The World of Jewish Entertaining: Menus and Recipes for the Sabbath, Holidays, and Other Family Celebrations

Overview

Author and chef Rabbi Gil Marks offers a complete guide to entertaining for Jewish holidays and other family celebrations. Marks presents a "Guide for the Perplexed Host," practical advice, easy-to-follow recipes for a wide variety of dishes from the most homey and traditional foods to haute cuisine, and complete menus for a Sephardic Seder, a Baby-Naming Breakfast, an Eclectic Purim Feast, an All-Dessert Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a Middle Eastern Wedding Shower, an International Sabbath Dinner, a Healthy New Year ...
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Overview

Author and chef Rabbi Gil Marks offers a complete guide to entertaining for Jewish holidays and other family celebrations. Marks presents a "Guide for the Perplexed Host," practical advice, easy-to-follow recipes for a wide variety of dishes from the most homey and traditional foods to haute cuisine, and complete menus for a Sephardic Seder, a Baby-Naming Breakfast, an Eclectic Purim Feast, an All-Dessert Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a Middle Eastern Wedding Shower, an International Sabbath Dinner, a Healthy New Year Dinner, a Southern Jewish Family Reunion, and much more. In addition, he provides background information on all the events, putting them in a traditional Jewish context. The World of Jewish Entertaining is the perfect cookbook for anyone looking for a fresh new perspective on entertaining.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Rabbi, historian, storyteller, and gourmet chef Gil Marks has written a wonderful book on entertaining in the Jewish home and community. This is not only a terrific book for young cooks but also a marvelous introduction into the culture of entertaining based on religious lore and tradition.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Propelling Jewish cooking forever beyond brisket and the blintz, Marks continues the excellent work of his first cookbook, The World of Jewish Cooking (a James Beard Award finalist), with this innovative guide to celebrating Jewish holidays and occasions. The first of this book's many strengths is thoroughness. Marks, a rabbi, suggests menus for familiar Jewish holidays such as Hanukkah and Purim but also describes foods for Simchat Torah (Apple-Glazed Roast Turkey with Biblical Fruit Stuffing) and Lag b'Omer (Feather-Frosted Carob Brownies, because the holiday commemorates the death of Shimon ben Yochai, who was banished and is said to have survived on carob). Another strength is Marks's creativity: he bypasses more typical Sabbath dinner fare for an international dinner of Persian Meatball Soup and Indian Tomato Salad. A third strength is the recipes themselves. Cleverly, most of the recipes for large gatherings (a Pidyon Haben Luncheon featuring Barbecue Beef Brisket, for example) give measurements for both 10 servings and 80 servings. An extra section on baked goods is appropriate to any occasion, and a highly personal menu for a Southern Jewish family reunion successfully combines two seemingly disparate traditions in a menu that includes Lena's Matza-Breaded Fried Chicken with Honey-Pecan Sauce, Romanian Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Toni's Vegetable Slaw with horseradish. This most definitely is not your grandmother's cookbook. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Dupree (Nathalie Dupree Cooks Quick Meals for Busy Days, LJ 2/15/96) has been the host of numerous television cooking shows; this book is the companion volume to a PBS series starting this fall. Her intent is to make entertaining unintimidating, and she includes lots of useful material on planning, budgeting, presentation, and more, along with often-amusing anecdotes and cautionary tales from her own experiences. Menus range from Three Simple Suppers to an Eye-Popping Menu for Eight to a Buffet for 12 to 50 in Four Hours; surprisingly, the recipes within a particular menu don't always "match" in terms of number of servings. The true novice may find Elaine Corn's Now You're Cooking for Company (LJ 9/15/96) more helpful, but Dupree's more ambitious menus and informative text should appeal to many readers-and her new series is sure to be popular. [Good Cook/BOMC selection.] Marks's The World of Jewish Cooking (LJ 9/15/96) was a wide-ranging exploration of Jewish food, culture, and culinary history; now he has written a guide to Jewish entertaining equally broad in scope. Marks includes religious holidays rarely mentioned in similar cookbooks, and his family celebrations range from A Middle Eastern Wedding Shower to A Southern Jewish Family Reunion. Marks, both a rabbi and former editor of Kosher Gourmet, provides a lot of information in a straightforward, readable style, starting with "A Guide for the Perplexed Host." Chapter introductions, headnotes, and boxes cover religious as well as culinary history and include many suggestions to make entertaining easier. Recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684847887
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Pages: 415
  • Product dimensions: 7.59 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Part Two: The Holiday and Sabath Table A Traditional Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Serves 8

Rosh Hashanah (literally, Head of the Year), a two-day holiday falling on the first two days of the month of Tishri, marks the creation of the world. The ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur are called Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), a period of concentrated introspection, prayer, and inner transformation. According to tradition, it is during these days that the fate of all people is determined for the coming year. We greet one another with a special phrase, L'shanah tova tikataiv (May you be inscribed for a good year). Yet despite its poignancy, Rosh Hashanah is also an occasion of joy and feasting, for in the words of the Talmud, God declares, "On Rosh Hashanah I look upon all of you as if you had been created for the first time."

At this time of the year, the performance of symbolic acts is of special significance and food plays a vital role. The Talmud (Keritot 6:A) mentions five foods to eat on Rosh Hashanah -- gourds, black-eyed peas, leeks, beets, and dates. Each of these foods is specified because of a similarity between its name and another word, thereby signifying a wish for the coming year. The Hebrew word for "gourd" (kraa) is similar to yikara (to be called out), suggesting that our good deeds are called out at this time of judgment. The Aramaic word for "black-eyed peas" is rubiya, which also means "abundance" and "increase." The Hebrew word for "leek" (karti) is similar to yikartu (to be cut off), signifying that the Jews' enemies should be cut off. The word for "beet" (selek) is reminiscent of she'yistalqu (that they will be removed), referring to the Jews' enemies. Similarly, tamar (the Hebrew word for "date") sounds like yitamu (to be removed).

Other Rosh Hashanah foods are symbols of fertility and plenty, including seeds and fruits and vegetables that contain many seeds. In many Sephardic homes a cornucopia of symbolic fruits and vegetables is served in a basket called a trashkal, the head of the family removing one item at a time and reciting an appropriate verse. An ancient custom is to eat a new fruit -- one not yet sampled that season -- on the second night of Rosh Hashanah while reciting the blessing Shehechiyanu (Who has preserved us).

The most popular and widespread Rosh Hashanah tradition is the dipping of apple slices in honey while reciting the phrase "May it be Your will to inaugurate for us a good and sweet year." This custom has many layers of meaning: honey is a food in the Bible associated with the land of Israel as well as being an ancient symbol of immortality and truth; in mystical literature an apple orchard is frequently pictured as a symbol of the Divine Presence; the Song of Songs (2:3) attests to the apple's sweetness, and Proverbs (25:11) to its beauty; and the sweetness of both the honey and the apple serves as a wish for a sweet year to come. In this vein Rosh Hashanah dishes are commonly sweetened, particularly with honey and fruits.

There are foods traditionally avoided on Rosh Hashanah. Eastern Europeans eschew nuts as well as any sour food, even sweet-and-sour dishes. In North Africa foods that are black, a color associated with mourning -- including olives, raisins, eggplant, coffee, and chocolate -- are banned from the table, although some permit these items on the second day.

The following meal combines an assortment of traditional Ashkenazic and Sephardic dishes.

Fruited Challah

2 Large or 3 Medium Loaves

The large amount of egg, fat, and sugar gives this bread a rich flavor, golden color, soft crust, and tender, fine crumb. Challah for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot is traditionally kneaded with raisins or other dried fruits, a symbol of sweetness and the harvest. Traditional Rosh Hashanah shapes include a round (symbolizing continuity, with no beginning and no end), a spiral (symbolizing a person's eventual ascent to heaven), and a crown (symbolizing the King of the universe). On Rosh Hashanah the challah is traditionally dipped in honey rather than salt, a custom that many families continue during Sukkot.

2 (1/4-ounce) packages (about 5 teaspoons total) active dry yeast or 1 (1-ounce) cake fresh yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees for dry yeast; 80 to 85 degrees for fresh yeast)
2/3 cup sugar or honey
3 to 4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon table salt or 5 teaspoons kosher salt
About 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups raisins (or 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots or dates)
Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
About 3 tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the remaining water, remaining sugar, eggs, oil, salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat in enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the mixture holds together.
  3. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Knead in the raisins. Place in a greased large bowl, turning to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Punch down the dough and divide in half or thirds. Firmly pat the dough into rectangles, roll up jelly-roll style, then shape into balls. Place on greased baking sheets and flatten slightly. Cover loosely and let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, about 45 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. (Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Brush the challah with the egg wash and, if desired, sprinkle with the poppy seeds. (The egg produces a soft, shiny crust as well as helping the seeds to adhere to the surface.) Bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35 minutes for medium-size challahs or 45 minutes for large ones. Transfer to a rack and let cool.


Sephardic Leek Soup (Sopa de Prasa)

8 Servings

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
10 medium (about 2 pounds) leeks, trimmed, sliced, and well washed (or 5 leeks and 2 large yellow onions)
2 large baking potatoes or 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
8 cups chicken broth or water
About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
About 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and potatoes and sauté until softened, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the parsley, broth, salt, pepper, and if desired, the nutmeg. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Serve the soup as is or puree in a food processor. Serve warm or chilled.

Moroccan Date-Stuffed Baked Fish

8 Servings

There is an ancient custom of displaying the head of a fish or lamb on the Rosh Hashanah table as a sign that "we will be the rosh [head] and not the tail" (the reverse of Deuteronomy 28:44), a play on the word rosh, signifying that in the coming year we should progress, not regress. For this reason, dishes made from lamb or calves' brains were once common Rosh Hashanah offerings. Fish and lamb also contain other meanings: fish is a symbol of fruitfulness, the Jewish people, and the Leviathan to be served at the feast following the arrival of the messiah; lamb is a reminder of the ram substituted for Isaac as a sacrifice and of the shofar.

Alsatians enjoy carpe à la Juive aux raisins (sweet-and-sour carp); Germans prepare a similar dish characteristically flavored with gingersnaps; and Italians serve the classic pesce all'Ebraica, a sweet-and-sour fish studded with pine nuts. Turkish and Greek Jews commonly stew their holiday fish in sauces made from tomatoes, greengage plums, or prunes. Indian Jews offer versions vibrantly flavored with curry or wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Date-stuffed fish, a traditional northwest African dish, utilizes several prominent Rosh Hashanah symbols, including fish, rice, and dates.

STUFFING
1 pound pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
About 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 (4- to 5-pound) whole red snapper, sea bass, or grouper, or 8 brook trout, cleaned but head and tail intact
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
2 medium onions, sliced
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a large baking pan with oil or margarine.
  2. Combine all the stuffing ingredients.
  3. Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fill the cavities with the stuffing and sew up the opening or skewer with toothpicks.
  4. Scatter the onions in the prepared pan. Place the fish in the pan and brush with a little oil. Cut several parallel slashes in the skin of each fish. (This prevents the skin from shrinking.)
  5. Bake, brushing occasionally with oil, until the fish are tender and the flesh loses its translucency, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the thread or toothpicks. If desired, serve with lemon wedges.

HINT: To prevent sticking when chopping dates, lightly oil the knife blade or kitchen shears.


Veal with Figs

8 Servings

The fig figures prominently in Jewish literature and tradition; the only fruit or vegetable mentioned more often in the Bible and Talmud is the grape. Fig dishes are popular additions to Rosh Hashanah fare, and this one reflects the eastern European love of meats cooked with sweeteners.

1 (6-pound) boneless veal shoulder, rolled and tied with twine
1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh, dried, or canned figs
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander or 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or 10 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the veal and figs in a large roasting pan. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the top.
  3. Bake, basting occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep the figs moist, until the veal is tender and browned, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove the veal to a cutting board or platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for at least 15 minutes. Remove the twine and cut the veal into slices. Serve with the figs and cooking liquid.


Middle Eastern Yellow Rice

8 Servings

Middle Eastern Jews prepare rice in three basic ways: plain white, red (with tomatoes), and for special occasions, yellow.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
2 1/2 cups long-grain white rice cups chicken broth or water
About 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the turmeric and, if desired, the cumin and stir for 1 minute. Add the rice and sautT until opaque, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. To make a rice mold: Lightly pack the hot cooked rice into an oiled 8-cup ring mold or bowl, allow to stand for 1 minute, place a serving plate over top, then invert and lift off the mold.


Carrot King

8 SERVINGS

The carrot is a popular eastern European Rosh Hashanah food partially because of its name: in Yiddish, mehren (multiply or increase), and in Hebrew, gezer (tear), which is similar to gezayrah (decree), indicating that any unfavorable decrees should be torn up. In addition, the carrot's sweetness fits in with the holiday's theme. And carrots have an additional attribute -- when sliced they resemble gold coins.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or nutmeg
1 cup vegetable shortening or softened unsalted margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 cups (about 12 ounces) grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch ring mold or large loaf pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the lemon juice and water. Stir in the flour mixture, then the carrots and, if desired, the raisins.
  3. Pour into the prepared pan. Place in a larger baking pan and add water to reach halfway up the sides of the filled pan. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Spinach and Fruit Salad

8 Servings

Spinach salads, long popular in the Mediterranean region and Near East, are ideal fare for Rosh Hashanah. The similarity between silkah, the Aramaic word for "spinach" and "beet greens," is similar to the Hebrew silake (to remove), expressing the wish that our enemies be removed. According to tradition, each pomegranate contains 613 seeds, corresponding to the number of commandments in the Torah. Other seasonal fruits contribute additional symbolism.

20 ounces fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
2 to 3 apples, cored and diced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 1/2 cup raisins, chopped figs, or chopped pitted dates
Sunflower or pumpkin seeds, hulled (optional)

DRESSING
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil

Combine the spinach, apples, pomegranate seeds, and raisins in a large bowl. Combine the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and if desired, the curry powder. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the oil. Drizzle over the salad, tossing to coat. If desired, sprinkle with the sunflower seeds.


Honey Cookies

About Thirty 4-Inch or Seventy 2 1/2-Inch Cookies

(For Rosh Hashanah I like to cut these cookies into the shapes of shofars (ram's horns), scales of justice, fish, and apples.

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup honey
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. Bring the shortening and honey to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1 minute. Let cool.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir into the honey mixture. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Divide the dough in half On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness, cut into desired shapes, and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Or shape tablespoons of the dough into balls, place on a baking sheet, and flatten with the bottom of a glass.
  5. Bake until lightly colored, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies stand until firm, about 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.


Plum Tart

8 to 10 Servings

Central European Jews made use of seasonal plums to make this much-beloved treat.

PÂTE SABLÉE 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg or 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Ice water as needed

FILLING 3 pounds ripe firm plums, preferably Italian (Lombard), pitted and quartered
About 1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

  1. To make the pastry: Beat the margarine and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and salt. Gradually blend in the flour. (The dough should have the consistency of a sugar cookie dough. If it is too stiff, add a little ice water.) Form into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick round about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan or tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Arrange the plums, cut side up, in tight concentric circles in the pastry shell. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the margarine.
  5. Bake until the fruit is tender and the pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let the tart cool for at least 10 minutes before removing the outer rim of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

VARIATIONS

Streusel Plum Tart: Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or grated lemon zest. Cut in 1/2 cup (I stick) unsalted margarine to produce coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the plums.
German Plum Tart: Brush the inside of the pastry with 2 tablespoons lekvar (plum jam) or roll out 8 ounces of marzipan and press into the bottom of the shell.

Copyright © 1998 by Gil Marks

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED HOST

THE HOLIDAY AND SABBATH TABLE
A Traditional Rosh Hashanah Dinner
A Healthy New Year Dinner
After the Fast
A Sukkah Party
A Simchat Torah Dinner
A Hanukkah Party
A Fruitful Tu b'Shevat
A Purim Feast
Sophisticated Shalachmones
An Ashkenazic Seder
A Sephardic Seder
Passover Desserts of All Sorts
A Children's Lag b'Omer Picnic
Something Different for Shavuot
An International Sabbath Dinner
A Sabbath Meze -- Perfect for Any Occasion
An Unorthodox Sabbath or Holiday Kiddush
Beyond Cholent: Something Different for Sabbath Lunch

FAMILY CELEBRATIONS
A Baby-Naming or Brit Breakfast
A Pidyon Haben Luncheon
A Cold Bar or Bat Mitzvah Buffet
An All-Dessert Bar or Bat Mitzvah
An Engagement Cocktail Party
A Middle Eastern Wedding Shower
An Haute Sheva Brachot
A Special Anniversary Dinner
A Southern Jewish Family Reunion

THE BAKER'S BIBLE
Cookie Assortment
Cakes
Quick Breads
Muffin Assortment

INDEX

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Recipe

Part Two: The Holiday and Sabath Table

A Traditional Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Serves 8

Rosh Hashanah (literally, Head of the Year), a two-day holiday falling on the first two days of the month of Tishri, marks the creation of the world. The ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur are called Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), a period of concentrated introspection, prayer, and inner transformation. According to tradition, it is during these days that the fate of all people is determined for the coming year. We greet one another with a special phrase, L'shanah tova tikataiv (May you be inscribed for a good year). Yet despite its poignancy, Rosh Hashanah is also an occasion of joy and feasting, for in the words of the Talmud, God declares, "On Rosh Hashanah I look upon all of you as if you had been created for the first time."

At this time of the year, the performance of symbolic acts is of special significance and food plays a vital role. The Talmud (Keritot 6:A) mentions five foods to eat on Rosh Hashanah -- gourds, black-eyed peas, leeks, beets, and dates. Each of these foods is specified because of a similarity between its name and another word, thereby signifying a wish for the coming year. The Hebrew word for "gourd" (kraa) is similar to yikara (to be called out), suggesting that our good deeds are called out at this time of judgment. The Aramaic word for "black-eyed peas" is rubiya, which also means "abundance" and "increase." The Hebrew word for "leek" (karti) is similar to yikartu (to be cut off), signifying that the Jews' enemies should be cut off. The word for "beet" (selek) is reminiscent of she'yistalqu (that they will be removed), referring to the Jews' enemies. Similarly, tamar (the Hebrew word for "date") sounds like yitamu (to be removed).

Other Rosh Hashanah foods are symbols of fertility and plenty, including seeds and fruits and vegetables that contain many seeds. In many Sephardic homes a cornucopia of symbolic fruits and vegetables is served in a basket called a trashkal, the head of the family removing one item at a time and reciting an appropriate verse. An ancient custom is to eat a new fruit -- one not yet sampled that season -- on the second night of Rosh Hashanah while reciting the blessing Shehechiyanu (Who has preserved us).

The most popular and widespread Rosh Hashanah tradition is the dipping of apple slices in honey while reciting the phrase "May it be Your will to inaugurate for us a good and sweet year." This custom has many layers of meaning: honey is a food in the Bible associated with the land of Israel as well as being an ancient symbol of immortality and truth; in mystical literature an apple orchard is frequently pictured as a symbol of the Divine Presence; the Song of Songs (2:3) attests to the apple's sweetness, and Proverbs (25:11) to its beauty; and the sweetness of both the honey and the apple serves as a wish for a sweet year to come. In this vein Rosh Hashanah dishes are commonly sweetened, particularly with honey and fruits.

There are foods traditionally avoided on Rosh Hashanah. Eastern Europeans eschew nuts as well as any sour food, even sweet-and-sour dishes. In North Africa foods that are black, a color associated with mourning -- including olives, raisins, eggplant, coffee, and chocolate -- are banned from the table, although some permit these items on the second day.

The following meal combines an assortment of traditional Ashkenazic and Sephardic dishes.

Fruited Challah

2 Large or 3 Medium Loaves

The large amount of egg, fat, and sugar gives this bread a rich flavor, golden color, soft crust, and tender, fine crumb. Challah for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot is traditionally kneaded with raisins or other dried fruits, a symbol of sweetness and the harvest. Traditional Rosh Hashanah shapes include a round (symbolizing continuity, with no beginning and no end), a spiral (symbolizing a person's eventual ascent to heaven), and a crown (symbolizing the King of the universe). On Rosh Hashanah the challah is traditionally dipped in honey rather than salt, a custom that many families continue during Sukkot.

2 (1/4-ounce) packages (about 5 teaspoons total) active dry yeast or 1 (1-ounce) cake fresh yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees for dry yeast; 80 to 85 degrees for fresh yeast)
2/3 cup sugar or honey
3 to 4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon table salt or 5 teaspoons kosher salt
About 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups raisins (or 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots or dates)
Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
About 3 tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the remaining water, remaining sugar, eggs, oil, salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat in enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the mixture holds together.
  3. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Knead in the raisins. Place in a greased large bowl, turning to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Punch down the dough and divide in half or thirds. Firmly pat the dough into rectangles, roll up jelly-roll style, then shape into balls. Place on greased baking sheets and flatten slightly. Cover loosely and let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, about 45 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. (Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Brush the challah with the egg wash and, if desired, sprinkle with the poppy seeds. (The egg produces a soft, shiny crust as well as helping the seeds to adhere to the surface.) Bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35 minutes for medium-size challahs or 45 minutes for large ones. Transfer to a rack and let cool.


Sephardic Leek Soup (Sopa de Prasa)

8 Servings

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
10 medium (about 2 pounds) leeks, trimmed, sliced, and well washed (or 5 leeks and 2 large yellow onions)
2 large baking potatoes or 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
8 cups chicken broth or water
About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
About 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and potatoes and sauté until softened, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the parsley, broth, salt, pepper, and if desired, the nutmeg. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Serve the soup as is or puree in a food processor. Serve warm or chilled.

Moroccan Date-Stuffed Baked Fish

8 Servings

There is an ancient custom of displaying the head of a fish or lamb on the Rosh Hashanah table as a sign that "we will be the rosh [head] and not the tail" (the reverse of Deuteronomy 28:44), a play on the word rosh, signifying that in the coming year we should progress, not regress. For this reason, dishes made from lamb or calves' brains were once common Rosh Hashanah offerings. Fish and lamb also contain other meanings: fish is a symbol of fruitfulness, the Jewish people, and the Leviathan to be served at the feast following the arrival of the messiah; lamb is a reminder of the ram substituted for Isaac as a sacrifice and of the shofar.

Alsatians enjoy carpe à la Juive aux raisins (sweet-and-sour carp); Germans prepare a similar dish characteristically flavored with gingersnaps; and Italians serve the classic pesce all'Ebraica, a sweet-and-sour fish studded with pine nuts. Turkish and Greek Jews commonly stew their holiday fish in sauces made from tomatoes, greengage plums, or prunes. Indian Jews offer versions vibrantly flavored with curry or wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Date-stuffed fish, a traditional northwest African dish, utilizes several prominent Rosh Hashanah symbols, including fish, rice, and dates.

STUFFING
1 pound pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
About 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 (4- to 5-pound) whole red snapper, sea bass, or grouper, or 8 brook trout, cleaned but head and tail intact
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
2 medium onions, sliced
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a large baking pan with oil or margarine.
  2. Combine all the stuffing ingredients.
  3. Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fill the cavities with the stuffing and sew up the opening or skewer with toothpicks.
  4. Scatter the onions in the prepared pan. Place the fish in the pan and brush with a little oil. Cut several parallel slashes in the skin of each fish. (This prevents the skin from shrinking.)
  5. Bake, brushing occasionally with oil, until the fish are tender and the flesh loses its translucency, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the thread or toothpicks. If desired, serve with lemon wedges.

HINT: To prevent sticking when chopping dates, lightly oil the knife blade or kitchen shears.


Veal with Figs

8 Servings

The fig figures prominently in Jewish literature and tradition; the only fruit or vegetable mentioned more often in the Bible and Talmud is the grape. Fig dishes are popular additions to Rosh Hashanah fare, and this one reflects the eastern European love of meats cooked with sweeteners.

1 (6-pound) boneless veal shoulder, rolled and tied with twine
1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh, dried, or canned figs
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander or 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or 10 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the veal and figs in a large roasting pan. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the top.
  3. Bake, basting occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep the figs moist, until the veal is tender and browned, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove the veal to a cutting board or platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for at least 15 minutes. Remove the twine and cut the veal into slices. Serve with the figs and cooking liquid.


Middle Eastern Yellow Rice

8 Servings

Middle Eastern Jews prepare rice in three basic ways: plain white, red (with tomatoes), and for special occasions, yellow.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
2 1/2 cups long-grain white rice cups chicken broth or water
About 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the turmeric and, if desired, the cumin and stir for 1 minute. Add the rice and sautT until opaque, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. To make a rice mold: Lightly pack the hot cooked rice into an oiled 8-cup ring mold or bowl, allow to stand for 1 minute, place a serving plate over top, then invert and lift off the mold.


Carrot King

8 SERVINGS

The carrot is a popular eastern European Rosh Hashanah food partially because of its name: in Yiddish, mehren (multiply or increase), and in Hebrew, gezer (tear), which is similar to gezayrah (decree), indicating that any unfavorable decrees should be torn up. In addition, the carrot's sweetness fits in with the holiday's theme. And carrots have an additional attribute -- when sliced they resemble gold coins.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or nutmeg
1 cup vegetable shortening or softened unsalted margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 cups (about 12 ounces) grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch ring mold or large loaf pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the lemon juice and water. Stir in the flour mixture, then the carrots and, if desired, the raisins.
  3. Pour into the prepared pan. Place in a larger baking pan and add water to reach halfway up the sides of the filled pan. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Spinach and Fruit Salad

8 Servings

Spinach salads, long popular in the Mediterranean region and Near East, are ideal fare for Rosh Hashanah. The similarity between silkah, the Aramaic word for "spinach" and "beet greens," is similar to the Hebrew silake (to remove), expressing the wish that our enemies be removed. According to tradition, each pomegranate contains 613 seeds, corresponding to the number of commandments in the Torah. Other seasonal fruits contribute additional symbolism.

20 ounces fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
2 to 3 apples, cored and diced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 1/2 cup raisins, chopped figs, or chopped pitted dates
Sunflower or pumpkin seeds, hulled (optional)

DRESSING
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil

Combine the spinach, apples, pomegranate seeds, and raisins in a large bowl. Combine the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and if desired, the curry powder. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the oil. Drizzle over the salad, tossing to coat. If desired, sprinkle with the sunflower seeds.


Honey Cookies

About Thirty 4-Inch or Seventy 2 1/2-Inch Cookies

(For Rosh Hashanah I like to cut these cookies into the shapes of shofars (ram's horns), scales of justice, fish, and apples.

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup honey
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. Bring the shortening and honey to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1 minute. Let cool.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir into the honey mixture. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Divide the dough in half On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness, cut into desired shapes, and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Or shape tablespoons of the dough into balls, place on a baking sheet, and flatten with the bottom of a glass.
  5. Bake until lightly colored, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies stand until firm, about 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.


Plum Tart

8 to 10 Servings

Central European Jews made use of seasonal plums to make this much-beloved treat.

PÂTE SABLÉE 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg or 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Ice water as needed

FILLING 3 pounds ripe firm plums, preferably Italian (Lombard), pitted and quartered
About 1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

  1. To make the pastry: Beat the margarine and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and salt. Gradually blend in the flour. (The dough should have the consistency of a sugar cookie dough. If it is too stiff, add a little ice water.) Form into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick round about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan or tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Arrange the plums, cut side up, in tight concentric circles in the pastry shell. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the margarine.
  5. Bake until the fruit is tender and the pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let the tart cool for at least 10 minutes before removing the outer rim of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

VARIATIONS

Streusel Plum Tart: Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or grated lemon zest. Cut in 1/2 cup (I stick) unsalted margarine to produce coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the plums.
German Plum Tart: Brush the inside of the pastry with 2 tablespoons lekvar (plum jam) or roll out 8 ounces of marzipan and press into the bottom of the shell.

Copyright © 1998 by Gil Marks

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