Symbolic fruits and veggies from Sephardic traditionby louise fiszer
Hold the brisket and tsimmes this year. For something different, try a festive Rosh Hashanah meal based on the rich and delicious culinary traditions of Sephardic Jews.
In the ceremonial Yehi Ratsones or Ratson ("May it be Your Will"), blessings and prayers for a good year are said over several symbolic foods, including sweet dates, the seed-filled pomegranate and richly colored beet.
Also in this tradition, green vegetables such as spinach symbolize a green year with plentiful crops.
CUMIN-SPICED BEET SOUP
2 Tbs. oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots or leeks
2 tsp. ground cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
1-1/2 lbs. beets (red or gold) peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
chopped fresh coriander for garnish
In a medium pot heat oil. Cook shallots until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in cumin and pepper flakes and cook another minute. Add beets and stock. Bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes or until beets are tender. Let cool and then puree in food processor or blender. Taste for salt and pepper. May be served chilled or hot. Garnish with cilantro before serving.
SPINACH AND CHICKPEAS
olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed, well drained and dried on paper towels
1 Tbs. tomato paste
cold water (the amount will depend on the type of pan used)
salt and pepper
1 lb. fresh spinach, washed, dried, with the bottom stems removed.
In a fairly deep nonstick pan, warm a small amount of oil. Add the onion and sauté over a low flame until translucent. Add the tomato paste and a small amount of water (about 1/2 cup) and stir until well blended. The tomato paste should now be in a slight liquid state.
Add the chickpeas and mix well.
Add just enough water so that there is enough cooking liquid to steam the spinach. The chickpeas should not be covered with the liquid. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Place the spinach leaves on top of the chickpeas and cover. Steam the spinach until the leaves begin to wilt, about 3 minutes.
1-l/2 cups couscous
3 cups boiling water
1 Tbs. margarine
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. light olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup finely shredded white cabbage
2 cups diced, peeled pumpkin or butternut squash
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced l/4-inch thick
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced l/4-inch thick
1/2 cup cooked or drained canned chickpeas
1 1/2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp. each ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
Combine the couscous and water in a heatproof bowl. Cover and let stand until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then stir in the margarine, turmeric and salt. Cover and set aside.
For the vegetable stew, heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over moderate heat until translucent. Stir in cabbage and sauté until both it and the onion are lightly golden.
Add remaining stew ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add water as needed to produce a moist, but not soupy, consistency. The vegetables should be tender but still firm.
To serve, arrange the couscous on the outer edge of a large serving platter. Pour vegetable mixture in the center, then sprinkle with the garnishes. Let each guest place a mound of couscous on his or her dinner plate and top it with the vegetable mixture.
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