Throwing a barbecue for 200 people has become a breeze for Susan and Leonard Lodish, and Bob and Gloria Spitz, all of Wynnewood.
Susan explains that "it didn't start out this way – originally, it was a backyard barbecue for 20 to give overseas students a taste of America." The students had come to the states to work on the Wharton Global Consulting Program, headed by Leonard Lodish.
Gloria recalls that the event "started more than 20 years ago, and it was always on Mother's Day – so much for a day of rest." Everything was made from scratch – a real accomplishment with six youngsters running around. Lettuce was bought by the crate for a Caesar salad, along with vegetables, rice and pasta salads. Cheesecake and other desserts were prepared ahead and refrigerated in their two large refrigerators.
The program, which began in Israel, quickly expanded to other countries – Chile, Columbia, Peru and India. More and more students arrived in Philadelphia. "But we wanted to keep the personal touch, " Susan says "and that's how we got to 200."
Her philosophy? "Keep it simple. Buy whatever is on sale, and plan your menu around it."
Gloria's golden rule for large-scale catering? "Start off with a recipe for 10, then multiply for the number needed, and subtract a little." (The two families who share a home are accustomed to cooking for 10.) Note that this rule does not apply to baked goods.
One of Susan's favorite salads is made up of bags of shredded lettuce, poured into bowls and tossed with canned mandarin oranges, dried cranberries or cherries, almonds or sunflower seeds, and a bottled fruity dressing, such as raspberry vinaigrette. Toss right before guests arrive or while they're nibbling appetizers.
For another super simple salad, bags of shredded red cabbage are tossed with bottled, zesty Italian dressing. And, of course, there's always a pasta salad, one of the few items that's actually cooked. It may be macaroni tossed with ready-cut sliced peppers or thawed frozen vegetable medley and a vinaigrette dressing. Other pastas, such as linguini, are simply mixed with large jars of tapenade, pesto or bruschetta topping. The result? A pasta dish sparkling with instant flavor.
But the real star of the barbecue is Leonard's smoked salmon. The Lodishes discovered the smoking method from a Texas friend. "He demonstrated using a regular grill," Leonard says, "but we eventually bought a smoker. Now, we have four – all needed to cook 100 pounds of salmon to feed 200 guests."
A local supermarket supplies the center cuts of salmon, which ensures that the fish cooks evenly. Each cut, with skin, is four to five pounds. Seasoning is simple – only a bit of olive oil rubbed in.
"The real flavor," according to Leonard, "comes from the wood smoke." He uses hickory, mesquite, alder, or whatever is available. Before use, the chips and chunks are soaked in a mixture of water and wine.
The smokers are readied, and the salmon pieces placed on the racks. The salmon is ready when a thermometer registers 160 degrees, or when flakes are opaque when separated with a sharp knife at the thickest part of the fish.
No smoker? No problem!
Use your grill. Turn on half the grill and maintain heat at no more than 210 to 220 degrees. Place the metal box of dampened wood chips on top. The salmon goes on the unlit part of the grill. Allow three to four hours to cook, depending on thickness. Test as above.
Desserts are pre-purchased, but the biggest hits are a sheet cake personalized in honor of the students, coupled with an ice-cream sundae bar. Tubs of ice-cream are set in bowls of ice, an enormous variety of sauces and toppings are set out, and guests are invited to help themselves.
"It goes so fast, the ice cream doesn't even begin to melt," declares Susan.
The same guidelines apply, whether you're entertaining for 20 or 200. Buy as much as possible precut, prepared and store-bought. For mixing purposes, bring out your rarely used stockpot or two of your largest bowls. Big plastic bowls to mix and serve can often be found at dollar stores or at party-supply stores.
The recipes below may be multiplied or divided as needed:
Susan's Fruited Romaine Salad (Pareve)
6 bags (16 oz. each) cut-up romaine
3 cups dried cranberries
6 cans (16 oz. each) mandarin oranges, drained
2 1/2 cups sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
3-4 cups raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing
In a large pot or bowl, place the romaine, cranberries, oranges, sunflower seeds and almonds. Pour 3 cups dressing over and toss to mix.
Add a little more dressing, if needed. Serve immediately.
Note: A couple splashes of mandarin-orange juice may be added to the vinaigrette dressing.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 171; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 13 g; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 97 mg.
Orzo Vegetable Salad With Feta Cheese (Dairy)
Orzo is tiny, rice-shaped pasta. It's a nice substitute for other pastas or rice.
4 lbs. orzo
8 bags (10 oz. each) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
3-4 cups Vidalia-onion salad dressing
1 1/2 lbs. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well.
Place in one or two large containers. Add the thawed mixed vegetables. Toss gently to mix.
Pour enough salad dressing over to moisten. Top with feta cheese, and garnish with sliced scallions.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 287; protein, 8 g; carbohydrates, 36 g; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 25 mg; sodium, 181 mg.
Curried Couscous (Pareve)
8 packages (10 oz. each) couscous
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp., curry powder or to taste
4 cups mango salsa
3 cups peanuts, coarsely chopped
3 cups raisins
2 cups finely snipped cilantro
2-3 cups olive-oil vinaigrette
Cook couscous according to package directions. Place in a large pot or bowl.
Stir in the curry powder, salsa, peanuts, raisins and cilantro. Add enough vinaigrette to just moisten.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 268; protein, 9 g; carbohydrates, 46 g; fat, 6 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 176 mg.
Cumin-Scented Lentil Salad (Pareve)
4 lbs. dried lentils
3 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas, drained
3 large sweet onions, finely chopped
4 cups dried currants
6 Tbsps. brown sugar, packed
6 Tbsps. ground cumin or to taste
4-5 cups honey-Dijon salad dressing
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups chopped Italian parsley
Rinse lentils in cold water. Cook according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain well.
Stir in the chickpeas, onion, currants, brown sugar and cumin to taste. Pour enough salad dressing over to moisten. Mix gently.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle parsley over top.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 256; protein, 12 g; carbohydrates, 37 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 157 mg.
Rice Tabbouleh (Pareve)
Pesto may be substituted for bruschetta topping, which would then make this salad dairy.
3 packages (32 oz. each) long-grain rice
1 jar (32 oz.) bruschetta topping
3 medium cucumbers, seeded and cut into chunks
2 bunches scallions, cut up
3 cups mint leaves, packed
3 cups parsley sprigs, packed
3-4 cups balsamic vinaigrette
salt and pepper to taste
Cook rice according to package directions. Drain well. Place in large container.
Stir in bruschetta topping. Set aside.
Place cucumbers in the food processor. Pulse to chop coarsely. Add to the rice.
Place the scallions, mint and parsley sprigs and chop coarsely. Add to the rice mixture. Stir gently to mix.
Add enough balsamic vinaigrette to moisten. Stir to mix.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 320; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 48 g; fat, 12 g; cholesterol, 2 mg; sodium, 147 mg.
Asian Cabbage Salad (Pareve)
5 bags (16 oz. each) shredded cabbage
4 packages (10 oz. each) frozen corn, thawed
4 packages (10 oz. each) sugar snap peas, thawed
2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cups sesame seeds, toasted
3 bunches radishes, thinly sliced
4-5 cups Oriental salad dressing
4 cups crispy Chinese noodles
In a large container, toss together the shredded cabbage, corn, sugar snap peas, scallions, almonds, sesame seeds and radishes.
Pour on dressing; mix gently.
Top with Chinese noodles.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 193; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 17 g; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 204 mg. u
Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. "Mackerel at Midnight" is her latest book. Reach her at: www.kosherfoodconsultants.com.