Rosh Hashanah: A Honey of a Menu

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Honey forms a cornerstone on most Rosh Hashanah menus, symbolizing the hope for a sweet year ahead.

Honey forms a cornerstone on most Rosh Hashanah menus, symbolizing the hope for a sweet year ahead.
Many traditional holiday dishes incorporate honey, including tzimmes, honey-roasted chicken, honey cake and challah.
I’m all for tradition, but this year I plan to offer a twist on the typical selections, lighten up the menu and make it a bit more relaxed. The dishes will all contain honey, but this repast offers a less formal take on the celebration.
Honey Grilled Chicken
I tapped into Sephardic flavors to create this marinade; cumin, lemons, thyme and oregano complement the honey nicely. Leftovers are great in chicken salad.
2½ lbs. thin-cut boneless chicken breast
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 whole lemon, juice and rind
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dry
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dry
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup honey
Mix all ingredients in a large Tupperware or a Ziploc bag and refrigerate two to 24 hours.
Heat a grill to high, and sear the chicken for about a minute on each side.
Turn off the heat on one area of the grill and move all the chicken to the unheated side. If using charcoal, push the chicken to the edges of grill, where there is the least amount of heat.
Cover and allow the chicken to “roast” on the grill, about three minutes per side, until done. Total cooking time is about eight minutes, depending upon the thickness of the cutlets.
Remove the chicken from the grill, cover with foil for about five minutes to seal in the juices and serve.
Serves 6
Honey Mashed Sweet Potatoes
4 large sweet potatoes (each about the size of your two fists)
⅓ cup honey
½ cup vegetable stock or reserved cooking water (or more, if needed)
¼ cup mild olive oil, margarine or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into chunks about the size of a golf ball.
Place the sweet potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or more, until soft. Drain, reserving some of the liquid, if using.
Return the sweet potatoes to the pot, and mash with the remaining ingredients. Add more liquid, if needed, to attain the desired texture.
Note: To make this a dairy dish, omit the stock and olive oil; add a half stick butter and 2/3 cup milk.
Serves 6
Rosh Hashanah Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
The slight bitterness of the escarole works well with the sweetness of the apples. If you can’t get your hands on escarole, any leafy lettuce or baby green works — just don’t use iceberg.
I’ve added sunflower seeds for some added crunch in lieu of nuts, which are avoided during Rosh Hashanah, particularly among Ashkenazi Jews. Because the Hebrew word for nut has the same numeric equivalent (17) as the word for sin, nuts do not appear on Rosh Hashanah tables.
Apples are included because they are just coming into season and tradition dictates that we eat a “new fruit.” Carrots make the cut because the Yiddish word for carrots is merren, similar to “more,” another hope for the new year — more blessings, more happiness, more success.
1 head escarole, rinsed, spun and torn into small pieces
1 apple, chopped and spritzed with lemon juice to avoid browning
½ cup raisins
½ cup sunflower seeds
2 carrots, grated
¼ cup red onion, chopped
Mix all the ingredients together and toss with the honey mustard dressing (recipe follows).
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup mustard
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Pinch salt
Generous dousing of fresh ground pepper
Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree until totally smooth and emulsified.
Serves 6
Honey Chocolate Fondue
This can be presented in a very informal way, with a couple of communal bowls of fondue alongside trays of tasty dippers, or it can be served elegantly in individual china teacups with the dippers artfully arrayed on a saucer or dessert plate.
12 ounces dark chocolate, 70 percent cacao or higher
1 cup honey
Assorted dippers: apple and pear slices spritzed with lemon juice to prevent browning, orange sections, strawberries, pretzels, cookies, marshmallows — the sky’s the limit, so be creative.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in the microwave for three minutes on 50 percent power. Stir until smooth.
Add the honey, stir again and serve. If the mixture cools and the texture thickens too much, you can microwave it again on 30 percent power briefly before serving.
Serves 6