For some time I have been referring to Rosh Hashana as "the honey holiday." I think it would also be perfect to call it "the fruit and honey holiday" because fruit is honored both in a special blessing of new fruit and in providing sweetness throughout the menu.
In addition to the custom-honored apples dipped in honey, there are plenty of ways to pair the favored Rosh Hashana foods. I like to bake honey-sweetened apple cakes or honey-glazed apple or pear tarts. Chef Mani Niall, author of Covered in Honey, makes a pastry topping of plums baked with red wine and honey and a tart filled with berries cooked to jam consistency with honey, apples, apple juice and cinnamon.
For last-minute ideas, here are some easier sweet treats to enjoy for the holiday dinners, for meals during the following week or at the break-the-fast meal after Yom Kippur.
A favorite of mine is honey apple compote, a simply scrumptious way to combine apples with honey. You can season it with cinnamon or lemon zest or spike it with apple brandy and serve it on its own or as a filling for purchased pie shells or a partner for plain cake slices. After the holiday, if you have leftover honey cake, you can spoon some of the warm compote on top and serve it garnished with sour cream or whipped cream. Honey apple compote is a tasty accompaniment for creamy, raisin-studded couscous, a tasty brunch comfort food.
A fall fruit combination that makes a good dessert sauce is plums, pears and prunes cooked in white or red wine with honey and lemon zest. Niall makes a quick sauce of fresh or dried figs, port wine and honey. As a variation, he uses dried apricots, honey and brandy.
Indeed, fruit in honey wine syrup is a useful recipe for any fruit you like. Around the High Holy Days, I sweeten the wine with honey instead of all or part of the sugar used in the classic wine-poached fruit formula. The fruit in its syrup makes a tasty dessert after a copious holiday meal or a lovely accompaniment for honey cake, sponge cake, pound cake or ice cream.
PEARS AND PLUMS IN HONEY WINE SYRUP
Pears, plums and prunes in citrus-scented wine make a delicious sweet. The fruits gain flavor from the wine and impart their own fruity taste to it. If you use white wine, both the plums and the prunes give it a lovely color. Serve the fruit in its wine syrup as a light dessert, or dice some of the fruit, mix it with part of the syrup and serve it as a delicious sauce for unfrosted cake or a topping for ice cream. You can leave the citrus zest strips in the syrup or remove at serving time.
â€¢ 3 cups dry white or red wine
â€¢ 1â„3 cup honey, or more to taste
â€¢ 1â„3 cup sugar
â€¢ a pared strip of lemon zest
â€¢ 700 gr. ripe but firm medium-size pears
â€¢ 450 gr. ripe plums, halved and pitted
â€¢ 110 gr. pitted prunes
Combine wine, sugar, orange zest, lemon zest and vanilla bean in heavy medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, until sugar dissolves. Raise heat to high and bring to boil. Remove from heat and cover.
Peel, halve and core pears. Bring wine syrup to boil. Add pear halves. Cover with a lid slightly smaller than diameter of saucepan to keep pears submerged. Return to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook pears until tender when pierced with sharp knife, about 30 minutes. Carefully remove pears with slotted spoon. Add plums and prunes and poach over low heat about 12 minutes or until they are tender. Remove from heat. Taste syrup, and add more honey if you like.
Return pears to syrup. Cover fruit with a small lid to keep it submerged. Cool fruit in syrup. Refrigerate fruit in syrup for at least 4 hours so they absorb flavor from syrup. Serve cold, in deep dishes.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
COUSCOUSWITH APPLES, MILK AND HONEY
Honey apple compote turns this breakfast dish into a dairy dessert resembling rice pudding.
â€¢ 2 cups water
â€¢ 1 to 2 Tbsp. honey
â€¢ 4 to 6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature, cut in pieces
â€¢ 1 2â„3 cups couscous
â€¢ 1â„2 cup raisins
â€¢ 2 cups hot milk
â€¢ 1 to 2 cups Warm Honey Apple Compote (see next recipe)
Bring water, honey and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous and raisins and return to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Add remaining butter and 1â„4 cup milk and mix lightly with a fork.
Serve couscous in bowls. Top each with a tablespoon of apple compote. Serve remaining hot milk separately in a pitcher and remaining compote in a separate dish.
Makes 4 servings.
HONEY APPLE COMPOTE
During the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I flavor this French-inspired apple dessert with honey instead of the usual sugar. Start with the smaller amount of honey and add more if you wish, according to the sweetness of the apples. Instead of or in addition to lemon, you can flavor the compote with 1â„2 teaspoon cinnamon, or add 1 to 2 tablespoons apple brandy after removing the compote from the heat.
â€¢ 1.4 kg. tart, medium-tart or sweet apples
â€¢ 2 to 4 Tbsp. butter or 2 to 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
â€¢ 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
â€¢ grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
â€¢ 3 to 5 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
â€¢ 1 to 2 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
Peel, halve and core apples. Cut them in thin wedges or slices.
Heat butter in a heavy stew pan. Add apples and saute over medium heat, turning pieces over often, for 2 minutes or until they are coated with butter. Add lemon juice and grated lemon zest. Cover tightly and cook over low heat, stirring often, about 25 minutes or until apples are very tender. As the apples cook, check them occasionally; if pan looks dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons water.
Stir in 3 tablespoons honey. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until compote is thick and most of the liquid in the pan evaporates. Taste and add more honey or sugar if desired; heat briefly to dissolve it. Serve warm or cold.
Makes about 8 to 10 servings.
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.