Jewish families around the world begin Rosh Hashanah meals by dipping apples in honey, symbolizing their hope for a sweet New Year. They also drizzle honey into holiday cuisine.
Gushing with the syrup of summer flowers, honey is the perfect food to express the desire for a year filled with prosperity, peace and joy.
At Rosh Hashanah, I go overboard adding spoonfuls of honey to many Jewish recipes.
Instead of gefilte fish, I pay homage to a Greek appetizer by preparing red snapper fillets with plum sauce steeped with honey. I add some honey to traditional tzimmes, an Eastern European medley of vegetables, dried fruit and sometimes beef.
Carrots are often served at Rosh Hashahah because of their natural sugar. In France, Romania and Hungary, carrots are traditionally glazed with honey for the New Year. This preparation has found its way to our country because many American Jews coat carrots with honey, too.
Pastries baked with honey abound at Rosh Hashanah. Honey cake recipes are typical of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic cuisine. Taglach (honey balls) and honey cookies are popular as well.
When I’m invited to a Rosh Hashanah meal, I bring the hosts a jar of honey just for spreading on challah, spooning into hot tea and for celebrating the New Year with this golden elixir — a metaphor for sweet days to come.
Greek Fish with Plum Sauce | Pareve
This holiday appetizer is perfect for fall.
Serves six to eight as an appetizer
3 Italian plum tomatoes
3 red plums, pitted, peeled and diced
Kosher salt to taste, plus more for sprinkling
¾ teaspoon honey
Nonstick vegetable spray
1 pound red snapper filets, skin removed (Once the skin and bones are discarded, there should be a pound of fish.)
In a medium-sized pot, boil water. Using a sharp knife, score the tomatoes, making an X. Place the tomatoes one at a time in a slotted spoon utensil and submerge the tomatoes into the boiling water until the skin loosens around the X, about one to two minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water using the slotted spoon. Cool them to room temperature. Peel off the skin and discard. (It will peel easily.) Dice the tomatoes.
Place the tomatoes and plums in a medium-sized saucepan. Add some salt. Cover the saucepan. On a medium-low flame, simmer until the tomatoes and plums soften, about 15 minutes. A sauce will form. If it is simmering away, lower the flame.
Squeeze the lemon through a small sieve into a small pitcher or bowl. Pour the lemon juice into the tomato-plum mixture. Spoon in the honey and stir until combined. Remove the mixture from the flame and cool it to room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan, such as a Pyrex pan, with nonstick spray. Rinse the fish fillets under cold water. Pat them dry on paper towels. Move the fish to the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the fish with a little salt. Spoon on the tomato-plum mixture.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the fish flakes when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold. Move the fish to a platter and smother it with the tomato and plum mixture.
Honey-Glazed Carrots | Pareve or Dairy
1-2 teaspoons ginger, depending on taste
1 pound carrots
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
4 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt to taste
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
Peel the ginger. Dice it and then chop it very fine. Reserve.
Peel the carrots and rinse them under cold water. Drain on paper towels. Cut the carrots into sticks. Place the sticks in a medium-sized saucepan. Pour in water and submerge the carrots. Cover the saucepan.
On a medium-high flame, bring the water to a boil. Boil until the carrots are soft on the outside but still firm on the inside, about five to 10 minutes. Move the carrots to a colander and drain off the water.
Into the same saucepan, place the margarine or butter. Spoon the carrots on top. Drizzle on the honey. Sprinkle on the salt, cinnamon and ginger. Stir to combine. Return the lid and place the saucepan over a medium-low flame.
Simmer gently until the carrots and ginger are cooked through and the honey reduces, about five to eight minutes. Stir frequently to make sure the sauce does not burn. If it is simmering too quickly, reduce the flame. Serve immediately in an attractive bowl.
Lithuanian Beef Tzimmes | Meat
Set up this tantalizing stew eight hours before dinner and leave it alone until you serve it!
Serves six to eight
Equipment: A large-sized slow cooker
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1½-inch pieces
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 bunch of carrots
1 small parsnip
1 small-medium sized sweet potato
2 medium-sized white potatoes
1 large onion, coarsely diced
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 ounces pitted prunes
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon chopped dill
⅛ cup honey
1 quart of beef stock or a 32-ounce box of commercially prepared stock
Optional accompaniment: noodles
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over a medium flame. Place the beef stew meat in the skillet and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. When the bottom side is seared, turn over each piece of stew meat and sear the top sides, too. Cool to warm.
Assemble the slow cooker but leave the lid off. With a slotted spoon utensil, move the stew meat to the slow cooker.
Peel the carrots and parsnip. Rinse and cut them into thick sticks. Peel both kinds of potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Move the carrots, parsnips and potatoes to the slow cooker, along with the onion, garlic and prunes. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and dill. Drizzle in the honey. Pour the stock over all the ingredients and gently mix.
Place the lid on the slow cooker. Set it on low and slow simmer the tzimmes for eight hours or until the beef is softened. Serve with noodles, if using.
A Moist and Fragrant Honey Cake | Pareve
Yield: 10 slices per cake or 20 slices in all
Equipment: two 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pans
Nonstick vegetable spray
½-inch piece of ginger root
1-inch piece of overripe banana
2 cups of flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black tea
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat the loaf pans generously with nonstick spray.
Peel the ginger. Dice it and then chop it very fine. Place the banana in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Reserve the ginger and banana.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking soda. Add the cinnamon, allspice and cardamom and stir until combined. Reserve.
Place the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. With an electric beater, mix on high speed until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add the ginger and mashed banana and mix again briefly until combined.
Add the honey, oil and tea. Mix on low speed for 2½ minutes, then on medium speed for 2½ minutes. Divide the flour mixture into approximate fourths. Fold in the flour a fourth at a time. Stir it by hand using a spatula after each addition until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it equally.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes form domes. Do not open the oven doors until the cakes dome as this could cause them to collapse. A cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center should be clean when pulled out.
Watch loaves carefully as honey cakes can easily become over baked. The loaves will crack during baking.
Cool the cakes on racks until they are at room temperature. Unmold the cakes. Wrap them in aluminum foil then place them in sealed plastic bags. Serve within two days at room temperature. This recipe freezes well.