By Beth Kissileff
(JTA) —What are the foods that make Rosh Hashanah special? JTA queried a number of high-profile Jewish chefs about which dishes and recipes are a must on their holiday tables. Many of the dishes the chefs shared with us are family recipes, from mothers and grandmothers; a homage to those who fed and nourished us in the past. Many have offered a fresh twist on their mishpucha’s must-haves — meaning that, in addition to straightforward ingredients lists and directions, embedded within each heirloom recipe is the hope that, by making these traditional foods, cooks today will build bridges to future generations.
Jeffrey Yoskowitz’s herbed gefilte fish
“Homemade gefilte fish became such a staple for me at the Rosh Hashanah table that when my grandmother stopped cooking and the local deli closed, I began preparing the holiday delicacy for my whole family,” Yoskowitz said. “It wasn’t a holiday without the good stuff, as far as I was concerned, plus making it myself was very empowering. Since my family’s roots are Polish, mine is a (lightly) sweetened gefilte fish, which is fitting for the New Year celebrations, when we’re so fixated on sweetness.”
(From The Gefilte Manifesto, reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
12 ounces whitefish fillet, skin removed, flesh coarsely chopped
1 1/4 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh watercress (or spinach)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
Horseradish, store-bought or homemade, for serving
Remove any large bones left in your fillets, but don’t fret about the smaller ones since they’ll be pulverized in the food processor. You can buy your fish pre-ground from a fishmonger to ensure all the bones are removed, but try to cook your fish that day since ground fish loses its freshness faster.
Place the onion in the bowl of a large food processor and process until finely ground and mostly liquefied. Add the fish fillets to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients, except for the horseradish. Pulse in the food processor until the mixture is light-colored and evenly textured throughout. Scoop into a bowl and give it an additional stir to ensure that all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and fill the pan with the fish mixture. Smooth out with a spatula.
Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The terrine is finished when the corners and ends begin to brown. The loaf will give off some liquid. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan and slicing.
Lauren Volo / The Gefilte Manifesto
Rabbi Hanoch Hecht’s dessert tzimmes
Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, a competitor on “Chopped,” is a Chabad rabbi in Rhinebeck, New York.
Hecht chose tzimmes, a traditional sweet stew made of carrots, explaining that carrots are called “merren” in Yiddish, which also means “increase.”
“The very fact that its name connotes increase makes it auspicious to eat carrots during the New Year,” he said, “as it represents an increase in good things for the coming year.” (Courtesy of Hecht)
1 bunch rainbow carrots
Peel carrots and boil in simple syrup until tender. Slice figs in half and caramelize in a pan 4 minutes on medium heat. Once tender, add the carrots to the figs. Add butter and sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar.
Candy the carrots for about 4 minutes and you are ready to serve.
Nir Mesika’s braised short ribs with squash puree and roasted corn salad
Growing up in northern Israel, in Mesika’s family, Rosh Hashanah was all about his mother’s shortribs. What makes it special, he said, is that “the family was waiting for it all day long” so they could gather to “share it from the same pot on the center of the table.” This recipe, Mesika said, is a twist on his mother’s staple. (Courtesy of Mesika)
For the short ribs:
2 pounds short ribs, cut into individual ribs (3-inch pieces)
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 bottle dry red wine
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon silan date syrup
1 liter chicken stock
(Note: can also substitute water)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the squash puree:
1 pound squash, diced
3 sage leaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
4 tablespoons olive oil
For the roasted corn salad:
2 yellow corn
1 red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 bunch fresh cilantro
For the short ribs:
Place a large pot on the stovetop over high heat and add the olive oil and grapeseed oil. Season the short ribs well with fresh black pepper and kosher salt, place the meat in the pot and sear on each side until the short ribs develop a nicely browned, charred color. Add the chopped carrots, onions and celery and caramelize well (about 5-10 minutes) until the vegetables are tender. Add the red wine, spices and chicken stock. Cook 10-15 minutes, then add the silan and the fresh thyme. Cover and let simmer for 3 hours. Remove short ribs once they are falling-off-the-bone tender and let rest.
For the squash purée
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, mix the smoked paprika, cumin and olive oil together, then add the sage and diced squash. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the mixture on a tray and put into the oven for about 40 minutes – until the squash is tender. After the squash has cooled, put it in the blender and grind until the texture is smooth. Finish with salt, pepper and a touch of Tabasco sauce.
For the roasted corn salad:
Butter the corn and coat with Sriracha sauce. Place on a tray and roast in the oven at 375 F for 40 minutes, or until the corn develops a charred color. Cut the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife and place into a bowl. Add the ginger, sliced red onion, a few slices of jalapeño peppers, the juice from 1 lime, cilantro leaves, salt and pepper to taste, and a drizzle of olive oil; mix well.
Spread the squash puree on the bottom of the plate. Add the roasted corn salad. Place a few pieces of short ribs on top, with a few spoonfuls of the jus from the stock in the pot. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh thyme.
Itta Werdiger Roth’s pomegranate chicken
Itta Werdiger Roth, “supper-club impresario,” is the founder of the Brooklyn pop-up restaurant The Hester.
“Pomegranates are not only in season but they are also one of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah,” Roth said. “It’s a win-win situation!”
(Courtesy of My Jewish Learning)
1 whole chicken
2 cups Pom (or similar) pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons corn or potato starch
1 large bunch leeks, cleaned well and sliced into rounds
1-2 heads fennel, sliced into wedges (reserve fronds/tops and roughly chop)
1/4 bunch tarragon
chopped salt and pepper
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove pomegranate seeds and discard the skin. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and sprinkle the leeks, fennel and 1/3 of the pomegranate seeds around, over it and inside the crevice. Combine the salt, pepper, olive oil and most of the tarragon and fennel fronds in a bowl and rub it all over the chicken. Mix the remaining wet ingredients in the same bowl, then whisk in the corn or potato starch until smooth. Pour over the chicken and vegetables and roast for about an hour and a half or until the skin is crispy and, when pierced with a knife, the juices of the chicken run clear. Use the rest of the pomegranate seeds as a colorful garnish together with the extra tarragon and fennel fronds.
Lior Lev Sercarz’s spiced honey cake recipe
Lior Lev Sercarz is the owner of La Boite, an upscale spice shop in New York, and author of The Art of Blending and the forthcoming The Spice Companion.
“Rosh Hashanah has always been about family for me, and this honey cake is my take on a favorite food from my childhood from around this time,” said Sercarz, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel. “I add spices like I do in all of my cooking, use silan (date honey) to modernize the recipe and reflect the season, and olive oil to connect my family here in New York City to my father’s groves back home in the Galilee.”
(Courtesy of Lior Lev Sercarz)
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup silan, divided (3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
Juice of 1 orange plus zest
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Reims N.39 or 1 1/2 teaspoons each ground ginger and nutmeg
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Cream the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat for 3 to 4 minutes or until noticeably lighter in color and texture. Mix together all dry ingredients (except sesame seed) in a bowl and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add the pomegranate juice, olive oil, 3/4 cup silan, orange juice and zest to the eggs and sugar; stir well to combine. Gently incorporate the dry ingredients, mixing until it just comes together — a few lumps are OK. Pour into 2 greased or lined 8-inch loaf pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool and brush the tops with the reserved silan; sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Beth Kissileff is the editor of the anthology Reading Genesis and author of the forthcoming novel Questioning Return.