Special Thanks

I would like to extend a huge thank you to Nancy Kohn and Art Friedson.  Without their help I’d still be searching for the best kreplach recipe, a kosher deli and how exactly to prepare tzimmes.

Thank you Art and Nancy for you patience, guidance, knowledge and most of all your friendship.

I would also like to once again thank Sarah Amdor.  She is the best on call food photographer in Chicago.  Thank you once again for sharing your great talents with Historic Hostess.


Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Jewish New Year.  Its literal translation from Hebrew is  “head of the year”.  It is also known as Yom ha-Din or “The Day of Judgment”.

This year it falls on Thursday September 29th.  It is on this day that Jews around the world gather to worship and begin the ten days of repentance that will come to an end on Yom Kippur.  Rosh Hashanah is a chance to review the last year and look ahead to the new one.  A chance to ask God for forgiveness and repent so that one’s name can be inscribed in the “book of life” for the next year. 

People who live in Israel follow the one day pattern of observance for most celebrations. While most observant Jews who live outside of the Land of Israel (Diaspora) follow the ancient two-day pattern for observing the holidays.  With the holy day Rosh Hashanah both Israeli and Diaspora Jews mark the special occasion with two days of observance.

During this time Jews wish each other well with the expression,”L’shanah tovah tikatevu” (often shortened to shanah tovah) meaning “may God inscribe you in the Book of Life for a good year.”  Others say l’shanah tovah tikatevu v’tichatemu for “good year, may you be written and sealed”

Shofar appears often in Jewish history, but it has a special place during Rosh Hashanah.  The shofar is an instrument made from either a ram or sheep’s horn that is sounded at the New Year.  It is believed that the trumpet like sound not only heralds the start of the holiday, awakens the soul to begin its task of repentance, but also can scare off demons to ensure a good start to the new year.

So to make a good start to your Rosh Hashanah celebration you can pick yourself up a shofar fairly easily.  Whether you choose to go the traditional horn route or just a fun plastic party shofar they are available for purchase online or at a local Judaica store.

As with any world holiday, there are many food customs that accompany the celebration of Rosh Hashanah.

Challah, apples, honey and carrots are a must for the holiday table. 

Challah is the centerpiece of almost every Jewish holiday table.  On Rosh Hashanah, the traditional braided golden yeast bread is served with a bit of a twist (literally).  In observance of the New Year, people will serve a round loaf to symbolize the year’s cyclical nature, but that is not the only shape.  Challah is also baked in the shape of a bird, ladder or topped with a crown, but circular loaves are what is usually served.  After being blessed, the challah is then dipped into honey and eaten in the hopes of ensuring a “sweet” new year.

The same is done with apples.  After a brief blessing, one dips the apple into the honey again hoping for some good to come in the year ahead.  Apples are another important food at the table.  They are said to symbolize sustenance and beauty. 

Pomegranates can also be on hand.  Their many seeds are meant to symbolize the many good deeds one hopes to enact in the upcoming year.  Pomegranates are also the symbolic fruit of Israel.

Carrots are on hand to help promote a prosperous new year.  The Yiddish word for carrot is “mehren” which also means increase.  Plus it doesn’t hurt that the orange vegetable when sliced resembles gold coins. 

There are other traditions that have fallen off over the years, like eating the head of a lamb in rememberance of the ram sacrificed by Abraham or the head of a fish to symbolize a prayer to increase in numbers.  So if you wish to go old school and can get your hands on a lamb’s head there is a place for it at the Rosh Hashanah table, but you’ll have to look for another resource on how to prepare said head because my research into that custom ended at the telling of the tale.

Here is my suggested menu:

Apples and Honey

Ruth Friedson’s Kreplach Soup

Beef Brisket with Carrots and Onions

Art Friedson’s Tzimmes


Poppa’s Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake

Kosher Wine

Even if you don’t practice the Jewish faith, it is a wonderful opportunity to gather friends and family for fun evening of great food and conversation.  It could be a chance to for your guests to learn a little something about a holiday and world religion that before they weren’t familiar.  So blow the shofar, break some challah and enjoy some honey dipped apples.

L’Shana Tovah!

Ruth Friedson’s Kreplach Soup

My friend Art’s mom REALLY likes soup.  Ruth Friedson tends to serve it every night at dinner.  And with a recipe like this one you can understand why.

The best way to describe this to someone who has never enjoyed the yummy comfort food goodness of a Kreplach is just imagine a beef brisket ravioli floating in a bowl of steeping hot chicken broth. 

To some the idea of making your own Kreplach from scratch can seem a bit intimidating, but it really is easy to do.

Since you are already making the beef brisket, just prepare a little extra to use a pound or two for the dumpling filling.  The dough comes together in minutes, so once you get your onions sautéed and ground up with the beef the assembly is quick.

This Jewish specialty is a Rosh Hashanah staple and well worth the effort I assure you.  Plus whatever extras left over freeze beautifully for you to reheat on a cool rainy day.

Serves 8

1-2 pounds of prepared Beef Brisket

2 medium onions, sliced

2 TBSP vegetable oil (years ago Ruth would use shmaltz and has since switched to oil, but if you have shmaltz on hand go ahead and use it)

2 1/2 cups flour

4 eggs

1 tsp salt

6 TBSP vegetable oil

12 cups Chicken Stock

Heat frying pan over medium heat, add 2 TBSP of oil.  When warm add the sliced onions and saute until translucent.

Cut the cooled brisket into chunks and put with the sautéed onions into the bowl of a food processor.  Grind until the meat has the consistency of ground beef, if needed add a little sauce from the brisket to make the filling moist enough to handle.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, eggs, salt and 6 TBSP of oil.  Knead well.  Once the dough starts to come together dump it out onto a floured surface and continue kneading until the dough becomes workable and firm.

Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thickness then using a water-glass or a biscuit cutter, cut the dough into circles.

Fill each circle with about a Tablespoon of the brisket filling, then fold dough to make a semi-circle and pinch all seams well.

Drop the kreplach into a pot of boiling water and cook until the kreplach float to the surface.  ( I added a Tablespoon of kosher salt to the water and also let the kreplach boil in the water for an additional couple of minutes after they floated to the surface.)

Place 3 kreplach in a bowl of hot chicken broth and serve garnish with a pinch of fresh dill.

**Cooks Note: The kreplach can be made ahead of time.  After the kreplach have been boiled and cooled they may be either refrigerated for use within days or frozen for later use.

Chicken Stock for Kreplach Soup

Makes about 15-18 cups

1 whole chicken (about 3-4 pounds) cut into pieces

2 marrow bones

4 stalk of celery, cut into large pieces

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces

3 medium onions, peeled and quartered

3 bay leaves

palmful of kosher salt

10 peppercorns

Handful of fresh parsley

Handful of fresh dill


Into a stock pot place the first 8 ingredients.  Tie the parsley and dill together with kitchen string to make it easier to remove later and add it to the pot.  Then fill with water until the ingredients are just covered.

Place the stock pot on the stove over high heat and bring to boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours.  Let cool in stock pot.  Once the stock has cooled to warm or room temperature put it into a sealable container in the refrigerator overnight.  The fat will separate to the top making it easier to remove.  To use stock simply reheat. 

**Cook’s Note:  I let my broth simmer for up to 6 hours to give it a more concentrated flavor.  The stock can be either refrigerated and used within a few days.  Or you can freeze it, just use it within 3 months.

Beef Brisket with Carrots and Onions

recipe is courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa

Serves 10-12

6-7 pounds Kosher beef brisket

2 TBSP Kosher salt

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 TBSP minced garlic (appox. 4 cloves)

2 tsp dried oregano leaves

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks

8 stalks celery, cut into 2″ chunks

6 yellow onions, peeled and sliced

6 fresh or dried bay leaves

1 (46 ounce) can tomato juice

Preheat oven to 350 F

Place the brisket in a heavy roasting pan.  In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic and oregano.  Rub the mixture on the brisket.  Pile the carrots, celery, onions and bay leaves on the brisket and pour in enough tomato juice to come about 3/4 of the way up the meat and vegetables.  Cover the top of the pan with parchment paper then with aluminum foil.  (The tomato juice will react unpleasantly with the aluminum foil if they touch).

Bake for 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender.  Remove the meat from the pan.  Place the pan on 2 burners and boil the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for another 30 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.

Place beef, vegetables and sauce in a container and cool to warm or room tempurature then cover and refrigerate overnight.

About 2 hours before serving take the meat out of the refrigerator and slice brisket against the grain.  Place sliced meat, vegetables and sauce in an oven safe pan (I used a pyrex casserole pan) cover with parchment and aluminum foil.

Preheat oven to 350 F and reheat brisket for about an hour.  Remove from the oven and serve.

Art Friedson’s Tzimmes


1-2 pounds of beef short ribs

1-2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes

1-2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes

2 large yellow onions, chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large cubes

1 bag of pitted prunes

2 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp chopped garlic


Kosher salt


Put a heavy pot with an oven safe lid over medium heat.  Saute chopped onions and garlic in olive oil.  When they are soft and fragrant push them to the sides.  Season the short ribs with salt and pepper then add to the pan and brown about 2-3 minutes on each side. 

Once the meat is seared, add carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Fill with water to top potatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add prunes and pour in a liberal amount of honey (Art recommends to start pouring at one spot and pour a solid ribbon of honey around the outer rim of the pot, about a cup).  Cover pot and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Then remove most of the excess liquid from the pot using either a turkey baster or a laddle.  Place back into the oven uncovered and continue cooking for about 30 minutes more (so it’s not soupy).  Serve.

**Cook’s Note: The meat will fall off the bones of the short ribs, at this point you can either pick them out or leave them in the stew with a heads up to guests.

Poppa’s Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake


recipe courtesy of Zabars.com

Makes one 10″ bundt or tube pan OR two 9″x5″x3″ loaves

3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp allspice

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup dark honey

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup warm dark coffee

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup brandy or whiskey

1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease pan and line bottom with greased parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixter, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

Make a well in the center in the dry ingredients and add oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice and brandy.  Using the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing.  This is a very wet batter.

Spoon batter into pan and sprinkle top with sliced almonds (if using)

Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides on the pan and a skewer comes out clean.  About 60-70 minutes for bundt pan, about 50-60 minutes for loaf pans.  Once baked, remove from oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

Slice and serve.