Sunday evening at sundown will mark the beginning of Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year 5773. Despite lofty aspirations to have all menu planning, shopping and some cooking completed early, I will be rushing around at the last minute to prepare for our annual gathering.
With that in mind, I thought it possible that some of you, with the busy school year underway, might be in the same situation. So in order to get my brain (and yours) engaged in the process, I offer you some recipes, tips, and tricks to make your last minute rush to prepare a little less frantic.
If brisket is front and center in your Rosh Hashanah menu, then both of my posts on brisket are tried and true methods that will not disappoint hungry, temple-weary eaters. And remember, brisket can be prepared several days in advance or even be frozen.
Rather serve chicken? Try this simple, unique recipe from the 2009 issue of BonAppetit using roasted grapes and shallots with a whole chicken. I have prepared this many times with both chicken pieces and a whole chicken. The flavor of the grapes, shallots and thyme mingled with the chicken juices is intoxicating. And this past Sunday at the farmer’s market, grapes were still front and center, clearly still in season (at least in California) so it would be easy to obtain the necessary ingredients.
Carol Sacks of the blog InMediasRecipe suggested I consider a grain-based dish to satisfy @dormantchef ‘s new no-meat diet and any other guests who also favor a vegetarian meal. Her version of a Melissa Clark Cook This Now recipe of Bulgur with Roasted Squash and Apples might be the perfect choice for an evening marked by the sweetness of apples and honey.
Apples and Honey
Speaking of which, apples and honey is the simplest of appetizers or desserts to offer but why not add some interest by trying a new variety of apple from the farmer’s market or even a local raw honey in a flavor you’ve never tried before. Still just as simple to serve but perhaps a chance to experience some flavors and textures you’ve never had before.
If you aspire to bake your own, I’ve made Marcy Goldman’s Bread Machine Challah from her book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking a few times with great success. She also has a recipe for Sweet Round Raisin Challah that I found on torah.org.
But if baking is just not realistic, Trader Joe’s usually carries some excellent challah and if you check other local stores like Whole Foods or your nearest bakery, you might find they are carrying the special round loaves as well.
Traditional sweet noodle kugels with or without cheese (depending on your desire to keep the meal strictly kosher) are always a welcome side dish, especially for any picky kid eaters in the mix. Our friends always make a striking version using peaches, instead of the oft-used apple. It is both beautiful to look at as well as stunning to eat. The surprise of the peach in contrast to the expected sweet, chewy, and creamy cheese and noodle mixture is a welcome complement to the dish. Though I have yet to extract the exact recipe from them, here is one I found that sounds like a reasonable facsimile (except substitute fresh peaches for the canned ones)
And another kugel suggestion – this one in from a reader I met in my comments section – it uses pears but could just as easily incorporate apples or peaches. It’s a pear noodle kugel from Mindy Trotta, a blogger based on the east coast – Thanks Mindy!
Last year’s gathering was a wonderland of dessert choices. The classic choice is a honey cake or an apple cake. But think about short cuts – poached apples (which will be this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe) would be an easy make ahead option. Or throw together an apple strudel by using puff pastry – a quick and easy way to prepare a hot-out-of-the-oven dessert without much advanced preparation.
I hope these ideas turn your rush into Rosh Hashanah into a calmer, peaceful, sweet start to the new year. What’s your best tip for preparing for a family gathering on short notice?