Let marinate a few hours or a day. Serve cold. 

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Greek Salad (Dairy)

  • 10 ozs. mixed salad greens
  • 1 cup olives
  • 3 tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 8 ozs. of Feta cheese, cubed

 Toss all ingredients. (Leave olives on the side for optional use.)

DRESSING:

1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Blend and toss with salad. 

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Elegant Parsley Potatoes

  • 700 gr. tiny potatoes
  • 2 tbsps. margarine or oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsps. chopped parsley
  • (Optional) 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. cilantro

 Steam or boil potatoes, cover pot tightly over high heat for about 20 minutes or until tender. Mix melted margarine or oil with salt and pepper to taste, along with ½ of the parsley (cilantro, oregano). When potatoes are done, transfer to a large serving bowl. Toss lightly with parsley mixture, sprinkle salt and pepper as needed. Serve and decorate with remaining parsley. 

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Barbecue Salmon

  • 1 filet of salmon or any fleshy fish
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark red wine (rum)
  • 1/2 tbsp. mexican chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. canned pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander

 Saute onions and garlic. Combine all ingredients and then add to onions. Simmer five minutes. Pour over fish, marinate 1/2 hour-overnight. Cook 20 minutes in a hot oven. 

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Asian Noodle Salad

  • 8 ozs. of any best leftover pasta
  • 4 tsps. oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup matchstick-size strips peeled zucchini
  • 1 cup (packed) spinach leaves or beet greens (about 1 oz.,) thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsps. thick teriyaki marinade
  • 3 tbsps. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsps. sugar
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic

 Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain; rinse with cold water and drain well. Place pasta in a large bowl; add 1 tsp. oil and toss to blend. Add carrot, bell pepper, zucchini and spinach to bowl.

Whisk next 4 ingredients and remaining 3 tsps. oil in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Add dressing to salad and toss to combine.

Divide among bowls and serve.

Makes 4 servings. 

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Horseradish-Crusted Nile Perch

  • 2" piece of fresh horseradish, grated
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • seasoned flour (2/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper)
  • 2 fillets Nile perch, 7 ozs. each
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • oil for cooking

 Peel the horseradish and grate it on the coarse side of a grater. Turn the grated horseradish into one of the flat dishes with the crumbs and mix in the herbs. Whisk the water and eggs together and pour into a second dish. Spread the seasoned flour in the last dish.

Prepare to coat the side of the fillet where the bone was. Season this side of each fillet with salt and pepper. Dredge this top side only in the flour, shaking off the excess; coat the same side with the egg-milk mixture, and finally drop into the crumb mixture, pressing firmly to make sure the coating adheres. Set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until cooking time.

Cook the fish about 7 minutes. Heat 1/2 inch of oil to 350°F. Place the fish fillets crust-side down in hot oil, cook slowly until golden, turn and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. To check if the fish is done, cut a piece -- the flesh should be translucent.