Here is my post-Labor Day routine: I start madly cooking for the holidays while scrambling to catch up with everything that lapsed during the summer.
But erev Rosh Hashanah falls on Oct. 2 this year.
This allows me, and everyone else who is hosting Jewish New Year meals, a month to get organized. While I’m tempted to take it easy for a change, I’m reluctant to squander this gift of time. It would be a relief to avoid my usual last minute cooking frenzy. Therefore, I’m going to prepare Rosh Hashanah foods now and store them in the freezer.
This endeavor takes a bit of planning because only certain foods fare well when facing 32 degrees. Salads and raw vegetable dishes are poor candidates.
But that’s OK because they can be whipped up right before the holiday begins, when I’m usually cooking everything at once.
Surprisingly many fruit desserts, including traditional apple cakes, become watery in the freezer. To be freezer worthy, fruit must be cooked through before being incorporated into dough.
Casseroles, such as kugels, are good candidates for freezing. However, vegetables should be sautéed before assembling in casseroles. Briskets and other meats prepared in sauces thrive in the deep freeze, as do soups and stews. Challah, breads, cookies and most pastries freeze well, too.
Once my freezer is stocked with holiday foods, I’m hoping for serenity as Rosh Hashanah approaches, a good way to start the New Year.
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
8 cups of warm water
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, or more if needed
2½ lbs. beef brisket, fat trimmed
½ small green cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into round discs
2 stalks of celery, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Dissolve the tomato paste into the water by stirring gently. Reserve.
In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil on a medium flame. Place the brisket in the pot and sear until brown. Turn over and sear the other side. Remove the brisket to a plate and reserve.
Add the remaining ingredients. Stir for two minutes, until the mixture is coated with pan juices. Add more oil, if needed. Return the brisket to the pot.
Pour in the water-tomato paste mixture, and stir until the ingredients are combined. There should be enough liquid to cover the ingredients. If not, add water a little at a time. You don’t want to make the soup too thin.
Cover the pot, bring the mixture to a slow boil, then reduce the flame to medium-low. If the soup boils, lower the flame. Simmer until the brisket is fork tender, about two-and-a-half to three hours.
Remove the brisket from the soup, draining off but retaining the liquids. Cool to warm, and slice the brisket into bite-sized pieces.
Return the brisket to the soup. Cool the soup to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, several hours or overnight. Skim the fat off the top of the soup and discard. Reheat the soup now or freeze it by pouring it into one or two large plastic containers.
Defrost before serving. Pour the soup into a large pot and heat until piping hot. Serve immediately.
Apple noodle kugel
Yields 28 squares
1 pound broad noodles
Nonstick vegetable spray
1 cup raisins
6 tablespoons margarine, plus more if needed
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, or more, if desired
4 teaspoons lemon juice
Following the directions on the package of noodles, boil water in a large pot. Prepare the noodles while assembling other ingredients. When ready, drain the noodles in a colander. Let them rest at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13-inch ovenproof baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray. Place the raisins in a bowl with enough hot water to submerge them. Reserve.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Melt 2 tablespoons of margarine in a large skillet. Add the apple slices and stir until wilted, about three minutes. This may have to be done in two batches. Add more margarine, if needed.
Separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whip with electric beaters. Turn the beaters off every one to two minutes and lift them. Repeat until peaks form. Do not overbeat. Reserve away from heat.
In a medium-sized bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Beat until mixture thickens.
Drain the raisins in a sieve. Spread them out on paper towels to dry.
The noodles should be warm, not piping hot. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the yolk mixture, apples and raisins. With a wooden spoon, mix together.
Gently fold in the egg whites. Move to the prepared pan. Melt four tablespoons of margarine and drizzle over the top.
Bake for an hour or until the noodles turn golden and the egg mixture is firm enough to hold the kugel together. Cool slightly, then cut it into squares by slicing the kugel into four lines down and eight lines across.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to three days. Another option is to cool the kugel to room temperature, cover it with aluminum foil, place it in a large plastic bag and freeze.
Cinnamon-stick lamb tzimmes
3 pounds lamb stew meat from the shoulder, cut into 1½-inch chunks
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
2 onions, diced
10 carrots, peeled and coarsely diced
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cardamom
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups water
1 cup red wine
Uncooked rice to serve 8
1⅓ cups pitted prunes
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and coarsely diced
Optional accompaniment: white rice to serve 8
Sprinkle the stew meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil briefly in a large pot on a medium-high flame. Sauté the stew meat in oil, until seared on all sides.
This may have to be done in two batches. Add more oil, if the bottom of the pot becomes dry. Transfer the lamb to a platter.
Reduce the flame to medium. Add the onion and sauté until transparent, about one to two minutes. Add the carrots, stirring occasionally for two minutes. Add allspice, cardamom and cinnamon sticks. Return the meat to the pot. Pour in the water and wine. Stir until combined. Cover and reduce the flame to medium-low.
Once the liquids reach a simmer, cook for one hour, or until the lamb is tender. If the liquids boil, reduce the flame. Check the seasonings and add salt, if needed.
Add the prunes and apples, stirring gently. Cover the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove the cinnamon sticks and reserve
Recipe can be prepared to this point, cooled to room temperature and refrigerated, or frozen in plastic containers or Ziploc bags.
Before serving, defrost the tzimmes completely. Place in a large pot, cover with a lid and heat on a low flame until piping hot. Meanwhile, prepare the rice, if using, according to package directions.
Spoon the rice into a mound in the center of a platter with a deep rim. With a long-handled spoon, arrange the tzimmes around the rice. A little gravy will transfer with the tzimmes. Pour the remaining gravy into a gravy boat.
Arrange the cinnamon sticks in an X formation on top of the rice. Serve.
Apple and honey cake
Yields 28 squares
It is preferable to use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. A hand mixer with beater attachments will work too.
2 tea bags
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus ½ cup
Nonstick vegetable spray
3½ cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 16-ounce bottle of honey
1¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ground cloves and ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Boil one cup of water and place the tea bags in it to steep. After two minutes, discard the tea bags. Reserve.
Peel, core and cut the apple into thin slices. Then dice the slices. On a medium flame, briefly heat one tablespoon of oil in a medium-sized skillet. Sauté the apple until wilted, about three minutes. Remove from the flame and reserve.
Coat a 9×13-inch ovenproof baking pan with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Measure out the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Reserve.
Place the honey, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and remaining half-cup of oil in a large mixing bowl. Mix together until combined.
In three or four batches, add the flour mixture, alternating with the tea until well blended. The dough will be thicker than most cake batter. Fold in the pecans and apples.
With a spatula, scrape the dough into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until the cake is golden and the edges begin to brown. Turn off the oven and keep the cake inside with the door slightly ajar.
After 15 minutes, place a cake tester in the center. If the tester is not dough free, close the oven door and turn it on to 350 degrees for another five minutes, checking it with a clean cake tester once or twice. Cool thoroughly to room temperature before cutting.
Serve immediately or freeze. The recipe freezes well. To freeze, cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it in an unused plastic garbage bag. Defrost and cut into squares by slicing the cake into four lines down and seven lines across.
Yield: 28 squares
Linda Morel is a food writer in Philadelphia.