Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not Your Grandmother's Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year being celebrated this weekend, has been explained to me as an occasion to consume things sweet and round to represent good luck and sweetness in the coming year. Two recipes come to mind that suit this criteria perfectly. One is a roasted acorn squash where thick slices of squash are roasted in a balsamic honey glaze. The naturally scalloped edges of the squash are so pretty and the golden amber color of the squash-flesh screams Autumn. I don't peel the squash which adds more color and simplifies preparation. The glaze is super easy and the dish is prepared in a flash. I will bring this dish to my dearest Mother-in-law's house for Rosh Hashanah dinner. Her name is Honey so I think this is the perfect homage to her wonderful cooking!

The other dish I am thinking of is a brown rice pilaf with toasted nuts, sauteed nectarines and dried cranberries. There are so many enticing new brown rice blends on the market these days, featuring different types of rice; red, black, brown, short grain, basmati. In addition to brown rice this blend contains black rice, buckwheat, millet, barley and oat.

This is a great way to move into the fall season, sampling some of these nutty, earthy flavors as pilaf dishes. The nectarines and dried cranberries bring some tartness along with their sweet fruitiness and will create the balance of flavors I am looking for. Firm, unripened nectarines will hold their shape and add color and flavor to the dish

This dish is a little more time consuming. I cook the rice separately from the other ingredients and mix it all together at the end. That way I can control the texture of the dish. I think a good kosher wine (Amanda?) is all that is needed to toast the New Year.

Happy New Year!

Acorn Squash in Balsamic Honey Glaze
2 acorn squashes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 Tbs. Honey
1 Tbs. vegetable oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half and with a large spoon carve out the seeds. Slice each half into 1 1/2 inch slices. Mix the vinegar and honey together in a small bowl. Grease a baking sheet large enough to hold all the squash in a single layer. Dip each slice of squash in the glaze to cover on all sides (don't worry about the skin side). Arrange squash on baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Turn squash over and bake another 10- 15 minutes until squash is tender.

serves 8 as a side dish

Brown Rice Pilaf with Nectarines and Dried Cranberries
1 cup of brown rice or a brown rice blend cooked according to package directions
1 Tbs Vegetable oil
1 shallot finely minced
2 firm nectarines unpeeled, cut into 1 " cubes(use fruit that is still a little firm so that it will hold up to a saute)
1 celery stalk chopped
1/4 cup of *nuts (cashews, pecans walnuts)
1/3 cup of dried cranberries, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and drained
3 Tbs. chopped parsley

*I have read that some families avoid nuts at this holiday, so feel free to leave them out or add sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as a substitute

Heat oil in a small pan. Add shallots and cook until they begin to brown and get a bit crispy. Add the nectarines and the celery and toss in pan till they begin to brown and soften at the edges about 10 minutes.

In a separate pan, toast the nuts on medium heat for a few minutes till you start to smell them and the color just barley begins to darken, then remove from heat. Add the nuts, the fruit mixture, the parsley and the drained cranberries to the cooked rice and toss well to combine. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking dish and heat in a hot oven for 15 minutes before serving.

There are so many wonderful Kosher wines in today's marketplace that would beautifully complement these dishes. Kosher wine, in the past, has had a not-so-great reputation. Today you can find very impressive Kosher wines from all over the world, made from all different varietals. At the wine shop, we even have a Kosher Pinotage from South Africa, made by Backsberg Vineyards. There are some wonderful Riojas available as well, and a wide variety of delicious Kosher Italian wines too.
For these recipes, I would go with some straightforward, always reliable wine from Baron Herzog. Herzog makes a very approachable Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Central Coast. The wine is light to medium bodied, with lots of berry and plum flavors - ideal for the pilaf. Herzog also makes a Chardonnay, made with grapes from the Central Coast as well as the Russian River Valley. The Russian River fruit is barrel fermented, which gives the wine its roundness. With tropical fruit flavors on the palate, the wine is a good match for the squash, and will also complement the pilaf. Herzog wines should be available in most shops that carry Kosher wines. So, these wines should not be hard to find. To those who will be celebrating this weekend, Happy New Year!

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