Apples and Honey Cake
(Annabel Cohen)

A taste of things to come.

With each new year, we express our hopes for the next.

This year has been … challenging. Gatherings are distant and limited in so many ways. Still, many have figured out ways to make it work. And so it is with the High Holidays. While we can virtually pray; we cannot virtually eat. Somehow, we have figured out how to gather more safely. And families are beginning to eat together again.

Throughout Jewish history, the food we eat with loved ones is our tangible symbol for hopes and desires. Just as we require food to live, we require ethics and principles to flourish.

The most elementary association of food with religion is of the symbolic dipping of challah and apple slices into honey. It translates literally into sweetness and bounty. Heads of fish are long thought to symbolize the head of the year as well as the notion that one should have a future that’s the “tops.” Pomegranates with their abundant seeds — as well as many other types of seeds — symbolize mitzvot (may you have as many as there are seeds).

And it’s why we eat honey cake and tzimmes and other sweet foods.

This year, when we recite the Musaf prayers at Rosh Hashanah, with its messages of kingliness and remembrances, and with the blowing of the shofar, we infuse it with hopes for a better year to come. We deserve it!

CHICKEN WITH RAISINS AND FIGS

Figs, because of their many seeds, are perfect for the holiday. May you have as many mitzvot as there are seeds.

  • ½ cup tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of visible fat
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups white wine, not too sweet
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers, or to taste
  • 16 dried figs, cut in half lengthwise
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • Chicken broth or stock, as needed
  • ½ cup plus chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • Lemon slices, garnish

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, prepare the chicken. 

Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken in the flour and shake gently to remove excess flour. Place the breasts in the hot skillet (you may have to do this in batches), and brown lightly on both sides. 

Place all the breasts back in the skillet and pour the wine over. Bring the wine to a boil, reduce heat and cook the chicken until the wine is reduced and the sauce is slightly thickened. Add the figs and raisins, salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice.

Sprinkle capers and cilantro or parsley over the chicken, turning the chicken occasionally so it’s covered in sauce. Serve hot with sauce spooned over the chicken and lemon slices over the breasts. You can make this up to one day ahead of time and reheat, covered at 250ºF for one hour; you may need to add chicken broth or water to the sauce if necessary. Makes 8 servings.

FIVE-INGREDIENT NOODLE KUGEL

Don’t be turned off by the few ingredients in this dairy kugel. It’s delicious and has all the basics. If you want to add extras, go ahead. One cup of golden raisins, one cup of apricot preserves a little cinnamon on top or a well-drained can of crushed pineapple or a cup or two of minced apples wouldn’t hurt.

  • 1 pound wide egg noodles dry, cooked al dente
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the kugel ingredients and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake, uncovered for 45-60 minutes, or until golden and the custard is set. Cut into squares and serve. Makes 20 servings.

BALSAMIC BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH APPLES
  • 2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed and halved if large
  • 2 large granny smith apples, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups peeled red or Bermuda onion chunks
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic glaze or vinegar, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking dish with foil or parchment. Set aside.

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and toss well. 

Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Cook in the oven uncovered (roast) for about 30 minutes. Arrange on a serving dish and serve hot, warm or at room temperature drizzled with balsamic vinegar or glaze. Makes 8 servings. 

PUREED CARROT SOUP

My mother made a version of this soup for as long as I can remember. This recipe is the first soup I made when I was in high school. It’s basic and delicious because of the sweetness of both the cooked onions and carrots. Use this same recipe for any vegetable soup (use sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cauliflower or any combination of vegetables) and add your favorite spices, herbs or aromatics. Garlic, fresh ginger, curry powder, fresh dill, sage and basil are all excellent choices. Once you make this, you can make any pureed soup. 

  • 2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 6 cups sliced carrots rings
  • 6 cups chicken broth, stock, vegetable broth or water
  • Water
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup half-and-half (optional)
  • Fresh sage leaves, garnish (or bake for a crunchy texture)

Directions

Heat butter in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

Stir in carrots, broth, and enough water to cover the carrots by 1 inch, cayenne pepper and 1 tsp. salt and ½-tsp. pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until the carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes. (If the carrots are not tender, the soup will not be smooth.) 

Allow the soup to cool for about 10 minutes. Puree the soup with a food processor, blender or immersion blender. Heat until hot, add the half-and-half and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, topped with fresh or baked sage leaves. Makes 8 servings.

LENTILS WITH VEGETABLES AND MINT
  • 1½ cups dry green lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onions
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup ¼-inch diced red or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup ¼-inch diced carrots (peeled or unpeeled)
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce (such as tabasco)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine lentils and water to a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 30-minutes or until lentils are tender, but not mushy. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.

While the lentils are cooking, Heat olive oil in over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, peppers and carrot. Saute until the onions are beginning to color. Remove from stove and allow to cool. Add to the lentils and add remaining ingredients and toss well. 

Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

APPLES AND HONEY CAKE
  • ½ cup brown sugar 
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 3 cups ½-inch diced, peeled apples (your favorite variety)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a tube pan (Bundt is one brand) well with nonstick cooking spray (be sure the spray the “tube” well or the cake may not unmold well. 

Combine sugar and oil in a large bowl. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and mix well. Add honey and mix well.

In another, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves and whisk together. Slowly mix into the wet ingredients. Mix in the apples and nuts until just incorporated (do not over mix). Transfer batter to the prepared pan.

Bake for 50-60-minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Makes 16 or more servings. 

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