This article is for anyone planning a bar or bat mitzvah reception who has grown weary of dinners that recycle the same selections of hors d’oeuvres, entrees and desserts.
And it’s for those who may not want to spend a lot of money on expensive catering.
And for those who would like to capture unexplored Jewish traditions through their bar or bat mitzvah feast.
If you fall into any of those categories, you might want to consider turning to dishes served by Jews around the world.
Foods like falafel, shwarma and baba ghanouj have become fairly commonplace in the United States, but there are plenty of lesser-known ethnic dishes that guests will find both enticing and unexpected.
Krupnik: Not to be confused with the sweet vodka, krupnik is a Polish/Eastern European barley and vegetable soup, generally containing mushrooms, potatoes, carrots and sour cream. It’s easy to prepare and would make a fine starter.
Tarato: An easy-to-prepare yogurt soup from Bulgaria, tarato is served cold and generally contains cucumber and crushed nuts.
Dandelion soup: Dandelions, chickpeas, beans, beef, sausage, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes and croutons go into this soup. It’s a Sephardic springtime recipe found in many Mediterranean regions.
Chreime: Often served on the holidays, chreime is a North African spicy tomato stew made from grouper, sea bass, amberjack or another white-fleshed fish. It is generally seasoned with garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, caraway and lemon, and sometimes cumin.
Keftes de espinaca: Literally, spinach patties. This is a Sephardic recipe of spinach wrapped with onions and garlic and fried, often flavored with nutmeg and served with lemon wedges.
Sarmi: An Armenian dish, sarmi is a form of stuffed grape leaves, often containing onions and rice, sometimes raisins or garlic, and is typically served with yogurt or sour cream.
Carciofi alla giudia: Italian for Jewish-style artichokes, carciofi alla guidia is an easy Sephardic recipe for fried artichokes.
Vorschmack: An Eastern European Jewish minced meat dish, largely native to Finland, vorschmack is a salted medley of lamb, beef, herring and sometimes anchovies, seasoned with onion and garlic. Traditionally it is served with baked potatoes, sour cream and — for adults only! — a full shot of vodka.
Murg Makalla: An Indian dish also known as Calcutta Jewish chicken roast, murg makalla is highly spiced, using bay leaves, red chilies, cloves, pepper, coriander and cumin seeds, turmeric and lime. Served with potatoes, the dish would make a fine main entree at a reception for those with a more adventuresome palate.
Varenyky: Similar to pierogies, varenyky are Ukrainian dumplings stuffed with cheese, potatoes, cabbage or meat. Varenyky and its numerous forms are found throughout Eastern Europe and, like pierogies, are often served with onions and sour cream.
Sabich: A simple Middle Eastern entree popular with Iraqi Jews, sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs and sometimes hummus and/or tahini.
Baluk Plakki: A seafood course native to Turkey, baluk plakki is made from a firm-fleshed fish, then cooked with onions and tomatoes, parsley and sometimes lemon wedges.
Shakshouka: Very popular in Israel, shakshouka is a Sephardic dish containing eggs in tomato sauce, frequently with sauteed onions and other fresh chopped vegetables. Some variants include garlic or paprika for flavoring.
Malawach: A Yemenite dessert, now popular in Israel, malawach is fried bread, similar to crepes, and likewise can be served with any number of toppings or fillings.
Mandelbrodt: A hard and crispy Eastern European dessert, mandelbrodt means “almond bread,” and is very similar to biscotti.
Boyos: Although this dessert requires more effort, particularly in the handling of the dough, this Sephardic pastry can take on many shapes and fillings. Depending on the origin of the recipe, it may be a cheese-filled pinwheel pastry, or it can be prepared as a strudel with potato and eggplant.
Brasadel: Sure to be popular among bar or bat mitzvah guests, brasadel are Jewish coffee cakes, often topped with walnuts or raisins.