Happy cooks, Happy New Year

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"The holidays are early this year!" This has been the cry all over town as Jews prepare to usher in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at sundown Sept. 6. Since the holidays begin four days after Labor Day, many people will still be at the shore. And due to the brutally hot weather, few people will want matzoh ball soup.

What’s a good home cook to do?

The solution is the do-ahead Rosh Hashanah dinner. I combed my recipe collection to find dishes that can be cooked at the shore, toted home and reheated on top of the stove. Even with air conditioning, few people want to heat up the oven.

I will purchase a round challah and desserts. My sister Sandy bakes a terrific Jewish apple cake, but she will be spending the holidays with us. Because of the horrific heat, we will welcome the New Year with an assortment of cold dishes, including my famous chopped chicken liver. A Sephardic stew with couscous and vegetables will replace our holiday capon or turkey.

Rosh Hashanah, which is the birthday of the world, ushers in the Ten Days of Awe culminating with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day, Jews fast, reflect on their deeds of the past year and pray for forgiveness from God.

Sukkot, the harvest festival, arrives five days later. Jews throughout the world build outdoor booths known as sukkahs and decorate them with fruits, vegetables and flowers. The roof must have some open space so we can see the stars. Members of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel build their sukkah in the garden at Opus 251, located in the Art Alliance Building, 251 S. 18th St. If you would like to visit the sukkah, stop by.

Finally, on Sept. 25, synagogues will come alive with feasting, music and dancing, the merrymakers celebrating Simchat Torah, the yearly end and new beginning of the reading of the Torah, The Five Books of Moses.

Here are recipes for a sweet new year. I adapted the recipes for the salad, stew and fig from 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy.

L’Shannah Tova! Happy New Year!

Corn, Red Pepper and Green Bean Salad

Ingredients:

3 pounds green beans
4 ears white corn
4 red peppers, cut into strips
2 scallions, cut into rounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook the beans in a large pot of boiling water for about five minutes. Drain in a colander, run cold water over them and drain well. Place them in a large bowl.

Wrap each ear of corn in paper towels. Microwave on high for two minutes. Turn them over and microwave another two minutes. Cool completely. Using a sharp knife, remove the corn from the cobs. Sprinkle the corn over the green beans. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Top with your favorite vinaigrette.

Serves eight.

Moroccan Stew

Ingredients:

3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
Olive oil to coat bottom of a large pot
1 bottle dry red wine
Enough water to cover beef cubes
2 large onions, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into bite-sized cubes
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
3 stalks celery, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 leeks, split down center, thoroughly washed and cut into dice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground tumeric
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 packages couscous, prepared according to package directions

Directions:

Heat the oil to smoking in a large, heavy 5- to 6-quart pot. Lower the heat to medium-high and brown the beef cubes in batches. Remove to paper towels and pat dry.

Return the beef cubes to the pot. Add the wine and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for two hours. Check from time to time to see if more liquid is needed.

Add remaining ingredients and stir well to blend. Cover the pot and simmer for one more hour. Serve with couscous.

Serves eight.

Note: Prepare the couscous just before you wish to serve it.

Poached Mission Figs

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups sugar
4 cups dry red wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 pounds fresh Mission figs

Directions:

Heat the sugar, wine and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring the sauce to a boil and add the figs. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce heat to low and poach the figs uncovered for about 10-15 minutes.

Let the figs cool in the sauce. Carefully remove them to a pretty deep serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Boil the sauce until it is reduced to 2 cups. Allow the sauce to cool. Pour it over the figs.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves eight.

Apple Charlotte
from The Gourmet Jewish Cook by Judy Zeidler

Ingredients:

1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup Marsala
3/4 cup water
6 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1/4 pound unsalted margarine
1-1/2 cups sugar
24 Ladyfingers
Marsala custard (recipe follows)

Directions:

In a bowl, soak the raisins in the Marsala and water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the Marsala mixture.

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the apples and margarine until the margarine is melted. Add the raisins, sugar and 2-3 tablespoons Marsala mixture, reserving the remainder of the liquid. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the apples are completely cooked through and caramelized. Cool.

Line a Charlotte pan or a deep bowl with foil. Dip the Ladyfingers in the reserved liquid and place them around the bottom and sides of the foil-lined bowl. Spoon in the apple mixture, cover with more liquid-dipped Ladyfingers and cover with plastic wrap. Cover with a plate and a weight (such as a can of beans, etc.) and refrigerate for 12 hours.

Invert the pan onto a serving platter. Lift off the mold and peel away the foil. Slice and serve with Marsala custard.

Serves eight.

Marsala Custard

Ingredients:
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup Marsala

Directions:

In the top of a double boiler, put the egg yolks and sugar and beat until thick and pale yellow in color. Gradually add the Marsala, beating constantly.

Place the top of the double boiler over simmering water and continue to beat vigorously until the mixture foams and thickens, being careful not to overcook.

Cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.