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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Countdown

As I recover from the daze of my kids' return to school, I realize that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is only ONE week away.
I will try to start preparing tomorrow and for once in my life, plan and organize before everything turns into madness.
Many years ago, my dear friend SG suggested me to include the symbolic foods of the holiday in the celebratory meals to attract good omens for the starting year. Since then, I began designing my menus based on those foods, which are:
  • Honey- To welcome sweetness into our next 12 months
  • Apples- To bring in blessings of wealth and power
  • Carrots- To hope that our merits increase
  • Leeks or cabbage, beets and dates- To avoid having enemies
  • Gourd-To get our merits be proclaimed before G-d
  • Pomegranate and Fenugreek- To increase our merits
  • Fish-To be fruitful and multiply
  • Head of a sheep or fish-To be as the head and not as the tail
All of them super ingredients, they allow for some really delicious dishes. I'm cooking with all of them, except the head of the sheep or fish, as my husband threatened me if I made him eat that one. He's even willing to bite into a microscopic portion of beets, but that's where he draws the line. Therefore, our family tradition is to eat the fish heads from artificially colored and flavored gummy (spelled gummi in the package...) fish that we decapitate before serving. I'm hoping this brings the omen of openmindness into our family, as that kind of candy is one of the foods that make me cringe.
My kids react in the complete opposite way: they can't wait for the blessing of the head of fish to be recited. You'd think they are the most religious children in the planet.
And talking about hopes for the New Year and my kids, I'm really wishing my son would stop his transformation into a hobo.

Always a hurdler, he's lately taken onto pushing ALL his possessions in a supermarket cart. I've had to extract his dirty pajamas, my dental floss, the new crayons, a summer camp art project, the kitchen twine and my husband's Metrocard from under a flotilla of airplanes and an entire collection of Cars 2 die casts. In there also are bouncy balls, puzzle pieces, gifts from a dentist's visit, and more cherished randomness. Did he learn that by walking the streets of New York or is it a very efficient way of keeping all his property at hand?

Aspiring that my son would choose an alternative profession to homlessness and to invite sweetness, wealth and power and avoid having enemies, I'm starting my menu--as always-- with dessert:

HONEY-APPLE SPICE CAKE

With honey, applesauce, dates and the secret ingredient--Kombucha, this is a moist and delicious cake, that will definitely spice up the new year, but if you'd like it milder tasting, omit ginger, cloves and pepper. It stays fresh for a couple of days, so it makes a great breakfast treat.
Kombucha, which is an ancient cultured tea (a yeast and a good bacteria are the cultures used) is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins and when consumed raw, probiotics. Although all sorts of health claims are made about this drink, more clinical research is still needed to prove them. In the meanwhile, I love drinking it and I do feel amazingly recharged after doing so, and I've found that it is an incredible baking ingredient that brings great texture, moisture and taste into recipes, similar to when buttermilk is used in baked goods. I only use commercially made kombucha to avoid possible contamination of the culture.
  • Super ingredients: honey, applesauce, dates, kombucha and spices
  • Vegetarian (uses honey) 
  • Dairy, egg, wheat, soy and nut free
INGREDIENTS

11 ounces (2 3/4 cups) whole spelt flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons nutmeg (freshly ground preferably)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
3 ounces expeller-pressed sunflower oil
12 ounces (3/4 cup) honey
5 ounces date paste
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
8 ounces (1 cup) Kombucha (not flavored), I like GT's brand in "original" flavor

METHOD
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Oil a 9-inch round baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, spices, salt and baking soda until well blended.

Add in oil, honey, date paste and apple sauce and whisk until a well mixed batter forms. Add kombucha and whisk until incorporated, but don't overmix.



Pour batter into pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center.
Let cool 15 minutes, unmold and let finish cooling.
Makes 1 9-inch round cake (serves about 12 slices).


Happy and sweet New Year!

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