As the High Holidays approach, cooks and hosts the world over look for ways to make a festive table for their guests.
The traditional bagel/lox/whitefish salad buffet is a classic and works well as a break-fast meal, particularly if a large crowd is expected. It is easy to serve, honors long-standing traditions and almost everyone likes it. But many people are assembling smaller crowds these days and forging new traditions for various reasons.
In cases where a smaller group is being fed or something different is desired along the lines of a more typical sit-down dinner, the constraints of the holiday can present a challenge. If you are not going to start cooking until sundown after a fast, you are going to want something that can be cooked and served quickly to address both timing and hunger considerations.
Enter the following menu. The dishes are on the lighter side — fish and pasta — but deliver a tasty meal that comes together in 15 minutes or so. If you make a salad or veggie side ahead of time, you can have this on the table almost as quickly as you would the bagel buffet!
For sides — consider a make-ahead veggie like broccoli vinaigrette, cucumber salad, a grilled/roasted veggies that can be served at room temp or quickly heated in the microwave, a cabbage salad or a green salad that you can assemble a day ahead and dress before serving. This rounds out the meal and takes the heat off the cook!
For dessert, avoid creamy or citrusy items, which are similar to the pasta and will not complement the meal. Stay away from ice creams, puddings, custards and lemon tarts.
Instead, consider a flourless chocolate cake, an apple pie, a selection of cookies/chocolates or a carrot cake, all of which can be bought from a reputable bakery or confectioner if the cook lacks time or inclination.
Fish in Chili-Garlic Wine Sauce
I added minced jalapeno for an extra kick, but that can be eliminated if a milder dish is preferred. This dish can be made with any white fish — fluke, cod, grouper, bass, salmon, etc. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the fish. My 1-inch piece of tilefish cooked in about 10 minutes, but a thin flounder fillet will only need 4 or 5 minutes.
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon finely minced jalapeno or chili (optional)
1 sprinkle of salt
4 fillets of fish (flounder, fluke, salmon,
½ cup white wine
Water if needed
In a large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the garlic, red pepper, jalapeno and salt over medium until fragrant. Add the fillets and cook them on one side for a couple of minutes.
When the fish is about halfway cooked, flip it and add the wine. Let it boil, uncovered, to reduce the liquid while the fish finishes cooking. (If you’re using a thicker fillet, you may need to add liquid to the pan as it cooks; the cooking liquid should reduce to the consistency of a sauce or thin gravy.) When done, serve the fish drizzled with sauce.
Lemon-Ricotta Pasta | Dairy
I used capellini for this, which cooks in about 3 minutes, but any pasta will work.
1 pound pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of 1-2 lemons (about 1 tablespoon zest and ¼ cup juice)
Salt and pepper to taste (Parmesan is salty so go easy on the salt; be generous with the pepper)
¾ cup pasta cooking water
Handful of fresh basil or parsley leaves, chopped
Cook the pasta in well-salted water for one minute less than directed. While the pasta cooks, mix the cheeses, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Reserve ¾ cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Pour the cheese mixture into the hot pot with a bit of the water to loosen it.
Pour the drained pasta into the pot with the cheese and toss. Add water as needed to distribute the sauce (you may not need all of it.)
Pour the dressed pasta into a serving bowl and garnish it with chopped parsley or basil.