Sunday, October 9, 2005

Fall Favorites & Family Feasts

I truly love this time of year for several reasons. First, I love it for the sheer beauty of it. The glorious vista of changing leaves here in the North East – vibrant, brilliant shades of reds, oranges, yellows and greens too numerous to name. Every view is better than the one before. Every day the same view changes. Awesome!!! There is one particular road here in Toronto that goes through a valley and it is absolutely breathtaking. I have a snapshot in my mind of driving along the Don Valley Parkway one autumn and seeing a fox standing majestically overseeing this stunning landscape. I love the color, I love walking on crunchy leaves and still love the opportunity to jump in a huge pile of them when no one's looking.

The second reason I love fall is because of the cool, crispness of the air. Gone (except for last week) are the hot, muggy days of summer. Finally I can wear my jean jacket (which has been hiding in a closet since May) and the wooly sweaters get to come out of the cedar chest. Perfect weather for me - much like Goldilocks I don't like it too hot or too cold. Fall is just right, thanks for asking.

Last, but definitely not least, it’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a time for reflection, renewal and a promise of things to come. Oh, and did I forget to mention – a time to feast with family and friends. When we meet each other we say “Shana Tova”, which literally means “Good Year”. And usually we add “I wish you a healthy, peaceful, prosperous and joyful year”. So to all my food blogging friends, regardless of your spiritual persuasion, Shana Tova, may your future be filled with joy and peace.

Like any religious or cultural event, families get together to celebrate and eat foods traditionally prepared. When I was little, we would go to my grandparents’ tiny apartment (their seven children and their spouses, the 17 grandchildren and sundry cousins, et al) and feast on delicacies my grandmother made from recipes that came from her Russian and Polish roots. My memories include a cacophony of wonderful smells from the kitchen and sounds of glee from hordes of children, clanging cookware and laughter. Over the years, the festivities moved first to my parents’ home and then to mine. At one point in time there were 25 around my table but that has dwindled to less than a dozen. Interestingly enough, many of the same recipes still show up on my table as they did on my grandmother’s…. chicken soup with matzo balls, carrot tzimmis, potato kugel, luckshen kugel, to name but a few. And this year, my daughter Joanna in Halifax, Nova Scotia made the same meal I did, so even though we are physically apart we still get to share the kitchen.

This time of year the tradition is to feast on sweet things and save spicier dishes for other occasions. We serve challah (egg bread) made with raisins, say a blessing over apples dipped in honey and serve meats and vegetables prepared with honey and dried fruits (in the hope that people will be judged sweetly).

This is the menu I served. The recipes will follow over the next day or so. Most of them are from my cookbook (it gave me an opportunity to do some testing).

Rosh Hashanah Menu

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls
Salad Course
Gefilte fish (ground whitefish, pike and carp shaped in balls and stewed in fish broth) purchased because although I love the taste, I hate the smell of it cooking. I serve it cold, many serve it hot. My family likes it sweet, others like it peppery.
Chicken salad (for those who don’t like gefilte fish) I can't imagine making chicken soup without using the chicken for a salad like my mother did.
Israeli salad (for those who don't like either)
Main Course
Orange Ginger Capon & gravy (if I didn't make this, there would be a rebellion at the table - I tried to do something different one year - not a wise decision. So now I stick to our usual dishes and leave experimenting for other occasions.)
Mushroom Farfel Stuffing
Potato Kugel (Pudding)
Luckshen Kugel (Noodle pudding from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America – a family staple)
Sweet Carrot Tsimmis
Broccoli & Cauliflower topped with bread crumbs (the only way my mother could get us to eat it as a kid, so I make it in her honor)
Honey cake
Walnut Squares (Second Helpings Please) David’s Favorite
Almond Crisp Bars (The Pleasures of Your Processor) Sharron’s favorite
Date Squares
Sliced melon


Mona said...

I've never been to your blog before, and just found it off of foodpornwatch. What a lovely post about fall. It is my favorite time of year too. Especially since it's mid-Oct and I'm now anticipating my favorite holidays-halloween, thanksgiving, and christmas. Happy New Year, and though not Jewish, I did enjoy a few pieces of challah bread this morning for breakfast, a relatively new discovery of mine. Where have I been all these yearS!!??

Ruth said...

Mona, thanks for dropping by. I hope you visit often. Yes, fall is a fabulous time of year with great holidays.

As far as challah goes - it is the best bread around by far. I even have a recipe for it if you're so inclined (check out the recipe link)