(MyJewishLearning.com) — When the Jewish New Year comes around, many people stress for weeks leading up to the holiday and break out their most complicated recipes to impress guests. But when I entertain around the holidays, I prefer to rely on a few go-to dishes that are simple to prepare, pack a delicious punch and still impress my friends and family despite my lack of stressing.
Forget the chicken soup and start the New Year on a sweet note with this Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Soup. It doesn’t require a million ingredients or lots of time, but people will be asking for the recipe as soon as they taste it. Made with dried peppers, coconut milk and roasted sweet potatoes, this soup is one of my favorites to make, serve and eat.
A perfect roasted chicken marinated with citrus and herbs is a wonderful counterpoint to a rich brisket on the table. Marinating for at least several hours will ensure a moist chicken everyone will talk about.
And while challah should be served to start the meal, Balsamic Apple Date stuffed challah is so delicious you may want to serve it as the grand finale.
Rosh Hoshanah has a late start this year, so enjoy those last few weeks of late summer, don’t stress about menu planning and instead make a menu of simple, delicious delights that people will only think consumed your September.
Sweet n Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
10 medium sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2-3 dried chili peppers (small; if using medium-sized dried chilis, just use one)
Creme fraiche (optional)
Olive oil for finishing (optional)
Candied pecans or walnuts (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix brown sugar, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt in a small bowl. Cut sweet potatoes in half and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Spread brown sugar spice mixture all over sweet potatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Roast sweet potatoes for 35-45 minutes or until completely soft. Set aside and let cool.
In a medium to large pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and saute onions and carrots until translucent and soft, around 4-6 minutes. Add 2-3 cups of stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add sweet potato flesh and using an immersion blender, blend all vegetables until smooth. Add remaining stock and dried chilis.
When the soup is heated through and flavors have blended, around 20-30 minutes, add coconut milk. Remove the dried chilis before serving. Note: the longer you let the chilis sit in the soup, the spicier the soup will be.
If you are making this soup dairy, you can serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream. If you are serving this soup pareve, drizzle with good quality olive oil and some chopped candied pecans or walnuts.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Shannon’s Perfect Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken, rinsed
1 orange, zested and sliced
1 lemon, zested and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together rosemary, thyme, olive oil, wine, orange zest, lemon zest and the salt and pepper. Add the chicken to a large plastic bag that seals, and pour the wet mixture of the chicken. Add the orange and lemon slices, as well as the whole garlic cloves.
After you seal the bag, make sure the entire chicken is covered with the marinade. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you like, you can stuff some of the garlic cloves and citrus slices under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken. Roast the chicken for 45-55 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Balsamic Apple Date Challah for Rosh Hashanah
For the challah dough:
5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
3 gala apples, peeled and diced
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
For top of challah:
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon sanding sugar
1 tablespoon thick sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.
Add another cup of flour and eggs until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 1/2 cups flour and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.
To make the filling, place apples, dates, salt, cinnamon stick, water, red wine and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to simmer on medium heat until the mixture is reduced. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer another 2-3 minutes. The mixture will cook around 10-15 minutes in total.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick.
Place mixture in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until smooth.
After the challah is done rising, cut the dough in half. To be as precise as possible, use a scale to measure the weight.
Roll out the first ball using a rolling pin into a rectangle. Spread around half, perhaps slightly less, of the apple-date mixture in an even layer, leaving 1/2 inch all around without filling. Working quickly, start rolling up the dough toward you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end when you finish.
Create a pinwheel shaped-challah by snaking the dough around and around in a circle around itself. When finished, tuck the end under the challah neatly and pinch lightly. This doesn’t have to be perfect — remember, as long as it tastes good, almost no one (maybe except that judgmental great-aunt) will care what it looks like.
Repeat with other half of dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Allow challahs to rise another 30-60 minutes, or until you can see the the size has grown.
Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon of honey. Brush liberally over each challah. Combine sea salt, sanding sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over challah.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set, and the color is golden.
Yield: 2 medium loaves
(Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher blog on MyJewishLearning.com, where these recipes originally appeared.)