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By Molly Yeh
I enjoy being a Chinese Jew.Â I eat plenty of matzah balls and potstickers and I get to celebrate three New Years.
Iâ€™ve often had to convince people that Iâ€™m Jewish, which is amusing and usually results in a new friend feeling like they can connect with me better due to a shared religion. Other than that, I canâ€™t say I really thought about what it meant to Chinese and Jewish while I was growing up.
I recently movedÂ out to rural North Dakota with my Norwegian husband, population six Jews and about 10,000 Scandinavian descendants. Things are quiet here, people are Midwestern nice, and the small town life is pretty darn wonderful.
For the first time in my life, I feel a bit like an oddball, in a sea of light-haired Lutherans, but people embrace me when I introduce them toÂ challah. North Dakotans love challah! And I love their food too, like Lefse and dessert bars of all sorts.
All of my challah here is homemade. As are my latkes, kugel, matzah ballsâ€¦ you get the picture. Thereâ€™s not a deli in sight. Not even a bagel. I do miss bopping down to Zabarâ€™s for babka and bagels, but on the other hand, with the necessity to make everything from scratch comes the opportunity to put my own spin on things and mash up my Chinese/Jewish/Midwesternness.
Brisket in my potstickers, ginger sugar beet latkes, egg rolls with home cured pastrami from a cow that Iâ€™ll one day raiseâ€¦
Iâ€™m getting carried away.
But this recipe is me in bread form! Chinese, Jewish and pretty doughy, whether I can help it or not. Inspired by the scallion pancake, here is an Asian twist on my all-time favorite challah.
Scallion Pancake Challah
Makes one large loaf
Basic challah dough
Based on Food 52â€™s Recipe
Filling and Topping
1. Â In a small bowl, proof yeast in 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 1 tsp. of sugar.
2. While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp. of sugar in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup of water, honey, oil and eggs.
4. Once yeast has finished proofing, add it to the flour, followed by the wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon until dough becomes too thick to stir. Empty dough onto well-floured surface and knead by hand. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.
5. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let rise for about two hours, or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Divide dough into three equal parts and then roll each part into a 1-foot log. Gently flatten each log so that it is about 3 inches wide.
8. Brush each with toasted sesame oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and scallions. Roll them up lengthwise like a jellyroll, and then braid.
9. Place the loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and black pepper.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the challah is cooked through.
Potato kugel is always a hit at holiday meals. Traditionalists enjoy simple potato kugel like their grandmothers used to make, but even so there are debates about whether the kugel should be crunchy and light or soft and compressed. This particular version has a pumpkin custard-like topping and is a mix of sweet and savory. You end up with a little crunch around the edges and a soft filling in the middle. It also lends itself to experimentationâ€”add cumin or zaâ€™atar for Middle Eastern flavors, or turmeric or garam masala for an Indian-inspired version.
Potato and Pumpkin Kugel
1.Â Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Â Peel onion and potatoes and coarsely grate with a box grater over a clean kitchen towel.Â (Here,Â I used 3 small potatoes as one large potato.)
3.Â Over the sink or a bowl, squeeze the towel of grated mixture as hard as you can to extract as much liquid as possible.
4.Â Add 2 Â˝ Tbsp. oil to a deep pie plate. Put the plate in the oven to heat.
5.Â Add onion and potato mixture to a bowl. Sprinkle with starch, salt and Â˝ tsp. pepper.
6.Â Make a well in the middle of the mixture and crack one egg into it. Beat the egg with a fork and mix well.
7.Â Remove the pie plate from the oven, scooping out Â˝ Tbsp. hot oil. Set aside.
8.Â With a fork, add the potato mixture to the pie plate. Build up the sides of the pie plate to form a crust. (If you like lots of crunchy potato, make your sides wide.) Drizzle remaining hot oil on top.
9.Â Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until edges begin to brown.
10.Â Mix pumpkin purĂ©e with evaporated milk. Add remaining eggs, cinnamon and sugar.
11.Â With a measuring cup or ladle, pour pumpkin mixture into potato pie until it reaches the top of the potato edges. (Any extra mixture can be used to make sweet pumpkin flan!)
12.Â Add remaining Â˝ tsp. pepper and additional spice, if using, to pumpkin mixture, stirring lightly with a fork to prevent overflow.
13.Â Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If the edges begin to get too dark, cover with foil; the moisture from the pumpkin should help it stay crisp.
14.Â To make sweet pumpkin flan, add 3 Tbsp. sugar to leftover pumpkin mixture. Pour into oven-safe ramekins and bake for 30 minutes.
15.Â After removing kugel from oven, let cool slightly and serve with sour cream.
When the Jewish New Year arrives, people often wish their family and friends a â€śsweet and fruitful New Year.â€ť Because the holiday occurs rightÂ atÂ 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 (â€śSepharadâ€ť means â€śSpainâ€ť in Hebrew), and especially Turkish Jews, have another custom: dulce de manzana.
Dulce de manzana meansÂ â€śsweet of the apple,â€ťÂ 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 andÂ the apples donâ€™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 wonâ€™tÂ end up with applesauce!
DULCE de MANZANA
1.Â Place the sugar and water in a 3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
2.Â 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.Â 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.Â While mixture is cooking, toast the almonds in a 350F oven for 4 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside.
5.Â 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.
I absolutely love Rosh Hashanah and all things High Holiday season. I love fall weather, and I love the changing leaves and a bit of crisp in the air (though having lived in Miami and then Los Angeles for the last five years, I do miss the actual crisp in the air). Rosh Hashanah has been my favorite holiday ever since I was a little kid growing up in Atlanta. But it wasnâ€™t until I learned how to really cook that Rosh Hashanah cemented itself in my heart as a culinary holiday. As I learn more and more about the holidays, I gain a better understanding of just how connected Jewish holidays are to the earth, the season and the harvest for that season. The recipe in this post is a testament to my commitment to honor the fruits and vegetables of the season. Roasted cauliflower and sweet potato is one of my go-to recipes for a quick, healthy and flavorful side dish on any Shabbat dinner table. But I wanted to jazz things up a bit, so I added some roasted garlic and perfectly ripe figs to balance the saltiness of the tahini. Whether youâ€™re hosting a bunch of family this holiday season or feasting alone, do yourself a favor and try this dish. Itâ€™s great as a hot side or as a topping on a salad the next day. Enjoy!
Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato with Figs and Tahini
2.Â Spread the cauliflower florets and sweet potatoÂ in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric. Using a spatula, mix the cauliflower and sweet potato to spread the oil and spices around.
3.Â Place garlic cloves and remaining olive oil on a small piece of aluminum foil. Wrap garlicÂ and oil in the foil so no oil can escape. Place foil in the corner of the baking sheet holding the veggies.
4.Â Place baking sheet in the oven and bake roughly 40 minutes, or until cauliflower and sweet potato are crispy on the edges.
5.Â Meanwhile, prepare the tahini by adding the tahini paste, lemon, kosher salt and garlic
6.Â Once vegetables are done, let cool for 5 minutes (make sure to open the foil of garlic and let it cool as well). Place all veggies and sliced figs on a serving dish and drizzle with tahini. Serve with an additional topping of cilantro or parsley, if desired.
Challah for the Jewish New Year is specialâ€”round to celebrate the circle of life and sweet (typically with raisins) in the hope of a sweet year. For the occasion, I make what I call my cinnamon roll challah, with rum-soaked raisins (an homage to Italian desserts featuring rum) and a pretty swirl of brown sugar and cinnamon inside.
Rosh Hashanah Cinnamon Roll Challah with an Italian Twist
Recipe reprinted with permission from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life
Yield: Two large loaves. (Dairy with butter or Pareve with margarine or oil.)
1.Â Coat a large bowl with cooking spray or olive oil and set aside.
2.Â Heat rum in the microwave or on stovetop until hot. Pour over raisins to submerge them completely. Let stand about 10 minutes. Drain and discard the rum and pat the raisins dry. Set aside.
3.Â Dissolve the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl, about five minutes. Mix in the sugar, three whole eggs and the one egg white, butter and vanilla. Stir in 2Â˝ cups of the flour and the salt, and combine well. Then add 2Â˝ more cups of flour and mix well. Add additional flour as needed to form a cohesive dough.
4.Â Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Press the dough into a large thick disk, and insert a handful of the raisins, spaced apart. Fold the dough over the raisins and flatten again; continue inserting raisins this way until all are incorporated and well distributed.
5.Â Place the dough in the oiled bowl, then lift out, turn over, and place it (oiled side up) back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1Â˝ to 2 hours.
6.Â Uncover the dough and press down on the middle to deflate. Cover and let rest for a few minutes.
7.Â Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare the filling by stirring together the brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla extract and the melted butter or margarine.
8.Â Divide the dough in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover. Place the other half on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a large rectangle, about 20 inches long by 9 to 10 inches wide. Brush a thin layer of the butter over the dough. Then sprinkle with half the brown sugar mixture.
9.Â Starting at one long edge of the dough, roll it (jelly-roll style) gently but firmly to the other edge. Press the seam and ends to seal. Gently pull and roll this log until it is about 24 inches long, keeping the original thickness on one end and gradually narrowing the other end. Twine the narrow end around the larger end to make a large pinwheel. Press the loose end to seal. Gently press down on the top of the entire loaf to level it.
10.Â Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Prepare the egg wash by lightly beating the reserved egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water to combine. Brush on shaped loaves. Gently cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes, until nearly doubled. Halfway through the rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
11.Â Bake for 20 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 15 to 18 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped (the interior should be between 185 and 190 degrees). Some of the sugar mixture might seep out and create a sweet undercrust, which I consider ideal. Serve the same day or freeze.
Marcia Friedman is the author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. She continues to write about her journey and the intersection of Jewish and Italian food at meatballsandmatzahballs.com.
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 itâ€™s worth the time and money to buy the squash already peeled and cubed. You might have to cut some of the chunksÂ into smallerÂ piecesÂ if theyâ€™re too large, but otherwise this is a fast and easy dish to make. You donâ€™t even have to peel the apples!
Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1.Â Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Â Cut onion in half and slice each piece crosswise into Â˝-inch strips. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
3.Â 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.Â 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.Â Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and serve.
Teiglach is an eastern European confection most closely associated with Rosh Hashanah. It was often served for festive occasions such as a wedding, bar mitzvah or bris and in some communities during Shavuot or Simchat Torah because Torah is often equated with honey.
Teig in Yiddish means dough and Lach at the end of a word signifies small. Therefore Teiglach are little balls of baked dough submerged in honey syrup and then mixed with dried or candied cherries or raisins and some nuts (usually almond or hazelnut).
Once readily available in bakeries in large Jewish communities throughout North America, this confection is rapidly disappearing, so whether you were raised Jewish or not, this treat may be new to you. Not to worry if your own family doesn’t have the recipe; Teiglach is easy to make!
Even small children can help make the dough because no electric equipment is required and children enjoy rolling the dough into â€śsnakesâ€ť while you can rapidly complete the task. However, children MUST NOT be involved with making the honey syrup, as the high temperature will certainly burn them if they accidentally touch the syrup before it cools. They can watch from afar and measure the awaiting dried fruit and nuts, but an adult must work alone while making the syrup and mixing all of the ingredients together.
The Teiglach may be served in a large pyramid or a few coated balls spooned into little paper cups. It is meant to be eaten with the fingers, pulling the balls off one by one and definitely licking oneâ€™s fingers afterwards!
1. Â Preheat the oven to 375Â°F.
2. Â In a small bowl, combine the eggs, oil, water and vanilla and beat with a fork or whisk until light and combined. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, ginger and baking powder.
3. Â Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until well combined.
4. Â Knead with your hands for a few minutes until dough is smooth and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
5. Â Roll out small balls of dough into long 1/2-inch wide snakes and cut into 1/3 inch pieces. Roll dough pieces briefly in your hands to make balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely or freeze until later use.
6. Â When you are ready to complete recipe, combine the honey, sugar, orange zest and ginger in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the teiglach balls, nuts and cherries or raisins to the honey mixture and stir to coat well. Place in a pie plate or individual tart tins mounded to form a pyramid.
In New England, beets give red flannel hash its sweetness and beautiful pink color. The sweet beets contrast with the salty meat (usually leftover corned beef). This recipe uses apples and honey for sweetness. Instead of the traditional Irish corned beef, the meat in this recipe is a Jewish deli staple: Pastrami. Apples and honey at Rosh Hashanah are usually enjoyed at the end of a meal inÂ a sweet treat like honey cake, or served simply for dipping apples into honey. This twist lets you start your day with some apples and honey for a heartyÂ breakfast.
Apples and Honey Pastrami Hash
1. Â Start by prepping the ingredients. You will want a bowl with salt and water for theÂ diced potatoes and a bowl with juice of 1/2 the lemon and water for theÂ apples. Peel theÂ potatoes and then slice and dice them into a small dice until you have 2 cups of potatoes. Place the diced potatoes into the salted water.
2. Â Peel and slice your apples the same way. Put the apples into the acidulated water (the lemon water). In a pan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the canola oil. While the oil heats up, drain the potatoes and dry them on a kitchen towel. Toss the potatoes into the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until browned.
3. Â While the potatoes brown, dice 1/2 of the onion. Once the potatoes are browned, set them aside in a bowl. Add a little more oil to the pan (2-3 tsp.) and toss in the diced onions. Cook over medium-low heat.
4. Â Drain the apples. Once the onions start to become transluscent, add the apples. Cook for a few minutes together, then add 1 generous tablespoon of honey. Stir and cook together until the apples are soft but keep their shape. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set the apple, honey and onion mixture aside in a bowl and wash the pan or wipe it down so you don’t burn the honey that is left behind.
5. Â Dice the pastrami to a small dice, the same size as the potatoes and apples. Add 2-3 tsp. of oil to your pan. Brown the diced pastrami. Once the pastrami has browned on all sides (or close enough), toss in the potatoes and the apple mixture. Season the entire hash with some salt and pepper. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne if you want another level of spice.
6. Â If you have been using a cast iron pan, you can put the entire pan in the oven to keep it warm while you fry up the eggs. I think sunny side up eggs are the best way to top the hash, but it can be topped with an egg any way your family likes them. Put the hash on four plates, then top with an egg, sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the egg, and serve.
Have a sweet new year!