Rosh Hashanah/Harvest Dinner

Vegetarian Rosh Hashanah Feast

One of the many reasons why I love not having a religion is being able to celebrate a variety of holidays and traditions via food. My Jewish friends tell me that Rosh Hashanah is one of the better eating holidays (compensating for Yom Kippur, a week later, at which there is no eating whatsoever).

Celebrating the New Year at harvest time doesn’t make a lot of sense, but more so than in the dead of winter. For one thing, produce is at its most bounteous and delicious. Most kids head back to school in September, which retains a fresh-start quality for many adults as well. A friend of mine, an autistic man in his late 70s, still refers to the Tuesday after Labor Day as the start of the new term.

At this time of new beginnings and transitions and overflowing farmers markets, gorging on produce seems like the obvious choice to get things off to a good start.

To be honest, my Harvest/Rosh Hashanah dinner was not one of my more resounding successes. I think this was because I followed recipes instead of my instincts. But we can all learn from my mistakes. I served these dishes with fresh zucchini strips and hummus with hot sauce.

Moroccan Chard

Chard in the wok

Chard in the wok

I used this recipe by culinary queen Joan Nathan. The flavor was okay, but it came out squishy and stringy, every kid’s worst vegetable nightmare. It would have been better had I done it this way.

I should have used

  • Two large bunches of chard, chopped into bite size chunks
  • Two cloves of garlic, diced
  • Vegetable or corn oil

For the sauce

  • A quarter cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest from two large lemons
  • Two or three hot peppers, according to taste
  • Half a bulb of garlic, peeled
  • Two teaspoons of cumin
  • One teaspoon of coriander
  • Salt and pepper

Here’s what I should have done

Blend all of the sauce ingredients in a small food processor or blender. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan until it’s very hot, but not smoking (smoking oil=cancer). Add the garlic. In batches, sauté the chard for no more than two minutes, adding more vegetable oil as needed. Pour the sauce over the chard to barely coat (make sure to save what you’ll need for the other batches!) and sauté for another minute or so.  Use tongs to transfer the cooked chard from the pan into a bowl. It should be hot, but still crunchy; slightly wilted, but still green and leafy. Serve immediately.

Vegan Purple Potatoes

My original intention was to showcase zucchini, which is perfect right now. I found a recipe for mashed potatoes and zucchini on It was okay, but the texture was soupy and weird. It would have been way better had I skipped the zucchini and used carrots instead. Fortunately, the seasonings I used were delicious.

I should have used

  • A pound and a half of unpeeled purple potatoes (or any other color peeled)
  • A pound of carrots
  • Three cloves of diced garlic
  • A bunch of tarragon, lemon thyme, lemon basil or any combination, diced
  • A half a cup of olive oil
  • Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Here’s what I should have done

Chop the potatoes and carrots and boil them in salted water until they are nice and tender. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil on very low heat and gently sauté the garlic. You can also add some minced onion and hot peppers if you want. Add the vinegar just when the garlic begins to brown and let it reduce for a few minutes. Add the herbs at the very end. Drain the potatoes and carrots and add the oil-garlic mixture. Mash as usual. Add more olive oil or some soy or almond milk until you get the texture you like. Look, purple and orange! Beautiful!

Would You Like Some Plums with Your Brandy Cake

Brandy Plum Cake

Brandy Plum Cake

Brandy is not something I have ever bought in my life. I have a bottle of Georgian (as in the country) cognac in my cupboard only because my friend Shelley brought it back to me last year. It is essential for the deliciousness of this cake.

I used this recipe by Melissa Clark from The New York Times. You can too, with a few tweaks: Definitely ignore the part about whole wheat flour; it made for a heavy and tough cake. White cake flour is the way to go. Other than that, follow the directions as written (especially the part about the brandy), but skip the Demerara sugar at the end. I will say this: My kitchen smelled amazing while it was in the oven. When it came out, everything looked okay; but even then, I could tell the cake was going to be dry and probably bland. So I melted half a stick of butter on the stove and dissolved a quarter of a cup of sugar in it. Then I took it off the heat and added, oh, quite a bit of brandy. Say half a cup? Three quarters? I put it in the fridge to thicken, while the cake cooled. After an hour or so, I poured it over the top of the cake and let it soak for at least an hour. The cake is delicious, moist and alcoholic. And the plums on top are beautiful.

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One Response to Rosh Hashanah/Harvest Dinner

  1. Pingback: Drink Mixer – Finally, the plum cake

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