Roasted chioggia and golden beets with tarragon. Doesn’t exactly scream Rosh Hashanah, does it?
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a holiday steeped in traditions, some dating back millennia. Jews, observant and not-quite-so-observant, pack the synagogues, often seeing faces they only see once or twice a year. They listen as the shofar - the ancient ram’s horn trumpet - is sounded, a clarion call to the conscience. Seasonal greetings are exchanged, expressing wishes for a sweet year to come, for friends and family to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Our Rosh Hashanah meals, likewise, are steeped in tradition. There’s the round loaf of challah, which (according to some) symbolizes the cyclical nature of eternity. The apples and honey that accompany it signify our wishes for a sweet year to come. There’s gefilte fish, served with pungent chrein (horseradish) to both set the appetite and clear the sinuses. Then comes the aromatic chicken soup, freighted with kneidlach - steaming matzoh balls. But that is merely a prelude to the Main Event: a huge platter of braised beef brisket in its oniony gravy. Tzimmes, a stew of carrots, prunes, and (sometimes) meat, is a side dish that sticks to the ribs... and for dessert, honey cake.
Getting up and walking around after a meal like that takes a mighty effort. That, too, is a tradition.
This year’s menu was a bit different.
Sure, we had the roundel of challah. This time, I made a pair of turban-shaped loaves with golden raisins. Gawd’s streimel, if you will. And of course, apples and honey. There’s nothing that calls up Rosh Hashanah memories like a slice of apple dipped in honey, unless it’s a hunk of fresh-baked challah slathered in that golden sweetness.
But no gefilte fish this year. Soup, yes - but in lieu of chicken soup, there was a chilled asparagus soup. Not especially seasonal, but tasty nonetheless.
Mains? Glad you asked. This year, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook, I went all Middle Eastern. Turkey burgers with zucchini and cumin, with a sumac and lemon sauce... and for the red meat fans, lamb meatballs with barberries, in a fig-shallot wine sauce and buried in fresh herbs.
By way of a vegetable, we had roasted chioggia and golden beets with fresh tarragon. And as a nod to the Old School, we had a potato kugel - what my grandmother would call a potato-nik. The primary ingredients were grated potatoes and a pile of onions, the latter caramelized slowly in a metric buttload of oil. While this was in the oven, the house smelled like Grandma’s apartment... and I mean that in the best possible way.
Chilled asparagus soup... a refreshing start to the meal.
Lamb meatballs with barberries and fresh herbs - mint, cilantro, dill, and tarragon. OK, so it’s not brisket.
For dessert, we had cut-up fruit and a
Here at Chez Elisson, we enjoy doing things the tried-and-true way... but every so often it’s fun to mess with tradition. Maybe even start a few new traditions - who knows?