In celebration of Rosh Hashana

September 09, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

The latest cookbooks celebrating Jewish culture and cuisine emphasize the global nature of the foods enjoyed. Among the holidays, Rosh Hashana, which this year begins at sundown on Sept. 20, marks the beginning of the new year with prayer and reflection. Some of the foods traditionally served represent plenty, or fertility, and honey and apples are served to symbolize hopes for a sweet year ahead. Here's an eclectic selection of recipes appropriate for Rosh Hashana.

The first recipe, the Chicken With Almonds and Prunes, is a tagine, or stew, and is traditionally served over couscous or rice.

To make the Moroccan Eggplant Salad, preparation needs to begin two days ahead of serving.

Chicken With Almonds and Prunes

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 medium onions, sliced

1 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces

1 cup pitted dried prunes

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup water

3 tablespoons honey

Toast the almonds and sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until light golden. Set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion slices and saute until golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and saute until golden, about 15 minutes. Add the prunes, cinnamon, turmeric, salt and pepper. Stir in the water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Before serving, drizzle the honey over the chicken and sprinkle the almonds and sesame seeds on top.

- From "The Sephardic Table: The Vibrant Cooking of the Mediterranean Jews," by Paula Grau Twena (Houghton Mifflin, 1998, $16)

Moroccan Eggplant Salad

Serves 4 to 6

2 eggplants (about 2 pounds)

2 tablespoons kosher salt

vegetable oil for browning

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, mashed

juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon cumin, or to taste

harissa or dried red pepper flakes to taste (see note)

1/2 teaspoon raz al hanout (see note)

1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

Score the eggplants lengthwise with a vegetable peeler. Then slice in 1/2 -inch rounds. Sprinkle with the salt and let sit in a strainer bowl overnight.

The next day, squeeze out the remaining juice from the eggplants using paper towels. Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and refrigerate overnight in a covered dish.

The next day mix the tomato paste, garlic, lemon juice and spices in a small bowl. Add to the eggplants, gently coating them. Sprinkle with the fresh coriander. Serve at room temperature.

Note: Harissa is a fiery pepper paste from North Africa. it is available in ethnic, gourmet or specialty shops. Raz al hanout is a spice blend. it is available in some supermarkets, or from ethnic, gourmet or specialty stores.

- From "Jewish Cooking in America," by Joan Nathan (Knopf, 1994, expanded in 1998, $35)

Couscous With Caramelized Vegetables

Serves 10

2 1/4 cups chicken stock

2 ounces pareve margarine

1 pinch of saffron, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

oil, for tossing carrots, sauteing

garlic powder, onion salt, pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups couscous

1 pound carrots

2 onions, chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms

sweet vinegar (peach or Vidalia onion)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the carrots and cut on the bias 1/2 inch thick. Toss with a little oil, garlic powder, onion salt and pepper. Roast until brown and soft. Saute onions slowly over low heat until brown. Saute mushrooms until dry. Combine vegetables, sprinkle with sweet vinegar and salt and saute until dry and browned. Set vegetables aside. These can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.

Saute saffron with margarine until thoroughly blended. Heat chicken stock in saucepan and add saffron mixture. Bring to a boil. Place couscous in a bowl and add stock. Cover with foil, let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add vegetables and toss.

- Adapted from "noshin' but the best," from the Sisterhood of Beth El Congregation in Pikesville. The recipe is from Nancy Hart.

Apple Strudel in the Round

Serves 10 to 12

8-10 cups peeled and sliced apples, cut into Z- to [-inch slices (see note)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup golden raisins, plumped and dried (see note)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted

16 sheets packaged phyllo dough

confectioners' sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, cornstarch and raisins. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly brush the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on your work surface and generously brush it with melted butter. Top it with a second sheet, brush it with butter, and keep layering until you've used 9 sheets of phyllo. Gently press the sheets into the pan, allowing them to drape over the sides.

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