In Israel, there are two actual seasons – Summer (very long) and Winter (rather short), and two practically non-existent ones, Spring and Fall. Interestingly these two fleeting mini-seasons host two of the Jewish calendar’s most important holidays – Passover and Rosh Hashana.
Having grown up in Latvia, it took me years to accept Rosh Hashana as the beginning of a new year, which for me was synonymous with deep winter. But once I truly assimilated this land into my system, it started to make sense. Rosh Hashana marks the end of a long-long Summer. Though days can still be scorchingly hot, they become shorter; evenings and mornings are cooler, offering an occasional waft of a fresh Autumn breeze. There is a special sense of promise tinged with sadness - something is over and something new is about to begin. The longer I live here, the clearer it becomes why the ancient Hebrews chose this particular time of year to mark a year’s passage and to engage in some serious soul searching.
In terms of seasonal food, it’s hard to a find better time of year to celebrate – summer fruit is still abundant – figs, plums, and grapes at their luscious peak, while autumn apples, pears, quince and pomegranates are freshly picked and full of promise. It’s no wonder the festive Rosh Hashana meal is all about sweetness.
The beauty of the Israeli Rosh Hashana table is in its variety. The majority of families have mixed origins (European, North African, Middle Eastern), which is delectably reflected in the holiday menu. Ashkenazi gefilte fish happily coexists with Persian pomegranate stew and Moroccan salads.
Here are my ten Rosh Hashana favorites. Some are new takes on traditional Jewish classics, while others are fresh creations by local chefs, but all have already made their way to my family’s festive table. I hope you’ll also find something in this selection to grace your New Year's Eve dinner.
To make it even more festive – each recipe comes with wine pairing, courtesy of wine experts from two leading Israeli wineries – Golan Heights (Yarden) and Galil Mountain.
Looking forward to receiving your comments, requests and cooking notes!
Shana Tova ve Metuka