Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 20th 2017 (1st of Tishrei, 5778). Rosh Hashanah is perhaps the most important holiday in the Jewish religion. Together with Yom Kippur (which follows 10 days later) it is part of the Days of Awe, or High Holy Days. It is always observed on the first two days of Tishrei, the first month of the Jewish year. The two-day holiday, the only one that’s celebrated as two days both in Israel and the Diaspora, is a celebration of the Jewish New Year, during which we recognize the day that G-d created Adam and Eve. Rosh Hashanah is described in the Torah as Yom Teru'ah, a day of sounding (the Shofar). In addition to being a celebration of our creation, it is also a time for accounting and judgment of our actions. And, as with most holidays and customs, we celebrate and mark the occasion with food.
On the Jewish New Year we greet one another with the words Shanah Tovah u'Metukah, Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year!” As a result, our table is deliberately filled with foods that symbolize sweetness, blessings, and abundance to reflect an appetite for the happy, prosperous days to come.
If your family is anything like mine, you’ve been discussing or at least contemplating the menu for weeks now.
Here are a few of our favorite ingredients to include in your feast, along with JEW-ishly-approved recipes that should impress even the most critical of Jewish mothers.
The Challah is round on Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing the circle of life. It is also symbolic of a crown, alluding to the desire to crown G-d as king. The challah is then dipped in honey instead of salt, our typical Shabbat tradition.
We battled with our parents yearly to find, or bake, raisin-less challah for the holiday. Now that we're in charge, we're team Sans-Raisin-Challah! Challah at us if you agree.
Here is the challah I made last year: it was a huge hit!
Apples dipped in honey
One of the most well-known traditions of the Jewish New Year is to eat sweet foods to symbolize a sweet year, and the most common way to do so is with apples dipped in honey.
The sweet treat symbolizes more than just the sweet new year Jews hope to be blessed with. The apple also represents Gan Eden, or the Garden of Eden, as we celebrate the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.
Fish head (yes fish head!)
Since Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” in Hebrew, many Sephardic Jews will feast on the head of a fish. In Jewish culture, fish represents fertility and abundance.
The pomegranate, or rimon, is special for several reasons. It is one of the Seven Species of Israel. Also, as a seasonal offering, it fulfills the “new fruit” tradition. But there's another link between pomegranates and the Jewish New Year -- just as the fruits are full of seeds, we hope we'll be similarly full of merits in the coming year. For some, preparing a pomegranate can be intimidating, but with this easy tutorial you will be able to deseed a pomegranate without the big mess.
We love Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem” cookbook for many reasons, and this delicious Roasted cauliflower, hazelnut and pomegranate seed salad is no exception.
The Hebrew word for beet is Selek, to remove, and is eaten to express that we hope our enemies are removed.
This beets and carmelized onion recipe can serve as your base: you can add sauteed mushrooms and anything else you like to dial it up or down. Feel free to take out the feta and pine nuts if you don’t like those. And you can, of course, use fresh beets, rather than canned. Many grocery stores now sell cooked beets in the produce section for lazy people, like me.
Black-eyes peas or green beans
Black-eyed pea or haricots verts are called rubia or lubia in Aramiac. These words contain the same sounds, respectively, as “many” and “heart” in Hebrew. The accommodating blessing asks that our merits become many and that God hearten us.
Haricot verts can be served simply roasted
The date, tamar, shares sounds with the verb “finish” (tam) in Hebrew and comes with the wish that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.
I love figs! they're one of my favorite foods to eat on their own or with cheese, when in season. They're sweet and full of flavor and make a perfect sweet addition to your feast, either on their own or cooked. They also look beautiful and can serve a dual purpose as a centerpiece.
I love making roasted chicken on special holidays and use this recipe from The Yellow Table all the time: for Rosh Hashanah I add 1 pound of ripe figs (stemmed and quartered lengthwise) while roasting.
And when I say it's simple, trust me. I even skip the the white wine step completely; when the chicken comes out after broiling, it's ready to be devoured.
In our family, no one skips dessert! This Honey Cake from one of our favorite food blogger, Smitten Kitchen, is a perfect combination of sweet and spicy, not your mother’s dry, barely edible honey cake.
Wishing you, and yours, Shanah Tovah u’Metukah. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may we be blessed with many simchas in the coming year.