Break the Fast with Bagels and Sephardi Food


If my family showed up to break the Yom Kippur fast and didn’t see whitefish salad, herring and sour cream, smoked tuna, and Scotch salmon — their lox of choice — they would be bereft.

Because bagels and lox are wildly popular and easily assembled at the last minute, platters of smoked fish have become the go-to menu to break the fast among many Ashkenazi Jews in America.

Although I would never consider dropping this menu, I’m still fascinated by what Jews beyond the Ashkenazi world eat. Several years ago, I began adding Sephardi dishes to our break the fast buffet. Not only healthy and colorful, this cuisine pairs well with bagels and lox.  

My husband’s family are Italian Jews and they always break the fast with pesce all’ebraica, which is baked fish with a sweet-and-sour sauce. I prepare this recipe with red snapper, which is readily available in America. This piquant dish is an excellent way to introduce Sephardi food to the usual smoked fish menu — a way to bridge a cultural gap.

The ultimate in hard-boiled eggs, hamine originated in Egypt’s ancient Jewish community. But today they are sold by street vendors in Israel, where hamine epitomize Sephardi food. These eggs are slowly simmered for six to eight hours until their yolks turn creamy and their whites take on an attractive sepia tone. Hamine are eaten at births, deaths and to break the Yom Kippur fast, similar to the role smoked fish plays in Ashkenazi tradition.

There are many other Sephardi specialties to serve; some are salads and dips, others are warm dishes. Selecting any one of them sparks conversation and adds a delicious dimension to any break-the-fast table.

Pesce All’Ebraica (Fish in the Jewish style from Italy)


Pareve | Serves six to eight

  • 2 (2-pound) red snappers
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • White pepper to taste
  • ½ cup pine nuts

Ask your fish monger to debone the two red snappers and cut each one into four pieces, eight pieces in all. The skin should stay on.

Whisk together the vinegar, wine, oil and honey until the honey dissolves. Stir in the raisins and let them soak in the liquids for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Rinse the fillets under cold water and dry them on paper towels. Move the fillets to a large platter and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place the fillets skin side down in the prepared pan, overlapping slightly.

Whisk the vinegar mixture again and pour it over the fillets, evenly coating them. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Baste every 5 minutes. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the fillets and continue to bake for another 5 minutes, or until the fish flakes when pierced with a fork.

To serve immediately, place the fish on a platter and spoon the sauce over the fish. To prepare a day in advance, cool the fish to room temperature, cover the pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate. Return the fish to room temperature. Covered with foil and reheat in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes until warmed through.

Greek Salad


Dairy | Serves six to eight

  • 1 small head romaine lettuce or half of a large one
  • 2 tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
  • ½ yellow pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • ⅓ cup Kalamata olives
  • ⅓ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • ⅛ cup red wine vinegar

Rinse the lettuce under cold water. Break the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Briefly dry them in a salad spinner or on paper towels. Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl.

To make a day ahead: Add the tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, celery and olives to the salad bowl, layered in paper towels. Cover with plastic wrap.

When ready to serve, remove the paper towels and plastic wrap. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve immediately.

Hamine (Egyptian Slow-simmered Eggs)


Pareve | Serves eight to 10

  • 8 eggs
  • Onion skins from 4 yellow onions and 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Optional garnish: parsley sprigs

Place the eggs, onion skins and oil in a large pot. Pour in enough water to submerge the eggs in 4 inches of water. Cover the pot. On a medium-high flame, bring the water to a boil. Reduce the flame to its lowest possible level. Move the lid so the pot is uncovered a crack.

Simmer for 6 hours. Check every 30 minutes to make sure there is enough water in the pot. Add more water when needed.

Drain the eggs in a colander. Rinse the eggs under cold water to wash off the onion skins. Cool them to room temperature. Crack the eggshells and discard. The egg whites will appear marbleized in shades of brown.

Slice the eggs or cut them into wedges. Place them on a platter and garnish with parsley, if using. Serve immediately or cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.

Lebanese Bulgur Salad  

Pareve | Serves eight

Note: This colorful salad should be made 24-48 hours in advance.

  • 1 orange pepper
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 1 cup medium bulgur wheat, raw
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup lemon juice, about 3-4 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced fine
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup dill, minced
  • ½ cup pitted black olives
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced

Equipment: A large glass bowl shows this salad’s beauty to advantage, but any large bowl will suffice.

Cut a circle around the stem of the pepper. Pull out the stem and discard it. Rinse the inside of the pepper under cold water to get rid of the seeds. Drain on paper towels. Dice fine. Reserve.

Cut out the cores of the tomatoes and discard. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and then coarsely chop them. Reserve.

Place the bulgur in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Drizzle this mixture over the bulgur. Cover the bulgur with a layer of diced onion, followed by layers of parsley, the orange pepper, dill, olives, cucumber and tomatoes.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Remove the salad from the refrigerator an hour ahead of time. Before serving, toss the salad, making sure the bulgur is thoroughly mixed through.


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