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For Ashkenazi Jews, the primary symbolic food of Rosh Ha-Shanah is apples dipped in honey, a way of wishing for a sweet new year. Before eating apples and honey, say the following blessings:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam borei pri ha-eitz.
Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe, who creates fruit of the tree.
Yehi ratzon lifanecha, Adonai Eloheinu, v'Elohai avoteinu, she'te'hadesh aleinu shanah tovah u'metukah.
May it be Your will, Adonai our God, to grant us a good and sweet year.
For centuries, Sephardi Jewish families have gathered to celebrate a special Rosh Hashanah ceremony with a plate or meal of symbolic foods. Each food is eaten after requesting a specific kind of Divine blessing that sounds like the name of that food in Hebrew.
Before eating dates ( tamar ):
May it be your will, God, that hatred will end. ( Tamar resembles the word for end, yitamu. )
Before eating pomegranate:
May we be as full of mitzvot as the pomegranate is full of seeds.
Before eating apple:
May it be Your will, God, to renew for us a good and sweet year.
Before eating string beans ( rubia ):
May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase. ( Rubia resembles the word for increase, yirbu. )
Before eating pumpkin or gourd ( k’ra ):
May it be Your will, God, to tear away all evil decrees against us, as our merits are proclaimed before you. ( K’ra resembles the word for tear and proclaimed, likroah. )
Before eating spinach or beet leaves ( selek ):
May it be Your will, God, that all the enemies who might beat us will retreat, and we will beat a path to freedom ( Selek resembles the word for retreat, yistalku ).
Before eating leeks, chives, or scallions ( karti ):
May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be cut off. ( Karti resembles the word for cut off, yikartu. )
Since Rosh Hashanah means the head of the year, we eat foods that symbolize our wish to be heads, not tails in the year to come. Traditionally, families ate the head of a fish or sheep. You may want to instead enjoy a head of lettuce, or a more whimsical option involves gummy fish.
May it be Your will, God, that our heads remain clear and focused on creating a better world this year.
1 pound carrots peeled & sliced vertically
1 pound green beans trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil divided
2 tablespoons za'atar divided
1 teaspoon salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper divided
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees and have two large baking sheets ready to go.
Using two large bowls or resealable plastic bags, fill one with carrots and one with the green beans.
Drizzle each bowl with half of the remaining ingredients: olive oil (two tablespoons for each), za'atar (one tablespoon each), salt (1/2 teaspoon each) and pepper (1/4 teaspoon each.)
Toss both batches to coat and spread on to even layers in two separate baking sheets.
Place carrots and green beans in the oven and roast until nicely browned: 15-20 minutes for the green beans and 20-25 minutes for the carrots.
Remove from the oven and serve separately or in one dish.
Carrot Ginger Roasted Vegetable Tsimmes
Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Co-Founder of the Gefilteria, introduces this original recipe: Tsimmes is generally known as a sweet vegetable stew quite commonly prepared by eastern European Jewish cooks for the high holidays in the fall. The tsimmes I grew up with as a kid was usually drenched in a sugary syrup. It didn’t feel healthy nor look particularly appetizing. I wanted to change that, since there’s so much color and flavor in these vegetables, and therefore, so much potential. Think of this version of the dish as more of a roast vegetable side, perfect for the Jewish high holidays, Thanksgiving or anytime in the fall or winter. Much of the sweetness comes from the carrots, sweet potatoes and plums, though there is honey added, as well. And there’s a little kick from the ginger and the optional addition of red chili flakes.
3 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 lb. carrots, cut into 1/2" rounds (about 3 cups)
1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2 lb. pitted prunes, chopped coarse (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup orange juice
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together ginger, honey, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes (if using), and lemon zest to make a glaze; set aside.
In a large oven-safe skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sweet potato and prunes and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables just begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
Stir in orange juice, scraping up bits of vegetables that have stuck to the bottom. Add reserved glaze to skillet and stir to coat.
Transfer skillet to oven and bake until carrots and sweet potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
Black-Eyed Pea Stew (Lubiya)
Adapted from Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking
Black-eyed peas are a traditional food for Rosh Hashanah in Sephardi communities, as well as in African-American homes, as symbols of abundance, wealth and fertility. Katherine Romanow adapted two of Gilda Angel's recipes to create this stew for the Jewish Women's Archive.
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 small onions
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 can (15 ounces) black-eyed peas
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
A few tablespoons tomato paste if you feel the stew needs thickening
2 cups vegetable broth or water
Sauté onion and garlic in oil. Add salt, paprika, oregano, cinnamon to the onions and garlic. Add peas, tomato sauce and broth or water.
Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
JIMENA was created in 2002 by former Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, and work for Jewish diversity and inclusion for people often left out of the narrative of Jewish life.
Enjoy their carefully curated collection of authentic Rosh Hashanah recipes and food articles from our favorite Mizrahi and Sephardic food bloggers and editors. The list includes Moroccan fish, pumpkin bourekas, Tunisian couscous, quince stew, Persian upside-down cake with dates and pistachio biscotti.
Read it here: https://www.jimena.org/mizrahi-sephardic-rosh-hashanah-recipes/
Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen by Deborah Missel
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm strong coffee or tea, prefer Chai
½ cup fresh orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
¼ cup rye, whiskey, or spiced rum
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds, optional
½ cup dried cranberries, optional
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour baking pans.
Toss cranberries in 1 tsp flour and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all four spices. Make a well in the center and add oil, honey, white and brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee/tea, orange juice, orange zest, and liquor. [If you measure your oil before the honey, it will easier to get all the honey out.] Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on low speed, stir together making a thick, well-blended batter. Make sure no ingredients are stuck to the bottom. Fold in cranberries.
Spoon batter into well-greased and floured pans. Sprinkle top of cakes evenly with almonds, if using.
Place baking pans on one or two baking sheets. This will help evenly distribute heat and prevent the bottom of the cake from baking faster than the top and center. Place cake pans in center of oven or spaced evenly between racks to ensure even baking. Bake until cake tests done and the cake springs back when gently touched in the center.
Baking Time By Pan Size
Angel food and tube cake pans – bake 60 – 75 minutes
Loaf pans - bake 45 – 55 minutes
Sheet cake pan – bake 40 – 45 minutes
Muffins – bake for about 20 minutes
Mini-bundt pans (4) – bake 30 – 35 minutes
Mini-loaf pan (4) – bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for another 25 minutes
When I was growing up, my Mom would always serve seasonal fruit after dinner. When she would occasionally forget, my siblings and I would sit at the table longer than usual wondering where our nightly serving of fruit was. Because we expected fruit every night instead of a sweeter dessert like cakes or pies, none of us really developed much of a sweet tooth.
On very special occasions, we would pick up a cake from the Japanese or Chinese bakery nearby. I love Asian cakes because they often incorporate fruit and have just a hint of sweetness. When we got older and would go to friend's birthday parties, American sweets were a shock to the palate. To this day, I don't care for most American sweets! I sometimes wonder if my Mom knew exactly what she was doing.
The most famous dish of all on Rosh Hashanah is perhaps the simplest; apples dipped in honey, an edible prayer for a sweet year. Here's my updated take on a classic apple and honey cake for dessert: Light and airy Japanese sponge cake with whipped cream, spiced apples and honey rolled in. The end result is an unexpected take on a classic with a beautiful presentation and just a touch of sweetness to last all year.
Total Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
Total Cook Time: 4 hours
Ingredients – For the cake:
- 4 large eggs (separate yolks from whites and place the whites in the refrigerator)
- 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup organic white sugar
- 2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream at room temperature
Ingredients – For the cream:
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
- 1 tablespoon white confectioner's sugar
Ingredients – For the apple filling:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 fuji apples, cored, peeled and chopped into roughly 1/2" pieces
- juice of 1/2 of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9"x 13" baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the apples with lemon juice.
- In a medium pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour in the honey and stir constantly until the honey and butter are incorporated. Reduce the heat to low and slide the apples in, along with the spices. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the apples have softened and are cooked through.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer with a whipping attachment, whip the refrigerated egg whites at medium speed and 1/4 cup sugar. Once that's incorporated, add another 1/4 cup of the sugar until stiff peaks form. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whip again until everything is well-incorporated and stiff peaks have formed.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the last 1/4 cup of sugar until it's an airy, custard-like consistency. It should double in volume and become thick and lighter in color. Add the cake flour a little at a time and stir until just incorporated.
- Add the yolk mixture into the egg white meringue mixture and stir very carefully with a spatula until just combined. You want to stir carefully so as not to deflate the mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet (the sides of the baking sheet should be at least 1" high). Spread the mixture out evenly and bake for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through (use a cake tester or toothpick).
- Place another piece of parchment over the cake, then place another baking sheet on top of that. Using oven mitts while the cake is still hot, flip the cake over. The bottom side of the cake should be facing up underneath the parchment paper. Gently remove the parchment paper (that the cake was baked in). Place the cake on a large cutting board and slice one edge of the cake at a slight diagonal (just slice a thin sliver of the short end of it- so if it's in landscape orientation, slice a bit off the short end). Gently roll the cake up and wrap it in a clean cotton towel on a cooling rack to dry. This will help the cake hold its shape later.
- While the cake is cooling, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until it's the consistency of whipped cream (light and fluffy), being careful not to over-mix (it will start to visibly break down). Reserve about 1/2 cup of whipped cream, in case you would like to use it to frost the top of the cake as pictured. Fold in the apple mixture to the whipped cream.
- After about 15-30 minutes (or whenever the cake has mostly cooled), remove the cake from the kitchen towel and unroll it. With the bottom side still facing up, spread the whipped cream and apple mixture on the cake with an offset spatula. Leave 1/2" on all sides of the cake unfrosted, and use a little less frosting as you approach the end of the cake.
- Carefully but tightly roll the cake back up (roll it away from you, with the length of the cake going away from you). The angled cut you made should be on the opposite end of the cake from where you are standing (the end of the wrap). Wrap another piece of parchment around it, twisting each of the sides shut. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours.
- Frost the top of the cake if you'd like. I also added crushed freeze dried apples and pistachios to my cake for crunch and color. Enjoy!