Small group Rosh Hashanah menu

Photo by Keri White

Rosh Hashanah, like many events of 2020, will be different. Restrictions on gatherings mean people probably won’t attend services or host large groups of families and friends.

But the holiday will still arrive and people will celebrate in person within their bubbles and via Zoom or other virtual methods. Regardless of how we approach it, a meal will undoubtedly be served in one form or another, so I offer a menu that feeds a smaller-than-normal group, can be easily upsized if necessary and also lends itself well to leftovers.

Fall Fig Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6

This salad showcases the best of fall — figs are in season for a tragically short spell around here, and their fragility makes them all the more precious. Showcasing them with apples, that quintessential fall fruit, and a dressing that contains a bit of honey, is a delicious way to start the holiday meal with a nod to tradition.

1 10-ounce package baby lettuces, rinsed and spun
6 fresh figs, quartered
1 apple, peeled, cored, sliced and spritzed with lemon
⅓ cup lightly salted cashews

Place the lettuce in a salad bowl, and arrange the other ingredients decoratively on top.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with the citrus vinaigrette.

Citrus Vinaigrette

This makes more than you will need for the salad, but it is fine in the fridge for a day or two.

Toss it on a salad for tomorrow’s lunch, or use it to marinate fish, chicken or flank steak.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon honey

Mix all the ingredients in a measuring cup or cruet

Marry Me Chicken

Serves 4 to 6

So named because it has the potential to elicit a proposal from any prospective partner, this chicken is simple and simply delicious. It was shared with me by a chef in New England years ago, and I came across the recipe while searching for chicken dishes to make for Rosh Hashanah this year.

I know the step that requires removing the chicken from the oven and flipping it over is kind of inconvenient, but it is intended to keep the breast moist, since it starts the cooking process with the juices flowing down into the breast — essentially basting it.

But if you can’t stomach this process, just start the chicken breast side up and roast it traditionally. The lemon-garlic flavor is still spectacular and the results will be great. But my friend still swears by this flip method.

To rinse or not to rinse? My friend is a fan of “freshening the chicken” via a rinse and drain.

But there is currently a lot of disagreement on this process; some say anything problematic lurking on the raw chicken would be taken care of in the roasting process and rinsing has the potential to spread the germs in the sink and onto other surfaces. Others claim rinsing is a crucial step.

I included it here since it was part of the original recipe, but I defer to the cook to decide.

1 whole roasting chicken (4-6 pounds)
½ cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 whole lemons cut in quarters
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic
Fresh herbs, for roasting and garnish (4 sprigs rosemary, 4 sprigs sage, 8 sprigs thyme and 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley)

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

“Freshen” the chicken: Remove the giblets from the chicken; wash it inside and out with cold water, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander for two minutes.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place it breast side down in a roasting pan fitted with a rack and pour the lemon juice all over the chicken, both inside and out.

Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper inside and out, rubbing the seasonings into the chicken.

Place the garlic, half the fresh herbs and two of the chopped lemons inside the chicken cavity. (Reserve the remaining herbs and lemon for garnish).

Put the chicken in the oven, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and roast the chicken, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven, turn the chicken breast side up and roast for 60-75 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. The internal temperature at the thickest part of thigh or breast should read 180 degrees when done.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes under foil before carving.

And here’s the secret: Pour the juices from the roasting pan on top of the sliced chicken — this is the “marry me” trick. Garnish it with the remaining fresh lemon and fresh herbs, and serve to shock and awe.


Garlicky Kale

Serves 4-6
People tend to turn their noses up at kale, but that is because they have only had it when it is cooked to death into a pungent, bitter mush or served raw without proper preparation. This fresh take on kale will change even the most strenuous opponents.

2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
½ teaspoon chili flakes
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound kale, washed and chopped (thick stems
½-¾ cup chicken or vegetable stock, or water

Heat the oil in a large skillet; add the garlic, chili flakes and salt, stirring until fragrant.

Add the kale and ½ cup stock. Turn the kale with tongs until it is coated with the oil and broth. It will begin to turn bright green and wilt. Continue turning it over to cook. If more liquid is needed, add a little more stock or water.

Cook for about 10 minutes until the kale is wilted but retains a bit of crispness.

Pecan Pie

Serves 2
I am not a great pie baker, but every now and then, I’ll give one a whirl. My southern husband loves pecan pie, so this seemed like a sweet way to ring in the new year.

The traditional version of the recipe uses all corn syrup, but as a nod to the tradition of using honey at the Rosh Hashanah table, I swapped honey in for part of this quantity. The traditional crust uses butter, but for the purpose of this meal, kosher-style diners will want to substitute margarine or non-dairy butter to make this pareve.

For the crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup Crisco
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons iced water
For the filling
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup honey
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans, plus ⅓ cup pecan halves to place on top of pie

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Make the crust: In a large bowl, cut the butter/margarine and Crisco into the flour with a pastry cutter or two butter knives. When it forms a coarse meal, stir in the iced water a tablespoon at a time, stirring until dough forms.

Knead the dough briefly to completely blend it, roll into a ball and then flatten it into a disc.

Wrap it and refrigerate for 15 minutes (or more).

Roll the dough on a floured board or pastry cloth with a floured rolling pin into a circle a few inches larger than a 9-inch pie plate. The dough should not be more than ¼-inch thick.

Fit the bottom crust into a pie pan and make the filling.

Mix all the filling ingredients except for ⅓ cup of pecan halves in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into a pie shell, top with the pecan halves and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake another 30-40 minutes until the filling is becoming firm.

Cool the pie completely before slicing to prevent the filling from running.

Keri White is a Philadelphia-based food writer.

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