With the summer upon us, it makes sense to have meals that don’t demand hours in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove. A lot of people think salad is not substantial enough for dinner, but if you provide a lot of “goodies” as I call them (items that aren’t categorized as strictly salad greens, e.g. cheeses, pickled items, cold cuts, nuts, dried fruits, etc.) you can make a very substantial salad that will satisfy most guests. A salad bar is great for Shabbat dinner or lunch, as most items can be prepared ahead of time. Here are some things to think about for hosting your own Shabbat salad bar.
Here are a few things to remember when hosting a salad bar buffet.
- Stick to Dairy or Meat. Even though theoretically, a salad bar allows you to have your guests choose which meal they want, the clean-up will be easier if you don’t have to figure out who ate what and which sink it goes into. I prefer a dairy salad bar, but if you have serious carnivores that would want cold cuts, go for meat.
- Group where it makes sense. You don’t necessarily have to place everything in separate bowls like a restaurant does. This would create an immense clean up job at the end of the dinner. Instead, you can group like items together on a single platter, as shown below. This also will make a more beautiful display of choices.
- Have pre-prepared salads if you want to. Pre-done salads are nice to offer but don’t have so many that it defeats the ease of preparation. Whether to include a pre-prepared salad, like slaw or tabouleh, is completely up to you and how much prep you feel like doing.
- Cook if you want to. There is no law that says everything on a salad is raw. You can have grilled vegetables or meat on your buffet. Both are very filling and contribute to a substantial salad. Grilled items can be cooked a couple of days ahead of time too.
5. Don’t forget the serving utensils. When you have items group together, one serving utensil can serve the entire platter, but remember that platter or serving vessel should have their own serving utensil.
6. Organize for flow. I serve buffet style all the time and I’m lucky because I have a dinette in the kitchen that serves as the buffet table while we dine in the dining room. That said, plan out where the buffet items will be and where the guests will actually sit and eat. When you set out items on the salad bar buffet, plan for how people should move through it, one side to another. Have plates and cutlery up front, then base salad greens (lettuce, kale, etc.), then middle layer items (cucumbers, tomatoes, pre-prepared salads, goodies), then sprinkled items (raisins, croutons), and last the dressings. Not planning the flow means people will take longer getting their salads together.
7. Plan for size. The more people you have, the more items you should have on the salad bar. If you are wondering whether you have too much, you probably do.
And to get you off to a roaring start, here is a downloadable shopping list you can use to make sure you have everything for salad bar Shabbat success! Download the PDF here.
A salad bar is really one of the easiest meals to host and frees you from a hot kitchen in the hot months of summer. Impossible to “ruin”, a salad bar also allows guests to have exactly what they want to eat and how much. Have you ever hosted a salad bar buffet? What are your top tips?