Roasted Cornish Hens with Apple, Date & Almond Stuffing and Honey Pomegranate Glaze

Cornish Hens

So on Rosh HaShanah we eat many symbolic foods, in order to have a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. This entrée includes 4 of these foods! The apple symbolizes Gan Eden(The Garden of Eden), which according to the Sages had the scent of an apple orchard. The word date in Hebrew is תמרים and related to the word תם – to end. So on Rosh HaShanah we eat dates so that G-d will bring an end to our enemies.

Honey, as you know is sweet, and what could be a better symbol for a sweet new year? Lastly, the pomegranate is full of seeds (some say 613 seeds to be exact, just like the number of laws in the Torah). So we eat pomegranates so that we will be as full of mitzvot (good deeds) and the pomegranate is seeds. This recipe is geared for 8 guests, and will give some extra stuffing and sauce to serve along with your final dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

¼ cup unsalted margarine (½ a stick)
8-12 (about 4 pounds) Fuji apples, chopped
20 Medjool dates, pits removed, chopped*
2 lemons, zest and juice**
2 oranges, zest and juice**
1 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
8 Cornish hens (1 ¼ pounds each)
¾ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup chopped shallots (about 1 ½ large shallots or 3 small ones)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons margarine

* Click here to learn how to inspect dates.
** Click here for my tips on zesting lemons and oranges.
♦ Click here to learn how to truss a Cornish hen.

Directions:

Melt margarine in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until brown but still crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Add dates, zests, and juices; cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat, cool, and stir in almonds and salt.

Place the chopped onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of a large roasting pan (or divide into two smaller pans) and mix the vegetables so that they are combined.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove and discard the giblets and necks from the hens. Rinse the hens under cold water and then pat dry. Trim off any excess fat. Season each cavity with salt and pepper, and then loosely stuff with apple mixture. Truss the hens♦. Place the hens, breast-side up, on top of the chopped vegetables.

Boil the wine and shallots in a heavy small saucepan until most of the wine has evaporated, about 4-6 minutes. Add the broth, pomegranate juice and honey. Boil again until the sauce has reduced to about 1 ¾ – 2 cups, about 7-9 minutes. Whisk in the margarine and then remove from the heat.

Brush the hens with the honey-pomegranate sauce. Roast the hens at 475 degrees for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 35 minutes, or until juices run clear. While the hens are roasting, baste them occasionally with more of the sauce, about every 10 minutes or so. Serve the hens with any remaining stuffing and remaining sauce.

Safety Note: Before serving the remaining sauce or giving a final basting to the fully cooked hens, put the sauce back on the stove and bring it back up to a quick boil. The reason for this is because you have been dipping your basting brush back and forth between the hens while they were cooking, and therefore at various stages of rawness, and then dipping the brush back into the sauce pot. You want to eliminate any chances of salmonella or other food borne pathogens from contaminating your final dish. The re-boiling of the sauce will kill off these pathogens. Safety first!

Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah

Simchat Torah

Well, today is a short day for me, one of the benefits of working for an observant Jewish employer, as tonight the 2 day holiday (1 day in Israel) of Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah. What not everyone realizes is that these days are actually a separate holiday from Sukkot. What is so special about this holiday? It is one of pure joy! Even more so than Sukkot, it is characterized by unadulterated joy, with the climax being on Simchas Torah, when we celebrate the conclusion and beginning of the Torah reading cycle.

What better way to celebrate an end and a beginning? How about dessert and an appetizer? You can’t get any more symbolic than that! So remember to be happy, be joyous, and try not to party too much, after all, it’s only 62 days until Chanuka!

Mushroom Stuffed Beef Rouladen

Rouladen

For this recipe, I suggest using shoulder steak. Have your butcher tenderize it for you, or if you don’t have that option, you can go at it with a meat mallet. I hear it’s a great stress reliever!

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (brown, Portobello, button, etc.), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup bread crumbs
8 (3 ounce) pieces shoulder steak, pounded thin
¼ cup dry red wine
2 ½ cups beef stock
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, onion and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms and onion have softened, then stir in dried thyme, remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, season to taste with salt and pepper, then mix in the beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Evenly divide the mushroom mixture among the top round slices. Roll each Rouladen around the filling into a tight cylinder and secure with a toothpick. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the Rouladen, then transfer to an 8×8 inch baking dish. Pour wine into the hot skillet and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, stir the beef stock into the flour, and mix until smooth. Pour the beef stock into the skillet and return to a simmer. Cook until thickened, then stir in the Dijon mustard. Pour this sauce over the Rouladen. Cover, and bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until the meat is tender. This recipe makes 8 Rouladen. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.

Hoshanah Rabbah

Well, with the first half of Sukkot finished, and now moving into the second half, we bring special attention to the seventh day of the holiday known as Hoshanah Rabbah, meaning “Great Salvation”. According to tradition, our verdict that G-d has decided for us, that was written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, is now handed down by the Heavenly Court. To celebrate this, we circle the Bimah seven times while holding the Lulav and Esrog, while reciting special prayers for prosperity. It is also the custom that during the course of the morning prayers, to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times. With all this circling and beating, one can work up quite the appetite. As mentioned in past postings, we eat foods during this time that are wrapped, or encircled. These are symbolic for many different things: The wrapping up of one year of Torah reading, and beginning again. The wrapping up of our prayers and the judgment for a brand new year. And of course, the wrapping, or circling of the Bimah, now with the Lulav and later on Simchas Torah with the Torah itself. So with that in mind I thought a rolled entree would be appropriate. Just make sure to put down your Lulav before picking up your meat!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients:

1 large cabbage

Filling:
2 ¼ pounds ground beef
1 cup uncooked rice
3 teaspoons oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce:
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 46-oz. can tomato juice
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Prepare cabbage by either boiling or freezing method. Remove and check leaves. To see the process on how to freeze or boil the cabbage, click here. To learn about checking the leaves for insects, click here.

Combine all ingredients for meat mixture in a bowl and mix well. Take a single leaf of cabbage, and place a couple of tablespoons of filling at the base of the leaf. Roll the leaf up, folding in the sides as you roll. Rolls should be able to remain sealed without a toothpick.

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To make the sauce, heat oil in a large pot, stir in flour, and cook until brown. This is called making a Roux, and it will act as a thickener for the sauce. Add rest of ingredients in order listed. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.You can add more lemon juice, sugar or pepper, according to taste.

In a large 8-quart stock pot, place a few of the extra/small or torn leaves that you have left over from making the rolls, and line the bottom of the pot. Add about and inch or so of sauce, and lay your cabbage rolls carefully, seam side down, in the sauce one by one. The rolls may be piled in layers if necessary. Cover the rolls with the remainder of the sauce, and any cabbage you have left over can be used to cover the rolls. If you have extra filling, you can either freeze it for next time, or make small meatballs out of it, and place it in the sauce as well. Cook on low flame for 2 hours, adding more water if necessary. The rolls are done when the meat is cooked through and the rice is tender.

Ram’s Head – ראש כבש

The following is said while eating a piece of the meat from a ram’s head (or the head of another kosher animal or fish).

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב

May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that we be a head and not a tail.

(The following is added only over the head of a ram:

וְתִזְכֹּר לָנוּ עֲקֵדָתוֹ וְאֵילוֹ שֶׁל יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עַלֵיהֶם הַשָּׁלוֹם

…And You shall remember for us the binding and the ram of our forefather Isaac, the son of our forefather Abraham, peace be onto them.)

Spanish Morrocan Fish

Spanish Moroccan Fish

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, diced
4 green olives, sliced (optional)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chicken soup powder
Salt to taste
5 pounds tilapia fillets

Directions:

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, olives, and chickpeas and continue to cook until the peppers are slightly tender, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle the parsley, paprika, cumin, cayenne, and chicken soup powder over the vegetables. Season with salt to taste. Stir to incorporate. Place the fish on top of the vegetables and add enough water to cover the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until fish flakes easily with a fork and juices run clear, about 30-40 minutes. Serve over rice, couscous or with crusty bread. Can be served hot or cold. This dish serves 6 as an entrée, 12 as an appetizer.

Kebabs

Grilled Ground Lamb Kebabs with Fresh Hot-Pepper Paste

Ingredients:

1 ¼ pounds ground lamb
¾ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup finely chopped fresh mint
4 garlic cloves, minced
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 bamboo skewers
Olive oil
Warm pita bread
Fresh Hot-Pepper Paste

Directions:

Combine lamb, onion, parsley, mint, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne in large bowl and mix well. (Can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Place bamboo skewers in shallow dish. Cover with cold water and let stand at least 1 hour. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Drain skewers. Form generous ¼ cup lamb mixture into 3-inch-long sausage around centre of 1 bamboo skewer. Repeat with remaining lamb mixture and skewers. Brush lamb kebabs with oil. Grill kebabs until brown and cooked through, turning frequently, about 12 minutes. Serve in warm pita bread with Fresh Hot-Pepper Paste. Makes 12 skewers.

hot pepper sauce

Fresh Hot-Pepper Paste

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped seeded fresh red serrano or red jalapeño chilies
¼ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in processor and blend until very finely chopped. Can be prepared up to 1 week ahead. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

New Year’s Countdown – 5775 is Here!

New Year 5775

Well folks, we made it! Another year under our belts. Out with the old and in with the new. I’m sure I could add a few more cliches but I think you get the idea. This year is 5775 in the Jewish calendar or תשע״ה. Over the past week and a half I’ve gone through quite a few of the symbolic foods that we eat on Rosh HaShannah, but I’ve now come down to one of the more difficult ones, at least from a visual and palatable point a view. The fish head, or for the daring, the sheep/lamb’s head. Yes, you read that right. The head. At the dinner table. Staring at you. You can imagine how your niece, the vegan, is going to feel about this one!

Most people I know use the fish head, and just eat a little bit from the cheek area (which by the way is the best part!). Additionally, it’s usually only the host of the dinner that does the actual eating of the meat, while the rest look on, and then quickly remove it from the table in case some of their fellow diners have weak stomachs. A little play on this that my mother does is she cuts the heads off jelly candy fish and passes those out for all of the guests to indulge in. The kids love it and the adults get a kick out of it. Plus, no one gets queasy from seeing a disembodied candy fish!

One year, my father actually got a lamb’s head. While we were impressed with his resourcefulness and his desire to fulfill the mitzvah to the extreme, the head had teeth! It could have been still chewing grass next to us it was so life-like! We very quickly made him remove it from the table after he said the blessing, and requested that he use fish heads from then on ONLY! For the rest of you, here is a fish and a lamb dish that I hope you’ll enjoy and I wish you all a healthy and a happy new year!

Apple and Honey – תפוח בדבש

While dipping an apple in honey, we have the custom of making the following request:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה כַּדְּבָשׁ

May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You renew for us a year good and sweet like honey.

This is the quintessential New Year’s food tradition! Apples and Honey! This year, instead of a raw slice of apple with honey, why don’t you try one of these recipes?

Apple Wedges

Apple Fries with Honey-Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon coarse salt (optional)
4 tart but firm apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges (per apple)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F. In large saucepan over medium-high heat, boil cider until reduced to ⅓ cup, about 20 minutes (it should have a syrupy consistency). Remove from heat and whisk in margarine and salt. In bowl, toss apples with 2 tablespoons of the glaze and ½ tablespoon thyme. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the apples on the bottom third of the oven. Roast for 10 minutes. Drizzle apples with remaining glaze and move baking sheets so the apples are now on the top third of oven. Continue to roast for 15-20 minutes until apples finish caramelizing. Sprinkle apples with remaining thyme and additional salt if desired. Makes 32 fries.

Caramel Sauce

Honey-Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

14 ounces canned coconut milk
¾ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Small pinch of sea salt

Directions:

In a small heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the coconut milk, palm sugar, ground cinnamon and honey. Bring to a boil and toss in the cinnamon sticks. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes and then remove from heat. Remove the cinnamon sticks and whisk in the coconut oil, vanilla, and sea salt.

Allow the Caramel Sauce to cool for 20 minutes. A thin film will naturally form over the top of the sauce; this is perfectly normal. Simply give the sauce a good whisk before pouring it into an airtight container. The sauce will continue to thicken (although not much) while it cools. Store in the refrigerator. Can be served warm or cold. Use within 5-7 days.

NOTE: When you first bring the coconut milk, palm sugar and honey to a boil, don’t leave it unattended on the stove. It can (and will) boil over if you aren’t careful. Keep an eye on it. If you can’t find coconut oil, you can use canola or vegetable. Just nothing with a strong taste, like olive.

Apple Filo Cups

Fruity Apple Filo Cups

This is a sweet and tasty appetizer, featuring filo pastry, fruit, cinnamon, lemon and more, could double as a dessert but also makes a nice appetizer.

Ingredients:

3 cooking apples, peeled and diced
3 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons raisins
9 sheets filo dough
6 tablespoons melted margarine
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together the apples, honey, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon and flour. Brush one of the filo sheets with some melted margarine and put another filo sheet on top. Brush that one with melted margarine and put a third sheet on top. Cut this stack of filo sheets into 4 smaller squares. Repeat this process with the remaining 6 sheets. Take a muffin tray and spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Fit each filo square into a muffin slot, creasing the edges to make filo cups. Spoon some of the apple filling into the centre of each filo cup, and then brush the remaining melted margarine over the tops of the filo cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden, then serve warm. Makes 12 cups.

New Year’s Countdown – 1 Day To Go!

Got Honey

One day left people! Are you freaking out yet? I can’t believe that I’m actually going to be eating out for all of my Holiday and Shabbat meals this year and won’t actually be doing any cooking! Now before I start getting hate mail, please know that 1) I miss the joy of creating and sharing what I’ve made with guests and 2) It ain’t so easy being a guest either! Having to be on your best behaviour all the time!? Hopefully this will be good practice for me for the new year, that I continue my good behaviour into the next 12 months.

This reminder to me to behave ties into something I read from Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson, a member of Chabad.org. He explains why we use an apple in particular on Rosh HaShannah, rather than any other sweet fruit. He says that the apple symbolizes the Garden of Eden, which according to the Midrash had the scent of an apple orchard, and in Kabbalah is called “the holy apple orchard.” He goes on the say that when Isaac commented regarding his son Jacob (Genesis 27:27), “Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the L‑rd has blessed!” the biblical commentator Rashi explains that this refers to the scent of an apple orchard, the scent of the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, when King Solomon depicts the love G‑d harbours for His nation, he writes (Song of Songs 8:5): “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you[r love].” Eating an apple on Rosh Hashanah is an attempt to remind G‑d of our age-old love.

So thank you Rabbi Davidson, now I have a reminder to behave and we have a reminder of G-d’s love for his people. For more information about Chabad, please check out their website at www.chabad.org.

Pomegranate – רימון

On Rosh HaShannah we eat a pomegranate and say:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה מְלֵאִים מִצְוֹת כָּרִמּוֹן

May it be Your will, Lord our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that we be filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate [is filled with seeds].

With 613 to choose from, I’m sure we can find a way to be filled with mitzvot and pomegranates this year!

Pom Dip

Pomegranate Pepper Dip

This version of muhammara, a Turkish dip made with red peppers, pomegranate molasses, and walnuts, uses fresh pomegranate seeds instead of reduced pomegranate molasses, and pecans instead of walnuts. It has a fresh, bright flavor and is delicious spread on crackers or pita bread or used as a dip for fresh or lightly steamed veggies.

Ingredients:

3 to 4 red bell peppers
1 pomegranate
1 to 1 ½ cups pecans
1 clove garlic
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh lemon juice to taste

Directions:

Use either the broiler method or live flame method, roast the red peppers until they are charred. Let them sit, covered, about 15 minutes. Heat an oven to 350°F. While it heats, seed the pomegranate and set the seeds aside. You should have about ¾ cup. Lay the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Cook until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set a timer and check frequently – pecans can go from raw to burnt very quickly. Set pecans aside to cool. While the pecans cool, remove the skin from the peppers – the charred skin should slip right off. Feel free to rinse them under cool running water, if you like. Gently rub the pecans with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and lift the pecans off the towels. You won’t remove all the pecans skin, nor do you need to, but it should remove a fair amount of it. Put the peppers, pecans, pomegranate seeds (save a few for garnish, if you like), garlic clove, olive oil, and salt in a blender or food processor and whirl until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Add lemon juice to taste and adjust salt to taste. Serve immediately or cover and chill to serve later (the dip will keep for several days). Garnish with reserved pomegranate seeds, if you like.

Pom Relish

Pomegranate Relish

Ingredients:

2 pomegranates, seeded (About 1 ½ cups of seeds)
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons orange juice
Dash of salt

Directions:

Seed pomegranates – see How to Seed a Pomegranate. Be careful because the juice does stain! Combine all ingredients and mix well with wooden spoon. Refrigerate for 4 hours prior to serving. Remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so that it is not ice cold.