Breaking the fast on Yom Kippur, which starts Friday at sundown, usually calls for raiding the synagogue's spread and making a mad dash for whichever restaurant puts the fewest obstacles between diners and food (Chinese buffets work well.) But what's the best strategy for those ambitious hosts and hostesses who decide to make break-the-fast a social occasion?
This morning, I put that question top Tina Wasserman, Dallas' resident Jewish cooking whiz and author of Entrée to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora. Wasserman knows from entertaining: She had more than 100 guests at her house for Rosh Hashanah dinner last week.
Wasserman typically doesn't fuss with break-the-fast, but advises those who do to serve a traditional dairy menu of bagels, lox, smoked whitefish and cheese. Most of the cold items can be prepared the previous day, she says. That's critical, because work is prohibited on the High Holiday, and because nothing makes a fast harder than dealing with food.
"Bagels can be a problem," Wasserman says of the doing-everything-in-advance method. Since many bagels become stale overnight, Wasserman suggests buying bagels on Friday and storing them in a freezer bag.
"Then I put a straw in and suck all the air out," she continues. "That way you have choice of keeping it fresh that way, or putting it in the freezer."
If air still manages to sneak into the bag, hardening the bagels, Wasserman says "you can put them all on a toaster sheet, warm them up, and no one will know."
A final helpful hint: "You must pay the extra nickel to get the bagels sliced, because you don't want to be cutting bagels when you've been fasting all day and your hand is shaking."