Jewish Journal

A down-home way to treasure that special day

by Beverly Levitt

Posted on Mar. 8, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Grilled Artichokes Photo by Julie Siegel

Grilled Artichokes Photo by Julie Siegel

You're planning your bar mitzvah boy's big day, and all you can think of is filling the grand ballroom with a mind-boggling maze of identical round tables topped with painted blue carnation centerpieces and a breast of rubber chicken on each plate. Oh, and finding a DJ who knows how to orchestrate a hora.

Do you really want your son to have the identical shindig as the rest of his buddies, or would you like to surprise him with a reception that will model the creative, free thinker you want him to become? Consider orchestrating a Bar Mitzvah Treasure Hunt that you can host in your backyard, throughout your house or even in a hall rented for the occasion.

Greet your young guests with bunches of flowers and let them choose one which they think best describes your son. Try some stargazer lilies, honeysuckles, Sweet Williams, tiger lilies, snapdragons, windflowers, cornflowers, lilies of the valley, larkspurs, baby's breath, St. John's wart, sweet peas, birds of paradise, foxtails or snowballs. Even though they'll resist, have them tell you why they chose a particular flower. They'll be embarrassed and act silly, but that's good. It will prepare them for the pièce de résistance.

Hand each teen a piece of paper with five activities to choose from, and form teams that feature five young guests each. In order to partake in an activity, teams must find particular items hidden in the yard/house/hall. Allow an hour for this hunt so each teen will have time to participate in at least two activities.

Some suggested activities include:

  • Create a new sport and demonstrate it.
  • Paint a mural.
  • Decorate a cake.
  • Write a poem or short story.
  • Compose a song with both lyrics and melody. Suggested items to hide:
  • Sport: various sizes of balls, rackets, paddles or nets.
  • Mural: felt tip pens, paints, brushes, and aprons.
  • Cake: decorations such as sprinkles, pastry tubes and icing.
  • Poem or short story: books of poetry as models, yellow pads with lines, pens.
  • Song: pens, pads of white paper, a musical instrument.

All of the activities should honor the bar mitzvah boy. They can be funny, scary, attractive, embarrassing, or plain old congratulatory. But they must all be original and clever. Encourage teamwork and ingenuity. They don't have to be the best artist or write the best poem but they must have a good attitude and be good-hearted.

If a teen doesn't find the item for his chosen activity -- he can't find the cake decorations and he desperately wants to adorn that cake -- then it is up to him to "buy" or "trade" an item for an activity he doesn't want for one he does want. We're not talking money -- we're talking barter. If he sees a disgruntled young guest holding a pastry tube and looking confused, he can try to wrangle that tube from him by offering to trade something he has, or maybe sing a song, answer some obscure question about the Dodgers or even fetch his friend a drink of punch. Hopefully each teen will end up with his favorite activity. If not, he'll have to learn to do something new.

Choose a panel of judges to decide the winning team. They will be judged not only by what they produce, but also on their teamwork.

So they won't starve before dinner, you can scatter snacks such as raw vegetables, chips or pretzels throughout the area where the items are hidden.

Of course, their biggest prize will be this delicious dairy dinner. Beg, borrow or hire friends and relatives to help you cook, or give the recipes to a caterer and see what he or she says.

Grilled or Broiled Artichokes With Spicy Smoked Tomato Chili Mayonnaise

From Frank Ostini, winemaker and chef at the Hitching Post Restaurant and 
Winery in Buellton. 
Smoked pasilla peppers -- a mild to medium-hot pepper -- 
and tomatoes are available at specialty stores and online.

6 artichokes
1 stick butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Break off small outside leaves of artichokes. Cut off tops with a knife; 
trim the sharp points of the leaves with scissors. Soak in water, then 
rinse in cold water to remove sand. 

Steam about 25 to 35 minutes until tender, or until a bottom leaf pulls 
off easily. Allow artichokes to cool. 

Cut in half; remove choke stickers with a spoon. Grill on a barbecue or 
broil in an oven, basting with butter, oil, white wine and lemon. Season 
artichokes with salt and pepper, and quarter with a knife. 
Place artichoke pieces on a platter with dipping bowls of Spicy Smoked 
Tomato Chili Mayonnaise.

Spicy Smoked Tomato Chili Mayonnaise

4 garlic cloves
1 pound large onions, sliced thin
4 dried Pasilla peppers, halved with seeds removed 
4 dried large tomatoes, halved 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder 
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 quart homemade or commercial mayonnaise

Roast garlic and onions on a barbeque or in an oven. When cool, remove 
skins. Puree garlic and onions with the dried smoked peppers and tomatoes 
in a blender or food processor. Add spices and mix with mayonnaise.

Makes six servings.

Tossed Salad With Pears and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Recipe by Colin Cowie. Choose wild baby greens, which are sold in bulk, 
and supplement, if you wish, with curly endive, red curly leaf, red oak 
or your favorite greens. You might wish to add fresh cranberries to the 
vinaigrette jar to liven up the table, and you can also toss some fresh 
cranberries into the salad for color.

2 pounds greens 
6 winter pears, such as Bosc or Winter Nellies, sliced
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Tear large leaves into bite-sized pieces. Toss gently with vinaigrette. 
Add more as needed until each leaf is coated. Toss with pears, cheese 
and pine nuts. 

Cranberry Vinaigrette

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 tablespoons cranberry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Blend ingredients together with wooden spatula or fork. Add more vinegar 
to taste. 

Cranberry Vinegar

2 cups good white wine vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup fresh cranberries 
1 teaspoon sugar

Place vinegar, cranberries and sugar into saucepan. Bring to boil; immediately 
lower flame. Simmer three to five minutes, until fruit is tender. Cool. Pour 
into sterilized jar.

Store in cool, dark place for 10 days. Pour vinegar through strainer, removing 
cranberries. Pour gently into decorative glass jar or vinegar cruet for serving.

Makes 12-14 servings.

Citrus Pesto

Recipe by chef Ido Shapira, Cutlet Catering Company, Tel Aviv, Israel.

1 cup flat leaf parsley, stemmed
1/2 cup cilantro, stemmed
1/2 cup pine nuts
2/3 Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Grated zest from 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
1/2 cup olive oil

Prior to preparation, chill first five ingredients in refrigerator, along 
with the bowl of a food processor. Place mixture in processor; pulse just 
long enough so ingredients are thoroughly combined but not mushy. Strain 
through a chinois into a bowl so pesto remains and escaping liquid can 
be saved for another use. This pesto may be made ahead of time and kept cold i
n the refrigerator. 
Serve with your favorite pasta.
Makes eight servings.

Josephine Coppola's Tiramisu

5 whole eggs or egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1 pound mascarpone (Italian cream cheese)
2 1/2 to 3 cups strong brewed espresso
1/4 to 1/2 cup Marsala, brandy, rum or amaretto
1 1/4 cups ladyfingers (about 40 cookies)
Shaved chocolate for garnish (optional)

In a medium heatproof bowl or top of double boiler beat eggs or egg whites 
while slowly adding sugar. When egg-sugar mixture is foamy, fold in mascarpone. 
Set bowl or top of double boiler in pan with barely simmering water. 
Whisk or beat continuously until mixture reaches 160 F.
Remove bowl from pan and let cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix espresso with Marsala or other liqueur. Cover the bottom of a 10-inch 
glass pie pan or quiche dish with a layer of ladyfingers.
Drizzle coffee mixture over ladyfingers until they are soaked. Spread 
half the egg-mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers. Add another layer of ladyfingers; 
drizzle again with coffee mixture. Spread on remaining mascarpone. If desired, 
sprinkle shaved chocolate over tiramisu.
Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld. 

This should be made at least two hours ahead and can be made the day 
before, and kept for two days in the refrigerator.
Makes four servings. 
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