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Archive for September, 2010

“Fast” Meals

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Over the course of the Jewish year, there is no dearth of food-related ideas to write about.  In fact, considering how central food is to Jewish observances and lifecycles, I rarely find myself lacking in material.   There’s always another holiday coming up, and always the need for what-to-serve, what-to-eat.  But Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is the biggest fast day of the year.  It’s not about food. Come this Friday night, Jews all over the world will stop eating and drinking for a day (that alone is something to write about!)   But Yom Kippur is not about fasting either; It’s about rising above the absence of food, and all the distractions in order to connect and think and pray.

It’s hard for us to celebrate without food to mark the occasion.  Consider the “seudat hamafseket” (the last meal preceding the fast of Yom Kippur).    I always find this to be the most conflicted meal of the year – highly functional while at the same time festive and yet also in keeping with the seriousness of the day.   Go try to put that into a menu – it’s slightly paradoxical, from a cook’s perspective anyhow.      The meal needs to be homey and satisfying, without spiciness; sweet and celebratory, with solemnity.  It needs to be a meal that ends with contentedness, knowing that we’ve eaten all that we want so that we no longer have to, and no longer need to.  At that point we can go into Yom Kippur prepared and ready to focus on the meaning of the day.

You’re of course wondering then, well what do we eat?  (It always seems to come back to that, doesn’t it?)  I recommend this fruity, tangy chicken recipe, smothered in sauce over a bed of mashed potatoes.  The following dish is simple to prepare, and the sauce can even be prepared a day ahead.  Serve with green beans and a nice salad and don’t forget to drink lots of water.     

Fresh Apricot and Orange Chicken

12 oz. jar orange marmalade

4 fresh apricots, pitted and sliced

¼ cup white wine

Juice of 1 lime

¼ tsp. ground ginger

1 whole chicken (4 lbs.), cut into 1/8ths

¾ tsp. garlic powder

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Place first five ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until apricots are very tender and sauce has slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse chicken parts and pat dry.  Place chicken in a roasting pan and sprinkle with garlic powder, kosher salt and black pepper.  Pour sauce over chicken.  Bake uncovered for about 1¼-1½ hours, until chicken is nicely browned and sauce is bubbly.   

Wishing you an easy and meaningful fast,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross






Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Searching the markets for this year’s “new fruit,” an object to be sanctified and enjoyed by many on Rosh Hashanah, is always an adventure.  Unfortunately, it is often an anticlimactic experience for me.  Much as I enjoy scouting out the exotic cherimoya (out of season and unripe this time of year) or the much sought after star fruit (which looks much cooler than it tastes), I often end up with a misunderstood fruit that commanded a misunderstood price at the center of my holiday table (or likely later in my holiday garbage).   And so, each year I return to the aisles in anticipation of finding that fruit which marks the newness that Rosh Hashanah is all about…and secretly hope that it will taste good, too.

But this year is different.  This year is sweet with inspiration.  I didn’t have to look to the far ends of the earth to find a fruit pregnant with newness; I had only to look in my own backyard – my own Biblical backyard, that is.   This summer, I enjoyed many walks and hikes in Israel, and was frequently reminded of the “shivat haminim” (the seven species including wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) which the Torah declares are abundant in the Land of Israel.  And indeed they are.   One of my favorites is the fig.  The plump beauties I encountered on my trip bore no resemblance to the crusty, dried Tu B”shvat specimens of my youth.  Dark and dull on the outside, you only had to pull them apart to reveal the rosy-red juiciness that lies within, the myriad internal flowers that are the actual fruit.   It says in the Talmud that Torah is like a fig tree, which has fruit at various stages of ripening; the longer one works at it, the more one finds.  This idea gave me much hope – that each day there is something new to learn, ripe for the picking and filled with blossoms of potential.  That’s an idea to start the New Year with.  That’s a newness to bless.  Move over cherimoya…the fig is back.

Figs are not only delicious to snack on, though; they also lend a terrific element to cooked dishes.  Figs possess a delicate flavor that can add depth and sweetness to your holiday cooking.   Pairing veal with fresh figs worked wonderfully for me when developing the following holiday recipe, infusing the meat with subtle fruitiness.  I hope your guests with think so too.

Roast Veal with Muscato-Fig Reduction 

Serves 6.

A meat thermometer is an invaluable tool in determining perfectly cooked meat.  Be sure to use one in this recipe for perfectly moist veal.


  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped (a scant cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 3½ lb. veal shoulder roast
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 10 fresh black mission figs, halved
  • 1 cup Muscato (sweet white wine)
  • ¼ cup beef or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (optional)
  • Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place chopped onion, fennel, garlic, and shallot in the bottom of a medium roasting pan (large enough to fit a rack).  Season with salt and pepper and toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Place rack over vegetables.  Rub remaining tbsp. oil all over the veal roast and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place roast on the rack.  Place pan in oven and roast for 10 minutes, until browned.  Turn roast over and repeat for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and reduce oven to 325°.  Drizzle honey over roast and add figs and wine to the bottom of the pan.  Cover with tented foil and return to oven.  Bake for 1 ½ hours or until meat thermometer reaches 155 degrees internally.

Remove from oven and transfer veal and rack from pan to a platter or cutting board.  While veal rests, pour the contents of the bottom of the pan through a sieve set over a small saucepan.  Reserve the figs and set aside.  Press the vegetables against the sieve to release any additional liquid into the saucepan.  Discard vegetables.  

Place saucepan over medium heat, add stock, and bring to a simmer.  Reduce liquid by half, about 15 minutes (sauce should thicken to syrupy consistency – if sauce is too thin, pour off a small amount into a cup, dissolve cornstarch into the liquid and add back into the sauce.  Stir until thickened.).

Slice veal into thin slices, and place onto platter.  Pour sauce over veal (or serve on the side in a gravy boat) and garnish with reserved cooked figs. 

Just when you thought Rosh Hashanah couldn’t get any sweeter, here’s a bonus recipe incorporating another of the “seven species” into the menu, one that is also one of the symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah: dates.  Two symbolic fruits for the price of one!

On Rosh Hashanah night, we eat dates because the Hebrew word for date is “tamar”, which sounds similar to “tamu”, to consume.  We pray that G-d will consume our enemies and grant us all a very sweet New Year.

Orange-Scented Date Crumb Bars

If you weren’t a date-lover before, you will be after these treats.  Perfect for dessert or tea, these bars are great anytime.

  1. 1 1/4 cups water
  2. ¼ cup triple-sec or orange flavored liquor
  3. ½ tsp. grated orange peel (optional)
  4. 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 10 oz.)
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. ¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  8. 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  10. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  12. ¼ tsp. cloves
  13. ¼ tsp. allspice
  14. 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, diced, room temperature
  15. ½ cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8×8-inch metal baking pan.  Bring water, liquor, and orange peel to simmer in medium saucepan.  Add dates and simmer until very soft and thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.  Cool to room temperature.

Combine flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, cloves and allspice in large bowl.  Stir to blend.  Add butter.  Using fingertips, rub the butter into the mixture until moist clumps form. Press half of oat mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan.  Spread date mixture on top.  Mix chopped pecans into remaining half of oat mixture, then sprinkle the mixture on top of the dates.  Press gently.  Bake until brown at edges and golden brown and set in center, about 40 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on a cooling rack.  Cut into bars and serve.


Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family


By Naomi Ross