This Rosh Hashanah is like no other. Masks, gloves and social distancing are the norm. Families are apart. Children are restless, and seniors are sad. Still, there is a collective coming together.
By: Ethel G. Hofman
For 40 years, Rosh Hashanah dinner at the Hofman house was the place to be. More than 30 or so family members and friends gathered at the long refectory table, with teens at a card table (the “kids” table) set up in the foyer. We dunked apple wedges in honey, praying for a sweet year ahead. I delighted in preparing everything—from my signature gazpacho, using the last of summer-ripened tomatoes, to the moist, rich honey cake. My late husband, Walter, conducted a celebration of thanks—prayers for a sweet upcoming year and memories of those no longer with us.
Growing up on the Shetland Islands, the Greenwalds—my family, the only Jews there—gathered with close friends. We celebrated each other’s holidays: Passover and Easter, Hanukkah and Christmas, and all the holidays in between. My mother adapted our friend’s fish and chicken dishes, while they added my mother’s recipes to theirs. In the United States, brisket is a standard dish on Rosh Hashanah tables. In Shetland, cows were for milk. Beef was expensive and seldom seen in butcher shops, so we never ate brisket, the traditional American High Holiday dish.
As for me, living solo, heeding precautions and hoping the weather holds, I plan to set up a table for four al fresco on my lawn. And this year, I wanted something different. Searching old recipe files, I came across the unbelievably easy recipe for Tomato Aspic—only two basic ingredients. Simple seasonings like Dijon mustard, pepper and salt pack a zesty jolt to the taste buds (you’ll never guess the base is lemon gelatin). Serve on salad greens with drizzled vinaigrette.
I’ve gussied up my mother’s simple salmon. Sheets of store-bought puff pastry make individual portions of Salmon Wellington, a lighter version of Beef Wellington. It can be prepared and baked an hour or so before serving, or prepare ahead as in the recipe tips below. My dark, moist honey cake recipe has been requested so many times that I had to include it, slightly revised. Chinese Five-Spice eliminates the need to measure out multiple spices while boosting tantalizing flavors, and all-purpose flour can be used instead of a combination of whole-wheat and all-purpose flours.
For an edible centerpiece, heap clementine oranges in a bowl and tuck in tiny bunches of black grapes. Or slice peeled blood oranges crosswise and scatter pistachios over top. And don’t forget the apples and honey, plus the traditional pomegranate. All recipes except the honey cake, which serves 12 to 15, can be doubled.
Shanah Tovah! May we see a return to a healthy and happy new normalcy in the coming year!
Tomato Aspic on Baby Arugula
Simple Salmon Wellington
Chicken Marsala With Artichokes
Moist, Dark Honey Cake With Foamy Wine Sauce
Tomato Aspic on Baby Arugula (Pareve)
*No mini-loaf pan? Any 2-cup container will do. Cut in wedges instead of slices.
*Instead of arugula, shred any salad greens.
*Tomato juice may be used instead of vegetable juice. Just add seasoning to taste.
*May be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
- 2 cups vegetable juice, divided
- 1 package (3-ounce) kosher lemon gelatin
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- baby arugula
- bottled vinaigrette dressing to sprinkle
Spray a mini-loaf pan or 2-cup bowl with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup vegetable juice to just boiling. Remove from heat.
Add the gelatin and still until completely dissolved.
Stir in the remaining 1 cup vegetable juice, mustard, pepper and salt. Pour into a prepared container. Chill in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours until firm.
To serve: Cut into slices, 1-inch thick. Arrange on a bed of arugula sprinkled with a vinaigrette dressing.
Simple Salmon Wellington (Pareve)
Makes 4 servings
*Substitute any other thick-fleshed fish, such as cod.
*Instead of asparagus, use any vegetable of choice, such as shredded spinach. If using thick asparagus, use 2 to 3 spears instead of 4 thin spears.
*Trim tough ends of asparagus spears before using.
*Substitute dried herbs, such as tarragon or parsley, for oregano.
*Cooked Salmon Wellington may be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and frozen. To serve it, thaw, unwrap and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 375 degrees. Cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly.
- 1 package, 2 sheets, (17.3 ounces) puff pastry, thawed
- 4 pieces salmon, 4-5 ounces each
- rice vinegar, Dijon-style mustard, freshly ground pepper, salt and oregano
- 12 thin asparagus spears
- 1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick baking spray.
Roll out each pastry sheet to approximately 12-inch square. Cut each square in half, so that there are four 12×6-inch rectangles.
To assemble: Place one fillet in the center of each rectangle. Sprinkle with rice vinegar. Spread thinly with mustard. Sprinkle with pepper, salt and oregano. Top with 3 asparagus spears. Brush edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Fold short edges of pastry over the salmon, then the long sides to completely enclose the salmon. Press to seal. Place on a prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Brush with beaten egg. With a sharp knife, cut two to three 1-inch slits on top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes until risen and nicely browned. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Chicken Marsala With Artichokes (Meat)
Makes 4 servings
*If chicken breasts are too thick (about 2 inches), slice crosswise in half or may use chicken tenderloins.
*Marsala is a fortified wine—i.e., a stilled spirit, usually with brandy added.
*A dark sherry, port or dry vermouth may be used instead of Marsala.
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon thyme
- 4 chicken breasts (1¾ to 2pounds), skinless and boneless
- 3 tablespoons margarine
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ½ cup Marsala
- 1 jar (12-ounce) artichokes, drained and halved
In a food storage bag (1-gallon size) toss the flour, pepper and thyme to mix.
Add the chicken breasts and coat completely with the flour mixture.
In a large heavy skillet, melt the margarine and oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts. Cook 5 to 7 minutes on each side until golden-brown.
Transfer to a dish and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the skillet. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes until softened.
Stir in the chicken broth and Marsala. Cook 5 to 7 minutes longer, until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Place the chicken breasts on top of the mushrooms. Top with artichokes. Reduce heat to simmer to heat through, 3 to 4 minutes longer.
To serve: Top each chicken breast with mushrooms and artichokes. Spoon gravy over top.
Moist, Dark Honey Cake (Pareve)
*Makes 4 mini loaves or 1 Bundt cake.
*Chinese Five Spice (OU) is a mixture of star anise, anise, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. If not found in supermarkets or specialty food stores, it can be purchased available online. *Substitute pumpkin-pie spice for Chinese Five-Spice.
*Leftovers may be tightly wrapped in foil and frozen.
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin-pie mix)
- ¾ cup molasses
- ½ cup honey, warmed
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon Chinese Five-Spice
- 1 teaspoon orange extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a Bundt pan (10-inch) with nonstick baking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and water to blend.
Add vegetable oil, pumpkin, molasses and honey. Mix well. Stir in the brown sugar with flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing well between each addition.
Add the baking soda, Chinese Five-Spice and orange extract (optional) with the last ½ cup of flour.
Spoon the batter into the Bundt pan.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire tray, so that it cooks completely. Slice and pass wine sauce to spoon over top.
Foamy Wine Sauce (Pareve)
Makes 1¼ cups
*Cardamom adds a distinct Middle Eastern flavor to this rich sauce. May also be used in cakes, cookies and fruit desserts.
*A tiny pinch each of cloves and cinnamon is the best option for a substitute.
*Add egg whites to omelets or scrambled eggs.
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- pinch ground cardamom
- ½ cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
In the top of a double boiler over medium heat, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and foamy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Whisk in lime juice and cardamom.
Add the wine in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring madly, until the mixture is thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Immediately remove from heat continuing to whisk for 1 minute longer.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Mixed-Berry Pudding (Pareve)
This is really a fruit-filled bread pudding, English-style. No cooking necessary! Make it ahead and serve topped with a scoop of nondairy yogurt.
*Use any combination of soft berries: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
*Challah bread is best but any sliced (½ to ¾-inch thick) white bread will do
*May add 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger to berries.
*Dry leftover bread to crisp it. Process the dried bread, season with salt and pepper, and store in an airtight container. Presto: seasoned breadcrumbs.
- 4 cups mixed ripe berries
- ½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar
- 8-10 slices white bread
Line a 3-cup bowl with plastic wrap leaving a 1- to 2-inch overhang. Set aside.
Rinse berries in a colander. Shake dry and spread out on a kitchen towel to drain. Pat with a paper towel.
Place in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar. Stir gently to mix. If needed, add more sugar to taste. Set aside.
With scissors or a sharp knife, cut 1 slice of bread into a circle to exactly fit the bottom of the bowl and set in place.
Trim 6 to 7 remaining slices into wedge shapes, approximately 1½ inches at the top and 1 inch at the bottom. Stand, narrow-end down, around the inner surface of the bowl, overlapping about ¼ inch. The inside of the bowl should be covered completely. Press lightly.
Ladle the berry mixture into the bowl.
Use enough remaining bread to cover. Cover with a plate and set a heavy weight on top. (I use a 28-oz. can of tomatoes.) Refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.
Turn out onto a serving dish.
Discard plastic wrap; cut in wedges and serve with nondairy frozen yogurt or whipped cream for a dairy meal.
Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.