Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first days of Tishri, usually in early fall, when the autumn market offers plums, apples, pears, some early winter greens, butternut squash, maybe even quince. The High Holy Days begin this year at sundown Wednesday, Sept. 15.
Foods found on the holiday table in Tunisia or Morocco might include pomegranate, with it many seeds symbolic of the good deeds to be done in the New Year, as well as figs, quince, dates, and apples in honey, all representing a wish for a sweet New Year. There’s pumpkin squash for protection. Garlic and leeks symbolically cancel all bad deeds. Spinach or beet greens are to keep enemies away. A whole fish is often served, the head of the fish representing the head of the New Year.
In Morocco the Seven Vegetable Soup is part of many families’ Rosh Hashanah tradition. The seven vegetables are onion, pumpkin squash, gourd, zucchini, chard, chickpeas and quince, thought to have been the apple in the Garden of Eden.
In Turkey at Rosh Hashanah, plum sauce is served with the traditional whole fish. According to Sephardic folklore, after Abraham was circumcised, he sat under a sour plum tree, and thus the plum has come to be called “Abraham’s fruit.” Plums vary in moisture so you’ll see how much water you need to add, or conversely how much you will need to reduce the sauce. The fish can be served warm or at room temperature, usually accompanied by rice with pine nuts and sautéed spinach. If you don’t want to serve a whole fish, you may use fillets.
Seven Vegetable Soup | Serves 6 to 8
3 onions, chopped
2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and seeds discarded
2/3 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 gourd, turnip or rutabaga
2 quince, apples or pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 bunch chard, cut in strips
water or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or to taste
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper or to taste
1 tsp. cumin, optional
Cut all the vegetables and fruit into large dice or rounds, depending upon size and shape. Simmer chickpeas and onions gently in salted water or vegetable stock until almost tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and simmer until tender. Season to taste.
Peshkado Avramila | Serves 6
Whole 5- to 6-lb. fish, cleaned, such as salmon, cod or snapper, or 6 fish fillets, each about 6 oz.
4 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks with leaves, sliced
3 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
12 black peppercorns
3 slices lemon
In a fish poacher or a roasting pan, combine all the ingredients for the court bouillon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Slip the fish or fillets into the simmering liquid, cover and reduce the heat to very low so that bubbles barely break on the surface. Poach until the fish tests done when the point of a knife is inserted into the thickest part, about 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.
With 2 slotted spatulas, carefully transfer the fish to a platter. Let it cool a bit and then carefully remove the skin. Remove any extra juices that may have settled on the platter. Serve the fish with plum sauce.
2 lbs. tart plums, pitted and cut into pieces
1 cup water
3 Tbs. oil
about 1/2 cup red wine, a sweet wine like Marsala or water
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
pinch allspice or ground cloves
sugar, if needed
In a saucepan combine the plums and water and simmer over medium heat. Cook the plums uncovered until they become quite soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. If the skins are not too tough, transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and purée until smooth. If the skins are tough, pass the mixture through a food mill placed over a bowl. You should have about 1 1/3 cups purée.
Return the purée to a saucepan, add the oil, wine or water as needed, to thin the mixture, and add some of the lemon juice and zest to balance the plums’ sweetness. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
Season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and allspice or cloves. If the sauce is too tart, stir in a little sugar. You are looking for a nice balance between sweet and sour.
Cover and keep warm. Spoon the warm sauce over the cooked fish.
Joyce Goldstein is a San Francisco cookbook author, chef and culinary consultant.