Fresh ways to break the Yom Kippur fast

Tomato chickpea soup with spinach, flavored with garlic, cumin and smoked paprika (photo credit: SANG AN)
Tomato chickpea soup with spinach, flavored with garlic, cumin and smoked paprika
(photo credit: SANG AN)
‘For a solemn holiday focused on the spiritual realm and not eating, Yom Kippur has two surprisingly joyous food traditions,” Leah Koenig wrote in Modern Jewish Cooking of the custom to feast before and after the fast.
“Like gearing up for a long bike ride or run, people tend to load up on carbs... The most important thing for fasters, I have found, is to drink lots of water in the day or two leading up to Yom Kippur. It makes the day so much easier.”
Many of Koenig’s suggestions for the meals before and after the fast are unconventional.
As she wrote to me: “I always love to spice up a break-fast meal.
As delicious as it is, the whole routine of bagels and lox [which is popular for break-the-fast in the US] gets a little boring. It’s a celebratory meal, which calls for a festive menu.”
For the seuda mafseket – the dinner before the fast – although Koenig includes a recipe for chicken soup with matza balls, she also has a vegetarian Yom Kippur pre-fast menu. It includes baked ziti with caramelized cherry tomatoes, romaine salad with buttermilk dressing, pine nut and scallion couscous, sautéed green beans with labaneh and sliced almonds (see recipe), and chocolate- banana Bundt cake.
Koenig’s attitude toward planning the break-the-fast menu is “really anything goes.” The only requirement, at least in many households, is that the post-fast feast be put on the table speedily.
“When I host a break-fast meal,” wrote Koenig, “I try to serve foods that can be prepared in advance and warmed, or thrown together quickly after the holiday ends.”
A warming soup like Koenig’s tomato-chickpea soup with spinach (see recipe) is good for breaking the fast because it is nourishing but not heavy. To Koenig, adding chickpeas and spinach is a way to add a new dimension to the classic American tomato soup. To us, the soup, which is seasoned with cumin and red pepper flakes, recalls harira, a chickpea and lentil soup with tomatoes that’s popular for breaking the fast among Jews from Morocco.
Usually harira includes meat, but some versions are vegetarian.
When I was growing up, my mother often prepared noodle kugel to break the fast. She made it either savory with sautéed onions and mushrooms or sweet with apples and cinnamon. Koenig, too, likes noodle kugel for breaking the fast. Instead of apples, she flavors her sweet noodle kugel with dried cherries and figs.
Why serve noodle kugel to break the fast? Here’s what Koenig wrote: “Noodle kugel is just the best. The Ashkenazi baked pudding made from egg noodles (called lokshen in Yiddish) is a study in gorgeous excess. The dish comes enriched with sour cream, butter, eggs and cottage cheese or pot cheese, and is sweetened with cinnamon and sugar, resulting in a rustic and decadent treat.” (See recipe)
Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.
“This is the kind of green bean dish a person can get excited about,” wrote Koenig. The beans are “dolloped with pillows of labaneh and flavored with lemon zest, fiery red pepper flakes and toasted almonds.”
You can prepare this dish in advance but keep the toasted almonds in a separate container. To serve, just warm it and then top it with the almonds, labaneh, and zaatar.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
■ ¹⁄3 cup sliced almonds
■ 900 gr. (2 pounds) green beans, trimmed
■ 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
■ 4 medium shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
■ 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
■ ½ tsp. red pepper flakes (see Note below)
■ ½ tsp. lemon zest
■ 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
■ Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
■ Labaneh and zaatar for serving
Place almonds in a small pan set over medium-low heat.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Make an ice bath by adding equal parts ice and cold water to a large bowl. Place green beans in boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and immediately place in ice bath to cool; then drain again.
Heat olive oil in a large pan set over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally with tongs, until beans are warmed through, about 4 minutes. Taste and add more lemon juice, if desired. Transfer to a serving platter or shallow bowl.
Top beans with dollops of labaneh, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the toasted almonds and zaatar. Serve warm.
Note: If you prefer food that’s not peppery, use just a pinch or up to ¼ teaspoon pepper flakes, or use medium-hot pepper flakes.
This soup, wrote Koenig, “is smoky, spicy and truly irresistible – equally delicious swirled with labaneh, or served as a...companion to a grilled cheese sandwich. It also tastes great as is, so feel free to enjoy dairy-free.” You can make the soup ahead, without adding the spinach, and refrigerate it. Just before serving, reheat the soup and add the spinach.
Makes 6 servings
■ 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
■ 1 large onion, chopped
■ 2 stalks celery, chopped
■ 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
■ 4 garlic cloves, chopped
■ 1½ tsp. smoked paprika
■ 1½ tsp. ground cumin
■ ½ tsp. dried basil
■ ½ tsp. dried rosemary
■ ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
■ Two 445-gr. (15½-oz.) cans chickpeas or 3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
■ A 415-gr. (14½-oz.) can diced tomatoes
■ 4 cups vegetable broth
■ 1 tsp. sugar
■ Coarse salt
■ ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
■ 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
■ Labaneh or yogurt (for serving)
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, cumin, basil, rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add half the chickpeas, the tomatoes with their juice, the vegetable broth and the sugar. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Puree soup until smooth using an immersion blender, or working in batches in a standard blender. Return the soup to the pot, set over low heat and stir in remaining chickpeas and the spinach. Cook until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.
Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and spoon a dollop of labaneh into each one.
Serve hot.
“My take on noodle kugel,” wrote Koenig, “includes dried cherries and figs that... offset the pudding’s richness. It gets topped off with a dusting of bittersweet chocolate shavings, which are optional but so good.” Koenig serves it as part of a Yom Kippur break-fast meal or as a substantial brunch dish.
“You can certainly substitute low-fat cottage cheese and sour cream in this kugel if you like, but I would not recommend it,” wrote Koenig. “What I do recommend is using the best-quality full-fat ingredients you can find, inviting friends over to help you eat, savoring every glorious bite.”
I asked Koenig how to serve the kugel if it’s made ahead.
“It’s actually quite good cold,” she replied, “but could also be served at room temperature or reheated. It could either be taken out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving (if the person isn’t at shul), or put in a 150ºC (300ºF) oven for 10 to 15 minutes or so.”
Makes 8 to 10 servings
■ 340 gr. (12 oz.) dried wide egg noodles
■ ½ cup dried cherries
■ 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
■ 2 cups cottage cheese
■ 2 cups sour cream
■ 5 eggs
■ ¾ cup sugar
■ ¼ tsp. kosher salt
■ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
■ ½ cup chopped dried black figs
■ Ground cinnamon for topping
■ 30 gr. (1 oz) bittersweet chocolate (optional)
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and lightly grease a 23- by 33-cm. (9 x 13 inch) baking dish.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until just short of al dente, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Place the cherries in a small bowl and pour the reserved pasta cooking liquid over them. Let stand until plumped, about 5 minutes. Drain cherries and set aside.
In a stand mixer or using a handheld electric mixer and a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla on low speed until combined and smooth. Stir in the cooked noodles, cherries and figs. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
Bake until kugel is set and top is golden with some darker brown noodle tips, 50 to 60 minutes. (If an air bubble appears in the kugel while baking, deflate it with a small, sharp paring knife.) Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
Just before serving, sprinkle kugel with cinnamon. If desired, use a vegetable peeler to shave the chocolate into curls and sprinkle over the warm kugel. Do not top the kugel with chocolate when it is just-out-of-the-oven hot or it will melt.
Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.