Being a good host is all about sensitivity to your guests’ dietary restrictions and serving food that they can eat safely. So, when you have Jewish guests visiting, we recommend taking the time to research their kosher food habits.
Besides, nothing shows more warmth and care for your guests on the dining table than making sure they’re comforted by the food being served!
Serving kosher meals starts with shopping for certified foods and serving them with a keen respect for kosher laws. If you aren’t quite sure about the groceries to buy, check with your guests.
They’ll appreciate your making an effort to ensure they are comfortable in your home. Moreover, you will get insights into the rules followed by their particular community.
Understand the Basics of Kosher Food
Now that you’re getting ready to cook a kosher meal, let's start by understanding basic kosher rules and terms.
Dairy Products or Milchig
Dairy products include milk, cheese, butter, and yoghurt. They should be sourced from kosher animals and processed in a facility that follows kosher norms.
Jewish customs dictate that dairy and meat products cannot be eaten together at a single meal. But, you can combine Pareve foods with dairy and meat. These include fish, eggs, and any plant-based foods.
Foods like shellfish, pork, and other foods extracted from pigs are not permitted. You should also check food labels for ingredients with a mix of dairy and meat products. That would be non-kosher.
Meat Products of Fleishig
Kosher meats are taken from animals that have split hooves and chew their cud. Cows, sheep, goats, poultry, and chickens are kosher, but they should be slaughtered and processed following kosher laws.
Shop for Kosher Foods After Checking Labels
When checking supermarket aisles, you can safely assume that aside from meat and seafood, more than 80 percent of the food is certified as kosher-safe. Check the labels on the packaging for hechshers or symbols of Kosher certification agencies indicating the product is safe, such as Kof K Kosher Certification, Star-K Kosher Certification, and Triangle K Kosher Certification.
You’ll also also want to pick foods that you can serve cold without cooking. These include bread, deli meat, cheese, baked items, crackers, and fruit. Raw nuts are typically acceptable as kashrut or kosher safe.
Salads like cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, baby carrots, and most vegetables are also kosher. Though, you would want to avoid farm produce that is prone to insect infestation. Tea and coffee are kosher, as are fruit juices, so you can safely serve them. To be absolutely certain that the food you’re serving complies with your guests’ dietary restrictions, order a couple of kosher gift baskets and serve.
Or, if you aren’t confident about preparing kosher meals, order takeout from a certified restaurant. You could talk to your guests about the place where you’ll order the food. They’ll let you know if the food is kosher.
Segregate the Kosher and Non-Kosher Foods
Keep in mind that even if you’ve purchased and prepped kosher food, mixing it with non-kosher foods makes the entire meal non-kosher. Make sure to segregate the food carefully.
Better yet, invite your guests to the kitchen so they can direct you on the precautions to take. An experienced eye will catch an error like adding dairy-containing mayonnaise to a meat sandwich.
Separate the Utensils
A critical rule about kosher meals is that you can’t use the same utensils for cooking and prepping non-kosher meals and foods.
Don’t open food packages until you check with your guests about the utensils they can use. Ask beforehand if they can use the plates and cutlery in your kitchen. If not, purchase disposable products.
Also, buy a new knife, chopping and cutting mats, and a couple of fresh sponges to wash down surfaces. Each time you open a package, turn out the food into the disposable plates or check if your guests would like to eat directly from the trays the food came in.
Never Combine Meat and Dairy Products
As mentioned above, kosher laws dictate that dairy and meat products cannot be served at a single meal. In other words, you cannot have both food groups in your digestive system at a given time.
When planning meals, you could choose to serve meat and poultry cooked with vegetable oils served with sides of salads and fish.
However, some Jewish communities may have restrictions on the raw vegetables they can eat. So, again, check with your guests for their preferences.
Another simple rule of thumb is to restrict dairy products to breakfast when you can serve eggs with breads, bagels, cream cheese, and butter.
You Can Safely Pick Vegan Products
Picking vegan ingredients would be a great choice since such foods would have no animal-based content. Consider using coconut oil and olive oil for cooking instead of butter and cream.
If you absolutely must add milk, considering substituting coconut or almond milk. Replace cream with coconut cream or mashed avocados.
As for bread and desserts, ordering Passover gifts and trays from a certified caterer is another great option. These holiday treats are great year-round. You can also safely serve cookies, brownies, puddings, and pie.
As for kosher dishes, try your hand at making Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Try dishes like Israeli Bean Soup, Pearl Couscous, Moroccan Carrot Salad, Hummus served with pita, Chicken Shawarma, and Mujadara.
You’ll likely find a whole bunch of recipes made almost entirely with vegan options or ingredients that can be easily substituted with plant products. You can also look into gluten-free meat substitutes to make your regular dishes vegan and kosher friendly!
Welcome Suggestions and Offers to Bring Food
Let your guests know that you’re open to suggestions for dishes that are kosher and suit their needs. They will be happy to help and if they offer to bring over a plate or some sides, take it up readily.
You’ll enjoy learning about new and unusual food habits and ideologies. Dinner time conversations will likely centre around food cultures and how they evolved. And, that’s a delightful way to spend the evening.
Entertaining guests with kosher dietary restrictions may seem challenging. But, with a bit of research and lots of suggestions from your guests, you can look forward to a fun evening sampling an entirely new food culture.
Next, check out our guide on how to prepare the best seafood platter for dinner parties!