NEW YORK (JTA) – The Yom Kippur fast is over. You rush to a dining table laden with bagels, lox and cream cheese, plus herring with sour cream and onions, sable, noodle pudding and challah. Brewing coffee wafts throughout the house. Apple strudel and a platter of rugelach sit on the sideboard. Everything smells exquisite.
After 25 hours of fasting, who can blame you for being ravenous?
After the blessings are recited over the candles, wine and bread, you fill your plate. In the frenzy you don’t realize that you’re eating only sugar, flour, high-fat dairy products and salty fish. It’s not until later that you consider the consequences, when your stomach bloats and everyone at the table joins you in the same cry: “I ate too much!”
You’ll never do this again, you promise. But with Yom Kippur approaching, will you keep your word?
While the traditional break-fast menu consists of Jewish comfort food, something we all crave after a day of repentance and fasting, it’s a menu rife with fare that triggers overeating: salt, sweets and rich fats.
Salty fish is traditional on break-fast menus because the abundant salt in cured and smoked fish replenishes this essential mineral that has been lost during the fast. A tiny portion of lox, chubs, herring or sable goes a long way – the rest is overkill.
In the Old Country, kugels were savory and unadorned by custard and caramelized toppings. But in America, where sugar rules, they became sweet enough to qualify as dessert, although they never lost their side-dish status. With a natural affinity for cream cheese, many Jews enjoy smearing thick slabs on bagels, turning a simple sandwich into a high-calorie affair.
Between the noodles, bagels, challah and array of desserts, most of us consume enough carbohydrates in this one meal to last a week or even two. That’s not to mention the fats we ingest. Overeating often leads to tight waistbands and discomfort.
It would be wonderful to have some delicious alternatives on the break-fast table that could interrupt the impulse to gorge on enticing fare – alternatives that would be colorful, tasty and nutritious.
At the end of September, when Yom Kippur falls this year, farmer’s markets are flooded with a bumper crop of produce: tomatoes, carrots, zucchinis, parsnips, apples, plums and grapes. For those hosting a break-fast meal, why not make use of this vibrant cornucopia when planning your menu?
For those invited as a guest, volunteer to bring a healthy side dish or fruit-filled dessert.
Gravitate toward recipes such as the ones below, which not only are nourishing but compatible with bagels and lox. These recipes circumvent sugar, flour, fat and appreciable amounts of salt. They can be prepared one to three days in advance, making life easier for hosts when fulfilling the edict against working on the Day of Atonement.
Soothing Vegetable Soup is a light appetizer that sets the tone for the rest of the meal. It’s brimming with simmered vegetables, which are kind to empty stomachs. A nourishing broth also takes the edge off ferocious appetites. It’s wise to consume fluids after fasting, so soup is doubly healthy.
Heirloom Tomato and Roasted Onion Salad is succulent and refreshing. With a high water content, tomatoes quench thirst and abound in Vitamin C. Roasted onions are less likely to cause heartburn than the raw onions often paired with smoked fish.
Suddenly trendy, Heirloom Tomatoes come from seed varieties that usually pre-date World War II, when hybrid seeds, producing less tasty crops, became common. Varying from red-orange to green, yellow and even purple, these gorgeous tomatoes come in many sizes and shapes.
Full of dietary fiber, cauliflower is a surprising base for a salad. With its wholesome crunch, Cauliflower Salad exudes visual appeal in a rainbow of contrasting colors.
For those seeking a fat-free dessert, Autumn Fruit Compote is a medley of dried apricots and fresh seasonal fruit that has been simmered in an elixir of jasmine tea. Far perkier than stewed prunes, this elegant compote compliments any pastry.
With the Day of Atonement falling on Shabbat this year, Yom Kippur will be more solemn than usual. As you leave synagogue after a day of prayer and contemplation, you will seek a peaceful meal among family and friends. You don’t want hunger to lead to gluttony, one of the sins for which you’ve just asked forgiveness during services.
Augmenting bagels, lox and kugels, seasonal produce is tempting but unlikely to lead to excess. When was the last time you heard of anyone binging on salads and compotes?
More than Jewish comfort food, an array of vegetables and fruit is in keeping with the spirit of this sacred holiday.
The following recipes are by Linda Morel.
SOOTHING VEGETABLE SOUP
12 cups or two 48-ounce cans of vegetable broth
1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 pound string beans, rinsed and cut into 1-inch long pieces
1 large zucchini, cleaned well
1 parsnip, peeled
5 carrots, peeled
5 celery stalks, peeled
1/4 cup dill fronds, chopped
1/4 cup flat parsley leaves, chopped
Salt to taste (canned broth often contains sodium, so use salt sparingly)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Place vegetable broth in a large stock pot.
Pull off artichoke leaves by hand. Cut out fuzzy center of heart and discard. Cut heart into 4 to 6 pieces.
Cut zucchini, parsnip, carrots, and celery into a large dice.
From leeks, remove coarse outer leaves. Cut off dark green ends. Discard both. Cut leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse under running water, until all dirt is removed. Cut into 1/2-inch slices.
Into stockpot, place all ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, until vegetables soften and wilt. Check seasoning and adjust.
Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days before serving. Recipe freezes well. Reheat before serving. Yield: 12 servings.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND ROASTED ONION SALAD
2 tablespoons butter
4 large onions (about 1 pound each)
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, or more if needed during roasting
4 pounds heirloom tomatoes or any good slicing tomato, cleaned and cored
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Coat two 10-by-15-inch ovenproof pans with butter.
Peel skin from onion. With a sharp knife, cut into thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick. Evenly cut slices brown at the same rate.
Gently separate the rings of each slice into circles. Place onion circles in prepared pans. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil (1/4 cup per pan). With a wooden or plastic spoon, gently stir onions to coat them.
Turn circles every 15 minutes, so they don’t burn. Add more oil, if needed. Roast for 90 minutes, or until circles brown. They will shrink significantly. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Recipe can be prepared to this point 3 days in advance. Store in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Right before serving, slice tomatoes and place on an attractive platter. Drizzle with vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Blanket roasted onions on top of tomatoes. Yield: 10-12 servings.
1 large cauliflower, rinsed
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup dill fronds, minced
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, or any pitted black olive
1 small red onion, peeled, thinly sliced, and separated into rings
Break florets into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.
Scrape carrots and rinse. Wash the scraper, and scrape clean carrots over mixing bowl, making dozens of string-like strips. Continue scraping until only a thin, flexible piece of carrot remains, which you can eat or discard.
Place remaining ingredients in bowl and toss until well incorporated. Add more oil and vinegar, if salad is too dry.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Wait at least one day before serving. Can be made 2 days in advance. Yield: 12 servings.
AUTUMN FRUIT COMPOTE
2 1/2 cups water
2 jasmine teabags
2 teaspoons honey
3 firm apples, such as Cortland, Rome, or Gala
3 firm pears, such as Comice, Forelle, or D’Anjou
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2-inch length knob of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
3 pieces of clove
20 dried apricots, cut in half
3/4 pound seedless red grapes, rinsed (red grapes add richer color than green)
Pour water into a medium-sized pot. Add tea bags and honey. Boil for 3 minutes. Turn off flame. Remove and discard tea bags with a slotted spoon; don’t squeeze them. Let tea cool while cutting fruit.
Peel and cut apples and pears into 3/4-inch dice.
To tea in pot, add apples, pears, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Cover pot and return to a boil for 10 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, add grapes and apricots, being careful not to burn your hand. Cover pot and wait for compote to cool to room temperature.
Discard cinnamon stick, ginger and cloves. Place compote into an attractive bowl, preferably crystal. Can be served immediately or covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Serve cold or at room temperature.