A friend once told me that if you nap on Rosh Hashanah, you’ll sleep through the upcoming year. Bubbameister or not, it’s always bugged me as I’ve crawled onto the sofa for a post-services, post-lunch, pre-dinner schluff. Clearly it never bothered me enough, but it did always give me pause.
So a nap-free 5777 was a first. There was no afternoon curling up under a blanket, no slurping coffee and then resting my eyes for a few more minutes because synagogue will go until 1 or 2 so going late won’t make much of a difference, no reading on a hammock, its swaying lulling me to sleep.
This year, though, I started a new tradition. While I have in the past hosted my immediate family for Rosh Hashanah, this is the first time I’ve ever cooked for my extended family. It’s not a huge family – we had ten around my table on Sunday evening – but it felt monumental for me to add a new holiday to our biannual Thanksgiving-Passover gathering repertoire. I guess now it’s triannual. It made me feel like a real grownup.
It worked out that I was between projects, so I had the luxury of being able to plan, shop, and then cook for five days straight. Of course, my refrigerator stopped working, so in the middle of it all, a couple of repairmen breezed through my kitchen and came up with a temporary solution that required two visits. I’m still waiting for some parts to come in for a full repair. I can’t help but wonder whether the fact that I offered them cookies during their first visit resulted in their needing to return not once, but twice.
Most of the recipes were tried and true and straight from the blog. For the main event (i.e., the first night – Sunday), after the traditional challah (from Breads), apples and honey, and new fruit (dragon fruit one night, rambutan the next), we dipped into muhammarah, chopped liver, and eggplant tomato salad alongside a big dish of pickles. After making over eleven pounds of Ana Sortun’s tamarind-braised short ribs, I worried that someone might not want beef, so I threw together an Ottolenghi recipe for za’atar roast chicken that was demolished. As far as sides, we went with butternut squash with balsamic onions, green beans with hazelnut and orange, and arugula salad with pear and pomegranate (a variation on this one). Dessert? Fruit and then I went overboard and baked four sweets: honey cake, the easiest apple cake in the world, chocolate chip cookies, and pine nut and rosemary biscotti. More on those in a moment.
Lunch after synagogue was bagels and lox. Dinner Monday was at my friend Meira’s, and my mom made Nach Waxman’s brisket and her matzah ball soup. Our final lunch was mushroom soup followed by leftovers.
There was no time to sleep between cooking and setting up and eating and cleaning up and going to synagogue and starting everything all over again, four times over two days. So, perhaps it’s a harbinger of the year to come, a busy one with lots to do and little time to nap.
As for the recipe that was new to my table and blog: these biscotti. They’re from my friend Rachel Roddy‘s cookbook Five Quarters (the US version is My Kitchen in Rome) – she was one of the teachers at the food writing course I took at Anna Tasca Lanza in Sicily last year. They have pine nuts and rosemary, the combination of which feels just so Italian. And Rachel’s technique is so different from my mine whereby I whip the eggs and sugar until very aerated to prevent the cookies from being tooth-shattering.
Rachel’s directions are simple. Essentially, just use your hands. You mush everything together in one bowl, letting the dough squish between your fingers and lodge itself under your nails. It feels rustic, like a technique handed down from someone’s nonna’s nonna’s nonna. I was skeptical the first time I tried the recipe and made a bunch of modifications. I used my mixer. I added an extra egg because the dough seemed too dry. I added some flour and wrestled with the dough. And the biscotti came out great. The next time, I used water instead of egg to control the amount of liquid. I still needed to wrestle with the dough. And they came out great.
So finally, in the rush to get everything done and no time to waste second guessing myself, I did what I should have done the first time – I followed the recipe as it was written. And they came out great.
Biscotti di mondorle e pinoli (Almond, pine nut, and rosemary biscotti)
Adapted from Rachel Roddy’s Five Quarters (the US version is My Kitchen in Rome). Rachel makes these with 1 teaspoon fennel seed, but I’m not a fan of licorice flavors, so I latched on to her suggestion to use fresh rosemary instead. The raw dough tastes a bit too sweet and floury when raw, and is a little squirrel-y when you’re trying to form it – don’t worry, dig your hands in to wrestle it into shape and it bakes up just fine. Well, better than fine.
Makes about 3 dozen
– 2 C (250 g) all-purpose flour
– 1 C (250 g) sugar
– 1/2 t baking powder
– 1/2 t salt
– 1 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
– 1 C (100 g) sliced or slivered almonds
– 1/2 C (75 g) pine nuts
– 2 eggs, beaten
Prep. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Mix. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except the eggs. Mix well. Add the beaten eggs and use your hands to bring the ingredients together into a ball of firm dough, making sure the nuts are well distributed.
Shape. Cut the ball of dough in half. Shape both halves into sausages about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place them on the baking tray. If the dough is a bit crumbly, squish it together as best you can and then wet your hands and smooth out the top.
Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes, by which time the dough will she spread out and should still be soft in the middle, but firm enough to cut into slim slices.
Slice. Take the rolls out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 325ºF. Let the rolls cool a little, then carefully lift or slide them to a chopping board. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut them on a slight diagonal into slices about 1/3 inch wide.
Bake again. Put the slices back on the baking tray, and cook for another 15 minutes, or until dry, firm, and crisp.
Cool. Cool on a wire rack, then store them in an airtight tin.