Fresh Fridays 
August 23, 2013
  Vol. V, No. 14     
Challah, apples and honey. May you be insribed in the Cookbook of Life.

As summer dissolves into autumn, students of all ages feel the excitement of a new school year. This season also marks the start of the Jewish year, which begins with a celebration called Rosh Hashanah (literally "head of the year"). The holiday is a time for reflection and for making resolutions to be the best a person can be. This year Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of September 4 and ends on the evening of September 6.


To celebrate the new year, Sephardic families (Jewish families who trace their ancestry to pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal) typically include symbolic foods on their holiday table. These foods, often traditional to the Mediterranean Diet, are chosen based on wordplay. For example, dates are customary for the meal because the Hebrew word for date is similar to the Hebrew word for "end," so the blessing asks for an end to hate and for the year ahead to be full of peace.


Linda Capeloto Sendowski is an American Sephardic Jew whose grandparents came to the United States from the Greek island of Rhodes and the Turquoise Coast of Turkey. She writes the Global Jewish Kitchen blog from her home in Beverly Hills. Linda graciously shares her family's Sephardic Rosh Hashanah customs: 

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The most important way I express my faith for this celebration is in meals. The meals on the two nights of Rosh Hashanah are a cook's opportunity to be traditional as well as to create new symbolic dishes with a modern twist.


I incorporate as many symbolic foods as possible into the dinner starters. Honey, for example, represents a sweet year ahead. Black-eyed peas represent increasing one's merits. Pomegranates, bursting with seeds, count for being full of good deeds for the coming year. Beets and leeks are for overcoming adversity. The special round challah bread signifies the cyclical ending and beginning of years. A ceremonial cooked fish head represents an ideal of always being at the head and not the tail, being a leader and not a follower. For each new tasting we recite a different blessing to be bestowed upon us in the new year.


First we make a blessing on wine we have chosen to showcase. Next we tear yeast-scented challah bread into moist strands and drizzle honey on top. Following challah, we dip apples from the new fall crop in honey. I serve Kufte de Prassa (recipe below)--leek and ground beef patties, fluffy and lightly crisp--so that we may vanquish our enemies. Moist Medjool dates, also just fresh from harvest, are a good omen for peace. We eat spinach to symbolize removal of threats. Fresh fish represents a wish that we may multiply like fish in the sea. To evoke thoughts of autumn, pumpkin filled turnovers called Borekas represent a petition for evil decrees against us to be torn up and for us to be guarded and protected in the new year.


This meal shows my deeply felt love for family, faith, and tradition. Family and friends being together should be a memorable occasion. Good food, made with your hands, is a way to embrace all those whom you love.

Below are two of Linda's recipes, as well as some suggestions for dishes that incorporate a few traditional Sephardic Rosh Hashanah ingredients. Enjoy them as part of a holiday celebration or simply as part of a weeknight dinner between soccer practice and piano lessons.  


Click on the titles or photos below to link to the recipes.  

Somewhere between a meatball and patty is a kufte. Prassa are leeks, one of the Simanim--symbolic foods--for Rosh Hashanah.

Recipe courtesy of Linda Capeloto Sendowski, all rights reserved   

Typically braided in long loaves, challah is shaped into round loaves for the Rosh Hashanah celebration to symbolize the cycles the of the year.  


Recipe courtesy of Linda Capeloto Sendowski, all rights reserved


The Hebrew word for "gourd" is similar to the Hebrew words for "to tear" and "to proclaim," so the Rosh Hashanah blessing asks that bad decrees be torn up and the merits of those at the table be proclaimed. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of International Collection 

Dates are common on holiday tables throughout the Mediterranean in many different traditions. They symbolize the desire for peace on Rosh Hashanah.


Recipe and photo courtesy of Bard Valley Natural Delights 


The words for "bean" and "increase" sound similar in Hebrew, so the Rosh Hashanah blessing on black-eyed peas requests an increase in merits in the coming year.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Walnuts 
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        



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The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
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