- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2011

You may not think of Jewish cooking as trendsetting, but the truth is it has been focused on seasonal recipes sporting local ingredients since long before farmers markets became the darling of the foodie scene. And the Jewish New Year meal, served at Rosh Hashana, is a perfect example of this unintended hipness.

While the foods of this holiday are most often acknowledged for their emblematic value - think apples and honey to represent a sweet year to come - they also are intentionally seasonal for both the symbolic and practical reasons of wanting to celebrate the hope of new beginnings by using what you have on hand in late summer and early fall.

So Rosh Hashana turns out to be the perfect opportunity to serve a local, in-season meal while fully embracing the spirit of the holiday.

Traditionally, foods are chosen that are both sweet and round. Round foods represent the circle of life that continues with the new year, says Leah Koenig, a Brooklyn, N.Y., resident and author of “The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook.”

Jewish cooks wrap that symbolism around foods that are available to them during the autumn harvest season, such as squash, beets and apples, she said.

Certain foods, such as sour and bitter ingredients like vinegars or even certain kinds of nuts, are avoided so as not to let these harsh flavors characterize the coming year.

Laura Frankel, author of various cookbooks including “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes,” is taking a local, seasonal holiday meal even further. She is holding a “Rosh Hashana Boot Camp” cooking class in Chicago at Spertus, a Jewish culture and learning center, where she is the executive chef.

“I just want to get people out of the rut of making the standard brisket and honey cake for the holidays,” she said.

“There’s so much available at this time of year that you can tie in with the symbolism of Rosh Hashana,” said Miss Frankel, who uses the arrival of pomegranates in the market to tell her when she needs to start planning her menus for the holidays.

We’ve created two seasonal dishes, a main course and a salad, that easily can be shopped for at your local farmers market.

Honey-thyme glazed chickens with cider gravy have a sweet autumnal flavor that can be tailored to your region by using a local wildflower honey and a cider made with heirloom apples.

Our baby spinach salad features a dressing made with pomegranate molasses, which usually can be found in the international section of many larger markets. Alternatively, boil down pomegranate juice until it becomes a honeylike syrup.

Baby spinach continues to be harvested well into the fall and you can add more local flavor by using goat or any crumbly cheese from a farm in your area.


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