By Lorraine and Phil Shapiro
While special foods generally are associated with Jewish holidays, no specific food is traditional for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. However, the meals served both before and after the 25-hour fast have developed their own traditions. Chicken soup and stewed chicken are most common on the eve of Yom Kippur, since salty, spicy, fried and gas-producing foods are avoided. Sweet-sour fish is favored by Italian Jews that night.
To break the fast, a dairy meal generally is offered with dishes such as kugel, lox, bagels and cream cheese, which are favorites of Ashkenazim, often served buffet style. Moroccan Jews might enjoy couscous, while fish curry is favored by Indians, varying the heat, depending on region and taste preferences of each cook. Yogurt and rice accompany to balance the intense flavors.
The custom of serving pickled or smoked fish may be Chasidic, since it purportedly restores some of the minerals lost in fasting. No dessert ends the meal proceeding Yom Kippur, but sweets are customarily served after, especially yeast breads. Alsatians and Hungarians are known for gugelhopf, the Dutch prepare apple cake or tart and central Europeans bake schnecken, a small coiled cinnamon pastry.
The Moroccan national dish is couscous, named for the grain as well as the complete dish. It’s a meat and vegetable stew usually served for Friday lunch but is also part of the menu for feasts and special occasions. Why not serve it for the evening meal on Yom Kippur? This version with fish is lighter than most. Moroccan cuisine more closely resembles Indian rather than Middle Eastern cooking, since spices are used liberally.
Instead of relying on commercial curry, Indian cooks prepare a different masala (a spice blend) for each dish. Chile lends heat, turmeric is added at the beginning, and a sweet spice, such as cinnamon or cardamon, is used at the end. Although most people associate curry solely with India, the idea traveled to Southeast Asia, where it was adapted to local products. Our Malaysian fish curry relies on coconut milk for creaminess and lime juice and lemongrass for tang.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cups vegetable broth
2 sprigs EACH parsley, cilantro
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon EACH cumin, curry powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch thread saffron
1/2 pound winter squash peeled, cut into large cubes
2 leeks, white part, split, well washed, cut 1½ inches long
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into large chunks
2 medium turnips, peeled, cut into chunks
1/3 cup golden raisins
1½ pounds tuna or other firm fish, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 medium zucchini, cut in chunks
3/4 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained
1½ cups uncooked couscous
In 4-quart saucepot, heat oil over medium heat, add garlic and tomatoes and saute over low heat 5 minutes. Add onion, saute 5 minutes. Add broth, parsley, cilantro and spice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add squash, leek, carrot, turnip and raisins, simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Add tuna, zucchini and garbanzos. Simmer 15 minutes or until fish just flakes to touch of a fork. Prepare couscous according to package directions, heap on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, remove fish and vegetables and arrange over couscous. Garnish with cilantro. Makes 6 servings.
Malaysian Fish Curry
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled, chopped
1 tablespoon white part lemongrass, peeled, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped
3/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup vegetable or fish stock
2 to 3 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon EACH sugar, lime juice, soy sauce
1 pound firm white fish, cut into large cubes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cooked basmati rice
Heat a little oil until it begins to smoke in wok or saute pan. Add garlic, ginger, lemongrass, jalapeno and coconut. Stir-fry 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add coconut milk and stock. Bring to a boil, add turmeric, sugar, lime juice and soy. Simmer 10 minutes, strain, pressing solids well. Return sauce to heat, reduce to desired consistency. Add fish, simmer 5 minutes until cooked through. Add cilantro, spoon over rice or into rice ring. Makes 4 servings.