One of the most popular symbols of the Jewish New Year is the pomegranate. This ruby red regal looking fruit, bearing it’s own crown, graces the tables of Jewish homes this time of year. Only recently though have we learned what nature has been trying to tell us all this time! The pomegranate is a major superfood! The antioxidant levels in pomegranate are some of the highest recorded for various fruits, even higher than blueberries. There is some speculation that the antioxidant properties of pomegranates may help lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease, and provide protection against cancer. So if the fact that they are delicious wasn’t reason enough, eat them for your heart and your health! Wishing you a happy and HEALTHY New Year!
The Hebrew word for Gourd is קרא, which relates to the word קרע—meaning to rip apart, as well as קרא—to announce. So with this in mind, we eat a symbolic piece of gourd or squash, and ask that our evil deeds are ripped up and our good deeds proclaimed.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתִּקְרַע רוֹעַ גְּזַר דִּינֵנוּ, וְיִקָּרְאוּ לְפָנֶיךָ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that the evil of our verdicts be ripped, and that our merits be announced before you.
Once all the ripping and shouting is done, enjoy these gourd recipes with your family!
Roasted Squash, Pomegranate and Farro Salad
1 medium squash (meat and seeds)
1 cup farro
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Spices for Toasted Seeds:
¼ teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cumin
Pinch of black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees for roasting the squash. Half the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, setting them aside for toasting later. Slice the halves into ¾ inch crescents, coat lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Roast on an aluminum-lined baking pan for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
As the squash roasts, boil 1 cup of farro in 3 cups of water. Once at a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes until al dente. Drain the remaining water, and set aside in a large bowl to cool. Yield the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting off the stem, and scoring the pomegranate skin in quarters. Soak the scored pomegranate in water for a few minutes, before breaking it apart and seeding it under water. The pith with float to the surface of the water as you continue to agitate the seeds. Drain them and side them aside.
When the squash is done, allow it to cool almost completely before cutting it away from the skin and into cubes. Similar to the process for seeding the pomegranate, soak the squash seeds and pith in water, and agitate to separate the seeds. Discard as much of the pith as possible. Use the same pan to toast the seeds. Toss the seeds in the olive oil, salt, paprika, cumin, and pepper, then spread evenly on the aluminum foil. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.
When all the ingredients are prepared, toss together in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and chopped green onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
1 Kabocha squash (or acorn, butternut, etc.)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
To Fry the Sage:
1 bunch fresh sage
¼ cup olive oil
Pinch off leaves from sage. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Fry 6–8 sage leaves at a time until crisp, 2–3 seconds. Transfer with a fork to paper towels and sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Prep and fry sage and set aside. You can learn how to clean sage here.
Next scrub the outside of the Kabocha squash and with a very sharp knife and someone who has some strong hands, carefully cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay the squash halves on their flat side and again with a sharp knife and a strong person, cut them into wedges. Place squash on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with oil, salt, pepper, curry and dust the top with brown sugar. Roast in oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for a total of 30 minutes. Turn wedges over half way through. When done, top with salt and pepper and the fried sage.
Some of you might have wondered why we eat so many symbolic foods during Rosh HaShannah. Sure, eating dates and apples with honey is delicious, but why are we so careful to do this now? Why this holiday? The Eshel Avraham (Rabbi Avraham of Butchatch) explains the custom with a deep thought. He notes that Rosh HaShannah is a time to be especially careful with food. On the first Rosh Hashanah in history, Adam and Eve sinned by eating the wrong food. We rectify this in part on Rosh HaShannah by eating foods with favourable references and, and avoiding those with negative connotations. I hate to use a cliché, but I guess this is food for thought?
In Hebrew, the word for Beet is סלקא, is closely related to סלק —meaning to depart. So taking that in mind, we eat beets symbolically and say the following:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּסְתַּלְּקוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart.
So with that wishful adieu, I give you two beet recipes to say “later haters!”
Beet and Rice Salad
This recipe comes from a good friend, Esther Prisman. I find it easier if purchase the pre-cooked, already peeled beets now available on the market, and then using the food processor with the shredding blade to grate them.
2 cups cooked rice, cooled
2 cups cooked beets, cooled and grated (around 3-4 whole beets)
3 tablespoons green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup mayonnaise
Pepper to taste
Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Pour dressing over the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate, allowing to marinate. Serve at room temperature.
Tasty Roasted Beets
Quick tip, beet juice really stains, which is what makes it an excellent natural food colouring! However, if you don’t want your cutting board or fingers to turn bright pink, I suggest wearing gloves when chopping these raw beets and taping down a piece of wax paper over your cutting board. Just make sure you secure the paper well so that it doesn’t slip while you are cutting.
4 beets, peeled and cut into ¾ -inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (optional)
1 pinch sea salt, or to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the beets, olive oil, and thyme in a bowl until beets are coated, and arrange pieces of beet on baking sheet so that they don’t touch. Sprinkle the beets with sea salt. Roast in the preheated oven until the beets are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. A fork inserted into a beet cube should come out easily.
This New Year, I will be celebrating away from my home and family for only the second time in my life. It only becomes stranger when I realize that the way I do something, the way my family does it, isn’t necessarily the way everyone else does it. You think this would have dawned on me before it was less than a week until the Holidays! That started me thinking about Jewish New Year traditions all over the world. Between the two main branches of Ashkanazi (most North American Jews and those of European descent) and Sephardi (those Jews descending from the Middle East and Africa), there are vast differences. Even within these two groups though you have so many individual traditions, just related to the food portion alone! Some people don’t eat anything sour, such a pickles or lemons, so that they won’t have a sour year. Some stay away from spicy foods, others from foods that make you drowsy, so that you don’t sleep through the New Year. The important part to remember is that while we are all different, at the core, we are all the same, and we all need to eat! This year, try thinking outside the box and making that Sephardi brisket you read about? Or some Ashkanazi salt & pepper gefilte fish.. who knows, you just might like it!
Leek in Hebrew is כרתי related to the word כרת—to cut, and so with that in mind we make the following request when eating these symbolic leeks:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G d and the G d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters, and those who wish evil upon us shall be cut down.
In addition, the braised leek dish calls for carrots which the Hebrew word is גֶּזֶר and sounds very much like g’zar, the word for decree. Eating them is meant express our desire that G-d will nullify any negative decrees against us. Interestingly, the Yiddish words for “carrots” and “more” — mern and mer, respectively — are strikingly similar. So among Yiddish speakers, carrots symbolize the desire for increased blessings in the new year.
Yields 14-16 latkes, depending on the size you make them!
4 large leeks, washed and sliced into ¼ inch circles
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour or matzo meal, or a combination of both
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dried basil (optional)
oil, for frying
In a large soup pot, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add leeks. Cover. Turn heat down to low. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the leeks are bright green and just tender. Drain the leeks in a colander, and let them cool a bit. Place leeks in a mixing bowl. Add beaten eggs. Add flour or matzah meal. Season with salt, pepper and basil. Mix well.
On medium-high heat, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, drop batter by spoonfuls into pan. Flatten the latkes a bit so they are not too thick to cook well in the middle. Fry approximately 3 minutes on each side, until browned on both sides and firm in the middle. Remove from frying pan onto paper towels to drain excess oil and cool. Repeat, starting with hot oil and then dropping spoonfuls of batter, until all the batter is used.
- Adjust the heat when frying so it is just right. If you fry on too high heat, the pancakes might burn. But if you fry on too low heat, the latkes will be mushy rather than crisp.
- Use enough oil when frying so that the latkes won’t burn, but don’t use so much oil that the pancakes are oily.
- Don’t make the latkes too large that they fall apart when flipped over.
2 leeks, washed and sliced into ¼ inch circles
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks
⅓ cup chicken/vegetable broth
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine leeks, carrots, broth, margarine, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper in a deep skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Cook and stir mixture until leeks and carrots are lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes, adding a touch more liquid if needed so the vegetables do not burn. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve warm.
Small beans in Hebrew is רוביא or לוביא and is related to the words, רב—many, and לב—heart. So we eat these symbolic beans and ask the following request:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּרְבּוּ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ וּתְלַבְּבֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that our merits shall increase and that You hearten us.
So to be heart healthy this year, here are two recipes involving beans that you can serve up to your guests!
½ red onion, finely diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, diced*
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered or 2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 15oz. can corn niblets, drained
1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz. can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoons garlic powder
½ bunch chopped fresh cilantro (optional)*
In a very large bowl, mix together the coriander, vinegar, oil, sugar and garlic powder. Once combined, add all of the vegetables and beans to the dressing, mixing well to make sure everything is coated. Be sure to mix well, but lightly so that you don’t crush the beans. If using cilantro, chop it finely and toss in with the salad. Let the salad sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours meld. Take it out of the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so that it is not ice cold. *See the produce cleaning guide on how to inspect green onions and cilantro.
Deep Fried Black Eyed Peas
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, sorted and rinsed
1 onion, cut into large dice
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
Canola oil for frying
2 teaspoons of your favourite seasoning blend (I suggest a Creole/Cajun type)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Place the black-eyed peas into a large container and cover with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the peas. Pour in enough water to cover the peas by 3-inches, then stir in the onion, bay leaves, and jalapeno pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the peas are tender but not mushy, 40 to 50 minutes. Add more water if needed to keep the peas covered while cooking. Drain the peas in a colander set in the sink, and spread them onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels or dish towels to drain. Discard bay leaves, and refrigerate the peas until ready to fry.
WARNING: The peas need to be dry before you drop them in the oil. Excess water will cause the oil to splash up and potentially cause a nasty burn!
Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Use a thermometer, or here’s a neat tip: Take a wooden mixing spoon hold it standing up with the handle submerged in the oil and the wood touching the bottom of your saucepan. If bubbles start to rise from the tip of the handle, your oil is ready! If you don’t have a thermometer or a wooden spoon, you can always test a few peas first by dropping them in. They should immediately start to bubble, but not burn. Adjust your temperature as needed. Carefully pour about 1 ½ cups of peas into the hot oil per batch, and fry until crisp, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove the peas, drain on paper towels, and toss the hot peas in a bowl with your seasoning blend and kosher salt. Serve hot.
Date in Hebrew is תמרים related to the word תם—to end, and so on that note we make the following request when eating this symbolic date:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּתַּמּוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.
So having this in mind, here are two recipes for how to serve up your war-ending dates this year!
Dolci Datteri – Sweet Stuffed Dates
Makes 24 dates
24 pitted dates
½ cup chopped, toasted pine nuts (or nut of your choice)
6 tablespoons red wine
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
½ cup honey
Stuff dates with chopped nuts in the empty cavity left by removing the pit. Place the dates in a medium sized sauté pan. Sprinkle with pepper if desired. Add wine, and then drizzle honey over the dates. Cook over a medium heat until the skins begin to peel off the fruit. Transfer the dates to a serving dish, and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Devils on Horseback – Angels on Camels?
This recipe originally called for the use of bacon, but I’ve switched it up with the use of deli meat instead, and re-named them Angels on Camels rather than Devils!
Makes 20 dates
20 wooden toothpicks
¼ cup reduced-sodium or regular soy sauce
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup brown sugar
20 dates, pitted
20 whole smoked or roasted almonds
10 thin slices of turkey or beef pastrami, cut in half to make strips
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Soak the toothpicks in a bowl of water (so they don’t burn in the oven). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce and ginger. In a separate shallow bowl place the brown sugar. Spread open the pitted date, and stuff each one with an almond. Wrap a strip of the pastrami around the date and then secure in place with a toothpick. Dip the bundle in the soy mixture and then into the brown sugar, and then place on the prepared baking dish. Repeat this process with each of the dates. If desired, sprinkle a little more brown sugar over all of the bundles. Bake in the preheated oven until the pastrami is brown and crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving; serve warm or at room temperature.
It’s that time of year again! No, not to get your spot early at Time’s Square, but to prepare for the Jewish High Holidays and the non-stop cycle of prayer services and eating! This year, Rosh HaShanah falls out on a Wednesday evening, meaning that it will go directly into Shabbat. This means more and more cooking ahead of time, and no breaks between the bounty of the New Year and the Shabbat meals! Ladies and gentlemen… loosen your belts, pop your antacid of choice, and get your celebration started!
One of the ways we celebrate is by eating symbolic foods that promote blessings, health and well being throughout the year. Some of theses are Dates, Apples and Honey, Small Beans, Beets, Leeks, Gourd/Squash, Pomegranate, Fish Heads (or Lamb for the brave!), and a new fruit on the second night of the holiday. Each day I’m going to give you some neat ideas on how to switch up serving these tasty treats. But don’t be limited by the ingredients listed above! Get creative! One year, someone served Celery; so that we’d be blessed to merit a raise in our “Salary”. Use different languages, play on words. Just remember that it’s so that we should merit blessings and well being throughout the year, for our families, our people and and the world around us. Amen!