Several years ago, I realized hosting lunch on Rosh Hashanah had become routine, something that bothered me.

Bagels and lox were always on the menu. There were many sensible reasons for this choice. Everyone loves bagels and lox. They are easily assembled on a day when I, like many Jews, spend the morning attending High Holiday services.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, services this year will most likely be viewed in my living room via Zoom. However, it will still be challenging to prepare and present a lavish New Year’s lunch.

Because this midday meal is sandwiched between two hearty dinners composed of many courses, a heavy lunch is not greeted with enthusiasm, so the tried-and-true was practical for this reason, too.

But I was determined to get creative and break up the routine. Although I intend to keep bagels, lox, whitefish salad and herring on the menu, I decided to augment them.

When contemplating what else to serve, I selected foods that could be prepared a day or two in advance, or else I would be frantically cooking while family and friends were circling my dining table, wondering when they could sit down and eat.

Searching for a make-ahead menu, I gravitated to roasted vegetables, marinated salads and a recipe for salmon mousse, all light and healthy choices that were compatible with smoked fish. Easy to prepare, these dishes will add a homemade touch, something personal to pile on packages from the deli. After morning services, I look forward to seeing foods made from scratch on my table.

Creamy Curry Dressing | Dairy

Ingredients

1 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/2 cup plain light yogurt

1/4 cup 2% milk

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Move the dressing to a nice serving bowl and place next to the salmon mousse. The recipe can be made a day ahead if refrigerated.

Salmon Mousse | Dairy

Serves 8

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable spray

1/2 ounce unflavored vegetable-based gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped scallion bulbs (the white part)

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped dill

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 cup light cottage cheese

1/2 cup light plain yogurt

2 cups fine quality canned salmon, drained

1 tablespoon capers, drained

Suggested equipment: 6-cup Jell-O ring mold or an attractive 6-cup bowl. The ring mold offers stunning presentation but a comparable-sized bowl will suffice.

Lightly spray the inside of the Jell-O ring mold, if using, with nonstick spray. Reserve. If using a bowl, you don’t need to coat it with nonstick spray. 

Soften the gelatin in cold water for a couple of minutes. Add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin dissolves. Cool slightly.

Place the dissolved gelatin in a blender. Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, scallion, parsley, dill, chives, celery, paprika, cottage cheese and yogurt. Blend until pureed. Add the salmon and capers and blend again briefly until combined. Pour the salmon mixture into the prepared Jell-O ring mold or bowl. Chill until set, at least 4 hours. The recipe can be made until this point a day ahead if kept refrigerated. 

If using a bowl, serve the mousse in that bowl. Don’t unmold it. 

If using the Jell-O ring mold, unmold it this way: Carefully slip a thin knife around the edges of the mold. Fill the sink with 2 inches of hot water. Lower the mold into the hot water and rock it back and forth for 30 seconds or so. Remove the mold from the water and place a plate over the top of it. Turn over the plate and mold so the plate is resting on a table or counter. Tap the bottom of the mold and shake it a little. The mold should slip right out onto the plate. If not, return the mold to the hot water and try again. Refrigerate on the plate until serving.

Serve the salmon mousse with the curry dressing.

Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Onion | Pareve

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable spray

4 small eggplants

6 tomatoes

3 large onions

Olive oil for drizzling, about ¼ cup

Kosher salt to taste 

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Coat a 10-inch-by-15-inch ovenproof pan, such as Pyrex, with nonstick spray.

Peel the skin off the eggplants. Slice them thin. Slice the onions and tomatoes thin. Starting with the onions, arrange the onions, eggplants and tomatoes in layers in the prepared baking dish. The top layer should be tomatoes. Sprinkle on salt and garlic powder. Drizzle the top with olive oil.  

Bake for 3 hours, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Stir occasionally. Add more oil if the vegetables start to stick. The vegetables will shrink considerably while roasting. The recipe can be made 2 days in advance, if covered and refrigerated.

Serve at room temperature in an attractive bowl.

String Bean Salad | Pareve

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 ½ pounds string beans

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 shallot, peeled and chopped fine

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped fine

Kosher salt to taste

A sprinkle of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon parsley, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon dill, chopped fine

Set up a large bowl with cold water and plenty of ice cubes. Reserve.

Rinse the string beans under cold water. Snip off the ends. Place the string beans in a steamer set with water. Once the water comes to a boil, steam them for about 1 minute until parboiled. Quickly move the string beans to the bowl of ice water. Once cool, move the string beans to paper towels to drain. Make sure they are completely dry before dressing them.

Place the remaining ingredients in a jar with a lid. Screw on the top and shake well until the ingredients are well combined. Move the string beans to a flat-bottomed bowl and drizzle the contents of the jar over the top. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. This recipe can be made 12-24 hours in advance.

Serve at room temperature. JN

Linda Morel is a food columnist for Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication.

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