Jewish Journal

Rosh Hashanah Cooking Orgy [RECIPE]

by Rob Eshman

October 2, 2011 | 11:23 pm

Crisp Roasted Duck, waiting for Pomegranate-Fig Sauce

My New Year was more like Thanksgiving. Rosh Hashanah turned into an orgy of cooking.  My sisters- and brothers-in-law were in town, and we followed that age old Jewish axis, from shul to meal to shul to meal. 

And it was good.  In fact, it was one of the nicest New Years I remember. My wife led evening and morning services in a spacious new church (you can’t exactly rent a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, they’re booked) in Santa Monica.  The afternoon of the holiday’s first day she led 800 people at Venice Beach in a tashlich ceremony.  You walk down to the water and cast bread into the waves, symbolizing the casting away of that year’s sins. The tide was way out, the beach a mirror in which the setting sun reflected itself.  Congregants, visitors, onlookers and friends of friends of friends came dressed in white. Avi Sils led a massive drum circle. Jared Stein blew the shofar into the horizon.  Naomi had us recite a prayer for redemption, then en masse we moved to the waters’ edge and heaved our crumbs of challah, pita, old sandwich bread, La Brea bakery slices, stale bagels—

—and the tide brought it up, leaving a BP-sized slick of soggy bread along the shore.  If it was a spiritual experience for us, it was heaven for the seagulls.

That night was dinner one, for 12 family members:

Rosh Hashanah Dinner Day One

Provencal Fish Soup with Garlic-Harissa Sauce

Panisses (Chickpea Flour Fries)

Fennel, Fig, Walnut Mint and Arugula Salad

Apple Strudel with Pomegranate and Dates

The next day Naomi led services at Temescal Canyon.  A breathtaking day, under the sycamores.  I hiked in with the dogs.  About two-thirds in on the waterfall trial, I heard the Nashuva band and Naomi singing, the Hebrew words floating up in the canyon.  Any religion that includes dogs—in a non-sacrificial way—is good by me. About 200 people filled the meadow.  We listened to the shofar blast echo off the canyon walls. I enjoyed watching the hikers stop, wipe their sweat and try to make sense of it.  But to me it made perfect sense—so much of the Torah takes place in nature, why not just read it there?

That evening, another family dinner. 

Rosh Hashanah Dinner Day Two

Brisket with Fennel and Preserved Lemon

Crisp Roasted Potatoes with Thyme

Mesclun Salad with Avocado Dressing

Kale with Garlic

Brownies, Mandlebrot and Fruit

Finally, the day after.  I had defrosted two free-range ducks thinking I’d make them for dinner one or two, but didn’t have the need.  Fortunately, there was a final family dinner, post holiday.

Post Rosh Dinner

Crisp-Roasted Duck with Fig-Pomegranate Sauce

Potato Parsnip Puree

Chard with Garlic

Arugula and Yellow Tomato Salad


I added up the time I spent in the kitchen versus the time I spent in shul.  I’m a fast cook, so shul wins.  But if I add in shopping, cleaning and actually sharing the meals, the food wins.

Which brings me to my point: Why are we obsessed with cooking fast? We’ve been conditioned to want to get in and out of a kitchen as fast as possible.  Quick cooking dishes, 30 minutes suppers, Iron Chef and Chopped and Rachel Ray—we treat the kitchen like the floors are burning and the gas is leaking.  Why?  Who said we should rush through the kitchen so we can sleep in front of the TV?  How did that happen? 

Somewhere along the line, someone decided there was money to be made in selling speed. Hamburger Helper. Pop Tarts. Jiffy Pop (which isn’t even faster than making your own popcorn). To sell the products, you had to convince people that they were wasting their time to spend more time in a kitchen than it takes to make minute rice. 

They had to persuade us that we lead such busy lives, who had time for such unimportant things like preparing the stuff you put in your body? They had to put the kitchen on the same spiritual plane as a gas station.  Pull in, pump it out, fill ‘er up.

But this past weekend convinced me all over again that we should spend more time, not less, in the kitchen.  You know what—spend A LOT of time in your kitchen.  Take time and care there.  Play with your kids there.  Hang with your friends there.  Watch soup simmer.  Watch bread rise.  Learn to braise. Learn to breathe.

If you can spend four hours in synagogue or church,  you can spend four in a kitchen— you’ll get the same spiritual high there, and you get to eat while you’re there too.

Below are some of the recipes I made for the New Year’s meals.  They’ll work for Sukkot, too. Some are quick, most will take some time.  So what?  Happy New Year.


Provencal Fish Soup

2 onions, chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, chopped fine
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped fine
3 fennel bulbs, chopped
4 fresh bay leaves
4 fresh sprigs thyme
1 bunch parsley
2 c. white wine
3 fish frames, cleaned and rinsed
6 pounds mixed fresh or high quality frozen white-fleshed fish (rock fish, sea bass, halibut, cod, flounder, bream, yellowtail. Avoid fresh water fish, tuna, salmon and very oily fish)
4 threads saffron
2 pounds potatoes, cubed
4 ripe tomatoes, diced, or 1 cup high quality whole peeled canned tomatoes
4 red peppers
1 c. olive oil
20 cloves garlic

Heat ¼ c. olive oil in a large soup pot over high heat.  When hot, add onion, leeks, garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, bay, thyme, and parsley.  Saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add white wine and fish frames, salt and pepper, and enough water to cover, about 10 cups more or less.  Bring to simmer.  Reduce flame and let simmer 1 hour, until fragrant and fish bones are softened.

Put through food mill and return to pot.  Add potatoes and tomatoes and cook for ½ hour. Add saffron.

Before serving, add fish filets. Simmer gently.  Stor even more gently—they will break up as you stir.

To make sauce: roast red peppers over an open flame, peel.  Roast garlic in foil pouch in oven with a little olive oil until very soft, about 30 minutes. Place garlic, red peppers, salt, harissa to taste and olive oil to moisten in a blender and puree until smooth.

Serve soup with a dollop of sauce, or let people serve themselves.

New Years Salad Salad

Fennel, Fig, Walnut Mint and Arugula Salad

3 bulbs fennel, sliced thin

1 pint figs, quartered

1/2 c. chopped fresh walnuts

1/2 c. mint, chopped

1/2 c. pmegranate seeds

A large bowl of aruula

Top the arugula with all other ingredients.  Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and peper.

Slice fennel, quarter figs, chop walnut and mint and toss with arugula.  Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Check back later for my panisses and duck recipes.  It’ll be worth your time.


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