Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Lightening Up Yom Kippur
Yesterday was Yom Kippur--the Jewish day of atonement. I may be a nice, Catholic school educated, Italian girl, but I married a nice Jewish boy who's entire family came here to break fast yesterday. Somehow, for someone with very little exposure to Jewish culture prior to college, I managed to become the hostess for most of the Jewish holidays.
I have to say, if you have to host a Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur is the one you want to host. There's no cooking involved. Essentially, you go to the Jewish deli the day before and pick up a bunch of food. The only thing you have to do is arrange it on platters.
The traditional meal for breaking fast is dairy, and bagels with cream cheese and lox is standard. In addition to bagels and lox, you're supposed to serve an assortment of artery clogging, caloric filled foods. Things such as chopped liver, whitefish salad, gelfilte fish, blintzes, Challah bread, rye bread, etc. Jewish cuisine is not all that diet friendly.
But, the amazing thing is, no one in my husband's family (with the exception of my husband), really wants to eat a lot of the traditional foods. Both of my in laws have heart and health issues, and my one brother in law is a major health nut who basically eats nothing but grilled meats and fresh fruits and vegetables.
On top of that, my sister and law is doing her on raw diet cleanse (she's already lost 18 pounds and looks fab).
After years of throwing away food after Jewish Holidays, I told everyone in advance that A) I wasn't going to buy as much food as I had previously, and B) while we'd still have a lot of the traditional foods, I was going to pare back and add more fruits and vegetables.
This year during the "appetizer phase" of the meal there was no gelfilte fish. It was the one item that everyone said they could do without. We still had chopped liver and whitefish salad, but I only ordered 1/4 pound of each for ten people. Everyone had a taste, because we all love it and it's traditional, but even then there were leftovers (which were thrown out because no one wanted to take them home). Instead of the traditional rye bread and crackers, I bought the thin sliced, whole grain rye bread.
The big change was that in addition to the traditional Jewish appetizers, I put out a huge platter of raw vegetables with a Hummus dip. We had fresh, sliced cucumbers from the garden, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery and sliced zucchini. It was a hit, and everyone loved it.
For the main course we had bagels, cream cheese and Nova lox. It was the one part of the meal everyone said they couldn't do without. The big change was that I served mini-bagels instead of those huge, bread circles which serve as bagels. Everyone loved them because they wanted to cut back on carbs. There's not much you can do about cream cheese (except spread less of it on), but by ordering the more expensive Nova lox, those watching their salt intake didn't have to be as cautious.
Along side the bagels we served the Challah and deli pickles. The non-Jewish part of the meal was a big salad with a fresh mix of baby lettuces from the farmers' market, raw almonds, chopped red onion and dried cranberries. I served a home-made lemon vinaigrette on the side. Everyone helped themselves to a big serving of salad along-side their bagels, and everyone loved it.
For dessert, I served a small chocolate Babka, and a huge platter of fresh fruit, including apples, clementines and grapes. The clementines were a huge hit with the kids. My one nephew ate seven!!!
So, in the end, we were able to observe tradition, without busting our guts (or our arteries). We sampled and tasted the foods we love, and which help my husband's family connect to their past, without overindulging in them.