2016-09-28 / Columns

Celebrity chefs share some of their best Rosh Hashanah recipes


Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, gives Jews a sense of change and new beginnings. One of the ways to signal that renewal and optimism is to engage our senses: We listen to the shofar, the clarion call of the season, and we eat symbolic foods, such as round challah (representing the cyclical nature of life) and enjoy the sweetness of apples dipped in honey.

But beyond those basics, what are the foods that make Rosh Hashanah special? JTA queried a number of high-profile Jewish chefs about which dishes and recipes are a must on their holiday tables.

Many of the dishes the chefs shared with us are family recipes, from mothers and grandmothers; a homage to those who fed and nourished us in the past. Many have offered a fresh twist on their mishpucha’s must-haves—meaning that, in addition to straightforward ingredients lists and directions, embedded within each heirloom recipe is the hope that, by making these traditional foods, cooks today will build bridges to future generations.

Rabbi Hanoch Hecht (left) on “Chopped” with host Ted Allen. JTA photo courtesy of Hecht. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht (left) on “Chopped” with host Ted Allen. JTA photo courtesy of Hecht. Whether you’re looking to add some sugar or some spice to your Rosh Hashanah meal, read on for some fresh twists on Jewish classics from some well-known names: Joan Nathan, Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Alon Shaya, Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, and Itta Werdiger Roth.


Joan Nathan is the author of 10 cookbooks, including “Jewish Cooking in America.”

For Nathan, it’s all about the chicken soup. This recipe is courtesy of her 103-year-old mother, Pearl. Nathan explains the recipe is a bit of a mashup of various cultures: “She loves getting chicken specials, and [she] also loves dark meat, so she adapted the recipe to what she likes to eat,” Nathan said. “Because she lives in Rhode Island and escarole is a very Italian vegetable [Rhode Island has a large Italian-American population] and her matzo balls, coming from my father’s German tradition, are deliciously al dente.”

FromThe New American Cooking,” reprinted with permission from Knopf).

For the soup:
6 whole chicken legs
20 cups water
2 celery stalks sliced into
2-inch chunks
2 whole carrots cut into
2-inch chunks
1 large onion peeled and

1 parsnip cut into 2-inch
2 TBS. chopped fresh dill
2 TBS. chopped fresh flat leaf
Salt and freshly ground
pepper to taste

8 oz. escarole
For the matzah balls:
3 TBS. chicken fat or
vegetable oil
6 large eggs, separated, well
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 3/4 cups matzah meal
1 TBS. chopped fresh flat leaf
12 cups water

To make the soup: Put the water in a soup pot, add the chicken legs and bring the water to a boil. Simmer slowly for two hours, uncovered, skimming off the fat and foam as they rise to the top of the soup.

After two hours, add the celery, carrots, onion, parsnip, dill and parsley. Continue cooking slowly, uncovered, for another hour.

Set a strainer over a large bowl and strain the soup. Season it to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the soup, covered, overnight.

The next day, peel off the layer of fat that has formed on the soup’s surface. Bring the soup to a boil in a large pot (or freeze it for another day). Before serving, swirl in the escarole and add the matzah balls (recipe follows), cooking for a few minutes.

To make the matzah balls: In a medium bowl, mix the chicken fat or vegetable oil with the eggs, salt, nutmeg, matzah meal and parsley. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Take the matzah mix out of the refrigerator and, after dipping your hands into a bowl of cold water, gently form balls the size of large walnuts. Add salt to the water and drop in the balls. Simmer slowly, covered, for about 20 minutes, remove from water with a slotted spoon and add to the soup.


Jeffrey Yoskowitz is co-founder, with Liz Alpern, of the Gefilteria, and co-author of the forthcoming cookbook “The Gefilte Manifesto.”

“Homemade gefilte fish became such a staple for me at the Rosh Hashanah table that when my grandmother stopped cooking and the local deli closed, I began preparing the holiday delicacy for my whole family,” Yoskowitz said. “It wasn’t a holiday without the good stuff, as far as I was concerned, plus making it myself was very empowering. Since my family’s roots are Polish, mine is a (lightly) sweetened gefilte fish, which is fitting for the New Year celebrations, when we’re so fixated on sweetness.”

From “The Gefilte Manifesto,” reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books.

1 small onion, coarsely
12 oz. whitefish fillet, skin
removed, flesh coarsely
1 1/4 TBS. vegetable or
grapeseed oil
1 large egg
2 TBS. coarsely chopped
fresh watercress (or spinach)
2 TBS. coarsely chopped
fresh dill
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground white
1 TBS. sugar
Horseradish relish, store bought
or homemade, for serving

If there are any bones left in your fillets, remove the larger ones by hand, but don’t fret about the smaller ones since they’ll be pulverized in the food processor. You can buy your fish pre-ground from a fishmonger (usually a Jewish fishmonger) to ensure all the bones are removed, but try to cook your fish that day since ground fish loses its freshness faster.

Place the onion in the bowl of a large food processor and process until finely ground and mostly liquefied. Add the fish fillets to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients, except for the horseradish. Pulse in the food processor until the mixture is light-colored and evenly textured throughout. Scoop into a bowl and give it an additional stir to ensure that all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-by-3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and fill the pan with the fish mixture. Smooth out with a spatula.

Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The terrine is finished when the corners and ends begin to brown. The loaf will give off some liquid. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan and slicing. Serve with horseradish relish. ALON SHAYA’S CHALLAH

Alon Shaya is executive chef and partner at the New Orleans restaurants Domenica, Pizza Domenica and Shaya, and was named best chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation.

For Shaya, challah is central to the Rosh Hashanah festivities.

“I love keeping our traditions alive,” he said. “Challah is such a key part of the celebration— both as a symbol of the year’s cycle, and because it’s just so delicious.”

For the challah:
1/8 cup instant yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups warm water
1 cup sugar
2 TBS. salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs
9 cups bread flour
Sea salt or sesame seeds to

Egg wash (see below)
For the egg wash:
2 eggs
1 yolk
3 TBS. water

In mixing bowl, whisk together yeast, sugar and warm water. Let rest or “bloom” until the mixture appears foamy (five minutes).

Once foamy, add the flour, salt, remaining sugar, eggs and extra virgin olive oil to the bowl.

With an electric mixer’s dough hook attachment, mix on low for four minutes. Scrape the bowl, increase the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough comes together, is smooth and pulls away from the bowl (approximately another four minutes).

Place the dough in a big greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and proof until doubled (about two hours).

Once the dough is proofed, divide the dough into 12 pieces. Set pieces aside; cover with plastic wrap to avoid the dough from drying and cracking.

To shape the dough; take one 7-oz. piece. Roll into a rectangle (approximately six inches by four inches), fold in the left and right sides by a half-inch and roll up the dough from top to bottom. Seal the dough by pressing the seams with the base of your palm. From here, begin to roll the dough back and forth with your hands, creating an even rope that is 14 inches long. Spiral the dough tightly, forming a coil. Tuck the end of the coil underneath the roll to ensure the roll does not unravel.

Once the rolls are shaped, place on a sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and let double in size for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325°F.

Once proofed, egg wash (see below) each roll and sprinkle with sea salt or sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pan and continue to bake until golden brown (5 to 10 minutes).

For the egg wash: Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth and well combined. Store in fridge until ready to use.



Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, a competitor on “Chopped,” is a Chabad rabbi in Rhinebeck, New York.

Hecht chose tzimmes, a traditional sweet stew made of carrots, explaining that carrots are called “merren” in Yiddish, which also means “increase.”

“The very fact that its name connotes increase makes it auspicious to eat carrots during the New Year,” he said, “as it represents an increase in good things for the coming year.”

1 bunch rainbow carrots
Simple syrup
Fresh figs
Brown sugar

Peel carrots and boil in simple syrup until tender.

Slice figs in half and caramelize in a pan four minutes on medium heat.

Once tender, add the carrots to the figs.

Add margarine and sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar.

Candy the carrots for about four minutes and you are ready to serve.




Itta Werdiger Roth, “supperclub impresario,” is the founder of the Brooklyn pop-up restaurant The Hester.

“Pomegranates are not only in season but they are also one of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah,” Roth said. “It’s a win-win situation!”

This recipe is courtesy of “My Jewish Learning.”

1 whole chicken
1 pomegranate
2 cups Pom (or similar)
pomegranate juice
2 TBS. corn or potato starch
1 large bunch leeks, cleaned
well and sliced into rounds
1-2 heads fennel, sliced into
wedges (reserve fronds/tops
and roughly chop)
1/4 bunch tarragon, chopped
3/4 cup honey
2 TBS. balsamic vinegar
2 TBS. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the pomegranate seeds and discard the skin.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan and sprinkle the leeks, fennel and 1/3 of the pomegranate seeds around, over it and inside the crevice.

Combine the salt, pepper, olive oil and most of the tarragon and fennel fronds in a bowl and rub it all over the chicken.

Mix the remaining wet ingredients in the same bowl, then whisk in the corn or potato starch until smooth.

Pour over the chicken and vegetables and roast for about an hour and a half or until the skin is crispy and, when pierced with a knife, the juices of the chicken run clear.

Use the rest of the pomegranate seeds as a gorgeous colorful garnish together with the extra tarragon and fennel fronds. 

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