Hanukkah – The Festival of Lights
Hanukkah, a holiday commemorating deliverance from religious oppression and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, is a favorite festival among children of all ages, even the adult kind. Deep- or shallow-fried dishes like jelly doughnuts and potato latkes abound. These dishes serve as a delicious reminder of the "miracle of the oil" at the heart of the Hanukkah story, when a single day's worth of oil miraculously kept the Temple flame alight for a full eight days. The party atmosphere is enhanced with the serving of appetizers, dips and salads, which are enjoyed while children spin the dreidel for "gelt" — chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.
Rosh Hashana – A Sweet New Year
Rosh Hashana, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, occurs in autumn and lasts for two days. Chopped liver with onions on crackers is a popular hors d'oeuvres. Apples dipped in honey are eaten to bring in a "sweet new year," and dessert usually includes honey cake. Challah bread is baked into rounds to symbolize the circle of life. Beets make a strong showing in the form of horseradish-beet condiment, borscht soup (if your Russian grandmother has any say) or simply roasted. Chicken soup, this time with kreplach (meat-filled dumplings), is a favorite. In keeping with the themes of sweetness and bounty, tzimmes, a sweet vegetable stew, is a side dish. Brisket, veal breast or roasted chicken headline the meal. Stuffed cabbage recipes are handed down from generation to generation, with varying views on just how sweet (or sour) it should be.
The fun and challenge of Jewish cooking is in finding ways to marry traditional recipes with new approaches. No doubt someone at the table will ask, "Where did you get this recipe?"