A different set of scales

Fish can make a satisfying main dish before or after Yom Kippur.

Whole Crispy Fish
Photo by: Laura Frankel
Fish is the traditional main course before the Yom Kippur fast in the homes of some Greek Jews. Nicholas Stavroulakis, author of Cookbook of the Jews of Greece, noted that the main course for this dinner and for the meal after the fast is determined by the custom of kapparot, which calls for slaughtering a rooster or a hen to atone for one’s sins, but “the chicken was replaced in some communities by a fish.”

Whichever food the family opted for – chicken or fish – “it was usually boiled and seasoned with lemon, as it is unwise, in a hot country like Greece, to eat a heavy salted meal either before or after a day of abstinence,” wrote Stavroulakis. A typical Greek fish preparation is one he refers to as steaming, in which the fish is cooked in a covered pan with a small amount of liquid. After making a few diagonal incisions on each side of each fish, cooks put them in a frying pan and simmer them in a sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, water, chopped dill, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. The fish are served warm or cold, moistened with their cooking sauce and sprinkled with more parsley and dill.

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