Tag Archives: Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

17 Sep

Rosh Hashanah Food Traditions

The Leek omlette, Swiss Chard omlette, Black-eyed peas, and Dates have two interpretations. First, all are eaten as foods that relate to the words they represent. For example, leeks are called Karsi, which is related to the word karet meaning to cut off or destroy. The blessing that goes with the leek omlette says, “[m]ay all your enemies be cut off.” They are pretty much the old food puns, like eating lettuce to say “lettuce” (“let us”) have a good new year. The second interpretation is that these are the foods the Gemorrah, a written Jewish text, recommended Jews eat on this holiday.

Pomegranate:

Pomegranate seeds symbolize merits. The blessing says “[m]ay your merits be many like the seeds of a pomengranate.”

Challah and sugar:

Challah is the bread that is always blessed on Jewish holidays. On Friday nights for Shabbat, challah is dipped in salt to remember the destruction of the second temple, but on Rosh Hashanah, challah is dipped in sugar for a sweet new year. The challah is also round, symbolizing the cyclical nature of the year and creation.

Fish or lambs head:

Sometimes Rosh Hashanah will feature a fish head on the table. This is to sybolize Rosh Hashanah as the head, or start, of the year. It is a fish because fish symbolizes fertility.

New fruit:

Every year you are supposed to try a new fruit, representing the new year. In the past few years, I’ve had quince, rambutan, and Chinese melon. It’s an excellent way to explore different types of ingredients and cultures.

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Rosh Hashanah: A Holiday Year in Food

16 Sep

The ultimate summary of most Jewish holidays can be boiled down to “they tried to kill us; they failed; let’s eat.” During holidays, foods take on special meanings and different Jewish ethnicities eat different foods when celebrating. Each holiday revolves around a different type of food that helps participants use their senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing to feel the holiday.

The year starts today, with Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as “head of the year.” For this occasion, dishes are sweet and symbolize our wishes for a sweet new year. Sukkot comes about a month later (sometime in between late-September and late October).  Sukkot is a harvest holiday focused around eating earthy foods and grains.

Then comes Hanukkah, the miracle of oil that lasted for many more days than was anticipated. For Hanukkah, all the foods you eat are fried.  Followed by Hanukkah is Tu Bishvat, the festival of the trees, that has foods symbolizing all four seasons and recognizing what is given to us from the earth.

Purim—a mix between Halloween and Mardi Gras, where the food you make is given to neighbors and others to show you care—comes next.  After that is Passover, the festival of unleavened bread, where each food symbolizes the journey from slavery to freedom.  Finally, is shavuot, when Jews received the ten commandments. In celebration, you stuff yourself with all sorts of dairy desserts.

Commandeered Apple Cake

23 Aug

Emily has made Apple cake dozens of times, both with her mother and on her own since she was too young to use a knife to cut the apples. Though her mother originally got the recipe from of a friend of hers, it has been totally co-opted and claimed as her own. Through her experience in making this recipe, Emily can answer all of the questions you’ve pondered in previous apple cake attempts.

This apple cake helped Emily connect with her mother. Every time either of them makes the cake, they call each other to discuss the outcome. Here are some of the things they have figured out along the way.

What type of apple works best? Honey crisp for a sweet cake, granny smith for more tartness, a mix to spice things up.

How does the cake turn out if you peel the apples? Don’t bother; it’s much better with the skins for texture and it also keeps the apples from getting mushy.

What happens when you accidentally put an extra cup of sugar in the mix? It becomes very tasty with a super crunchy top, but will induce a sugar crash.

Finally, what is the best way to reheat it? Her mother is a microwave fan and Emily swears by the toaster oven.

Commandeered Apple Cake Recipe

Ingredients
  • 3 cups Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups unpeeled, chopped apples (any variety)
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Sift dry ingredients, then mix in apples and nuts. Mix in other ingredients until all flour is incorporated.

Pour into a greased bunt or tube pan. Do NOT smooth out the top—the bumps and ridges get crispy.

Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

An important equipment note for this recipe is the need for a bunt pan. The batter is so dense that it will not cook all the way through any other way. One alternative for those without a bunt pan is to make “apple cake muffins” which cook up much more quickly (about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top).

This apple cake started as a Rosh Hashanah treat, using apples to celebrate the Jewish New Year, but can be used for any occasion. It works particularly well as a birthday cake for lactose intolerant bosses. Also, because it’s parve (not meat or dairy), it can be brought to almost any Jewish dinner party. Most importantly, it’s easy (it’s the only recipe Emily has memorized) and is a big crowd pleaser. To serve, You won’t need any accoutrements to go with it, no sauces or whipped cream, that would just ruin the purity of awesomeness that is this apple cake.

Photo by Silar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Family Leek Omelette

21 Aug

My favorite holiday of the year is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On this holiday everything you eat is supposed to be sweet to represent a sweet New Year. In Syrian tradition, you also eat other symbolic foods to keep enemies away and to bless you with a year of many merits.

One of my favorite foods is the leek omelette. When cooked correctly, it comes out thick, has a perfect golden brown color, and is delicious. I remember being scared to learn how to make this omelette because of all the hot oil involved. It’s difficult to flip and there is a high likelihood splashing yourself with hot oil, especially in the first few cooking attempts. Additionally, if you flip it too early, the whole omelette falls apart and you need to just start again.  For years, I needed my grandpa on the phone before (and sometimes during) the omelette making process. I have to say, though, my omelette now rivals his.

Leek Omelette Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 leek (at least 1 inch wide)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons matzah meal
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • oil for frying

Directions

Cut the tops off of the leek where the leek becomes darker green. Half the leek length-wise and then half it again. Cut very fine, making approximately ¼ inch slices. Rinse very well, making sure no sand or grit is left. This can be done by soaking slices in a shallow bowl of water and letting grit fall to the bottom. Cook for 15 minutes in boiling salted water. Rinse in cold water and drain.

In the meantime, separate the eggs. Beat white until they are foamy but not quite stiff. Beat the egg yolks.

Add the leeks to the egg whites. Next add the salt and cumin and mix. Add the egg yolks and matzah meal. Mix well.

Heat a 9 inch frying pan with about 1/8 inch oil. Add mixture making sure that it spreads out. Cover and cook on medium heat until bottom is brown. Turn over using a plate to help flip the omlette and fry the other side until it is golden brown as well.

This dish can be served hot or cold. Because it is like a frittata, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or as a delicious dinner sidedish.

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