Jewish holiday Yom Kippurwhich begins this year on Sunday evening (September 25), is 25 hours of fasting and penance.
But once you’re done, it’s your turn to party.
The spread at “fast breaking” gatherings (not to be confused with breakfast) traditionally consists of food made in advance, served at room temperature or reheated before serving. Observant Jews don’t cook on Yom Kippur, and even if you’re less observant, it’s pretty hard to stand in the kitchen cooking while you’re fasting.
BAGEL, LOX, THE INGREDIENTS
Perhaps the most common food used to break the fast is bagels and lox (or smoked salmon) with all the fixings. It usually involves dairy and fish dishes, such as smoked fishwhite fish salad, flavored cream cheese (“schmears” or “shmears”), pickled herring, capers and cucumber salad.
Iftar meals are usually meatless, as meat and dairy products are not included in halal foods.
I always include a Noodle Kugel on my iftar menu, another traditional offering that can be made in advance and reheated (or served cold, as you prefer). Add more egg saladis an important vegetarian option for those who are not fish eaters.
Jake Cohen, author of the just-published book “I Could Nosh: Revamped Jewish Recipes for Everyday” (Harper Collins), largely adheres to traditional foods for breaking the fast, but has strong opinions about their components. Quality is important, he says, and he has dedicated his time to finding the best bagels, the best smoked fish, and so on.
“It’s like the difference between a charcuterie board from a high-end cheese shop versus a board from a grocery store,” he says.
Cohen pays particular attention to his bagels. Because bagels are usually bought the day before breaking the fast, they are never fresh. Cohen compensates by keeping them whole, placing them on a wire rack over a baking sheet, and heating them for 5 to 7 minutes in a 400-degree oven. This warms it up and crisps up the outer skin, making it as close to grilling as possible.
Slice it right out of the oven, he says, and “you’ll get a glimpse of the memories of a fresh bagel.”
Joe Ariel is the founder and CEO of Goldbelly, an online company that delivers food from restaurants, delis, bakeries, and so on across the country.
“This is a busy time for many of our most iconic bagel shops and bakeries in New York like Ess-a-Bagels, Russ & Daughters, Breads Bakery babkas, Kossar’s Bialys, Junior’s Cheesecakes, Yonah Schimmel’s knishes, and many more,” said Ariel. This year, Goldbelly also started shipping from another well-known deli in New York, 2nd Ave Deli.
Because many people are ordering for large groups, Ariel said he sends out lots of food packages for eight to 12 people.
In addition to bagels and salmon, he said, some customers “enhance their iftar meals with complete meal packages from some of the most renowned Jewish chefs. For example, one of my favorite chefs, Mike Solomonov, of Zahav in Philadelphia, puts together a stunning feast of braised pomegranate lamb shoulder with all the classic Israeli salatim (salad) and accompaniments.”
EXPECT HUGE LUST
How much food should you provide to a very hungry person? Cohen recommends allowing two bagels per person.
For smoked fish, I recommend buying ¼ pound per person; for cream cheese 2 ounces per person; and enjoy generous amounts of other sides such as 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 beautiful plate of sliced tomatoes, onions and perhaps cucumber, with a few capers for sprinkling and a lemon wedge for squeezing.
Cohen is keen to include dessert in his iftar meal, preferably a cake that can be made in advance and will stay moist for several days. In the book, the dessert chapter is entitled “Who doesn’t serve cake after a meal?”, a memorable line from “Seinfeld.”
Honey cake is a traditional cake served on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, with honey symbolizing the sweetness of the coming year.
Ariel said desserts like babka and cheesecake are also popular.
“I feel like we’re in the midst of a babka renaissance this year, because there’s a moment that’s happening,” he said. “We’ve seen some really fun changes to make it a little more creative and fun. Breads Bakery is one of my favorites, they make this beautiful apple and honey babka.”
This year, his family chose a Brooklyn Blackout Cake to finish their meal.
Katie Workman regularly writes about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks that focus on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “100 Moms Cookbook.” He blogs at https://themom100.com/. She can be contacted at [email protected].
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