Break the fast with a buffet


As the sound of the shofar officially closes the long day of Yom Kippur prayer, people head home a little weary but spiritually uplifted. It has been a tradition for our family to gather upon returning from synagogue for a break-the-fast meal. It began when our children were growing up, and we prepared a light brunch-style dairy supper.

In many Jewish homes, a favorite way to break the Yom Kippur fast is with a buffet table filled with easy-to-serve appetizers that guests can nibble when they return after a long day of prayer and fasting. Most of the food can be prepared in advance and put on the table quickly. No one wants to spend time in the kitchen while suffering from acute hunger pangs. The transition from fast to feast should be a gradual one. Begin with tea flavored with lemon and honey, or a glass of wine served with challah (egg bread) and honey cake.

Last year, we served mini Russian blini (blintzes) with smoked salmon and salmon caviar topped with sour cream. The recipe for the blini is not difficult and can be prepared in advance. I use a pan with seven shallow wells that is made just for this, but a nonstick frying pan will do as well. Cured or smoked salmon and salmon caviar helps replenish some of the salt lost after fasting for 24 hours.

I still remember what I was told by my parents: “After the Yom Kippur fast, our bodies need salt.” So our break-the-fast dinners always included smoked salmon and pickled herring. I’m not sure whether modern science agrees, but to be safe I’ve included Grandma Gene’s special recipe for Chopped Herring. It contains onion, apple, chopped hard-cooked egg and lots of love.

I can’t resist adding a few new ideas to the break-the-fast menu. This year I will serve a Vegetable Frittata that was inspired by a dish that is served at Cora’s, a small coffee shop in Santa Monica. The frittata is made in advance and heated when ordered. Filled with red peppers, onions and zucchini, it adds color to the buffet table. Prepare the frittata ahead of time, refrigerate, and serve at room temperature or heat in the oven just before serving.

Traditional Honey Cake is a holiday staple, symbolizing a sweet new year, but I continue to develop new recipes to make it better. This is one of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and even if you are not a big fan of honey cake, I think you will enjoy this one. 

The children always enjoy crisp cookies at the end of the meal, and these crunchy Sesame-Honey Thins are perfect. I suggest orange blossom honey or any light honey for the recipe, as a strong flavor tends to overpower these delicate, paper-thin cookies. Make the dough mixture in advance, and store them in the refrigerator until baking.

CORN BLINIS WITH SMOKED SALMON OR SALMON CAVIAR

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (boiled) or frozen corn, defrosted
3 eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 pound smoked salmon or salmon caviar
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Place the corn in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper, and process until smooth.

Brush a large nonstick skillet with olive oil (or use a heavy cast-iron skillet with seven pancake wells), and heat over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, drop the batter in by tablespoon and cook until golden brown, about 20 seconds a side.

Top each pancake with smoked salmon or salmon caviar and sour cream. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.

Makes about 24 servings.


GRANDMA’S CHOPPED HERRING

For almost every holiday gathering, Grandma Gene would arrive at the front door bearing a large glass bowl filled with chopped herring, along with her corn rye bread. She always finished garnishing the herring when she arrived, and then would serve it with pride. It took many years to convince her to part with the recipe. Finally, I sat there one day when she made it, measuring and taking notes as she prepared the dish.

1 pound schmaltz herring fillets or 1 jar (1 pound) pickled herring fillets in wine sauce
2 slices challah or egg bread
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 green apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 teaspoons vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil

Soak the herring in cold water overnight. Drain well. Bone and skin the herring and cut it into pieces. Soak the challah in cold water for a few minutes and squeeze out the water.

Place the herring, challah, onion and apple in a food grinder and grind. Chop the hard-boiled egg whites and combine with 3 teaspoons of the vinegar. Mix the whites into the herring mixture. Spread the chopped herring on a platter. Mash the egg yolks with the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and spread over the top of the chopped herring. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Just before serving, drizzle the oil over the top. Serve with thinly sliced corn rye bread.

Makes about 8 to 10 servings.  


VEGETABLE FRITTATA

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet, brushing sides of skillet, over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and zucchini; sauté until soft. Add salt and pepper, to taste. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, blending well. Pour egg mixture over hot vegetables in the skillet; stir gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, without stirring, until eggs are set on bottom, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle half of the cheese over frittata. Place under broiler and broil until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, cut frittata into wedges, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.


NEW CLASSIC HONEY CAKE

Olive oil for loaf pans
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 3/4 cups honey
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup currants
3 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon grated orange zest 
 
Brush two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with olive oil.

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coffee; bring to a boil and cool. Soak the currants in the brandy.

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the ¼ cup olive oil, brown sugar and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the honey/coffee mixture to the egg mixture, stirring after each addition. Fold in the currants, almonds and orange zest.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour; the top will be sticky, but a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Makes 2 loaves, 8 to 10 servings each.


SESAME-HONEY THINS

3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup orange-flavored honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
 
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg and sesame seeds. Add the flour and salt; beat until smooth. (You may cover the dough with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon small marble-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto a lightly oiled, foil-lined or silicone baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on the baking sheet. When the cookies harden, carefully peel them off.

Store in an airtight container with foil between the layers.

Makes about 8 dozen.

Warren Buffett’s Jewish Connection


Warren Buffett is not a Jew; in fact, he describes himself as an agnostic.

Still, the billionaire investment guru, who made big news in May when his Berkshire Hathaway corporation bought an 80 percent share in the Israeli metalworks conglomerate, Iscar, for $4 billion, for years has been making his mark on the U.S. Jewish community back home — although sometimes in a roundabout way.

“Proportionally, if you look at the number of Jews in this country and in the world, I’m associated with a hugely disproportionate number,” said Buffett, the second-richest man in the world. His life, he added, “has been blessed by friendship with many Jews.”

The Israeli government stands to reap about $1 billion in taxes on Buffett’s purchase of Iscar. Shortly after announcing the deal, Buffett said he was surprised to learn that a Berkshire subsidiary, CTB International, was purchasing a controlling interest in another Israeli company, AgroLogic.

In Israel — which Buffett plans to visit in the fall — the hope is that the deals will have longer legs: Buffett himself has not ruled out future purchases there and, considering his status as a leading investor, observers say others also may take a look at Israeli companies now that Buffett has done so.

“You won’t find in the world a better-run operation than Iscar,” Buffett says. “I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s run by Israelis.”

Among the first companies Buffett acquired after launching Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha-based investment and insurance giant, was The Sun Newspapers of Omaha, then owned by Stan Lipsey, one-time chairman of The Jewish Press, Omaha’s Jewish newspaper.

“At the time, the Omaha Club did not take Jewish members, and the Highland Country Club, a golf club, didn’t have any [non-Jewish] members,” Lipsey recalled. “Warren volunteered to join the Highland” — rather than the Omaha — “to set an example of nondiscrimination.”

Buffett happily recalls the fallout from his application.

“It created this big rhubarb,” he said. “All of the rabbis appeared on my behalf, the [Anti-Defamation League] guy appeared on my behalf. Finally they voted to let me in.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story, Buffett said. The Highland had a rule requiring members to donate a certain amount of money to their synagogues. Buffett, of course, wasn’t a synagogue member, so the club changed its policy: Members now would be expected to give to their synagogues, temples or churches.

But that still didn’t quite work, Buffett recalls with a laugh, because of his agnosticism.

In the end, the rule was amended to ask simply that members make some sort of charitable donation, and the path to Buffet’s membership was clear.

“He’s an incredible guy,” said Lipsey, today the publisher of the Buffalo News. In 1973, The Sun won a Pulitzer Prize in local investigative specialized reporting for an expose on financial impropriety at Boys Town, Neb.

“Warren came up with the key source for us knowing what was going on out there,” Lipsey said.

Buffett himself researched Boys Town’s stocks to bolster the story, Lipsey added.

In the 1960s, Omaha Rabbi Myer Kripke decided to invest in his friend Buffett’s new business venture. Their wives had become friendly, he said, and the foursome enjoyed playing the occasional game of bridge together.

“My wife had no card sense and I was certainly no competition to Warren, who is a very good bridge player and a lover of the game,” said Kripke, rabbi emeritus of Omaha’s Conservative Beth El Synagogue. “He’s very bright and very personable and very decent. He is a rich man who is as clean as can be.”

Kripke, father of the noted philosopher Saul Kripke, bought a few shares in Berkshire Hathaway and quickly sold them, doubling his money, he said.

Recognizing a good thing when he saw it, he bought a bunch more shares in his friend’s company, shares that by the 1990s had made Kripke — who says he never earned more than $30,000 a year as a rabbi — a millionaire.

Asked if he credits Buffett with his financial success, he didn’t hesitate.

“Entirely, yes,” he said. “I never had much of an income.”

The Sun newspaper group was not Buffett’s only early purchase of a Jewish-owned company. In 1983, sealing the deal with a handshake, Buffett bought 90 percent of the Nebraska Furniture Mart from Rose Blumkin, a Russian-born Jew who moved to the United States in 1917.

In 1989, he purchased a majority of the stock in Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, a phenomenally successful jewelry store, from the Friedman family.

“He has many friends in the Jewish community,” said Forrest Krutter, secretary of Berkshire Hathaway and a former president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha.

Buffett’s former son-in-law, Allen Greenberg, is a Jew, and now runs the Buffett Foundation, much of whose work has dealt with reproductive rights and family-planning issues. Buffett’s personal assistant is Ian Jacobs, who goes by his Hebrew name, Shami.

Buffett himself counts the late Nebraska businessman Howard “Micky” Newman and philanthropist Jack Skirball as among his “very closest friends.”

Further, Buffett said his “hero and the man who made me an investment success” was Ben Graham. Graham, along with Newman’s father, Jerry, ran a New York fund called Graham-Newman Corp.

“After besieging Ben for the three years after I received my degree from Columbia, Ben and Jerry finally hired me,” Buffett said. “I was the first gentile ever employed by the firm — including secretaries — in its 18 years of existence. My first son bears the middle name Graham after Ben.”

Buffett “is very much honored in the Jewish community,” Kripke said.