Rosh Hashanah arrives this year at sundown Sunday, and since the weather will still be warm, a light menu featuring the late-summer harvest of fresh vegetables and fruits seems appropriate to celebrate the new year ahead.
My recent trip to Italy made me aware of the wonderful possibilities of growing your own lush, flavorful garden-fresh food. The villa where we lived was entirely self-sufficient . . . with the staff preparing wine and olive oil, magnificent varieties of produce and gathering eggs.
If you have your own garden, you know the pleasure of serving the freshest of salad greens, tomatoes, baby vegetables and a variety of fruits. Tomatoes especially are so easy to grow, and two or three tomato plants will provide an enormous supply. If you're not a gardener, visit some of the open-air farmers' markets in various local areas.
This year I am taking advantage of garden bounties and leaving the heavier traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes on hold until next year.
A Toast With Chardonnay
But, of course, I am not going to forsake tradition entirely. The round hallah symbolizes a well-rounded year ahead; apple slices dipped in honey express the hope for a sweet year. And when my family breaks bread on this holiday eve dinner, we will drink a toast to the new year with a young fruity Chardonnay.
My unusual first course is a simple salad of avocado slices on a bed of pungently flavored arugula dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. Arugula is delicious and easy to grow.
Garden Soup and Garnish
Next, I will serve a chilled tomato-based soup--my garden version of the Spanish gazpacho. Hopefully, you will make it with full-flavored tomatoes from your garden because nothing compares with firm, deep-red vine-ripened tomatoes. With the soup, pass around bowls of finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and green and yellow peppers for a colorful do-it-yourself garnish, along with more of the fennel-spiced hallah.
Chicken breasts, low in calories and fat, are sliced, quickly grilled with barely a trace of oil and fanned around a mixture of finely diced squash in three varieties--zucchini, patty pan and crookneck. The flavors are enhanced with green onions, which you may have grown yourself. Garnish with fresh herbs from the garden.
Late-summer plums arranged in colorful circles on a light pastry dough make an eye-appealing tart for dessert. With it, I'll serve a sweet, late-harvest wine and hot tea with lemon . . . and the children will choose their favorite fruit juice.
ROSH HASHANAH EVE DINNER
Round Hallah With Fennel Seeds
Apple slices and honey
Avocado and Arugula Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
Cold Spicy Tomato Soup
Grilled Chicken Slices With Squash Medley
Tart Plum Tart
Chardonnay and late harvest wines
Tea with lemon
ROUND HALLAH WITH FENNEL SEEDS
1 package dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup unsalted margarine, melted
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
Lightly beaten egg
Dissolve yeast with dash sugar in 1/2 cup warm water. Set aside.
Blend eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, margarine and remaining water in bowl of electric mixer. Blend in yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at time, mixing until dough comes together. Pour onto floured board and knead, adding small amount of additional flour at a time, along with 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, until dough has smooth and elastic consistency, 5 to 10 minutes.
Place dough in oiled bowl. Oil top of dough, cover with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Divide in thirds. Shape each third into rope. Join ropes at one end and braid. Bring ends together to form ring and place on oiled baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Brush with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon fennel seeds. Bake at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and loaf has hollow sound when tapped with finger. Transfer to rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf.
Note: Serve with apple slices and honey for dipping.
AVOCADO AND ARUGULA SALAD
3 avocados, peeled and seeded
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups loosely packed shredded arugula, stems removed
2 cups shredded hearts of romaine or bibb lettuce
Pomegranate seeds, optional
Slice each avocado into 12 lengthwise slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside.
Place arugula and lettuce in bowl. Just before serving toss with enough vinaigrette to coat leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mound salad greens on chilled plates and fan avocado slices around them. Spoon remaining vinaigrette over avocado slices. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup walnut oil
Freshly ground pepper
Place mustard, vinegar and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Add oil in thin stream and blend until slightly thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3/4 cup.