The magic of being in Israel for the High Holy Days (which sadly, I am not) is that the entire culture embraces them. Businesses close, streets empty, families gather for feasts. Even hip, irreverent and youthful Tel Aviv gets caught up in the spirit – throwing parties and coming up with ever more creative menus that reflect Israel’s multi-ethnic roots.
It certainly makes up for Christmas season elsewhere. North American and European Jews inevitably feel left out when every mall, restaurant and neighborhood is festooned in lights and greenery throughout December. It’s a joyous feeling, then, to be in a country celebrating the Jewish holidays in similar fashion.
So as we welcome Tishrei, the month of ainsof (Hebrew slang for “endless”) holidays into our own homes, let’s take inspiration from the energy and cultural diversity of the holidays in Israel. This year, for example, I’ve vowed to break the Bagel-Kugel Axis that has seized control of most North American holiday tables. Don’t get me wrong: I like bagels (kugel, not so much.) Instead, I’m going to make a “siniya” for Rosh Hashanah — a Middle Eastern dish in which meat and vegetables (or vegetables alone) are roasted in tahina; and for our Break the Fast, I’m pulling a full Moroccan — fragrantly spiced side dishes, with a whole roasted fish as its centerpiece. If you’d like to join me in the revolution against the B-K Axis, you’ll find all of these recipes posted at Fig Tree & Vine.
So Let’s Talk (Eat!) Siniya!
Everyone’s got their own version. Celebrity chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi make theirs with lamb koftas. If you’d like to avoid meat, Tel Aviv’s top vegetarian restaurant — Meshek Barzilay — offers a siniya made from Japanese pumpkin stuffed with a tomato confit. (Fun fact about Meshek Barzilay: The restaurant designs its rotating menu to align with the Jewish calendar, offering dishes inspired by the Jewish holidays during any given month. To capture the sweetness of the New Year, many of its current recipes are infused with pomegranate, including beverages, such as a Pomegranate Arak.) Here is a less exotic, but very delicious, recipe for a vegetarian siniya with roast cauliflower.
I’m going to make a siniya from celebrity cook, blogger, and television personality Eden Grinshpan, the glamorous host of Cooking Channel shows Eden Eats and Log On and Eat with Eden Grinshpan. Eden’s siniya is made with roasted cauliflower, lamb/beef patties, and topped with a salad of preserved lemon and cherry tomatoes. Once you’ve tried it, she assures us, “Siniya will become your new best friend.”
Photo by Guerin Blask.
The version she shares with FT&V is one she tasted for the first time when in Jaffa last year:
I love this recipe..it is bold, EASY TO MAKE, colorful and full of flavor. Also, it has an exotic feel without having to use ingredients that you can’t find at your local supermarket. It may seem a little complicated, but to be honest…it is just a combination of easy recipes that you bring into one.
Wash it down with Pomegranate Arak, and I’m pretty sure you’ll feel that this will be a very, very good new year, indeed.