Putting together a successful Rosh Hashanah dinner can be daunting.
It’s not that I don’t love the holidays, and you must know that I love to cook, bake and also potchke around my kitchen and in my dining room.
For my holiday dinners, I have to prepare almost every dish three times. I do this because the majority of the 23 or so family and guests at my table eat a regular diet, but there are four people who are vegetarians and one person who must eat a special diet void of acidy foods like onion, tomato and citrus, and free of any type of spice, such as pepper, wasabi or chili.
On this diet, most fruits are not allowed, save pears, melon and a few berries, and although there is a bigger range of vegetables allowed, various vegetables are excluded as well, including radish, asparagus and sweet peppers.
I do not have much to work with in this case, but I manage to create dishes using herbs and imagination that are tasty and never bland.
I always start my Rosh Hashanah preparation well ahead of the holiday. First, I get going with the soups. I own two extra-large stockpots and several very large stockpots as well. I make my regular chicken stock in the first extra-large pot, the special acid/spice-free chicken stock in the second, and in one of the very large pots, I make a vegetable stock.
Any baking that can be done ahead of time and frozen is also taken care of. I traditionally prepare my apple flan and a pear flan, chocolate applesauce cake and chocolate pear sauce cake, confetti honey cake and mandelbrot. Everything freezes well. I have two large upright freezers, one for bread, cakes and fruit, and one for meat and prepared dishes.
About two days before the holiday, I make coleslaw, gefilte fish loaves, and then noodle kugels and potato kugels, both baked once and ready to be baked again before serving. This not only heats the kugels, but really crisps them up nicely. Everything gets wrapped very well and is stored in my second fridge in my basement.
Next I prepare sweet and sour meatballs, veggie meatballs and herb meatballs. The day before the holiday, I work on a chicken dish that gets marinated overnight. I either choose a marinade that has ingredients acceptable to everyone who eats chicken or I make two different chicken dishes. Then I prepare a veggie loaf.
On the day of the first dinner, my cousin brings her famous brisket and roast potatoes. I choose assorted vegetables that everyone can eat, and depending on the weather, they may be grilled on the barbeque or steamed in the kitchen. They are prepared and seasoned with herbs and olive oil, so that any way they are cooked they will be delicious. I also make vegetable wontons for the soup.
When my mother arrives, she brings extra-large challahs, one plain and two raisin. These delicious challahs are our “raison d’être.” Mom helps me set the tables and put out the breads and condiments, pickles, chrain, margarine, honey and apples. We place a miniature wrapped chocolate on each plate, as a wish for a sweet year.
I always make a dip that’s friendly to everyone along with a salad dressing. When my middle brother and his family arrive, they bring a wonderful assortment of crudités and salads. It doesn’t hurt that my brother is the general manager of a firm that prepares vegetables and salads for restaurants and institutions. When everyone else arrives, I usually serve the veggies and dip in the kitchen. Then the fun begins, heating everything up! By now, everyone seems to be in the kitchen. Three pots go onto the stove to heat up the soups and then the ovens are preheated. Thank goodness I have a double oven. There is a parade bringing dishes up from the downstairs fridge. The microwave has never sees so much action, appliances are beeping, doors are opening and closing and the kitchen gets very warm.
Plates of fish are prepared and garnished with parsley for those who eat fish. The coleslaw and salads are on the table to satisfy those who can’t. Next the soups are served – one wonton or two? As the remaining dishes are heated, they are sent out to the dining room to be passed around. No one ever goes home hungry!
GLAZED APPLE FLAN
10-in. spring form pan
10 in. circle of parchment paper
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1-2 tbsp. lemon zest
4-6 tbsp. ice water
In food processor combine all ingredients until blended. Slowly add water until dough forms a ball. Place dough in pan and press down firmly on bottom and up the sides.
8-10 large firm apples (e.g. Granny Smith)
4 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
juice from the lemon that had the zest removed
Without cutting the apples in half, core and peel apples and place in bowl of water with lemon juice. Slice apples in half lengthwise then each half into very thin slices. Remove smaller pieces from each end.
Starting in the centre of the pastry-lined pan, pack sliced apples as tightly as possible in a row, continuing until apples reach each side. Make an additional row on each side of the centre row until the pan is filled. Remember to pack the apples very closely together. Use small pieces of apple fill in any areas that are left empty.
Sprinkle sugar over the apples and then dot with butter or margarine. In a preheated 400-degree oven, bake flan for 75 minutes.
Cool to room temperature before removing from pan. Use parchment to help glide the flan to a serving plate. Flan can be wrapped and frozen at this stage.
1/2 cup seedless jam, apricot, cherry or red currant
2 tbsp. liqueur: Grand Marnier for the apricot jam or kirsch brandy for cherry jam or red currant jam.
In microwave, heat jam until liquid and add the liqueur. With a pastry brush or small spoon, cover the apples with the glaze, letting the liquid run between the apples and the pastry. Cool before serving.
1 cup sugar
8 oz. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups ground almonds
3 1/2 – 4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350. Mix wet ingredients by hand, in mixer or in a food processor. Add dry ingredients and almonds and combine. Divide the dough into three sections. On a floured surface, depending on the size of mandelbrot pieces you want, form 2-4 logs (adding more flour if necessary, making logs not sticky, but not dried out). Place the logs on parchment-covered baking sheet(s) and flatten the top slightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 until lightly golden, and baked through. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes.
Carefully remove each log to a cutting board and, with a very sharp knife, slice each log on an angle into individual slices. Place slices back onto the parchment-covered baking sheet(s) on their sides and sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Reduce oven temperature to 250 and toast the mandelbrot slices for 2-1/2 hours until completely dry all the way through. Cool and store in airtight container for one week. The mandelbrot freezes well in a Tupperware-type container.