Some Old-Style Comfort


This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of Oct. 3. But don't get lulled into a false sense of security because Rosh Hashanah is late this year. Planning the menu, deciding which dishes may be prepared and frozen, and how many convenience items are going to be used can all be done weeks ahead of time. It all helps to avoid last-minute frenzy and chaos in the kitchen.

Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. Meals are steeped in tradition and symbolism. Sweet ingredients are abundant with the hope that the coming year will be filled with sweetness and happiness. Traditionally, sour or bitter foods are not served at the table.

For Ashkenazi Jews, the first foods to be eaten on Rosh Hashanah are fresh apple wedges dipped in honey. Ripe, juicy pear wedges are also in season, so tuck in a few alongside the apples. In addition to creating a new tradition, we're holding fast onto honey – the time-honored ingredient.

Round challahs are the symbol of eternal life but in the recipe below, the bread is crusted with a variety of dried seeds and herbs, symbolizing Israel's "Seven Species." Briskets, kugels and cakes all tend to be rich and heavy. For Sephardic Jews whose ancestors came from the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco, Rosh Hashanah meals emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the Ashkenazi-Sephardi menu below, dishes include symbolic and traditional ingredients, as well as fresh seasonal produce so that though calories are reduced, each dish remains tempting and delicious. Tilapia in a Spicy Bell-Pepper Sauce can take the place of gefilte fish this year; all vegetables enhance the flavor of Autumn Chicken Soup; carrots make for a sweet and crispy Moroccan Salad; and the Seven-Vegetable Kugel is crammed with … seven vegetables!

Buy or bake a honey cake, but don't miss out on the Chocolate-Chip Carrot Cake – no one will guess that the moist, sweet dessert is reduced in calories. For those with no cake tooth, offer them the Kumquat Compote.



Apple and Pear Slices (With Honey!)

Seven-Seed Crusted Challah

Tilapia in a Bell-Pepper Sauce

Autumn Chicken Soup With Chicken Knaidlach

Braised, Stuffed Veal Breast

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Seven-Vegetable Kugel

Adi's Tzimmes

Chocolate-Chip Carrot Cake

Kumquat Compote


Seven-Seed Crusted Challah (Pareve)

Ida Glazer baked this fragrant challah from scratch for our Shabbat dinner in Tel Aviv. My food-processor recipe is easier, but the seeds, symbolizing Israel's "Seven Species," give the same blend of delicate aromas. Substitute any seeds or dried herbs of your choice.

No time to bake? Pick up a round or braided challah from your market, brush the top with warm honey, and sprinkle individual sections with different dried herbs or seeds. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

1/2 cup tepid water (about 110 degrees)
2 Tbsps. honey, warmed, divided
1 envelope (1/4 oz.) rapid-rise dry yeast
23/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten, or an egg substitute, divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. each sesame seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, black sesame seeds, cumin seeds, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds

In a small bowl, mix water with 1 tablespoon honey. Sprinkle the yeast over top.

Let stand at room temperature, until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Place 2 3/4 cups flour and salt in a food processor bowl. Set aside about 2 tablespoons beaten egg or egg substitute. Add remaining egg and honey, the yeast mixture and the oil to the flour in the food processor.

Process until mixture forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Add a little more flour, if needed.

Turn onto a floured board. Knead for 2 minutes, till smooth.

Let rest for 10 minutes, then punch down.

Press into a rectangle about 10×6-inches. Cut into 3 strips lengthwise. Pinch together at one end, then braid by bringing right strip over center, then left strip over center, repeating until the end. Pinch the edges together.

Place on oiled baking sheet. Cover loosely with a light kitchen towel. Set in a warm place until doubled, about 11/2 hours.

Brush with reserved egg. Sprinkle each braid section with a different seed.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes, or until golden-brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped with fingers.

Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 1 large loaf (15 to 18 slices).

Approximate nutrients per slice: calories, 112; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 17; fat, 4 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 148 mg.

Tilapia in a Spicy Bell-Pepper Sauce (Pareve)

This is a Hungarian-inspired appetizer to serve instead of the typical gefilte fish.

Any other white fish, such as cod or haddock, may be substituted.

2 Tbsps. olive oil
1/2 cups fresh or frozen chopped onion
21/2 cups frozen, sliced bell peppers
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) unsalted tomatoes
11/2 tsps. minced garlic
1/2 small mild chili pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
11/2 lbs. tilapia fillets, each cut in half

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and bell peppers.

Sauté, stirring often, until peppers are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, garlic, chili pepper and paprika. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until peppers are broken down.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place tilapia fillets in skillet, spooning sauce over top. Cover.

Cook over a medium heat until fillets are opaque when flakes are separated with point of a knife, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve hot or cold.

Makes 8 to 10 appetizer portions.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 131; protein, 14 g; carbohydrates, 4 g; fat, 7 g; cholesterol, 41 mg; sodium, 43 mg.

Autumn Chicken Soup (Meat)

1 medium green zucchini
2 medium yellow zucchini
11/2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 large scallion, thinly sliced
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
8 cups low-sodium kosher chicken broth
1 cup finely shredded basil
1 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning or to taste

Trim the zucchini and cut into chunks. Grate in food processor using the grating blade. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the grated zucchini, scallion and corn kernels.

Sauté until corn is soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and heat through. Stir in the tomatoes and basil.

Bring to simmer over high heat. Season with lemon-pepper seasoning.

Serve with tiny knaidlach or chicken knaidlach.

Quick Tip: You may use one of the excellent, kosher, boxed matzah-ball mixes with a little fresh chopped dill stirred in.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 76; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 8 g; fat, 4 g; cholesterol, 3 mg; sodium, 155 mg.

Tiny Chicken Knaidlach (Meat)

(This recipe is an Italian-Jewish variation of Ashkenazi knaidlach; it's also a traditional item for Jews from the Chechnyan city of Grozny, where this recipe derived.)

1/2 lb. ground kosher chicken or turkey
1 egg
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
1/3 cup matzah meal
boiling water

In a bowl, combine the ground chicken or turkey, egg, dill, salt, pepper, nutmeg and enough matzah meal to make a stiff, workable mixture.

With wet hands, form dough into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Gently slide into a pot of boiling water.

Cover and return water to a boil. Reduce to simmer.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until almost dry in center

Drain and serve with chicken soup.

Makes 20 to 22 pieces.

Approximate nutrients per each knaidlach: calories, 27; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 2 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 18 mg; sodium, 65 mg.

Braised, Stuffed Veal Breast (Meat)

1/4 lb. lean ground kosher veal or turkey
1/4 cup cooked rice
1 cup chopped parsley, packed
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tsp. ground allspice
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
4-5 lb. veal breast, boned
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 cup vegetable broth

In a bowl, mix the ground veal or turkey, rice, parsley, sage, allspice, salt and pepper.

Lay veal, cut-side up, on a flat surface. Spread the meat mixture over to within 11/2 inches of edges. Roll up as for a jelly roll. Tie neatly with string to secure.

Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof saucepan or casserole over a medium-high heat.

Add the veal, turning until nicely browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the celery, onion, broth and 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, or until juices run clear when veal is pierced. Add a little more broth or water during cooking, if needed.

Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove string and carve into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Pour some of the juices over top and serve.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 487; protein, 38 g; carbohydrates, 1 g; fat, 35 g; cholesterol, 154 mg; sodium, 341 mg.

Moroccan Carrot Salad (Pareve)

21/2 bags (10 oz. each) shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped green olives
3 Tbsps. dried currants
3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 tsps. minced garlic
11/2 tsps. cumin
1/4 tsp. hot sauce (Tabasco) or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Place carrots in a microwave dish. Drizzle 2 tablespoons water over top. Cover loosely with wax paper.

Cook in microwave at high for 5 minutes, stirring after 21/2 minutes. Carrots should be tender but brightly colored. Drain.

Stir in the olives, currants, oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving dish.

Garnish with parsley. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 80; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 9 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 79 mg.

Seven-Vegetable Kugel (Pareve)

2 whole-wheat matzahs, broken in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion, fresh or frozen
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 medium yellow zucchini, coarsely grated
2 cups frozen or fresh mixed red, yellow- and green-pepper strips
1 package (10 oz.) frozen baby peas
1 package (10 oz.) chopped spinach, thawed
package (12 oz.) frozen mashed turnips, thawed
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. Chinese Five-Spice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 11x7x2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place matzah in a strainer and run warm water over top until softened. Squeeze dry and set aside.

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion, mushrooms and zucchini.

Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mixed peppers, peas, spinach and turnips. Heat through.

Add the drained matzah. Cool slightly.

Stir in the eggs, Italian dressing, parsley, Chinese Five-Spice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Transfer to prepared baking dish. Spray with olive oil nonstick cooking spray.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until edges are nicely brown and top is slightly firm to touch.

Cut in squares and serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 24 pieces.

Approximate nutrients per piece: calories, 59; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 5 g; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 35 mg; sodium, 36 mg.

Adi's Tzimmes (Pareve)

Adapted from Jewish Festival Cooking by Phyllis and Miriyam Glazer

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut in half
1 large apple, peeled, cored and cut in wedges
11/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup honey, warmed, or to taste
1 cinnamon stick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a large casserole dish.

Cook the sweet potatoes and pumpkin in lightly salted boiling water to cover, until just tender. Drain and save the cooking liquid.

Transfer sweet potatoes and pumpkin to prepared dish.

Add the dried fruits, apple, orange juice and honey. Mix well.

Place cinnamon stick in the center.

Cover and place in oven. Bake for 1 hour.

Reduce heat to 200 degrees.

Remove cover and continue to bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon stick before end of baking. If tzimmes looks dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.

Serves 6 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 198; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 50 g; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 34 mg.

Chocolate-Chip Carrot Cake (Pareve)

11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup "Splenda for Baking"
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
11/2 tsps. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin-pie spice
3/4 cup vegetable oil
jar (6 oz.) junior baby-food puréed carrots
2 eggs, beaten
1/8 tsp. (scant) orange extract
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, well-drained
cup pareve miniature chocolate chips or coarsely chopped pareve chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, "Splenda for Baking," baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and pumpkin-pie spice.

Make a well in center.

Add oil, carrots, eggs, orange extract, coconut and pineapple. Mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate over top.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 18 to 20 slices.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 184; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 19 g; fat, 12 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 68 mg.

Kumquat Compote (Pareve)

Kumquats – tiny, oval-shaped orange citrus fruits – are available in fall. The edible rind is sweet and pungent. They may be sliced thinly and used in salads, or as a garnish.

2 tsps. artificial sweetener or to taste
1/3 cup honey
11/2 cups apple juice
2 cups kumquats, halved
cup golden raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded and diced
seeds from half a pomegranate

Place artificial sweetener, honey and apple juice in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat to dissolve.

Add the kumquats, raisins and cranberries. Add a little water to just cover fruits.

Bring to barely simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Let stand at room temperature 2 to 3 hours.

Before serving, stir in diced mango and scatter pomegranate seeds over top.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 158; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 41 g; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 7 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Reach her at: www.kosherfoodconsultants. com.



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