When the Jewish New Year falls midweek, as it does this year at sundown Wednesday, the effort to make a fitting meal comes with extra challenges. The gracious invitation to a communal gathering might run up against homework, dog walks and work deadlines, so the family cook who wants to partake of "simanim" — Hebrew for the many symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah — might spend the previous weekend baking an apple cake and round challahs.
The way I see it, one can never send too many positive vibes into the holiday atmosphere, which is why I recommend this salad that is chockablock with meaningful components. It's also one-pan friendly.
At the risk of oversimplifying and keeping in mind my lack of Talmudic training, I offer a brief rundown of the ingredients involved. Carrots are said to symbolize the hope of increased blessings for Jews in the coming year; here, they are drizzled with honey and roasted till tender and sweet, along with colorful and easy delicata squash. The latter represents a desire for our merits to be recognized and outweigh the lesser aspects of our nature. String beans, fenugreek seeds and garlic play their part in the oven medley, too; the roasted cloves enrich the salad's vinaigrette. The roasted bits are then tossed with fresh spinach, crisp apple slices and shredded beets (each with their own blessing). A bounty of pomegranate seeds emphasizes the many blessings we wish for.
The salad is hearty enough to serve on its own, but I have really enjoyed it in tandem with a slow-cooker brisket that's a new recipe for me (as in, Dinner in 420 Minutes, as Editor Joe has dubbed it). The amount of meat is modest (family of four-size) and the recipe could hardly be simpler: Cut a few pounds' worth into large pieces and sear them, then toss them into the slow cooker with thin rounds of leeks (symbolic), dates and garlic (symbolic!) pomegranate molasses (ditto), a bit of water and a pinch of cayenne. This one-pot treatment can be done days in advance, overnight or during a day of prayerful contemplation.
The resulting sauce, left chunky or stick-blended to a puree, has a sweet sourness to it that tastes like a High Holidays brisket should. If you make it ahead, it can be covered and warm up along with the roasting vegetables.
The meal won't guarantee a prosperous and healthy New Year, but I can promise it will be satisfying and easy to prepare. And you don't have to celebrate Rosh Hashanah to enjoy it.
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4 to 6 servings
MAKE AHEAD: The vegetables, minus the spinach, can be roasted a day in advance. Reheat in a 350-degree oven with the spinach on top so it crisps.
From WaPoFood deputy editor Bonnie S. Benwick.
3 small delicata squash
1 bunch young small carrots, scrubbed well
3 or 4 fresh sage leaves
Cloves from ½ head garlic (unpeeled)
2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds (may substitute 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek)
2 tablespoons plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup mild honey
3 large Jonathan apples
1 bunch Chinese long beans (6 ounces; may substitute 8 ounces trimmed haricots verts)
3 small cooked beets
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
5 ounces baby spinach
2 or 3 sardines packed in olive oil, preferably Bela brand, drained (optional)
Seeds from ½ pomegranate, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut each squash in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and trimmed ends. Turn cut sides down and cut crosswise into ½ -inch half moons. Transfer them to the baking sheet, along with the carrots, sage leaves (to taste), garlic and fenugreek seeds. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat evenly, then season lightly with salt. Drizzle with ¼ cup of the honey. Roast (middle rack) for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, core and cut the apples into thin slices; submerge in water or cover with a damp paper towel. Trim the beans and cut into bite-size lengths. Finely chop or shred the beets using the large-holed side of a box grater.
Toss the green beans into the roasted vegetable mixture in the oven, and stir with a fork to incorporate. Drizzle the remaining honey over the mixture. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes, until the carrots and squash look somewhat caramelized.
Remove the garlic from the roasted mixture, then squeeze the cloves into a medium bowl, discarding the skins. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar and a pinch each of salt and pepper; whisk to form an emulsified vinaigrette, making sure the roasted garlic has thoroughly broken down.
Arrange the spinach leaves on a large platter, and drizzle a little of the vinaigrette over them, tossing to coat. Scatter the roasted vegetables, including the roasted fenugreek seeds, evenly over the spinach, then add the sliced apples, shredded beets and sardines, if using. Drizzle with half the remaining dressing.
Garnish with the pomegranate seeds just before serving. Pass the remaining dressing at the table.
4 to 6 servings
You'll need a 5½ - to 6-quart slow cooker (or equivalent). If you have an appliance that allows you to sear the meat as well, there's no need to do that step separately on the stove top.
Serve with challah.
MAKE AHEAD: The brisket tastes even better after a day's refrigeration. Cover with its sauce. Discard any congealed fat and reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat, until warmed through.
Based on a recipe at ThePerfectPantry.com.
6 to 8 medium leeks, dark green parts trimmed
2½ to 3 pounds flat-cut beef brisket
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup pomegranate molasses, or more as needed
⅓ cup water
5 ounces pitted dates, coarsely chopped (generous 1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Pomegranate seeds (arils) (optional)
Cut the leeks crosswise into ½ -inch thick rounds; submerge in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes for 15 to 30 minutes, then use a slotted spoon or your hands to lift them out of the water and drain.
Meanwhile, cut the brisket into 4 equal pieces. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the slow cooker, then add the leeks; cover and turn on HIGH.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron or nonstick) over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the brisket pieces and brown on all sides, turning as needed.
Transfer to the slow cooker, then add the pomegranate molasses, water, dates, garlic and cayenne pepper; cover and reduce the heat to LOW. Cook for 6 to 7 hours, or until the brisket is quite tender. Check it about halfway through and reposition the pieces so that they are coated and close to submerged in the liquid.
Once the meat is done, transfer the pieces to a cutting board. Increase the heat to HIGH; if you'd like a non-chunky sauce, use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the slow cooker mixture until fairly smooth. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and add salt and/or pepper and more pomegranate molasses, as needed.
Meanwhile, slice the meat as you wish and arrange it on a platter. Pour the sauce over the top; garnish with pomegranate seeds, if using. Serve warm.
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