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Dip into honey for new year inspiration [RECIPES]

by Judy Zeidler

August 24, 2010 | 10:00 pm

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as head of the year, begins this year at sundown on Sept. 8, ushering in a 10-day period for reflection on the past year and making resolutions for the new one. It is a time when families come together for festive meals and where sweet foods are traditionally eaten, symbolizing hope for happiness and a sweet life in the coming year. In some homes, families follow the ancient custom of substituting sugar in salt shakers to be used during the holiday.

Honey, because of its sweetness, is an important ingredient in Rosh Hashanah cooking and baking. It is customary to dip slices of challah and apples in honey at the beginning of the meal. A tradition in our family is to hollow out a large apple, fill it with honey, and place it on a platter surrounded with sliced apples that can be dipped and eaten when guests arrive. The recipes I am sharing feature honey and apples, and any can be included in your holiday menus.

Using honey as a sweetener is not difficult, and you can substitute it for sugar in your favorite recipes. The general rule is to use one-quarter less honey than you would sugar, then reduce the amount of liquid by one-quarter as well. I have found that cakes made with honey seem to stay fresh longer.

There are many varieties of honey available. A few examples are orange blossom, chestnut, lavender and wildflower, and each has its own distinctive flavor.  It is fun to experiment and use the taste you prefer.

Honey cake is a delicious dessert to make for this holiday. Over the years, I have experimented with many recipes, and this delicious, high-rise Spice and Coffee Honey Cake has a light, appealing texture, the result of folding in beaten egg whites. Try it once, and you’ll never buy another store-bought honey cake. If you are invited as a guest to a Rosh Hashanah dinner, it will make a wonderful holiday gift. 

A round challah, signifying a long and full life, is the traditional shape to bake on Rosh Hashanah. Sweetened with honey and baked with apples and raisins, Fruit-Filled Holiday Challah is perfect for serving at dinner or toasted for dessert. An added plus: Because it has no egg yolks and very little oil, it is low in cholesterol.

The Apple-Spinach Salad With Sauteed Salmon follows the theme of combining apples and honey. Made with diced apples, tahini and honey, it is an ideal dish to serve during the holiday. The dressing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated. The spinach leaves are tossed with the mixture and topped with the sautéed salmon just before serving.

In many homes, a “first fruit of the fall season,” such as figs, grapes or pomegranates, is eaten. I have included an Apple-Pomegranate Sorbet recipe garnished with pomegranate seeds. The uncooked apples give it a delightful crisp texture; serve a scoop with the honey cake.

Have a healthy and happy New Year. L’Shanah Tovah.

APPLE-SPINACH SALAD WITH SAUTEED SALMON

1/2 pound Sauteed Salmon, cut into chunks (recipe follows)
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tablespoons honey
1 bunch fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Prepare salmon; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the apples, green onions and celery with juice of 1 lemon to keep the apples from darkening; set aside.

In a blender, food processor or small bowl, blend together the mayonnaise, tahini, honey and juice of the remaining lemon; the mixture will be very thick.  Toss with the apple mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Just before serving, place spinach in a large bowl, add the apple mixture, and toss to coat the spinach thoroughly. Arrange sauteed salmon chunks on top and garnish with sesame seeds.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Variation: Substitute poached chicken for the salmon. Dice and mix with the apple mixture for a chicken salad and arrange on spinach leaves.


SAUTEED SALMON

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound salmon fillet, cut into chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


In a skillet, heat olive oil and sauté salmon chunks, tossing until lightly browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

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