A Simple Rosh Hashanah Meal
The High Holy Days are almost here! I don't know about you, but September is often one of the busiest times of year for me. My schedule has been so full with work and fun lately, including a trip to Austin to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary.
The week of Rosh Hashanah will be especially busy for us, so I wanted to plan for a simple but beautiful and celebratory meal. I can't tell you how many times I've spent late nights in the kitchen preparing for special gatherings. The day-of usually goes smoothly since I prepped so much in advance, but I'm going off little sleep, my feet are sore and Bryan is worried I might collapse of exhaustion! While I love to entertain and nourish our family and friends, I've been learning to nourish myself in the process as well.
While I am striving for simplicity this year, I also wanted to make sure to incorporate some symbolic Rosh Hashanah ingredients. I love to think about how during holidays, we nourish our bodies and souls with the foods our ancestors once ate:
- Apple, to dip in honey. Our ancient Jewish ancestors believed that apples had healing properties and apples symbolize a fruitful New Year.
- Honey, for a sweet New Year.
- Pomegranates, one of the seven species and a wish that we'll be just as full as merits as a pomegranate is full of seeds in the New Year.
- Carrots, for increased blessings in the New Year (the Yiddish words for "carrot" and "more" similar).
- Head of a fish, so we are more like a head (a leader) and not a tail in the New Year.
- Dates, another one of the seven species, the word for "date" in Hebrew is similar to the word "to end", a hope that we will no longer have enemies..
- Other symbolic foods include leeks, gourds, leafy greens and beans or fenugreek.
Usually, I serve a whole fish for Japanese New Year. I knew I wanted to roast a fish for this Rosh Hashana's protein dish, but I worried it would be too much to serve a whole fish twice a year. Fortunately, I stopped myself for many reasons: Whole fish is inexpensive (purchasing a whole fish is much more cost-effective than a fillet). Whole fish is one of the simplest things you can possibly make. Whole fish is such a treat! Why reserve it for only one time year? I once read about a half Japanese half White girl in one of my Japantown books. In it, she said that as she got older, she realized how fortunate she is to be mixed race: It gives her more opportunities to celebrate who she is. That's how I feel about putting whole fish on my Rosh Hashanah menu this year. Life is short, we could all use more reasons to celebrate!
*All dishes serve 8.
TANGY APPLE MUSTARD SALAD
Lightly Pickled Apples and Shallots
2 Fuji apples, cored and chopped into matchsticks
shallots, thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
salt and pepper to taste
*I don't like to add sugar to this dressing since the tanginess balances well with the sweetness of the rice and challah and saltiness of the roasted fish
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into 1"W pieces
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Strain pickled apples and shallots, discard pickling liquid. Toss dressing with salad ingredients and serve immediately.
QUICK AND EASY SWEET JEWELED RICE
1 tablespoon butter
1 peeled and grated carrot
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon dried ground cinnamon
2 cups Basmati rice, washed and strained
10 dried dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup almonds, roasted, tossed in olive oil and salt, then chopped
1/2 cup arugula chopped (you can also use parsley, I used arugula since Bryan doesn't like parsley)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, combine the water and a heavy pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the rice, return the pot a boil, then turn the heat down the heat the lowest setting. Cover and cook rice for 20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, heat a medium-sized skillet on medium heat. Melt one tablespoon butter cook the chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Stir continously until translucent and brown- almost caramelized- about 10-12 minutes. Add the carrots, almonds, spices, and another pinch of salt- cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes.
When the rice is done, turn off the heat, throw in the chopped dates, cover again and let the rice rest for five minutes. Then add one tablespoon of butter to the rice and fluff it with a fork.
Put the carrot mixture on top of the rice and fluff with a rice paddle or large metal serving spoon. Toss in half of the chopped arugula or parsley. Squeeze lemon juice over rice mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper. Place rice in a pretty bowl and sprinkle the remaining arugula over the top.
WHOLE ROASTED FISH
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1"W thin slices
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 whole fish- I used a 1lb Branzino, since it was just the two of us this time. If you have more guests coming, I recommend an Arctic Char, which tastes like a fattier trout, similar to salmon.
1 tablespoon olive oil
Have your fishmonger scale and gut your fish, this will save you time!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain fish and pat it dry with paper towels. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Generously salt and pepper the outside (both sides!) and inside of your fish. Score the top-facing side of the fish with a knife. This will allow the salt and pepper to penetrate and creates a crispier skin. Place lemon, ginger and garlic inside the fish and in the scores, if you wish. Drizzle both sides of the fish with olive oil- make sure the bottom side is well-coated, since you want to easily be able to remove your fish from the pan and set it on a serving platter.
Roast fish for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size (or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish registers 135 degrees. Remove from oven and let fish rest for five minutes before serving. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve.
Here's how I'd map out prep to make it as easy as possible on the day-of (in order of prep):
ONE DAY BEFORE:
- Purchase all ingredients and wine
- Make challah
- Prep and store rice ingredients: chop dates, grate carrots, chop arugula, toast and chop almonds
- Slice ingredients for fish
- Make salad dressing
- Set your table
- Make jeweled rice (2 hours before guests arrive)
- Bake fish (30 minutes before guests arrive)
- Chop and pickle apples and shallots
- Chop romaine for salad
- Toss salad with dressing (right before serving)
- Slice apples (to be dipped in honey as an appetizer, right before serving)
L'shana Tova! Wishing you a sweet New Year.