Tori Avey is the writer behind the popular food blog, The Shiksa in the Kitchen. She also authors another blog for PBS Food called The History Kitchen where she explores the story behind the food. Be sure to check out The History Kitchen as well.
When I attended my first Rosh Hashanah celebration, several years before I converted to Judaism, I didn’t know much about the holiday. I knew it was a celebration of the Jewish New Year, but that’s about it. The blessings and the meal intrigued me. There was so much symbolism on the table; each food item had a significance that resonated far beyond the dining room. I was curious and inspired to learn more. Those first few holiday celebrations helped to deepen my interest in Judaism and Jewish cooking.
I soon learned that Rosh Hashanah signifies the end of the Hebrew calendar cycle. It is the first of the High Holidays, a ten-day period that ends with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Rosh Hashanah provides us with an opportunity to reflect, recognize our shortcomings and better ourselves through prayer. We are encouraged to repent by seeking forgiveness from the people we have wronged. It is not uncommon for Jews to make amends with those they have mistreated, ensuring a fresh start to the new year. The holiday gives us a chance to improve the way we approach the world, and in turn become better people.
Jews from all over the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah in different ways. Holiday traditions vary according to family background and local customs. Central to the holiday is the sounding of the shofar, a trumpet-like instrument made from the horn of a ram. A special prayer service, emphasizing both repentance and remembrance, is held at synagogue. During this service, gratitude is expressed to God for the creation of the world and humanity. Tzedakah, or charitable giving, is also part of the holiday. We pray that God will seal our names in the “Book of Life,” which brings the promise of a happy year to come.
Rosh Hashanah meals are particularly fun, because they feature symbolic foods that signify our hope for a “sweet new year.” We enjoy “new fruit,” or fruit that has recently come into season-usually a pomegranate. The head of a fish is often served (but rarely eaten), symbolizing the literal translation of Rosh Hashanah, which means “head of the year” in Hebrew. Challah is baked fresh and braided into a round shape, sometimes sweetened with raisins or fruit. Apples and challah are dipped in honey, again representing sweetness.
It’s been many years since that first holiday celebration, and I have long since taken over the planning and preparation of our family’s Rosh Hashanah meal. Here are some of my favorite Rosh Hashanah recipes, made with symbolic ingredients, to help you and your loved ones enjoy a “sweet new year.” L’Shanah Tovah to you and yours!
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Apples are dipped in honey during Rosh Hashanah to signify our hope for a “sweet new year.” This challah is sweet, but not overly so. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your holiday meal.
This seasonal side dish is a healthy addition to the holiday table, and provides a touch of the required “sweetness” for the holiday. The combination of massaged kale with ripe and sweet autumn pears, dried cranberries and toasted pine nuts makes healthy eating a pleasure.
Pomegranates are generally recognized as the “new fruit” of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Pomegranate molasses combined with a salted brown sugar crust caramelizes and infuses this salmon dish with a wonderful teriyaki-like flavor.
In certain Sephardic Jewish communities, dishes made with saffron grace the Rosh Hashanah table because their gold color evokes joy and happiness. These Dairy-Free Saffron Scalloped Potatoes are made with full-fat coconut milk and saffron to create a creamy, golden sauce reminiscent of traditional melted cheese sauce. Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, keeping kosher or just watching your dairy intake, these potatoes will add a special flavor to your holiday meal.
This ultra tender, savory brisket is slowly cooked in a mixture of broth, rum and dark espresso-blend coffee. With onions, garlic, and red peppers added for a very subtle sweetness, this brisket is incredibly flavorful.
This recipe offers a great opportunity to get kids involved in preparing for the holiday meal. Teach them about the symbolic ingredients while you mix, bake and decorate together. Includes free printable decorations.
Meet the Author
Tori Avey is a food writer, recipe developer, and the creator of two cooking websites: The History Kitchen and The Shiksa in the Kitchen. She explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Tori’s food writing and photography have appeared on the websites of CNN, Bon Appetit, Zabar’s, Williams-Sonoma, Yahoo Shine, LA Weekly and The Huffington Post. Follow Tori on Facebook: Tori Avey or Twitter: @toriavey.
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