Every year my family heads out to Grandma Barbara's house in New Jersey for Rosh Hashanah. A couple dozen people, all of whom are somehow ambiguously related to me, gather around the table in the dining room to kick off the start of a new Jewish year. We eat, we drink, we laugh, we eat some more, we drink some more, and then we eat again.
For every Rosh Hashanah my grandma cooks up the same recipes. Don't try suggesting that she do otherwise. My mom's suggestions of couscous instead of rice last week was swiftly dismissed. So, itching to break free from the loving (but tyrannical) rule of my grandma, I've put together a menu for those who might want something a little bit different for the holiday, but also don't want to incur the wrath of bubbe.
The Appetizer: Arugula, Apple, and Pomegranate Salad
Traditionally, apples are eaten with honey to symbolize a sweet start to the new year. Pomegranates are also eaten, for a whole host of religious, symbolic reasons. Either way, the sweetness of the apples goes well with the tart pomegranate seeds and the peppery crunch of arugula in this salad. With summer turning into fall, this salad utilizes great autumn flavors.
The Bread: Challah
If you've never eaten homemade challah, fresh from your own oven, it's as if you've only ever tasted the crust of bread before, but never have had the whole loaf. Or as if you've only seen pictures of the New York City skyline, but never have seen the real thing. Or as if you've only ever heard about how "those British guys with the funny band name" can play, but never have actually heard The Beatles yourself. Hyperbole aside, the point is that fresh bread is good. Once you've made it a few times and have got the hang of it, it is consistently a whole lot better than what you buy in a store. Great for sopping up brisket juice. On Rosh Hashanah, challah is braided into a circle. No fear, it's no more complicated than braiding it normally. Check out a video with instructions, here.
The Side: Potato Kugel
I suppose this is where I jump the ship and depart from Singerman tradition, perhaps forever to be estranged from those who call me family. We usually have noodle kugel, but I thought I'd give potato kugel a try. Grandma, if you've figured out the internet enough to be reading this, I apologize. That said, the browned top of this filling kugel is sure to please. It's a great savory addition to the table.
The Main Course: Sweet and Sour Brisket
A Jewish holiday without brisket is like...well, I'm out of analogies. Essentially, it would be wrong. And silly. This brisket recipe is brought to life by tangy pomegranates and caramelized dry fruit. Most importantly, the meat is fall-apart tender.
First Dessrt: Honey Cake with Figs and Rosemary
Honey cake has always been a mainstay of our Rosh Hashanah dinner table. The figs in this cake pair well with the sweetness of the honey, and the rosemary and orange zest add the depth of flavor that a honey cake often sorely needs. Though the cake is moist enough on its own, the honey butter dripping over the top adds richness and takes it right up to the point of "almost too moist, but actually just moist enough. Yum, this is really good."—sheer bliss.
Second Dessert: Chocolate Rugelach
One dessert in life is never enough. Further, in my mind, and luckily, in the mind of those aforementioned jumble of relatives, a meal is not over until there's been chocolate. The addition of cream cheese in the dough makes these rugelach extra tender. You can fill your rugelach with just about anything—fruit, nuts, etc. But why use anything but chocolate?