Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Real Life Rosh Hashanah

The cooking is practically done, my guests will arrive in about four hours and I won't be posting again until the holiday is over. If you're anything like me you love to peek into other homes so here is a snapshot of my dinner table. (It's about to rain, so please excuse the lack of light).
My bee skep centerpiece went on the buffet table since I didn't have much room here. I found these small white dishes for honey and gave each guest their own to dip the challah and apple into.

From our home to yours...L' Shana Tova!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

School Desk into Nightstand

I am excited that our son Ben is coming home for Rosh Hashanah this week. (He’s in his last year at the University of Vermont). While he was gone, the nightstand in his room was moved into another bedroom so I wanted to be sure he had a replacement this week. I found this antique child’s desk for $10.00 a while back at a local shop. It was the perfect size and height for a nightstand, and very sturdy--made of sold oak. It even has the indentations for pencils so they don’t roll off the desk!
My first thought was to strip the finish off the desk and give it a nice gray stain. But, not having much time because of all the holiday preparations, I decided to paint it a soft gray instead.
After a coat of primer I rolled on two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Paris Gray. I find a sponge roller gives the smoothest finish, and then I brush the areas that the roller can’t get into.
I love how the cubbie is the perfect place to stash away books and tissues without taking up space on the top.

Now, on to the cooking!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Apple and Honey Bowl

I found this idea on marthastewart.com and thought it was so simple and clever, I had to share it with you. 
Trim the top and bottom of an apple and hollow it out with a spoon or melon baller. (McIntoshes are easy to scoop.) Brush the inside with lemon juice, and fill with honey. Slice more apples for dipping.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Fruit Cup

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a “new fruit,” i.e., a seasonal fruit which we have not yet tasted since its season began should be present on the table when the holiday candles are lit and the Kiddush is recited. 
Instead of a plate of fruit, here is a more elegant solution. Give each guest their own “new fruit” cup. Mine is made with red currants, kiwi and gold tamarillo from New Zealand  drizzled with a touch of pomegranate juice and honey. Everything was delicious although the tamarillo, which I had never tried before, was a bit too tart. So, try my recommendation sans the tamarillo, or use your imagination.

The winner of the Rosh Hashanah honey and apple gift basket is Zahava from New York. Congratulations!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rosh Hashanah Desserts

This Rosh Hashanah, I’m serving a traditional honey cake along with caramel apples. I found these mini caramel apples on one of my favorite blogs, day to day wonderments. I love how Allyson presented them with the apple twigs used in place of sticks! 
If you’re going apple picking this month, be sure to get a few long sticks to cut up for this project. You’ll need to soak and scrub them to make sure they’re clean enough to use, then cut the ends at a sharp angle.  

After washing your apples very well, sand your apples gently with fine grit sandpaper. This is a step that will help the melted caramel stick to the apples, rather than sliding right off.
Caramel recipes usually call for butter or milk. Not so good when you’re serving a meat meal in a kosher home. Here is a recipe I found that is parve—perfect for Rosh Hashanah dessert.

Caramel Sauce
¼ cup parve margarine (This product is normally terrifying--the hydrogenated oil!!
I buy Earth Balance, which is kosher and made with expeller-pressed oils.)

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons vanilla soy milk
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla soy milk. Remove from the heat. Add the confectioner’s sugar, whisking until smooth and thickened.

Makes about 1 cup.
Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days stirring to recombine before using.
Inspired by Sarah Kate Gillingham-Ryan’s The Greyston Bakery Cookbook (Rodale).

This honey cake recipe is from the cookbook Can’t Believe it’s Kosher! Years ago, I was asked to speak at Congregation Beth Israel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The chairwomen from the event dragged me to the synagogue shop and insisted that I buy their sisterhood cookbook. I really didn’t want to buy yet another kosher cookbook, but I also didn’t want to come off as being rude. Wouldn’t you know it turned out to be one of my favorite cookbooks that I use over and over again! This honey cake is the best one I’ve had. It’s light and airy with lots of flavor.

Traditional Honey Cake
¾ cup oil
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 cup honey
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup strong coffee, cooled
½ cup orange juice
½ cup slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream oil, sugar and egg yolks. Add honey.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt together.  Dissolve baking soda in coffee. Combine coffee mixture and orange juice.
3. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture alternately with coffee and orange juice mixture.
4. Beat egg whites until peaks form and fold into batter. Pour into greased 9x13 inch pan or 2, 9x5-inch loaf pans, sprinkle with almonds on top and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

10 to 12 servings

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Delicious Rosh Hashanah Fare by Jayne Cohen

Today, I am thrilled to introduce Jayne Cohen as my guest blogger! Jayne’s newest book, "Jewish Holiday Cooking" was named a 2009 James Beard finalist in the International Books category. To make your holiday even more special, be sure to have some of Jayne's offerings on your table.
NEW FRUITS AT ROSH HASHANAH
by Jayne Cohen

This year it might be buttery pears or midnight blue prune-plums. Foxy Concord grapes or the more customary pomegranates and fragrant quinces. As late summer rolls inexorably toward fall, Jews watch the produce markets swell with sweet treasures and then choose one.

But not to eat.

They decide on a special fruit from this harvest season and refrain from savoring it, so that when they bite into it at last on Rosh Hashanah, it will taste new and sweet: an edible metaphor for a fresh new start to a sweet year.

It’s an edible metaphor in another way too. Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the beginning of the Jewish calendar is also, by tradition, the anniversary of creation. Tasting a fruit not eaten since it was last in season is like discovering it, and so participating, at least through our senses, in the brand-newness of creation.
                                                                                                                                                                    ALL PHOTOS BY JAMES PETERSON

From Chaim Grade’s story of his little mother, the fruitseller, who somehow found “the strength and patience to keep herself all summer long from sampling the fresh fruits in her own baskets” to Bella Chagall’s exotic pineapple trickling juice “like white blood” in pre-revolutionary Russia, Jewish literature is peppered with New Year’s tales of exquisite self-denial and extravagant indulgence.

Living close to New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket, I am assaulted after summer vacation by the winy autumn smells, and every year, like a kid at a candy counter, I find it more difficult to select one “new” fruit that we will relish at our holiday table.  And so for Rosh Hashanah this year, which in 2011 begins Wednesday evening, September 28th, I am sharing a menu with Design Megillah that features a lovely fall fruit for each course.

Below you’ll find three different “new fruit” recipes:  Brisket Braised in Pomegranate Juice with Onion Confit--layered with tart-sweet flavors and autumn colors; a tangy Moroccan Carrot Salad, set off with black grapes; and a simple Hungarian Plum Tart that’s like a cross between a crunch and a crumble.

And here are some other suggestions:
    • Fish, symbolizing fertility and an abundance of blessings, is a customary first course. How about a kosher riff on the Italian classic, prosciutto and figs: ripe figs draped with thinly sliced smoked salmon or smoked poultry? Dribble lightly with a bit of good balsamic vinegar, if you like, and serve on a bed of arugula.
    • Nearly 2500 years ago, the prophet Nehemiah proposed that on Rosh Hashanah, we "eat the fat and drink the sweet." Chopped chicken livers, creamy with caramelized onions, served alongside grilled figs or prune-plums, or black grapes stewed into a light, spiced compote, and accompanied by a glass of Sauternes, Moscato d'Asti, or Gewurztraminer would fit the bill nicely.
    • Savory lamb tagine or braised duck with quinces or pears, or chicken cooked Mediterranean-style with figs, apricots, and tomatoes would make a main course in keeping with the season if you're not preparing the brisket with pomegranates.
    • Roasted Bosc pears add a buttery richness to many foods. They would make an excellent addition to a pureed butternut squash soup or a side dish of the vegetable. Or tuck roasted pear slices into a butter leaf salad, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and marcona almonds or toasted walnuts, and dress with walnut oil and a fruity vinegar.
    And the early fall produce so plentiful at the markets right now will inspire lots more ideas for a joyous, "fruitful" new year.
    R E C I P E S 

    adapted from Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics
    and Improvisations
    by Jayne Cohen (Wiley, 2008)

    Yield: 8 generous servings

    For the Brisket
    3 tablespoons olive or canola oil (or 1, if broil-searing)

    A first- or second-cut beef brisket, about 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat, wiped with a damp paper towel, and patted dry

    2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

    2 leeks, washed well and coarsely chopped (include both white and pale green parts)

    6 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

    2 large carrots, scraped and coarsely chopped

    1 celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped

    2 cups pomegranate juice

    2 cups chicken broth

    3 fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried leaves

    2 fresh rosemary sprigs

    2 Turkish bay leaves

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper



    For the Confit

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    4 large onions (about 2 ½ pounds), very thinly sliced

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1/4 cup chicken broth

    1/2 cup dry red wine

    1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

    Prepare brisket: heat oil over medium-high heat in large heavy-bottomed roasting pan, using two burners, if necessary, or in wide 6-quart Dutch oven or flameproof casserole. Add brisket, and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer brisket to a platter and set aside.

              Alternatively, you might find it easier to sear meat under broiler. Just cover broiler pan well with foil to minimize cleanup. Preheat broiler. Place brisket under broiler, fat side up, and broil for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. Move meat around as necessary, so it sears evenly. Transfer brisket to a platter and set aside.

              Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

              Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in pan (or heat 1 tablespoon of oil if you broiled brisket), and add onions and leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and continue cooking until onions are golden, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring and scraping pan to prevent scorching or sticking.

              Add 1 cup pomegranate juice and bring mixture to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon, until liquid is reduced by about half. Add remaining 1 cup juice, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves and bring mixture to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Lightly salt and pepper brisket on both sides, and add to pan, fat side up, spooning vegetables all over meat. Cover pan tightly (use heavy-duty foil if you don’t have a lid for the pan), and braise brisket in oven, basting every half hour, until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. (Turn oven down to 300 degrees F, if braising liquid begins to bubble rapidly.)

              The brisket tastes best if allowed to rest, reabsorbing juices lost during braising, and it’s easiest to defat the gravy if you prepare the meat ahead and refrigerate it until the fat solidifies. So cool brisket in the pan sauce, cover well with foil, and refrigerate until fat congeals. (The gravy can be prepared by skimming fat in the traditional way, if you prefer. If you go that route, though, do let meat rest in pan sauce for at least an hour.)

              About an hour or so before you are ready to serve brisket, make confit: in 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet, warm oil. Add onions, season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tightly covered, over lowest heat, stirring occasionally so mixture does not burn, for 1 hour, or until onions are very soft and pale gold. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, broth, and wine. Raise heat and boil mixture, uncovered, stirring, until all liquid is evaporated and onions turn golden. Taste and adjust seasoning (it may take quite a bit of salt), and turn off heat. Cover mixture and keep warm. Stir in pomegranate seeds just before serving.

              Scrape off all solid fat from brisket. Remove meat from pan and slice thinly across the grain.

              Prepare gravy: bring braising mixture to room temperature, then strain it, reserving vegetables. Skim and discard as much fat as possible from the liquid. Puree reserved vegetables and 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in food processor or blender. Transfer pureed mixture and remaining braising liquid to a skillet, and reduce gravy over high heat to desired consistency. Taste for seasoning. Rewarm brisket in the gravy until heated through.

              Spread onion confit over a serving platter and arrange sliced brisket on top. Ladle hot gravy over meat and serve immediately.

    Copyright Jayne Cohen 2009
    Yield: 8 servings

    For the Dressing:

    About ½ cup best-quality extra virgin olive oil

    About ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

    2 garlic cloves, very finely minced

    2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin, preferably freshly toasted and ground

    2 teaspoons sweet paprika

    2 teaspoons dried mint

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Cayenne (optional)

    2 1/2 pounds sweet-tasting carrots, preferably organic and/or locally grown, scraped

    Salt

    1 cup Concord or other dark, richly flavored grapes, halved or quartered and seeded

    1/3 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted (optional)

    1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)



              Prepare the dressing: in a large bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, mint (crumble it, using your fingers), cinnamon, coriander, and salt, pepper, and cayenne, if using, to taste.

              Grate carrots coarsely in food processor or over largest holes of box grater. Cook them in lightly salted boiling water until just tender but still crisp. Drain them (the liquid would be a nice addition to vegetable stock), and while still warm, toss them with the dressing. Add grapes and walnuts, if using, and toss again. For best taste, let the flavors marry for at least a couple of hours.

              Taste and adjust oil, lemon juice, or seasoning, if needed. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving, if desired.

    Hungarian Plum Tart
    adapted from Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations
    by Jayne Cohen (Wiley, 2008)
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings
    20 to 24 fresh prune plums, pitted and quartered, or 6 to 8 pitted black plums, cut into sixths or eighths (depending on size of plums)
    1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
    1 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    About 1 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using margarine)
    1 large egg, beaten
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or pareve margarine, melted, plus additional for greasing the pan
    Optional accompaniment: non-dairy sorbet, vanilla or coffee ice cream, or freshly           whipped heavy cream



    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

              In greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, arrange plums cut-side up in a single layer. Stir together brown sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle the mixture over plums. In large bowl, using a fork, blend together granulated sugar (use up to 2 tablespoons less than 1 cup if you prefer, as I do, a less sweet dessert or if plums are particularly sweet), remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, salt, egg, and almond extract until mixture resembles coarse meal. Crumble it over plums. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over all and bake tart in middle of oven for 35 to 45 minutes until plums are tender and topping is golden.

              Serve tart at room temperature, accompanied by sorbet, ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. It is also wonderful warm from the oven, especially with the cool contrast of ice cream.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Rosh Hashanah Place Setting

    If you're entertaining guests for Rosh Hashanah and are too busy cooking to be spending much time with table decor, here is a super easy but super elegant idea for a place setting. 

    Print out each guest's name on your computer. (I used a script font and cream colored paper to print on). Cut the names into small strips of paper and stick each one into an apple with a straight pin. Not only are your guests provided with a beautiful place setting, but the apple is at hand for slicing and dipping into honey.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Honey and Apple Basket Giveaway!

    Win this beautiful basket...keep it for yourself or give it to your hostess for Rosh Hashanah dinner! Basket includes local Connecticut apples, three flavors of kosher honey form the Savannah Bee Company, beeswax candles, adorable honey pot, tea towels and a bar of pure honey soap.

    To be eligible to win, you must be a follower of Design Megillah. It’s easy—just click on the “join this site” button on the right column, and follow the instructions. Make sure to include a photo. Next, send me an e-mail (at ritabrownstein@yahoo.com) titled "Gift basket."  I'll announce the winner on Sept. 21.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Rosh Hashanah Centerpiece

    Here is a fun idea for your Rosh Hashanah table. After all, it's all about the honey. 
    I put together this bee skep using sisal rope from the hardware store and a glue gun. I simply coiled the rope in a circle,  gluing it layer by layer until it reached the height I wanted.
    The cute bumble bees were ordered online from Hobby Lobby. (They came with wires for the legs so no need to glue them on).

    On another note, the winner of my book giveaway, Jewish Holiday Style goes to Nechamah from Massachusetts. Congrats!

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    The Prettiest Jewish New Year Cards

    Yesterday I showed you two Jewish New Year cards to make by hand. If you don't have the time, talent, or energy to make your own, here are some of my favorite cards you can purchase on the internet. There's still time to custom print if you order soon.

    These are from Tinyprints:

    Tree Silhouette
    Shana Tova
    These are from Pear Tree Greetings:
    Delightful Dove
    Rounds of Patterns
    These are from More Than Paper:
    Green Trees on navy
    Apple Tree Blessings

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Handmade Jewish New Year Cards


    This year, I decided to make my own Jewish New Year cards. These are made from pretty colored paper I found in the scrap book section at Michael’s. I simply cut shapes out of the colored paper and glued into place. 

    I bought ready-made folding cards with matching envelopes in a cream color to make things easy and colored paper.

    The first step was to cut my background colored paper a bit smaller than the front of the note card, like this. I used double sided tape to tape paper in place.

    I used this apple clip art as a guide to trace my apple shape...
    I printed the clip art apple out on my printer and traced the shape onto the scrap book paper. Then I cut out the apples using sharp scissors.

    I went outside to my garden and found real twigs to glue on the apple as the stem.

    I added a green leaf, and typed the greeting on my computer, printed, cut out and glue into place.

    Next I made a bee hive card, using the same technique. I found this clip art to use as my guide.

    After tracing the shapes onto the colored paper, everything was cut (I used small manicure scissors to cut out the rounded edges and bees) and then glued into place with a glue stick.

    Bumble bees were drawn with a black Sharpie marker on yellow paper. The wings are cut from transparent vellum paper. The greeting was printed on scrap book paper on my home printer, then cut out with scissors.
     I can't wait to send these out to family and friends!

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Win a Book!


    Labor Day is here, kids are back in school, and the Hebrew month of Elul is upon us. That means the high holidays are only three weeks away, so here is my first blog post to kick off the holiday season. You can win an autographed copy of my first book, Jewish Holiday Style. There are lots of great ideas for every holiday, from recipes to crafts and much more!

    To be eligible to win, you must be a follower of Design Megillah. It’s easy—just click on the “join this site” button on the right column, and follow the instructions. Make sure to include a photo. Next, send me an e-mail (at ritabrownstein@yahoo.com) titled "Win a Book" with a little bit about yourself and why you'd like to win.

    I will announce a winner on Sunday, September 11, so you have all week to enter. Good luck!

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Custom Curtains with Paint

    You may have seen the post I did on my grandson, Yosef's room. I took an inexpensive white vinyl shade and painted horizontal stripes with latex paint.  I guess it was a little bit TOO inexpensive because when it was pulled down one day, it ripped. Here is a picture of what it looked like before the rip:
    I wanted to try and paint similar stripes using fabric curtain panels this time. I bought two navy blue curtain panels on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond. The first step was to layout where I wanted the stripes.
    I used masking tape to tape off my sections and  8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper to keep the size consistent. Once the taping was done I rolled on the latex paint using a small foam roller.
    Because I was painting a light color on a dark fabric it took many coats of paint to cover.  If I were to try this again, I would go with a light colored curtain.
    I painted on a rainy day, so a hair dryer helped to speed up drying time.
    When I got to the top stripe, I used grosgrain ribbon instead of paint for a crisp, white line. This PeelnStick product made it so easy...no sewing or ironing required!
    I picked up a white curtain rod from WalMart and painted it orange. The fun solar system is from a local toy store. I tied the planets onto an orange embroidery hoop found at Michael's crafts.

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