Easy Does It!

Growing up, my island family always broke our fast with club soda and honeycake. For my father, however, it was a couple of sips of single malt whisky, which he insisted gave him "a lift." In my American home, it's orange juice, but after the first glass it's on to club soda — old habits continue!

So once again, at the end of a day of fasting and meditation, we'll hurry back to break our fast, having passed on the wine and sponge cake served at shul — too many people crowding round the tables. Instead, at home, the automatic coffeepot emits tantalizing aromas, and willing hands transfer dishes from the refrigerator to table.

We'll feast on a predictable selection of dishes. There's the ubiquitous tray of salted fish, like lox, whitefish and sable, as well as cheeses and rye bread, guaranteed to hydrate by working up more thirst, and to finish it all off, platters of sweet stuff — rugelach, strudel, apple cake and more.

But I've noticed that, though lip service is paid to "dieting and nutrition" for the "active adults," a variety of vegetable dishes and smaller portions are now appealing. So to satisfy, I'll be adding some new dishes to the break-fast table, many based on fresh fruits and vegetables.

These recipes are quick, easy and may be made either at the last minute or well ahead of time. Serve chilled, at room temp or zap for a few minutes in the microwave.

Cool Peach Soup

Serve this delicate fruit soup in a pitcher for guests to pour as desired. May substitute thawed frozen peaches for fresh.

11/2 lbs. peaches (about 4 large ones)
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sweet kosher white wine
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh mint leaves or 2 tsps. dried

Cut peaches in half. Remove pits; peel.

Place the peelings in a small pan with the water and sugar. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half, stirring often. Strain, discard the peelings and set the liquid aside.

Cut the peeled peaches into chunks. Place in a blender or food processor with the orange juice and lemon juice. Purée.

Stir in the sour cream, coconut milk, wine and the cooled peach liquid. If too thick, add a little more orange juice.

Note: If frozen peaches are used, substitute 1/4 cup apple juice and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract for the liquids from the peelings.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 121; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat, 4 g; cholesterol, 9 mg; sodium, 11 mg.

Fresh Beet Salad With Honey Dressing

Many farmer's markets and some supermarkets sell cooked beets, although you may substitute canned. Prepared shredded carrots are available, and shredded cabbage in bags is sold as cole-slaw mix — all of which makes this super-easy.

For the Dressing:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsps. honey, warmed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Salad:

3 cups shredded cabbage or cole-slaw mix
11/2 cups shredded carrots
4 medium beets, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and shredded
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and kosher salt and pepper to taste. Set aside or refrigerate until about 1/2 hour before needed.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrots, beets, cranberries, apples and walnuts.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over top and toss.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 195; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat, 14 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 27 mg.

Autumn Slaw

Slaw is the perfect way to combine a variety of vegetables; it's also a good source of phytochemicals. Roasted slivered almonds are available in supermarkets.

4 cups shredded baby-spinach leaves
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and shredded
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups shredded jicama
6-8 red radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil or mint leaves, packed
1/3 cup roasted slivered almonds

For the Dressing:

2 Tbsps. extra-virgin oil
2 Tbsps. rice vinegar
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss the spinach, cucumber, carrots, jicama, radishes and basil or mint leaves. Cover and refrigerate.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

To serve, whisk the dressing well, and then pour over the vegetables. Toss to mix and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 58; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 7 g; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 12 mg.

Mushrooms Bathed in Sour Cream

4 Tbsps. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
11/2 lbs. sliced mushrooms, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3 Tbsps. snipped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms. Cook until onions are softened, stirring often, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, yogurt and chives. Pour over the mushroom and onions. Stir gently to coat.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to microwave serving dish and dust with paprika. Refrigerate. Before serving, zap in microwave at medium for 5 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 75; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 2 g; fat, 7 g; cholesterol, 7 mg; sodium, 17 mg.

Smoked Mackerel and Rice Pilaf

A delicious addition to the break-fast table — one that everyone will want to taste. Smoked bluefish may be substituted for the mackerel.

6 oz. smoked mackerel or bluefish
2 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 package (6.6 oz.) rice-pilaf mix (such as Near East)
13/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup baby spinach leaves, packed and shredded

Peel the skin off the mackerel, remove any bones and flake coarsely with a fork. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion; sauté until softened.

Prepare the rice pilaf according to package directions, substituting vegetable broth for the water.

Add the flaked mackerel and spinach to the cooked pilaf. Fluff up with a fork. Refrigerate until needed.

Serve at room temperature. You can also or zap this at high in microwave for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 150; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat, 7 g; cholesterol, 19 mg; sodium, 461 mg.

Noodles With Buttered Breadcrumbs
(Dairy or Pareve)

If you haven't had the time to make a kugel, here's your answer.

1 stick (4 oz.) butter or margarine
11/2 cups fresh brown breadcrumbs
2 tsps. lemon-pepper seasoning
2 Tbsps. snipped fresh parsley
1 package (12 oz.) medium noodles, cooked and drained according to package directions

Melt the butter or margarine in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Add the breadcrumbs. Raise heat to high. Sauté until crumbs are crisp and golden-brown. Remove from heat. Add the lemon-pepper seasoning and parsley.

Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

Toss the cooked noodles with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Crumbs and noodles may be refrigerated until needed.

To serve, place noodles in a colander. Run hot water over to separate. Drain well.

Place into a microwave-safe serving dish. Top with the crumb mixture.

Cover with wax paper and microwave at high for 2 minutes.

Stir the crumb mixture and cook at medium 1 to 2 minutes longer or until heated through.

Serves 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 340; protein, 7 g; carbohydrates, 35 g; fat, 19 g; cholesterol, 87 mg; sodium, 197 mg.

Cinnamon-Fruited Couscous

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup dried apricots, snipped in 1/4-inch pieces
8 pitted dates, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsps. coarsely chopped mint or 2 tsps. dried
11/2 cups unflavored couscous, cooked according to package directions
2 Tbsps. pine nuts (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over high heat.

Add the apricots, dates, pepper and cinnamon. Sauté until the dried fruits are beginning to brown slightly at edges. Remove from the heat.

Add the mint and cooked couscous. Stir gently to mix.

Transfer to an bowl. Garnish with pine nuts (optional).

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 87; protein, 0 g; carbohydrates, 55 g; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 4 mg; sodium, 2 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman, the author of Mackerel at Midnight, is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.



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