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Taco Bar

Nechama Finkelstein,
Lakewood, NJ


“Just Us” Shabbos Menu

Unlike me, my husband and kids never get tired of having the same foods, and they eat them with the same excitement every single week. We have potato kugel, apple crisp, deli salad — always the same exact recipes, and they always fight over them! So I stick to tried and true, because if I try anything new, my kids will complain about it!

4 Things I Love to Serve to Guests

A lot of variety and options! I always have an assortment of drinks so there’s something for everyone. It’s the same with meat and chicken. Some people like healthy and some don’t, so I try to have a variety of everything. If I have leftovers, I used to feel bad about the waste, but now I’ve adjusted my thinking to If there are leftovers, that means there was enough for people to have seconds, and I consider it a success.

Plenty of dips — dips and challah are a whole course. I make fresh chummus platters with mushrooms or chopped meat. Sometimes I’ll do marinated salads and vegetables. I also like to serve a nice fish platter — I’ll do tuna steak with dipping sauce, and sea bass and salmon cubes on skewers.

I enjoy serving sangria. People enjoy it; it’s fun, pretty, and light and refreshing.

For Shabbos day, I always do meat boards. It’s fun to put everything on a board with a selection of meats and deli. Even if I’m just serving chicken, chicken nuggets, and franks ’n’ blanks, I’ll still throw it onto a board.

How Do You Challah?

The Cookie Corner is down the block from me, so I flip back and forth between “Let’s get their challah or sourdough” and “Oh my gosh, homemade challah is so delicious.” Sometimes I’ll make homemade challah if I’m having company, and then I get overwhelmed and I start buying again!

My Approach to Cooking

I love being creative in my cooking and to present things artistically. I’ll often mix and match, adding a topping from one recipe to a different one. By combining a few different ideas, I can make something “wow” instead of just a good recipe.

I also like different spices and exotic foods, and I’m always game to try new tastes. When I go to a restaurant, I’ll try the weirdest dishes on the menu just to find that one special dish. I like to replicate restaurant dishes, like meat pizzas or pulled beef gnocchi, for my guests.


Even if I set my table with plastic dishes, I use really pretty plastic and then add real stemware and flatware, and the table looks so dressed up. Makes the cleanup a breeze.

Set My Table

I started making my own resin trays, which are in style now. They’re actually really easy to make. I’ve made a bunch of different ones, and I can set up different serving pieces and trays on my table.

Vikko Décor White Wine Glasses from

Firenze Luxury Flatware Set from


Amazon has a lot of inexpensive tablecloths. I like to buy them there.


Taco Bar

This is always a favorite with company. It’s fun to eat, has a beautiful presentation, and there’s enough variety to please everyone.

  • skirt steak, chopped meat, and grilled chicken
  • soft flour tortillas
  • crunchy corn tortilla shells
  • lettuce, cut into thin strips
  • tomatoes, diced small
  • pickled red onions
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • refried beans (I use canned from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1–2 avocados, mashed
  • 3–4 splashes soy sauce
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise

For the meat and chicken: Soak the skirt steak in water, then marinate it in oil and teriyaki sauce or Mikee’s Garlic Stir-Fry and Rib Sauce. (Skirt steak is so flavorful that you can just fry it alone too.) Cook the chopped meat with a taco seasoning spice packet, water, and a little honey or brown sugar. (I like to use the taco recipe from Peas Love & Carrots.) Use your favorite grilled chicken recipe or spice mix. (I’ve started using Rivky Kleiman’s new line of spices, and it’s great!)

To serve: Mix the guacamole ingredients in a bowl. Slice the steak and chicken into thin strips.

Arrange everything on a large wooden tray, with wooden bowls for the guacamole, pickled onions, mushrooms, and beans, and make it look beautiful!


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 771)

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