The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins this year on Sunday evening (September 25), is a solemn 25-hour period of fasting and atonement.
But when it’s over, the fast turns into a feast.
The spread at a “quick break” meeting (not to be confused with breakfast) traditionally consists of pre-prepared foods, served either at room temperature or reheated just before serving. Observant Jews don’t cook on Yom Kippur, and even if you’re less observant, it’s quite difficult to stand in the kitchen cooking while you fast.
BAGELS, LOX, FIXINGS
Perhaps the most common foods used to break the fast are bagels and lox (or lox) with all the fixings. These typically involve dairy and fish dishes, such as smoked fish, whitefish salad, flavored cream cheeses (“schmears” or “shmears”), pickled herring, capers and cucumber salad.
The breakfast meal is usually meat-free, as meat and dairy do not mix in kosher foods.
I always include a noodle kugel on my fast food menu, another traditional offering that can be made in advance and reheated (or served chilled, whichever you prefer). This, along with egg salad, make substantial vegetarian options for non-fish eaters.
Jake Cohen, author of the just-released “I Could Nosh: Jew-ish Recipes Revamped for Everyday” (Harper Collins), adheres primarily to traditional breakfast foods but has strong opinions on the components. Quality matters, he says, and he spends time researching the best bagels, the best smoked fish, and more.
“It’s like the difference between a charcuterie board from a high-end cheese shop and one from a grocery store,” he says.
Cohen is particular about his bagels. Since bagels are usually purchased the day before the fast, they are never at their freshest. Cohen compensates by keeping them whole, placing them on a rack on a baking sheet and heating them for 5 to 7 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. This warms them up and crisps the outer crust, bringing them as close to doneness as possible.
Slice them right out of the oven, he says, and “you get a short window of memories of a fresh bagel.”
Joe Ariel is the founder and CEO of Goldbelly, an online company that ships food from restaurants, delis, bakeries, and more. Across the country.
“It’s a busy time for many of our most iconic bagel shops and bakeries in New York, like Ess-a-Bagels, Russ & Daughters, Babkas Breads Bakery, Kossar’s Bialys, Junior’s Cheesecakes, Yonah Schimmel’s knishes, and much more,” says Ariel. This year, Goldbelly also begins shipping its products from another famous New York deli, 2nd Ave Deli.
Since many people order for a crowd, Ariel says he ships many meal kits for eight to 12 people.
Beyond bagels and salmon, he says, some customers are “taking their breakfast meals to a new level with complete meal kits from some of the most famous Jewish chefs.” For example, one of my favorite chefs, Mike Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia, prepares a superb feast of pomegranate-braised lamb shoulder with all the classic Israeli salatim (salads) and sides to match.
EXPECT BIG APPETITES
How much food should you have for a very hungry crowd? Cohen recommends allowing two bagels per person.
For smoked fish, I suggest buying ¼ pound per person; for cream cheese 2 ounces per person; and have a generous amount of other sides like tuna, whitefish salad, and egg salad, about 4 ounces per person.
Many people take a little of this, and a little of that, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t forget to prepare a nice plate of sliced tomatoes, onions and perhaps cucumbers, with a few capers to sprinkle and lemon wedges to squeeze.
Cohen feels strongly about including dessert in the breakfast meal, preferably a cake that can be made in advance and will stay moist for a few days. In his book, the chapter on desserts is titled “Who Doesn’t Serve Cake After a Meal?” “, a memorable phrase from “Seinfeld”.
Honey cake is the traditional cake served on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with honey symbolizing sweetness for the year to come.
Ariel says desserts like babka and cheesecake are also popular.
“I feel like we’re in the middle of a babka renaissance this year, because it’s a moment,” he says. “We’ve seen some really fun twists to make it a little more creative and fun. Breads Bakery is one of my favorites, they make this beautiful honey apple babka.
This year, her family is opting for a Brooklyn Blackout cake to end their meal.
Katie Workman writes regularly about food for the Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on home cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at https://themom100.com/. She can be contacted at Katie@themom100.com.