It's time to break out the apples and honey. Or figs and maple syrup. Or tahini and Nutella.
Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday night, followed by Yom Kippur, which begins Oct. 8 and lasts through the next day, and then Sukkot, which begins the evening of Oct. 13 and ends Oct. 20. These holidays celebrate the sweetness of life, the hope of a new year and, yes, the food traditions that are worth passing down from generation to generation.
When she's entertaining around this time of year, Amy Rosen, author of "Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook," pulls out a traditional brisket and marinades it in a salty-sweet mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup and apricot preserves. In "Little Book of Jewish Sweets," Leah Koenig shares secrets to making baklava that includes layers of chopped dried figs and walnuts and is drizzled with a rose water-scented syrup. Alana Newhouse's new book "The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List" features an ode to halvah, the crumbly tahini-based dessert that can include Nutella.
L’shanah tovah to 5780, friends.
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When feeding a crowd, especially around the holidays, this is my go-to main course. I’ve swapped out my usual "secret ingredient," Coca-Cola, for maple syrup, and the salt for soy, making for a Judeo-Canadian-Chinese take and a new classic in the making. Roast some veggies in a separate pan while you’re at it.
— Amy Rosen
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 pouch (about 1 ounce) onion soup mix
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Pepper, to taste
1 (5 pound) beef brisket
In a small bowl, mix together the syrup, soy sauce, apricot preserves, onion soup mix, tomato sauce and pepper. Place the brisket in a roasting pan and pour the marinade on the top. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have that much time to spare, several hours will do in a pinch.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cook the brisket, still covered with foil, for 3 hours. Remove the foil and cook, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate the brisket (still in the pan); this aids in slicing.
When the brisket is cold, skim and discard the fat with a spoon. Remove the brisket from the sauce and slice thinly against the grain. Add it back into the pan with the sauce.
About 1 hour before you’re ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the brisket in the oven and reheat, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, spooning the sauce over top a few times. Serve at once. Serves 8 to 10.
— From "Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook" by Amy Rosen (Random House, $30)
Baklava is a triumph of a confection — a mix of gorgeously crisp phyllo pastry, decadent layers of nuts and a copious drizzle of fragrant syrup. The dessert is central to Turkish and Greek cuisines and has spread widely across the Middle East and the Balkans. Jewish communities serve baklava on holidays (typically Rosh Hashanah and Purim) and at special occasions like weddings and bar mitzvahs. This version adds jammy dried figs to an otherwise traditional walnut filling, yielding a confection that is at once familiar and new.
— Leah Koenig
For the baklava:
1 pound walnut halves
1 1/2 cups dried mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (1-pound) package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, or coconut or vegetable oil
For the syrup:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon rose water
Make the baklava: Heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Place the walnuts, figs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor, and mix until the walnuts and figs are finely ground.
If necessary, trim the phyllo to fit the baking dish, then place on a flat cutting board and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Fit one sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the baking dish and generously brush with melted butter. Repeat seven times, brushing with butter after each layer to make a stack of eight phyllo sheets. Spoon half of the nut and fig mixture over the phyllo and spread evenly. Repeat the process with four more phyllo sheets, brushing with butter between each layer. Spread the remaining nut and fig mixture over the top, and repeat the process with eight more phyllo sheets.
Bake until the top is lightly golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into squares or diamonds in the pan.
Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir together the granulated sugar, water, honey and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan, and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the syrup thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and rose water. Let cool slightly. Discard the cinnamon stick.
Carefully spoon the warm syrup over the slightly cooled and cut baklava, taking care to pour syrup along the cut lines. Let the baklava sit for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the syrup to soften the filling. Serve at room temperature. Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. Serves 8.
— From "Little Book of Jewish Sweets" by Leah Koenig (Chronicle Books, $18.95)
There's simply no such thing as too much halvah. It keeps forever in the freezer; is typically made from tahini, sugar and little else; complies with basically every dietary need or law; and is delicious. Halvah may look like a bar of soap, but it is, in fact, a heavenly confection that crumbles like the innards of a Butterfinger and shaves like Parmesan. You either love it or you're completely indifferent to it. The name is derived from the Arabic word "halwa," meaning "sweetmeat," and it is believed to have originated in Turkey as a flour-and-sugar-based candy. In the early 20th century, a sesame-based version enjoyed by Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe made its way to Brooklyn when the entrepreneur Nathan Radutzky founded Joyva, the largest and oldest halvah producer in the States. Here's how to make your own.
— Molly Yeh
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups tahini, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup Nutella
Line a 3 1/2-inch-by-7-inch loaf pan (or a pan of a similar size) with parchment paper, leaving 1 inch of parchment overhanging on two sides.
Combine the sugar, water and vanilla in a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 245 degrees, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the tahini and salt. If there are any lumps in the tahini or if it has separated, stir by hand until it’s smooth. Have the Nutella standing by near the mixer, ideally in an ice cream scoop with a trigger release so that it can be added as quickly as possible.
When the sugar mixture reaches 245 degrees, turn the mixer on low speed and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the bowl and mix for no more than 15 to 20 seconds, until just combined. Immediately add the Nutella and mix for just two or three revolutions of the paddle, so the Nutella creates a marbled effect, then turn off the mixer and quickly use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top with the spatula as best as you can. Allow the halvah to harden at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Use the overhanging parchment to remove the halvah from the pan and serve. The halvah will keep wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for several weeks. Makes one 3 1/2-inch-by-7-inch loaf. Serves 10 to 12.
— From "The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List" by Alana Newhouse (Artisan Books, $24.95)