Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rosh Hashanah 5772 - Jewish New Year's Guide for 2011

I've developed a number of resources for celebrating the Jewish New Year in the home.
These include some history and background for a Rosh Hashanah seder or service before the first night meal and a variety of recipes.

For information on how observance of the Jewish "head" of the year can be included at your Rosh Hashanah dinner celebration, please click here.

For dishes that use many of the holiday's symbolic food, click here for recipes for leek-potato fritters, sweet and savory chicken tzimmes, chicken saute with chard and string beans, pumpkin and date filo dough tart and vegan (and parve) cinammon-almond chocolate truffles.

I've written many other recipes that might be suitable for the holiday table from chopped liver to baklava, please check my Jewish recipe category.

Say it with Food -- Symbolic Foods and Seder Enrich Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Some of the symbolic foods of the Rosh Hashanah Seder
The Rosh Hashanah Seder, one of the oldest the holiday’s food traditions, is now one of its newest trends in celebrating the Jewish New Year.

Eating symbolic foods the first night of Rosh Hashanah dates back to Rabbi Abaye’s instructions in the Talmud to eat five foods that were typical of the season. These foods had names or qualities that represent wishes for health, prosperity and a “good” year. Some sources say what we would now call a Rosh Hashanah Seder, or “order of service” has existed for about 2,000 years.

Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews have a long history of serving and blessing not just the Talmud’s suggestions but a host of foods whose name or appearance supports the observance of Rosh Hashanah.

Jews outside these traditions have adopted the custom of a Rosh Hashanah Seder by adapting some of the long-standing practices and adding new ones ranging from blowing of the shofar to reflecting on goals for the coming year to celebrating the New Year as the world’s birthday.

But even Ashkenazi Jews who have never heard of the concept of a Seder at Rosh Hashanah have long served symbolic foods such as apples and honey and honey cake (for a sweet year), round loaves of challah (symbolic of the crown as well as the circular nature of time) and often a dish containing carrots. (Cut into slices, the carrots recall golden coins and their Yiddish name sounds like the word for multiply.)

Below is information on the symbolism of certain foods and how to create your own Rosh Hashanah Seder and links for more information.

Recipes for Rosh Hashanah 5772 -- Jewish New Year's Recipes

Leek-Potato Patties
 Here are the various recipes I developed for this year's Rosh Hashanah celebration.  For more on Blog Appetit's Rosh Hashanah 5772 coverage, please click here.  Many of these recipes have appeared in the j weekly, the San Francisco Bay area's Jewish newsweekly.

Leek-Potato Patties
Makes 8-3” Patties

These savory pancakes make a good starter course (perhaps served with a smear of Sriracha or other chili paste sauce and or a dab of mango chutney) or a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken, pot roast or other main course.

Leeks are included in the Rosh Hashanah Seder because their name in Hebrew is similar to the word for cut off and symbolizes defeating our enemies.

1 lb. Yukon gold or similar potatoes
1 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1/2 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. or to taste, minced jalapeno (seeded), optional
2 eggs, beaten

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Cool. Peel if desired. Mash or rice until smooth.

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in fry pan. Add leeks, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Sauté over medium high heat until softened and browned. Combine with mashed potatoes. Add remaining salt and pepper, jalapeno (if using) and eggs. Mix well. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a large fry or sauté pan. Oiling hands if desired, take 1/4 cup of the mix and form into a patty about 3” in diameter. Place in hot oil. Repeat until potato mixture is used up. Fry over medium heat about 4-5 minutes a side, until both sides are browned and the pancake is firm when you touch it. (Fry in batches if needed.)

Tzimmes with a Twist -- Savory-Sweet with Chicken
Serves 6

A sweet tzimmes with carrots is a traditional dish. Carrots are symbolic of prosperity. The sweetness is a reminder of the wish to have a sweet New Year. This tzimmes is lighter in color and not as sweet or heavy. Serve over noodles or potatoes.

1 cup dried apricot halves
1 cup dried, pitted prunes
2 cups boiling water
2 and 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbs. canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup 1/4” thick carrot slices
1 and 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce

Cover apricots and prunes with boiling water. Let steep until softened (about 20 minutes depending on fruit). Drain, reserving liquid.

Cut chicken into 1 1/2” chunks. Add oil to large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken chunks, working in batches if necessary. Remove from pan and reserve. Add onions, put heat on medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, well browned and caramelized about 25 minutes. Raise heat to medium high, add garlic and sauté until golden. Add red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, cumin, carrots, soy sauce, apricots, prunes, and reserved soaking water and stir well, incorporating any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add chicken pieces and any accumulated juices. Stir well. Cover and keep at a simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken and carrots are cooked through (about 30 minutes). Taste and correct seasoning. For thicker sauce, remove solids and keep warm and raise heat under sauce and cook uncovered until reduced.

Chicken with Chard and Green Beans
Chicken with Chard and Green Beans
Serves 6

This dish is packed with tasty Rosh Hashanah symbols – chard which represents our asking that our enemies be removed, green beans which have come to mean a wish that God will increase our merits and more. It can also be made ahead and reheated just before serving.

2 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 Tbs. plus 1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1/8 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. dried, ground turmeric
1 cup of 1/2” chunks of zucchini
1 cup of 1” pieces of green or string beans
4 cups, packed, of roughly chopped red or Swiss chard
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup small cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar or to taste, as needed

Heat the 2 Tbs. of oil in a large fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion and 1/2 Tbs. garlic, 1/8 tsp. of red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper. Sauté until golden. Add chicken thighs, browning on both sides and cooking until almost cooked through, about 7 minutes. Remove from pan with juices and any brown bits. Set aside, covering with foil to keep warm.

Add remaining oil to pan if needed. Heat over medium high heat. Add remaining onions, garlic, red pepper, salt, black pepper, the ginger and turmeric. Sauté about 2 minutes until onions are softened and golden. Add zucchini. Sauté for 2 minutes, add green beans, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in chard, sauté for a minute then add chicken broth, stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cherry tomatoes, stir well and sauté, stirring occasionally until the chard is softened and the liquid is somewhat reduced, about 10 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning, adding sugar if the greens are too bitter.

Return chicken, juices and cooked onion mixture to pan with vegetables. Stir well. Cook until chicken is thoroughly reheated and cooked through. Serve over rice or couscous.

To Make Ahead and Reheat. Don’t cover the cooked thighs with foil. Store the cooked vegetables and chicken separately in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before reheating. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place vegetables in baking dish. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Spoon any juices and cooked onion mixture over the chicken. Cover with foil. Cook for about 30-50 minutes until thoroughly reheated and chicken is cooked through.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Serves 4-6

Black-eyed peas are an important part of Sephardic and North African Rosh Hashanah tradition, symbolic of our wish that God multiply our merits. If using canned black-eyed peas, no need to cook them, but be sure to rinse and drain them well.

1/2 cup 1/4" dice carrots
½ cup 1/4" dice celery
1/2 cup 1/4” sliced scallions
1/2 cup 1/4” dice red bell pepper
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
4 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs. canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. (or to taste) siracha, harissa or other chili paste sauce

Combine the carrots, celery, scallions, red bell pepper, black-eyed peas and lemon zest. Mix. Make the dressing in a separate bowl, combining juice, oil, salt and siracha. Mix well. Stir into vegetables. Taste and correct seasonings. The salad should not taste “hot” but should have a slight zing. Serve at room temperature.

Parve Cinnamon-Almond Chocolate Truffles
Makes About 24 Truffles

Round foods are symbolic of wholeness and continuity.   Parve foods contain neither meat nor dairy.  This recipe is also vegan.

3 oz. plain unsweetened soy milk
3 Tbs. parve margarine, cut into small chunks
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. almond extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Cocoa powder, optional

Simmer soy milk over medium heat. Add margarine, stirring until dissolved.  Stir in cinnamon and almond extract.  Reduce heat to very low. Add chocolate, stirring constantly until thoroughly melted. Refrigerate covered for several hours until the mixture is solid but pliable (it may be a bit crumbly).  Oil hands and measuring spoon if desired.  Spoon out about 2 tsp. of the chocolate mixture and using hands and fingers press or pinch into a rough round. Roll in cocoa powder if desired. Repeat. Store covered in refrigerator and take out about 20 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin-Date Filo Tart
Pumpkin and Date Filo Tart
Serves 8

This parve tart features pumpkins and dates, both foods mentioned in the Talmud as part of the Rosh Hashanah food celebration. Pumpkins symbolize our good deeds being called out as well as the plea for any harsh judgments to be torn up and disregarded. Dates symbolize an end to hostility or ill will.

If you are using canned pumpkin puree, be sure you are not using the pre-spiced pumpkin pie filling mix.

2 cups cooked pumpkin puree
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 cup pitted, roughly chopped Medjool dates (about 8 large chopped into about a ¼” dice)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
7 sheets of filo dough
1/4 cup (approximately) vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the pumpkin puree, eggs, juice, sugars, cinnamon and ginger. Mix well. Add the dates and walnuts and stir until evenly dispersed through filling. Set aside.

Make the filo crust. Have ready a package of defrosted filo leaves. Set seven aside covered with a damp paper towel. Repackage and refreeze remainder. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9” round cake pan with vegetable oil. Take out one filo sheet (leaving others covered). Center in the cake pan and brush surface with oil. Take out another sheet, rotate it so the overhanging edges are offset with the first sheet. Brush with the oil. Repeat with four of the remaining sheets. Shred the seventh sheet and scatter across the bottom of the crust.

Fill the crust with the pumpkin mixture. Fold the overhanging edges of the filo back over themselves and tuck into the tart. They should cover the edge of the cake pan and create a bit of an edge. Brush exposed filo with oil.

Place in center rack in center of oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until exposed filo crust has turned golden brown. Cover exposed crust with strips of aluminum foil. Bake tart for about 50 minutes more or until center is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Remove foil strips and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Black Cherry, Chocolate, Lemon Mint Ices, Sorbets or Even Popsicles -- No Special Equipment Needed

Mmmm. Homemade chocolate fudge ice pop. 
Yum. Lemon mint and cherry ice pop.
From my first lick, I knew I wasn't sharing these beauties, but that I would share the recipes.
I created and wrote up these recipes a while ago but never got around to posting them and thought that since summer is rapidly slipping away, I better get on with it. The truth is that these vegan desserts are good anytime of  the year.

The recipes were written for j weekly  and are reminiscent of a Mid-Atlantic treat called a water ice.  The black cherry and lemon mint recipes are easy to make without an ice cream maker (directions are given below.)  The chocolate was best made in an ice cream machine, but did work without one, it just needed more time to freeze and never froze as solid.

I made some of each batch into popsicles (aka ice pops or ice lollies) using plastic molds and they worked beautifully. Run the plastic mold under warm water for 10 seconds or so to loosen and then they are easy to remove from the mold and ready for licking.  (No molds? Use a small paper cup and a stick or even a small plastic spoon).

I even combined the lemon and cherry flavors in a two-tone popsicle. (Fill a mold about a third full of a flavor, let freeze, add second flavor and popsicle stick, freeze until solid.)  Very tasty, if I do say so myself.

Lemon Mint Ice
Serves 6-8

This ice is also tasty without the mint. See the directions for how to make this recipe without an ice cream maker.

1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 cups of lemon juice (about 8 medium lemons)
Juice of 1/2 lime

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar and simmer over a medium high heat until sugar is fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Let sit for a half hour. Strain, discarding mint leaves and place sugar syrup in refrigerator until cool. Combine with lemon and lime juices, mix well. Place in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve while soft and slushy right from the machine or pack into an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours until hard. Take out of freezer 20 minutes before serving.

To make without an ice cream maker: Place juice and syrup mixture in a 7”x11” baking pan (preferably metal), cover with plastic wrap or foil. Place level in freezer. After about an hour when the mixture begins to get mushy, stir and break up any ice crystals, return to freezer, repeat every 30 minutes until the ice is very slushy (about 3-4 hours) and is no longer liquid. Serve immediately or freeze as above, taking out of the freezer 20 minutes before serving.

Dark Chocolate Ice
Serves 4-6

This is dark, intense chocolate goodness. I used natural cocoa powder because it has a deeper taste, but the Dutch (alkali processed) style is fine, too.  This worked best in the ice cream machine, but does work without one. Follow the directions for freezing the lemon mint ice but allow much longer to freeze. Take out of freezer immediately before serving.

1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar and simmer over a medium high heat until sugar is fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Add the cocoa powder and cinnamon and whisk until smooth and dissolved. Remove from heat. Place in refrigerator until cool. Place in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pack into an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours until it has hardened some more (it will still be on the softer side). Take out of freezer 20 minutes before serving.

Black Cherry Ice
Serves 6-8

I used bottled juice. Fresh cherry juice would be even better. See the directions for lemon mint ice to freeze without an ice cream machine.

1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 1/2 cups of black cherry juice

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar and simmer over a medium high heat until sugar is fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and place sugar syrup in refrigerator until cool. Combine with lime and black cherry juices, mix well. Place in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve while soft and slushy right from the machine or pack into an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours until hard. Take out of freezer 20 minutes before serving.

Hunger Challenge 2011 - Update

This has been the most difficult Hunger Challenge yet for me.  Partly it's that I'm on a special diet for health reasons which limits my food choices, partly because I've just been so busy I haven't had time to plan, shop, write down menus and recipes and journal the way I have for previous Hunger Challenges.  Then it struck me, that's how it is to live on a food stamp budget all the time. 

There is a certain artifice to participating in a food challenge.  We participants can set aside the week or (other period of time),  obsessing over planning, getting the best deals, figuring out how to get the most bang for our food bucks with clever recipes, all with access to a full range of cooking supplies and equipment.

If you are limited in your resources in terms of money, time, access to a variety of food sources, etc., you could never focus on maximizing your weekly food budget like a Hunger Challenge participant might, you are too busy just trying to stay fed and keeping your family fed.  Add into it a health concern and its like having a full time job.

Having said all that I do wish I had done a better job of recording everything this Hunger Challenge.  I do have a lot of recipes and menus from previous years (See info here) that could be helpful in understanding some of the background of what I'm writing about now.

For now, here's a quickie outline of a typical Hunger Challenge day for me.

Breakfast -- oatmeal, banana, tea,  calcium fortified soy milk -- estimated cost about 85 cents
Snack (2 times a day) carrot, banana or similar -- about 25 cents each plus 1 cup of tea or iced tea- about 5 cents  (about 55 cents total) OR cup of tea with 1/2 cup calcium fortified soy milk (about 45 cents) and 1 carrot or banana (total of 65 cents).
Lunch -- Dinner leftovers - about $1.60
Dinner-- Vegetable stir fry with tofu, rice or pasta - about $1.60

Daily total -- Just under the $4.72 a day budget, which does not include any produce I would have received as a client of the San Francisco Food Bank.  Factoring that in might have reduced the cost for my lunch and dinner and or would have added additional food and variety to my day (yeah!).

For more information about the Hunger Challenge now going on through the SF Food Bank, please click here.  Read the Hunger Challenge blog for information on what bloggers and other participants are experiencing during the challenge. For info on the food bank itself, go here.

With new federal studies showing poverty in America at an all time high since the government began tracking and reports of hunger in America growing as well as reliance of food banks increasing, I hope that even if you don't live in the Bay area, you'll check out what you can do to help combat hunger in your community at Feeding America.

Here's a few of the other bloggers who are participating in this year's Hunger Challenge.  I hope you'll take a few minutes and read about their experiences as well.

I'll post more of the links over the next few days: