The Jewish High Holidays are quickly approaching and the main topic of conversation at this time of year always seems to be: “What’s on YOUR menu?” Every family has their favorite foods that they look forward to eating when they gather together around the holiday table.

Along with tender slices of juicy brisket, sweet and sour meatballs, and glazed roast chicken or turkey packed with stuffing, many symbolic foods are included on the menu – apple slices dipped in honey or layered and baked into a luscious cake, ruby-red pomegranate seeds scattered over mixed salad greens, plump gefilte fish dumplings or slices (either sweet or salt-and-pepper) garnished with carrot rounds, honey-sweetened carrot tsimmis, and moist, delicious honey cake.

Chopped dates, raisins and cranberries might be added to a couscous or quinoa pilaf which includes sautéed chopped leeks and carrots, or golden butternut squash might be baked into a tasty pudding or kugel. The traditional dishes that have been passed down through various generations are on the menu once again, filling our homes with tantalizing aromas and nostalgic food memories.

It’s always helpful to do some cooking and baking in advance. Make your chicken soup and challahs ahead of time and freeze them. Meatballs, cabbage rolls and brisket also freeze beautifully or can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated. Instead of stuffing turkey or chicken, bake the stuffing separately in a casserole dish. Cover it if you want the stuffing to be soft, bake it uncovered if you like it crusty. Honey cake freezes beautifully, but apple cake often gets a bit soggy if frozen. However, if you reheat your apple cake at 350 F for 10 minutes, loosely covered, it will taste like it was just baked!

Each year, I ask my foodie-friends to share some of their favourite recipes for the High Holidays. Here is a sampling of some of the dishes that my “pan-pals” near and far will be serving this year to family and friends for Rosh Hashanah. Best wishes to all for a sweet, healthy and delicious New Year!

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My friend Tolsa Greenberg of Toronto and I often exchange recipes. Her scrumptious squash pudding makes a terrific side dish for Rosh Hashanah. Tolsa told me, “It’s a bit on the sweet side, so use less sugar if you prefer, or even use a sugar substitute.” Tolsa got the recipe a few years ago from her daughter, Cheryl Greenberg Colt, who got it from a friend. Tolsa’s seven-year old grandson Jake loves pancakes and would eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner if his mother would let him. When Jake was five, his mother wasn’t sure if he would eat this pudding if she told him it was called a kugel, so instead, she told him it was called “pancake pudding.” Jake tasted it and declared, “This is the best pancake pudding I ever ate!”


1 kg (2 lbs) frozen squash
3/4 cup sugar (or use less if you prefer)
1 cup flour
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup nutriwhip (pareve whipping cream)
1 Tbsp melted margarine
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon for sprinkling

Put frozen squash in a Corning ware casserole. Cover and microwave on High power for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Mash with a potato masher.

Add sugar, flour, eggs, nutriwhip, margarine, vanilla and baking powder to squash and mix well. Use an immersion blender and mix until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Spread mixture evenly in baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake about 45 minutes, until golden brown. Yummy!!

Yield: 8 to 10 servings. Leftovers (if any) can be reheated or frozen.

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Talk about recipes that travel! Tina Kauffman of Montreal got this recipe from her friend Loni Kuperfberg, who got it from her mother who lives in NYC. Tina told me: “On Rosh Hashanah, I leave the oven on at 250F, so just before I light candles, all the food (except for my brisket, which goes into the oven 1/2 an hour before everything else) goes into the oven for about an hour or however long it takes for the men to get back from shul.”


1 large beef tongue (3 to 4 lb)
1 large jar (7.5 oz/213 ml) apricot baby food
1/4 cup orange juice
1 to 2 Tbsp lemon juice
A “shpritz” of ketchup (1 to 2 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
A fistful of golden raisins, optional (about 1/2 cup)

Place tongue in a large pot and add cold water to cover tongue completely. Bring to a boil and skim. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until tongue is tender, about 2 hours, adding additional boiling water as needed when it evaporates.

Remove tongue from liquid and let cool. Meanwhile, combine apricot baby food with orange juice, lemon juice, ketchup, brown sugar and raisins in a small saucepan.

Peel and slice tongue; arrange slices in a greased ovenproof serving dish. Pour sauce over tongue and cover the baking dish. (This can be made in advance and refrigerated. It tastes best the next day.)

About an hour before serving, place the covered casserole in a 200 degree F oven to reheat slowly. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 servings.

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I’ve been “pan-pals” with Sandy Loeffler of Oak Park, MI for many years. We finally met face-to-face when she and her husband David attended the annual dinner of the Jewish Food List held in Toronto in August. Food was the main topic of our conversation and Sandy promised to send me a lentil recipe that she often makes for Sukkot. When she couldn’t find it, she sent me this delicious brisket recipe instead. It comes from a cookbook published by her local Hillel Day School Parent-Teacher Organization called Kiss the Cook! Sandy wrote: “I know it’s a bit of a potchke, but this is so-o-o good! It’s made with carrots and prunes, which makes it an ideal dish for Rosh Hashanah!”


Adapted from “Kiss the Cook”

3/4 cup quartered dried apricots (divided)
9 large cloves of garlic (divided)
3 1/2 tsp ground cumin (divided)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 1/2 to 5 lbs flat-cut beef brisket

3 Tbsp olive oil

Additional salt and pepper
4 cups chopped onions
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger root
1 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
2/3 cups pitted prunes, quartered (or substitute currants)
Chopped fresh cilantro

Combine 1/2 cup of the dried apricots with 3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp cumin, salt, cinnamon and pepper in a food processor. Using on/off turns, chop to a coarse puree. Using a small knife, cut slits 1/2-inch deep all over the brisket. Set aside 1 Tbsp of the apricot mixture. Press the remaining apricot mixture into slits in brisket.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 300F.

Heat the oil in a heavy, large, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle brisket all over with salt and pepper. Add brisket to pot and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate, fat side up; spread with reserved 1 Tbsp. apricot mixture.

Add chopped onions to the pot and sauté them over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add carrots, ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper, remaining six garlic cloves (crush them first), and remaining 2 1/2 tsp. cumin; sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and boil until it has reduced and almost becomes a glaze, stirring up any browned bits, about five minutes.

Return brisket to pot. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Spoon some of vegetable mixture over brisket, cover pot and place it in the oven. Roast brisket for 2 1/2 hours, basting every 1/2 hour with pan juices. Add prunes and remaining cut-up dried apricots. Cover again and continue roasting until brisket is tender, about 30 minutes longer.

Remove from oven and cool brisket uncovered for 1 hour. Transfer to refrigerator and when cold, cover and refrigerate it overnight. Remove and discard the hardened fat from top of gravy. Scrape gravy off from brisket; spoon gravy back into pot.

Place brisket on a work surface and slice thinly across the grain. Add sliced brisket to pot with the gravy and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. If desired, boil until gravy is slightly thickened. Season the gravy with salt and pepper.

Arranged brisket slices in a large ovenproof baking dish and spoon gravy over. Cover baking dish with foil. (Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated.) To heat, place in a 350F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until piping hot.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to include dates as one of the symbolic foods. This delicious date cake recipe comes from Renee Rubinoff of Toronto and is a family favourite. It contains chocolate chips instead of nuts (many people follow the custom of not eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah). This recipe can be doubled easily for a crowd.


1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup shortening (e.g., Crisco)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray.

Combine dates, baking powder and boiling water in a bowl. Set aside.

In an electric stand mixer, blend shortening, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. In another bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.

Alternately add the flour mixture and date mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed just until blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and chocolate chips over top.

Bake at 350 F for 45 to 50 minutes, until cake tests done.

Yield: 9 servings. Recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan about 55 to 60 minutes.