Thinking of Rosh Hashanah, redux, 5783

For the past two weeks thoughts of Rosh Hashanah have been flitting through my head. Foremost in my mind, as usual, has been what to cook. Like many others, my celebrations and marking of holidays is through food that binds together the family. My thoughts were, of course, sparked by the non-stop posts about holiday cooking filling my in-box (more below).

Menus in the past focused on traditional foods rich in symbols associated with the season and the holiday. Many of the dishes also reflect my mother’s Greek-Jewish heritage. Actually, one quintessential food associated with Jewish holidays continued to remind her, and many other Greek and Sephardic Jews, of assaults on their identity, history, and heritage. Gefilte fish was not in their “Jewish” food repertoire. Many related stories of ignorant Ashkenazim who condescendingly questioned their membership in the Jewish faith:

“You don’t eat gefilte fish? How can you be Jewish?” was a frequent question those from non- Eastern European backgrounds and food repertoires were accosted with!

At last, the food traditions of the non-Ashkenazi Jewish world are being recognized in print and on-line. Many of the recipes being offered at this season come for the ancestral kitchens of the writers’ families. Many others, however, are newly concocted specifically to fit the holiday.

What’s traditional at this time? The usual Ashkenazi meats (brisket, etc.), Sephardi meats (whole fish, chicken), Ashkenazi vegetables (kugels, and tzimmes) Sephardi veges (leeks and pumpkin) and, it goes without saying, desserts filled with apples and dripping with honey.

My rich and varied collection of Jewish cookbooks have been frequent sources of holiday and other menus. They reflect the traditions of Jews globally and the foods they ate historically. They mirror the raw ingredients of their varied homelands.

This year, I fell back on the pattern forged over the past few months: cleaning out the pantry and freezer. The choices catered to Constant Companion’s ancestral Ashkenazi tastes, with some modernized variants. Two loafs of gefilte fish, long stashed in the “outside” chest freezer, were transformed into a terrine with spinach and carrots. Matzah ball soup was enriched with the latest stash of frozen vegetable ends combined with a box mix sitting far too long on the pantry shelf. Sweet potatoes along with a beautiful delicata squash, red onion, and other vegetables were roasted with pomegranate molasses, topped with pomegranate arils also kept in the freezer.

Carrot and Spinach Gefilte Fish Terrine*

*Also Kosher for Passover

Defrost two or three packages of frozen gefilte fish. Place the softened fish in a medium mixing bowl and separate into thirds. Boil or steam 3 peeled and sliced medium carrots. When cool, chop lightly in the food processor. Mix into one third of the softened fish. Defrost on 10 oz. box of chopped frozen spinach. Drain thoroughly* and mix with one third of the fish.

*Reserve the carrot water and spinach broth and drainings. Use them in the soup broth.

Spray a glass loaf pan with cooking spray. Spread the spinach mixture on the bottom of the pan; gently pat to flatten evenly. Add the plain fish for second layer, pat gently to flatten. Top with the carrot mixture and smooth evenly. Top with a piece of waxed paper to prevent burning. Bake in a preheated over 375 degrees for 1 ½ hours. Cool and chill overnight.

Matzah Ball Soup. Add 8 cups of water and the frozen vegetable cuttings to a 4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. Strain and dispose the vegetables. Add chicken pieces, or whole chicken, to the broth. Bring to a boil, skim the stuff that comes to the top. Add soup packet from a box of matzah ball soup mix. Being to a boil, simmer for an hour. Remove chicken when cooled and remove the bones. I’ll make the matzah balls tomorrow – following the instructions on the packet.

Our main course will be a chicken recipe.

Honey Cake. I’ve been making this recipe since at least 2012 when the International Committee of Museums of Ethnography (ICME) met in Namibia. Despite the best of plans, our post conference tour overlapped with Rosh Hashanah. I made this cake, wrapped in aluminum foil and froze. While at the conference, the cake remained frozen. One morning our group ushered in Rosh Hashanah with the still moist and fresh cake.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Oil or spray a loaf pan. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¾ tsp each baking soda and salt, ½ tsp each baking powder and ground ginger. Whisk together 1 cup honey, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, ½ cup fresh brewed coffee.*

* thank you Constant Companion’s daily coffee

In your electric mixer beat together 2 large eggs and ¼ cup packed brown sugar at high speed for 3 minutes. Add the honey mixture and 2 tbsp whiskey or bourbon at low speed about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Finish mixing the batter with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the bowl.

Pour batter into the loaf pan, bake for 30 minutes, cover top loosely with foil and bake another 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for 1 hour. Remove from pan and invert onto the rack, cool completely.

*I have no idea the source of this treasured recipe.

The following is just a few of the many digital offerings for Rosh Hashanah that have recently crossed my desktop:

The Nosher offered “9 Rosh Hashanah Main Dishes to Make that Aren’t Brisket.”

My Jewish Learning sent recipes to fill the needs of vegetarians.

High Holiday Cooking Series, this was only one of several: Homemade Plum Jam Stuffed Challah with Sonya Sanford

Jamie Geller was sending daily posts reminding us of the impending holiday. She sent some hacks to try to make the holiday stress-free – The FREE Rosh Hashanah Hacks Guide 

She also fell into the pit of the Rosh Hashanah seder, a newly created presentation of the Yehi Ratsones (for my opinion on this topic see 8-30-21 post) –

Joel Haber in Israel has an interesting food blog and newsletter, Taste of Jewish Culture –

Who Am I?

The mainline Food Magazines are part of the recipes parade. Sweetness seemed to be a theme uniting many of the recipes they sent out this year.

Bon Appetit offered 41 Rosh Hashanah Recipes to Welcome the Jewish New Year. Many are sweet, in the spirit of a sweet new year: a spiced apple cake, a flaky galette studded with apricotsswirly chocolate babka, and apple and honey rice kugel.

Food and Wine sent “16 recipes … to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, including warming Matzo Ball Soup, delicious Braised Chicken with Apples and Calvados, and a few different honey cakes to bring sweetness to the year to come.”

Saveur, which now only appears on-line, had a “potpourri of ‘Jewish’ recipes, not necessarily specific for the New Year.”

Saveur also posted a selection of rich desserts featuring honey – requisite ingredient so helpful in ushering in a sweet New Year.


  1. You had me at Winnie the Pooh with his head in the honey jar! But, seriously, Shana tova! This is wonderful. After the spartan cooking I did durng our virtual New Year last year, the reminders of recipes and flavors and traditions is so welcome.


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