Category Archives: Rosh Hashana
Rosh Hashana this year starts on a Wednesday night, and ends at sundown Friday night, which is when Shabbat begins. Observant Jews all over the globe will be closing down their connection with the outside world and turning inwards to family, community and God.
If you have ever been to Israel, whether you are Jewish or not, you have most probably visited the Kotel, the Western Wall. And whether it is your first time, or your 100th time, you probably every now and again leave a little note for God, stuffed in the cracks of the wall.
It’s a known constant in my life that man plans, God laughs. Yesterday I said in my Honey Honey blog post:
So I could leave you with a cute little video of buzzing bees or those singing worms in the apple wishing you a happy new year, but I won’t.
Wrong. Sort of.
It’s been a slow summer for me. I don’t do well in the humid heat of Ra’anana. I feel sluggish, ponderous, as sticky as thick honey. All that, and a bout of pneumonia last week, has left me full of ennui and it hasn’t helped the blogging much either. I haven’t been in much of a mood to cook, or to write about cooking. Pity this hasn’t extended to my appetite, that’s been as healthy as ever, in the most unhealthy of ways.
It took my friend Abby to get me out of my funk. Well, not totally out of it, just to nudge me a bit. She’s been asking me about Rosh Hashana menus. I haven’t really thought about the holiday yet, I mean, it’s not Rosh Hashana until next year…
I have been blessed with four of the most gorgeous, stunning daughters on the planet. This is not news, I’ve mentioned my girls before, but am always happy to marvel at God’s and my handiwork. Gorgeous they may be, good-hearted most assuredly, and skinny? My girls are skinny!
There are a few levels of man plans, God laughs here:
1) I used to be skinny. My mother used to say that I was hovering around ghetto weight (Warsaw, not Harlem). I was a picky eater as a child, but totally scarfed down the calories as a teen. A regular high school lunch would include two slices of pizza, half a felafel, both washed down with a large Tab (remember Tab?), a brownie from Heisler’s bakery and a cone from Baskin Robbin’s to eat on the way back to school. I never gained an ounce. My metabolism was freakishly fast until the age of 32, when I turned into an inflated lifeboat overnight. It’s as if God pulled the string and pffffffft!
2) I love to cook. Even more than that, I love to feed! What’s the use of cooking something if you can’t shtup it to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and strangers you meet at the bus stop? I must have been a French fois gras farmer in a previous life. God had a good giggle when he introduced me to the X. The man grew up on Jewish/Polish/English cuisine, meaning his mother’s overboiled, under-seasoned chicken, potatoes and wilted green stuff (the vegetables in that house were usually unidentifiable by the time they hit the plate, and actually, they weren’t very green by then as well). I would serve him a meal lightly seasoned with a few spices, he would take one bite and reach for the water glass, gasping, “Are you trying to kill me?”
3) The X passed his food genes on to my babies. I love to feed, they love to say “Don’t like!” Sassy, my oldest, can eat one lettuce leaf, push back her plate and say, “Thanks, I’m full.” Nomush is the vegetarian who hates vegetables. Tinky is my best eater, she will actually finish a whole plate of food (a small plate), but that will satisfy her for the rest of the week. Didi will come into the kitchen after Ju-Boy and I have filled the fridge and the larder with the weekly shopping, look at it all in disdain and say, “There’s nothing to eat in this house!”
I like to play in the kitchen, experimenting with different techniques, interesting foods, freaky recipes. One of the ways I get my picky progeny to eat a balanced diet is to sneak certain ingredients into their favorite dishes while they’re not looking. Kidney beans and brown rice can be cleverly disguised in a zhuzzed soup, especially if you bling up the bowl with croutons and grated cheese. Whizz up a few carrots in the food processor with the steel knife, hide them in the pasta sauce and the kids just might believe it’s bolognese. My lastest sneaky coup has been to hide (are you ready for this?) beets into chocolate cake. Strange but true! I found the recipe on a food blog called Yummy! byYemi (any blog with the word yummy in is has to be good).
Don’t overdo it with the beets. You want to enrich the cake, but too much pureed beet adds an earthy flavor to the chocolate, and you don’t want your cover blown.
I first tried this dessert on Rosh Hashana, as beets are one of the simanim. We don’t do the simanim thingy per se, but I try to incorporate them into the meal itself. I made the recipe into chocolate/beet cupcakes, and received the Hillalee Seal of Approval. Hilalee is Didi’s friend, and she’s the antithesis of Mickey from the Life Cereal commercial from the 70s. Hilalee doesn’t like or eat anything (she could be one of my kids). But she did like my mini beet chocolate cupcakes. And if Hilalee likes them, you might love them.
Pick Me Up Cake
Yemi calls this Pick Me Up Cake, which is a much more attractive name than Chocolate Beet Cake. We emailed back and forth a bit when I asked for the recipe, and she told me that she made it up herself! In her own words:
- 2 cups steamed beets
- 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons rice flour (or regular flour)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9 or 10 inch cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a blender puree the beets, and vanilla extract until smooth. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar for one minute with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs for about 5 minutes. Beat in the beets, until the mixture is nice and smooth.
- Stir in the contents of the small bowl containing the cocoa powder into the batter carefully until it is completely mixed in.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!
I can be a snob about many things. I am a coffee snob. I am a spice snob. I wish I could afford to be a saucepan snob. But one thing I am not is a food snob. Ju-Boy wonders at the fact that I can whip up something almost gourmet using the choicest juicy chunks of fresh Cornish ram’s bladder, emptied, steamed, flavoured with sesame seeds whipped into a fondue and garnished with lark’s vomit (10 points for guessing the source of that one), while at the same time using such mundane ingredients such as onion soup mix, ketchup and Coca Cola.
Yes, I cook with Coca Cola and I admit it. When I was a little girl my mother wouldn’t let me near the stuff, claiming it wasn’t good for me. She let me drink Hawaiian Punch instead (sold in lead cans). And when she finally caved into progeny pressure it was bottles of the local no-frills cola that appeared on the supper table, none of that heady stuff that came out of Atlanta.
I remember the first time she caught me pouring myself a glass of the stuff at breakfast. “Miraleh, are you meshugah? Drinking cola for breakfast? So unhealthy! Have a glass of milk instead, and pass me that can of Maxwell House coffee, please?”
Some Of The Joys Of Being An Adult
- Buying what’s in fashion, not what’s sensible
- Eating a tub of ice cream, on the couch, in front of the television
- Naptime, once dreaded, is now your friend
- Knowing what the words mean in that song
- Drinking Coke for breakfast!
I have a few vices, but the only one I will find hard to give up is my Diet Coke fix. I’ve quit smoking (so long ago most of my friends don’t even realize I ever did smoke). I probably could give up alcohol (but I don’t wanna). I have given up (at various times) coffee, dairy, meat, MSG and trashy novels. But I always cave when it comes to giving up that lovely, fizzy, artificial, sweet, heavenly cola.
Back to snobby cooking… at home we are now trying to cook healthily. That means buying more organic, less processed, fresher and tastier. But Rosh Hashana is coming around the corner (very fast), and one of my favorite things to cook, serve and eat is a tender brisket, slow cooked in the crock pot, swimming with artificial yumminess.
The original recipe was given to me yonks ago by a co-worker, Lea Bruce. It’s mine now…
You don’t need a crock pot for this, you could simmer it over low heat on top of the stove, or roast it in a slow oven.
Crock Pot Brisket
- 2 kilos (4 pounds) brisket (in Israel I use a #5 cut)
- 1/2 cup mustard (plain yellow is best, don’t get too pretentious with the Dijon)
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons onion soup mix
- 2 cups Coca Cola (don’t use the diet stuff unless it’s made with Splenda, not aspartime)
- salt, pepper and paprika to taste
- Place the brisket in the crock pot. You may have to cut it in half to fit.
- Mix all the remaining ingredients together and pour over the brisket.
- Cook on high for about 8 hours, or overnight on low.
- Let it cool down a bit before slicing.
I am not a spiritual Jew. I am a social Jew. If you happen to find me in shul (synagogue) on a Shabbat morning, you will see that I talk more to my friends than I do to God. No disrespect intended, honestly, but I will admit that I am not a fan of prayer… in shul, that is. I don’t connect with words written hundreds of years ago by some man with a beard who spent his days with the holy texts while his wife struggled to get Shabbat on the table. Now, if she had written these prayers I might feel more connected.
It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I do. How can you not look at nature and see God in the details? I see God in my four beautiful daughters. I see God in music, in solar eclipses, even in evolution. There is no way that something as twisted as the human race evolved on its own from the muck, we had help. And God certainly has a sense of humor, don’t you agree?
While I do believe in God, my belief is limited to the fact that once he set up the game of Life, he didn’t hang around to play much. I think there’s something more interesting out there than the likes of us. But just because I don’t think he’s listening, that doesn’t mean I still don’t talk to him. I have my chats with God every day, with the hope that at some point he’s going to pick up his messages. In my mind, life on Earth is just a macro set to run until God sees fit to check up on us. He helps those who help themselves, so my chats with God aren’t so much prayers asking for something, but rather little personal updates, verbal thank you cards, and sometimes a letter of complaint or a note in the Suggestion Box.
So this Rosh Hashana you really won’t see me hanging out much in shul. I’d rather give my seat to someone who wants it, who needs the connection via the words written in the machzor. I’ll be at home having a cup of coffee with the Big Guy, I’ve got my dialogue worked out already.
Rosh Hashana Honey Cake
One of the proofs of God’s existence has got to be honey. A whole colony of buzzing bees work so hard to bring us such wonderful yummy sweetness. Yes, I know there are quite a few people out there who don’t like honey and, even worse, hate honey cake. God makes all kinds…
The original recipe comes from Ruth Sirkis, doyenne of Israeli cookbooks. I’ve been making this honey cake every single Rosh Hashana since 1983.
- 3 teaspoons instant coffee
- 1 cup hot water
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey (about 12 ounces)
- 1/3 cup oil (not olive, use soy or canola)
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I leave this out)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (I usually use nutmeg)
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).
- Get a baking pan with a 7 cup capacity. Grease lightly and set it aside. You could also use parchment paper, my favorite trick.
- Prepare a strong cup of coffee with the hot water and the instant coffee. Let it cool down a bit so it’s not boiling.
- Separate the eggs. Put the yolks into a big mixing bowl and the whites into a medium one.
- Beat the yolks with the sugar until creamy.
- Add the oil, then the honey, beating after each addition. Beat until the mixture is totally smooth and creamy.
Sift the flour and combine with the salt, baking powder, baking soda and the spices.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture alternately with the coffee, stirring with a spatula or a wooden spoon. Do NOT use and electric mixer for this one. Stir only until all the ingredients are well blended, do not overmix.
- Clean and dry the mixer beaters. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and can hold their shape. Don’t overbeat the whites or you will end up with little islands of egg white that will never be blended into the batter.
- Add one third of the beaten whites at a time to the batter. Fold in gently until the batter is smooth.
- Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 80 to 90 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out dry and clean. This cake keeps really well. In fact, it gets better with a little aging, so bake it several days ahead.
I can’t bake this cake without remembering way back in 1986 when I was still in my baby-induced coma. Nomush has just had her first birthday and suddenly Sassy was so grown up at the age of 2 and one month. I decided to let her help me make the honey cake while Nomush took her nap. I lifted my little helper up on to the counter and she was thrilled to be able to stir the batter. I was so proud of myself, thinking I was training my sweet little angel to make honey cake at the age of two. And then (man plans, God laughs) my little angel took the measuring cup, dipped it into the sink full of dishes soaking in soapy water, and poured a cup of that stuff into the batter….