Break-Fast Side Dishes


Like many American Jews, our family breaks the Yom Kippur fast with bagels, lox and cream cheese. We like whitefish salad, too.

While this is a wildly popular menu, it lacks the crunch and nutritional value of vegetables and fruit.

I’ve tried ordering trays of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and raw vegetables. But they were assembled days before the holiday and arrived past their prime. I figured that with a little advance planning, I could do better.

In recent years, I’ve turned to salads and cooked vegetables that are easy to make ahead and best served cold. They’re ideal for the rush of getting food on the table after breaking the fast. Better still, the canon of Jewish cuisine offers many recipes to choose from.

Olive and orange salad has been treasured among Sephardi Jews for centuries. Jews were among the earliest growers of citrus fruits. They have cultivated olives for at least 5,000 years. This salad is a favorite in Israel, although its origins are probably in North Africa.

Nutty spinach with raisins is cooked first and then chilled, a common preserving method in the days before refrigeration. This dish is beloved among Jews in the Middle East and North Africa. This recipe comes from Rome, but it almost certainly traveled there with Jewish traders during the Roman Empire.

Beet salad with dill is well known in the Ashkenazi world. Beets have always been cheap and are tough enough to survive frigid Eastern European winters. Besides being essential to borscht, beets are a tangy ingredient in Jewish cooking. Initially, Ashkenazi Jews ate beet greens in salads, the tops of this root vegetable that grows underground. But later, Russian Jews devised beet salad, sometimes adding herring.

No matter how your family breaks the fast, it’s a smart move to add foods to the menu that are hydrating, full of fiber and loaded with vitamins. After a day of forgoing food, vegetables and fruit are a healthy bridge back to your usual diet.

Olive and Orange Salad | Pareve
Serves 8

8 oranges
⅔ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
Juice of 2 lemons
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons mint, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika, plus more for sprinkling

Cut the oranges into thick slices. Remove the pits with the point of a knife. Peel off the skin. Cut the orange slices into wedges. Move them to a mixing bowl. Scatter the olives over them.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mint, cumin and ½ teaspoon of paprika. Pour the dressing over the orange-olive mixture. Using two spoons, toss until the mixture is entirely coated.

This recipe can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for 2 days. Before serving, move the salad to an attractive bowl. Sprinkle with more paprika. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Nutty Spinach with Raisins | Pareve
Serves 6-8

⅔ cup raisins
⅔ cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
2 (1 pound) plastic boxes of baby spinach
⅓ cup olive oil, or more if needed
2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
Kosher salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

Boil 2 cups of water, and pour it into a heatproof mixing bowl. Add the raisins, and soak them for 10 minutes. Strain the raisins in a sieve and reserve.

Preheat a toaster oven or oven to 350 degrees F.

Roast the nuts for a minute or two. Watch them carefully as they easily burn. Reserve.

Rinse the spinach under cold water and place it in a colander to drain.

Heat the olive oil in a very large pot over a medium-low flame.

Sauté the garlic for a minute or two until fragrant. Sprinkle it with salt. Add the spinach in bunches to the pot, even though water will still be clinging to the leaves. Stir the spinach continuously, and add more as each batch wilts, which happens quickly. Add more olive oil at any time, if needed. Check to make sure the spinach has enough salt and add more, if needed.

Remove the spinach from the flame, and add the raisins and nuts. Stir to combine. This can be served immediately or cool it to room temperature, move it to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for two days.

When ready to serve, move the spinach to an attractive serving bowl and drizzle the lemon juice over the top.

Sweet and Sour Beet Salad | Pareve
Serves 8-10

3 (15-ounce) cans sliced beets
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh dill,
chopped finely
3 tablespoons red onion, chopped
½ teaspoon honey
Kosher salt to taste

Drain the beets in a colander, and move them to a large mixing bowl. Add the vinegar, dill, onion, honey and salt. Gently stir to combine.

Cover the salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours and up to three days.

Check to make sure the beet salad has a tang. If it’s too sweet, add a little more vinegar. If it’s too tart, add a little more honey.

When ready to serve, move it to an attractive bowl, preferably a clear glass one to show off this salad’s gorgeous garnet color.


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