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Ess Gesunderheit - Healthy Food for a Healthy New Year by Nechamah Reisel
Ess Gesunderheit - Healthy Food for a Healthy New Year by Nechamah Reisel
Volume 3 , Issue 1

Ess Gesunderheit - Healthy Food for a Healthy New Year

By Nechamah Reisel

One of our friends recently took a three‑week trip to Israel. Her adult daughter scheduled a shorter trip elsewhere and was to return home some time before her parents. Before taking off for Israel, my friend spent many hours preparing TV dinners for her daughter because, as she said, her daughter ?burns the pot when she boils water.? If you think that's impossible, let me assure you that I, too, used to ruin pots by boiling water when I lived with my mother. It was only after I'd been married for some time and living in my own home that I learned that cooking could be not only easy, but also relaxing. One of the reasons I hadn't learned this before being on my own is that my mother had no patience for my awkward fumblings in the kitchen. Another reason, doubtless, was that asking my mother for a recipe was an exercise in frustration. Asked for quantities, her answers would be: ?Take a glezele juice, a leffele baking powder, and enough flour.? The stove temperature should be ?just right? -- for her hands, that is.

Translation: a glezele was a juice glassful -- four to six ounces. A leffele could be either a level or heaping teaspoonful. ?Enough flour? meant sufficient flour to make a soft batter, whatever that was. As for the oven temperature, since my mother's hands must have been made of asbestos, the only way I could even begin to approximate the correct temperature, in those days before oven thermostats, was to purchase an oven thermometer. What really got to me was that, with rare exceptions, all her cakes -- family size -- came out tasting and looking wonderful.

Once on my own, and desirous of replicating some of her cakes and foods, I insisted that she allow me to stand by her and make more accurate measurements while she continued on her own seemingly intuitive ways. The honey cake and gefilte fish recipes that follow here are derived from two of her recipes, but modified by my husband and me over the years. What we all particularly like about the honey cake (lekach) is that it is neither so sweet nor so greasy as the store bought varieties. And what is particularly gratifying about them today is that none contains any ingredient that is unacceptable in a low cholesterol diet.

Many of the foods that we eat on Rosh Hashana have symbolic significance. Thus, to bring good fortune and have a sweet year, sweet, not salty or sour foods, are consumed. The challah for the motzi is normally dipped in salt. During the four weeks between Rosh Hashana and Shemini Atzeret, it is dipped in honey or sugar. (Some, however, continue to use salt as well, in commemoration of the Temple sacrifices.) For the same reason, it is also customary to eat a slice of apple dipped in honey on each night of Rosh Hashana.

Since the two days of Rosh Hashana are really considered to be as one day, but we make the prayer Shehecheyanu on both nights during kiddush and when blessing the candles, it is customary to eat an additional fruit one has not eaten before to provide an additional basis for the blessing. New‑crop figs, which are sweet, serve this purpose. Pomegranates are also used for this purpose, as well as to symbolize fertility.

Fish, another fertility symbol, is also served during Rosh Hashana. In addition, the head of the fish (or of a lamb) is eaten, to symbolize leadership -- so that we will be ?at the head, not the foot.?

In our communities, we generally see round, crown‑shaped challot at this time of the year. This shape, resembling a crown, symbolizes both the theme of G‑d's Kingship, a dominant theme of the holiday's liturgy, and the hope for a happy year, one unbroken by misfortune. In other communities, however, the challot take the shape of a ladder, which symbolizes the holiday's theme of judgment -- whether man's fortunes will increase or decrease.

In addition to not eating sour or salty foods, for obvious reasons, we generally do not eat nuts during these days. This is because the Hebrew word for nuts is egoz. In Gematria this is equivalent to chet, the word for sin.

Shanah tovah tikkatevu, leshanah tovah umetukah. May you all be inscribed for a good, sweet year. And may you be blessed with good health.

Nechamah Reisel is a Contributing Editor for The Jewish Review.


4 egg whites

1 pound jar of honey

5 Tbsp. canola or corn oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. white granulated sugar

3‑1/2 cups sifted all‑purpose flour (measure after sifting)

1‑1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

dash of salt

1/2 tsp. each of allspice and cinnamon

2 tsp. instant coffee dissolved in 5 ounces of water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 9" or 10" spring form, both bottom and sides.

2. Bring honey to a boil. Cool. Remove solid particles. Set aside.

3. Beat egg whites until frothy. Slowly add oil while continuing to beat. After all the oil has been incorporated, beat for two more minutes.

4. Add sugar; mix well.

5. Sift all dry ingredients together.

6. Add coffee liquid to honey. Stir well.

7. Alternately, add liquid and dry ingredients to above mixture. Blend thoroughly.

8. Pour into pan.

9. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes, or until cake tester comes out dry.

10. Cool completely on cake rack before removing from pan.


1‑1/2 cups flour, sifted

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup canola or corn oil

2 egg whites plus 2 tsp. oil

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup crushed, unsweetened pineapple with juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour either a 9" x 9" x 2" or (for double the recipe) 2 such pans or a 10" tube pan.

2. Sift together the sifted flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

3. Beat the egg whites with the 2 teaspoons of oil for two minutes. Then add the 2/3 cup of oil, pineapple and juice, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Mix well till moist. Beat for two minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer.

4. Pour into prepared pan/pans.

5. Bake for 35‑40 minutes for square pans or 45‑50 minutes for tube pan. Test with cake tester before removing from oven.

6. Cool on rack completely before removing pan.


Fish Mixture

3‑1/2 to 4‑1/2 pounds of pike and whitefish (weight before cleaning and filleting)

3 to 4 level Tbsp. of matzoh meal

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 level Tbsp. coarse salt (or to taste)

1/4 tsp. white pepper (optional)

1/2 cup cold water

2 egg whites plus 2 tsp. canola/corn oil

1‑1/2 medium onions, diced

Broth Mixture

1‑1/2 medium onions, diced

1‑1/2 to 2 Tbsp. coarse salt (to taste)

1‑1/2 Tbsp. sugar (to taste)

1/2 bay leaf (left whole)

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. pepper (optional)

1. Have fish filleted, but keep the heads and bones. 3‑1/2 pounds will yield approximately 1‑1/2 to 1‑3/4 pounds of ground fish. If you don't have a grinder or food processor and don't wish to spend the time and energy necessary to chop by hand, let the fish store grind the fish for you. The texture is better when it's been put through a food processor.

2. At home, check fillets for bones that have not been removed. (You may be amazed at what ?filleted? fish turns out to be.) Wash and cut the fillets into strips.

3. Put fish, sugar, salt and pepper, and 1‑1/2 onions into the food processor or grind fish and onions and then add other ingredients.

4. In bowl, beat egg whites with oil for about two minutes. Add to fish, spice, onion mixture. Process briefly until it reaches desired consistency.

5. Remove to large bowl. Slowly add water to mixture until mixture can be formed into small, soft balls.

6. Refrigerate.

7. Place bones and fish heads on bottom of 6 or 8 quart enameled or stainless steel pot. Add 8 or 9 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Skim.

8. Add 1‑1/2 diced onions, sugar and salt. Cover. Reduce flame to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove cover and turn up flame to boil. Taste broth for seasonings.

9. Remove fish from refrigerator and with hands dipped into cold water, quickly form fish into balls consisting of about 2 tablespoons of mixture each (a heaping tablespoon). Be sure to dip spoon into cold water before measuring. Fish will be of jelly‑like consistency at this stage. Quickly drop each fish ball as it is formed into the boiling broth. (There should be enough for 30 balls.)

10. Cover and simmer for 1‑1/2 hours. (Balls will rise to top as fish boils. They should continue to cook this way.)

11. Uncover. Add more water if necessary. Continue cooking for another 1/2 hour, uncovered. Shake pan occasionally to keep fish from sticking.

12. Allow fish to cool in pot for about 15 minutes before removing from broth with slotted spoon. Refrigerate covered.

13. Remove bones and fish heads for later, careful, delicious noshing. Jar broth separately. (You may wish to reduce it a bit).



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