We begin our Jewish New Year with positivity, hopes and enthusiasm. One of our traditions that gives us that boost is having simanim (symbolic foods) that manifest sweetness, good health and success (just to name a few) as part of our festive meals.
Most of you are very familiar with apples dipped in honey, pomegranates for abundance, the head of a fish for a year of being a head and not a tail. In our home, this is portrayed by colorful sweet gummy fish – I still have PTSD from sitting at a table when I was young with a dead fish staring at me… Many other symbolic foods include leek, zucchini, gourds, black-eyed peas, carrots, and my favorite – raisins and celery for a “raise in salary” (permission to laugh or snort).
I like including many of these foods as ingredients in our meals so with each course we can tap into the meaning of what these foods symbolize.
My focus this year is the hope that we should all have a sweet year that we will savor. Enjoy these tasty recipes that are simple to prepare and full of symbolic blessings for a shana tova u’metuka!
I’ve created this recipe to include many of the symbolic foods into one healthy, delicious soup. I enjoy the soup when it’s all blended and creamy, but you can opt to serve it as a chunky soup. Some may argue that when it’s all creamed together you can’t see the specific ingredients that we are focusing on. So in that case, I just display a slice or two of those vegetables on the table.
Yields 8-10 servings.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 onions, diced
- 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 4 zucchinis, sliced
- 2 or 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 or 3 stalks of celery, cut small
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 to 1½ Tbsp. kosher salt (larger pot 2 Tbsp.)
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 to 2 tsp. garlic powder
- Fresh parsley
- Water to cover
- Sliced scallions or chives to garnish
In a large pot (8 to 10 quarts/7.5 to 9.5 liters), heat the olive oil, and then saute the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves, zucchini, leek, carrots, celery and sweet potato, mixing well between each addition. Add salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Mix all together to the saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the water until the vegetables in the pot are just about covered. Add in fresh parsley or parsley flakes. Let this come to a boil, then turn down the heat and let simmer for 90 minutes to 2 hours. The longer it cooks, the more flavor it has!
Let the soup cool down before blending with an immersion blender until smooth (4 to 5 minutes). Or cream it in a food processor using the S blade.
This soup freezes very well, so you can prepare it ahead of time, freezing it in airtight containers.
Fish (even without the head) are symbolic on Rosh Hashanah, for they are so numerous as we hope the Jewish people will be. I also like the idea of a school of fish, as they stick together and look after one another, and we hope to emulate this trait.
A couple of weeks ago at a family Shabbat gathering, my busy niece -- with two adorable and active boys, as well as a full-time job – was in charge of making the salmon for the Shabbat meal. As it came to the table, the smell was sweet and tempting, and the taste took it over the edge of excellence. I knew I had to get the recipe, and I was relieved to hear how simple it is to put together in minutes. There was no doubt that it will be part of our Rosh Hashanah menu this year.
Yields 4 to 6 servings.
- 4 slices of salmon
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- Garnish with chopped parsley (optional)
Place a piece of baking paper in a baking dish and sprinkle the olive oil onto the paper. Line the slices of salmon in your pan, leaving a small space between slices for better results.
Pour on the soy sauce and honey. Sprinkle the brown sugar and sesame seeds over the salmon. Let this marinate for at least 10 minutes. (You can also cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight in the fridge.)
Preheat the oven to 220C/430F. Use the oven setting where the upper heating element (like grilling) is used.
Cook the salmon uncovered on a high shelf in the oven for about 18 minutes, and then check if it is cooked to your liking (less or more well done). Remove from the oven (or let it cook a bit longer if preferred). Let it cool for 10 minutes before covering and placing it in the fridge.
Pomegranate and Date Honey Brisket
Somehow over the years, brisket has become synonymous with Rosh Hashanah. Maybe it’s because it feeds a large crowd, the amazing smell it gives to our home, or perhaps its simplicity to prepare. Of course, I love to add that sweet and savory New Year’s touch with pomegranate juice, date honey and carrots to make it even more festive.
I buy a frozen brisket – cut #3 from the butcher. If it’s 4 kilos or more, I ask him to cut it in half. That way, I have enough for two occasions.
Yields 8 servings.
- 2 to 3 kilos brisket (#3)
- 1½ cups pomegranate juice or pomegranate wine
- 2 onions, sliced
- ½ to ¾ cup silan (date honey)
- 4 or 5 carrots, peeled and cut; or a bag of baby carrots
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 or 2 cups water
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds for garnish
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Place the onion slices on the bottom of a large baking pan, then place the brisket on top and the carrots around the brisket.
Pour over the date honey and pomegranate juice and sprinkle the black pepper. Slowly pour about 1 to 2 cups of water into the pan.
Cover tightly with foil and place it carefully in the oven. Let it cook slowly for about 5 hours, checking it after 4 hours to see if the fork goes in easily.
To bake in the oven overnight, use a frozen brisket and preheat the oven to 130C/225F and cook for about 8 hours. If it needs more time in the morning, raise the temperature to 150C/300F, and let it cook another hour.
Let the brisket cool completely before slicing. Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds before serving.
TIP: This dish can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, so all you need to do is pop it in the oven about 2 hours before serving.
Grandma’s Honey Cake
I’m getting out of the elevator in the tall building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We push the door open when it arrives at her floor (yes, you had to open the door to the elevator back then). The sweet familiar fragrance hits you as you step out. You know where she lives, but the aroma carries you there. She’s already at the door, waiting for you since she buzzed you into the building. One arm opened for a hug, the other holding a plate of freshly baked honey cake...
Yields 1 large bundt cake (or 3 loaf cakes).
- 4 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup oil
- 1¼ cups honey
- 3 cups flour
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 cup cold coffee
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180c/350f.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with a mixer. Add the remaining ingredients, alternating between the dry and wet. Mix it well until smooth. Place in a greased bundt pan or 3 small loaf pans. This cake rises high and fluffy, so fill the pan only halfway.
Bake for 10 minutes at the above temperature, then lower it to 150C/300F and bake for an hour - loaf pans around 40 minutes. Let cool before serving. Enjoy each slice of sweetness, and savor every moment.
Wishing you all a wonderfully happy, healthy, successful and appetizing New Year! ■
The writer is a kitchen coach, inspiring confidence and creativity in the kitchen. She runs online kitchen workshops, does private events for organizations and is available for one-on-one coaching. www.inthekitchenwithhenny.com