The holiday season approaches, and with it, excitement, trepidation and not a little anxiety over what foods to prepare. So many meals, so little time.
What’s wonderful, however, about Rosh Hashanah — and the rest of the month of holidays — is the built-in guidelines, the ingredients of the season, so to speak. From pomegranates, figs and dates to honey, almonds and fish, the framework is set; it’s left to the cooks and hosts to fill in the food.
Okay, but there’s still a lot to do. So I went to Inbal Baum, the creator and guide behind DeliciousIsrael, culinary tours of Israel, for some help. Baum gets a certain lilt in her voice when she talks about where to start shopping for the Rosh Hashanah symbols. With a reminder that the food “embodies symbolism of beginnings,” she offers her list of Rosh Hashanah and holiday season foods, sending The Times of Israel readers on a self-guided tour of what and where to buy.
1) The rich, red seeds of the pomegranate are a crucial part of the holidays, a reminder of the significant abundance in our lives, and hard to forget when you’re seeding the interior of this medieval, leathery apple. They’re available in every market, as well as on your neighbor’s tree, but for a particularly juicy selection, call Steigl Farm in Misgav Dov, which grows pomegranates and apples and makes its own juice as well. Call 050-739-5034.
For sauces and dressings, buy some pomegranate molasses (it’s particularly good on chicken). It’s available in many supermarkets and health food stores, but Baum swears by the 100% pure version at Mercaz HaRimonim in the Tikvah Market in Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, HaTapuah 1 juice bar on HaTapuah Street in the Mahaneh Yehuda market sells pomegranate juice — as well as other fruit juices — in small or large bottles. You can buy it in the supermarket, but it’s much more potent this way.
2) It’s fish heads, not tails, that are eaten at that first Rosh Hashanah dinner Sunday night, to remind us that we are on top, not at the bottom. For the actual heads — if you’re looking to have eyes staring around the table — Baum quoted chef Maoz Alonim of HaBasta, who recommends Moshik in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. But if you’re seeking carp for making gefilte fish, Baum’s 90-year-old savta (grandmother) still makes the trek to her fishmonger at the Carmel Market, and the suggestion is the same in Jerusalem and other cities.
3) If you’re seeking a hunk of meat, head to your local butcher or meat counter. But for a truly fine cut, consider ordering from Marinado, the Ein Gev, Golan Heights destination for beef that comes from free-roaming cattle that munch the greener pastures of the western Golan cliffs. Marinado is a cattle and sheep farm, a butcher shop and a restaurant; they now sell and deliver their meat around the country for a small additional fee. Call 1599-50-30-80 or 1700-703-321.
4) It’s time to seek all that’s sweet for the path to happiness, with sweet challah, honey and dates in the beginning, the middle and at the end of any truly proper Rosh Hashanah feast. According to Baum, the best round challot — bar none — are from Mahaneh Yehuda, where almost cake-like challah can be found at several stalls. For those who seek slightly less sweet but still honeyed challah, there’s the Pe’er Bakery, also in the market and in the German Colony.
5) And for a final feeding of the sweet tooth, there are luscious Medjool dates from Neot Semadar (and other date farms), as well as a particular treat that sounds well worth the effort: boxes of paletas, artisanal popsicles in special Rosh Hashanah flavors, including apple/honey/wine and pomegranate/lemon/mint. Available in gift boxes of 10, 18 or 36 mini paletas, and can be purchased at Habutkeh, 22 Tchernikovsky and 31 King George, Tel Aviv; and at Guta, 12 Abba Eban in Herzliya Pituah.