High Holidays

Fruits and spices put spin on holiday recipes

Yemenite Cabbage Salad (Lori Riegel)
Yemenite Cabbage Salad (Lori Riegel)

When I was growing up our go-to cookbook for Jewish holidays was “Tradition in the Kitchen,” published in 1976 by the sisterhood of our synagogue, North Suburban Beth El in Highland Park, Ill. My mom had a few copies and gave me one when I moved into my first apartment. You can tell which recipes I use most by the bits of batter and pages that are stuck together.

Holiday dinners were always a big production in my family, both in terms of the number of people invited and the planning and preparation my mom did ahead of time. My mom, Freddi Pakier, is an extreme multi-tasker. She not only handled working full time and raising children, but also planned and pulled off the most amazing meals, with at least 20 or so guests. Planning ahead is something I learned to do from my mom. The Yom Kippur break fast was never a last-minute thing. Cooking is done ahead of time, to minimize being around food in the hours before the fast ends.

Honey Cake (Lori Riegel)
Honey Cake (Lori Riegel)

A typical break fast menu usually includes a kugel, which is comforting after a long day of fasting. Lox and bagels, sliced fruit, a few salads and a dessert or two round out a nice buffet-style break fast. I like to use the recipes in “Tradition in the Kitchen” as a starting point. I’ll look at the ingredients and ratios, then begin experimenting, customizing the flavors to my style and taste. There are 10 different kugel recipes in the side dishes section, so my spin on a fruited dairy kugel draws on my favorite ideas from those.

I have made this kugel hundreds of times, and usually triple or quadruple the recipe. I generally bake the kugel in disposable aluminum pans, which I then wrap and freeze. It’s great to keep a few in the freezer for use at various Jewish events, such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah luncheon or a shiva call. I love knowing that I have at least three or four kugels in my freezer, so when I get a last-minute request for a dish, it’s not something I need to stress over. I stock up on the heavy- duty, food-service grade aluminum foil (sold at Costco), which protects against freezer burn because it is thicker and sturdier than the standard variety.

Honey cake, though traditional for the High Holidays, was never something I looked forward to until I came across this recipe. Most honey cakes I’ve tried are on the dry side, with an over-baked, burnt taste. This recipe, however, is extremely moist with interesting flavors that work in harmony. It was given to me by Selma Gevirtzman, a congregant at Temple Emanu-El. She found the recipe in a cookbook put out by the Yeshiva of Spring Valley, N.Y. Women’s League. The original recipe was written by Fannie Lefkowitz.

The moisture in this honey cake comes from the apple, orange and coffee. Nutmeg and cloves give it a nice spice cake flavor. I also like the textural contrast of the grated apples. I recommend doubling the recipe and making two cakes, one for Rosh Hashanah and a second to freeze and serve at the Yom Kippur break fast.

Every great recipe comes with a story of how the cook came across it, and my Yemenite cabbage salad is no exception. When I was 18, I spent a summer participating in “Volunteers for Israel.” After my initial three-week volunteer commitment, I wanted to extend my stay in Israel. I spent a week staying with a friend of a friend of a friend, who lived in Eilat, while I was waiting for my next volunteer assignment. It was a strange arrangement, as I didn’t really know this woman, and she was gone most of the day at work, so I mostly wandered around Eilat by myself. One day she came home and announced, “I am going to teach you how to cook Yemenite dishes.” We made a chicken dish and a cabbage salad. I don’t remember what was in the chicken dish, but the Yemenite cabbage salad is something I have made often since that summer in Israel. The chopping can be done a day or two ahead, but don’t toss in the marinade until you are close to serving it.

Dairy Kugel

8 oz. package medium egg noodles, cooked al dente and drained

3 Granny smith apples, grated

2 oranges

1/2 cup butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup milk

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3 Tbsp. sour cream

1/2 cup raisins

2 tsp. cinnamon, separated

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Zest the oranges with a fine grater. “Supreme” the oranges, which means cutting the peel away (including the white inner membrane, or pith), then cutting out the individual segments from between the membranes. Combine the grated apples with the orange zest and segments, which will prevent the apples from turning brown.

After the noodles are cooked and drained, return them to the large pot they were cooked in. Add all ingredients, except 1 tsp. cinnamon and the brown sugar. Stir until all ingredients are equally distributed. If the cream cheese is not incorporating into the mixture, turn heat to low and stir over a low flame. Put the noodle mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish or aluminum pan.

Combine 1 tsp. cinnamon with 3 Tbsp. brown sugar. Sprinkle over noodle mixture.

Bake for one hour.

Honey Cake

3 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup shortening (or butter if serving with a dairy meal)

Juice and rind of one orange

1 apple, coarsely grated

3/4 cup honey

1 cup sugar

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

Pinch salt

1 cup coffee, brewed double-strength

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 cup raisins

Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, oil and shortening in a stand mixer, using beater attachment. Add orange juice, rind, honey, sugar and apple. Continue mixing until ingredients are incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together.

Add flour mixture to mixer, alternating with coffee, stirring briefly between each addition. Add raisins and nuts. Pour into a well-greased rectangular cake pan.

Bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yemenite Cabbage Salad

1 head green cabbage, shredded

1 bunch parsley, flat leaf or curly, chopped


4 cloves garlic, minced with a garlic press

1/2 cup soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

3/4 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard

1-1/2 tsp. zatar (a Middle Eastern blend of herbs, sesame seeds and salt, available at specialty spice stores)

Whisk ingredients for marinade together.

Combine cabbage, parsley and marinade together, tossing thoroughly, 15 minutes before you are ready to serve.

Lori Riegel is religious and cultural education coordinator at Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and blogs about food at kosherchic.blogspot.com.