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Jewish High Holy Days Come Early : For Rosh Hashanah, Plan a Light Menu of Fresh Vegetables and Fruit

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Rosh Hashanah arrives this year at sundown Sunday, and since the weather will still be warm, a light menu featuring the late-summer harvest of fresh vegetables and fruits seems appropriate to celebrate the new year ahead.

My recent trip to Italy made me aware of the wonderful possibilities of growing your own lush, flavorful garden-fresh food. The villa where we lived was entirely self-sufficient . . . with the staff preparing wine and olive oil, magnificent varieties of produce and gathering eggs.

If you have your own garden, you know the pleasure of serving the freshest of salad greens, tomatoes, baby vegetables and a variety of fruits. Tomatoes especially are so easy to grow, and two or three tomato plants will provide an enormous supply. If you’re not a gardener, visit some of the open-air farmers’ markets in various local areas.

This year I am taking advantage of garden bounties and leaving the heavier traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes on hold until next year.

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A Toast With Chardonnay

But, of course, I am not going to forsake tradition entirely. The round hallah symbolizes a well-rounded year ahead; apple slices dipped in honey express the hope for a sweet year. And when my family breaks bread on this holiday eve dinner, we will drink a toast to the new year with a young fruity Chardonnay.

My unusual first course is a simple salad of avocado slices on a bed of pungently flavored arugula dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. Arugula is delicious and easy to grow.

Garden Soup and Garnish

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Next, I will serve a chilled tomato-based soup--my garden version of the Spanish gazpacho. Hopefully, you will make it with full-flavored tomatoes from your garden because nothing compares with firm, deep-red vine-ripened tomatoes. With the soup, pass around bowls of finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and green and yellow peppers for a colorful do-it-yourself garnish, along with more of the fennel-spiced hallah.

Chicken breasts, low in calories and fat, are sliced, quickly grilled with barely a trace of oil and fanned around a mixture of finely diced squash in three varieties--zucchini, patty pan and crookneck. The flavors are enhanced with green onions, which you may have grown yourself. Garnish with fresh herbs from the garden.

Late-summer plums arranged in colorful circles on a light pastry dough make an eye-appealing tart for dessert. With it, I’ll serve a sweet, late-harvest wine and hot tea with lemon . . . and the children will choose their favorite fruit juice.

ROSH HASHANAH EVE DINNER

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Round Hallah With Fennel Seeds

Apple slices and honey

Avocado and Arugula Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing

Cold Spicy Tomato Soup

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Grilled Chicken Slices With Squash Medley

Tart Plum Tart

Chardonnay and late harvest wines

Tea with lemon

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ROUND HALLAH WITH FENNEL SEEDS

1 package dry yeast

Sugar

1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

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2 eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup unsalted margarine, melted

4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

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3 tablespoons fennel seeds

Oil

Lightly beaten egg

Dissolve yeast with dash sugar in 1/2 cup warm water. Set aside.

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Blend eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, margarine and remaining water in bowl of electric mixer. Blend in yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at time, mixing until dough comes together. Pour onto floured board and knead, adding small amount of additional flour at a time, along with 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, until dough has smooth and elastic consistency, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place dough in oiled bowl. Oil top of dough, cover with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Divide in thirds. Shape each third into rope. Join ropes at one end and braid. Bring ends together to form ring and place on oiled baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Brush with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon fennel seeds. Bake at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and loaf has hollow sound when tapped with finger. Transfer to rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf.

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Note: Serve with apple slices and honey for dipping.

AVOCADO AND ARUGULA SALAD

3 avocados, peeled and seeded

Juice of 1 lemon

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2 cups loosely packed shredded arugula, stems removed

2 cups shredded hearts of romaine or bibb lettuce

Vinaigrette Dressing

Salt, pepper

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Pomegranate seeds, optional

Slice each avocado into 12 lengthwise slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside.

Place arugula and lettuce in bowl. Just before serving toss with enough vinaigrette to coat leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mound salad greens on chilled plates and fan avocado slices around them. Spoon remaining vinaigrette over avocado slices. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Vinaigrette Dressing

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

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1/2 cup walnut oil

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Place mustard, vinegar and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Add oil in thin stream and blend until slightly thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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COLD SPICY TOMATO SOUP (Gazpacho)

6 large ripe tomatoes

2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded

1/2 onion, diced

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1 large sweet red or green pepper

2 small cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

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3 cups tomato juice

4 sprigs cilantro

Salt, pepper

Diced cucumber, tomatoes, green and yellow peppers and cilantro.

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Using sharp knife, cut shallow X in skin at bottom of each tomato. Drop tomatoes, 2 at time, into boiling water. After 10 seconds lift tomatoes out with slotted spoon. Cool in ice water. Skins will slip off. Cut in quarters.

Combine half tomatoes, cucumber, onion, pepper, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and tomato juice in food processor or blender. Blend quickly with half-second pulses until finely chopped. Pour into large bowl.

Repeat with remaining ingredients. Mix to blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

Ladle into cold soup bowls and serve with diced cucumber, tomatoes, green and yellow peppers and cilantro. Makes 8 servings.

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GRILLED SLICED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH THREE-SQUASH MEDLEY

4 large chicken breasts

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crumbled

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1/4 cup chopped parsley

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Olive oil

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Three Squash Medley

Orange wedges

Cut breasts in half and remove skin, bones and excess fat. Cut through thickest part of each breast to form pocket. Combine orange peel, rosemary and parsley. Use to fill pockets, then close with wood picks.

Season lightly with salt and pepper. Brush with oil. Grill over hot coals or in greased non-stick skillet until brown on outside and cooked through. Brown on both sides.

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Remove chicken breasts to cutting board and slice diagonally into thick slices. Spoon Three Squash Medley in center of each heated serving plate and arrange chicken around edge. Garnish with orange wedges. Makes 8 servings.

Three-Squash Medley

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped green onions

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4 zucchini

4 patty pan squash

4 crookneck squash

3/4 cup orange juice

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1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Salt, pepper

Heat olive oil in heavy skillet and saute green onions. Cut ends from squash, dice and add to skillet. Gently toss with wooden spoon as squash begins to brown.

Add orange juice, rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue cooking just until squash is tender. Do not overcook. Cover and keep warm. Makes 8 servings.

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TART PLUM TART

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

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3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 to 8 cups red or purple plums

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1 (11-inch) baked Sweet Pastry Crust

1 cup currant jelly

2 tablespoons Port

Combine sugar, lemon and orange peels, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well. Slice plums in half lengthwise and remove pits. Cut 2 (1/8-inch) slits on top of each plum half. Toss with sugar mixture.

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Place plums and mixture in baking dish in single layer, cover with foil, and bake at 375 degrees 20 to 30 minutes, until tender when pierced with fork. Cool.

Stand plum halves in concentric circles with slit side up, beginning at outer edge of baked Sweet Pastry Crust. Heat currant jelly and Port until melted and smooth. Spoon mixture over plums. Serve tart warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Large plums may be pitted and cut into quarters or eighths.

Sweet Pastry Crust

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1 1/2 cups flour

Dash salt

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted margarine

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3 tablespoons cold water

Combine flour, salt and sugar in bowl of electric mixer. Blend in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Add cold water and blend until dough begins to come together. Do not overmix. Knead dough into smooth ball, wrap in wax paper and chill 10 minutes.

Roll out pastry on 2 large sheets of floured wax paper large enough to overlap 11-inch flan pan with removable bottom. For easier handling, cover pastry with another sheet of wax paper and fold pastry in half. (Wax paper protects center of pastry from sticking together.)

Lift pastry from bottom wax paper and place on half of 11-inch flan pan. Unfold pastry and remove wax paper covering. At this point pastry may be refrigerated or frozen several days.

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Spread light coating of margarine on sheet of wax paper and place, coated side down, inside pastry, overlapping around outside. Cover with another piece of wax paper with cut ends in opposite direction.

Fill center of lined pie shell with uncooked rice or pie weights. Bake at 375 degrees 15 to 20 minutes, until sides of pastry begin to brown. Carefully remove wax paper with rice and continue baking until bottom of pastry is light brown. Remove from oven and cool.


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