4 Creative Foods to Roast on a Stick for Lag BaOmer

— by Ronit Treatman

Lag BaOmer is a celebration of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 132-136 CE. The Roman troops used bonfires as military signals on hilltops, and so the Jews were not allowed to light them. In Israel it is traditional to light the once-forbidden bonfires and to roast delicious snacks over them.

(Don’t know how to light a bonfire? Find out at Survivaltek.)

Four bonfire ideas after the jump.
1) Halloumi Cheese

This Cypriot cheese is made from sheep’s milk. It has a high melting point, which makes it perfect for roasting. The fire gives this cheese a delicious, crackly crust. It maintains its firm texture when it’s grilled. Its charred, salty flavor is very satisfying.

2) Bread

Prepackaged dough makes roasting bread on a stick effortless. Just place the raw dough on a stick, and cook over the heat of the flames. The fire gives it a distinctive smoky flavor.

3) Kosher “Chorizo”

Chorizo is a type of sausage from the Iberian Peninsula. Smoked red peppers are mixed with raw meat and then placed in a casing. This is what  gives chorizo its special flavor.

4) Apples

Apples roasted over a fire are called “singing apples.” This is because they make whistling noises while they cook. The heat caramelizes the sugar in the peel, giving them a beautiful bronze color. These apples taste like apple pie on a stick.

Hanukkah-Thanksgiving Fusion Menu

— by Ronit Treatman

This year, the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars have aligned in a very special way: Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are celebrated on the same night. This will not happen again until 2070.

In honor of this tandem celebration, I invite you to combine the essential ingredient of Hanukkah, olive oil, with foods that are native to North America. This is the perfect marriage of the two holidays.

3 Thanksgiving-Hanukkah recipes after the jump.
Baharat Fried Turkey Drumsticks

Turkeys are native to North America. This recipe flavors the American food with Middle-Eastern spices, and tenderizes it with fresh lemon juice. Frying the whole turkey is too daunting for me: I prefer to prepare a platter of fried turkey drumsticks.


Fried turkey, corn latkes and carnberry-apple sauce.
  • 6 fresh turkey drumsticks
  • Olive oil
  • Baharat – Middle Eastern Spice Rub:
    • 12 lemons
    • 1 tablespoon ground garlic
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Measure all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  
  2. Squeeze the lemons, and mix the fresh juice with the spices.  
  3. Place the turkey drumsticks in the bowl and coat them with the spice rub.  
  4. Seal the seasoned drumsticks in a plastic zipper bag, and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
  5. Heat the olive oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a heavy Dutch oven. Pour in enough oil to completely immerse the turkey drumsticks. Do not cover the pot, as this would create a fire hazard.  
  6. Carefully place the turkey drumsticks in the hot oil. Do not crowd them.  
  7. Cook the drumsticks for at least 20 minutes over medium heat in the uncovered pot.  
  8. Check the temperature of the drumsticks by sticking a meat thermometer into the drumstick.  It is cooked through when the meat’s internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Corn Latkes (Pancakes)

Potatoes, which originated in the Andes mountains, are customarily served with the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and are the essential ingredient of traditional latkes (pancakes). This year, we can pay homage to the corn, a plant that originated in North America. Corn, a staple of the Native Americans, can be transformed into an ancient Israelite fry bread. This is a superb accompaniment to the Middle Eastern fried turkey legs.

  • 4 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached flour
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  1. Cook the corn in boiling water.  
  2. Drain, and allow to cool to room temperature.  
  3. Mix in the eggs, flour, salt, and black pepper.  
  4. Heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet.  
  5. Spoon the corn batter into the frying pan. Flip the fritters over when they turn golden-brown.  

Cranberry-Apple Sauce

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without cranberries, and no latke is complete without applesauce. Cranberries originated in North America, while apples came from Central Asia. For this special dinner, I combine cranberries and apples into a special sauce for the corn latkes.

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups fresh, diced apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup maple sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

I prepared a practice Thanksgivenukkah dinner for my family. The deep-fried turkey drumsticks were moist, delicately spiced, and had a delicious crackly, crunchy skin. The golden corn latkes were soft, chewy, and slightly sweet. The cranberry-apple sauce was a magnificent vermillion color, and had a perfectly balanced sweet-tart flavor.  

I loved the sauce with the latkes, while others at the table preferred it with their turkey. Either way you choose, have a happy Thanksgivukkah!

Agricultural Gifts To The Poor: A Mitzvah For Sukkot

apple jewish cake i made.— by Ronit Treatman

It is a mitzvah to give gifts to the poor during Sukkot.  Which type of gift?  The farmers of Ancient Israel were required to give a tithe, ma’aser, of their harvest (Numbers 18:21-24) to the Levites.  This harvest consisted of wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye.  In addition, they had to give a tithe of their production of wine, olive oil, fruit, and cattle.  In modern times, most of us live in cities.  How can we fulfill this mitzvah?

More after the jump.
Those who garden, can choose to donate ten percent of their crops to their local food pantry. Those who don’t garden can go to a pick-your-own farm.  This is a really fun way to connect with nature and our Ancient Israelite past.  Participating in a harvest is a meaningful way to share fresh produce with the poor.  

In the Philadelphia area, there is a very efficient way to accomplish this.  You may select from several pick-your-own orchards. Sukkot is apple and pumpkin season in Pennsylvania. If you pick ten pounds of apples, you should donate one pound to the poor.  

Which organization can you trust to distribute your donations to the needy?  Philabundance has teamed up with the pick-your-own orchards to collect extra fruit for exactly this purpose. We went apple picking in Linvilla Orchards. Philabundance will accept donations right at the orchard, and distribute them directly to those who need them.  Alternatively, you may contact Philabundance to donate your fruit at your convenience. If you would like to help the needy in Israel, Leket is a wonderful organization that gleans the fields and distributes this harvest all over the county.

What can you prepare with the apples and pumpkins that you kept for yourself?  Here are some tasty suggestions you may serve to guests in your sukkah.apple bread 002

Jewish Apple Cake
Adapted from Traci & Jeff Poole

  • 4 Large, freshly picked apples
  • ½ cup orange juice (squeeze your own for best flavor)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons sugar (do not add to the previous sugar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel and core the apples.  Slice them.  Mix them in a bowl with 4 teaspoons of cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Set the bowl aside.
  4. Mix all the other ingredients in a separate bowl.
  5. Oil a bundt pan.
  6. Pour some batter in.  Add a layer of the apple mixture.
  7. Keep alternating between layers of batter and apples.  
  8. The top layer should be the apple mixture.
  9. Bake the cake for 1 ½ hours to 1 ¾ hours.

This aromatic cake is always popular, and may be served to guests in your sukkah at any time.pumpkin bread - art every day month 08 - day 29

Fresh Pumpkin Bread From A Pumpkin
Adapted from Laurie Bennet

  • One whole pumpkin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  1. Place the whole pumpkin in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.
  2. Bake it for one hour.
  3. Allow the pumpkin to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Slice the pumpkin in half.
  6. Reserve the seeds for roasting.
  7. Scoop out the flesh.
  8. Mix one cup of mashed pumpkin with the other ingredients.
  9. Oil three 7×3 inch loaf pans and distribute the batter equally between them.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes.

This moist, fragrant bread is a perfect treat for the sukkah.

Symbolic Sephardic Foods For Rosh Hashanah

— by Ronit Treatman

The Sephardic communtiy has a unique mystical tradition for Rosh Hashanah.  Symbolic foods are served at a Rosh Hashanah Seder.  Some of these foods are also puns, and are called “simanim,” or “signs.”  Special blessings starting Yehi ratzone, Hebrew for “May it be God’s will,” are chanted over these dishes.  Here are some of them, and the traditions associated with them.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are said to have 613 seeds, the same number as mitzvot in the Torah.  On Rosh Hashanah we eat a fresh pomegranate preceded by the blessing:

“Yehi Ratzon Mil’fa’necha, Adonai Eloheinu She nirbeh zechuyot ke rimon.”
“May if be your will Adonai our God That our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.”

Recipes and more blessings after the jump.
Black-Eyed Peas And Fenugreek

Black-eyed peas are called “ruvia” in Aramaic.  “Ruvia” is like the Hebrew word “rov” which means most or many.  Fenugreek is also referred to as “ruvia” which may connote “irbu” or “will increase.” The blessing before eating it is:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu Sheh’yirbu ze’chu-yo-taynu.”
“May it be your will Eternal God that our merits increase.”


Black-eyed peas and fenugreek are stewed with veal.  This dish is called Lubiya.   Here is a recipe adapted from Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking.

  • 1/2 lb. cubed veal
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves

Cut up the onion and garlic.  Saute them in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the veal cubes.  When the veal has browned add all the other ingredients.  Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat.  Let the casserole simmer for at least one hour.  Serve hot.

No Nuts!

The word for “nut” in Hebrew is “egoz.”  Its gematria or numerical value is “chet” which means “transgression.”  In order to avoid transgressions during the new year, even foods that carry the suggestion of a transgression are avoided.

Fish Or No Fish!

The word for “fish” in Hebrew is “dag.”  It sounds a lot like “daagah,” which means “worry.”  There are people who avoid eating fish on Rosh Hashanah in order to avoid a year full of worries.  Other sephardic communities do have the tradition of eating fish as a symbol of fertility for the new year.  The yehi ratzon blessing for fish is:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu She nifre ve nirbe ke dagim.”
“May it be your will Eternal God That we be fruitful and multiply like fish.”

It is traditional to serve chraime for this course.  Chraime is a fish and vegetable casserole.  I found this recipe on Wikia.

  • 2 Lbs. flounder
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. ground paprika
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup of water

Cut up all the vegetables and place in a pot.  Lay the fish on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and paprika to taste.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add the water.  Cover the pot tightly and bring to a boil.  Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  May be served at any temperature.

Sugar For Dipping The Bread

Some Sephardic families avoid consuming honey during Rosh Hashanah.  In Ancient Israel, honey would render the incense used in the Temple impure if it was added to it.

For a pure and sweet Rosh Hashanah, they dip their bread in sugar.

Moroccan Couscous With Seven Vegetables

It is customary to wish for a year with as many blessings as there are grains of couscous in a bowl.  Seven appears many times in the Torah.  It epitomizes blessings, good luck, and Creation.  Here is a recipe adapted from Christine Benlafquih.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 lb. couscous
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups of pumpkin, diced
  • 2 cups of cabbage, chopped up
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, minced
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground turmeric
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • salt
  • pepper

In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil over a medium flame.  Add the onions.  Cook the onions until they are translucent.  Add the turmeric, ginger, cumin, and coriander.  Stir well.  Add the tomatoes, celery, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, and pumpkin.  Drain the chickpeas, and add.  Pour in the water, and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Lower the heat, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Mix the dry couscous with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a bowl.  Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow the couscous to steam for 15 minutes.

To serve:

Fluff the couscous with a fork.  Spoon it into a bowl.  Place some of the vegetable mixture with sauce over the couscous.  Sprinkle some minced cilantro on it.

Candied Quince

Quinces are native to the Caucasus.  They are from the same family as apples and pears.  Moroccan Jews have the custom of reciting the shehechiyanu and “Yehi Ratzon” blessings over a candied quince.  Here is a recipe for making your own candied quince.  I adapted it from Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian.

  • 1 fresh quince
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Core and peel the quince.  Cut it into thin slices.  Pour the water and sugar into a heavy pot.  Cook over medium heat while stirring until the sugar completely dissolves into the water.  Add the quince and simmer for 45 minutes.  The quince slices will be soft and have a rich golden red color.

Squash or Gourd

Squash or gourd is called “qara” in Aramaic and Hebrew.  “Qara” has two meanings.  It can mean “to read, or to call out.”  It can also mean “to rip or tear up.”    The following prayer is recited over the gourd:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she yeekorah g’zar dee’neinu ve yeekaroo lefahnecha zechuyoteinu.”
“May it be your will Adonai our God that our harsh decrees are torn up and our merits are proclaimed before You.”

Spaghetti squash and pumpkin are thought to be “qara.”  Here is a traditional Rosh Hashanah recipe for Tirshi (Pumpkin Salad) adapted from Copeland Marks’ book, Sephardic Cooking.

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 lemon
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tblsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground paprika

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Check the seasoning.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Round Flatbreads

Saying the blessing over a challah is a tradition acquired in Germany, which spread to all of the Eastern European Jewish communities.  In the Sephardic tradition, the blessing over the bread is chanted over flatbreads.  The round shape of the flatbread connotes the same symbols as the round shape of the Rosh Hashanah challah.  It symbolizes the never-ending circle of life and the yearly cycle.  It helps us express our wish for a good year, which will bring blessings, peace, prosperity, and sweetness.  Twelve flatbreads are baked and arranged in the same pattern as the showbread used in the Temple.  The two flatbreads on the top are held together for the blessing.

“Baruch ata Adonai Eloeinu melech haolam Ha motzi lechem min haaretz.”

“Blessed are you God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Here is a recipe for Homemade Pita Bread adapted from Saad Fayed.

  • 3 cups of unbleached flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105 degress Fahrenheit)

Mix the warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let stand for 15 minutes.  Add the flour and salt.  Mix everything together.  Sprinkle some flour on your kitchen counter, and turn the dough out onto it.  Knead the dough with your hands for about 15 minutes.  Oil a bowl with olive oil.  Place the dough in bowl, turning it over to coat it with oil on all sides.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel.  Let it rest in a warm place, away from drafts for 3 hours.

Preheat your oven and cookie sheet to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take out the dough and roll it into a thick rope.  Slice it into 10 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, and then flatten it with a rolling pin.

To bake, place each disc of dough on the hot cookie sheet.  Let it sit in the oven for 4 minutes.  Flip it over and let it bake for another 2 minutes.  When you remove it, the pita bread will be puffed up.

Keftes De Prasa or Leek Fritters

Leeks are called “karsi” in Aramaic, which is related to the Hebrew “karet” which means “sever, destroy, or cut off.”  They are accompanied by a prayer to God to cut off our enemies.  The traditional way to serve leeks is to prepare leek fritters.

Adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck.

  • 1 Lb. leeks
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. unbleached flour
  • salt
  • black pepper or chili pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Slice the leeks and saute them in olive oil.  Set aside to cool.

Mix the all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil in a bowl.  Incorporate the leeks into the mixture.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy pan over a medium flame.  Spoon the leek batter into the hot oil.  Turn the fritters over.  They are ready when they are a golden-brown color.

The blessing we say over the leek fritters is:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she yeekartu soneinu.”
“May it be your will Adonai Our God that our enemies will be cut off.”


Dates

Dates are called “tamri” in Aramaic.  “Tamri” means “to finish.”  The blessing over dates experesses the hope that our enemies will end their enmity.

Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she yitamu oyevenu.”
“May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be finished.”

Fresh dates from Israel, unadorned, are delicious with this blessing.  Some families have the tradition of dipping their dates in a mixture of anise seeds, sesame seeds, and powdered sugar.

Roasted Beet Salad

The Aramaic for beets is “silka” which sounds like the Hebrew word “siluk.”  “Siluk” means removal.  We pray that our enemies will be removed.

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloeinu she istalku oyevenu.”

“May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be removed.”

Here is a recipe inspired by Joan Nathan.

Brush beets with olive oil.  Wrap them in aluminum foil.  Place them in a 400 degree oven for one hour.  Remove and peel the beets.  Dice them.  Place the diced beets in a bowl and mix in:

  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 lemons, squeezed
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Chill for one hour before serving.

Apples

The traditional way to serve apples in the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah table is called mansanada.  Mansanada is a type of apple compote.

This recipe is adapted from Midrash Ben Ish Hai.

  • 1 tsp. ground cloves or cardamom
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. granulated refined sugar
  • 6 apples which are good for cooking such as Stayman, York Imperial, Rome Beauty, Rhode Island Greening, Lady, Jonathan, and Gravenstein
  • 1/2 cup water

Core and quarter the apples.  Peel and slice them.  Arrange the slices in a pot.  Sprinkle the sugar and ground cloves or cardamom over them.  Pour the water into the pot.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the apple slices with a slotted spoon.  Allow the liquid to continue cooking until it is transformed into a syrup.  Pour the sauce over the apples.

The yehi ratzon blessing over the apple is:

“Yehi Ratzon Mil’fa’necha, Adonai Eloheinu She techadesh aleinu shana tova u’metuka.”
“May if be your will Adonai our God to renew us for a good and sweet year.”

Head Of A Ram, Fish, Or Rooster

It is a very ancient tradition to bake and present at the table the head of a ram.  This is done to symbolize a desire for the Rosh Hashanah celebrants to be leaders, not followers.  This symbol helps us remember that God allowed Abraham to replace his son Isaac with a sheep when making his sacrifice as commanded.  The head of a fish or rooster symbolized this hope in some of the Sephardic communities.  The blessing is:

“Yehi Ratzon Mil’fa’necha, Adonai Eloheinu She niyeh ke rosh velo ke zanav.”

“May if be your will Adonai our God That we will be the head and not the tail.”

I like to serve a whole, smoked fish, like a mackerel.  It is very elegant with its beautiful golden color.

As there are protective amulets, so there are protective foods.  Long standing traditions dictate that the new year must be welcomed with the proper foods and blessings to merit life, sustenance, and the opportunity to perform mitzvot.  Yehi ratzon!  Shana tova.  

For more hands-on Rosh Hashanah ideas please visit my new blog.