Twists to enliven the break-fast menu

By Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

Many of our menus to break the Yom Kippur fast are predictable, and that’s a good thing. Let’s face it: It is reassuring to know that the same foods, prepared in exactly the same way and arranged on platters just the way they were arranged last year and years before, will comfort us once the Book of Life is sealed for this New Year.

Then again, what’s traditional today would have baffled our ancestors. That’s because for Jews, like for every ethnic and religious group that has come to our nation’s shores, the American experience has transformed some of that culture’s traditional foods. 

Just as Chinese and Italian restaurants in our country serve dishes that differ from those servied in their native lands, we American Jews enjoy “traditional” holiday foods that have been traditional for less than a century. 

In the “old country,” our Ashkenazi forbears would have broken their fasts with pickled herring and lokshen kugel while their Sephardic counterparts would have tucked into more substantial fare, such as chicken tagines and rich meat-based soups. But today, it would not be unusual to find the following foods alongside or even in place of  pickled herring or spicy tagine: tuna fish salad, macaroni-and-cheese, bagels with lox and cream cheese, and that iconic fruit-encased Jello mold. 

In keeping with the spirit of the “New” Year, I believe it is possible to honor your family’s break-fast traditions, whatever they may be, while adding some new and delicious twists to your holiday menu. 

For example, you can certainly enjoy my Mediterranean cured salmon on a bagel (with cream cheese), but you could also try it thinly sliced on your beautiful challah. The spices in my lentil salad are some of the same ones used to season a carrot tzimmes. To make it feel more like a tzimmes, you could fold in a bunch of oven-roasted carrots cut into thin slices. My kugel recipe (below) is a riff on the standard kugel, tweaked with honey yogurt and topped with granola. 

The almond and olive oil cake recipe is adapted from one in an outstanding new collection by Paula Shoyer called “The Holiday Kosher Baker.” This cake is much lighter than the more common apple cake. Accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream and a spoonful of fresh berries, it makes an elegant dessert.

All of the recipes below are easy to follow and can be prepared in advance. You can serve the lentil salad and kugel cold or at room temperature. If you prefer your kugel warm, you can reheat it for 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Bon appétit!  Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

Margi Lenga Kahn is the mother of five and grandmother of five. A cooking instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory, she is working on a project to preserve the stories and recipes of heritage cooks. She welcomes your comments and suggestions at [email protected].