Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Sweet and Summery New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins tomorrow evening. This is the beginning of the High Holy Days and a time of introspection, retrospection, atonement, forgiveness, and hope.

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah -- a very joyous, sweet occasion -- and Yom Kippur -- a more solemn occasion, the day of atonement or 'at-one-ment,' the most important Jewish holiday -- are called the Days of Awe, and they are our opportunity to make right the wrongs of the past year, and to set hopes and dreams for a sweet year to come.

But what does all this have to do with food? It's also a time for eating and enjoying food with our loved ones, of course! It is a Jewish holiday, after all. (The typical and traditional dish of Rosh Hashanah is apple dipped in honey -- to help you taste the sweetness of life and mark the beginnings of a sweet new year.)

What's lovely about the High Holy Days in 2010 is that well, they start "early" this year. As one of my fave websites for all things Jewish, www.jewfaq.org, puts it: There is a joke about the Jewish calendar that goes something like this: "While sitting in synagogue, one man turns to his friend and says, ‘When is Hanukkah this year?’ The other man smiles slyly and replies, ‘Same as always: the 25th of Kislev.’" It’s a joke, but it makes an important point: The date of Jewish holidays does not change from year to year. Holidays are celebrated on the same day of the Jewish calendar every year, but the Jewish year is not the same length as a solar year on the civil calendar used by most of the western world, so the date shifts on the civil calendar. 

And as this wonderful post from one of my new favorite Jewish literary magazines, Tablet, puts it: This year, Rosh Hashanah, which typically falls a little later in the year, begins in early September, when summer fruits and vegetables are still overflowing.

So this Rosh Hashanah, we've got a great chance to put the 'sweet' and 'succulent' into our wishes and dishes for the new year, with bounty from our gardens and Farmer's Markets. Tablet has got some great recipe ideas, including this one (how GOOD does that look?!?):

Beet 'Carpaccio' With Wild Arugula, Goat Cheese, and Orange Vinaigrette 

1 pound large loose beets, golden, red and/or candy striped
4 cups wild arugula
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
1 orange, segmented and juiced, separated
1 tablespoon good quality local honey
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. De-stem and scrub beets. [Dena's note: save those beet greens and saute them with some olive oil and garlic for a deeeeelicious side dish! Beet greens are hubby's very favorite.] Wrap in foil and place on a sheet tray. Bake for 50 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a bowl, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

2. After beets have cooled, peel all beets. On a mandoline or slicer, slice beets very thinly. This may be done with a knife, but will take a little longer. Keep all different color beets separate so that the color does not bleed.

3. Arrange beets in concentric circles in any pattern you wish on a serving platter.

4. To make the dressing, combine the orange juice (1/3 cup) and honey, whisk in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

5. Right before serving, toss arugula in the reserved dressing and place in the center of arranged beets. Top with crumbled goat cheese and orange segments. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

A Greenmarket Rosh Hashanah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

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