With Labor Day a distant memory, it's time to think ahead. We don't want to stress you out, but if you're hosting a Yom Kippur break-the-fast, it's time to start planning. (This year, break-the-fast is the evening of Sept. 26.)
A break-the-fast gathering can be especially challenging to put together. For starters, there's often a big crowd. And a lot of your guests will be starving, because they've been fasting for as long as 25 hours, in keeping with Judaism's most solemn day of the year.
But the biggest challenge of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is that traditionally you don't do any work that day, instead spending many hours in synagogue. This means that everything has to be prepared ahead of time. When guests arrive after sundown, no one wants to stand around and watch you cook (insert joke here about your hungry relatives).
We've got five words of advice: Your freezer is your friend.
"The only thing I find that doesn't freeze well are pastas and potatoes," says Leah Schapira, co-founder of the recipe-sharing site CookKosher.com and author of Fresh and Easy Kosher Cooking: Ordinary Ingredients -- Extraordinary Meals. (But she points out that orzo pasta dishes are an exception to that rule, as are potatoes in a blintz or knish.)
While Schapira's family breaks the fast with a meat meal, many others opt for a dairy dinner: Think brunch at night. (Observant Jews do not mix meat with dairy products.)
For a dairy meal, Schapira says that traditional break-the-fast dishes, such as a cheese blintz soufflé, is a good choice to freeze, as are quiches and pizzas: "You'd be surprised, some people like to have pizza after a fast."
If you're going to make your own pizza, she recommends preparing the dough, spreading it on a cookie sheet with the tomato sauce and cheese, then freezing it unbaked. You can also freeze the raw pizza dough unadorned for focaccia: "I'll let it defrost a little bit, then I'll put olive oil and some vegetables or sesame seeds on the crust. I'll bake that in the oven at 475 or 500 degrees for about 10 minutes, then I'll cut it into strips."
Salads, of course, can't be frozen, but you can still make them ahead. Schapira advises cutting up the vegetables the day before and storing everything in separate containers in the fridge, to keep all of the ingredients crisp and fresh.
"Let's say I'm making an Israeli salad. I'll cut up the cucumbers and tomatoes, but I'll keep them separate. I do this many times when I have guests. I cut up the day before and put everything in air-tight containers," says Schapira, adding that she then tosses the salad together ten minutes before the party begins. (And she points out that most salad dressings can be made a few days ahead.)
As for dessert, while most cakes can be frozen, we find it's a lot easier to serve cookies instead, since they don't require plates and utensils. As long as the cookies are stored in tightly sealed containers, they freeze beautifully and thaw quickly. You can arrange cookie platters about an hour before people arrive. By the time your guests are done with the main course, the cookies will be good to go.
For a break-the-fast change of pace, Schapira suggests making one of CookKosher.com's favorite quiche recipes : "It's a really nice quiche, with sweet potatoes and leeks, some heavy cream and cheese. It makes two. It's a little different than a classic mushroom quiche."
Leek and Sweet Potato Quiche
Makes: 2 ten-inch quiches
2 ten-inch unbaked pie shells (use your favorite pie crust recipe)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium-sized red onion, diced into small pieces
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced into small pieces
1 leek, diced into small pieces
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons flour
2/3 cups milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream (or half-and-half)
4 beaten eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheese, any variety
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prick the bottom of the unbaked pie shells with a fork. Bake the pie shells for 10 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove the pie shells from the oven and put aside. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Sautee the diced onions and leek for about 20 minutes, until soft.
3. Place the sweet potato cubes in a microwave-safe bowl with the 2 tablespoons of water. Microwave for 6 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes to the sautéed onions and leek. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes.
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4. Turn off the heat and immediately add the flour, milk, cream, salt and pepper. Whisk together. Let mixture cool for a few minutes, then add in the beaten eggs. Mix well and pour into the pie crusts. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
5. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the filling is firm.
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