Easy cooking for the holidays

 By Judy Zeidler
(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)
(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

If you are in a dilemma about what to serve your family for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, expand your menu options to include dishes that can be served in both the dining room and the sukkah.

Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 8-10) usually occurs during the warmest days of the year, so I plan to serve a refreshing and delicious cold Apple-Spinach Salad With Sautéed Salmon as the main course. This recipe is made with a combination of diced apples, tahini and honey; it’s perfect because apples and honey are traditionally served during this holiday to ensure a sweet new year. The dressing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated. The spinach leaves are tossed with the mixture and topped with the sautéed salmon just before serving.

This year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown Friday, Sept. 17, and the break-the-fast meal is on Saturday evening. As with any Shabbat or Yom Kippur meal, most of the work for this menu can be done beforehand and carried to the table as the guestsarrive.

The transition from fasting to feasting should be a gradual one. Begin with challah to dip in honey. Serve a refreshing glass of lemonade, apple juice, tea or a glass of chilled rosé wine; that way, if family and friends arrive at different times, they can satisfy their thirst and hunger. Cold deli food is a great way to go — it allows you to serve an assortment of delicious cold dishes: platters of cheeses, potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, olives, cream cheese, lox and bagels. But the surprise will be a warm main dish, a Potato and Lox Casserole, which features a savory blend of potatoes, lox, onions and dill. Prepare the casserole in advance, store in the refrigerator, and reheat in the oven.

During the harvest festival of Sukkot (Sept. 22-29), children look forward to building the outdoor sukkah, where the traditional holiday meals are served. Many of the Sukkot main dishes include stuffed vegetables and casseroles of various kinds, which makes them easy to transport outdoors. Cabbage rolls baked in a rich tomato-wine sauce are a family favorite, especially when stuffed with a filling of ground chicken mixed with onions, garlic and grated potato.

Honey cake is the perfect dessert for all three holidays. Over the years, I have experimented with many recipes, and this delicious, high-rise spicy honey cake has a light, appealing texture, the result of folding in beaten egg whites. Try it once and you’ll never buy another store-bought honey cake.

A variation, especially for Sukkot, is to frost the honey cake with lemon icing and garnish with lemon peel; the lemon represents the ancient etrog, or citron, which is part of the holiday tradition.


1/2 pound salmon, sautéed and diced
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tablespoons honey
1 bunch spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Prepare salmon and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the apples, green onions and celery with juice of one lemon to keep the apples from darkening. Set aside.

In a blender, food processor or a small bowl, blend together the mayonnaise, tahini, honey and juice from the second lemon; the mixture will be very thick. Toss with the apple mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Just before serving, place spinach in a large bowl, add the apple mixture, and toss to coat the spinach thoroughly. Arrange diced sautéed salmon on top and garnish with sesame seeds.

Variation: Substitute poached chicken for the salmon.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)


2 heads cabbage

2 pounds ground chicken
2 eggs
1/4 cup finely diced onion
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small potato, peeled and grated
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
2 to 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped (reserve liquid)
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut away the core of each cabbage. In a large saucepan, steam the cabbage over simmering water until soft enough to separate the leaves and fold them without tearing or breaking.

For Filling: In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, eggs, diced onion, garlic, potato, rice and bread crumbs; blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

For Sauce: In a large ovenproof pot, heat the oil and sauté the chopped onion, garlic, celery and green pepper until tender. Add the tomatoes and their reserved liquid, tomato sauce, wine, brown sugar and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper, additional brown sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer while preparing the cabbage rolls.

Place a cabbage leaf on a flat surface, shape the chicken mixture into a ball, place it on the root end of the cabbage leaf, and roll it up to enclose the filling, envelope-style. Place the cabbage rolls close together, submerged in the pot of tomato sauce. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

Transfer the pot to a preheated 350 F oven and bake the cabbage rolls for 30 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)


8 (1 3/4 pounds total) white or red new potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced and boiled
8 large slices lox (smoked salmon)
1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with butter. Arrange half of the sliced potatoes on the bottom. Arrange the slices of lox on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with the onion, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with a top layer of the remaining sliced potatoes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cream over the potato mixture. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and pieces of butter over the potatoes.

Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 servings.


1 pound honey
1 cup sugar
1 cup strong black coffee
1/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil
4 eggs, separated
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large mixing bowl, blend honey, sugar, coffee and oil. Add the egg yolks and beat until light and smooth.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cloves and ginger. Gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture, beating until well blended.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites and almonds into the batter.
Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Immediately remove pan from oven and invert it onto a wire rack to cool. With a sharp knife, loosen cake from pan’s sides and tube. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a large cake platter.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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