From matzo balls bobbing in fragrant chicken soup on Passover, to Hanukkah’s crispy potato latkes daubed with sour cream, Jewish holidays are full of food traditions. Rosh Hashanah—a.k.a. the Jewish New Year, and one of the calendar’s most sacred days—is no exception. Growing up, I longed for that first bite of warm, raisin-studded challah, which had been roped into a circle to represent hope for the year ahead. Next came crisp slices of apple, dunked into bowls of honey, a first sweet taste to usher in a favorable passage into another year.
Today, those tastes, mingling brightly on my tongue, still perfectly capture the essence of the holiday for me. But even within the most honored rituals, there is always room for innovation and the creation of new food traditions. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins this Friday, September 18th at sundown. Here are two simple ways to liven up the holiday table, or any fall table, for that matter.
1) Skip the honey bear
The very notion of “dipping” opens up endless opportunities for delicious flavor combinations beyond apples and honey. Although bees’ honey is the most commonly used dip, some scholars believe that the honey referred to in the Bible actually refers to a thick syrup made from boiled-down dates. So, celebrate the old-school way by ordering date honey (called silan) online, or try making your own. You can also try coating apples with raw sugar for a satisfying crunch, drizzling them with pure maple syrup or agave nectar, or spreading slices with citrus marmalade or creamy melted chocolate.
2) Apple cider challah
This take on a classic challah recipe swaps water with warm cider, packs in nuggets of dried apple, and uses a subtle honey glaze topping. Whether braided straight into logs or looped in rounds, apple cider challah makes a wonderful beginning to a Rosh Hashanah meal, or a hearty snack for any cool autumn day. —By Leah Koenig, a freelance writer, home cook, and food columnist for the Forward