Apples and Honey are good (Andy Grammer – ‘Honey, I’m Good’ parody)


Featuring: The Rebbetzin, Kosha Dillz, and more!

Written by Jordan Reimer, Jessica Schechter, Ronn Blitzer, Erez Cohen, Barry Bornstein, Arianna Schudrich, and JJ Weiss.

“Apple Baseball” scenes filmed by Greg Starr.

Video and Performance by Erez Cohen

High Holy Days: Dreams as sweet as honey


With nothing but shrubbery and fractures of light, the fierce Mojave Desert may seem to lack the abundance needed to sustain a hive of bees, yet it still manages to produce some of the best honey in California. 

Like the insects themselves, this desert’s sunbeams are hard to direct: The temperature rises as the Mojave dips 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley, a far echo from the Sierra Nevada timberline or the orange poppies of the high desert. But extremes mean nothing to the resourceful bees that recognize the potential in every wildflower. 

Beekeepers in Olancha, an unincorporated community in the foothills of the Eastern Sierra, cultivate honey that bees make from the nectar of local flora such as desert marigold, verbena and evening primrose. Packaged in mason jars, the dark, amber honey looks more like molasses than anything one might associate with traditional honey. The stuff doesn’t hang on the spoon. Instead, it pulls and drips like light syrup and, when shallow, runs rose gold. 

I discovered it when I pulled off U.S. 395 to a small, white brick bungalow with windows plastered with travelers’ stickers. (I was originally alerted to its location by a sign on the side of the road that reads, “Really Good! Fresh Jerky, 24 Miles Ahead in Olancha.”) The cool insides of the old, crumbling store revealed packages of fresh pistachios, almonds and fruit; shelves of olive oils; walls of jerky from free-range and wild animals.

There’s always a tourist who wants to know if the place has a website so he can send the stuff to all of his friends (“www.freshjerky.com,” the lone cashier says between yawns). There’s always a group of city children who beg for the honey sticks at the counter. 

Taste is a subjective thing, so I can’t say my experience with wildflower honey will be the same as yours. To me, it tastes like warm caramel stirred in rosewater. Another part of my brain says it tastes like Monet’s garden at Giverny. The honeysuckle that grew on the gates of my elementary school, the stems plucked out and savored. A nice thought before a deep sleep. 

Yes, the stuff sticks in the valleys between your fingers. Yes, it’s hard to cleanse from your tablecloth and your children. But it stays with me long after a spoonful, a feeling that can only be sweated out in the heat of the low desert. 

In another desert, long ago, the manna that rained down on languishing Israelites was said to taste like “wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). They savored it on their way to a land that was “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8) — although this honey may have come from dates rather than bees. Throughout Jewish tradition, honey has represented a visceral, transporting sweetness that extends far beyond the momentary fix that modern processed sugar provides us. 

Our standard for the experience of honey, it seems, has diminished over the years, a phenomenon best exemplified by a squeezable plastic bear. It is no longer the euphoria-inducing delicacy of the ancient world. The honey packets in the lunchroom are no longer associated with the eternal love of the Song of Songs (“Your lips, my bride, drip honey; Honey and milk are under your tongue, And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon”). 

But the partaking of honey on Rosh Hashanah is a community ritual, one that brings each of our minds back to a unique and unfiltered past. The Mojave and its wildflowers in particular reconnect us with honey’s illustrious history and the joys of the desert. Research is beginning to show that honey made from local wildflowers may aid in the prevention of allergies, that exposure to the treachery of nature through a spoonful of sweetness might prevent future discomfort. 

I wouldn’t go so far to say that wildflower honey could prepare a person for life, but I will say that it has helped me reflect on mine. It has become something I look forward to every summer as I make my way to the mountains to fish. And I always save a jar for Rosh Hashanah to share with my family, hoping that new memories will stick.

Chanukah candles made from beeswax


This year during Chanukah, it might be a good idea to consider using beeswax candles to light the menorah.

According to Debby de Moulpied, founder and president of Bona Fide Green Goods in New Hampshire, paraffin candles, which are made out of petroleum, are hazardous to one’s health. “When you burn a paraffin candle, the fumes that come off of it are basically the same as the exhaust that comes out of the tailpipe of a diesel car,” she said. “You’re breathing in those fine particles and chemicals.”

Beeswax candles, on the other hand, burn 99 percent clean, and black soot will not form around them. Christine Barth of Oregon’s Beeswax Candle Works, a leader in beeswax candle making and selling, said that because she doesn’t work with paraffin, her workshop doesn’t smell like petroleum. Instead, it smells faintly of honey. As both Barth and de Moulpied pointed out, if you go this route, it’s important to make sure that the Chanukah candles are made out of 100 percent beeswax, because the legal regulation to be identified as beeswax is only 51 percent. 

Beeswax candles are more expensive than paraffin ones: At Bona Fide, a box of 45, 5-inch-tall Chanukah candles costs $26, while Beeswax Candle Works charges $16.25 for 45 5-inch candles. Other Chanukah candles range in price from about $3 to $10 for a box of 45. De Moulpied, however, says that beeswax burns four to five times longer than paraffin. The trade-off “turns out to be even,” she said.

Every year, Beeswax Candle Works sells thousands of bags of Chanukah candles, and, per one customer’s request, is now offering Shabbat candles that are 5 inches tall and burn for four to five hours. 

It’s no easy task to create the specialty candles, Barth said. It takes about 2 ounces of honey to make just one of them. On a larger scale, 8.5 pounds of honey are required to make 1 pound of beeswax. 

Despite the arduous process and higher cost, the health and environmental benefits of beeswax candles are clear. And burning beeswax, as opposed to paraffin, during the Festival of Lights may turn out to be a unique joy. “I can’t make any scientific claims, but I just know the experience of burning them is real wonderful,” Barth said. “They give off a beautiful ambient light. They’re just a beauty to burn.”

Rosh Hashanah and the art of beekeeping


I never told my wife about the bees.

My wife, the rabbi, has suffered my enthusiasm for urban farming with bemusement and exasperation, anger and forgiveness. Much like God Herself suffers the Children of Israel.

Last Monday morning, for instance, after returning on a long night flight from New York, she was up way too early, making coffee in the kitchen, when the two pygmy goats burst through the open hallway door and charged like plains buffalo for the dog-food container. Goldie (yes, Goldie Horn) used one of her mini-shofars to crash the tin lid, which skittered across the floor, followed by a shot pattern of kibble.

“ROB! GOATS!” I heard.

I rushed in to shoo them off and herd them, like a wannabe Jacob, back into the pen, from where they had managed once again to escape.

And where, six months ago, I found the bees.

This was back when I got it into my head that my urban farm, with two goats, five chickens, four dozen artichoke plants, a summer garden, plus pomegranate, lemon and fig trees, really needed a beehive. Because the year before, my tomatoes and peppers had failed to thrive. 

“Bees,” Pete, my very laconic farmers market plant man said. “Incomplete pollination.”

We all know that bees around the world are dying off due to a mysterious condition called colony collapse disorder. At the same time, urban farmers are trying to revitalize the idea of home hives. The bees get a small population bump, the neighboring plants get pollinated, the homeowner gets honey. Urban farmers take the idea that “change begins with me” quite personally — maybe too personally.

What I didn’t do was raise the idea of bees with my wife. How do you tell a woman from Brooklyn — I mean concrete, black-hat Boro Park Brooklyn, not hip, home-brew, aquaponic-farm Brooklyn — that you want to put a beehive 40 feet from her bedroom window? Here’s how: You don’t.

I ordered a book, “The Backyard Beekeeper.” Imagine my relief when it arrived in a plain brown wrapper.  

The book was a revelation. Bees are an alien civilization — complex, hierarchical and orderly. You watch over the hive without intervening too much in their self-contained lives. In short, you are Spinoza’s God, they are humanity. The idea is to buy a hive, order a queen and her drones, then put their universe in motion. They do the rest.

The queen produces eggs; the drones mate with the queen; the workers, which are nonreproducing females, build and clean the honeycomb, get nectar, make honey. The hive is the model functional society; the beekeeper’s job is to not screw it up.

The more I read, the more amazed I was. Bees, it turns out, serve as a kind of evolutionary model for human tribal behavior. If natural selection affirms the power of selfishness, seeing life as a zero-sum game — either I pass down my genes, or you do yours — bees live a life of sacrifice, subsumed for the good of the group.

In his book “The Happiness Hypothesis,” Jonathan Haidt posits that humans have coevolved according to both our culture and our genetics. Genetically, we are predisposed to compete, to win out against others at all cost — survival of the fittest. But we are also hive animals who benefit by developing and following rules and laws that enable our group to succeed.

Haidt (and others) view religion itself as a set of rules that re-create hive behavior. We increase our chances for survival — and for happiness — by being part of a group. Morality and religion are intertwined. Future generations can no more reinvent morality from scratch than a single bee can re-create a hive.

“When opponents of evolution object that human beings are not mere apes, they are correct,” Haidt writes. “We are also part bee.”

Of course, a tribe like ours is not exactly a hive. It isn’t even always a tribe. We remain individuals, freer than bees to strike out on our own. But here’s the lesson the bee book taught me: It is only in the hive that we, as individuals, can thrive.

As I read my secret book, I wondered if that is one reason that honey is the symbol of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which begins tonight. We Jews don’t say “Happy New Year” to one another. We don’t even say just “Good New Year.” We say, “Shanah tovah u’metukah” — a happy and sweet year.

The idea of honey, of the hive, is built into our wishes: Goodness is individual, sweetness comes from community. That’s why even the least practicing Jews find themselves drawn to synagogue on the High Holy Days. Maybe they don’t need to go to shul to know right from wrong, to feel a part of something larger than themselves, to experience the Mysterious. But how will their children know? How about their grandchildren? Individuals come and go — the hive remains.

Not long ago, just before I was about to have the bee talk with my wife, I noticed something unusual in the backyard: bees.

Dozens of them were crawling over the yellow pumpkin blossoms, buzzing back and forth to the goat pen. I followed their path to the round compost bin. At night (when bees sleep, too), I lifted the lid and peered inside: The bees had colonized the bin. And though I wouldn’t get honey from it, at least I’d provided the bees with a home, of sorts. 

I filed the book on my shelf, let the bees do their thing on their own, and never told my wife about any of it. The last thing I wanted to do, I realized, was disturb the hive.

Shanah tovah u’metukah.

How to dip your Apple in honey [VIDEO]


Israelis paying a honey of a price


The price of Israeli honey is soaring because of “outrageous” customs duties that prevent imports and therefore competition, according to a new study.

The Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies in a study released Wednesday recommends eliminating high tariffs on honey to increase the amount of imported honey and the number of countries from which it is imported. Meanwhile, the market share of Israel’s Kibbutz Yad Mordechai honey is over 50 percent.

The cost of Israeli honey rose 26 percent between 2005 and 2010, the independent, nonprofit economic policy think tank’s study said.

According to the study, Israeli honey costs 3 1/2 times as much as in the United States and is twice as expensive as in Britain. Canada, Mexico, Argentina and China offer honey for export at 15 percent of the price of Israeli honey.

The Israel Honey Production and Marketing Board claims that the figures in the report are wrong and untruthful, Haaretz reported, and has threatened to take legal action against the institute.

Institute economist Keren Harel-Harari said that 40 percent of the annual consumption of honey in Israel takes place at holiday time this month, mainly on the Jewish New Year, and that Israelis will consume 1,500 tons of honey in one month, valued at about $16.2 million.

Meanwhile, pomegranates in Israel are being marked up to between 200 percent and 330 percent during the holiday season according to farmers, Haaretz reported.

Israeli farmers produced 20 percent more pomegranates this year over last year, at about 40,000 tons, the paper wrote. About 16,000 tons are exported.

The farmers say they are selling the red fruit for under a dollar a kilogram, but that retailers are selling them for between $2.50 and $3.50 a kilogram.

Pomegranates have become more popular because of its reputation for healthful properties.

Apples and honey


One of the most meaningful customs at each Rosh Hashanah meal is the dipping of apples into honey. By doing so we make a sweet fruit, the apple, taste even sweeter.

Obviously this symbolizes our yearnings for a very sweet year for us, our loved ones and, indeed, for everyone.

The use of two sweet objects may echo the biblical use of doubling for emphasis and the later rabbinic interpretive use of plural forms not merely for emphasis but also to evoke multifold and even untold multiplication — in this case, the multiplication of the realization of our unspoken hopes for the coming year. Nonetheless, we gain more insight by examining the specific choices here.

First, the apple: We received the Torah at Mount Sinai, which the midrash compares to an apple tree. Our sages comment that just as the apple tree ripens its fruit in the month of Sivan, so the Torah was given to Israel during Sivan. Indeed, when the Bible states, “under the apple tree I awakened you” (Song of Songs 8:5), the Talmud claims that this refers to Mount Sinai (Shabbat 88a). The apple, then, connotes all the mystery and majesty of the Sinai experience, all spiritual wisdom and insight we can glean from Torah, and the possibility of a relationship with God.

The rabbis further suggest a comparison of the apple tree to the Holy One. They cite Song of Songs 2:3, “As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved.” The mystical tradition expands upon this, suggesting the various ways in which the comparison is apt (Zohar, Leviticus 74a).

The apple, compared to the Mount Sinai experience and to Hashem, thus symbolizes the “spiritual,” the search for God, for Torah, for meaning, for holiness, for spiritual encounter, for direction for our life’s path.

Honey, on the other hand, symbolizes the search for the “material,” for security, for comfort, for home, for livelihood, for physical health. As the psalmist writes, “They will be fed the best of the wheat; and with honey from the rock, I will satisfy them” (81:17).

This week we read Nitzavim, the portion always read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah, where the Holy One assures us that the possibility of holy living is not unattainable, but is “in our mouth” (Deuteronomy 30:14). On Rosh Hashanah,  we dip the apple into honey to symbolically fulfill this verse, a verse that also hints at the possibility of the fulfillment of our deepest spiritual yearnings.

So we dip the apple, symbolic of the spiritual, into the honey, symbolic of the material, and thereby sweeten that which is already sweet. But notice that the material blessings of honey mean nothing unless and until they attach themselves to the solid, pleasing, emotional and spiritual core of the apple, one of the hardiest fruits. Our spirituality, like the apple, must have a nurtured core, for it, not our accumulation of material goods, is what truly and enduringly sustains us.

Our dipping thus expresses our hope that we can combine our more immediate concern for comfort, for home, for livelihood and for health with our more primal quest for the spiritual, for God, for Torah, for connection, for meaning. A full life combines both while recognizing that the spiritual is primary.

And since each person dips his or her own apple into the honey, we symbolically declare that we shall each take responsibility for our own spiritual direction and for our personal sense of wholeness. This dipping into our own potential to chart our lives thus raises the act beyond a mere hope: The charting of our lives this year, the potential for spiritual moment, holy encounter and balanced living is “in our mouths,” a project whose realization is attainable — a challenge, surely, but one that grants us our dignity and the sense that life is precious.

Yehi ratzon mil’fanecha Adonai Eloheinu veilohei imahoteinu va-avoteinu, she-t’chadesh aleinu shanah tovah u-m’tukah um-lei-a v’rachah.

May the Holy One grant you and yours a year in which you will feel spiritually as hearty as the apple tree, where through seeking God and Torah, your branches grow rich fruits of holy connection and deep spirituality. And may your souls be drenched in the honey of home, comfort, health and livelihood. And finding the apples of your souls drenched in the sweet honey of your surroundings, may you experience this year — and all of life — as one of goodness, sweetness and blessing. Amen.

Rosh Hashanah ‘in the house tonight’ dances into the new year


Aish brings together rhythm, beats and davening for their Rosh Hashanah ‘in the house tonight’ dancing spectacle that parodies LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem.  Here’s the chorus from the lyrics, but be sure to watch the video for the full effect.

Rosh Hashanah’s in the house tonight
All the world is passing through the light
Let’s all get written in the book of Life
Shana Tova—it’s High Holiday time

 

A honeyed new year


Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a holiday full of hope and optimism as well as apples, honey and round challahs.

Many of the traditional dishes that are served feature honey and apples to assure “a sweet new year.” It is said the custom of eating apples, a fruit whose fragrance is associated with the Garden of Eden, forecasts a New Year that will be smooth, sweet and well-rounded. Other holiday foods with special meanings include fish (immortality) and pomegranates (fertility).

We always serve a round challah, symbolizing unending happiness, along with apple slices dipped in honey to greet our family and friends. I love the way some synagogues now have a ritual of serving apples and honey as the congregants leave Rosh Hashanah services on their way home to their family dinner.

A word about apples

• Look for apples that are firm and bright in color. Avoid any that feel soft or have bruised areas.

• Depending on the variety, apples will keep two weeks or more in the refrigerator.

• After slicing, green apples do not turn brown as rapidly as red apples.

• Cook apples in a stainless steel, enamel or glass saucepan.

• Peel apples with a stainless steel vegetable peeler or knife.

• Granny Smith and Pippin apples are firm and tart and require more baking or cooking time; they also require more sugar.

• Red or Golden Delicious apples need less sugar and take less time to cook.

• Rome Beauty apples hold their shape and are good for baking.

{exp:weblog:entries weblog=”articles” limit=”2″ offset=”1″ category=”455″ status=”not closed” require_entry=”yes” orderby=”date” sort=”desc” disable=”category_fields|pagination|trackbacks” dynamic=”off”}Our traditional round challah has a new look this year. Combined with whole wheat flour — which adds wonderful flavor, texture and aroma — apples and honey, it is covered with sesame seeds, braided and baked in a ring. We leave a hole in the center, where a bowl of honey is placed for dipping.

When I was growing up, holiday dinners meant roast chicken, always baked in tomato sauce, with onions, carrots, celery and potatoes; the recipe never changed. Following the Rosh Hashanah theme, I have included a delicious roast chicken recipe baked with apples and honey. It is a perfect main course, as it can be prepared in advance and served warm or cold.

Kreplach, another traditional holiday food, is said to date back to the 12th century, and each country seems to have its own version of a filled egg-noodle dough, whether fried, boiled in soup or steamed. Some think that the dish originated in China and worked its way via the trade routes to Europe. This year, I am making apple-filled kreplach that are served with honey as an accompaniment to the main course.

My husband and his cousin remember, when they were growing up in Boyle Heights, their bubbe (grandmother) making kreplach during the holidays. She worked in the kitchen early in the morning, rolling out the dough on a wooden board that she put on the kitchen table, and cut each square by hand. They reminisced that Bubbe would serve these kreplach, filled with kasha and roast meat, in a clear chicken soup.

The dessert, Macaroon Apple Cake, tastes like an exotic Scandinavian pastry but can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator. Apples and strawberry preserves are topped with a crunchy nut crust — made with crushed macaroons and almonds — that gives it a subtle flavor you’d think came from marzipan.


APPLE-STUDDED CHALLAH

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
Pinch sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted margarine, melted
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy
4 to 5 cups unbleached flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup diced apples, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour

Oil
Yellow corn meal
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Sesame seeds
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together eggs, honey and margarine. Add remaining 1 cup warm water, salt, saffron and brandy; blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture. Add 1 cup unbleached flour and mix well. Continue adding 1 cup unbleached flour together with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, blending after each addition, until all the whole wheat flour and enough of the unbleached flour is incorporated to make a dough that is thick enough to work by hand.   

Spread 2 cups of the remaining unbleached flour onto a pastry board; place the dough on the board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the apples and enough of the remaining unbleached flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and oil the top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

Divide the dough into three equal parts. Form each one into a long rope, braid the ropes together, and seal the ends by pinching, then join both ends to form a ring. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Line a heavy baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat; brush with oil and sprinkle with corn meal. Place the challah onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush the loaf with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Serve with a bowl of honey.

Makes 1 extra-large round challah or 2 small challahs.


HONEY-GLAZED ROAST CHICKEN WITH APPLES

1 fresh whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds)
1 apple, cut in quarters
1 onion, cut in quarters
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Wash chicken under cold water. Place apple, onion and garlic into cavity of the chicken.

In a bowl, mix together honey, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper; mixture should be a paste-like consistency. Rub this mixture all over the outside of the chicken, turning the chicken to rub the underside, too.

Line a large roasting pan with foil and place chicken in the center. Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered. After 45 minutes, chicken should have a dark brown crust. Cover with foil and roast for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Makes 6 servings.


BAKED APPLE KREPLACH

Baked apple kreplach. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Apple Filling (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine
3 tablespoons water
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey

Prepare the Apple Filling, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and powdered sugar. Cut in 1/2 cup margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Blend in the water until the dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper, and chill in refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into two parts. Cover one part with a towel; roll the other part out on a large sheet of floured wax paper to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Place a teaspoon of Apple Mixture in the center of each square; brush the edges with water, and carefully fold the dough into a triangle, pressing the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Place on a foil-lined or silicone baking mat that has been brushed with margarine. Repeat with remaining dough. (Can be covered with foil and stored in the refrigerator or freezer at this point.)

Just before baking, brush the kreplach lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake in preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Using a metal spatula, transfer to a platter. Drizzle honey over the top.

Makes 24 to 36 kreplach.


APPLE FILLING

4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons each nutmeg and cinnamon

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill kreplach.


MACAROON APPLE CAKE

Macaroon apple cake. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

1 pound almond macaroons, toasted and finely ground (about 2 1/2 cups crumbs)
1 1/4 cups toastedground almonds
3/4 cup melted margarine
8 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Pippin
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in sweet wine or apple juice
1 (16-ounce) jar raspberry or strawberry preserves
Toasted sliced almonds for garnish
Fresh berries for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine the ground macaroons and 1 cup ground almonds. Brush an 8-inch springform pan generously with 1/4 cup melted margarine; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup ground almonds.

In a large bowl, combine the macaroon mixture and remaining 1/2 cup melted margarine; mix well. Press 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the macaroon mixture into bottom of springform pan.

Peel, core and slice apples and place in a saucepan with sugar and lemon juice; mix well. Cook over low heat until juices appear and apples soften, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

In a food processor, chop apples fine, but do not puree. Drain raisins, squeeze dry and add to apple mixture.

Place half of apple-raisin mixture on top of macaroon mixture in springform pan. Spread half of preserves over apple mixture, then remaining apple-raisin mixture and remaining preserves. Finish with the remaining macaroon mixture.

Bake in preheated oven 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on rack, cover, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Just before serving, use a knife to loosen cake from pan; remove sides of springform. Place cake on a platter and garnish with toasted sliced almonds and fresh berries.

Makes 8 servings. 

Easy smorgasbord to break the Yom Kippur fast


During Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a strict fast is observed — no food or drink for 24 hours. So, it is always important to remember that the Yom Kippur Eve menu has special requirements.
 
The prefast dinner should be quite light, ending with a delectable dessert to help the sweet tooth stay on hold. Cut down on salt so that the thirst that comes with fasting will not be unbearable, and for the after-the-fast meal, people will want to savor the flavors and spices again, but the food should not be too heavy.
 
My bubbe always told me that after fasting on Yom Kippur, our bodies needed a lot of salt, and I remember that her break-the-fast dinners always included several types of cured herring.
 
The Scandinavians can take credit for inventing a perfect menu for this occasion. The creators of the smorgasbord enjoy an array of salads and pickled and smoked fish served on their favorite breads that offer a large variety of open-face sandwiches. It is a meal that combines the perfect ingredients necessary for your post-Yom Kippur meal.
 
To begin, greet your guests with apple slices dipped in honey and challah or honey cake when they return from the synagogue. Then serve this simple meal either as a buffet or in separate courses: several salads, open-face sandwiches and delicious, homemade strudel for dessert.
The menu is amazingly easy to prepare. Everything can be made in advance and refrigerated. It is not necessary to spend a lot of time in the kitchen while everyone suffers from acute hunger pangs.
 
My Signature Strudel had been a family tradition since we lived on a ranch in Topanga Canyon and our children were very young. After making strudel for family and friends for several years, a local restaurant asked me to bake it for their dessert menu — and I was in business. I would deliver the strudel wrapped in aluminum foil, frozen, and they would bake it to order. When customers asked for the recipe, they said it was a secret — but, not any more. Enjoy!
 

Cucumber Salad With Dill
 
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large (hot-house variety) cucumbers, sliced paper-thin
2 tablespoons dried dill weed or 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 bunch arugala
Cherry tomatoes for garnish

 
In a large glass bowl, mix the water, vinegar, salt and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumbers and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Drain; serve on lettuce leaves and garnish with watercress and cherry tomatoes.
Serves six to eight.

 
Beet and Onion Salad
 
5 pickled beets, drained and sliced (recipe follows)
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 cup minced parsley
Lettuce leaves
 

In a large salad bowl, toss together the beets, onion and cucumber.
 
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice. Just before serving, pour the olive oil mixture over the beet mixture and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in a bowl or in individual servings on a bed of lettuce. Garnish with chopped egg and parsley.
Serves eight to 10.
 

Pickled Beets
 
5 large raw beets
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 (2-inch) stick cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
 

Trim the beets, leaving one inch of the stem. Wash the beets, place them in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for one hour or until the beets are tender. Reserve one cup of the liquid. While the beets are still warm, slice off their stems and peel off and discard the outer skins. Transfer the beets to a large ovenproof bowl. Set them aside.
 
Place the mustard seeds, allspice, cloves and cinnamon stick in a cheesecloth bag and tie securely. In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, reserved beet liquid, sugar and the spice bag. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Pour this mixture over the beets, cover and refrigerate. Chill overnight.
 
Serves eight to 10.

 
Kerstin Marsh’s Beet and Herring Salad
 
From the first taste of this salad, you will be hooked. The contrasting flavors of the herring, pickled beets, noodles and crispy apples are so delicious.
 
This recipe comes from the Swedish kitchen of our good friend Kerstin Marsh’s mother. We have been enjoying it in Kerstin’s home every year during the holidays for at least 20 years. I finally got Marsh to copy her cherished recipe from the original tattered and torn pages of her handwritten cookbook.
 

1 (8-ounce) jar herring in wine sauce, drained and diced
1 1/2 to 2 cups pickled beets, chopped or thinly sliced (see recipe)
2 cups cooked macaroni
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf, crumbled
 

In a large bowl, combine the herring, beets, noodles, apples and onions and toss to blend. Blend in the mayonnaise and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well with the bay leaf. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Serves eight to 10.
 

Open-Face Herring Sandwiches With Horseradish Sauce

 
12 thin slices limpa bread

How sweet it is: behind the buzz at two of California’s hives


Bzzzzzz.

 
I’m trying not to freak out at the high-pitched scream of the bees. See, I’m wearing full protective gear for the honey-making process — a white jumpsuit, a netted straw hat affixed to me with a series of complicated rigmarole of strings (the zipper ones had run out), long tan-leather gloves that reach past my elbow, and socks as high as my knees, with the pants taped down over them. Not an ounce of my skin is exposed, but still I can’t help but feel nervous — it’s Hitchockian, really — as thousands of bees swarm around me.

 
They’re doing this because I’m standing in the beeline — literally the line of passage of bees swarming from the hive because they have been smoked out of there; it’s kind of like the 405 during rush hour, except faster, as they stream out of their man-made hives and into the countryside of Northern California.

 
Call this my week of honey. As the High Holidays approach, I’ve embarked on a two-part honey tour: First, traveling to a friend-of-a-friend’s private honey extracting pre-holiday party at his family villa in Sonoma, and next at a commercial honey farm in Southern California.

 
For as long as Jews have been eating on holidays, it’s been customary to eat honey on Rosh Hashanah, as a symbol of hope for a sweet new year. The tradition of eating honey is ancient, recorded as early as the Babylonian Talmud in the seventh century. There are also many mentions of honey in the Bible, most notably in Exodus, when the land of Canaan promised to the Israelites is called “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Although that honey is thought to be fig or date honey, by using honey on Rosh Hashanah we are remembering Israel, no matter where we are.

 
It is also noted in Psalms that God’s commandments are “sweeter than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb,” and “sweeter than honey to thy mouth.” The High Holidays, which are a time of judgment and preparation for the upcoming year, should be filled with mitzvoth, and honey reminds us of that.

 
We usually eat it with apples, as well as challah, and for many, as part of every recipe on the table. (See recipes throughout this special Rosh Hashanah section.)

 
But where does the honey itself come from? I’d always known generally, on a third-grade science-class level, that bees make honey from flowers, but I’d never really thought about the complicated process that bees go through to make honey, or the complex operation that people go through to get that honey to the table. Until now.

 
It’s Labor Day weekend and instead of lounging out at some pool, I’m standing in a buzzing field, sweating profusely in my mad scientist/spaceship/safari outfit, invading the bees’ habitat in order to help take honey from their hives. These hives are not like I’ve imagined them: those brown, hairy ovals found in trees at summer camp and replicated in ceramic honey holders. Man-made hives look more like small armoires, a short stack of wood dresser drawers, called supers. Each super has about 10 frames, long rectangles dotted with the geometrically perfect honeycombs, the octagons where the honey is deposited. Our goal today: to remove the frames, bring them to the farm, extract the honey, then filter, bottle and label it.

 
They say it’s easier to catch flies with honey, but how do you catch honey?

 
The first thing we have to do is light a fire in the smoker, a can with an accordion-like pump that produces, eponymously, smoke. Bees hate the smell of smoke, so we pump smoke into the top drawer, close the lid and the bees make a mad dash out, which is when I discover, standing in front of the hive is probably not the best place to be.

 
Then we take the frames out of the drawer, brush off the bees and run it over to the car for transportation. (Walk is more like it; it’s not easy to run in this jumpsuit, nor is it smart to make sudden movements near bees — although swarming bees, rushing to get out of their smoky hives, don’t often stop to sting visitors). We have four hives here today — some 40,000 bees — but only two are producing honey. It’s tedious work, this smoking, brushing, transporting of the frames — and it’s only the first step. (I suppose that our job is nothing compared to that of the worker bee, who makes about 40 trips a day to the flowers).

 
Finally, we can take off our paraphernalia for the rest of the process and get out of the hot sun to go to the honey “farm”: It’s more like a high-ceilinged garage structure containing honey extracting equipment.

 
If you’re a good turkey carver, you’d probably be good at scraping off the capping, the layer of capped wax that seals the honey in the frames. But if you’re like me — someone who cooks the bird but never carves it — handling the hot knife turns out to be quite tricky. It’s easy to tell which rectangle frames hold honey — the combs are darker, heavier. I hold the frame diagonally over a container that will catch the drippings, and try to shimmy the knife at an angle. Oops! No, I didn’t slice my finger, just cut too deeply into the combs.

 
I uncap the other side too but my wrist aches and I feel kind of sorry for the poor bees that will have to rebuild the combs just because I’m a lousy home destroyer — I mean carver.

 
I decide to move over to the next step in our human assembly line: combing the frames. I use what looks like a hair pick to scrape off the last remaining wax.

Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Meal


The apple, even more than the bibical pomegranate, has become the symbolic first fruit to be eaten during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which will be observed at sundown, Wednesday, Sept. 15.

During Rosh Hashanah, tradition calls for a perfect apple to be pared and cut into as many pieces as there are people present. A piece of the apple is dipped in honey and passed to each person at the table before the meal begins to symbolize a sweet and joyous New Year.

Apples go into the making of countless dishes in most countries throughout the world for this holiday, and they often are included in every course. So let apples and honey dominate your dessert table this year.

The pie crust for the Apple Meringue Tart is made from a cookie-like dough, which is rolled and baked, then filled with honey-glazed apples and garnished with a toasted meringue topping.

The Apple Upside-Down Cake is a simple version of Tart Tartin, a wonderful French apple dessert.

Everyone loves homemade cookies and the combination of spices — ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — compliment the Honey-Glazed Apple Cookies, making it impossible to eat just one cookie. This recipe makes six or seven dozen depending on the size of the cookies.

To ensure a "good and sweet year" add these apple desserts to your Rosh Hashanah menu, along with the tradition of serving sliced apples dipped in honey.

A Word About Apples

\n

• Look for apples that are firm and bright in color. Avoid any that feel soft or have bruised areas.

\n

• Depending on the variety, apples will keep two weeks or more in the refrigerator.

\n

• After slicing, green apples do not turn brown as rapidly as red apples.

\n

• Cook apples in a noncorroding saucepan: stainless steel, enamel or glass.

\n

• Peel apples with a stainless steel vegetable peeler or knife.

\n

• Granny Smith and Pippin apples are firm and tart and require more baking or cooking time; they also require more sugar.

\n

• Red or Golden Delicious apples need less sugar and take less time to cook.

\n

• Roman Beauty apples hold their shape and are good for baking.

Apple Meringue Tart

1 (11-inch) sweet pastry crust (recipe follows)

8 to 10 apples, peeled, cored, sliced

Lemon juice and grated peel

1 cup apple juice or water

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup apricot preserves

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch salt

3/4 cup sugar

Prepare sweet pastry crust and bake according to directions.

In a glass baking dish, place sliced apples in a single layer. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

In a heavy saucepan, combine apple juice, sugar, apricot preserves and juice and rind of one lemon. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for five minutes or until thickens. Pour over apples and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until apples are soft but firm. Cool.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar, salt and continue beating until whites are stiff, not dry. Add sugar, a little at a time, beating well until stiff peaks. Fill pastry tube with meringue, using (48) rosette tube.

With a slotted spoon, transfer cooled apple slices to baked pie crust. Cover surface of apples completely with meringue. Bake for 10-15 minutes or place under broiler for a few minutes, or until meringue is lightly browned.

Sweet Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 tablespoons milk or water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Blend in the milk until the dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper and chill it for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator.

Roll pastry out, on two large sheets of floured waxed paper, to a round large enough to cover and overlap an 11-inch flan pan with a removable bottom. For easier handling, cover the pastry with another sheet of waxed paper and fold pastry in half. (The waxed paper protects the center of pastry from sticking together.)

Lift the pastry from the bottom waxed paper and place on half of the flan pan. Unfold the pastry and remove the waxed paper that covers it. (At this point the pastry can be covered with plastic wrap and foil and stored in the refrigerator or freeze for several days.)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Bring the pastry to room temperature. Spread a light coating of butter on a sheet of waxed paper and place it, coated side down, inside of the pastry, overlapping around the outside. Cover with another piece of waxed paper with the cut ends in the opposite direction. Fill the center of the waxed paper lined pie shell with uncooked rice or bakers jewels. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the sides of the pastry begin to brown. Carefully remove the waxed paper with the rice and continue baking until the bottom of the pastry is lightly brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

Makes one (11-inch) Pie Crust.

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Honey and apples make this simply delicious Upside-Down Apple Cake symbolic of the New Year.

Apple Topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing cake pan

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3 large tart apples, (Granny Smith or Pippin), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices

Cake

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 to 1 1/2 cups sifted dark brown sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

For Topping: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place butter and cook over medium-high heat until foamy. Add honey and sugar and stir to combine, cooking until sugar dissolves, swirling pan occasionally. Add apples and fold with spatula to coat apples. Cook until apples have softened slightly Remove pan from heat and transfer apples, to a flat plate. Return pan to heat and cook syrup until thick and reserve. When apples are cool enough to handle, arrange apples in the prepared pan in a circular pattern.

For Cake: In a small bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolk and vanilla and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well. Add butter and beat until crumbly, then add sour cream and beat until dry ingredients are moistened. Add egg mixture and beat until batter is well blended and fluffy.

Spoon batter over apples and gently spread out to an even layer that covers apple. Bake until cake is dark golden brown, and a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in center, 35-40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for five minutes. Loosen sides with a sharp knife.

Place serving plate over top of pan and invert cake so apples are on top. Let cake sit inverted for about 1 minute. Gently remove pan and peel off parchment paper. Just before serving sprinkle with sifted brown sugar, place under the broiler and broil until sugar begins to turn dark brown.

Serve about 10.

Honey-Glazed Apple Cookies

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature

1 1/3 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup roasted, chopped walnuts or pecans

1 1/2 cups chopped apples (1 large apple)

1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup apple juice

Honey-Apple Juice Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prepare the Honey-Apple Juice Glaze and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Then beat in the brown sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add half of the flour mixture, then walnuts, apples and raisins and mix well. Blend in apple juice then remaining flour mixture, mixing well. Drop, by rounded tablespoonful, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets. Flatten the mounds slightly with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. While cookies are still hot, spread thinly with Honey-Apple Juice Glaze.

Makes about five- to six-dozen cookies.

Honey-Apple Juice Glaze

1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter or margarine

Pinch salt

2 1/2 tablespoons apple juice

In a small bowl, blend powdered sugar, honey, butter, salt and apple juice until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Makes about 1 cup.

For the Kids


Soul Solution

Summer is over, now the real work starts. Last week we remembered hard-working Americans on Labor Day. But that’s nothing compared to the work we Jews will do over the next two weeks — on our souls. There will be a lot of hard-core thinking:
What did I do that I won’t do again? What do I want to do better? How can I learn to be a more generous, considerate person? And how will I show it?

“Apples Dipped in Honey for Rosh Hashanah” is a song many of you know. Well, how about honey dipped in apples? Here’s a great idea for a Personal Honey Bowl.

Core the apple, but make sure you do not go through the bottom. Use the spoon to scoop out more of the apple. If your apple has absolutely no holes, you will not need a cup. Just pour the honey straight into the apple hole. Now each person at your table can dip their apple slice in the honey that’s in the apple.

For the Kids


Rosh Hashanah is upon us. We will use the shofar to blow us into the new year, we will dip apples in honey for a sweet year and our challah will be round just like the yearly cycle. Our new year will be celebrated this on Sept. 26, the 1st of Tishrei.

Here are some weird customs people perform on Rosh Hashanah that you might not know about:

Eating from the head of a sheep and saying: "May we be at the head and not at the tail."

Not napping on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. Why? Because if we do that on Rosh Hashanah we may end up "napping" through the year.

Eating a pomegranate. It is said that the pomegranate has 613 seeds — just like the number of mitzvot in the Torah.

 

Tashlich Time

Another ritual performed during Rosh Hashanah is Tashlich, which is the act of throwing your sins into running water. People use bread crumbs or rocks to symbolize their sins. They go to running water, such as the ocean or a river, because there are fish there. Fish never close their eyes, so they symbolize the ever-watchful eye of God. Cool, huh?

Apples & Almonds

How About This?

Make Rosh Hashanah Cookie Cutters

You will need:

3 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups margarine

1 beaten egg

2 teaspoons almond

extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

bowl

rolling pin

floured board

cookie cutter(s)

cookie sheet

Combine ingredients. Mix, roll and cut out the dough. Bake until lightly browned at 375 F, about 12 minutes.

Rosh Hashanah Made Easy With Chicken


Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins this year at sundown on Friday, Sept. 26. It is a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy special holiday foods.

Traditionally, foods sweetened with honey are eaten to symbolize a sweet and happy year ahead. Apples and honey, eaten with a freshly baked round challah are served at the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah dinner. The round shape of the bread symbolizes unending happiness.

When I was growing up, Shabbat dinner meant roast chicken — always baked in tomato sauce — with onions, carrots, celery and potatoes. The recipe never changed.

And this year, since Rosh Hashanah eve falls on a Friday, I have included several chicken dishes that I prepared at a recent cooking class. They are perfect for the main course, since they can be prepared in advance and served warm or cold.

The rolled chicken breasts are a creation of Chef Michel Richard, formerly of Citrus Restaurant and now in Washington, D.C., Richard rolled the chicken breasts and wrapped them in plastic wrap so that they looked like a sausage and roasted them.

The herb marinade for the whole roast chickens recipe was inspired by Chef Bruce Marder. He includes this marinade on many of his dishes at Capo Restaurant in Santa Monica.

The Salsa Verde is a recipe from Papa Giovanni Santini, the owner of Ristorante Dal Pescatore in Italy. Santini serves it with the chicken he grills for the family on the day the restaurant is closed.

The B’stilla (Chicken Pie) is my adaptation of the traditional Moroccan dish that normally uses pigeon. Garnish the three chicken dishes with pomegranate seeds, one of the fruits that is traditional to serve during Rosh Hashanah.

For dessert, make this delicious Honey Glazed Apple Tart which completes the meal, and continues the theme of serving apples and honey that began our holiday dinner.

B’stilla (Chicken Pie)

For the chickens:

2 chickens, 3 pounds each, with giblets

1/4 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted margarine or oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the Fillings:

1 pound unsalted margarine

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1/2 cup minced onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

9 eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons sugar

Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the assembly:

1 package (16) filo sheets

Powdered sugar

Place the whole chickens, breast bone down, in a Dutch oven. Add the giblets, oil, margarine, ginger, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper and 2 cups of water, or enough to reach one-third up the sides of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Bring to a boil, turn chickens breastside up, and stir to mix spices. Place in the oven for one hour. Baste the chickens with the sauce. If chickens are a little pink, they will cook again inside the B’stilla. When chickens are cooked, cool, reserving the broth. Bone, separating meat into bite-size pieces and set aside.

For the fillings, melt 3 tablespoons of the margarine in a skillet and sauté the almonds until golden brown. Set aside. In another skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the margarine and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the parsley, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Add to onion mixture and cook until set. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and set aside.

Melt the remaining margarine and use it to brush a large ovenproof pie pan. Place one sheet of filo on the bottom. Brush with margarine and continue in this manner using eight sheets of filo. Spread the chicken in an even layer over the pastry and top with the egg mixture, spreading evenly. Combine almonds and sugar mixture and sprinkle over the eggs.

Place a sheet of filo over the filling and brush with margarine. Continue in this manner until remaining filo leaves are used. Fold top layers of filo under the bottom ones. Brush under seam and top with margarine. Can hold at this point for at least two hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. For an attractive pattern, cover the top of the B’stilla with a paper stencil for crisscross, so the cinnamon can be sprinkled on in a heavy crisscross. Transfer to a large serving platter.

Rolled Chicken Breasts with Vegetable Stuffing

Vegetable Stuffing (recipe follows)

8 chicken breasts (4 whole, boned and cut in half)

1/4 cup oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 carrots, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine

Prepare the stuffing and cool.

Place a chicken breast, skin side down, on a sheet of wax paper, cover with another sheet of wax paper and using a mallet or tenderizer, gently pound the breast until desired thickness.

Spoon stuffing in the center and roll up the chicken breast, encasing the stuffing and tie with string. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Line a baking pan with foil, brush with oil and arrange onions and carrots on top. Place stuffed chicken breasts on top, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Add stock and wine and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, then increase the heat to 425 F. Bake about five minutes more, or until chicken is tender and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on the bias.

To serve, arrange sliced chicken breasts on plates and spoon any juices from pan that remain.

Serves 8.

Vegetable Stuffing

1/4 cup safflower, vegetable or peanut oil

3 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 bunch carrots, peeled and grated

1 parsnip, peeled and grated

2 large zucchini, unpeeled and grated

1/2 cup minced parsley

1/2 cup plumped raisins

2 tablespoons matzah meal

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons oatmeal

1/4 cup red wine

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy skillet, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery, carrots, parsnip, zucchini, toss and sauté for five minutes until vegetables soften. Add parsley, raisins, and mix thoroughly. Simmer five minutes. Blend in matzah meal, flour, oatmeal, add wine and mix well. Add additional dry ingredients, one tablespoon at a time, until stuffing is a soft texture and not dry. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Fresh Herb Infusion and Salsa Verde

Fresh Herb Infusion (recipe follows)

Salsa Verde (recipe follows)

1 (4-pound) or 2 (2-pound) whole chickens

Mirepoix (small cubes or slices of vegetables):

1 onion, sliced and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 bottle dry white wine

1 head garlic, unpeeled, cloves separated

Prepare the herb infusion and Salsa Verde.

Split the chicken along the entire length of the back, removing backbone from tail to neck. Open it out, skin side up. With a mallet, (for big chickens) or heel of hand, flatten with a firm whack, fracturing the breastbone and ribcage. (Optional: Turn the chicken over and take out the ribcage and cartilage with a very sharp boning knife, taking care not to break the skin.)

Sprinkle the mirepoix mixture on a foil-lined large roasting pan, and place the chicken on top, skin-side up.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Working with your fingertips, separate the skin from the meat of the chicken, beginning at the neck end, being careful not to tear the skin. Place herb infusion under the skin, all the way to the thigh. Smooth skin to disperse the mixture evenly; molding the skin with your hands to resemble the natural contours of the chicken. Rub the top of the chicken with herb infusion.

Pour the white wine around the chickens and arrange unpeeled garlic cloves under the chickens. Bake for 10 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake for 45 minutes to one hour longer, depending on the size of the chicken. Baste every 20 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. If the wine cooks away too quickly, add more. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes, allowing the chicken to brown.

Fresh Herb Infusion:

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Olive oil, to moisten stuffing

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, basil, chives, and parsley. Pour in enough olive oil to cover. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap until needed.

Makes about 2/3 cup.

Salsa Verde:

1 cup tightly packed fresh parsley sprigs, minced

3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

Juice of 1 or 2 lemon

1 cup olive oil

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, using a wire whisk, beat parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Continue beating, adding olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a smaller bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. Beat with a wire whisk just before serving.

Makes about 3 cups.

Apple Tart with Sweet Pastry

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted margarine (or butter)

3 tablespoons water or nondairy liquid creamer (or milk)

Glazed Apple Slices (see recipe)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Blend in the water until the dough begins to come together. Do not overmix. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper and chill it for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Roll pastry out, on two large sheets of floured waxed paper, rounded large enough to cover and overlap an 11-inch flan pan with a removable bottom. For easier handling, cover the pastry with another sheet of waxed paper and fold pastry in half. (The waxed paper protects the center of pastry from sticking together.)

Lift the pastry from the bottom waxed paper and place on half of the flan pan (or cut rounds and arrange on tartlett pans). Unfold the pastry and remove the waxed paper which covers it. (At this point the pastry can be covered with plastic wrap and foil and stored in the refrigerator or freeze for several days.)

Bring the pastry to room temperature. Spread a light coating of margarine on a sheet of waxed paper and place it, coated side down, inside of the pastry, overlapping around the outside. Cover with another piece of waxed paper with the cut ends in the opposite direction. Fill the center of the waxed paper lined pie shell with uncooked rice or bakers jewels. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sides of the pastry begin to brown. Carefully remove the waxed paper with the rice and continue baking until the bottom of the pastry is lightly brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

Arrange glazed apple slices in concentric circles on the baked pastry. Brush with a thin layer of glaze.

Serve immediately.

Makes 1 (11-inch) tart shell or 6 to 8 tartletts.

Variation:

For meringue topping: In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with salt, until soft peaks form. Add the white sugar, a little at a time, beating well until stiff peaks form. Fill a pastry tube fitted with decorative tip with the meringue. Cover the glazed apple slices with meringue rosettes, including the edge of the crust. Bake for 10-15 minutes or place under the broiler until meringue is lightly toasted.

Glazed Apple Slices

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1/2 cup orange juice

Juice and grated zest of one lemon

6 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the sugar, honey, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and marmalade have dissolved. Bring this syrup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer three to four minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

Place the apple slices in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. Add the apples and lemon juice to the syrup in the skillet and toss to coat the apples. Simmer, covered for 10-15 minutes until the apples are soft. Transfer them to a glass bowl and cool to room temperature.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. Serve with chicken or use for Apple Tart.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” and “The 30-Minute
Kosher Cook.” Her Web site is http://members.aol.com/jzkitchen

Sweet Support for Israel


Who doesn’t love honey? Dunking apple slices in it — along with challah, chicken and everything else — on Rosh Hashanah is a favorite holiday ritual symbolizing hope for a sweet New Year. Now you can buy your honey and help Israel, too.

The Jewish Federation of Orange County is on its way to starting another New Year tradition by again urging residents to buy Israeli-made honey for their own Rosh Hashanah tables as well as contributing a jar to an Israeli family.

This year, six other Jewish communities in Western states are joining in the "Honey for the Holidays" promotion, started by the broad-based O.C. Israel Solidarity Task Force, said Bunnie Mauldin, the O.C. Federation’s executive director. "We are with you in sweetness and sorrow," reads the card that will be attached to hundreds of honey jars expected to be distributed in the Israeli communities of Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon.

Some of the nectar-filled jars, produced by the Hof Ashkelon apiary, Yad Mordechai, are also available for sale at several distribution points through October. Sites include Costa Mesa’s Jewish Community Center, Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Rancho Santa Margarita’s Morasha Jewish Day School, Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom and Fountain Valley’s Congregation B’nai Tzedek. A donation in multiples of $18 is requested, with extra funds going toward worthwhile projects in Israel.

For several years, Orange County has sent aid and visitors to the two Israeli towns. Last year, their cumulative gifts provided scholarships for higher education to four families, Mauldin said.

For more information or to order jars, call the Jewish Federation of Orange County at (714) 755-5555.

Time for Something Sweet


Platters of apple slivers prepared for dunking in honey are a holiday ritual symbolizing hope for a sweet New Year.

The Jewish Federation of Orange County is on its way to starting another New Year tradition by again urging residents to buy Israeli-made honey for their own Rosh Hashanah tables as well as contributing a jar to an Israeli family.

This year, six other Jewish communities in Western states are joining in the “Honey for the Holidays” promotion, started by the broad-based O.C. Israel Solidarity Task Force, said Bunnie Mauldin, the Federation’s executive director. “We are with you in sweetness and sorrow,” reads the card that will be attached to hundreds of honey jars expected to be distributed in the Israeli communities of Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon.

Some of the nectar-filled jars, produced by the Hof Askelon apairy, Yad Mordechai, are also available for sale at several distribution points through October. Sites include Costa Mesa’s Jewish Community Center, Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Rancho Santa Margarita’s Morasha Jewish Day School, Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom and Fountain Valley’s Congregation B’nai Tzedek. A donation in multiples of $18 is requested, with extra funds going toward worthwhile projects in Israel.

For several years, Orange County has sent aid and visitors to the two Israeli towns. Last year, their cumulative gifts provided scholarships for higher education to four families, Mauldin said.

For more information or to order jars, call the Jewish Federation of Orange County at (714) 755-5555.

Celebrate Shavuot With Spring Harvest


When I was growing up, two types of food were usually associated with the holiday of Shavuot. There were the dairy dishes — blintzes, knishes, noodle kugels and, of course, cheesecake. Most of us remember them from our childhood, but they were always laden with cream, butter and cheese, and may not appeal to our diet today.

The second group reminds us of the harvest, and includes wheat, barley, lentils, spring vegetables, honey and the traditional first fruits of the season.

This year I have planned a menu for my family Shavuot dinner using many of the foods in the second category. The recipes are designed for six, but may be doubled, and can be prepared in advance.

I always include Harvest Wheat Rolls for the holiday. They carry out the harvest theme and are a perfect accompaniment for the Lentil Soup, that is accented with rich vegetable flavors and topped with olive oil. Don’t forget to serve a bowl of honey to spoon on the rolls.

Harvest Wheat Rolls

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups unbleached flour

1 package active dry yeast

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil or safflower oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup peeled, grated carrots

2 eggs

1/4 cup yellow corn meal

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Combine the flours. Place 2 cups of flour mixture, yeast and salt in bowl of an electric mixer. Heat water, oil and honey in a saucepan until very warm, 115 F to 120 F. Add water mixture to flour mixture, beating until well blended. Beat in one egg, carrots and 2 cups of flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding remaining flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl and oil the top. Cover with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.

Line baking sheet with foil; brush with oil and sprinkle with corn meal. Break off small pieces of dough (about 30) forming each piece into a long rope, twist into a knot and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Beat remaining egg and brush the top of rolls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes about 30 rolls.

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 cups lentils

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1/4 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 parsnip, peeled, finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely sliced

1/2 cup minced parsley

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

4 tomatoes, peeled, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon each, minced parsley, green onions and basil leaves

Olive Oil for garnish

Soak lentils in 4 cups water six hours or overnight. Drain lentils and place in large pot with 8 cups warm water and bay leaves. Bring to boil, then simmer 20-25 minutes or until tender.

Heat butter and olive oil in large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, parsnip, carrots, celery and parsley. Saute 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add rosemary and tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes.

Drain lentils, returning liquid to large pot. Remove bay leaves. Add 2 cups drained lentils to garlic mixture and mix well.

Place remaining drained lentils in food processor or blender with 1/2 cup reserved liquid and puree. Add pureed lentils and lentils with garlic mixture to pot with reserved liquid. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to boil and simmer until soup thickens, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Ladle into serving bowl. Sprinkle parsley, green onions and basil and drizzle with olive oil.

Makes 8-10 servings.


Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

Honey for the Holidays


In a symbolic and literal demonstration of support for Israel, Orange County’s Jewish organizations are waging a cooperative campaign to send a bit of new year’s cheer to two economically hard-pressed coastal communities near Israel’s Gaza this month.&’9;

Using the slogan “Honey for the Holidays,” 12 local Jewish groups, ranging from political activists to religious conservatives, are committed to distributing to needy Israeli families a minimum of 2,000 jars of the golden nectar.

While limited in duration, the local project echoes other initiatives to convert public sympathy for Israel into economic action, which appear to be modestly successful. They also reveal the risks and limitations of such endeavors. “I absolutely think this is just a beginning,” said Lisa Grajewski, an Irvine stockbroker, who is organizing the honey airlift for the Orange County Israel Solidarity Task Force.

At several different locations around the county, supporters can either purchase honey that will be distributed to an Israeli family or share a tangible connection by donating a jar and buying another for their own home holiday use. The timely ingredient is widely used in dishes prepared in celebration of the new year, Rosh Hashana and the harvest festival, Sukkot. For Israeli recipients, a Rosh Hashana card from the task force is included that says, “We are with you in sweetness and sorrow.”

The effort shows the willingness of the county’s often-fractious organizations and religious denominations to work cooperatively for a common cause. Even two Christian churches, in Irvine and Santa Ana, expressed interest in providing flyers to their members.

“This is truly a community program,” said Lou Weiss, president of the county’s Jewish Federation, based in Costa Mesa. A marketing consultant, Weiss recently applied his skills leading a focus group during a four-hour brainstorming session among task force members to organize an agenda. “Honey for the Holidays” telegraphs both moral and economic support.

“To have the greatest possible impact, we’ll focus all of our efforts to these two communities,” Weiss said.

Sending honey to Israel is akin to sending coals to Newcastle. The condiment is produced by one of Israel’s largest apiaries, Yad Mordechai, located in the agricultural region Hof Ashkelon, north of Gaza. The area includes 18 settlements, both cooperative farms and kibbutzim.

To the northeast is Kiryat Malachi, founded in 1950 as a tent city for immigrants from Yemen. Its population ballooned to 40,000 in recent years amid an influx of immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, many of whom are unemployed.

The needs of the two Israeli communities are already well-known to some, such as Beverly Jacobs, a ceramist from Irvine and Federation board member. During a visit to Kiryat Malachi in June 2001, she helped sixth-grade elementary students polish their English and supervised a clay project at a senior center, both part of Partnership 2000 programs. Since 1996, United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization for 156 community Federations, has tried to strengthen ties between Diaspora Jewish communities and ones in Israel through these sister city-like exchanges.

In that time, 14 western communities, including Orange County, have cumulatively directed $3.5 million to Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi out of their allocations to overseas causes, said Leslie S. Robin, a regional UJC coordinator in Woodland Hills. Steering committees in the United States and Israel establish priorities, such as funding scholarships and camps.

Recently, however, the consortium quit funding economic development to focus exclusively on social programs. “It was too small an amount to make an impact,” Robin said. About $850,000 was allocated this year by the consortium, double the amount sent in the program’s first year.

Even so, Israel’s tourist-based economy is withering under two years of unrelenting bloodshed. Some believe “Honey for the Holidays” could build momentum locally for a buy-Israel program. “Every little bit helps,” Grajewski said.

How much isn’t clear, but even Israel’s government is giving it a try with www.israelexport.org. Anecdotally, at least, some Israeli businesses have benefited financially from consumers who wield purchasing power to make a statement.

“We do sense a change in buying patterns,” said Erez Zitelny, a spokesman for Edushape Ltd., in Deer Park, N.Y., a distributor of educational toys made by the Israeli makers Taf, Edushape, Orda, Halilit and Gil. He says sales reflect popular sentiment. Israeli-made goods were “punished” over the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, he said. The sentiment is now swinging the other way, with ongoing suicide bombings. “In fact, in the past two months we show an increase in sales due to the fact that our products are made in Israel,” Zitelny said in an e-mail interview.

Jane Scher, of San Diego, founded www.shopinisrael.com last February to counter her own feeling of hopelessness over Israel. At least one proprietor has had to hire extra help to cope with orders from the site.

“As much as they’re spending money, they’re also writing messages,” said Scher, of the site’s 175,000 visitors. Many of the 250 retailers, selling products from art to olive oil, are as appreciative of the well-wishes as the new business, she said. “It makes the world a small place,” said Scher, who emigrated from South Africa to the United States in 1981.

Like early dot-coms, Scher site has a 14-year-old Webmaster, Matthew Feldman. After that, any other similarities to a commercial dot-com cease. Scher spurns advertising, refuses to track purchasing, collects traffic cumulatively instead of monthly and refused a merger proposal by Israel’s export office. She has welcomed government aid in screening potential additions. Feeling vulnerable to sabotage, she’s rejected 50 businesses, including some based in Bethlehem and Ramallah. “We couldn’t be sure they would have Israel’s best interests at heart,” she said.

In a sign of the maturation of the dot-com, Scher is scrambling to formalize the site by incorporating as a nonprofit in order to raise capital. Cash is needed to improve the site’s effectiveness with a search feature and an additional section for manufacturers, who are eager to add their own links.

Although still astounded by the unpredictable nature of cyberspace, Scher is pushing ahead. “There are very few times in our lifetimes when you can take the lead and have a huge impact in people’s lives,” she said.

Checks can be written to “Honey for the Holidays” in multiples of $18 and sent to the Jewish Federation of Orange County, 250 E. Baker St., Costa Mesa, CA, 92626. Honey can be purchased through Sept. 10 at the Jewish Federation office and JCC Gift Shop, both on the Jewish Federation Campus; Hebrew Academy, Huntington Beach; Morasha Jewish Day School, Rancho Santa Margarita; Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Irvine; Temple Bat Yahm, Newport Beach; Temple Beth Sholom, Santa Ana; and North County Chabad/Congregation Beth Meir Ha’Cohen, Yorba Linda.

Orange County Kids Page


Next week is Rosh Hashana, the Birthday of the World. Soon you get to eat apples and honey. You get to dip the round challah in the honey too — my personal favorite. Some of you will spend the day at synagogue in your holiday best. Some of you may decide to celebrate in nature — surrounded by the amazing gifts we receive from God all year. Like the trees, you’ve grown taller and stronger. You’ve also grown wiser and more aware of the world around you. Make a promise to the world as you grow stronger and wiser, the world will grow stronger too. You will keep it clean and protect it, and, in turn, the world will give you red apples, sweet honey and yellow wheat for challah. Sounds like a good deal to me!

WUJS Wants A Sweet Year for Israel


When Kim Herzog dips apples and challah in honey this Rosh Hashana, she says she will be reaching extra deep to get some sweetness, because after six months in Israel, she and the country need it more than ever.

"I want to begin this year with a sense of hope, that Israel can find sweetness in this year at a time that is a very bitter time," said the 23-year-old Pacific Palisades native who since February has been enrolled in the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) Institute for Graduate Studies, an Ulpan and Jewish/Israel studies program in this small town in the Negev desert.

Rabbi Aubrey Isaacs, the director of WUJS, looks forward to helping his students tap into "the moment of hope" that New Year’s provides, a moment that "unites all Israelis and goes beyond the religious-secular divide."

He noted that celebrating the holidays in Israel provides a special opportunity for the close to 40 students at WUJS, who come primarily from the English-speaking Diaspora, to "feel part of the mainstream" and to enjoy living in a country where you don’t have to take a day off to observe Rosh Hashana.

Jared Hochman, 23, from Tarzana, said he’s especially excited about the national experience of the High Holidays in Israel, where "they take on a whole new meaning."

"In the states you have to put up with ‘Merry Christmas,’" he said. "Here it’s ‘Chag Sameach.’"

Hochman explained that he came to Israel to immerse himself in life in the Jewish state after anti-Israel sentiment on the Berkeley campus, where he was a student, pushed him to learn about the country’s history and purpose.

"It’s one thing to read about it. I wanted to experience it myself. That’s why I came here," he said.

Isaacs said that many WUJS students have been pulled to Israel for similar reasons. "People feel they are participating in this dramatic period in Jewish history, in Israel. They’re not just sitting at home watching television and worrying about Israel," he said. "They’re sharing the experience of living in Israel as it goes through a difficult time."

After Herzog spent her junior year at Haifa University in 1999-2000, she knew wanted to return; she felt she needed to come now "to learn more about what it means to live in Israel at all times, and to be supportive of Israel and to be with a community of people who feel it’s important to be here now."

But she added that the violence also made it harder to decide to come. "It’s terrifying, what can I say? It’s a very scary time in Israel’s history."

At the same time, she noted, "As an American being in Israel at this time, I get the sense that people here are quite gratified that there are still people coming — and I get some that say, ‘Are you crazy?’"

Hochman hears the same question from people back home, but he responds by pointing to the incident in which two people were killed at the El Al counter at LAX. "I could be in Los Angeles and get shot."

Hochman said he’s considering making aliyah before he loses his army eligibility so he can participate in this essential ingredient of Israeli life.

The threat of terror occasionally creeps into his consciousness, he said, "but then you realize that you can’t live your life like that."

Herzog, who studied history and is fascinated with the historical lessons Israel provides, noted that while "there’s such a memory in Israel" which spans Jewish history from the Torah to the birth of the State of Israel, "you need to have a very short-term memory" to deal with the current spate of violence.

But memories are especially important to Herzog, who recently volunteered at a museum and learning center created by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who now live on a kibbutz in the Galilee. She’s considering a career in Jewish education and plans to study at a yeshiva this fall partly to pursue this idea: "I need to know it before I can teach it."

At the yeshiva she also hopes to immerse herself in Torah and continue to explore her newfound connection with prayer. Growing up socially — but not ritually — connected to Judaism, she studied the story of Ruth this past Shavuot and was inspired to take a closer look at observance.

"It talked to me in a way that was emotional, that I hadn’t experienced before," she said of the biblical book. "I’ve been finding more of a openness within myself in prayer, and it’s something that I’m very inspired to do."

She praised WUJS for providing a pluralistic community where students follow many different spiritual paths, from Orthodox to secular, but all dialogue with each other.

"WUJS’ aim is not to make people more observant," said Isaacs of the program, which isn’t affiliated with a particular stream of Judaism and provides an optional religious program that features traditional services. "WUJS’ aim is to encourage people to engage seriously with their own Jewishness, and to challenge themselves."

Honey History


Hello, honey. This is the time ofyear when honey shines our apples, sweetens our cakes, and slicks ourlips and tongues. Straightforward talisman of a sweet year to come,honey appears and reappears in the course of High Holiday meals.

We will eat our honey tossed with rounds of carrots — the carrotsresembling coins to symbolize prosperity, the honey sweetness. It’s akind of Jewish take on Chinese Double Happiness.

We will eat honey spilled over fried bits of dough and nuts integlach. (In Italy, they fry the dough in olive oil and load it withhazelnuts and lemon rind. Those Italians….)

We will eat lekach, or honey cake. Simple Ashkenazi cousin to theelegant pain d’epices, it will be, depending on the baker, eithermoist and fragrant or dry and tough, the pastry equivalent ofovercooked brisket. German Jewish records as far back as 1200 tell ofyeshiva bochers bringing honey cakes to their teachers at the startof a school year.

And, of course, we will suck the honey that oozes off wedges oftart, juicy apples, glossing our lips and coating our tongues withits stinging sweetness.

It wasn’t always thus. Beekeeping was unknown in ancient Israel.When the Bible speaks of honey, as in the Land of Milk and…, it isreferring to a syrup made by reducing the juice of boiled dates.Sephardim still make many of their Rosh Hashanah sweets with fruitsyrups and dried fruits rather than honey. In Egypt, the Jews dippedtheir apples in a simple sugar syrup, perfumed with orange-blossomwater.

In American Jewish cooking, honey reigns. Good thing: The variousfarmer’s markets are reliable sources for excellent honeys. Sage andeucalyptus varieties carry echoes of the local hills. Clover andorange-blossom are less distinct, but fine for cooking. For thymehoney, I stop in at C & K Imports, a Greek specialty store onPico Boulevard near Normandie. They can also sell you homemade plainyogurt on which to drizzle your liquid gold.

Whether from thyme or tupelo, a bee will fly 25 miles each day toforage nectar. The bee draws it up through a proboscis into its honeysac, where enzymes start breaking down the sugars. Back at the hive,the bee transfers it to workers who pump the nectar in and out ofthemselves for 20 minutes, forming a thin droplet. They deposit thisin a cell of the honeycomb, the waxy secretion of young workers.Aided by the beating of the bees’ wings, the nectar continues toevaporate until it is 20 percent water — a sturdy, lasting food forhard-working bees. More than 20,000 bees inhabit an average hive. Tomake a pound of honey, workers will, on average, travel as far asthree orbits of the earth.

It’s a complex, miraculous process — parts of which science hasyet to understand. The moral might be that sweetness, whether in aliquid, a year, or a life, is no simple achievement, the result ofhard work, good luck and mysteries we can only begin to fathom.

A Sweet Year, Yes, But Healthy?

There are lots of reasons to like honey, the food writer HaroldMcGee reminds us, but nutrition is not one of them. This may seemcounter-intuitive, even heretical, to those of us who grew up duringthe health-food boom of the 1970s. But science will out: Honeycontains little vitamin and mineral worth. Since our bodies use Bvitamins to convert sugars to energy, honey actually uses up more Bvitamins than it supplies. As for the so-called miraculousby-products of honey production, bee pollen and royal jelly, noscientific proof exists that they do much good for any creature otherthan bees — and the health-food stores that profit from them.

Applesauce Honey Cake

Honey cake is still the dessert of choice for Ashkenazic RoshHashanah tables. Problem is, they often turn out more symbolic ofslavery than of sweetness — as dense and dry as the bricks used tobuild the pyramids. Applesauce keeps this cake tender and moist. Atouch of pepper or coriander makes for an elusive spiciness.

3 large eggs

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup honey

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of ground coriander or white pepper (optional)

Pinch of cloves

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan or a 9-inch-by-5-inch loafpan. Line it with baking parchment or wax paper, and grease thepaper.

3) Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and spices.

4) In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until blended. Add the brownsugar and honey and beat well, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the oil in athin stream, beating until blended. Beat in the applesauce.

5) Beat in half of the flour mixture. Stir in the nuts.

6) Pour the batter into the pan. Bake in the square pan for about55 minutes, or 1 hour 5 minutes in the loaf pan. The cake is donewhen a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or when itdoes not give to the slight pressure of a finger.

7) Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a rack.Remove the paper and let cool.

8) Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap or foil. It can keep fora week or two at room temperature.