It’s holiday time again here in Israel. The stores are having all their holiday sales on clothes and housewares – and hostess gifts. The supermarkets have their holiday goodie baskets out and the next season’s produce has begun to arrive. All the new Calendars for the year 5776 are on the shelves – which brings me to my first freebie giveaway – but you have to keep reading, because details are at the end of the post.
These are the beginning of sacred days – a mixture of joyous and serious – for the Jewish people. It is a time of self accounting, heartfelt repentance, turning back to Torah and accepting of G-d’s Kingdom, and making restitution for the wrongs we have done throughout the year. As commanded in the Torah, the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) is to be heard by all as a sign to wake up and realize G-d’s call – to Him and in relationship with our fellow man. The khaggim are not only about time spent in synagogue, but are family celebrations – more great and special foods – and sharing some of these (and their meanings) with you is part of the fun!
It is becoming a popular tradition to have a Rosh HaShonnah Seder Plate on the table (much like at Passover) with particular foods and blessings accompanying them. These are the simanim, symbols. It stems from the Sephardic custom, the Jews who made their way through North Africa, Spain, Portugal, and South & Central America during the Diaspora. Our family has been doing this for about five years now – and it’s great fun for the kiddies at the table. The plate includes apples and honey (for a sweet year); a pomegranate (very symbolic for it is one of Israel’s 7 native species and contains 613 seeds corresponding to the 613 laws in Torah – and may our lives be full of good deeds in the coming year); carrots (may we increase and spread like wild carrots in our good deeds); dates (for a sweet year – also one of the 7 species); beans, or peas (fertility and respect for the dignity of life in all its stages, as they grow like babies in their pods); leeks or scallions (that we would be free from the whips of our enemies -great fun for the kids to “whip” each other with the green onions. For us: WHO are or WHAT are our enemies today?); beet (because the hebrew word for beet, selek, is close to the word for depart, we pray that all our enemies will just depart); a piece of pumpkin or gourd (the many seeds of prosperity) ; and, eeewww, a fish head (substitute a drawing on a stick, or a piece of gefilte fish) – that we will be the head and not the tail in the coming year. Also on the table of festive foods – there really are yummies! is a round braided challah bread – which symbolizes the year from start to finish and then again; as well as G-d’s infinite being, with no beginning or end; and lastly because it looks like a crown, the Kingdom of G-d.There is also the cup of sweet wine, and the candles lit the evening of each holiday.
Many cultures here enjoy main dishes of lamb or beef brisket done in any variety of ways. At the super yesterday, we overheard a lady arguing – to put it mildly – with the fish man on the freshest carp. Basically he told her that if it were any fresher, it would be alive. To which she said, “Yes! Yes! Thats it!!! I want it moving!” Oy!! I spoke with her afterwards about making fresh gefilte fish. She used to start with a live carp and a live whitefish in the bathtub. Oy!! One of these days, when I’m not preparing for my Ulpan final exam… I’ll pass on the live part, though.
Anyway, it’s still in the 90’s Fahrenheit, 30’s Celsius here: too hot to have the oven on for hours before I absolutely have to. And I want to do simple and tasty, incorporating many of the simanim into my dishes – and some of the seasonal “fall” foods as well. As a nod to my Ulpan class full of new Russian/Ukrainian immigrants, I’ll first be making a beautiful cold Borscht to serve for lunch after synagogue.
Borscht (cold Ukranian beet soup), serves 6, Halav (dairy)
4 medium/large red beets
5 cups water
1 tsp berry vinegar
2 tsp honey
salt & pepper to taste
Peel and quarter the beets and place them in a heavy stockpot on medium high heat. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove beets and slice into julienned strips. Cool in refrigerator overnight. Before serving add following ingredients:
1 large (2 smaller) cucumbers, peeled & diced
3 hard boiled eggs, (peeled!) grated
Serve chilled with a large dollop of sour cream
Stuffed Mushrooms with Lemon Yogurt Sauce, Dairy, Serves 6
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1/4 red onion, peeled
2 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, minced finely
salt & pepper, to taste
12 large mushroom caps
1 cup yogurt (I use goat milk yogurt)
1/4 tsp freshly grated lemon rind
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp minced parsely
1/4 tsp minced sage
salt, pepper to taste
In 425* Farenheit (220* C), roast the onion and the pepper for 5-8 minutes directly on rack, turning occasionally until evenly browned/roasted. Watch carefully to prevent burning. At same time roast the sweet potatoes until tender. Remove from oven. Remove skin from pepper by slightly wiping. Cut pepper and onion into strips. Remove skins from sweet potatoes and cut into quarters. Process all vegetables in food processor or with immersion blender until the consistency of mashed potatoes.Place in medium bowl. Gently melt butter in skillet and add minced sage leaves. Let butter absorb the oils from the sage (2 minutes, low heat). Add to veggie mash. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix in bread crumbs. Set aside.
Clean (& de-stem) mushrooms. Place in lightly greased baking dish. Add stuffing- the veggie mash – by spooning into the caps of the shrooms. Make sure they form a pretty dome on top. Bake for 12-15 minutes in 350* F oven.
Mix all ingredients above together in small bowl. Spoon even amounts onto 6 appetizer/small plates. Place hot mushrooms on top. Can garnish with sage leaves. Serve immediately.
Apple Carrot Muffins makes 18 Parve, without ice cream
I like to make these as individual cakes or muffins. They can be a great morning treat, after-school snack, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and slices of fresh mango, a sweet dessert.
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup peeled & chopped apples
1 cup peeled, shredded carrots
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (or baharat)
Preheat the oven to 375*Farenheit.Lightly grease a muffin tin or line it with pretty muffin cup liners. I like the new, stiffer, cardboardy ones. Set aside. In a medium/large bowl (or bowl of mixer) blend the eggs, honey and oil until emulsified. Hand stir in the diced apples and grated carrots. In a separate bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, salt, and spice. Blend the dry ingredients to a carrot-apple mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the cups and bake until top is lightly golden and muffin springs back when pressed, about 25 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool slightly. Can dust tops with powdered sugar when completely cool. Great with apple butter or jam as a snack or breakfast.
Rosh HaShonnah Apple Salad Parve
Sorry I don’t have a pic of this one, but my Dear Husband devours it the second it’s out. It’s an all-time seasonal favorite, and uses some of the traditional simanim. Great as a side dish or a light lunch. Very Israeli!
3 apples, peeled, cored & diced
3 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cups sesame seeds
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup light mayonaise
1/4 cup tahineh (sesame seed paste, sold in plastic jars)
2 Tbsp honey
(1/3 cup diced, pitted dates, if desired)
Toast sesame seeds in dry skillet over medium heat shaking pan constantly until seeds are golden. About 3 minutes. Set Aside. In large bowl, toss apples, onions & celery with juice from 1 lemon to keep apples from darkening. Set aside. Blend together mayo, honey, thinner, and remaining lemon juice. This mixture will be quite thick. Toss with apple mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least one hour. (Watch out!!! This is when mine disappeared – again!!!) Serves 6… if you are lucky :0)
Hope you try and love at least one of these. I’ll be covering the other holidays in order as they occur – Yom Kippur, Succot, Shemeni Atzeret, and Simkhat Torah.
Now, as I have promised. I’m really pleased to announce my first giveaway! From “new” immigrant of just about 3 years, and marvelous photographer of the beauty of this land, I present you with an English-Hebrew 16 month calendar by Jodi Sugar. Jodi lives in Sfat and her calendar hung on my wall and inspired me to keep going in our immigration process. Her photographs are just lovely. The calendar includes both the Julian calendar and its Hebrew counterpart, with all holidays and Sabbath candle lighting time, as well as Torah readings for the respective Sabbath. The first Israeli to sign up for a new subscription to my blog, and the fourth US comment I receive on this post will be mailed the calendar. $15 value. Thank you to Jodi Sugar and to all my readers – and good luck on the calendar giveaway.
You can view Jodi’s website at http://www.jodisugar.com. She has a fabulous gallery online, and takes orders, both nationally and internationally.