Beyond Apples and Honey: Symbolic Foods for Rosh Hashanah

Recipes for traditional and meaningful Jewish new year delicacies.

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Apples and honey may be the symbolic stars of Rosh Hashanah, but for some Jewish families they are just the beginning. The custom of holding a Rosh Hashanah seder, where a series of symbolic foods are eaten before the meal, is becoming an increasingly common practice in Sephardic and Mizrahi families where the tradition originated, and even in some Ashkenazic households.

pomegranate

Each of the chosen foods — generally a pomegranate, date, string bean, beet, pumpkin, leek, and fish head— symbolize a wish or blessing for prosperity and health in the coming year. The food’s significance is most often based on a pun of that food’s name (find out more here.) During the Rosh Hashanah meal, each food is held up, blessed, and eaten as if to personally ingest or take in those good wishes.

READ: Understanding the Symbolism in Traditional Rosh Hashanah Foods

Rosh Hashanah’s symbolic foods can make an appearance on the holiday table, regardless of whether one decides to incorporate a full Rosh Hashanah seder into their celebration. For a creative twist on the traditional seder, make dishes inspired by each food (like the ones linked below) and serve them throughout the evening to infuse the entire meal with symbolic meaning as well as delicious flavors.

Orange and Pomegranate Salad

Green Beans with Honey Tahini Glaze

Roasted Beets with Cilantro-Basil Pesto

White Wine Braised Leeks

Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcakes

Date Coconut Rolls

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Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, CHOW, Food Arts, Tablet, Gastronomica, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Leah writes a monthly food column for The Forward and a bimonthly column for Saveur.com called “One Ingredient, Many Ways.” She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning blog, The Jew & The Carrot, and she is a frequent contributor to MyJewishLearning.com, where her recipes are very popular, and highly praised. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen, was published by Rizzoli in 2011. The book was named one of the “Best Books of 2011? by Library Journal and The Kitchn called it “a big, beautiful book that is also down-to-earth and completely accessible.”

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