For a Good & Sweet Year: Rosh Hashanah recipes

As a follow up to the post of two weeks ago calling for Rosh Hashanah recipes, here are a few favorites.


by Elisheva Lahav

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is the only honey cake that my late mother, Janet Ha-Levi, who passed away in May 2009, ever made. It is also the only honey cake that I have ever made. Why even try anything else? When you’ve got a winner, stick with it! Also, neither of us ever made it when it wasn’t Rosh Hashanah. Who eats honey cake on Purim or Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July?

What’s really good about this cake is that it’s not too sweet and not too dry.

Shana tova u’mevorechet (a good and blessed year) to all AACI members and blog readers.

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

Separate 3 eggs and whip whites until stiff.

Sift together into a large bowl:

3 ½ cups flour

1 cup brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. allspice

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ cup chopped nuts or raisins (optional)

Make a well in the center and add:

1⅓ cups honey

3 egg yolks

¼ cup oil

1 ⅓ cups cool black coffee (can also be decaf)

Blend all ingredients together thoroughly, and gently fold in egg whites.

Don’t worry that you’ve done something wrong if the batter is very thin!

Bake in a lightly greased 10” tube pan for approximately 1 hour.

ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR:  Elisheva Lahav is a volunteer at AACI Jerusalem, responsible for staffing the front desk.  She says:

The front desk is the interface between the AACI and its clients and the rest of the world.  All phone calls come through the front desk, and all visitors to the AACI’s offices pass by it.  Approximately 20 volunteers staff the desk, two each morning and two each afternoon, five days a week.
I, myself, had been a member of the AACI board for several years, but until I began volunteering here about 8 ½ years ago (right after my very, very, very early retirement), I quickly realized that I hadn’t really known what AACI was or what it did.  Only by speaking with the callers, or welcoming them as they come in, or signing them up for membership or for the myriad activities, or trying to answer questions on a plethora of topics (or, often, transferring their calls to whichever staff member deals with the particular topic), was I able to get a feel for AACI’s invaluable work – for which I have tremendous esteem.  I never cease to be amazed at how AACI helps English-speaking newcomers (or more veteran immigrants) to Israel find their way in the crazy, confusing, complicated world in which we have chosen to rebuild our homes.
On behalf of the AACI’s front desk volunteers in Jerusalem, I wish all AACI’s members and their families a very happy and healthy New Year.

ASSURE (Bulgur/Chickpea/Pomegranate Side Dish)

by Daniel Ashkenazi

This dish is traditional all over the Sephardic Balkans and Turkey. This variation is from Salonika (a frequent destination on our Kosher cruises), eaten on Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Tu B’Shvat.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I personally sampled – well, more than sampled – this dish, prepared by Daniel, last Rosh Hashanah. It is amazingly flavorful; the ingredients combine and contrast delightfully.

You need:

– ½ cup of Bulgur per Person

– Chickpeas to taste (about 1/4 of the total weight)

– fresh pomegranate seeds (same quantity as the chickpeas)

– onion and fresh garlic to taste

– Extra Virgin Olive Oil

– Chopped Parsley

Soak the chickpeas overnight and cook until tender. Let them dry in a sifter or spread them on paper towels. When dried, fry them in Olive oil until golden-brown. Put aside.

Fry the chopped onion and garlic in lots of olive oil till brown, add the Bulgur and fry while constantly stirring for a few minutes. Cover with warm water and reduce heat. Let it simmer until tender, or till all liquid was absorbed.

Take off the fire and mix in the chickpeas while still hot. Add the pomegranate seeds right before serving and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.

Buen Provezo (Ladino) or Kali Orexi (Greek).

ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR: My name is Daniel Ashkenazi, I grew up on the Greek island of Kos, near Rhodes, (also  oftentimes AACI Kosher Cruise destinations and studied in Salonika before I made Aliyah 6 years ago. I live with my wife in Jerusalem. I work in tourism and as a book binder.

Anyada Buena i klara skritos en el libro del vida! A Good New Year and a sure inscription into the Book of Life!



by Bryna Lee Jacobson

A Jacobson family favorite,shared by dear friends (and the friend’s Mom) from Skokie, Illinois.
Super easy to make and also freezes well. I usually cook rice to go with it. For a very elegant and beautiful presentation, my friend serves portions of 3 meatballs in stemmed dessert dishes.


Meatball mixture

Grate by hand or with food processer:

1 potato and 1 onion

Mix in:

1 kilo ground meat. I use beef.

2 eggs

Mix this together. Add some salt and pepper or other seasonings at this point if you like.

Sauce ingredients for 1 kilo meat

1 ½ cup ketchup

2 cup water

2 8-oz cans tomato sauce (not paste)

1 tsp sour salt

1 tsp salt

1 bay leaf (optional)

¾ cup sugar

Bring sauce to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven that is big enough to hold the sauce and the meatballs you will add to it. When the sauce is boiling, start gently placing the raw meatballs into the sauce. NO STIRRING! Reduce flame and shake the pan a little to cover the meatballs. It doesn’t look like it will be enough sauce but trust me – that it is enough liquid. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 60-90 minutes. 

ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR: Bryna Lee works in AACI Jerusalem’s Development. department. She made aliyah from the Chicago area 3 years ago and now lives in Ma’ale Adumim.


by Tehillah Hessler (adapted from Mishpacha magazine)

I start with a batter:

1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
 1tsp paprika
dash pepper
½ cup beer or water
2 tbsp oil
2 eggs

Coat the chicken – 1 ½ kg boneless chicken breasts cut into nuggets – in the batter and fry until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and place in a deep casserole dish.

Fry – 1 pkg (approx 250 g) pastrami cut into½ inch strips –  in the same oil that was used for the chicken. Remove from pan when brown and crispy on the edges and add to the casserole dish.

1 can of pineapple chunks (reserve the juice)

Toss the pineapple chunks in the hot oiled pan and stir until seared.


Juice from the pineapple (¾ cup)
1 cup of duck sauce or apricot jam
add any desired spices if you want it to have a bite (for example, chili powder or cayenne pepper, chili sauce, sriracha sauce, minced jalapeno)

Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in:

1 TSP cornstarch dissolved in ½ cup cold water

Cook and stir till mixture thickens. Pour over the chicken/pastrami mixture and toss.
Serve with rice or noodles.


PUMPKIN TWO WAYS (Soup or Salad)

by Laura Firszt (adapted from Phyllis Glazer’s Cumin-Scented Pumpkin Soup)

Erev Rosh Hashana is a busy time for cooks. who need to prepare the equivalent of four (!!!) Thanksgiving dinners for the holiday. Besides being tasty, this dish can save you time and stress by doing double duty. Serve it as a siman and/or side dish the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Then transform it into a soup for another of the festive meals. Can be prepared in advance and frozen.

Have a good and sweet year!

2 large onions

4-5 cloves garlic

1 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp or more turmeric

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp soy sauce (optional but gives much richer flavor)

5 cups pumpkin, shredded

1 large potato, shredded

1 large carrot, shredded

½ cup vegetable stock or water

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pkg fresh coriander or parsley, coarsely chopped

Mince the onion and garlic. Cook in olive oil over low heat until deep brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spices, then add soy sauce and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining vegetables and the liquid. Raise heat, bring to a boil, then lower heat once again. Cover the mixture and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pumpkin is very tender.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree if desired and serve hot or at room temperature as a side dish. Stir in the fresh herbs before serving.

To transform this into pumpkin soup, add another 6-7 cups liquid. I like to add a package of fresh spinach, chopped, to the soup for the last 10 or so minutes of cooking.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.



Happy New Year to the Trees

“The almond trees are blooming!” I excitedly emailed my mother a few days ago. She lives back in Montreal, my snowy alte heim, where the traditional first sign of spring, spotting a robin, usually doesn’t take place till some time in early April.

But, after twenty years in Israel, my heart still lifts when I see gnarled almond branches sprouting delicately lovely blossoms — and in January! This charming sight, even on the coldest, bleakest day, reminds me that warmer weather is coming.

A notable characteristic of shekediot (or Prunus dulcis, to give their botanical name) is that unlike many other fruit trees, they flower before producing leaves. As a result, their five-petaled white or pale pink blooms are all the more visible. Also, almond trees do not shed their old fruit. Instead, fresh young flowers share space with the leftover almonds of yesteryear. When, as part of some New Age-y, get-to-know-your-inner-self exercise, I was asked to draw the tree I most resemble, I chose an almond. Connection to the past and growth in new directions, as well as sturdy rootedness in the Land of Israel, are qualities I try to … well … cultivate in myself. I liked my new alter ego so much that I began using “shekedia” as a nom de plume (pen name) on the Internet — or maybe on the Net they call it a nom de souris (mouse name).

Wikipedia’s article about almond trees taught me an interesting tidbit: almonds are not horticulturally nuts, but instead are members of the peach family! If you have a look at unpeeled almonds, either in the shuk or on the hoof, as it were, you will see that they are encased in two layers – a fuzzy outer covering coats a woody shell somewhat similar to a peach pit. The almond seed itself closely resembles a peach kernel. Wild (bitter) almonds contain dangerous amounts of hydrogen cyanide, as do peach kernels, and their cultivation and sale is banned in the United States. So admire our Israeli wild almond trees from afar, but don’t be tempted to sample a taste.

However, whether nutty or peachy, domesticated almonds are a delicious tree fruit and as such, are often eaten as part of celebrations of Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees when the age of a tree is calculated for halachic purposes, falls on February 8th in 2012. This festive day is traditionally marked by eating fruit, especially olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates, sometimes as part of a seder, or ritual meal. Many charitable organizations raise funds at this time of year by selling attractive platters of dried fruits and nuts. In addition, schoolchildren in Israel often go to the forest to plant trees. I have happy memories of joining my kids years ago on a tiyul to the woods next to Har Nof, where we proudly planted tiny saplings.

AACI Jerusalem is offering three Tu B’Shvat activities this year:

1) A talk by Tomer of Victor’s Landscape Center — Wednesday February 1, at 11 AM. “All You Ever Wanted to Know about House Plants and Did Not Know Who to Ask!” Potted kitchen herbs will be offered for sale. Hosted by AACI Jerusalem Retired Active Persons. NIS 5 admission for members, NIS 10 for non-members, plus NIS 10 per plant purchased.

2) Tu B’Shvat seder for kids — Tuesday February 7, from 4:30-5:30 PM, Cost is AACI Members NIS 25 / non members NIS 30. Please pre-register so we know how much snack is needed. Elana or Rafi, Program Coordinators. 02-5661181.

3) Special Tu B’Shvat seder with Rabbi Barry Schlesinger — Wednesday February 8, at 11 AM. Hosted by AACI Jerusalem Retired Active Persons (RAP). Please call for more information 02-566-1181.

All three events will be held at AACI – Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center, Jerusalem, 37 Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2, Talpiot. 02-5661181.

Tu B’Shvat sameach, everyone, and Happy New Year to the trees!