Last Minute Rosh HaShanah Menu Ideas

I love learning about different cultures and traditions, and thought that if you are like me, you might be interested in taking a glimpse into the Jewish new year.

The Hebrew or Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar and has 29.5 days per month, resulting in 354 days a year. In the past, before Roman times, this was the only calendar used by Jews. In modern times, the Gregorian calendar is the main calendar used by everyone, including Jews. The Hebrew calendar is only used for the Jewish Holidays and Jewish events. In order to keep the two calendars synchronized, a whole month is added to the Hebrew calendar seven times in every 19 years. Which means that my Hebrew date of birth and my Gregorian date of birth synchronize every 19 years.

Anyway, that is the reason why every year, the Jewish Holidays fall on different dates in the Gregorian calendar. They go by the Hebrew calendar to keep them in synch with the seasons. Rosh HaShanah, which literally means in Hebrew “the head of the year,” is the beginning of the Jewish year, and is one of the major Jewish Holidays.

What I love about the Jewish Holidays is that they are ceremonial. It’s not just another festive meal. There is always a short (or long) ceremony going on before the meal is served. On Rosh HaShanah, the ceremony involves reciting different blessings around the table before the meal. These blessings include wishes for a sweet new year, for living in peace with no enemies, for being prosperous, for being leaders who shine light and goodness upon the world, for being deserving for God’s approval, ect. Each blessing is symbolized by some food where the connection is usually a pun between the Hebrew/Aramaic name of the food and the meaning of the blessing.

European and American Jews (Ashkenazi) usually recite one blessing that includes apples and honey for a sweet new year.
Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Asian and African Jews (Sephardic) include these two foods in their blessings, as well as all of the following foods: dates, pumpkin or carrot, beet, leek, head of fish of beef (the meat from the cheeks), and black-eyed peas. As you recite each blessing, you have a bite of the corresponding food. So even though it’s not the main meal yet, you do not remain hungry. On the contrary. By the time we are done with the ceremonial part of the evening, most of us are already full.

But of course, we can’t skip the meal, which usually includes some sweet dishes for a sweet new year. Most of us who celebrate already have a set menu for Rosh HaShanah, or at least we have an idea of what goes on the table. However, there are always last minute changes because our guests have special requirements, or we couldn’t find some of the ingredients we were counting on, or a guest responsible for bringing one of the dishes bailed out. Whatever the reason, here are some recipes that can save the day in short notice. I chose these recipes as they include ingredients that are showcased in the blessings recited at the Holiday table, and some dishes with sweet inclination.

Wishing all who celebrate (and those who don’t) a happy, sweet, and prosperous new year!

Chestnut Pumpkin Soup
Pomegranate Soup with Turkey Meatballs
Kubbeh in Beet Soup
Celery and Beet Salad
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Fish in Tomato Sauce
Apple Khoresh
My Grandmother’s Cheek Meat Stew
Apple Cake with Dates and Pomegranate
Apple Poppy Seed Cake

Apple Poppy Seed Cake

When I started Tali’s Artisanal, my gluten free bakery, my primary goal was to create gourmet gluten free desserts that are as delicious as any other dessert, gluten free or not. I wanted to introduce new interesting flavors that are not mainstream Americana. Flavors that would appeal to people who are looking for unique gourmet products, but also need them to be gluten free. ‘No compromise’ was the name of the game.

This delicious apple poppy cake was one of the recipes I created for my cake business. I was inspired by some Israeli recipes for apple and poppy seed cakes. I could vividly imagine the flavors of Central and Eastern Europe, when combining poppy seeds and tart apples with ingredients such as lemon zest and raisins. I knew I had to make this cake happen. And I did.

The cake has immediately become one of my favorites. Whenever I’m in the mood for some good old European dessert, this cake hits the spot. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of my best sellers. I guess the American palette prefers other flavors. Some of my customers, though, would come especially for this wonderful cake.

poppy apple

So here is the recipe, not in its gluten free version, although if you want it to be GF, just switch the all purpose flour with some GF cake flour blend (make sure it has xanthan gum in it, or else add ½ tsp of xanthan to the recipe).

Hope you enjoy the cake as much as I do.

¾ cup (70g) almond flour
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (75g) ground poppy seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1tbs lemon zest
1tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 ¼ cups (250g) sugar
½ cup (100g) vegetable oil
½ cup (120g) apple sauce
4 shredded granny smith apples
1/3 (50g) cup raisins

In a bowl, mix the flours, poppy seeds, spices and lemon zest, and set aside.

In a mixer, combine the oil, sugar, applesauce, and eggs and mix for 5 min.

While mixer is still on (on the lowest speed), add in the flour mix, and mix until all flour is incorporated. Add the shredded apples and give an extra stir.

Pour the batter into one 8” round baking pan or two 8”x4” loaf pans, and sprinkle with the raisins on top. Using a spoon or your finger, push the raisins a little into the batter so they don’t burn when baking in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes for the loaf cakes and 45-50 minutes for the round cake.

The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

poppy closeup

Pomegranate Soup with Turkey Meatballs

This is a frustrating post. It is about an idea that I had for a recipe that after some attempts and tweaks, turned out to be delicious and unique, but I couldn’t use for the purpose I created it for.

Let me start from the beginning. Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of the Jewish year, is coming up in two days. One of the customary foods for Rosh Hashanah is pomegranate, as its abundant seeds symbolize our hopes that we will come before God with abundant merits. The pomegranate is eaten as is, no cooking involved.

I thought it would be cool if I came up with a recipe for pomegranate soup as a first course for our festive meal, that I could also share with the world right before the holiday. The only pomegranate soup I’ve heard of was a Persian recipe that I found somewhere, but I did not want the soup to have rich Persian flavors. I wanted it to be delicate, mild, and creamy. And there was the first challenge. If I make the soup dairy, and the rest of the meal is based on meat, it doesn’t comply with the Jewish rules of Kashrut (in this case, not consuming meat and dairy at the same meal). I’m not a religious Jew, and we do mix meat and dairy at home. But I am pretty traditional when it comes to my religion and culture, and this is a Jewish Holiday. It just doesn’t feel right to serve meat and dairy at the holiday table.

So my first attempt was to make the soup with coconut milk and coconut cream. I used some POM’s pomegranate juice and some spices, but the soup came up very sweet, which was enhanced by the sweetness of the coconut milk. I added some pomegranate molasses for tartness, and some cilantro, and…it was almost not edible – too sweet with flavors that are nothing but strong and concentrated. No matter how much water I added to try and dilute the flavor, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. So this batch ended up in the trash, unfortunately (I hate throwing away food!).

The second attempt was to make the soup using heavy cream (yes, dairy), and maybe eating the soup on a different occasion. The base was chicken flavored soup (from powder). I added some cardamom, garlic and onion, the pomegranate molasses (this time I went easy on it), POM juice and heavy cream. The soup tasted nice, but was missing something.

After trying some dumplings, and some other different spices, I slowly came to the conclusion that the soup needed some meat (yes, yes, now you understand my frustration). I made some tiny turkey meatballs and added them to the soup. And it did the work. Not only was the flavor of the soup improved, but the tiny meatballs added some texture and depth that was missing from the soup earlier.

We enjoyed the soup, and I still think it’s a very festive, unique, delicious soup, but I won’t be making it for Rosh Hashanah.

This is the recipe for the final version:

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion diced very thinly
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups water
1 heaping tablespoon chicken soup powder
½ cup POM pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (found in Middle Eastern stores)
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1tsp sugar (optional)
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 tbs cornstarch
½ cup heavy cream

Heat the oil in a large pot, add the onion and garlic and sautee until golden.

Add the pomegranate juice, water, chicken soup powder, and pomegranate molasses. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low heat and add the spices and the sugar.

While Soup is simmering, mix in a bowl the turkey meat, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Create tiny meat balls, slightly bigger than cherry tomatoes, and drop them into the soup. If the meat is too sticky, wet your hands. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook for 10 more minutes.

When serving, sprinkle each bowl of soup with some pomegranate seeds on top.

And to all of you who celebrate the Jewish Holidays, L’ Shanah Tovah – have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

POM soup