- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

For me the Jewish New Year, which begins Monday evening, is truly a new beginning. The holiday is traditionally the start of the fall harvest season in Israel, but where I live, on the East Coast of the United States, October is the end of the harvest.

If I am lucky, my children are home in time for Rosh Hashana eve, enticed by traditional family favorites such as chicken soup with fresh ginger-root matzo balls; chicken fricassee with meatballs; and zwetschgenkuchen, a delicious fall tart made with Italian plums that my father ate growing up in southern Germany.

The next day after services, I invite 30 or so family and friends for a long, lingering lunch, served buffet-style so I can linger a bit, too.

The menu is made up of dishes traditional to Jewish communities all over the world. Because my husband’s family is from Poland, I make a gefilte fish mold that people can cut themselves, as well as Israeli couscous and brisket with lots of carrots.

The bright orange color and sweetness of the carrots symbolize the wish for happiness and plenty in the coming year. Since carrots were one of the few sweet vegetables accessible to the poor Jews of Russia and Poland, they became a substitute for pumpkin and squash.

I make the brisket ahead of time, remove the fat and slice it thin. That way, the day of Rosh Hashana, I can just slide it into the oven and reheat.

In addition to serving carrots with my brisket, I also serve a grated carrot salad that I learned to make in Israel. Like all salads served at Rosh Hashana, this one can be assembled a day or so ahead.

I always try to make the salads colorful, preparing at least three different kinds. Sometimes I serve heirloom tomatoes with basil or zucchini salads. This year, because Rosh Hashana is late, I will serve roasted red peppers and a beet salad with apples.

In this country, most Jews say a blessing over an apple dipped in honey — “May it be Thy will to renew unto us a good and sweet year” — because in this area of the world, apples are the new fruit at Rosh Hashana.

American Jews increasingly bless pomegranates and dates, as well, since they are the traditional new fall fruit in the Middle East. Besides the fruits just mentioned, many Sephardic Jews say blessings over other seasonal fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, fenugreek, beets, leeks, onions, turnips, gourds, quinces and zucchini, all of which grow rapidly in the early fall and are considered symbols of fertility, abundance and prosperity.

At our table, the meal begins with a recounting of major life changes and an introduction of newcomers. After blessing the round challah, which is symbolic of the wish for a full year, dipping the apple in honey and saying a prayer over a date, my work is done, and I can look forward to lingering over the first lunch of the new year with those who mean so much to me.

Moroccan red pepper salad

This recipe is adapted from my book, “Jewish Cooking in America” (Knopf).

6 red bell peppers or a combination of red, yellow, orange and green

3 cloves garlic, pressed

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Place peppers on a cookie sheet in preheated 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until charred on the outside, turning once.

Immediately remove and place in a paper bag sealed tight for 30 minutes. Then peel off outer skin, remove seeds and membranes and slice in long strips, about ½-inch wide.

Mix peppers with garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and olive oil. Let marinate overnight. Just before serving add lemon juice and sprinkle with basil. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Israeli carrot salad

This recipe is adapted from my book, “The Foods of Israel Today” (Knopf, 2001).

8 sprigs (½ bunch) fresh parsley, stems removed

2 cloves garlic

1 pound carrots, peeled

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange juice

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Several grindings pepper

Orange and/or radish slices for garnish, optional

Place parsley and garlic in bowl of food processor equipped with a steel blade and chop.

Add carrots, lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pulse until carrots are well chopped but not pureed. Adjust seasonings, garnish with orange slices and/or radish slices, if desired, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Apple beet salad with sunflower seeds

3 medium raw beets (about 1 pound), cooked, peeled and diced

2 medium apples, cored and diced

½ medium onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

Fresh honey herb dressing (recipe follows)

½ cup sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place beets, apples, onion and celery in salad bowl and gently toss with fresh honey herb dressing. Let sit overnight or a few days. Just before serving, sprinkle with sunflower seeds and parsley.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1 cup packed fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, basil, sorrel or mint leaves

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place fresh herbs, garlic, vinegar, honey, olive oil, vegetable oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process.

Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with apple beet salad with sunflower seeds.

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