- ROSH HASHANA
- Cotognata (Sweet Quince Paste) (Parve)
- Buricche alle Bietole (Chard Burekas)(Parve)
- Fragrant Leeks (Parve)
- Leek Frittata (Parve)
- Zucca Barucca (“Holy” Pumpkin or Butternut Squash) (Parve)
- Crunchy Fennel (Parve)
- Roasted Fish with Fennel (Parve)
- Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils (Parve)
- Turkey Loaf with a Vegetable Surprise
- Stuffed Goose Neck
- Pomegranate Chicken
- Fluffy Honey Cake (Dairy or Parve)
- Pear and Honey Cake (Dairy or Parve)
- Pear and Chocolate Cake (Dairy or Parve)
Quinces are from the same family as apples and pears. They are much uglier than both, and they taste horrible when eaten raw (I tried!). Feed them to the geese? Think again: as usual, our great-great-great grandmothers were able to turn even this ugly-duckling of a fruit into a delicious treat. So delicious, in fact, that many communities in Italy and elsewhere eat them instead of apples and honey as Tapuach, the first element in our Rosh HaShana seder symbolizing a sweet new year.
(Other Italian traditions begin with dates – in Aramaic, Temareh – for the first blessing, and conclude with figs, apples or quinces).
I hope you try this easy recipe and offer it next to your apples and honey. You will understand why, when quinces were still hard to come by in Manhattan stores, a friend of mine’s 80-year-old Italian grandmother (who shall go unnamed) would be found climbing up the trees in the garden of the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan before Rosh HaShana. We saw her in action and she was quite agile.
- 2 pounds quinces
- 1 and 1/2 pound sugar
- 1 organic lemon
- 4 or 5 cloves
Clean the quinces, eliminating all the fuzz and any parts that are damaged..
Cook them in a pot of boiling water with half an organic lemon and the cloves.
When they are as soft as boiled potatoes (about an hour) drain them, discarding the lemon and cloves and setting aside about a ladleful of the cooking water.
Halve the quinces and allow them to cool off; then peel them, eliminate the cores, and reduce them into a smooth puree using a food mill or an electric mixer.
Combine this puree with the sugar and 1/2 a ladleful of the cooking water. Cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring regularly. The paste is ready when it sticks to the spoon.
Wet a large cutting board or your countertop, and pour the cotognata on top, forming an even 1/2-inch
layer.. After it has started to dry, you can cover it with parchment paper. After at least 24 hours (48 is better), cut into shapes with cookie cutters.
Another Symbol in my Rosh HaShana Seder is Swiss chard. We identify Swiss Chards (or, in Venice, just their ribs) with the Aramaic term “silka” (other communities use beets). A similar Hebrew word, siluk, means “removal”: therefore, when eating Swiss chards (or beets) we pray that our enemies will be removed. In Venice we often present only the white ribs of the chards, parboiled until soft and then drained and stewed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper for at least 30 minutes. But if you have time to make Buricche, your guests will ask for seconds!
For the DOUGH
(but if you are pressed for time you can buy frozen puff or filo dough and the result will still be nice)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or as needed)
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
In a large bowl, combine oil, warm water, salt. Gradually add the sifted flour (you will need between 5 and 6 cups for the dough to be workable – the dough should feel elastic.
Knead well, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.
Divide into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece at a time with a rolling pin, as thin as possible, and cut out rounds with a 3″ or 4″ cookie cutter or cup.
Place some filling on the center only of each round, fold into a half-moon and pinch the edges well to seal. Place the rounds on a greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper; brush with the egg yolk, beaten with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water. Bake at 350 F in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes or till golden.
For the FILLING
1 onion, chopped very finely
1 lb Swiss chard or kale, already cleaned
2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed or minced
2 eggs, slightly beaten
5 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Cook the greens in a pot of simmering water (if kale, cook for 12-15 minutes. If using Swiss chards, cook for 4-5 minutes).
Drain the greens, squeeze most of the liquid out with your hands and dry them with a towel. Chop them finely.
In a large skillet or sauteuse pan heat at least 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and the garlic and cook on medium/low heat till soft, adding a tablespoon or two of water if necessary to keep them from burning and sticking.
(some people also add a handful of dried mushrooms, plumped in warm water and drained).
Add the greens, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on medium/low for about 30 minutes or until very soft. Check often and add a few tablespoons of water if necessary to keep it from burning, but allow the water to evaporate.
Set aside in a large bowl and allow to cool off.
Add the eggs, the bread crumbs, more salt and pepper if needed, and use this filling to stuff the Buricche, which you will bake as per directions above (under “Dough”.
As a former Anglicist, I love our tradition of making food ‘Puns’ in the Rosh HaShana Seder blessings. On the other hand, I sometimes resent that as a modern orthodox Jew I am personally “stuck” with puns in Aramaic… because English is THE language for puns! :-)
So – if you are reconstructionist, reform or just not that traditional, go ahead, have fun!
For example: “May there be no ‘leeks’ in our buckets in the coming year”, and even (for the singles) “May G-d finally send me the right ‘date’ next year” – just make up your own.
Here is another Siman (symbol): Leeks - in Aramaic, Kerateh. When we eat them, we pray that or enemies will be cut down (Ikkarah). There are different ways to serve this vegetable in the seder, and a very popular one is inside a frittata, which I am posting right after this light option.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 4 large leeks (or 8 small)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 3 teaspoons wine vinegar (or to taste. White or red work)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or to taste)
- a sprig of fresh thyme, minced very fine
- 1 small teaspoon whole pink peppercorns
- salt to taste
Clean the leeks, discarding the leaves and the darker green part. Only use the white and pale green part (but don’t slice them).
Steam the leeks in a steaming basket on top of a pot of boiling water, covered, for about 5 minutes or until soft.
Slice them lengthwise and arrange them on a serving dish.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar and salt together and drizzle this mixture on the leeks. Sprinkle them with the minced thyme, the slivered almonds and the pink peppercorns and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
One of the most popular ways to serve this Siman (Symbol) in our Rosh HaShana Seder: inside an earthy frittata (with or without the addition of spinach). Frittatas can be prepared in advance.
- 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- 8 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, if liked
Preheat the broiler (if using). Heat the olive oil in a 10″ nonstick skillet. Add the leeks, some salt, and cook on medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. In the meantime, whisk the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper (and nutmeg, if liked) in a bowl. Add egg mixture to the leeks in the skillet and fold gently to combine. Cook over medium heat until almost set. If you are brave, flip over with the help of a platter, and cook the other side. If you are unsure, transfer the skillet under your (preheated0 broiler for about 2-3 minutes. If you decide to use the broiler, make sure your skillet is oven-proof and doesn’t have a plastic handle. Cut into wedges and serve.
*Many people make this frittata with leeks and spinach together.
Pumpkin or Butternut Squash is an important part of our Rosh haShana Seder. While the symbolic foods of the Pesach Seder are meant to internalize the memory of Passover, the symbols of Rosh haShana point to the future to wish us a good New Year. The Aramaic term for squash/pumpkin is ’Kerah“. Because of its resemblance to the Aramaic root “Kara” (to cut), when we eat this vegetable we pray that any of our bad deeds will be cut out of the Book of G-d’s Judgement. Pumpkin arrived in Italy after the discovery of the Americas, and was such a hit with Northern Italian Jews that in Venice we call it “Zucca Barucca” (Holy Pumpkin – from the Hebrew “Baruch“).
Different communities and different families prepare it in different ways, but here are a sweet-and-sour version, plus my favorite (but not very photogenic) Venetian version, mashed.
SWEET AND SOUR PUMPKIN (or Butternut Squash)
• 1 pound butternut squash or pumpkin (weight peeled and seeded)
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced or minced
• 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
• 2 to 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar (to taste)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 3 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
Peel the squash and discard the seeds.
Cut into wedges, about 1/2” thick.
In a skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium/high heat. Add the squash and cook until soft inside and golden brown on the outside (8 to 10 minutes).
Discard most of the frying oil, and put the skillet back on the stovetop with the squash. Drizzle with the vinegar and add the salt, pepper, sugar (or honey), garlic and mint.
Cook for about 10 more minutes on low heat, stirring gently.
It can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
MASHED PUMPKIN (Zucca Disfatta)
• 2 pounds butternut squash or pumpkin, diced (weight peeled and seeded)
• 1/2 cup to 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil (to taste)
• 1 medium onion, very finely minced
• 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
• Salt and pepper to taste
• (in Ferrara they even add candied Etrog)
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onion in it, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary. Add the diced pumpkin, parsley, salt and cook it on low heat, covered, stirring often, until it’s so soft that it can be mashed easily. At this point, mash it with a fork or potato masher.
Another symbol (Siman, in Hebrew) in our Rosh HaShana seder is the mysterious Aramaic vegetable Roviah. Mysterious because some Italian communities translate it with fennel, others with green beans, go figure! Roviah resembles the Aramaic root “Irbu” (to multiply), and when we eat fennel or green beans we pray that our merits will be multiplied. fennel happens to be my favorite vegetable, and battered and fried it’s a real treat!
2 large heads of fennel
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Clean the fennel, discarding the green leaves and the outer layer.
Slice each fennel into 6 wedges, drizzle with fresh lemon juice, and place in a steaming basket over a pot of boiling water. Cover and allow to cook on medium/low heat for about 12 minutes.
Drain and place on two layers of paper towel, covering the top with more paper towel, and dry very well (you should always dry extremely well any foods you’d like to dip-fry, to prevent them from absorbing the oil and getting soggy).
In a large bowl, slightly beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
Dip the fennel wedges (again, they must be completely dry on the outside) into the egg and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.
Heat the oil in a large skillet till it reaches frying temperature (test with a piece of bread – if bubbles form around it, the oil is ready), and fry the wedges in it on medium heat, until until soft inside and golden on the outside.
Drain well on several layers of paper towel (also place paper towel on top) and sprinkle with a little salt before serving. If you need to re-heat, leave fried foods partially uncovered and set your warming drawer/oven/plata at the highest possible temperature.
* tip: you can dip in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs twice for a thicker crust. In this case, use more eggs.
Another very common symbol on the Rosh HaShana table is the head of a fish, with the prayer “that we be a head and not a tail”. We don’t actually eat the head (yikes), just present it as a symbol; but we do eat the rest of the fish and here is a great easy recipe.
If you didn’t use fennel for the previous symbol, Roviah, but green beans or beans, try adding it to the fish instead – it’s a delicious combination! Some people do not like using lemon on Rosh HaShana (in the spirit of eating only things that are sweet, and not sour): if that’s your case, add only the peel/zest, without the pulp.
Ingredients (serves 6-8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course)
- 2 branzinos (a type of bass) or other white fish, about 2 pounds each - scaled, gills removed, gutted and rinsed
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced very thinly (I use a mandoline)
- 1 medium onion or leek, sliced thinly
- one lemon, sliced thinly, seeds removed
- fresh rosemary
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and white pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts into the skin of the fish, on each side.fish about 1/4-inch deep diagonally three times on each side. Season the inside with salt and white pepper.
Stuff the inside with just a few slices of fennel, onion and lemon and a sprig of rosemary.
Brush a baking pan with extra-virgin olive oil (I prefer a milder extra-virgin oil for fish, like a Ligurian oil); on the bottom of the pan layer fennel, onion and lemon, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil. Place the fish on top of the vegetables, sprinkle with little salt and drizzle with more olive oil, and transfer into the oven for about 18 minutes or until cooked (cooking time depends on the size of the fish – to make sure the fish is cooked check if it’s flaking from the bone).
For Rosh HaShana I usually serve a fresh pasta soup in chicken broth before the main course: it’s easy to make (make or buy pasta; make chicken stock; cook the pasta and serve with the broth). But I wanted to offer something different for those of you who do not have a seder before the meal, and prefer a more filling first course. As a bonus, this pasta recipe includes pumpkin, one of the holiday symbols in some Italian Jewish communities, including Venice (see my post on “Zucca Barucca” above).
Ingredients (serves 4)
3/4 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle (Italian wide egg noodles)
1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash (diced into small cubes)
2 cups boiled lentils (or you can use a can)
1 small zucchini
1 small onion, minced very fine
1 sprig rosemary
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion, 2 sage leaves and 1 bay leaf. After a couple of minutes dd the diced zucchini, the drained lentils and the cubed pumpkin. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a ladleful of hot water to the vegetables, salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes or more, until soft but not mushy. Cook the tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, transfer the vegetables into a bowl and put the rosemary sprig in the hot skillet where you cooked the vegetables, roasting it for a couple of minutes in the oil left over. Discard the rosemary and toast the breadcrumbs for 2-3 minutes in the same skillet. Drain the pasta, dress it with the vegetable sauce and the toasted bread crumbs, and serve.
1 lb ground turkey breast
2 slices bread, crust removed
4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup zucchini, cut into small cubes (or string beans, cut into pieces)
½ cup peas,
1/2 cup carrot, cut into small cubes
¼ tablespoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350°.
Soak the bread in broth or parve soy milk and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
Add the vegetables and cook until they are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. (if using zucchini, let them drain in a colander or sieve for about 15 minutes after cutting them, to eliminate some of their liquid)
In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread mixture (liquid squeezed out), nutmeg, salt, pepper, and vegetables, and the egg. If needed, add some breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture.
Place in a greased loaf pan shaping into a loaf, or roll into a meatloaf on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450°F and bake for another 30 (or until the internal temperature reaches 180 and a golden crust has formed).
Kosher goose is nowadays only available in the US and in Italy through a few select butchers, or only at certain times of the year. But just a few centuries ago, starting in the Middle Ages and continuing through the Renaissance, goose had become the main source of meat for most Jewish communities in Western Europe, from German-speaking countries to the Italian peninsula. Goose was to the Jews what pork was to Christians: where the Gentiles used lard, the Jews cooked with goose fat; the meat was eaten roasted and stuffed or used to prepare sausages, salamis and kosher “prosciutto“. It was the “Kosher Pig”!
Several versions of this dish are still a popular Rosh HaShana main course in different Italian cities, of course only those years when we can get our hands on a goose.
(A widespread variation is a turkey meatloaf enclosed in the turkey skin, which I will add later.)
On a personal note, while I’m obsessed with this recipe, I am not going to serve it for Rosh HaShana this year, because the last time my husband (who is squirmy about meat in general) saw me stitch the neck with the trussing needle, he went 100% vegan for two weeks.
- The skin of one goose neck
- 1 and 1/2 lb ground goose meat
- 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 small day-old rolls, crusts removed (or 2 slices bread, crusts removed) and cubed
- 1 or 2 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- chicken or meat broth
-1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice (if liked)
- 6 very thin slices Hungarian salami (or goose “prosciutto“)
- salt and pepper to taste
- extra-virgin olive oil
Soak the bread in 1/2 cup of broth. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the onion until soft, adding one or two tablespoons of water if necessary to prevent it from sticking or burning.
Allow the onion to cool down, discard any liquid or oil (you can place it in a cheesecloth or large piece of paper towel and squeeze the liquid out into your sink). Also drain as much liquid as possible out of the bread, squeezing it well.
Now place the onion and bread in a large bowl and add the ground meat, egg, parsley, spices, salt and pepper and 1 or 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, or just enough to give the stuffing the right texture (you can always add more later). Combine everything together, mixing gently but thoroughly; on the other hand, don’t overdo it: it’s not Challa! My grandmother used to say that meatloaves and meatballs come out too hard if you handle the meat for longer than necessary.
Use this stuffing to fill the neck of the goose (yikes, I know), previously lined with some thin salami slices. It’s easiest with a spoon, and don’t stuff too hard because the stuffing expands during cooking and it can break the skin!
Now sew the opening close with a trussing needle and white cotton string. Prick a few small holes in the skin with a skewer or kitchen knife, to prevent it from bursting during the cooking.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an oven-proof skillet or sauteuse pan. Add the neck and brown well on all sides. Transfer into the oven and roast for at least an hour, turning it and basting with the liquids from the cooking at least 4 times at regular intervals. To test for doneness, prick with a skewer or toothpick and make sure the juices run clear.
This roasted chicken is a perfect main course for Rosh HaShana, since the Pomegranate (Rimon) is the sixth of the symbols on our holiday table, eaten with the prayer ”May our merits/good deeds be as numerous as the seeds in a pomegranate”. Apparently the Sages took the time to count the seeds in a lot of pomegranates, and decided that they average 613, the number of Mitzvot Jews are bound to observe – which is also why silver Rimmonim (pomegranates) are used to decorate Torah scrolls.
- 1 chicken, cleaned (I buy Kosher, organic, grass-fed and it makes a difference!)
- 2 pomegranates or 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, slightly pressed
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Cut the pomegranates in half and using a citrus reamer scoop out the seeds. Set 2 tablespoons of the seeds aside and press the rest through a food mill or potato masher, gathering the juice in a bowl. .
Heat the olive oil with the garlic in an oven-proof pan or sauteuse; add the chicken and brown it on all sides. Add salt and pepper and the white wine and allow the wine to evaporate.
Transfer the pan into your oven and roast for an hour at 350 F, turning it and basting it with its own juices a couple of times. When you notice that the garlic is becoming dark, discard it.
When the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a serving bowl; add the pomegranate juice to the roasting oil/juice in the pan, and heat it on the stovetop, allowing it to simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds, and serve this sauce as an accompaniment to the chicken.
- 2 ½ cups of pastry (cake) flour (or 1 ½ cups all-purpose + 1 cup potato starch)
- 1 package or 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup honey
- ¾ cup margarine or unsalted butter
- 3 eggs, separated
- a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Place the honey and margarine in a heavy saucepan over low heat and stir gently, till they melt and combine.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes. In the meantime, beat the egg whites with an electric whisk until they form stiff peaks and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the baking powder, salt and flour, sift twice and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the honey and butter (or margarine) mix, then slowly add the flour, while whisking with a manual or electric whisk.
Slowly incorporate the whites into this mix with a spatula, using an upward movement.
Pour into a cake pan (previously greased and dusted with flour, or lined with oven-proof parchment paper) and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes.
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, left outside for at least 2 hours (parve margarine for a Parve version)
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup potato starch
- 1 large pinch of salt
- 1 package baking powder
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup milk (parve soy or rice milk for a Parve version)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large and juicy pear
Heat oven to 350 F and grease a 9” springform pan with extra butter or margarine (or line it with parchment).
In a food processor, grind the walnuts into a powder. Add the sifted flour, salt, baking powder and combine.
In the food processor or using an electric mixer, combine the softened butter, honey, and sugar. Beat until fluffy (about 10 minutes). Mix in the eggs (for an even fluffier cake you can beat the egg white till stiff, and add it last).
Slowly stir in the milk (or soy/rice milk) and vanilla, until completely incorporated.
Cut the pear into thin slices and arrange them in concentric circles on the bottom of the pan, then pour in the batter. Bake until golden brown (about 45 minutes).
Allow to cool on a wire rack and decorate with confectioner’s sugar. It can be served on its own or accompanied by a warm custard cream.
My favorite easy cake. Period.
2/3 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 and 1/4 cups of pastry flout (or 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cups potato starch)
1 package baking powder (16 gr)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or parve no-trans-fat margarine
4/5 cup dark semi-bitter chocolate (parve if you are making the dairy-free version)
2 pears (Williams if possible)
confectioner’s sugar to decorate
Beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the sifted baking powder and flour. Add the melted chocolate and butter (I melt them in the microwave). Peel and core the pears, cut them into small pieces and add them to the mix. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Grease a baking pan and dust it with flour (or line it with oven-proof parchment paper).
Pour the mixture with the pears into the baking pan and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes or until ready (you can check with a toothpick: it should come out almost dry.
Allow the cake to cool on a rack, then decorate it with confectioner’s sugar running it trough a sieve.