Save Time Making Rosh Hashanah Dinner


By Ethel G. Hofman |

It started with a chance remark after a Shabbat dinner. “What a feast. You must have cooked for hours.”

I didn’t answer immediately. Working in my home office, I haven’t the time or the inclination to spend hours in the kitchen anymore. And neither do busy parents, young couples or working professionals. While everyone wants a traditional High Holiday meal, no one wants to spend a week shopping, chopping, boiling, baking and freezing dish after dish.

And these days, there’s really no need for it. Today, with literally thousands of kosher convenience-food items available in markets, it’s easy to create sensational meals with minimum effort. So while you really can’t avoid the shopping, you can skip the other lengthy processes with just a bit of preplanning and a dollop of shortcuts.

Also, the emphasis in contemporary kitchens is on healthier eating patterns. We include more fresh produce in our meals. We’re cooking fish and chicken, rather than red meat, which takes much longer to cook (think of braising a brisket for three to four hours).

Instead of matzah ball soup, serve a gazpacho, redolent with fresh shredded basil. Include wedges of crisp Bosc or Asian pear along with apples to dip in honey. Gussie up already-roasted chicken with your own marinade, and end the meal with an apple cobbler mixed, baked and served in one dish.

To avoid taking out, setting up and washing china plates and crystal glassware, arrange attractive paper goods and plastic ware on a tray and eat picnic-style. The kids will love it.

And while wine should be available (Jewish holidays require it), many guests prefer nonalcoholic beverages in what will actually still be late summer as the Jewish calendar changes. Israelis use fresh herbs abundantly.

Before filling a water pitcher, insert four to five stems of fresh mint. To top off the entire production, take a seedless watermelon, slice in wedges and arrange on a pretty platter. Or heap clementine oranges in a bowl with mint or rosemary sprigs tucked in. It’s a fresh, sweet and perfect finale to a simple, yet sensational festive meal.

Check out these recipes. Make all for a complete Rosh Hashanah dinner or bring just one of them to the host of the meal that you’ll be attending. You can also add a round challah, the traditional shape used for the Jewish New Year.

All recipes serve six to eight.


Autumn Gazpacho (Pareve)

A slice of multigrain bread gives this a gentle, nutty texture. If preferred, substitute challah.

  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1½-2 cups bottled Bloody Mary mix
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cucumber, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 6 chunks
  • 1 slice multigrain bread, torn in chunks
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, packed
  • Unpeeled cucumber slices for garnish (optional)

In a blender or food processor, place all the ingredients except the salt, pepper and basil. Whirl 15-20 seconds at high for a desired texture. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shred the basil with scissors and stir in. Refrigerate overnight.

Marinated cherry tricolor Tomatoes (Pareve)

Double the dressing ingredients. Refrigerate the extra to use later as salad dressing or to drizzle over cooked veggies.

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 pints tricolor cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 rib celery with leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup basil leaves, finely shredded
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake the oil, vinegar and mustard to combine. Set aside.

Place the green onions, tomatoes, celery and basil in a large serving bowl. Pour the mustard dressing over and toss lightly to mix.

Season with salt and pepper. Scatter pumpkin seeds over the top. Serve chilled.

This can be made a day ahead.

Israeli Blessing Salad (Pareve)

  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch basil
  • ½ bunch dill
  • 1 (14½ ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled and coarsely diced
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Trim the parsley stems. Pull the leaves off the basil and discard the stems. Dill may be used without trimming. Rinse well in cold water. Spin dry all herbs in a salad spinner.

Place the herbs in a food processor. Pulse to chop coarsely. Transfer them to a large bowl. Add the chickpeas and remaining ingredients. Toss gently to mix. Serve at room temperature.

Note: This may be made the day beforehand; cover and refrigerate.

Pomegranate Chicken (Meat)

No one will guess this starts with roasted chicken from the kosher section of your market.

  • ½ cup pomegranate juice or juice from 1 large pomegranate
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon bottled grated ginger or 1 teaspoon powdered
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 roasted chickens, quartered
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pomegranate juice, apricot preserves, lemon juice, ginger, salt and pepper in a small microwavable bowl. Heat on high for 18 seconds or until the preserves are melted. Check after 10 seconds. Stir to mix. Cool slightly.

Arrange the chicken in one layer in a baking dish. Pierce each piece two times with a fork.

Pour the pomegranate mixture over top. Cover tightly with foil. Heat through in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. The chicken will steam and absorb flavors.

Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds (optional).

Za’atar Salmon in a Pouch (Pareve)

  • 8 pieces aluminum foil, each 15-by-18 inches
  • 16 thin asparagus spears, each cut in half
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut in 8 slices
  • 8 salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar spice
  • 8 tablespoons peach-mango salsa
  • 8 sprigs dill
  • 8 lemon wedges

Spray the aluminum foil with nonstick vegetable spray.

To assemble: On the center of a sheet of foil, place 1 asparagus spear (2 pieces).

Top with a slice of onion, then a salmon fillet. Sprinkle lightly with za’atar. Drizzle a tablespoon of salsa over that and then top it with a sprig of dill.

Bring the long edges of foil up and over the salmon to meet at center. Fold the edges over loosely to create a tight seal. Then fold the edges at each side to seal. Place the packet on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. This may be refrigerated 4-6 hours before cooking.

Bake the packets in a preheated 450-degree oven for 18-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon fillet. A 1-inch fillet will need closer to 20 minutes.


Moroccan Couscous with Currants and Carrots (Pareve)

Couscous is not a grain. It’s a pasta made from semolina flour, which is extremely high in gluten.

  • 2 packages (approximately 5.7 ounces each) Near East couscous
  • ½ cup currants
  • 16-ounce package baby carrots, peeled
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cumin or turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • ½ cup finely snipped mint, divided

Prepare the couscous according to package direction. Stir in the currants. Cover and set them aside to keep warm.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin or turmeric, salt and pepper. Stir in ¼ cup mint. Set it aside.

In a large saucepan, cover the carrots with boiling water. Bring them to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain well. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Pour the olive oil mixture over the couscous and stir gently to mix. Spoon the carrots over the couscous. Sprinkle the remaining mint over to garnish. Serve warm.

This may be prepared a few hours ahead of time. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and reheat it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until warm. Sprinkle the mint over just before serving.

Oma’s Noodles and Blueberries (Pareve)

This is from my late husband’s grandmother’s kitchen. She used fresh blueberries, but in September, I use frozen or little blue Italian plums with the stones removed and quartered.

  • 1 package (12 ounces) medium egg noodles
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar

In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the noodles until tender but still firm (5-7 minutes). Drain them in a colander.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, lemon juice, blueberries and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir over medium heat to dissolve the sugar and bring it to a boil, about 5 minutes.

In a large serving bowl, toss the noodles with the margarine and cinnamon-sugar. Pour the blueberry mixture over top and serve hot.

Note: The blueberry sauce may be made ahead of time and heated when needed.

Apple-Walnut Cobbler (Pareve)

Prepare, bake and serve this in a single dish.

  • 6 medium apples

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) margarine, cut in 4 pieces
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup nondairy creamer
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ¾ teaspoon orange extract
  • 10-12 walnut halves
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey to drizzle

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Core and quarter the apples. Do not peel them. Cut the apples into wedges about ¼-inch thick. Set aside.

Place the margarine in an ovenproof dish, 11-by-7-inches. Set it in the microwave to melt, 30-40 seconds, depending on microwave wattage. Add the flour, sugar, nondairy creamer, water and orange extract to the melted margarine. Stir to blend.

Scatter the apple wedges and walnuts over top, making sure to cover the batter. Do not stir.

Drizzle with honey. Bake in a preheated oven 45-50 minutes, or until nicely browned and bubbly at the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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