Not that this isn’t an ideal meal — and with all due respect to tradition — but serving the same menu every year can grow a little stale.
Oh, autumn: bringer of turning leaves, cozy sweaters and…lox and bagels. And noodle kugel, and a river of orange juice. Yes, for Jewish families fall means the High Holidays, and the holidays mean big old bagel platters served for break fast after Yom Kippur.
From the host’s perspective, ideal break fast dishes can either be made ahead and served cold or room temperature, or can be assembled in the flurry between services ending and people arriving. For guests, the criteria are even simpler: Dishes should taste good and be available in abundant supply. It is no surprise, then, that bagels, cream cheese and smoked fish tend to dominate the break fast.
But with all due respect to tradition, serving the same exact menu every year can grow a little stale. Within this Venn diagram of host and guest needs, there are plenty of opportunities to add extra excitement to your Yom Kippur break fast. Here are a few to get you started:
Gussy up your bagel fixings
If your guests will revolt in the absence of a bagel platter, by all means serve one. There are plenty of ways to make it more exciting. Try curing or baking bagels from scratch. Or blend flavorful mix-ins to your cream cheese. Try chopped olives, sautéed shallots, finely chopped rosemary or sundried tomatoes on the savory side; and orange zest and honey on the sweet end.
No party is quite complete without a platter of deviled eggs — preferably served in one of those round, vintage platters with the indentations where the eggs go. Whether you serve them plain or mixed with curry powder, mustard or sour cream and salmon roe, they add a filling, savory note to your menu. Make them the night before and keep them covered in the fridge until after neilah.
Whether you start with bulgur or barley, quinoa or rice, grain salads are a break fast dream. They hold well overnight in the fridge, especially if you keep the dressing in a separate container until just before you are ready to serve. They feed a crowd, are vegan-friendly and, when made well, are vibrantly flavorful. You can dress them up with dried cherries, chopped fresh herbs or grilled corn kernels, or dress up a dish of tabbouleh. Just follow the three golden rules behind making any great salad: crunch, color and contrast.
Baked French toast
Think of baked French toast (also known as French toast casserole) as the South’s take on sweet noodle kugel. Instead of egg noodles, it’s made with bread, but the rich, eggy custard will taste delightfully familiar. Plus, the casserole comes with a surprise layer of brown sugar caramel swimming at the bottom, so there’s that. Make it the day before, then while guests are taking off their coats, throw it into a 350˚ F oven for 15 minutes, or until warmed through.
Most soft breads work fine for baked French toast, but challah is particularly fantastic. A delicious main dish that rids your freezer of all those accumulated odds and ends of challah? Win, win.
Romesco sauce and fresh veggies
Move over hummus. This classic Spanish sauce made from roasted red peppers, ground almonds and smoked paprika makes a Technicolor, intensely flavorful dip for crudité. It isn’t half bad slathered on a bagel either.
As a refreshing, bubbly alternative (or addition) to orange juice, try switchel. The rustic cocktail of apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, ginger and water (I like seltzer) is popping up on artisanal menus everywhere. The best part? It is simple to make in bulk and in advance. Stir up a batch to serve your parched guests.
Leah Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward and author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” Chronicle Books (2015).