Fress, Don’t Stress With This Rosh Hashanah Menu

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Don’t stress about menu planning and instead make a menu of simple, delicious delights that people will only think consumed your September. 

When the Jewish New Year comes around, many people stress for weeks leading up to the holiday and break out their most complicated recipes to impress guests.But when I entertain around the holidays, I prefer to rely on a few go-to dishes that are simple to prepare, pack a delicious punch and still manage to thrill and satisfy my friends and family. 
 
Forget the chicken soup and start the New Year on a sweet note with this Sweet-N-Spicy Sweet Potato Soup. It doesn’t require a million ingredients or lots of time, but people will be asking for the recipe as soon as they taste it. Made with dried peppers, coconut milk and roasted sweet potatoes, this soup is one of my favorites to make, serve and eat. 
 
A perfect roasted chicken marinated with citrus and herbs is a wonderful counterpoint to a rich brisket on the table. Marinating for at least several hours will ensure a moist chicken everyone will talk about.
 
And while challah should be served to start the meal, Balsamic Apple-Date-Stuffed challah is so delicious you may want to serve it as the grand finale. 
 
Rosh Hashanah has a late start this year, so enjoy those last few weeks of late summer, don’t stress about menu planning and instead make a menu of simple, delicious delights that people will only think consumed your September. 
Sweet-n-Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
(Pareve or Dairy)
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsps. coarse sea salt
10 medium sweet potatoes
3 Tbsps. olive oil plus extra
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 quarts vegetable stock
2-3 dried chili peppers (small; if using medium-sized dried chilis, just use one)
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
creme fraiche (optional)
olive oil for finishing (optional)
candied pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400˚.
 
Mix brown sugar, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt in a small bowl. Cut sweet potatoes in half and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Spread brown sugar/spice mixture all over sweet potatoes and drizzle with olive oil.
 
Roast sweet potatoes for 35 to 45 minutes or until completely soft. Set aside and let cool.
 
In a medium to large pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion and carrots until translucent and soft, around 4 to 6 minutes. Add 2 to 3 cups of stock and simmer for 5 minutes. 
 
Add sweet potato flesh and, using an immersion blender, blend all vegetables until smooth. Add remaining stock and dried chilis.
 
When the soup is heated through and flavors have blended, around 20 to 30 minutes, add coconut milk. Remove the dried chilis before serving. Note: The longer you let the chilis sit in the soup, the spicier the soup will be.
 
If you are making this soup dairy, you can serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream. If you are serving this soup pareve, drizzle with good quality olive oil and some chopped candied pecans or walnuts.
 
Serves 6 to 8.
Shannon’s Perfect Roast Chicken
(Meat)
1 whole chicken, rinsed
1 orange, zested and sliced
1 lemon, zested and sliced
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
6 cloves garlic
1⁄2 Tbsp. fresh chopped thyme
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together orange and lemon zest, rosemary, garlic, thyme, olive oil, wine and the salt and pepper. Add the chicken to a large plastic bag that seals, and pour the wet mixture of the chicken. Add the orange and lemon slices, as well as the whole garlic cloves.
 
After you seal the bag, make sure the entire chicken is covered with the marinade. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours before roasting.
 
Preheat the oven to 400˚. If you like, you can stuff some of the garlic cloves and citrus slices under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken. Roast the chicken for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165˚.
 
Serves 4 to 6.
Balsamic Apple-Date stuffed Challah for Rosh Hashanah
(Pareve)
For the challah dough:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup sugar
2 Tbsps. honey
1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 tsps. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. nutmeg
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
11⁄2 Tbsps. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
11⁄4 cups lukewarm water
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
3 Gala apples, peeled and diced
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 cinnamon stick
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄4 cup red wine
2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
For top of challah:
1 egg
1 tsp. water
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sanding sugar
1 Tbsp. thick sea salt
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
 
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 11⁄2 cups flour, salt, sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.
 
Add another cup of flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
 
Add another 11⁄2 cups flour and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
 
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3 to 4 hours.
 
To make the filling, place apples, dates, salt, cinnamon stick, water, red wine and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat  and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the mixture is reduced by about half, around 8 to 12 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes. 
 
Remove from the heat and allow to cool 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick.
 
Place mixture in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
 
After the challah is done rising, cut the dough in half. To be as precise as possible, use a scale to measure the weight.
 
Roll out the first ball using a rolling pin into a rectangle. Spread around half, perhaps slightly less, of the apple-date mixture in an even layer, leaving 1⁄2-inch all around without filling. Working quickly, start rolling up the dough toward you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end when you finish.
 
Create a pinwheel shaped-challah by snaking the dough around and around in a circle around itself. When finished, tuck the end under the challah neatly and pinch lightly.
This doesn’t have to be perfect — remember, as long as it tastes good, almost no one will care what it looks like.
 
Repeat with other half of dough.
 
Preheat the oven to 350˚.
 
Allow challahs to rise another 30 to 60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown.
 
Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon of honey. Brush liberally over each challah. Combine sea salt, sanding sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over challah.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set and the color is golden.
 
Makes 2 medium loaves.
 
Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher blog on MyJewishLearning.com, where these recipes originally appeared.

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