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.
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


    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.

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