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When the Jewish New Year arrives, people often wish their family and friends a “sweet and fruitful New Year.” Because the holiday occurs right at the beginning of apple season, apples are the fruit of choice. People with ancestry from Eastern Europe and Russia ceremoniously dip apple wedges in honey to symbolize this good wish. Sephardic Jews, or Jews who can trace their ancestry back to Spain (“Sepharad” means “Spain” in Hebrew), and especially Turkish Jews, have another custom: dulce de manzana.
Dulce de manzana means “sweet of the apple,” and this delicious rose-scented apple preserve is spread on pieces of challah at the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah meal. It is so delicious that any leftovers stored in the refrigerator can be used for weeks as a spread on toast and sandwiches, or even as a base for small custard tarts. If you have an apple peeler (as shown in the photo) your children can help peel the apples while developing their gross motor skills. I also like to use the coarse blade on my food processor. The grating is fast and the apples don’t have time to discolor (although the little bit of lemon juice will rectify that). My last suggestion is to use firm apples as suggested in the recipe. That way the apple strands keep their shape and you won’t end up with applesauce!
DULCE de MANZANA
1. Place the sugar and water in a 3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
2. While the mixture is heating, peel the apples and grate them by hand with a coarse grater or use a coarse grating disc on your processor. Immediately add the apples to the hot sugar syrup.
3. Reduce the temperature to medium and allow to cook for 30 -45 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick. (Note: the amount of time depends on the variety of apple and its juice content.) Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent sticking.
4. While mixture is cooking, toast the almonds in a 350F oven for 4 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside.
5. When mixture is thickened (it will get thicker when it cools) add the rosewater or the vanilla and place in an open container until cool. The toasted almonds may be added to the mixture or sprinkled on top as a garnish. Refrigerate until serving.
Apples, the symbolic fruit for the Jewish New Year, can find their way onto your holiday menu in many ways. This recipe may not have its origins in Europe or the Middle East, but it plays on the tradition of elevating even the simplest of ingredients into a festive dish.
I serve this as a side for brisket or chicken, but you can also combine it with quinoa or barley as a more substantial side dish or vegetarian main course. Although you can buy a whole butternut squash and peel and cube it yourself, I find it’s worth the time and money to buy the squash already peeled and cubed. You might have to cut some of the chunks into smaller pieces if they’re too large, but otherwise this is a fast and easy dish to make. You don’t even have to peel the apples!
Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut onion in half and slice each piece crosswise into ½-inch strips. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
3. Using an apple slicer, cut apple into eighths and then cut each wedge into three or four chunks. Add to the onions, along with the squash cubes.
4. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. If onions are not yet golden and squash is still firm, gently turn the mixture and return to the oven for another 6 minutes, or until done.
5. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and serve.
My last salad took us all the way to Israel, but this summer salad with a twist takes us to the American Midwest and the birthplace of ranch salad dressing. Nebraska is where America’s favorite dressing made its début. Meanwhile in the Northeast, this time of year, Maine is overflowing with blueberries. This salad features blueberries as a sweet burst in the salad mix itself and a purée of blueberries in the ranch dressing.
Summer Blueberry Salad with Blueberry Ranch
Blueberry Ranch Dressing
Summer Blueberry Salad
1. Wash your pint of blueberries. In a small pot add 1/4 cup of blueberries. Put the lid on the pot and cook on low until the juices begin to bubble a little. Squash the blueberries with a fork as they are cooking. Let the blueberries cook for 5-10 minutes over low heat. Put the purée into a small bowl and let it cool. Chill in the refrigerator while you continue preparing the salad.
2. Wash the greens and add them to a serving bowl.
3. In a dry pan over medium heat, toast 1 1/4 cups of walnuts. Once the walnuts become fragrant you will need to watch them closely so they do not burn. Shake the pan to move and turn the walnuts a little. Set the nuts aside to cool.
4. Peel and thinly slice 1/4 of the red onion.
5. Add about 1/2 pint of the fresh blueberries to the greens.
6. Once the blueberry purée has cooled, you can continue making the blueberry ranch dressing.
7. Wash and dry 10 chives and about 1/2 a bunch of parsley. Mince the chives and parsley. You should have about 1/4 cup of minced parsley.
8. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and 1/4 cup of sour cream. Add in 1 clove of minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper: 1/2 tsp of each or to taste. Mix together until smooth and uniform.
9. Add in the chives, the dried dill and minced parsley. Then, stir in the chilled puréed blueberries.
10. Stir in up to 1/4 cup of milk until you have the desired consistency. One quarter cup will make a fairly thin ranch dressing. If you like a thicker dressing, add less.
11. In the serving bowl, add 1/2 pint of the fresh blueberries, the sliced red onion and the cooled toasted walnuts. Drizzle with the blueberry ranch salad dressing and serve.
For summer, we are taking inspiration from the layers of an Italian lasagna as well as the sweetness of kugel. Lasagna is of course a classic Italian dish. Its creamy, rich filling is a perfect comfort food for the chilly days of fall and winter. In Jewish kitchens, noodle kugel (Lokshen Kugel) makes an appearance several times a year. It is a great dairy option for a Yom Kippur break fast and a favorite for Shavuot when we eat dairy.
These mini sweet summer lasagna-kugels let you take the in-season fruits of summer and layer them between a delicious ricotta filling and pasta. They are great served warm with some grilled fruit for a sweet and light meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner, or they can be enjoyed straight from the fridge for a little after-camp snack or picnic treat. This can be made as a single dish in a large pan or as individual minis in a muffin tin.
Sweet Summer Mini Kugels
1. Begin by cooking and straining the pasta so it has time to cool. Add 1 Tbsp. of sugar and the vanilla into the pasta water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (as noted on the box). If you are using muffin tins for individual kugels, I recommend using the egg noodles because they fit more easily into the cups. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2. You can use preserves if time is an issue, but this is a perfect way to use up fruit that is becoming a bit overripe or isn’t so pretty anymore and you want to cook with it. In a small saucepan, add the fruit (peel and all is OK) and a tablespoon of water. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low until the fruit softens. Then take the lid off and cook on low until the fruit breaks down into the consistency of a compote or apple sauce.
Fruits with skins like apricots will separate from the skins and you can just pull out the skins from the pot. If you like your kugel to be a bit sweeter, then add some sugar to the mixture a teaspoon at a time to taste.
3. Set the preserves aside in a bowl to cool.
4. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, lemon zest and 2 Tbsp. of sugar. If you are using the egg noodles, once the pasta has cooled, add 1 Tbsp. of the ricotta mixture to the pasta and toss to coat.
5. Now you layer your kugel (like a traditional lasagna). If you are using lasagna noodles, add 1 Tbsp. of the ricotta mixture to the bottom of a 9×9 inch glass baking dish. Then add a layer of noodles, a layer of the ricotta mixture, a layer of fruit, a layer of lasagna noodles and a thin layer of the ricotta on top.
If you are using egg noodles and a muffin tin, put cupcake liners in each spot. Take the noodles that have been tossed with a little of the ricotta mixture and put a thin layer of them on the bottom. Add a layer of ricotta and a layer of fruit. The advantage of muffin tins is that you can do a variety of flavors. I did cherry, raspberry and apricot. Top the fruit with a layer of the egg noodles.
6. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes for the individual kugels until the top is lightly golden brown. For the larger kugel, cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Cook time depends on how juicy your fruit is. The top will be golden brown and the fruit will bubble up a little when done.
7. For the topping which can be drizzled on top, mix 1/2 cup of sour cream with 1 Tbsp. of sugar. Drizzle over slices at the table.
Serve with a fruit salad or some grilled fruit for a full, fruity, sweet meal.
Shavuot. The “Festival of Weeks.” If ever there was a confusing holiday (Shmini Atzeret aside), Shavuot is it. The definition of “Shavuot” alone is confusing enough. Festival of Weeks? Who wants to celebrate a festival of weeks!? That said, if ever there was an example of why one should never judge anything by its name alone, Shavuot is such an example.
So what are we celebrating, exactly? First, there is the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai (kind of a big deal). Then there is the completion of the counting of the Omer (the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, thus, “Festival of WEEKS”). The counting of the Omer reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed the Jews spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. But I always wonder, have we really been “freed” from our bondage to idolatry? I’m gonna go with a hard, “NO” on that one.
In my role as a high school counselor, I am often meeting and talking with students about their personal expectations. Too often, adolescents (and their parents, for that matter) have expectations for themselves that are not remotely attainable. Whether it’s trying to fit their body or personal image to that of a celebrity or the pursuit of academic perfection, I would argue that we are still very much bound to worshiping of idols. As a society, we have given so much power to fame and perfection, it is worshiped as truth. Adolescents “follow” celebrities and try in vain to emulate their lifestyle in such a way that they are willing to risk their financial status and physical, mental and emotional health. If that’s not worshiping of an idol, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of worship, Shavuot has recently become of my most favorite holidays due to the foods that are traditionally eaten on this day: dairy foods and spring/summer veggies and fruit. I’m talking foods such as cheesecakes and fresh green salads and gorgeous, ripe fruit. It’s a time of newness and of a re-commitment to learning and spirituality. I dream of hosting a huge picnic in a kibbutz sometime, the sun shining down upon my family and friends and eating salads and cakes until we feel we’re about to burst! One of the cakes I’ll be offering up during a meal this Shavuot is this gorgeous Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake. Not only does it lend itself to a beautiful presentation, it just so happens to taste good as well. A double threat, if you will.
Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake
Candied Orange Peel with Syrup Topping:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring sugar, honey, cardamom and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add orange slices.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, turning orange slices occasionally until tender and syrup is reduced to 3 1/4 cups, about 40 minutes.
3. Arrange orange slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; remove cardamom pods and seeds. Strain syrup.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover syrup and orange slices separately; chill. Return orange slices to room temperature and rewarm syrup slightly before using.
Ingredients for Cake
Directions for Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Place the butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine together the sugar and yogurt. Now add in the semolina, baking powder and milk. Finally stir in the melted butter and let the mixture sit briefly so that the butter is absorbed.
4. Transfer the semolina mixture into a lightly greased 9″-round cake pan or baking dish. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
5. Pierce the hot cake all over with a metal skewer. Slowly drizzle 3/4 cup warm syrup all over. When syrup is absorbed, slowly pour 3/4 cup more syrup over the top. Reserve remaining syrup for serving. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake. Remove pan sides. Arrange candied orange slices over top.
These farmer’s market pizzas take some of the most beautiful gems from the day’s trip to the market and highlight them for dinner. On a hot day, the pizzas can be made with just the toaster oven and on the grill to keep the house nice and cool. Zucchini is plentiful this time of year so, I took the traditional Southern Italian practice of drying zucchini and modified it to get all of the concentrated flavor without the hours of drying. The twist for these pizzas, especially the sweet one, is that they are white pizzas inspired by a classic Jewish treat: the blintz.
Farmer’s Market Pizza
Savory Pizza with Dried Zucchini
1. To dry the zucchini, first wash and slice it into 1/8 inch slices. Then line a baking pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle some Kosher salt over the paper and lay the zucchini over the salt. Sprinkle the top of the zucchini with salt as well. Let the zucchini rest in the salt for at least 30 minutes.
2. After 30 minutes, preheat your oven or toaster oven to 150° F. Rinse the zucchini slices well under a running tap and place them on a clean kitchen towel to pat dry. Then, place the zucchini on a tray covered with tin foil and let it dry out in the oven for about two hours. If you are short on time, you can raise the oven temperature a bit and let the zucchini dry out for a shorter time.
3. Once the zucchini are fairly dry, almost rubbery in texture, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle a teaspoon of dried oregano over them. Do NOT add salt, but do grind fresh pepper over the zucchini to taste.
4. Preheat your grill to high or preheat your oven to 450° F. Split your dough in half and create two oblong pizzas on oiled heavy-duty tin foil or on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. You can use a spray oil but I prefer to put a teaspoon of Canola oil on the foil and spread it with my hands or a paper towel. Partially bake the dough. This should take 10 minutes or so.
5. Remove the partially baked dough and prepare your cheese.
6. In a bowl, add the 7 1/2 oz of farmers cheese, squeeze 4 cloves of farmer’s market garlic through a garlic press (or mince), add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and then grate 4-6 Tbsp. of Parmesan to taste. Mix until uniform.
7. Spread the cheese on the two pizza crusts and then carefully arrange the zucchini slices over the cheese. Place back on the grill or in the oven until the cheese is heated through. Slice and serve.
Note: This pizza can be topped with any kind of squash, onions or other fabulous vegetables you find at the farmer’s market. Just prepare the vegetables by cooking them partially first in the oven or on the grill, then assemble the pizzas, heat and serve.
Sweet Farmer’s Market Blueberry Blintz Pizza
1. Prepare the dough as above, but before placing it to cook, brush water over the top of the dough and sprinkle with sugar.
2. Preheat your grill to high or preheat your oven to 450° F. Split your dough in half and create two round pizzas on oiled heavy-duty tin foil or on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. You can use a spray oil but I prefer to put a teaspoon of Canola oil on the foil and spread it with my hands or a paper towel. Partially bake the dough. This should take 10 minutes or so.
4. Top the partially cooked pizza crusts with the cheese mixture and return to the grill or oven until the cheese begins to melt slightly and is heated through.
5. Take the pizza off of the heat and top with fresh blueberries. Sprinkle the entire pizza with a dusting of powdered sugar and finish with a little bit more lemon zest.
Note: This pizza can be topped with pitted and sliced cherries, fresh berries and stone fruit that is not too juicy. If you are using stone fruit, I recommend grilling the stone fruit halves separately first and then slicing before topping the pizza.
Jewish tradition commemorated romance long before St. Valentine’s Day was established as a means to Christianize and tone down the revelry associated with the Pagan holiday of Lupercalia—a fertility festival. Tu B’Av was originally a minor holiday celebrated in Israel after the second Temple was built in 349 BCE and falls on July 31 this year. According to the Talmud, “the daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards and whoever did not have a wife would go there.” The vineyards would be outside the walls of Jerusalem away from the Temple Mount, an expression of joy away from the sadness of destruction.
In modern Israel, the holiday has been resuscitated. Girls dress in white, there is dancing on beaches and in fields, red roses are given and love songs are dedicated on the radio to the paramour’s love. Picnics and outdoor grilling are traditional much like our Fourth of July celebrations. Foods that can be served cold and transported easily are popular as well as simple grilled meats.
Here is a traditional Hungarian Cold Cherry Soup that can easily be transported in a thermos or container, is very simple to make, can be served as a first course or dessert, and is Pink, the color of love! So #ChooseLove by creating your own traditions as the full moon rises over your summer day on Tu B’Av and enjoy the people and activities you love. Snap some fun pictures and share them on our #ChooseLove gallery!
2. Remove 8 cherries for garnish. Set aside. Discard cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.
3. Pass the cherries and liquid through a food mill to puree. Alternatively, blend the mixture in a blender until mixture is fairly smooth. Return pureed soup to the pan. Add the almond extract (if using) and a pinch of salt. Re-heat soup on low heat while you make the Habaras.
4. In a 1 quart bowl, whisk the sour cream, confectioner’s sugar and flour together.
5. Whisk some of the hot soup into the sour cream mixture and then add all of the mixture back into the pot of soup. Simmer soup, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes or until thickened.
6. Cover surface of soup with plastic wrap to prevent a tough skin from forming on the top and chill. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and garnish with reserved cherries.
If you have the time, a cherry pitter, and an older child you could make this soup with fresh cherries. However, the attention span of most children under the age of 10 will lose interest before all cherries are pitted.
This soup is very easy to make and its flavor can be adjusted to a child’s palate by adding some almond extract and/or a little more sugar if necessary.
Sour cherries (the traditional type for this recipe) are very hard to find. However, the frozen, sweet variety is not that sweet and will adapt in any recipe calling for tart cherries.
Habaras is a traditional mixture that is used for thickening soups. The flour may be eliminated if you can’t eat gluten. Just add a few tablespoons more confectioner’s sugar as it helps thicken the soup because it contains three percent cornstarch.