Enjoy a simple, filling feast before the fast

Kaparot is the ceremony in which we transfer our sins onto a sacrificial animal. Traditionally, men swung roosters and women swung hens three times above their heads, saying something to the effect of, “This fowl is my substitute, this is my surrogate, this is my atonement.” Then, the chickens were slaughtered, some eaten by the family, some given to the poor. This ancient practice is seeing a resurgence in popularity, with some minor adjustments.

Some families (many of whom don’t eat animals, let alone kill them), are content with using rubber chickens. Others wrap up coins in a large sock, then swing it around their heads. The money is then given to charity. Other families, like mine, enjoy a dinner of chicken before Erev Yom Kippur. At this meal, my husband and I initiate a discussion with our children about the past year, including actions we’re proud of, and which behaviors we are not planning on repeating.

For so many American Jews, our Jewish identity is expressed through food, or the lack of it. Many are nonobservant during the year, but choose to fast on Yom Kippur.

It’s a mitzvah to feast before a fast. It is commanded to eat and drink on the day before the fast so we may have the power of food to serve God with greater energy. Generally, our pre-fast food is not heavily spiced or salted, so we won’t be too thirsty on Yom Kippur. Nuts are often avoided because the Hebrew word for nut has the same numeric value as the word for sin.

My family plans to share the following festive meal with friends on Sunday afternoon before we go to synagogue. We’ll begin with a round challah, and the soup uses up some of the many tomatoes we have now. The zucchini adds color, and its preparation is uncomplicated. In this super-simple kugel, I’ve incorporated apples and honey for a sweet new year. Dessert is sliced melon, the last of the summer and really fabulous at this time of year.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup | Serves 8

4 large tomatoes, cut in halves
2 large eggplants, sliced,

salted and rinsed
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. chopped thyme
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
4 Tbs. chopped parsley
Toss the tomatoes, eggplant and garlic with the olive oil. Roast the vegetables in a preheated 425-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the eggplant is very tender.
Remove the skin from the eggplant, and place the vegetables and pan juices in a soup pot. Add chicken stock and chopped thyme, bring to a boil, then reduce the soup to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes.
Puree the soup until smooth. Simmer until the soup is thickened. Serve warm, garnished with the chopped walnuts and parsley.

Zucchini with Lemon | Serves 8

4 Tbs. olive oil
2 lbs. zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini, tossing well, and cook until tender. Add lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat to serve, and toss in the parsley.

Apple Honey Kugel | Serves 8

1 lb. egg noodles
4 Tbs. vegetable oil or unsalted butter
4 eggs
6 apples, shredded
1/2 cup honey
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup raisins
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with the oil or butter. Beat the eggs very well, and add to noodles.
Combine apples, honey and raisins so that the apples and raisins are well coated with the honey. Stir into the egg mixture, adding the apple juice to moisten. Pour into an oven-safe baking dish, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour, until the liquid is absorbed and there is a nice crust. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].