Rosh Hashanah is almost here, again. The first night will be celebrated on Friday, September 18. Like many others, only our nuclear family will be together; no guests this year.
A rash of Rosh Hashanah cooking zoom presentations have graced the airwaves that past week or so. Here are some that I followed, and a few more are yet to come:
Sephardic Heritage International with Susan Barocas (The recipes can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EEhLHBKrmDmyny9IqdXD-IDGtQIXWTZk/view?usp=sharing).
Jewish Food Society with Zoe Kanan’s honey cake (The recipe can be found here: http://bitly.ws/9tUY).
Singer Sarah Aroeste cooked and sang in the New Year (https://saraharoeste.com/rh-cook-and-sing).
Cooks from the two Sephardic synagogues in Seattle also shared holiday recipes via zoom.
The Streicker Center at New York’s Temple EmanuEl held a week-long Virtual Holiday Cooking School last week. Monday was tips on planning, Tuesday offered soup demonstrations by Joan Nathan. Wednesday was main courses with Einat Admony. Thursday ended the cooking demos with baked goods by Claire Saffitz. Each of these chefs has numerous cookbooks to their names for those who want to explore and learn more. Recordings are archived at: https://www.emanuelnyc.org/streickercenter/past-events/.
No matter the number of people around our table, I always enjoy planning and cooking for the holidays. It’s a process, though, that requires lots of thought and planning. Decisions also revolve around what I find in my pantry, freezer, or in the market. My annual planning started a while ago. I know from the past that the menu will include soup, maybe an appetizer, a main, vegetable, starch, maybe a salad, and to end, a dessert.
The planning process takes several steps. First, I look in my computer files and in my carefully categorized clippings for inspirations and reminders of meals past. There are some old favorites, like my honey cake recipe. Would you believe, I had a conference one fall that ended just before the holiday. I brought my honey cake to share with everyone; well all enjoyed wishing in a sweet New Year! There might also be some new additions. A number of digital newsletters I receive have been circulating some interesting recipes which I’ve downloaded and am considering.
Next step in planning is to search through my cookbooks. Never know what might just out at me. Or what might whet my appetite.
I have a good menu prepared and ready to go for this year. Daughter was primed to bake her amazing challah. Next was Joan Nathan’s harira soup from her zoom class and chopped liver excavated from the freezer. Main course was two beautiful branzino also from the freezer. Many Sephardic Jews eat heads-on fish for this meal; the head (rosh in Hebrew) reminds us that we should remain in the lead from the head of the year (Rosh Hashanah).Vegetables would be leek keftedes or fritters and a stew of sweet potato and pumpkin. Pumpkin is round like the circle of life and golden to bring prosperity in the New Year. Dessert was still up in the air between traditional honey cake or poached pears.
Then disaster struck. All the best laid plans went out the window … The trusty refrigerator stopped working. Yesterday, the repairman came. He found the “panel” was broken. Early in the morning I had already taken all of the thawed meat from the freezer and cooked it early (cod, beef liver, burgers, chicken sausages, frozen spanakopetes).
After the repairman left, I ran down the street to the hardware store for a new cooler (our old powwow cooler bit the dust long ago), then the grocery store for ice. I ran into and acquaintance at the hardware store. He came over and took a lot of the stuff from the not-so-frozen freezer and the fridge (including the chopped liver).
I had already taken my chicken out to make the harira base. What to do?
It looks like we will have our Rosh Hashanah dinner in one pot this year! After the broth was made, I boned the chicken meat. It’s nestled in the new cooler (I suppose I’ll get more ice depending on when the repair man returns – is that like O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh?). Into the broth went onions, celery, carrots, 2 tomatoes, the pumpkin, the leeks, then the chickpeas and lentils necessary for harira.
With that I wish you all a Happy New Year, Xronia Pola, as we say in Greek –
*Thanks to Joni Mitchell for this gentle song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9VoLCO-d6U