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September 4, 2018 8:46 am

The Rosh Hashanah Fuss-Free Meal for the Modern Host

avatar by Ethel G. Hofman / JNS.org

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The blowing of the shofar, traditionally done on Rosh Hashanah. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgIt started with a chance remark after a Shabbat dinner: “What a feast! You must have cooked for hours!”

I didn’t answer immediately. Working in my home office, I haven’t the time or the inclination to spend hours in the kitchen anymore. And neither do busy parents, young couples, or working professionals. While everyone wants a traditional High Holiday meal, no one wants to spend a week shopping, chopping, boiling, baking, and freezing dish after dish.

And these days, there’s really no need for it. Today, with literally thousands of kosher convenience-food items available in stores, it’s easy to create sensational meals with minimum effort. So while you really can’t avoid the shopping, you can skip the other lengthy processes with just a bit of pre-planning and a dollop of shortcuts.

Also, the emphasis in contemporary kitchens is on healthier eating patterns. We include more fresh produce in our meals. We’re cooking fish and chicken, rather than red meat — the latter takes much longer to cook (think of braising a brisket for three to four hours).

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So how else can you cut down on time?

Instead of matzah-ball soup, serve a gazpacho, redolent with fresh shredded basil. Include wedges of crisp Bosc or Asian pear along with apples to dip in honey. Gussie up already-roasted chicken with your own marinade, and end the meal with an apple cobbler mixed, baked, and served in one dish. Magic! To avoid taking out, setting up, and washing china plates and crystal glassware, arrange attractive paper goods and plasticware on a tray and eat picnic-style. (The kids will love it!)

And while wine should be available (Jewish holidays require it), many guests prefer non-alcoholic beverages. Israelis use fresh herbs abundantly. Before filling a water pitcher, insert four to five stems of fresh mint. To top off the entire production, take a seedless watermelon, slice in wedges, and arrange it all on a pretty platter. Or heap clementine oranges in a bowl with mint or rosemary sprigs tucked in. It’s a fresh, sweet, and perfect finale to a simple, yet sensational festive meal.

At that Shabbat dinner, I promised to share my “secrets” and recipes with my millennial guests. In return, I challenged them to get together and make a Rosh Hashanah dinner. The suggestion was met with downright alarm.  Silence snuffed out all conversation. Thankfully — there’s one in every crowd — cousin George’s face lit up. He turned to May, his wife, and said: “This could be fun.” And so it began — a wildly successful Rosh Hashanah dinner to continue for the years ahead, hosted by a new generation.

So don’t hold back. You can also add a round challah, the traditional shape used for the Jewish New Year.

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