The Holidays are Comin’ In

challahRosh Hashanah, the start of the cooking season, is just weeks away. I’m always looking for recipes that update old favorites – keeping some of the flavors but with a new twist. Some become new family favorites; some just don’t make the cut.

Try these dishes which will appear on my holiday table this year.

But first start with hallah using the previously published recipe (Summer’s coming in, June 18, 2020). Make the hallah a little sweeter to reflect the new year and certainly make it round. Here’s a link to a four-strand hallah. Or to keep it simple, just make one long strand and coil it into a spiral.  No matter what, it’ll taste great.

One of my favorite chicken dishes is Rosh Hashanah Chicken with Cinnamon and Apples from Metz in  Joan Nathan’s Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France: A Cookbook. It’s easily found by a simple Google search.

But this year I’ll be using my Instant Pot to make this flavorful dish from My Jewish Learning:

9 4 pom chickGeorgian Pomegranate Chicken (Serves 6-8)


12 whole chicken legs, or 6 bone-in thighs + 6 legs (about 4 lbs)
Sunflower or avocado oil, as needed
3 medium red onions, halved and sliced thin
4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp aleppo pepper, or ½ t red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Tbsp honey
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Arils/seeds of 1 whole pomegranate
½ bunch fresh cilantro or parlesy, for garnish
Salt and pepper, as needed


  1. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Turn Instant Pot to the sauté setting for browning. Once the pot is hot, add a drizzle of oil
  3. Brown each piece of chicken until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Cook the chicken in batches so as not to crowd the pot and cause the chicken to steam instead of brown. 4. Once all of the chicken is browned, transfer it from the pot and reserve.
  4. Add all of the onions to the same pot so that they can cook in the remaining chicken fat. If more fat is needed, add another tablespoon or two of oil to the pot. Season the onions with salt and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until softened and starting to slightly brown.
  5. Add garlic, coriander, and paprika to pot and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes,until fragrant.
  6. Add tomato paste. Stir everything until onion mixture is well coated in tomato paste. Nestle reserved browned chicken back into pot. Press CANCEL to turn off sauté function on pot.
  7. Add pomegranate juice and molasses, tamarind paste, honey, thyme, and bay leaf to pot.
  8. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, close and seal pot. Press the POULTRY or MANUAL setting and set the time to 15 minutes.
  9. Release steam naturally for 10-15 minutes; shift valve to venting if more air needs to be released.
  10. Press CANCEL, open lid and transfer chicken to a platter and lightly cover with foil to keep chicken warm. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems.
  11. Turn on the SAUTE function again. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce by half, or until its reached your desired thickness.
  12. Once the sauce has reduced and thickened, pour the sauce over the chicken. At this point you can keep dish warm in a low oven, or you can cool it and freeze if making in advance.
  13. Just before serving, garnish the chicken with the fresh pomegranate and roughly chopped cilantro or parsley.

This can easily be adapted to stovetop. Follow the above steps using a large pan  with a cover. Simmer everything on medium-low for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with couscous or grain of your choice.

Note: If you don’t want to buy yet another condiment you can make a tamarind paste substitute: Mix together 2 T water, 3 T lemon juice, 1/2 c. tomato paste, 3 T worcestershire sauce, 2 T brown sugar. Adjust for the amount needed in the recipe  or mix equal amounts of lime juice and brown sugar to achieve tamarinds sweet/sour taste.

Side dishes sort of take care of themselves: honey roasted carrots, perhaps, or whatever is fresh as harvest time nears.

But dessert is almost as important as the main dish and there can never be enough. Lynne Kurzweil, nutritionist and one of Shomrei’s premier chefs, shared this healthy, gluten free-and almost vegan apple tart. The original source is 

9 4 apple tartNo Bake Apple Walnut Tart  (Serves 8)


2-1/2 cups walnuts
1-1/2 cups dates (Medjool dates work well)
sea salt to taste
3 green apples, such as Granny Smith, sliced
juice of 1 lemon in 2 cups water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground clove
2 TBS honey- substitute maple syrup or agave to make this vegan
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup raisins


  1. Combine walnuts and dates in food processor. Remove pits if dates have them; cut off stem end.
  2. Process until well mixed and ground, but not smooth (about 40 seconds). It should be a coarse texture when done. Press evenly into a 9-inch tart pan. Set in refrigerator while making the filling.
  3. Slice apples by cutting into quarters. Cut out core and slice crosswise in 1/4 inch thick slices. Put into lemon water while you finish cutting apples. Drain well in colander when done.
  4. Place apples in a large skillet with rest of the ingredients and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently on medium heat. Remove apples with a slotted spoon from hot pan to a bowl and cool completely.
  5. Reduce liquid to about half the volume and then cool.
  6. Spread apples evenly over crust. Brush apple-juice syrup over apples.
  7. Serve right away or cover and put in refrigerator until needed.
  8. Top with a little vanilla yogurt, if desired, or non dairy topping if serving with meat.

One of my favorite Rosh Hashanah desserts is an apple cake known sometimes as Polish apple cake and at other times Hanukkah apple cake. But it is a dense cake. The following has all the hallmarks of the classic apple cake but is much lighter.

9 4apple-cake-22Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake (Serves 20)


1 1/2 c. brown sugar- less for a less sweet cake
1/3 c. canola oil
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk or 1 tablespoon lemon juice added to milk  or soy milk to make 1 cup
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp.vanilla or a little more to taste
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 -2 c. chopped apples (Gala or Granny Smith)

1 /2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon or to taste
1 T. melted butter or margarine


  1. Preheat oven to 325; grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, oil, egg, buttermilk.
  3. Stir in baking soda and vanilla.
  4. Stir in flour and apples.
  5. Pour into pan.
  6. In a small bowl, combine, sugar, cinnamon, and butter or margarine. Mix gently with a fork.
  7. Spread evenly over batter.
  8. Bake 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

NOTES:  Try substituting yogurt for milk. Add a little cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon to batter.

This is a large cake; I doubled the topping for a nice crunchy top layer. To make cupcakes, use cupcake tins and bake 25-25 minutes.

9 4Mom_s_Honey_Cake_c_Michael_Persico_2_As a bonus, here’s a link to a honey cake that James Beard Award winning Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov swears by . It’s his mother’s recipe and he says that she bakes, freezes and sends it to him from Israel every year.


May you have a sweet New Year!

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Aileen Grossberg

Aileen Grossberg

Aileen Grossberg, a professional librarian, is a long-time congregant and serves as volunteer librarian for Shomrei's Lampert Library. The library, one of the best-kept secrets at Shomrei is used by the Rabbi, congregants, students and teachers of the JLC (Hebrew School) and Preschool. It's a tremendous resource completely supported by your donations and gifts. Aileen also heads the Shomrei Caterers, the in-house food preparation group. Can there be any better combination…good food and good books!
Aileen Grossberg

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