It’s tradition! After the Neilah services at my synagogue on Yom Kippur, there’s a surge to tables of light fare typically set out by the congregation’s sisterhood. Tired and hungry worshippers gather round to gulp down a glass of orange juice or sweet wine, along with a bit of sponge or honey cake. Then it’s back home for platters of fish, cheese, kugel and dairy dishes.

That’s a custom for American Jews in the United States. But for those from Russia—and this year, for so many from Ukraine—break-fast is a slice of sweet babka and a glass of lemon tea. Syrian and Iraqi Jews tend to nibble on ka’akim, round crunchy sesame cookies that look like mini-bagels. Turkish and Greek Jews break their fast with a sweet drink made with melon seeds. On the Shetland Islands where I grew up, my mother served homemade pickled herring and seltzer water—essential, she insisted, “to replenish liquids and salt lost during fasting.” And rightly so.

Close as Shetland is to Norway, my mother served the Norwegian herring salad year-round, not just during the High Holidays. Similarly, these break-fast recipes can be enjoyed all year. A rib of celery adds a slight zest to Cool Peach Soup. 

Vegans will delight with an antipasto platter, Jewish-style, as supermarkets offer the makings of a bright palette of exotic and familiar items. Seasons and Gefen offer briny items like pickled eggplant, baby corn, straw mushrooms and hearts of palm to name just a few. Open the cans, drain and arrange on a lettuce-lined platter. Add fresh veggies like sliced avocado (sprinkled with lemon juice to avoid discoloration), tricolored fresh pepper strips, sweet cherry tomatoes and pitted black olives. Toss sliced water chestnuts over top to add some crunch. No recipe is needed. What could be easier?

Break the fast Tips:

• Have plenty of seltzer and orange juice ready to pull from the fridge.

• Measure coffee and water into the percolator to plug in as soon as you get home from synagogue or set on a timer so it’s ready when the fast ends.For a crowd, set up two percolators, one for decaf coffee and one for regular. If using only one, make it decaf unless you know guests definitely want regular coffee.

• Split bagels ahead of time, arrange on a tray and cover with a damp paper towel, then with plastic wrap to prevent drying out.

• Don’t hesitate to use paper; there are so many lovely designs these days. Heavy-duty plastic flatware may be recycled.

• Cook ahead and freeze.

Fresh peaches. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Cool Peach Soup (Dairy)

Serves 4-6


4 large peaches, pits removed and sliced; or use 4 mangos

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 cup peach kefir  (a fermented milk, a thin yogurt)

1 rib celery, sliced

2 tablespoons finely shredded mint or 2 teaspoons dried


Place all ingredients except the mint into a blender or food processor. Purée, stir in the mint and chill.Serve in small bowls or glasses.

Herring Salad. Photo by courtesy of Ethel G. Hofman.

Norwegian Herring Salad (Dairy)

Serves 6

Cook’s Tips:

• May be prepared 1-2 days ahead and stored in fridge.

• Top the bowl of herring salad with sliced hard-cooked egg.


1 jar (12 ounces) pickled herring tidbits with onions, drained

1 small baked potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch chunks

1 sweet apple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch chunks

2-3 tablespoons plain yogurt

2 tablespoons snipped dill, packed


Snip the onions into ½-inch pieces. Place in a bowl with herring tidbits and remaining ingredients. Stir lightly to mix.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Potato Pesto Soufflé. Photo courtesy of Ethel G. Hofman.

Potato Pesto Soufflé (Dairy)

Serves 8-10

Cook’s Tips:

• Recipe may be doubled. Bake in a 13x9x2-inch dish.


10 potato blintzes

1½ cups frozen sugar snap peas, thawed (optional)

½ medium onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

½ cup bottled pesto

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

½ teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Arrange the blintzes in one layer in prepared dish. Scatter the snap peas (if using) and onions over the blintzes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Add the pesto, eggs, sour cream, garlic and pepper. Mix well. Pour over the blintz mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until puffed and nicely brown.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Figs. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Figs in Pomegranate Syrup (Pareve)

Serves 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

• Fresh figs may be used for dried figs. No need to soak or microwave.

• Substitute 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon for a cinnamon stick.

• May prepare 1 to 2 days ahead and refrigerate.

• Pomegranate juice is available in supermarkets.


1 pound dried figs

1 cup golden raisins

1½ cups pomegranate juice

½ cup kosher white wine ( possibly Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)

2 tablespoons fresh- lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

cinnamon stick

3 thin slices of ginger root, about 1-inch diameter

2 tablespoons honey or to taste


Place figs in a bowl and cover with hot water. Microwave for 3 minutes at high heat. Drain well.

Place in a saucepan with raisins, pomegranate juice, wine, lemon juice, water, cinnamon stick, ginger root and honey. Cover loosely.

Simmer for 30 minutes or until dried figs are plump. Sweeten to taste. Chill.

Remove cinnamon stick and ginger before serving.

Simple Espresso Mold (Pareve)

Serves 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

• Substitute for espresso, strong coffee with ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.

• For a dairy showstopper: When chilled, chop mold coarsely, spoon into demitasse cups or wine glasses. Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt or whipped cream and a sprinkling of shaved chocolate.


2 (3-oz.) packages kosher gelatin

1½ cups boiling water

1½ cups cold espresso coffee

¾ cup white wine

½ cup pareve chocolate coffee beans


In a large bowl, thoroughly dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in the coffee and wine.

Pour into a 1-quart bowl or mold. Refrigerate until just beginning to jell. Stir in the coffee beans.

Return to fridge and chill until set.

Bundt Cake Stuffed With Fall Fruits (Pareve)

Serves 15-18

Cook’s Tips:

• This cake freezes well. Freeze individual slices to remove as needed.

• Use kitchen scissors to snip plums and dates.

• Substitute diced mango for pear, apple or dates.

• Make a batch of cinnamon sugar; equal amounts of cinnamon and sugar. Stir, cover tightly and store in a cool dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Note: 1 tablespoon of baking powder equals 3 teaspoons.


1 pear, core removed and coarsely diced

1 Granny Smith apple, core removed and coarsely diced

4 prune plums, pitted and snipped in ¼-inch pieces

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar

1 teaspoon cardamom

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup vegetable oil

5 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ cup orange juice (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the pear, apple, plums, cranberries, dates, cinnamon-sugar and cardamom. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla and orange juice. Using an electric hand mixer, beat at medium speed, 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture is smooth and little bubbles appear.

Spoon half the batter into prepared pan. Spread about ¾ of the fruit mixture over. Top with remaining batter and fruits.

Bake in preheated oven for 1¼ hours or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool slightly on a wire rack. Loosen sides and turn out onto a serving platter. When completely cool, slice with a serrated knife.

Ethel G. Hofman is a syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.