Let These Surprise Fruits Usher in a Sweet Year

Each Rosh Hashanah, as I set my table, I remember my mother setting hers with the new fruits of the season: a variety of apples, perhaps some pears and a bowl of dates and dried figs. This was in Brooklyn, where the pomegranates, fresh figs, avocados and persimmons that grace my holiday table didn't exist, except at fancy grocers that imported them from "who knows where," as my mother would say. They were considered very exotic, not to mention very expensive.

Today, tropical fruits, such as mango and papaya, can be included in the "new fruits" category as well. How fortunate we are now that there are speedy and safe delivery methods that allow everyone, everywhere, to be able to go to the local green grocer or farmers market and select from a myriad of produce to make the New Year's menu signify hope for a sweet year ahead. This wish is accompanied by the prayer: "May it be Thy will, Oh Lord our God, to renew unto us a happy and pleasant New Year."

In addition to arranging these fall fruits attractively on a platter for an edible centerpiece, I love incorporating them in different courses for the holiday feast. Desserts come immediately to mind, but even more enticing and interesting is using them in unexpected dishes.

Braised Cabbage and Apples

(Pareve or Meat)

2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large apples, cored and chopped
2 Tbsps. honey
1 large head red cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet, heat oil. Cook onion and apples until very soft. Stir in honey and cook 1 minute. Add cabbage and cook until wilted. Add wine and broth or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. If the mixture has too much liquid, uncover and cook over high heat for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates. Stir in salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Serves 8.

Spinach Salad With Persimmons, Avocados and Pomegranate Seeds


8 cups torn spinach leaves, or other seasonal greens, (about 1 lb.)
3 Fuji (firm, squat) persimmons, cut into thin wedges
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
3 Tbsps. sherry vinegar
7 Tbsps. olive oil
salt and pepper
seeds from 1 large pomegranate (about 1 cup)

In a large bowl combine spinach, persimmons, onion and avocado. Whisk together vinegar and oil. Toss with salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Serves 8.

Baked Figs With Honey and Mint


16 fresh figs
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsps. honey
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 400°.

Brush figs with oil. Stand them upright on a baking sheet and with a sharp scissors cut an "x" in the top of each fig.

Combine honey and lemon juice and sprinkle on figs. Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with nuts.

Serves 8.

Couscous With Dates

(Meat or Pareve)

2 cups chicken broth or water
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups couscous
11/2 cups pitted dates, sliced
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 scallions, sliced
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, bring broth, water, oil, saffron and cinnamon to a boil. Gradually stir in the couscous. Cook, stirring until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in cranberries, zucchini and carrots. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Taste for salt and pepper, and turn out into a serving bowl, breaking up lumps with your fingers. Sprinkle with scallions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8.

Tropical Fruit Compote


Mango Sauce Ingredients:

1 large mango, peeled and seeded
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsps. honey
1 Tbsp. dark rum

2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small mango, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted

In a food processor or blender, puree the mango with lemon juice, honey and rum. Set aside.

Place strawberries, pineapple and mango in large bowl. Toss with mango sauce. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.

Serves 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.


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