by Guest Columnist & KosherEye Friend Ronnie Fein
Although I love lox–and–bagels as much as the next woman, my Break–the–fast isn’t the traditional smoked salmon feast. My daughter Gillian has a life–threatening allergy to fish (and walnuts) and can’t even be in the same room with it. I can tell you that over the years we’ve had trips to emergency rooms and had to leave weddings and bar mitzvahs on account of it.
It’s no problem as far as the cooking goes though. Kosher cooks have always been creative, adapting recipes to the dietary laws. It’s exactly the same when someone in your family has an allergy. You work around the limits, meet the challenge, and make something delicious to eat.
Fortunately our Break-the-fast group includes the same families every year; good friends from long ago. We’ve watched each others’ children grow, go off to college, marry and start families of their own. We comforted each other during hard times and mourned together when parents died. We all feel lucky to have each other and celebrate a new year together.
Every family brings some food to share. They all understand that their dishes will be dairy; vegetarian and also be fish and walnut–free. What’s really important is not what we eat, but that we share this special time together.
With so many people to feed, dinner is always buffet style, lap fare that needs little in the way of utensils. Both hot and cool dishes, all made ahead of course.
Although we’ve changed the menu over the years, by this time there are several constants, the by–now–expected dishes that we all look forward to. Hummus and Zimsterne cookies to give everyone a first nibble before the real meal.
Spinach Pie too, which I make ahead, freeze and pop into the oven before everyone arrives, and Mujadarah, a bulgur wheat casserole with tons of caramelized onions on top (there’s a recipe for both in my book, Hip Kosher). And the meal just wouldn’t be right without my friend Susan’s fabulous kugel.
I always make several salads too. Not only for variety but also to add some color. And the contrast of hot dishes and cool ones is very satisfying. Beet salad is usually a must because all my children like it and because beets are so sweet, in keeping with celebrating the new year. There’s also at least one whole grain salad made with barley, farro, buckwheat, quinoa, oat groats or brown rice. The grains are all made more or less the same way: cook until tender and fluffy, add some cooked vegetables and pour in a vinaigrette dressing.
My mother always used to say -- in Yiddish -- “the wheel keeps turning.” I think about this every year as I see the changing face of friends and family as time goes by. Last year, Susan’s mother passed away. This year, we may be welcoming Gillian’s new baby, due in October, but who knows!? We pass on our tradition of getting together to celebrate, to be thankful for life, and to enjoy our feast and each other.
Have a sweet new year everyone, and may you have an easy fast.
About the Author
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food journalist, cooking teacher, and one-time talk show host. She is the founder of the Ronnie Fein School of Creative Cooking in Stamford, Connecticut and the author of Hip Kosher: 175 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes for Today's Kosher Cooks (Da Capo Press). She has a lot to say about food and shares her food memories, recipes, and food related thoughts on her blog, Kitchen Vignettes. Ronnie lives in Stamford with her husband and has two married daughters and four grandchildren.