Honey and apples or honey cake traditionally mark the debut of a sweet new year for most of us. But the savory side of Rosh Hashanah is equally important, especially when sitting down to a holiday meal. To start off, we indulge in this exotic beet salad, redolent of the Jerusalem shuk with its aromas of coriander and anise seed. In Jewish tradition, beets also were eaten in the hope that our enemies would leave us in peace. Similarly, leeks and carrots were thought to prevent negative acts from befalling us.
Maharat Victoria Sutton, director of education at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, told me. “The Talmud states that at the beginning of the new year, people should accustom themselves to eat gourds, fenugreek, leeks, beets and carrots.” That is one reason why savory foods such as leeks, beets and carrots are incorporated into Sephardic and Ashkenazi cuisine at this time of year.
We use both in our Flanken Pot au Feu. Instead of boiling the short-cut short ribs known as flanken, we slowly braise the flanken like a classic French pot au feu until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. The bones give the broth extra flavor, and on a cool autumn night, this dish will warm the heart.
In our glass: For the salad we like to start with something light and bright, such as a sauvignon blanc. And for the main course we want a lush, full-bodied red wine. Take your pick: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir or syrah, for example. All would pair nicely.
Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
6 small red beets
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. aniseed
Juice of 1 orange (about ½ cup)
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 to 6 oz. arugula lettuce leaves
Preheat oven to 400. If beet greens are attached, remove them, leaving about 1/2-inch stalks. Do not peel beets. Wrap beets, two or three together, in aluminum foil, leaving top of foil open. Set in oven and roast until tender when pierced by fork, about 1 to 11/2 hours. Wait until cool enough to handle. Peel skins. Remove and discard tops. Depending on size, cut each into four to eight cube-like pieces.
With mortar and pestle, or using the side of a wide, flat knife, coarsely crush coriander seeds and anise. Set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide arugula among salad plates. Place beets on top of greens. Whisk vinaigrette one last time to blend, and drizzle 1 to 2 Tbs. over each salad. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Flanken Pot au Feu
From “The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table”
4 lbs. flanken (short-cut short ribs)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
8 cups water
2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 onion, cut in eighths
4 large red potatoes, quartered
4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch sections
2 leeks, white part only, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
2 turnips, peeled and cut in eighths
1/4 cup minced parsley
Rinse and pat the flanken dry. Set aside.
Make a bouquet garni by combining the bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, cloves and peppercorns in a 4-inch square of cheesecloth. Tie closed with piece of butcher string. Trim ends of string and any excess cheesecloth. Set aside.
Place flanken in Dutch oven or other large ovenproof pot. Add water and bouquet garni. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Using large spoon, skim surface of water to remove any foam that may develop. You may need to do this a few times shortly after water begins to boil. Cover and let simmer for 3 more hours.
Remove pot from heat and discard the bouquet garni. Using fat/broth separator, remove and discard any fat from broth. (If you don’t have one of these simple, handy devices, use a spoon or meat baster to skim whatever fat you can off the top of the broth.) Meat should be very tender, and may have broken into large pieces.
Return pot to stove over high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add onions, potatoes, carrots, leeks and turnips. Bring to boil and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 1 more hour.
To serve, place a piece of flanken and portion of vegetables in wide shallow bowl for each diner. Ladle generous serving of broth over meat. Garnish with parsley and pepper to taste.