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MENU FROM THE MAVENS
OFFERS NEW TWISTS FOR A SWEET YEAR
by Norene Gilletz

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L’shana tova tikatevu - May you be inscribed for a good and sweet year! This familiar greeting will be exchanged as family and friends gather to celebrate the high holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah which starts at sundown on Wednesday, September 12, 2007.

The holiday table is lavishly laid out with the delectable dishes that form part of each family’s holiday’s traditions. Honey and apples are included in many dishes, symbolizing the wish for a sweet and healthy year. Challah, coiled into a round crown, is torn into chunks and dipped into honey.

The following recipes from several Kosher cookbook authors feature special twists on contemporary traditions, preserving the special customs of the high holidays by preparing old favorites in new, delicious ways. I hope these recipes will bring much pleasure to your holiday table!

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If you are looking for the ultimate recipe for chopped liver, chef Jeffrey Nathan shares his secrets in Adventures in Jewish Cooking (Clarkson Potter, $48.50 Cdn.) Jeff says "Rosh Hashanah comes only once a year. Enjoy and diet tomorrow!"

First, be sure to use lots of onions, and brown them well to bring out their sweetness. Also, serve your chopped liver with lots of garnishes so your guests can personalize each serving. This recipe brought raves from friends, who use apple brandy to symbolize sweetness for the New Year.

JEFF NATHAN’S CLASSIC CHOPPED LIVER
1
½ pounds chicken livers, well trimmed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 medium onions, finely diced
¼ cup brandy
6 large eggs, hard-boiled and halved
1 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Assorted crackers (matzo, lavash, and other flatbreads) and breads, for serving

Additional garnishes:
Hard-boiled eggs (whites and yolks separated and chopped), chopped onion, schmaltz and gribenes, grated black radish, chopped fresh parsley)

1. Position the rack 6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Place the chicken livers on a lightly oiled broiler rack. Broil, turning once, until well done, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken livers. Pour in the brandy, and averting your face, ignite the brandy with a match. Let burn until the flame extinguishes, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

3. In batches, transfer the chicken liver mixture and eggs to a food processor, and pulse just until coarsely chopped. Do not overmix. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, and season with the salt and pepper. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days to chill and blend the flavours.

4. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving. Serve with the crackers and whatever condiments your family likes.

Makes 12 servings.

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Sue Epstein of Efrat, Israel is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, where she studied cooking with Julia Child, Perla Meyers and other professional chefs. She taught cooking classes and did catering until she made aliyah to Israel in 1984. Sue is the bi-weekly food columnist for "Voices" magazine and "Hamodia," an English language newspaper distributed in Israel, the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe.

Sue writes "Biblical Chicken is my all-time favourite recipe for Rosh Hashanah and is also perfect for Shabbat or any festive holiday. Honey, almonds and raisins are simmered in a lightly spiced orange sauce - it’s wonderfully fragrant and delicious." It comes from her book "Simply Delicious" (out of print).

SUE EPSTEIN’S BIBLICAL CHICKEN
6 to 8 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
3 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. margarine
1 cup blanched slivered almonds (optional)
2/3 cup orange juice
2 tsp. grated lemon rind

1 1/4 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup semi-dry white wine
1 tbsp. honey
2 small oranges, peeled, thinly sliced and the slices cut in half 
½ cup white raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle chicken breasts with flour, salt and pepper. Heat oil and margarine in a large frying pan and sauté almonds until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.

In the same fat, sauté chicken on both sides until golden brown. Remove chicken from the pan to a baking dish. Discard as much of the fat as possible without removing the brown bits in it. Add orange juice, lemon rind, chicken stock and wine; stir to incorporate any residue sticking to the pan. Stir in honey and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

Arrange chicken pieces side by side in baking dish and pour the sauce over it. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove chicken from baking dish and transfer to a serving dish; arrange orange slices on top. Cover and keep warm in a low oven or electric hot tray. Pour sauce into a small pan with lemon juice and raisins and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until thickened. Taste for seasoning if necessary, then pour sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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I usually make carrot tsimmis, but this terrific recipe for glazed apricot carrots is perfect when I am rushed for time. It comes from Healthy Helpings/MealLeaniYumm! Carrots are traditionally served to symbolize wishes for a sweet, bountiful year. This family favourite is quick, easy, healthy and yummy - it can be doubled or tripled for a crowd! Wishing you all the best for a sweet, delicious and healthy year!

NORENE GILLETZ’S GLAZED APRICOT CARROTS WITH PEPPERS 
2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
¼ cup apricot jam (preferably low-sugar)
2 tbsp. fresh dill, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice carrots ½-inch thick. Cook in boiling salted water until nearly tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add red pepper and onion and simmer 4 or 5 minutes longer. Drain well and return to heat. Stir in jam and dill; mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

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When I asked Moroccan-born cookbook author Levana Kirschenbaum to recommend a recipe from her book Levana’s Table (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $55 Cdn), she suggested her Honey Cake. Arthur Schwartz, in his pursuit of the perfect honey cake for listeners of his radio show Food Talk, writes about it on his website www.thefoodmaven.com. He describes the texture as moist and tender, almost like a pound cake. The cardamom adds an exotic aroma and the ginger adds a good peppery bite to the aftertaste.

When entertaining, Levana suggests: "Create a reasonable and not overly complicated menu, reflecting your own personal style and creativity rather than the latest food fads. Do not try too many new dishes at one meal. If you are a novice or unadventurous, remember that you can never go wrong with the classics. Let me confess that after all my years of cooking and hosting, a meal of classic favourites is the one that gets me the most hugs from my family." 

Some people refrain from eating nuts during this holiday because the the Hebrew numerical value of "nut" is the same as that for "sin." If you’re one of these people, don’t worry: The cake is delicious without the nuts too!

LEVANA KIRSCHENBAUM’S HONEY CAKE
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. ground cardamom
1 tbsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup very strong warm tea (2 tea bags steeped in 1 cup hot water)
½ cup ground almonds, optional
3 tbsp. sliced almonds (add only if using the ground almonds)

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon; set aside. In a food processor, process eggs with sugar, oil and honey, just until combined. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with tea. Pulse 2 to 3 times after each addition, just to incorporate. Add ground almonds, if desired.

Pour batter into a greased 10-inch springform pan or tube pan. Top with sliced almonds, if using. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Invert cake onto a rack to cool. Turn right side up to serve. 

Makes 12 ample servings.

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