Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown Friday and goes through sundown Sunday, is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. And, says author Claudia Roden, “It’s the time for sweet things.”
Jews of many backgrounds are planning meals according to their own traditions — food that is not only festive but symbolic.
As Roden describes in “High Holidays by the Nile” in the book “The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook,” her own family ate pieces of apple dipped in honey while a prayer was said to God for a sweet year.
“Traditional Ashkenazic New Year foods include a round challah with raisins, because it looks like a crown and symbolizes continuity and the hope that the year will be rounded like a circle. … In Yiddish folklore, carrots are associated with gold coins and so the dish carrot tzimmes is eaten as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune,” says Roden.
Pomegranate seeds are eaten as a new fruit of the season, and because it appears regularly in the Torah. Greens, including chard, spinach, green peas, green beans, zucchini and okra symbolize a new beginning, while meatballs and chickpeas are symbolic “round” foods.
Other foods with symbolic meanings include tongue or other meats from the head of an animal to symbolize the head of the year. This time also anticipates the following week with its day of fasting for Yom Kippur, and the confessions of sin.
The recipes that follow include the green vegetable (spinach salad) and the seasonal fruit, pomegranates. The Honey Cake is as sweet as anyone could hope for the year ahead.
Spinach, Apple and Pomegranate Salad
4-5 cups baby spinach, washed and drained
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium apples, such as small Red Delicious or other crisp red apple, cored and sliced into wedge
½ cup lightly toasted nuts, such as walnut or pecan halves
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons oil
½ cup pomegranate seeds
Put the spinach, sliced shallot, apples and toasted nuts together and toss lightly in a large bowl.
For the dressing, mix together the honey, vinegar and oil with the salt until it is well blended. Pour over the salad when you are ready to serve it and toss it lightly until all of the spinach has a light coating of the dressing. Sprinkle the top with pomegranate seeds just before serving.
Makes 4-5 servings.
From Bonnie Walker
3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup warm brewed coffee
½ cup oil
12 ounces strawberry preserves
1 pound honey
½ cup nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9- by 5-inch loaf pan and line with parchment or wax paper. Combine flour with baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice. Combine beaten eggs, coffee and oil. Beat in strawberry preserves. Beat in honey. Beat in flour mixture and add nuts, if using.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 1 hour, until done.
From Ellen Mandel Levine, as published in “The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook
(photo: Zsuzsanna Kilián)