With respect to Yom Kippur, many of us will sit in the synagogue on Friday evening, October 7, and then again most of the day on Saturday, October 8. We will spend this Day of Atonement, in quiet retrospection of the past year, with our rabbis, our families and our friends. We will listen to our cantors chanting the Kol Nidre and other prayers.
Many of us will bring canned goods to our synagogues, to be shared at a later date with O.C. families less fortunate than ourselves. We do not eat.
Then, upon sunset, it is time to wish our families and our friends a healthy and happy new year. It is time to break the fast with these people and to enjoy their love.
Since we have spent the day in the synagogue and not in our kitchens, many of us have pre-prepared our dinners the day before. Perhaps you have ordered your dinner from a local gourmet market, deli or caterer. In this case, favorite dishes include lox and fish platters (such as gold and white fish and herring) with cream cheese, chopped hard-cooked eggs and stuffed eggs, sliced tomatoes and onions, capers and bagels. Kugels and blintz casseroles are popular, as are tuna, veggie and pasta salads. A dessert table is a must, including such favorites as honey cake, lemon and chocolate brownie bars and fresh and dried fruits and nuts.
Because my guests are hungry, I like to immediately set out an assortment of dips, along with crudités (raw vegetables) and chips/crackers, wedges of pita bread and slices of challah.
In addition to the all-time winners – carrot and celery sticks; green, red, yellow and orange pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower flowerettes; mushrooms; asparagus spears; green beans and cherry tomatoes – I also like to add jicama slices, zucchini and squash strips, snow peas, green beans, radishes, fennel slices and Belgian endive. Most of these veggies are raw, though if you wish, some, such as the asparagus and green beans, can benefit from a quick blanching. To do so, plunge vegetables into a pot of boiling water, remove when the water returns to a boil, and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and to retain the vibrant color.
The following are several of my favorite make-ahead dips, from simple to exotic.
Hot And Spicy Eggplant
On special family occasions, my dear Buba and my great aunt would prepare their eggplant appetizers. Oh, so good. This is a spicier, more contemporary, version of their recipes.
1 large eggplant (approximately 1-pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red (preferable color, otherwise green) bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
4 teaspoons capers
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Hot red pepper sauce, to taste
Halve eggplant and place, cut side down, on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with non-stick aerosol. (I prefer the olive oil variety.) Place in a preheated 350-degree oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender, then cool.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large skillet, add the bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, basil, capers and season with salt, cayenne and hot pepper sauce.
Scoop cooled eggplant from is skin (toss skin), and place in a food processor to puree. Stir eggplant into vegetable mixture and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring. Allow to cool, then refrigerate and serve chilled.
Eggplant mixture can be prepared and refrigerated several days in advance.
Yield: Approximately 4 cups.
With Sukkot following in a few days (Sukkot Eve, Wednesday, October 12) after Yom Kippur, this dip is especially good for both holidays. Remember that on Sukkot, we often serve dishes incorporating lemons, as a symbol of the etrog, a lemon-like citron, which is used to decorate the sukkah, a temporary harvest hut.
1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup minced fresh tarragon
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
Garnish: Sprig of fresh tarragon or slice of fresh lemon
In a mixing bowl with an electric beater, cream together the yogurt (or sour cream) with the cream cheese and lemon juice. Stir in the fennel and tarragon. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours. This dip can be made several days in advance.
Yield: Approximately 2 cups.
Curried Parsley Dip
Tangy and creamy, this appetizer/dip will be a big hit with your guests. Note that the curry powder is pre-cooked — a step that brings out the full flavor of the aromatic spice.
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1½ tablespoons curry powder
1 cup low-fat, plain yogurt (or ½ and ½ yogurt and sour cream)
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives (Note: I snip these with my kitchen scissors, and I use approximately 1 bunch.)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt, to taste
Garnish: Sprig of parsley
In a small skillet, melt the butter or margarine and add the curry powder, stirring for 2 minutes, then cool.
In a medium bowl, cream together the yogurt (and sour cream, if desired), and cream cheese with an electric beater. Stir in the curry butter, chives, parsley, lemon juice and mustard. Season to taste with salt.
Spoon mixture into serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Dip can be prepared several days in advance. At serving time, garnish with a sprig of parsley.
Yield: Approximately 1¼ cups.