“Nineteen people?” my husband said. “Where are you going to put them all?”
Last year, I invited more people to break the Yom Kippur fast than I could seat around tables. While my heart expanded to include everyone, unfortunately my walls are rigid.
I decided to serve dinner buffet style. Yet I worried that this pivotal meal, a transition from a solemn holiday into a cozy meal, would be a fiasco. I figured after 24 hours of forgoing food, the least my family and friends deserved was a chair at a table.
But people were happy to be included. After sitting all day at services, they liked milling about and stretching their legs.
“I’m actually getting to speak with everyone,” said my sister-in-law. “At a table, your conversation is confined to the people you’re next to or across from.”
The small children found it exciting to eat picnic style. They gravitated to their grandparents, who were arranged around the living room. They left the dining table to the middle generation of our family, the 30-somethings.
Selecting the right menu became essential for a break-fast buffet. Bagels and lox were both traditional and ideal for this purpose. I also presented a variety of help-yourself foods. Piping hot vegetable casseroles hit the spot. Salads were easy to maneuver on the plate. Finger foods, such as cookies or brownies, were practical desserts.
“The buffet idea was inspired,” said my niece as she left. “It felt more relaxed than a formal dinner.”
Since I’d stumbled onto a successful formula, I plan to repeat it this year. Who needs extra tables when you have a gathering of warm people who enjoy being together?
nonstick vegetable spray
4 Italian plum tomatoes
2 Tbsps. olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
Preheat the oven to 400˚. Coat an 11- or 12-inch round baking dish or ceramic tart dish with nonstick spray.
Cut the tomatoes into 1⁄4-inch slices, about 6 slices per tomato. Arrange tomato slices in the baking dish. They may overlap slightly. Drizzle olive oil on top. Sprinkle with salt and oregano.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just cooked through but not falling apart. Recipe can be made 2 days in advance, reheated briefly, or served at room temperature.
Makes 24 tomato slices.
1 and 1⁄4 lbs. boneless tuna steak, sushi grade suggested
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt for sprinkling
1 Vidalia onion
1⁄3 cup olive oil (plus more if needed to saute), and 1⁄3 cup for pouring
6 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
1 lemon, cut into slices
1 Tbsp. capers, drained
3 Tbsps. fresh parsley, chopped fine
1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar
With a sharp knife, cut the tuna into 2×2-inch pieces, 1⁄2-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and reserve.
Cut the onion into thin slices (about 1⁄8 inch thick). Break the slices into the onion’s rings.
In a large skillet, heat 1⁄3 cup oil on a medium flame until warm. Place the raw onion rings and garlic in the skillet. Sprinkle on salt. Saute, stirring often, until the onion and garlic begin to brown. Add more oil, if needed. Take skillet from flame. With tongs, remove the onion and garlic, keeping as much oil in the skillet as possible. Place onion mixture on a plate and reserve.
Move the tuna pieces into the oil and saute briefly, turning once. This may have to be done in two batches. When barely cooked through, remove tuna from the skillet and place on a plate to reserve. Save the oil remaining in the skillet.
In a 2-quart, non-reactive bowl (with a cover) or a glass jar, layer half of the ingredients in this order: tuna, lemon slices (squeezed briefly onto tuna), capers, parsley and onion-garlic mixture. Sprinkle on more salt. Repeat these steps with the remaining ingredients.
Evenly pour on the vinegar, oil from the skillet, and remaining 1⁄3 cup of oil. Cover the bowl or jar and refrigerate for two days. Once or twice a day, gently baste the tuna mixture with the marinade (or shake the jar). Serve cold in an attractive bowl. Mixture will last for a week in the refrigerator.
Makes approximately 30 pieces of tuna.
String Bean Salad
8 Tbsp. olive oil
16 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs. string beans, tips removed
kosher salt to taste
1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
Heat oil in a large pot on a medium flame. Add the garlic and stir, until garlic gives off its fragrance. Move the string beans into the pot and sprinkle with salt. Saute, stirring often, until string beans are beginning to wilt but not cooked through. Check the salt while cooking and add more, if needed.
Remove pot from the flame. Drizzle on vinegar and stir.
Place the string beans and the oil remaining in the pot in a serving bowl. Add the red onion and toss ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap until serving. Can be made 2 days in advance. Serve at room temperature.
Curried Egg Salad
12 hard boiled eggs, cooled
3 celery stalks, diced fine
1 and 1⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 Tbsps. light mayonnaise
3⁄4 tsp. curry powder
3⁄8 tsp. ground cumin
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
several lettuce leaves, optional garnish
paprika for sprinkling
Slice the eggs in an egg slicer. Place them in a mixing bowl and chop them into little pieces.
Add the celery, mustard, mayonnaise, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Recipe can be made to this point 2 days in advance, if covered and refrigerated.
Serve egg salad on a platter, surrounded by lettuce leaves, if using. Sprinkle on paprika right before serving.
Serves 10 to 12.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at: [email protected]