The Days of Awe inspire us all in different ways. I recently got to thinking about how often humble foods are elevated to pay symbolic homage to our beliefs, particularly during the period from Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot.
For example, Ashkenazi Jews dip apples into honey to celebrate the sweetness of the new year. Similarly, Jews from Syrian, Libyan, Egyptian and other backgrounds associate black-eyed peas with the holidays. The peas, which are relatives of the mung bean, grow in profusion, one reason they were linked to wishes for life and abundance. For others, beets were seen as symbols of the new year because of the sweetness of the beet root.
These recipes work well for the breakfast and for meals in the sukkah, since both the black-eyed pea and the beet were traditionally harvested this time of year.
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
1 Tbs. plus 1⁄3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. Swiss chard, chopped
1⁄2 tsp. salt, divided
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup chopped carrots
1⁄2 cup chopped celery
1⁄2 cup chopped red onion
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
1⁄4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 1⁄2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large sauté or frying pan over medium heat. Sauté garlic until light brown, add chopped chard and sauté until wilted and cooked through. (Add 1 or 2 Tbs. water if needed to the pan.) Season with 1⁄4 tsp. salt. Stir well and set aside.
Combine black-eyed peas, carrots, celery and onion in a bowl. Toss well, add cooked chard and mix. Combine remaining oil, the rest of the salt, vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, red pepper, cumin and hot sauce in a small bowl. Whisk together until blended. Pour into bowl with vegetables and combine. Add tomatoes and gently toss. Taste and correct seasoning. Garnish with chopped herbs. Serve room temperature or chilled.
Balsamic Beet Borscht with Greens
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 small onion, grated or chopped
4 cups lightly packed beet leaves or other greens (such as chard or kale), roughly chopped
4 medium beets, about 6-8 inches in circumference, cooked, peeled and grated or chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1⁄2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup or more balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. or more brown sugar
Heat the 2 Tbs. of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion until lightly brown. Add the chopped greens and sauté about 10 minutes until they are wilted and the stems are beginning to be tender to the bite. (Add 1 or 2 Tbs. water to the pan if needed.) Add the grated beets and stock. Stir and let simmer until greens and onions are cooked through. Taste and add salt and pepper. The amount of salt will depend on how salty the stock is. Stir. Add balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbs. of the brown sugar. Simmer a few minutes and taste. Add more vinegar or more sugar, if desired.
Serve the borscht with boiled sliced potatoes, chopped hard-boiled egg, fresh, snipped dill and, if made with vegetable stock, sour cream or yogurt. The borscht is good served hot, warm, room temperature or chilled, but be sure to taste the soup at the temperature you plan on serving it and adjust the seasonings accordingly, since cold dishes tend to need stronger seasonings than warm ones.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and blogger. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com. E-mail questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.