Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are holidays we look forward to with a passion; a food passion that is! Weeks ahead of time we're planning our menus and stocking up on ingredients. This time of year the weather isn’t too hot and we're able to sit on the porch or take a walk with the family. Meeting up with neighbors and friends as we walk around the neighborhood, we enjoy the special mood of the day. As every important occasion warrants, the conversations turn from "Good Yomtov " to "So, what's for break-fast?"
While we don't do too much traditional Jewish cooking at Abigael's, come the holidays it's always a treat for us to delve into our history and cook our favorite family heritage recipes. Together we incorporate dishes from our mixed backgrounds and have an array of delicacies that satisfy the edible needs of the holiday, as well as our fond memories of holidays past.
But what of other families? Other cultures? What do Jews outside of the New York area break their fasts on? While visiting with friends and family near and far this summer, we took a quick and super informal survey of what will be on this year's break-the-fast menu.
Recently we spent time in France, and learned that most Jews will stick to their light break-fast dining with croissants or tartines, spread with home-made jam and farm fresh cheeses along with bowls of cafe au lait. Good friends living in Italy will dine on chilled pasta in lemon sauce and stewed vegetables. Our Sephardic relatives will include baked fish in herbed tomato broth and spinach quijatas. And even more friends in Israel will have marinated fish, labane and vegetable salad. Here in the North East most of us will be having an array of smoked, pickled and marinated fishes, kugels, and of course bagels, challah and sweet coffee cakes. Rounded out with an assortment of salads and vegetables, our hunger pangs will soon be forgotten!
After the fast, it is important to fill up on foods with a high salt content to replenish the body’s nutrients. In my first cookbook, Adventures in Jewish Cooking, the menu offered for the break- fast includes a kugel, and a smoked salmon cheesecake (you won’t turn your back on this recipe). Though I look forward to that first cup of Joe all day, it's also important to have plenty of juices to re-hydrate.
Here’s a hint that will make this breaking of the fast better than years’ past – prepare your platters in advance. Have all of your main foods plus the containers of cream cheese, jars of pickles and olives, sliced tomatoes and onions in the fridge on serving trays. All the food should be prepared for immediate eating. Let’s face it, after 24+ hours of fasting, you and your guests shouldn’t have to wait for the meal to be put together. Additionally, prepare for the breaking of the fast by setting the table. When you walk through the front door after Neila, the only thing you’ll need to do is take prepared platters out of the 'fridge, remove the plastic wrap, and put them in the center of your pre-set table. Take my advice; as a professional chef and as a fellow irritable faster – prepare your meal to the utmost!
Enjoy this recipe that I’ll be sharing with my family as well. I wish you and your family a good year.