With the days of Yamim Noraim almost at their beginning not only have my thoughts turned to the dishes I want to make for all the glorious holiday meals that are coming up, but also to the fast of Yom Kippur that will end this time of introspection and atonement.
Fasting is a ritual that is not only central within Jewish tradition but stretches across other religious traditions. Muslims practice the month long fast of Ramadan, while adherents of various Christian denominations, such as Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Church, fast during the period of Lent. The Baha’I religion has a feast similar to Ramadan and the first Sunday of each month is a fast day for Mormons.
These periods of fasting offer us the opportunity for intense spiritual connectedness and spiritual nourishment. Yet there is no doubt that by the end of the fast people’s thoughts are begin to turn towards the long awaited break-fast meal.
Just because Rosh Hashanah is over, doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate the start of the year with something sweet. Here are 11 great honey recipes including one for Fig, Phyllo and Honey Stacks and another for Lavender Honey Thyme Frozen Yogurt. [Serious Eats]
…And if you’re going through apple withdraw after the holiday, try this simple Cranberry Apple Strudel. [Serious Eats]
If you love making your own hummus, try this DIY tahini recipe. [The Kitchn]
Take a look into how Kellogg’s keep Corn Flakes kosher in the world’s largest cereal plant. [The Jewish Chronicle]
The smell of savory challahs permeates the kitchen with sweet hints of cinnamon and raisin. We knead, stretch, sweat and grunt as we shape the dough with our fingers into elaborate braids, rolls and twists. Our hands have been inherited from a long line of women empowered by a sacred undertaking: the making of challah.
This year, I will hold a challah workshop in my home the day before Yom Kippur where female friends will gather in my kitchen to celebrate Jewish woman hood and the magic of femininity. We will take turns kneading the dough as each one of us, immersed into a state of harmony and spirituality shares prayers of healing, comfort, finding love, looking for a job and other requests.
Have you ever had red honey? Neither have we, but according to Robin Shulman, scarlet-hued honey (and orange blossom honey, Hawaiian honey, etc) are all variations of the Rosh Hashanah staple.
Robin Shulman is the author of the newly released book “Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York.” The informative and interesting tome takes a look at the history and production of the seven different foods in New York and how they changed life of neighborhoods and the city. The chapter on honey, is one of our favorites.
We caught up with Shulman to get her opinion on the creme de la creme of honeys in hopes of upping our game for the holidays and ended up with a ton of insight into beekeeping and policy, the “infinite” types of honey and a look at what honey would have been like 100 years ago when our ancestors were munching penny candies from the corner store.
Over the last year my boyfriend Uriel and I — like so many other members of our generation — have become avid canners. Our experiments with blueberries, peaches, and rhubarb have resulted in stacks of colorful Ball jars lining our countertops.
As the waning summer limits the availability of berries and empty counter space becomes a valuable commodity, it’s hard to justify making more jam. The jams will stay unspoiled for a year and there’s a limit to how much we can eat. But I’m not quite ready to put my canning tools away.
On a recent drive from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, I convinced Uriel that we should pick apples along the way and make apple butter for our mothers for Rosh Hashanah. It was, I insisted, a win-win. We wouldn’t miss out on fall canning; and it would be a heartfelt New Year’s present. At the orchard we filled a bushel sized basket for only $7! It seemed like a great price for a bushel, but we were unaware that there were over 100 medium-sized apples in our basket.
When we got home, we broke out the cookbooks. To my dismay, our cursory recipe review revealed that we would have to peel the apples, a tedious and time consuming task that I desperately hoped we could avoid.
A Greek-American friend of mine told me about Artopolis bakery in Astoria. This bakery is the real deal; there are both savory and sweet pastries of all varities – from spanakopita, to biscuits, to cakes, to tarts. Once I knew of its existence, I found myself going out of my way to stop by Astoria and load up on their treats. I immediately fell in love with a cookie called melamakarona. These honey soaked biscuits were kept in a tray behind glass, which added to the allure. They looked so precious; their golden-brown color, glistening with honey and topped with chopped walnuts. The aroma is fragrant, with hints of clove and cinnamon. The texture of the cookie is baklava-esque, as it’s soft from the honey bath it sits in.
It’s the start of chag season, and over the next few months our tables will be filled with food and surrounded by friends and family. But some of the classic dishes (you know the ones – think brisket, sweet and sour meatballs, and honey cake) can look drab, even when prepared by the most skilled home cooks. As comforting and delicious as Bubby’s cooking is, sometimes it can all get a little, well, brown. This year we turned to food styling pros for some holiday table tips.
Before you even get to the food, you set the mood when you set the table. For a formal feel, break out the good china, but also don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here. Tori Avey of the popular food blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen says, “I enjoy seeing color on the table, so I tend to use very colorful place settings. I like hand painted vintage dishes, Moroccan-style plates and glasses, and wood serving platters and utensils.” Feel free to forgo conventional wisdom and mix and match for a fun and whimsical look.
My fondest memory of our Rosh Hashanah table is from even before we sat down to eat. As I was growing up, one of my chores on the Jewish New Year was to help set the table. Every year, as my mother would leave the plate of apples and honey on the table while she attended to some other kitchen task, I would sneak over and try to grab an apple slice off the pile, dip it in honey, and sneak out. The trick, of course, was making sure that pile of apple slices looked undisturbed. I had to choose my apple slice carefully, making the whole effort sort of like a fruit-base Jenga puzzle. Pulling on the right slice was crucial. Once I achieved success (yes! no one would know!) dipping it into the honey presented its own challenges. How to get the delicious bee-nectar out without spilling a drop on the white table cloth? It took a few years, but I mastered the art of rolling the apple slice just right so the honey would curl its golden fingers around the wedge like an infant reflexively grabbing his mothers finger. And then, crunch!
Where did the custom of dipping apples in honey come from anyway? The earliest sources I found regarding eating symbolic foods on the New Year are in the Talmud (Keritot 6a), but apples are not mentioned. Only dates from which honey could be extracted. Other foods included pumpkin, fenugreek, leeks, and beets, all symbols of fertility.
Many of us are blessed to have locally sourced organic honey available, made with the nectar of wild flowers. When local honey isn’t available, however, the only alternative is purchasing honey produced abroad. And our choice, in that situation, DOES make a difference!
The power of food never ceases to amaze me. It has the power to not only provide nourishment for our bodies, but it can build bridges in the most seemingly unusual and unexpected ways.
This Rosh Hashanah marks my second as a Jewish woman. I converted in August 2011, though I’d considered myself Jewish for some time before I made it official in the mikvah. Despite my convictions to adherence to Jewish practice, I worried that I’d lose important parts of my black American identity. Like many, I converted under Ashkenazi auspices and as much as I enjoy my partner’s bubbie’s matzah ball soup, I longed for the comfort foods and traditions of my family.
Merging the southern family traditions passed down to me from my mother, who learned them from her mother, with my new Jewish traditions is an important part of how I identify as a Jew. During Rosh Hashanah 2011, I discovered a welcome tradition buried within the Sephardic traditions black-eyed peas and greens.
When you edit stories about Jewish food everyday — whether they’re about food carts, bagels or hummus (next week we’ll dedicate the entire week to the dip) — you sometimes get so caught up in the details that you forget to step back and look at this rich cultural world you cover.
Yesterday, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to contemplate the big picture of Jewish food with one of the most passionate Jewish foodies I know — James Beard Foundation VP and cookbook author Mitchell Davis.
Each week Davis hosts a radio show called Taste Matters on the food radio station Heritage Radio Network. And yesterday, the taste that mattered was decidedly Jewish. Check out my conversation with Davis to gain perspective on the world of Jewish food, hear what the Forward has in store for Rosh Hashanah and learn how to update holiday dinners without ditching your grandmother’s brisket recipe.
Click here to listen to the podcast.
There are many foods and dishes that help define the space of a holiday—that help to give the celebration many layers of sensory textures. Because of that relationship, such foods sometimes turn into a symbol of the holiday and carry memories and connotations whenever they appear in a grocery store or meal.
During the first summer in my current home in Denver, there were plenty of bees in the garden. Every time I walked outside to see how things were growing, I could see the bees buzzing around the plants, happily pollinating my zucchinis and herbs. I had an abundant harvest that year; in fact, I probably still have some pesto in the freezer. The next summer, there were almost no vegetables to harvest. And upon reflection, I realized there were also no bees. That was the summer of 2006.
This September I saw the movie “Queen of the Sun” as part of Denver-based Ekar Farm’s “Honey, It’s Bee Month” programming. From the movie, I learned that 2006 was a year that beekeepers all over the US started noticing a phenomenon called “Colony Collapse Disorder.” CCD is the term used to describe the spontaneous collapse of a beehive due to the disappearance of worker bees. Essentially all the worker bees from a hive simply disappear, for no apparent reason.
A good challah can make a Jewish meal. Here are seven excellent ones in Los Angeles. [Serious Eats]
Rosh Hashanah now has it’s own cupcake. New York’s Magnolia Bakery is now serving up Honey Cupcakes made with walnuts and a touch of citrus zest. [Magnolia Bakery]
If the purpose of dipping apple slices into honey on Rosh Hashanah is to bring about a sweet year, caramel candy apples offer a kind of extreme dipping. The recipe puts a new twist on a custom that is hundreds of years old.
Some believe that the tradition of dipping apples in honey originated from Solomon’s “Song of Songs” which says, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved — Israel.” In addition, a midrash, or biblical tale, says that trees and all vegetation were created on Rosh Hashanah eve. Others argue that the tradition came from Eastern Europe, where few biblical fruits, other than the apple, were common. Apple trees were also harvested around the holiday season. Either way, it is a beautiful custom: apples, the fruits of love, created on Rosh Hashanah eve, dipped in nature’s sweetest goo. It’s a sticky, finger-licking reminder of a sweet year.
Caramel candy apples are a snazzy version of the practice, like an ancient tradition on steroids. The process of making them is rather straightforward and a fun way to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, especially with kids. Each caramel apple is dipped in a delicious lacquer of the gooey stuff and individually designed with endless options for colorful toppings.
Apple cake is one of Judaism’s most enduring recipes. Every family has its own method and nary a Jewish cookbook is without an entry for this perennial favorite. While the cake is popular year round, at no time does it see more action than during Rosh Hashanah, when apples and honey represent a sweet new year. But there are many other simanim (the symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah) that get overlooked and this year I wanted to bring them into the picture.
In a humorous twist of history and translation, apples may not have even been one of the biblical fruits of the bible. According to Gil Marks in “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” the bible mentions tapuach, which in modern Hebrew means apple. “However,” he says, “many authorities believe that the biblical tapuach was in fact a different fruit, perhaps the quince or a citrus fruit, because in the biblical period, the apple primarily grew wild and was not yet easily cultivated in tropical areas like Israel and Egypt.”
Start the year off well, be bold, shine forth with simplicity. Rosh Hashanah foods are meant not just to tickle our taste buds but also to inspire. The flavors and textures of holiday foods are meant to encourage the turn towards new possibilities. According Gilda Angel, the author of the “Sephardic Holiday Cooking,” Turkish Jewish cuisine, which relies on bright flavors of vegetables, side lining the heavy spices that dress up other Middle Eastern Jewish culinary traditions, is the perfect way to give the New Year a bright bold fresh start.
Like other Sephardic Jews, Turkish Jews who are originally of Spanish decent make food a spiritual centerpiece of the holiday. Drawing on the ancient Talmudic custom of eating foods that embody the wishes that we have for the New Year, Sephardic Jews around the world have developed complex holiday menus utilizing the ingredients that correlate to the blessings for the New Year. For those worried that there might be a negative decree in the coming year, try eating pumpkin dishes, such as the Pan De Calabaza, a pumpkin bread from the menu below, which will work to annul the decree. Leeks, like those who found in the Keftes De Prasa, or leek fritters, also below help give us luck instead of strengthen those who seek to triumph over us.
When I participated in the Adamah Fellowship at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in the fall of 2006, I remember feeling such amazement at the way that the High Holidays perfectly lined up with the agricultural calendar. I arrived at the farm just in time to see summer turn into fall — to harvest the last of the tomatoes and eggplants, clear out old cucumber and summer squash plants and begin to put the field “to bed,” planting cover crop and spreading manure to ensure fertile soil for the next growing season. As we celebrated the New Year, we dipped the first of the season’s apples into honey and feasted upon the frost-sweetened storage crops of the season: carrots, beets, and potatoes.
This year, the beginning of fall brought on the terrific force of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Connecticut rainstorms usually bring about an inch of rain, but these storms together brought between 9 and 11.5 inches of rain. This massive amount of water caused our main field, the sadeh, to flood — not once, but twice. As these waters rushed over the rows of carefully tended vegetables, they wreaked havoc. Low-lying vegetables such as cabbages and carrots were drowned. Other crops were simply swept away. The winter squash, which had been gathering sugars to be as sweet as possible for harvest, floated in the floodwaters to the woods at the edges of the field. Because of possible contamination in the floodwaters, vegetables that remained after the waters receded have been deemed unsafe to eat. Topsoil — the fertile, soft soil that farmers spend almost as much time cultivating as they do vegetables — was completely washed from the field. The past seven years of composting and cover cropping was lost and will have to begin our next season on hard, compacted soil.
There are no lack of recipes to cook up this Rosh Hashanah (we’ll share some of ours on Monday). In the meantime, check out the LA Times for chicken stuffed with brown rice and grapes and fruit “carpaccio.” Tablet shares recipes for a Persian meal including Quince and Veal Chorosht’e Be, Persian Chicken Soup With Chickpea Dumplings and Persian Sweet Rice With Orange and Carrots.
Looking to try out some new apple varieties this Rosh Hashanah? The Kitchn’ gives the low down on a bushel of them.
While those of us on a gluten-free diet may have our daily eating habits under control, the chagim (Jewish Holidays) present a whole new array of challenges. Unless you’re preparing a holiday feast in your own home where everything is under control and to your own standards, it’s often difficult to eat out — even if it’s with family.
For those of you gluten-free folks out there, hopefully your family is open to helping you navigate your way successfully through the holiday while keeping everyone happy. Just remember: many delicious dishes can be prepared easily sans gluten and so many are naturally gluten-free, such as salads, soups, sides…unfortunately just not a typical noodle kugel (unless you’re going to be adventurous and make your own egg noodles) nor a typical challah. Here is a quick guide to navigating Rosh Hashanah gluten-free with a few recipe links and ideas to help you out at this holiday season. Chag Sameach!
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