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Be Fruitful & Multiply
Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a “New Fruit”

 

Diane Tobin, Director, Be'chol Lashon

Bright and full of possibilities: that is what we hope for each New Year. And the pomegranate red and bursting with seeds is a wonderful way to symbolically capture those hopes. Coming into season just as New Year is celebrated, pomegranate’s ancient beginnings are referenced in the Torah, describing Israel as “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey.” (Deuteronomy 8:8). It is reported that pomegranates were one of the fruits that the scouts brought back to Moses to show that the "promised land" was fertile. And they are a traditional New Year’s treat.

Not surprisingly, our ancestors were on to something. In addition to the current popularity of pomegranate flavored soda and candy, pomegranates have long been used in Indian and Chinese medicine. Western scientists are conducting clinical trials looking at pomegranates for a variety of health benefits. Apparently eating pomegranates does have the potential to make the year a good one.

In addition to health benefits, the spiritual side of the pomegranate should not be overlooked. I have never counted but legend has it that there are 613. This coincidentally is the same number of mitzvot or good deeds we should strive to observe. Among the many mitzvoth, the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is particularly pertinent to modern Jews. Growing the Jewish people is a wonderful and important part of modern Jewish life. Seeds bring to mind birth, but, the Jewish people can “increase like the seeds of a pomegranate” through adoption, intermarriage, and conversion.

My daughter Mia often watches Iron Chef, a cooking show on TV in which they designate a secret ingredient that is required to be in every dish. We decided that this Rosh Hashanah, pomegranates are “the secret ingredient.” We found the perfect source, a lovely little book called “Pomegranates” by Ann Kleinberg (see recipes below).

 


 

Blessing:

This the blessing for a new fruit at Rosh Hashanah, said after the blessing over the wine and before washing hands for the blessing over the bread.

First, the Shehechiyanu blessing thanks God for keeping us alive and bringing us to this season: You are blessed, Adonai our God, Ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

Then the blessing for the fruit: You are blessed, Adonai our God, Ruler of the world, Who creates fruit from the trees.

After the fruit is passed out for everyone to eat, the food’s symbolism is explained: May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our forbears, that our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.

 


 

Pomegranate

 

Quinoa Salad with Herbs, Feta and Pomegranate
(Serves 4)

Quinoa, the newly discovered darling of the grain world, was actually eaten by the ancient Incas. If only they’d had a line of communication open with the ancient Hebrews – no doubt pomegranates would have been added to the dish!

1 cup quinoa

2 cups chicken stock or water

1 cup baby peas

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh basil, flat-leaf parsley, and cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate, thawed

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spread the quinoa out on a dish and pick out any pieces of grit. Rinse the grains thoroughly in a fine-mesh sieve and drain well.

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the stock to a boil, stir in the quinoa, and return to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. The quinoa should be tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat and fluff up the quinoa with a fork. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, cook and cool the peas. Place the peas and enough water to cover them in a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, then decrease the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool.

Add the cooled peas, feta, onion, bell pepper, mixed herbs, tarragon, and pomegranate seeds to the cooled quinoa. Toss to mix well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate juice, orange juice concentrate, vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Just before serving, whisk the dressing again, pour over the salad, and toss.

 


 

Pomegranate

 

Chicken in Root Vegetable, Pomegranate and Dried Fruit Sauce (Serves 6 to 8)

Preheat the oven to 400°F

¼ cup pomegranate syrup (see below)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp HP brand brown sauce (optional)

6 cloves garlic, crushed

½ tsp red pepper flakes

12 chicken thighs, drumsticks, and/or breasts

 

 

Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 shallots, peeled

1 carrot, peeled and cubed

1 celery root, peeled and cubed

¾ dried apricots

½ cup golden raisings

salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup water

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 1/3 cup pomegranate syrup (below)

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

½ cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Combine the pomegranate syrup, olive oil, brown sauce (optional), garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Drench the chicken pieces in the mixture, turning until well coated. Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes. Decrease temperature to 350°F and bake for 10 minutes longer.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, shallots, carrot and celery root and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture starts to brown. Stir in the apricots and raisins, season to taste with salt and black pepper, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the water, lemon zest, pomegranate syrup, basil, and thyme. Stir while brining to a boil, then decrease the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes longer, or until all the vegetables have softened.

Arrange the baked chicken pieces on a serving platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the parsley and pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate Syrup

4 cups pomegranate juice

Makes about 2 cups

When making pomegranate syrup, you can use freshly squeezed or store-bought pomegranate juice (buy only pure juice, without sugar or flavorings added). You will need a large amount to start with; try it with 4 cups as there is a lot of evaporation in the cooking process. Depending on how thick you like your syrup, 4 cups of juice will reduce to yield about 2 cups of syrup.

Pour the juice into a saucepan or skillet and bring to a steady boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to maintain a steady, low bubbling, and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. After about 20 to 30 minutes the juice will have reduced to about one-half and will start to thicken.

To test consistency, dip a spoon in the syrup—if it comes out relatively clean, continue cooking. If the spoon is coated and the syrup takes its time about sliding off, you've done it! Another method is to drop a spoonful of the syrup on a chilled plate and wait a few minutes (or place the plate of syrup in the refrigerator to hasten the process). If the syrup moves slowly around the plate, that's it—remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely. If it is still runny, continue cooking but pay close attention at this point. If you want very thick syrup, continue cooking and then remove from the heat when the syrup reaches the desired consistency or even a little before—it will thicken as it cools.

Pour the cooled syrup into a jar and close tightly. It will keep in the refrigerator for 6 months.

 

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