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High Holy Days food: How sweet it is

by Judy Zeidler

September 4, 2013 | 4:06 pm

Honey adds special touch to Jewish New Year

Brownies

Honey Chocolate Fudge Bars. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

The use of honey for Rosh Hashanah symbolizes a sweet year and dates back to biblical times, when refined sugar was unknown. Its sweetness adds a distinctive flavor to a variety of dishes in addition to dessert: It can be used as a glaze for everything from carrots to broiled chicken, adds a special flavor to salad dressing and can even be used in fish recipes. Or you can simply dip sliced apples in it.

When fermented, honey produces a sweet wine called mead.

Many different types of honey are now available. Examples are lavender, chestnut, orange blossom, sage, avocado and wildflower. They can be found in most food stores or from venders at farmers markets.

Cooking with honey as a sweetener is not difficult, and you may want to substitute it for sugar in your favorite recipes. This can be done without any drastic change in the ingredients. I find that cakes and cookies made with honey seem to stay fresh longer, too.

When we gather at home for Rosh Hashanah or break the fast on Yom Kippur, we often surprise our family with some new dishes. One of these new dishes this year will include eggplant. The eggplant is sliced, soaked in milk overnight and then fried in a small amount of oil. The consistency becomes similar to a soufflé and, when drizzled with honey, it is awesome.

In the last few months, carrots of all descriptions seem to be the “in” vegetable on the menus of many restaurants. This year, I am including a recipe for Honey-Roasted Carrots to serve during the holiday.

A fresh fruit salad enhanced with honey and orange juice can be prepared in advance. It makes a perfect first course when family and friends arrive home from the Rosh Hashanah service.

For chocolate lovers, serve Honey Chocolate Fudge Bars, and don’t forget to include Sesame-Honey Thins, a family favorite. You may not want to overdo the taste of honey in every dish, but select several of these recipes for your Rosh Hashanah menu, and save the rest for Yom Kippur. 

From our family to yours, we wish you “Shanah tovah” — a very healthy and happy New Year!


FRIED EGGPLANT WITH HONEY AND ROSEMARY

∗ 1 medium eggplant
∗ 2 cups whole milk
∗ 1/2 cup vegetable oil
∗ 1 cup all-purpose flour
∗ Kosher salt to taste
∗ 1/4 cup honey
∗ 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped

A day before serving, cut the tops and bottoms off the eggplant, and peel with a vegetable peeler or knife. Slice the eggplant into rounds that are 1/2-inch thick. You should get about 12 slices from 1 medium-sized eggplant. Place eggplant slices into a large container or bowl with enough milk to cover. You will likely have to weigh the eggplant down with a plate to keep it submerged in the milk. Soak overnight in the refrigerator.

In a large frying pan, heat vegetable oil to about 350 F or until a drop of water sizzles. Remove eggplant slices from milk, dredge them in the flour, and tap off excess flour. Drop carefully into hot oil in a single layer (don’t crowd the pan) and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices during cooking for even browning. Repeat until all slices have been browned. 

Sprinkle each eggplant slice with a pinch of kosher salt as it comes out of the pan. Drain on wire rack. Drizzle some honey onto each eggplant slice while it’s on the wire rack. Top slices with chopped rosemary. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings. 


HONEY-ROASTED CARROTS

Carrots

Honey-Roasted Carrots

∗ 8 carrots, peeled
∗ 3 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 1/4 cup honey
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F

Place whole carrots in a baking dish; drizzle with olive oil. Mix until carrots are completely coated with oil. Pour honey over carrots, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix until evenly coated.

Bake until just tender, or to desired doneness, about 40 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.


FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY-ORANGE DRESSING 

Honey-Orange Dressing (recipe follows)

∗ 1 apple, cored and diced
∗ 1 banana, peeled and sliced
∗ 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
∗ 1 orange, peeled and diced
∗ Juice from 1 lemon
∗ Romaine lettuce leaves
∗ 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 

Prepare the Honey-Orange Dressing; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss apple, banana, avocado and diced orange with lemon juice to prevent the fruit from turning brown. Add dressing and stir gently. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

Makes 4 servings. 



HONEY-ORANGE DRESSING

∗ 1/3 cup honey
∗ 1/4 cup orange juice
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
∗ 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake well.

Makes about 1 cup.


HONEY CHOCOLATE FUDGE BARS

∗ 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
∗ 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
∗ 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
∗ 4 eggs
∗ 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1 cup honey
∗ 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
∗ 1/2 cup diced candied orange peel or candied ginger

Preheat oven to 325 F. 

Melt 1/4 cup margarine and brush it onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch-square cake pan. Sprinkle with finely ground walnuts. Set pan aside.

Place chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup margarine in the top of a double boiler over hot water on medium heat or in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. (Chocolate and margarine may also be melted in microwave oven.)

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs with vanilla and sugar until very pale and thick. Gradually add honey, then the chocolate-butter mixture, and mix well. Add flour and salt, scraping bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until each addition is incorporated. Stir in coarsely chopped walnuts and candied orange peel.

Turn into prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out just barely clean and dry. Cool in pan on a rack until cake reaches room temperature.

Using a metal spatula, loosen cake from sides and bottom of pan. Invert onto a rack, cover with a cake platter, and invert the cake right-side up. Before serving, transfer to a cutting board; brush with additional honey. Cut the cake into quarters and then cut each quarter in half.

Makes 16 bars.


SESAME-HONEY THINS

∗ 3/4 cup unsalted margarine, cut into pieces
∗ 1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, finely packed
∗ 1/3 cup honey
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
∗ 1 egg
∗ 1/2 cup sesame seeds
∗ 1 cup flour
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the margarine. Add brown sugar, honey and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and sesame seeds. Add flour and salt; beat until smooth. 

Spoon marble-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto a foil-lined baking sheet or a silicone baking mat. Bake 5 minutes or until cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on baking sheet. When cookies harden, remove from baking sheet.

Makes about 8 dozen.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her Web site is JudyZeidler.com.

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