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Chef Jeff Nathan's Rosh Hashanah Family Feast

A crisp fall salad, lamb with ratatouille and a fruity parfait for the Jewish New Year

Laurie Woolever
Posted: September 10, 2014

Wine lovers preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, have a lot to look forward to: a new year and a clean slate, of course, but also the promise of beloved traditional meals shared in the company of friends and family.

Chef Jeff Nathan, co-owner and operator of New York kosher restaurant Abigael's on Broadway, and his wife, Alison, have shared three recipes that represent a typical Rosh Hashanah meal served in their home: a salad without meat or dairy, a lamb dish and a dessert that may be made with or without dairy. Nathan, who is also the host of the PBS series New Jewish Cuisine and the author of Adventures in Jewish Cooking and Jeff Nathan's Family Suppers, says, "When I'm home, I say that I don't like to cook, but I really can't help but get involved—it's in my blood. Allie and I usually do the cooking together and invite over some family. If the weather's nice, I'll cut a rack of lamb, or maybe a rack of veal, into chops, and grill them outdoors. If not, they get roasted in the oven, as a whole rack. What's nice about racks is that they're so versatile."

When it comes to pairings for the holiday meal, "It's a really exciting time for kosher wine, especially what's coming out of Israel," says Aron Ritter, founder of the Kosher Wine Society, which recently held its sixth-annual New Wines for the New Year event. The tasting in New York featured the latest vintages of more than 100 wines, including selections from Barkan, Baron Herzog, Giordano's Borgo Reale, Daltôn, Galil Mountain, Goose Bay, Tabor, Psagot, Recanati, Golan Heights Winery, Yatir and more. "There are amazing Israeli winemakers who have gone all over the world to study winemaking, and are now back in Israel." With an increase in boutique wineries and the existence of visitor centers at established houses like Carmel and Golan Heights, Ritter says that Israel's wine regions are evolving into a kind of "mini-Napa," appealing to wine-loving travelers seeking a unique experience.

At Abigael's, kosher wines from Israel, California, Italy, France and New Zealand make up the list. Nathan suggests starting with Bartenura Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2013, Barkan Classic Chardonnay 2013 from Israel, or Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc Clarksburg 2012 to go along with the beet, pear and fennel salad. To pour with the grilled lamb rib chops with ratatouille, Nathan most often reaches for Teal Lake Shiraz South Eastern Australia 2011. And for dessert he prefers Baron Herzog's Late Harvest White Riesling Monterey County 2012.

Beet, Pear, and Fennel Salad with Orange Vinaigrette (Pareve)

All recipes courtesy of chef Jeff Nathan of Abigael's on Broadway, New York

For the orange vinaigrette:

  • Grated zest of 1 orange, plus 1/4 cup fresh juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the vinaigrette, combine the orange zest and juice, lime juice, honey and vinegar in a blender. With the machine running, gradually add the oil. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the mint, basil and fennel seed. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad:

  • 6 medium beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed but unpeeled
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed
  • 8 ounces arugula, trimmed, well washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 ripe medium Anjou or Bartlett pears, unpeeled, cored and thinly sliced

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400° F. Pierce each beet a few times with the tines of a fork. Place the beets on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the beets are tender, about 1 1/4 hours, depending on the size and age of the beets. Cool the beets until easy to handle, then peel. (To protect your hands from beet stains, rub lightly with vegetable oil or wear plastic gloves.) Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

2. When ready to serve, cut the fennel in half lengthwise, then trim out the hard core. Using a mandolin or V-slicer, cut the fennel crosswise into paper-thin slices. Toss the fennel and arugula with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the pears with a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette in a medium bowl, and season lightly.

3. Cut each beet into 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick rounds. On each of 6 plates, arrange the slices from each beet, slightly overlapping, in a wide circle. Heap portions of arugula mixture in the center of each circle. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and beets. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Note: Much of the preparation for this salad can be done a day or so ahead.

Grilled Lamb Rib Chops with Ratatouille (Meat)

For the ratatouille:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil, as needed
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 small zucchini, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup Mediterranean black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and barely tender (it should hold its shape), about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Heat 2 more tablespoons of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the yellow squash and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add to the eggplant.

3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and red and green peppers and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Return the eggplant and squash to the skillet, and stir in the tomatoes, olives, balsamic vinegar, basil, rosemary and oregano. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, until the tomatoes are heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

For the lamb chops:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 lamb rib chops
  • Balsamic syrup (best-quality balsamic vinegar, reduced over medium-high heat by half)

1. Combine the olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush the lamb chops on both sides with the oil. Let stand while preparing the grill.

2. Build a charcoal fire in an outdoor grill and let burn until the coals are covered with white ash, or preheat a gas grill on high. Lightly oil the cooking grid. Grill the chops, turning once, until medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side, or longer for more well-done meat, if desired.

3. Serve the lamb chops on individual plates with a spoonful of the ratatouille. Drizzle the syrup onto the lamb and ratatouille and serve immediately. Serves 8.

Blueberry-Lemon Parfait (Pareve or dairy)

For the blueberry syrup:

  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 2 to 3 lemons

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the blueberries burst. Using a hand blender, puree the blueberries. Pour into a plastic container and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool.

For the lemon zabaglione:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sparkling wine
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 cups whipped heavy cream or nondairy whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup crumbled almond or coconut macaroons, lightly toasted

1. Using a hand whisk, combine the yolks and sugar in a bowl. Add in the sparkling wine, lemon juice and zest. Place the bowl over a double boiler and whisk until tripled in volume. Do not let the bowl touch the lightly simmering water below.

2. Remove from the heat and cool the base of the bowl over an ice bath, whisking occasionally. When cool, fold in whipped cream and set aside.

To assemble:

In tall parfait or wineglasses, alternate layers of blueberry syrup, lemon zabaglione and crumbled macaroons until full. The final layers should be a drizzle of blueberry syrup and a sprinkle of macaroons. Serves 4.

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