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Rosh Hashanah 2011/5772, Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Vegetable kugel, and many wines

Rosh Hashanah (literally translated ”head of the year”) has come and gone again (Wednesday Night – September 28th, 2011), and once more I am reminded that it is a holiday that is more about your relationship with God than your gastronomic relationship with friends and family. Yes of course it is not a fast day like Yom Kippur, of course, but still the frivolity needs to be toned down a bit, and the attention placed on the fact that we are all being judged at this time of the year. So with that frame of mind, yeah too many early morning Selichot Services kind of kill the mood, my wife and I set out to make our menu and meals.

This year we hosted the first meal. We invited friends and family and it was quite awesome! Like last year, we had the same simanim (literally translated to “signs”), except that we modified the way we make the leeks. The simanim are a play on word and are a very basic Jewish tradition of using word play to bring out symbolism and actual changes or good tidings.  This year we made all of the simanim, as our friends were laid up, but we had other friends staying over with us who helped us out, so it was no biggie. The simanim are a yearly rite of passage, and one of my favorite Jewish traditions.  Many of the recipes have been changed to protect the innocent.  The customary recipes from my mother recipes consist of 4 basic ingredients, oil, more oil, honey, and some vegetable, and one cooking style – frying.  We decided that this tradition was awesome, but that it needed to be toned down such that it could be enjoyed for years to come and not just for the few where we are vertical.  So it called for some baking and less oil.  We ordered the symbolic food in the order of Sephardic Jewry, and here they are:

  1. Dates or Figs (Tamar in Hebrew)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should end our enemies
  2. Broad Beans coated with a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and garlic (Rubya in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should increase our merits
  3. Leeks – prepared masterfully by our stay over friends, leek fritters recipe found here(Karti in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should cut down our enemies
  4. Spinach – prepared masterfully by my wife using her spinach kugel recipe (Salka in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should remove our enemies
  5. Sweet Butternut Squash – sliced butternut squash, sprayed with oil and covered with honey, then baked in an oven set to 400 degrees (Kra in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should tear up our evil decrees and read before him our merits
  6. Pomegranate seeds (Rimon in Hebrew)
    1. The symbolism here is that our mitzvot (observance of the Jewish laws) be as plentiful as the pomegranate seeds
  7. Sweet apples dipped in honey
    1. The symbolism here is that God should grant us a New Year as sweet as honey
  8. Fish head – Salmon head poached in white wine and water
    1. The symbolism here is that in this New Year we should be at the head of the class and not at the tail

We always joke that we should try to bring out a head of a lamb instead of a fish head and freak out everyone there.  It would be totally epic, but while it is the preferred manner of implementing the head symbolism, it would fly in the face of “behaving”. The good news is that we did FAR better than last year on the wine parade, which was not too difficult!

The rest of the meal started with our reliable Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and simanim left over’s. The reason I really like this recipe is because while normal gefilte fish recipes tastes like bland boiled white fish, this recipe tastes like herb-encrusted fish that is lightly charred with the herb and spice flavors permeated through and through the fleshy texture – quite a treat. The main course consisted of our patented sweet and sour brisket, brown rice, vegetable kugel, and fresh vegetable salad. While the brisket recipe is normally rock solid, this one was far from perfect. Once again I am underwhelmed by South American whole Brisket. The US whole Brisket has a layer of fat that helps to baste the meat as the meat cooks slow and low in a 300 degrees oven. The South American whole Brisket is too lean, and lacks the self-basting fat. Further the meat is not marbled like the US whole Brisket, unfortunately, that was all that was available at the time. Read the rest of this entry

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