Pascale's Kitchen: Recipes for a festive Rosh Hashanah meal

Some things just don't change, like our excitement to prepare special dishes for our Rosh Hashanah meals.

Pascale hosts singer Aviva Avidan in her kitchen.  (photo credit: RAMI ZARNEGAR)
Pascale hosts singer Aviva Avidan in her kitchen.
(photo credit: RAMI ZARNEGAR)
The High Holy Days has always been my favorite time of year. Unfortunately, we perhaps do not feel as joyous this year due to the looming lockdown. Many of us have spent the past week worrying about loved ones and wondering if Rosh Hashanah dinner will have to be held by zoom. Will we be able to go pray in the synagogue or will we remain on our balcony or join neighbors on the street for the meaningful High Holy Day prayers? The month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and the days leading up to Yom Kippur have always been days when we engage in self-reflection, ask for forgiveness and make promises to be better people in the upcoming year, and the COVID-19 crisis is making this period even more intense than usual.
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Some things, however, have not changed. We are all still excited to prepare special dishes for our Rosh Hashanah meals. This time of year, the guava and pomegranate trees are full of ripe fruit. Pomegranates are the most majestic fruit, since they naturally grow with a crown on top of them. They start out small and green, and then slowly the color turns to yellow until red lines begin forming on the skin. And then, very quickly, the entire fruit turns a deep red and the tree looks like it has lot of lanterns hanging from its branches, reminding us that the new year is upon us.
This evening, as we usher in the Jewish New Year, we will sit down for our first joyous meal. For the last two weeks, I’ve been offering my readers ideas for dishes, such as couscous made with dried fruits and nuts, as well as a few easy recipes for baking sweet challot.
This week, I’ve included recipes that are easy to prepare last minute so that you’ll have time to use them for the festive meal held this evening. This week, I hosted singer Aviva Avidan, whose career has taken a hit as have those of many other artists during these difficult days. Aviva got right down to business and began showing me what she traditionally prepares for her family on Rosh Hashanah. And because she wasn’t busy singing, she took advantage of this extra time and created an amazing Instagram page filled with beautiful pictures of the dishes she’s been offering to prepare for others.
Aviva might be better known as a singer, but her success in the kitchen has been known to her family and close friends for years. In fact, a decade ago, she produced a small booklet of recipes titled, “Aviva Avidan Cooks.” “My second love is cooking, and I’ve received so many flattering reactions from friends and relatives over the years who’ve encouraged me to become a professional cook. So, I decided to combine my two loves.”
Aviva grew up in Tel Arza, located next to the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem, where she experienced the tastes from a number of different ethnicities. “My grandmother, aunt and mother were all excellent cooks. People from all over would come to us just for a taste my mother’s famous kubbeh, stuffed vegetables and lahmajun [also known as lahmacun]. My cooking style is definitely based on this rich Jerusalem cuisine.”
Below, you will find three of Aviva’s recipes that are all easy to prepare at the last minute before the holiday starts. The first recipe is for leek patties, which are a great starter food. Next comes a recipe for roast beef with chestnuts or mushrooms, for which you sear the meat before cooking it for a few hours on the stove and then a bit more time in the oven. The last dish Aviva offers is chocolate-covered pears. As usual, I couldn’t help myself, and so I added a fourth recipe for one of my favorite honey cakes.
Do you want to see step-by-step instructions explaining how to prepare my recipes and to see pictures of the dishes before this column is published each week? Join me for a spectacular sneak preview of my private kitchen by taking a look at my story in Instagram.
Leek patties
Makes 10 patties.
4 leeks
1 medium potato
1 large egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup oil for frying
Serving suggestion:
2 lemons, quartered
Rinse the leeks well (use only the white parts) and then put them in a medium pot. Pour in water to cover. Rinse the potato and then add it whole with the peel on (this helps prevent the potato from absorbing too much liquid). Heat over a medium flame and cook for one hour.
Remove from the flame and drain well. Chop the leeks well or blend them for a few pulses in a blender. Transfer to a medium bowl. Peel and then mash the potato. Add the potato to the bowl with the leeks. Add the egg, salt and pepper. Mix well. Heat the oil in a large pan (the oil should be 1 cm high). Take a bit of the mixture and make patties with a 5cm diameter. Fry the patties on both sides until they turn golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges.
Level of difficulty: Easy.
Time: 75 minutes.
Status: Pareve.
Roast beef with chestnuts or mushrooms
Makes 15-16 servings.
¼ cup oil for frying
1.5-1.6 kg. roast beef #5
5 large onions
400 gr. roasted and peeled chestnuts (sold in 100 gr. packages) – or – 4 small baskets of mushrooms
1 tsp.. pepper
Pinch of allspice
1/4 tsp.. salt, or to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot and sear the roast beef on all sides. Set aside.
Peel and chop the onions into medium or large pieces (do not chop small pieces). Add the oil to the pot and fry the onions until they turn golden brown. Return the beef to the pot and lower the flame. Cover and cook for three hours. Check every once in a while to make sure there’s enough liquid inside the pot. If there’s not, you can add up to 4 Tbsp. of water.
Remove from the flame and place the beef on a wire rack to cool down. Heat the liquid from the beef with the onions and add the chestnuts or mushrooms, pepper, allspice and salt. Mix well.
Once the meat has cooled, slice it into 1.5 cm.-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a deep baking tray and pour the sauce on top. Shake the pan so that the sauce covers all of the meat. Cover with baking paper and then with a layer of foil on top. Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 150° for 1 and a half hours. Serve with white rice and potatoes.
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 4.5 hours.
Status: Meat.
Chocolate covered pears
Makes 8-10 servings.
3 cups water
½ cup sugar
½ tsp.. vanilla
½ tsp.. cinnamon
½ tsp.. cloves
8-10 pears
100 gr. bittersweet chocolate
30 gr. butter or margarine
1 tsp.. brandy
Add the water and sugar to a small pot and bring to a boil. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the mixture has boiled for at least one minute.
Peel the pears, but leave 4 cm. of the stem intact. Cut a small slice off the bottom of the pear so that it will sit upright without tipping over. Place the pears inside the pot with the sugar mixture and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove the pears and place them on a serving plate. Reserve the liquid.
Place the chocolate in a glass bowl. Melt it in the microwave a few seconds at a time. Add 4 Tbsp. of the pear liquid and mix well. Add the butter/margarine and brandy and mix well. Pour on top of the pears and serve.
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 40 minutes.
Status: Pareve or dairy.
Honey cake
This honey cake is so quick and easy to make. Just sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top or serve with whipped cream.
Makes 12 individual cakes.
¾ cup oil
¾ cup sugar
4 eggs
½ cup honey
½ cup silan
½ cup walnuts, crushed
1 tsp.. ground cloves
3 cups self-rising flour, sifted
1 tsp.. baking soda
1 tsp.. finely ground coffee
1 cup boiling water
½ cup powdered sugar
Mix the oil together with the sugar, eggs, honey and silan. Add the nuts, cloves, flour and baking soda and mix well. Dissolve the coffee in boiling water and add to the mixture and mix well. Pour the mixture into a greased baking pan and bake for 1 hour in an oven that has been preheated to 180°. Let the cake cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Level of difficulty: Easy.
Time: 70 minutes.
Status: Pareve (or dairy if serving with whipped cream).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.