Did you know that it is traditional to eat stuffed foods on Sukkot?
Originally, I thought it was just because they tasted good. Not quite content, I did a little bit of research and came up with a few answers.
Some say that we eat stuffed cabbage on Simchat Torah because if you put two of these bundles together they look the two tablets of the Ten Commandments.
This answer didn’t thrill me because two store-bought dinner rolls have the same effect, except they don’t require, blood, sweat, and tears to serve them.
A bit more digging and I uncovered another answer: we eat stuffed foods because they symbolize an overwhelming bounty. Fall is when farmers harvest wheat in Israel. A simple vegetable overflowing with delicious filling reminds us of our desire for a year of overflowing harvest.
In biblical times, farmers would put collecting their crops on hold to sit in a sukkah with their family and celebrate Sukkot. Sitting out on the field studying Torah with their children, these farmers were surrounded by two great desires; one, that this year’s harvest would be plentiful and two that like those vegetables, their year would be bursting with moments like that one, doing what they loved most, studying Torah with who they loved most.
In the year 2013, when most of us do not run out to cut wheat, and the closest thing we’ve done to harvesting is scope out sales at the mall, I think it’s time to give this ancient tradition a modern twist – and what better than with dessert!
This is a healthy autumn dessert that helps you stick to your new year resolutions. Or you can serve it with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. My favorite part about this recipe is that if I somehow end up with leftovers, I can have dessert for breakfast without even the slightest bit of guilt!
5 large apples (whichever variety you prefer)
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup of crushed walnuts
1/2 cup of almond milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup of instant oatmeal
1/4 cup of craisins
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted margarine cut into five small cubes
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and boil 1 1/2 cups of water.
Place a small pan over a medium heat and toast your spices and nuts. Toast until they become fragrant, around 3-5 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on them to prevent burning.
This shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Keep an eye on them while you continue with the recipe to prevent them from burning.
While you wait for you ingredients to toast, cut off the top of your apple.
You should cut off about 1/4 inch off the top, enough that it isn’t a wobbly thin slice of apple but a sturdy "hat" you can easily place back on top of your apple later.
Remove the center of your apples creating a hollow circle in the middle of your apple with an inch or so diameter. You can use an apple corer to help you remove the center of your apple. If you don't have an apple corer you can also using a paring knife or any small sharp knife.
Remember the hollowed core of you apple doesn’t have to be a perfect circle as long as you remove all the pits your apple is perfect.
Once your spices and nuts are fragrant, add the almond milk and honey and continue to heat.
Once your almond milk mixture is hot but not bubbling, stir in the oatmeal and craisins.
Cook the oatmeal stuffing for a few more minutes, until most of your almond milk has been absorbed, stirring every few minutes.
Fill your apples with approximately 1 1/2 Tbsp of filling so that they are entirely filled.
Place your apples into a small baking dish.
Put a single piece of margarine on top of each apple's filling and then the top of each apple in order to "seal" the apple closed.
Pour the 1 1/2 cups of boiling water into the baking dish along with the apples.
Cover your baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Bake your apples for 30-40 minutes while basting their stuffing with the cooking water every 10-15 minutes.
They are ready when the apples' stuffing is hot and the apples are soft but not mushy.
Recently a friend informed me, via Slate.com, that the éclair “has surpassed the macaron as the most buzzed about Parisian bonbon of the moment.” (Right, totally. I knew that.) But this isn’t your Parisian grandma’s éclair, missy! It has been fancified with trendy flavors and inventive toppings and, most notably, bold bright colors that would make Crayola proud.
The very same week I went into Nussbaum and Wu’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to find trays of “Black and White” cookies in different colors. Besides the fact that there was something funny and now “inaccurate” about these pink and white, or green and white cookies labeled “Black and Whites,” they caught my attention, especially after hearing of the “new” éclair.
Now, I am not sure how I feel about the éclair of 2013. Or, to a lesser extent, this updating of what many might call “the official cookie of New York,” (which is expected to appear as its names suggests). How far can one veer from an original, from tradition, before you have created something entirely new? Not to mention, these modern éclairs seem to be yet another big city chef’s way of sparking buzz and the salivary glands of local foodies and Instagrammers with what really is something rather common and usually inexpensive—in this case, a sexed-up Euro Boston cream donut (though, I can think of plenty of others: popsicles, cupcakes, rice krispie treats, actual donuts).
Still it seems worthwhile to ponder how color is used to represent innovation and “newness,” especially in the food world. Of course color is important elsewhere. Namely in the fashion world—depending on the season or designer, the “hot look” is either bright colors, no color, or a particular color; and, most apropos of today, in the tech/gadget industry, as just last week the usually monochromatic innovators at Apple unveiled its forthcoming release of two different iPhones—a cheaper version, the 5C, that comes in five bright plastic colors, and a more expensive version, the 5S, that comes in a selection of metallic colors. (Side thought: who decided that “cheaper” equals a children’s paint set, and that those who are willing to pay more, would necessarily want, well, the more boring kind?)
But back to food. Considering that often the colors of an edible object are one of the first ways in which we not only recognize it, connect to our own memories and experiences, and decide if we, in fact, want to consume it, I am surprised any culinary team (of one, or many) ventures to mess with color at all! Especially since it is far from predictable when an unusual color will work and when it will not work. Green (and purple) absolutely did not fly for Heinz ketchup consumers in 2000 when almost nobody jumped on board the EZ Squirt train! Conversely, lack of color is also off-putting, or at least, not very lucrative as Pepsi found when they introduced the world to Crystal Pepsi.
But why? Are we simply slaves to the intersection of tradition, custom, and current trends (be they global or social or cultural)? Bright purple ketchup? No thanks. Black “forbidden” rice and blue potatoes? Sure, for some. Lime green luxury car? Probably not. Electric yellow shoes? Well, at least Beyoncé gives a hell yeah! Can we even compare how color is used and interpreted across all aspects of life?
There might also be a current competing trend in the realm of color and food: to go natural. If Chipotle wants to sell you on its beliefs that fast food doesn’t have to be based on poor quality ingredients or conventional agriculture and production they want a tomato to look exactly like what you expect a tomato to look like (not to mention the whole burrito)! Countless products and other companies count on the fact that the absence of dyes and bright colors are often the visual marks of products labeled with words like “organic,” “artisan,” or “healthy,” and hence the visual cue to the consumer to buy said products based on these claims.
But still sometimes “recoloring” or unexpected color is a success. And maybe desserts, and especially the elevated dessert trend, can more readily get away with something that otherwise goes against our other (better) decisions, and general common sense. I mean, what on earth does common sense have to do with the nutritionally-unnecessary but wildly enjoyable black and white (or mint green and white) cookie? Nothing!
Is there anything worse for a food blogger than fasting? It is perhaps the fasting that makes Yom Kippur that much more difficult, and more meaningful too. Thank goodness I have the break-fast menu to plan in order to keep my food-obsessed mind occupied.
I like to keep my break-fast menu pretty simple: bagels, cream cheese, fresh fruit, coffee (of course), a nice green salad and something warm and cheesy like blintzes or a dairy noodle kugel – things that can be prepared ahead of time and served quickly immediately after sundown.
Here are some of our favorite picks for easy and satisfying post-fast dishes that are sure to leave you in a contented, post-Yom Kippur food coma:
‘Tis the season of endless Jewish holidays, back to school frenzy, an abundance of apples…and also niche Jewish cookbooks. With the releases of The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat and Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen we add two fascinating but narrowly focused cookbooks to the collection.
I love schmaltz, and so I was pretty excited to receive a copy of The Book of Schmaltz. You should know: I keep several kinds of schmaltz in my freezer at any given moment, and love to find ways to incorporate it into a variety of dishes, so this book couldn’t be more perfect for a fat-lovin’ gal like me.
The book contains recipes for all the classics you would expect including traditional chopped liver, chicken soup with matzo balls, and kreplach. Some of the more surprising recipes included in the book are schmaltz-roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary, chicken sausage and even oatmeal cookies with dried cherries (I will be trying this recipe very soon).
Ever heard of helzel? Well I hadn’t until I saw it listed under “Traditional Recipes.” Ruhlman’s version calls for stuffing kiskhe into chicken skin – yum! Though when my husband and I called the grandmothers to consult about this long–lost dish we heard that their versions of traditional helzel was prepared by stuffing a turkey neck. In fact, my Grandma Phoebe shared that her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) would include helzel in her weekly Shabbat cholent .
But before James Beard Award-winning author Michael Ruhlman gets into the recipes themselves, he actually gives a easy-to-follow guide to making your own homemade, perfectly rendered chicken fat – very useful indeed especially for the schmaltz virgin.
What a great gift for any of your family or friends who loves traditional Ashkenazi fare and isn’t afraid a little fat.
The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, Michael Ruhlman and Donna Turner Ruhlman, (August 2013)
Schmaltz is not the only ingredient I gush over: I also gush for gluten. I have written before about my distaste for the gluten-free fad we are currently experiencing. But I do feel for my fellow gluten lovers who are unable to consume gluten-laden products due to medical reasons, which includes authors Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel, two bakers dedicated to high-quality gluten-free baked goods. Their cookbook Nosh on This was also just released.
“The tragic irony is that we Jews are a people with an extensive repertoire of high-gluten delicacies, many of which we regard as cultural icons. We even have special prayers that we say before eating pastry.”
I never thought of it in this way but it is true: we are a people who value breads and sweets. So what is a gluten-free Jew to do!? In Lisa Stanger-Horel and Tim Horel’s case, they perfected a wide range of baked goods including Jewish classics like chocolate babka, honey cake, challah, rugelach and hamantaschen. Some other stand-outs? “Marizipany Gooey Brownies,” apple pie, and even éclairs and tiramisu.
Love eating matzo at Passover but can’t handle the gluten? They’ve got a recipe for that too.
For the Jewish baker the ultimate compliment is always, “it’s so good, it doesn’t even taste pareve.” These recipes look as mouth-watering as their gluten-laden counterparts. What a wonderful cookbook for the baker in your life who needs to stay away from gluten.
Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen, Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel (September 3, 2013)
In Full Moon Feast, Jessica Prentice guides us through 13 lunar months and the foods grown and prepared within them in traditional cultures. At its core is the idea that food connects people to one another, to themselves, and to the natural world. Prentice describes the lifecycle of Pacific salmon, who in early autumn are born in freshwater streams, spend their lives in the ocean, and then journey back upstream to their birthplace to spawn the next generation.
The salmon’s natural lifecycle provides a metaphor for this time of year, when we are engrossed in our own “return.” On the High Holidays, we do teshuva, which is often translated as “repentance,” but literally means “return.” We return to ourselves in order to examine who we are and who we want to be.
Eating lox this time of year connects our own process of “teshuva” with salmon’s seasonal “return.” If you have never cured your own lox before, give this recipe a try, for Yom Kippur break-fast! It doesn’t require any special equipment, and is sure to delight. Thin slices of this buttery, moist gravlax will be delicious on your post-fast bagel or on a slice of homemade gluten-free challah. It tastes like no lox you have ever eaten before.
2 pounds fresh center-cut wild salmon fillet, skin on
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp peppercorns
2 tsp crushed juniper berries (can be purchased at Whole Foods, Fairway, or specialty food stores)
7-8 large sprigs fresh dill
1-2 shots of gin or vodka
In a bowl, combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and juniper berries. Line a glass dish that will fit your salmon fillet with two large pieces of plastic wrap and sprinkle half of your salt and sugar mixture onto the bottom. Lay half of your dill sprigs down, then cover with your salmon fillet. Sprinkle the remaining mixture on top of the fillet, then cover with the remaining sprigs of dill and your shots of alcohol, and then wrap everything as tightly as you can in the plastic. Leave it in the dish as the salt will create a brine for the fish. Refrigerate for 3-4 days, depending on the thickness of your filet. The lox is finished when the salmon’s hue has transitioned from pink to deep orange. Before serving, discard the dill and rinse the fillet of the brine, peppercorns, and juniper berries. Slice thinly against the grain with a sharp knife. Serve with sliced lemon and capers.
Variation: try a layer of shredded raw beets on the non-skin side of your fillet before wrapping. After the lox is finished curing, each of your slices will have a purple or dark pink edge to it.
Pomegranate truffles are a popular dessert in my Rosh Hashanah table. Persians are addicted to pomegranates; they even use pomegranates in stew! Hence, it seemed logical to use them for dessert as well. I love how tangy and sweet these truffles are, not to mention how well they go with a cup of tea (instead of using sugar).
I am proud that pomegranates are native of Persia – they are packed with nutritional value and antioxidants that protect against cellular damage. Mulberries, my husband’s favorite dried fruit, are a great source of iron and vitamin C. They also have an antioxidant present in red wine that has the potential of promoting a healthy heart. Hence, these truffles are not only absolutely fabulous to taste but packed with superfood qualities!
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
½ cup pomegranate powder
¼ cup mulberries or golden raisins (optional)
Gold decorating dust, cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles
Place walnuts in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until a paste forms.
Add pitted dates, salt and pomegranate powder and continue to pulse until well mixed. The dough will be crumbly and moist but easy to mold into truffles about 1-1/2 inches diameter.
Optional step: Place a golden raisin or a mulberry inside the truffles and reshape as a sphere.
Dip truffles into gold decorating dust for a whimsical look, or cocoa powder and sprinkles for a more traditional truffle look.
If you’re anything like me and my family, you’re probably in denial about the fact that Rosh Hashanah is mere days away.
But don’t fear. You can enjoy these last days on the beach, long Sunday mornings with the paper, and weekend brunches, because we’ve done the thinking for you. Check out our complete Rosh Hashanah menu including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for each course of the meal. Click through the slideshow, see our recipes below, and start making your shopping lists.
Still concerned? Leave us your last-minute Rosh Hashanah questions in the comments or on our Facebook page! I’ll answer a selection of them on Tuesday, just in time to head off the last-minute panic.
I like an apple cake as much as the next girl (two favorites are Amy’s Bissel Apple Cake and this Cornmeal Apple Upside Down Cake) but there are two nights of Rosh Hashanah, and once I’ve got my apple cake craving taken care of, I need something else. Enter these blondies. Though blondies might not seem quite fancy enough for a big holiday meal, trust me that these will blow your hair back, and can be gussied up into something truly stunning to look at, and downright delectable to eat.
The only specialty item called for here is pomegranate molasses, which you can almost certainly find at your local Middle Eastern food store, or you can buy it online here. I love to drizzle some pomegranate molasses over my yogurt and granola in the morning, and it’s also good as an ice cream topping.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ cups brown sugar
¾ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
½ cup chopped dates
½ cup pomegranate seeds
⅓ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the pomegranate molasses and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the dates, pomegranate seeds, and pecans if including.
Pour the batter into the lined pan. It will be a very thick batter--smooth out the top with a butter knife. Bake until top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.
When blondies are completely cool (I let them sit, covered, overnight) remove from pan, and if you want a round dessert, use a biscuit cutter or the edge of a juice glass to cut circles out of the blondies. Serve topped with ice cream, and drizzled with a tiny bit of pomegranate molasses. Follow with a sweet and wonderful new year.
For me, Rosh Hashanah always symbolizes the beginning of Fall (although it is way early this year, practically still summer) and I love celebrating apples at my holiday table.
This sweet, nutty apple cake will be the perfect ending to your Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot meal, and is sure to satisfy even the most gluten-loving guests.
¼ cup coconut oil (or margarine or other fat of your choice)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup almond meal
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup millet flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup diced apple
1 tsp sucanat (raw sugar)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (if you have convection, use it!) and grease an 8-inch round pan.
Using a mixer, cream coconut oil, honey, and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, allowing to incorporate before adding the next. Stir in applesauce and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: almond meal, brown rice flour, millet flour, teff flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three batches, allowing each batch to incorporate before adding the next. The batter will become thick and sticky. Stir in diced apples.
Spread batter into prepared pan and sprinkle sucanat over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the top is firm, the edges are golden and crispy and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For more of Rella's delicious gluten-free recipes check out her blog The Penny Pinching Epicure.
Rosh Hashanah is an auspicious time, meant for new beginnings and good luck. We wish people inscriptions in the book of life, say special prayers for health and prosperity, and even wear white, symbolizing purity and cleansing from sin.
I like to put my money where my mouth is: according to Sephardic custom, certain foods – like dates, squash, and pomegranates – are lucky, and should be eaten in abundance on the New Year.
Another one of these auspicious foods is black-eyed peas, which I’ve been eating regularly ever since returning from Southeast Asia this past December. While they aren’t a traditionally Thai or Vietnamese food, they’re a staple in Burma, just over the border from Thailand. With the steady influx of Burmese émigrés to Thailand, vendors have started selling specialties from their hometown on the streets of Chiang Rai, near the border. One of my favorite dishes, which I first encountered in Naomi Duguid’s excellent book Burma, combines black-eyed peas with turmeric, shallots, ginger, and fish sauce. It’s a surprisingly addictive combination.
I built on that original recipe in honor of Rosh Hashanah, adding another auspicious food – pomegranate seeds – and some pomegranate syrup, for good measure. I swapped out fish sauce for soy sauce, added a heaping handful of parsley, and finished the dish with a big squeeze of fresh lime.
Because Rosh Hashanah starts so early this year, we’re planning on at least one picnic lunch, to take advantage of what we hope will be good weather. I’m planning to serve this, alongside the usual round challah and apple slices dipped in honey. Double good luck!
1 heaping cup black-eyed peas
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh grated turmeric root or ¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 large shallot, minced
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp pomegranate syrup, optional (if not using, double lime juice)
½ cup pomegranate seeds
2-3 Tbsp chopped parsley, chives, or a mixture
Juice of ½ a lime
If your black-eyed peas are old, soak them overnight in enough water to cover them by at least 1 inch.
When ready to cook the peas, fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add drained peas, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until peas are fork-tender, between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. Cooking time varies drastically and depends on the age of your peas, so check them regularly.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in your smallest sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the turmeric and shallots, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until shallots are soft, fragrant, and browned in spots. Add salt, stir to combine, and remove from the heat.
When peas are soft but still retaining their shape, drain them, transfer them to a bowl, and pour the shallot mixture over the peas, making sure to scrape the sauté pan for all those little bits of turmeric and shallot clinging to the bottom. Stir beans to incorporate, taking care not to smush them too much.
Add soy sauce and pomegranate syrup if using, and toss to combine.
Right before serving, fold in pomegranates, fresh herbs, and lime juice. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.