‘Jewish Vegetarian Cooking’ for the High Holidays
Recipes for saffron rice with raisins, and sweet and sour small white onions
The Jewish High Holidays begin with Rosh Hashana, often called the Jewish New Year. It starts next week, at sundown on Sept. 20, and marks the beginning of the year in the Hebrew calendar. The holiday marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Repentance, which ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Jewish holidays, like many religious observances celebrated by most cultures and religions, are times when family and friends gather around the table with special food, much of which has a symbolic meaning. Quite often the dishes served bring back fond memories of childhood.
I remember helping my paternal grandmother roll out the dough for challah bread that would later be dipped in honey at the Rosh Hashana dinner table. Apples are also dipped in honey, symbolizing a sweet new year. Her honey cake was a favorite of mine.
My maternal grandmother baked rugelach, a dough rolled around fillings like chocolate, nuts, raisins or preserves. My job, in addition to eating them, was to sprinkle the filling on the dough. She is long gone and her recipe for this treat was never written down. I guess she wanted it to be hers, a recipe no one else would ever be able to make. Sound familiar?
Today, many of us want to eat healthier, watch our weight, eat food that gives us energy and follow a more plant-based diet. With this in mind, enjoying traditional Jewish holiday food could be challenging. Recently, I was made aware of “Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking” by Paola Gavin (© 2017, Quadrille Publishing, $35), which will be available on Oct. 3 (it can be pre-ordered now).
I was curious to know what Hazana means. In modern Hebrew it refers to nourishment, a word that encapsulates the role food and cooking play in Jewish life. Jewish people have taken their culinary heritage and traditions with them across the world. Wherever they settled, they adapted the local and regional dishes to fit their own dietary laws, which is why Jewish food today encompasses an enormous variety of cuisines and cooking styles.
The book shares 140 traditional and contemporary Jewish vegetarian dishes that have been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. It is an international journey through 20 countries, from Poland to Morocco, Italy, Lithuania, Turkey and beyond.
The introduction explains the foods eaten during the Jewish holidays. I enjoyed, as will those interested in world food culture, the author’s exploration of the Jewish history and traditions of the Old World, presented by country.
The author writes: “Researching this book has been a great opportunity to discover the history and culinary heritage not only of my own family — who originally came from Poland and Belarus — but also to trace the history and culinary traditions of Jews from so many different parts of the world. One thing we all have in common is the same love of food and cooking, something that lies at the heart of Jewish life.”
Here are a couple of sneak-preview recipes for you to prepare from the soon-to-be-published book. For the recipe for potato and carrot kugel, visit bit.ly/2wK10jq.
To those who celebrate, “Shanah Tovah!” which means good year.
The headnote says: “This saffron rice is often served for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), as the addition of raisins is said to sweeten the year ahead.”
SAFFRON RICE WITH RAISINS AND PINE NUTS
(Egypt and Turkey)
1½ cups long-grain rice 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped ½ cup pine nuts 3 tablespoons raisins
2 cups hot vegetable stock or water
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash the rice under cold, running water and drain. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook the onions and pine nuts over a moderate heat until the onions are translucent.
Add the rice and raisins and stir well, so each grain of rice is coated in oil. Add the hot stock and the saffron liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1820 minutes or until the rice is tender but still firm, and small craters have appeared in the surface of the rice. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.
This headnote says: “In this classic Sabbath dish, onions are simmered with sultanas (golden raisins) in a delicious sweet and sour sauce made with sugar, red wine vinegar and marsala.”
SWEET AND SOUR SMALL WHITE ONIONS
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ pounds small white onions, peeled but left whole 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup sultanas (golden raisins)
2 tablespoons dry marsala 4 tablespoons hot water Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onions. Cover and cook over a gentle heat for about 25 minutes or until the onions start to soften.
Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, then add to the pan along with the sultanas, marsala and the hot water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for a further 40 minutes or until the onions are golden and the sauce is caramelized. Transfer to a serving dish and serve chilled. Makes 4-6 servings.
Rita Kolb of Bethany wrote about her concern about healthy eating and healthy recipes. She said: “Even though some of us are not considered obese, many people, if not most, are carrying more than a few extra, unhealthy pounds. It would be great if food editors began only publishing recipes that are sugar free — or very low in sugar, nutritious and delicious.
“It is easy to bake cakes, cookies and other desserts and have them taste wonderful because of the addictive added sugar. Dessert recipes are not needed — rather alternative ideas like fresh fruit, main course vegetable dishes or other suggestions that are creative and healthy.”
Rita, thanks for sharing your healthy-eating concerns and request. Are there any readers who can share these types of recipes? Do you have a recipe that you have adapted to be healthier? Please send them to me. Rita, keep an eye on this column for recipes that fit the bill.
Send us your requests
Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me.
Saffron rice with raisins and pine nuts from “Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking.”