jewish holidays

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

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There’s no particular food associated with the holiday of Simchat Torah, which begins on Sunday night (October 20, 2019), but lots of people make food that resemble torah scrolls.

Stuffed cabbage is a classic. But when I used up the last of my home garden zucchini and stuffed it with tomatoes and cheese I thought these look somewhat like torah scrolls too!

So, for me: Stuffed Zucchini boats are the order of the day for the holiday (or any other time).

Stuffed Zucchini Boats 

  • 2 medium zucchini

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

  • 6-8 tablespoons shredded mozzarella

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and part of the flesh, leaving a wall of at least ¼-inch next to the skin. Coat the outside surface of the zucchinis with a film of olive oil. Place them in a baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size, or until barely tender (use the tip of a sharp knife to test tenderness). While the zucchini boats are baking, pour the remaining olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, to soften the vegetables slightly. Add the tomatoes and basil, stir and remove the pan from the heat to cool slightly. When the zucchini boats are ready, remove them from the oven and fill the cavities with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the filling. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the filling. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.     

 Makes 4 servings

Beet and Chickpea Salad

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I realize beets are available throughout the year. We are a beet-loving family, so I buy them all the time. Throughout the year.

And yet, I still associate beets with autumn. In my memory, September, October, November — those months are the real “season” for harvesting beets. In fact, I remember them as an integral part of the meals during Jewish holidays.

Sukkot, the “harvest holiday” is a good time to include beets on the menu. Look for beets with the greens still attached — they are from a current harvest. They are sweeter and tastier. Lovely however you cook them, including this salad, which you can make ahead. Serve it at room temperature.

Beet and Chickpea Salad

  • 4 large beets

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

  • sea salt

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the beets, cutting away the greens, if any, and discarding any hard, fibrous parts of the stem. Wash and drain the greens and use them for other purposes. Scrub the beets, wrap them in aluminum foil and roast for 50-60 minutes or until they are tender. Peel the beets when they are cool enough to handle. Cut the beets into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. While the beets are cooking, place the chickpeas on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pour the one tablespoon olive oil on top and shake the pan to coat all the chickpeas. Sprinkle with thyme and sea salt to taste. Shake the pan again. Roast for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes or so, or until golden brown and crispy. Add the roasted chickpeas to the beets. Pour the remaining olive oil over the vegetables and toss, then pour in the white wine vinegar and toss again. Sprinkle with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

 

Honey Cake Muffins

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I make honey cake every year for Rosh Hashanah, using my Aunt Belle’s family-famous recipe.

Every once in a while I change the recipe — a different honey, an additional spice (or less seasoning), and so on, just to see if we like it better or I should just stick to the original. I’ve even adapted the recipe to make it with date honey.

They’re all delicious. I love honey cake and I look forward to it every year as a special holiday treat.

Last year I decided to make honey cake into muffins. So — breakfast or afternoon snack instead of for dessert. They are sweet — it is honey “cake” after all — but not as sweet as the recipe I use for dessert. The muffins are also mellowed a bit with oats.

During the year I made these muffins again, several times, using several different spice blends. The recipe below is the more traditional Rosh Hashanah flavor, but you could delete the cinnamon and nutmeg and use one teaspoon Hawaij spice instead. They’re a convenient riff on honey cake; freezable too.

Honey Cake Muffins

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2/3 cup quick oats

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

  • 3/4 cup honey

  • 1/2 cup cold coffee

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 large eggs

  • old fashioned oats, optional (or use chopped nuts)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 10 muffin tins. In a bowl, mix the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange peel, cinnamon and nutmeg together until uniform in color. Heat the honey and coffee together over low heat briefly, so that they are easy to blend with a whisk. Add the vegetable oil and eggs and whisk the ingredients until they are uniform in color. Stir in the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tins. Top, if desired, with old fashioned oats or chopped nuts. Bake for about 18 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

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Of course, of course we will be slicing apples and dipping them in honey on Rosh Hashanah. (which begins at sunset on September 29th).

But chickpeas are on the menu too. In his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, the late rabbi and food authority Gil Marks wrote that “chickpeas are a traditional Rosh Hashanah food, a symbol of fertility, abundance and a wish for a well-rounded year to come.”

I usually make chickpeas into hummus, but sometimes I serve them whole, as a snack, roasted, the way my mother made them when I was growing up – a recipe called nahit. She coated the chickpeas with vegetable oil, sprinkled them with salt and paprika and baked them until crispy.

I changed her recipe somewhat -- I use olive oil, kosher salt and fresh thyme, or sometimes za’atar, as seasonings. Nahit is a delicious snack and a healthy one too: chickpeas are a good source of protein, minerals (including calcium) and fiber.

For this coming holiday though I’ll be making a chickpea and carrot salad to serve with dinner. Carrots are another symbolic ingredient of the holiday, so this recipe is a double-up of special ingredients of festive food for the holiday table. It’s a dish that can be made in advance, which makes it a good choice at such a busy time. And it is colorful too, fit for any celebration, including Break-the-Fast. 

Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas

  • 4 medium carrots, sliced thin

  • 1/2 chopped red onion

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • salt to taste

Rinse the chickpeas under cold running water; let drain and place in a bowl. Add the carrots, onion, parsley, mint, cumin and cayenne pepper and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat the ingredients evenly. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

Makes 6 servings

Best Hummus

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Despite the fact that hummus is the most popular snack and you can buy dozens of different kinds in every supermarket, I still make my own. And every time, a different recipe, always trying for perfection.

I served a version seasoned with zatar and garnished with toasted pine nuts once for an election night get-together.

I've made hummus using dried chick peas and canned.

One year the guests at my annual Break-the-Fast declared that year's hummus the best they ever tasted.

But apparently last year's Break-the-Fast version topped even that! 

So here is the recipe: easy to make, terrific for entertaining, for snacks, as a sandwich spread. Perfect all year, perfect for break-the-fast.

 

Lemony-Garlic Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (about one pound)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • cayenne pepper to taste (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

  • chopped parsley, optional, about 2-3 tablespoons

  • zatar, optional

  • pita bread or chips

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika, zatar, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until you reach the texture you like, adding 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid if you prefer it smoother and softer. Spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with optional parsley and zatar. Serve with pita bread or chips.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Roasted Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze and Chives

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Carrots are always on my menu for Rosh Hashanah dinner. 

This recipe, the one I'm serving this year, is so easy. And you can set it up ahead -- peel and cut the carrots 2-3 days before you have to cook them, and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.

This dish will go with practically any main course you might serve for dinner. 

 

Roasted Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar and Chives

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the carrots and cut them lengthwise in half or quarters, depending on thickness. Place the carrots on the baking sheet. Pour the olive oil over the carrots and toss to coat them completely. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne. Roast the carrots, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Pour the Balsamic vinegar over the carrots, toss and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until they are tender. Sprinkle with chives and serve. 

Makes 4 servings

Baked Apples with Date Honey

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If you've never tried date honey, you've been missing something delicious in your life. I've been using it for years in all sorts of dishes from Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake to the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.

It isn't bee honey. Date honey (known as Silan) is a syrup made from dates. It's thick and sweet like honey, but bee honey has more hints of spice, nuts or flowers, date honey is richer and more mellow.

I have tried several brands and like Date Lady* because of its smooth texture. Last summer, at the Fancy Food show I tasted the company's new California Date Syrup and absolutely loved it. The California syrup has a buttery taste, while the classic middle eastern variety is more molasses-y. Both are wonderful but I preferred the California syrup for delicate dishes such as baked apples and the bolder syrup for breads, cakes and muffins.

The California syrup works perfectly for baked apples, one of our traditional Rosh Hashanah desserts.

*I was not paid for this post. I just happen to love this product.

Baked Apples with Date Honey

  • 4 baking apples
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup diced dried figs
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup date honey
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the apples and remove the core with an apple corer or small knife, leaving about 1/2" on the bottom.  Peel the apples halfway down from the top and place them in a baking dish. Mix the raisins, dates, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and date honey. Stuff this mixture into the apple hollows. Mix the juice and water (plus extra sugar if desired) and pour over the apples. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

 

 

Carrot Soup with Cloves

Carrot soup is a classic for Rosh Hashanah. One year I cooked some with harissa and coconut and my husband said it was the best soup he ever tasted. There's a slightly different version in my cookbook, The Modern Kosher Kitchen.

But I'm always trying new recipes -- because for us, carrot soup is beyond holiday festive. It's a healer, a comforter. Ok, not like chicken soup.  But still -- it's a dish I make for new moms or when someone isn't feeling up to par or when anyone I know is a little grumpy or sad.

This carrot soup recipe welcomes even before you taste it with its scent of cloves and cinnamon. I used Aleppo pepper for heat, but if you don't like spicy, you can leave it out.

 

CARROT SOUP WITH CLOVES AND PEPPER (P)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium all-purpose potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots, potato, ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick and Aleppo pepper. Stir to mix the ingredients. Pour in stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick. Puree the soup. Add the coconut milk, stir to blend the mixture until it is uniform in color and heat through.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Carrot Spice and Honey Muffins

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I always make a few carrot dishes for Rosh Hashanah. It's tradition!

Most often it's soup, sometimes a side dish.

This year I baked carrot muffins. Big breakfast winner for everyone, especially the grandkids.

Freezable too, so you can have them on hand whenever you might have a need. Like Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving weekend.

 

Carrot Spice and Honey Muffins

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, yogurt, honey, cooled butter and vanilla extract. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently just until blended. Fold in the carrots and raisins. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown. Let cool in the tins for 2-3 minutes, then remove the muffins to a rack to cool.

Makes 12  

 

 

 

Zimtsterne Cookies

When you see the first twinkle of stars in the night sky, the Yom Kippur fast is over.  You take your fist sips of that long awaited coffee, and with it …. Zimtsterne.  German star cookies. To remind you that we celebrate a new year, new beginnings, being with loved ones. Sweet. Lovely. Gluten-free too.  Zimtsterne  3 large egg whites  1-1/4 cups sugar  1/2 teaspoon salt  one pound finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts, approximately  2 teaspoons ground cinnamon  2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel  confectioners sugar**  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Beat the egg whites until they stand in soft peaks. Continue to beat the whites, gradually increasing the speed and gradually adding all the sugar and salt, for 6-8 minutes or until they whites stand in glossy, stiff peaks. Remove about 3/4 to one cup of this mixture to a small bowl and set it aside.**  In another bowl, combine the nuts, cinnamon and lemon peel. Fold the nut mixture into the egg white mixture in the bowl until it is uniform in color. Spoon the mixture onto parchment paper and flatten the “dough” sightly. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. One at a time, cut out star shapes from the dough (the dough is sticky and difficult to work with). Place each star on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  When all the stars are cut, use the reserved sugar mixture and spread on top of each star.  Let rest for 60 minutes.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes.  Makes about 42  **you can skip this meringue coat and bake the cookies uncoated (in this case, do not set aside the 3/4 cup meringue. You might need about 1/2 cup more ground nuts to make the dough less sticky). When they are baked and cooled, mix about 1/2 cup confectioners sugar with enough water to make a paste and use a small spoon to cover the cookies with the sugar paste. Let dry and serve.

When you see the first twinkle of stars in the night sky, the Yom Kippur fast is over.

You take your fist sips of that long awaited coffee, and with it …. Zimtsterne.

German star cookies. To remind you that we celebrate a new year, new beginnings, being with loved ones. Sweet. Lovely. Gluten-free too.

Zimtsterne

3 large egg whites

1-1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

one pound finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts, approximately

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel

confectioners sugar**

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Beat the egg whites until they stand in soft peaks. Continue to beat the whites, gradually increasing the speed and gradually adding all the sugar and salt, for 6-8 minutes or until they whites stand in glossy, stiff peaks. Remove about 3/4 to one cup of this mixture to a small bowl and set it aside.**

In another bowl, combine the nuts, cinnamon and lemon peel. Fold the nut mixture into the egg white mixture in the bowl until it is uniform in color. Spoon the mixture onto parchment paper and flatten the “dough” sightly. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. One at a time, cut out star shapes from the dough (the dough is sticky and difficult to work with). Place each star on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

When all the stars are cut, use the reserved sugar mixture and spread on top of each star.  Let rest for 60 minutes.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Makes about 42

**you can skip this meringue coat and bake the cookies uncoated (in this case, do not set aside the 3/4 cup meringue. You might need about 1/2 cup more ground nuts to make the dough less sticky). When they are baked and cooled, mix about 1/2 cup confectioners sugar with enough water to make a paste and use a small spoon to cover the cookies with the sugar paste. Let dry and serve.