Sep 282008

Here’s how we eat simanim, the symbolic foods we eat on Rosh Hashanah night.

I love this custom because it combines tradition, food, and a  play on words. These symbolic foods don’t always represent the things we ask God to grant us in the coming year. They might represent words that do. For example,  Black-eyed peas are rubiah – similar to yirbu - to increase.  “May our merits increase.” You have to bend the brain a little to appreciate what you’re eating: a  Jewish way of looking at things.

I serve black-eyed peas as a salad, seasoning it with a little chopped onion and a handful of mixed, chopped, cilantro, parsley, and celery tops. Lots of fresh lemon juice, to balance the earthy taste of the peas (which are really beans, but never mind) – salt and white pepper. Again, all seasonings to taste

I got to work this morning to prepare simanim the way my family like to eat them.

Beets, Black-Eyed Peas, Leeks & Mushrooms, Sauce

Beets, Black-Eyed Peas, Leeks & Mushrooms, Sauce

Beets are selek, which reminds us of the word lesalek – to remove. “May our enemies be removed.” I make a beet salad with some thinly sliced onion, salt, pepper, a little cumin, olive oil, a little sugar, and vinegar. No measurements to report here: I just add seasonings and keep tasting and adjusting till I like it.

Butternut squash represents the gourd – in Hebrew k’ra. This is a homonym, in Hebrew, for “tear apart” and “read.” “May any evil decree be torn up, and may our merits be read in Your presence.” The squash is simple to make. Sauté onions, chopped tomatoes, and thin slices of pumpkin. Add a handful of chopped, mixed parsley, celery leaves and cilantro, plus one fresh sage leaf. I also stole a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce from the leek tart, more about which below, to add some body to the dish. A splash of white wine, a good stir around, and it was ready.

Leeks are difficult to sneak past the family. They tolerate leeks in soup, and that’s about it. But we must have leeks, I think. So I make a savory tart of leeks and mushrooms. This is how I do it.

Leek Tart (meat)

Have ready some chicken soup left over from Shabbat; about a cup.

Clean two large leeks. Cut off the tough base and green part of each one. Slice them coarsely.

Clean 1 – 1/2 cups of fresh mushrooms. Slice each in half, or thirds if they’re very large.

Put a dollop of olive oil into a skillet.

Saute the leeks just so that the slices brown a little. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté.

In the meantime, prepare a sauce. In a separate pan, put two tablespoons of oil, shmaltz, or margarine. Heat it gently. To fat add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir this briskly, allowing the flour to cook out and rid itself of its raw taste, but not allowing the mixture to burn.

Add the cup of hot chicken soup to the above roux. Keep stirring: you don’t want flour lumps. When all is smooth, turn the flame off and set aside.

When the mushrooms are wilting and starting to release their juice, add the sauce to the skillet. Stir and taste to adjust salt and pepper. A little soy sauce or a teaspoon of curry powder are optional nice things to add. The leeks will need to finish cooking: depending on how tender they were to start with, this could take up to 1/2-hour longer. Stir once in a while.

Make the pie crust of your choice. Puff pastry rolled out thin works too.  The quantities I gave above make a small tart, so you will need only a medium-sized pie pan. I don’t have one. What I did was take a sheet of baking paper and roll my dough circle onto it. I picked up the edges all around and folded them under, pinching to make a wall of dough to hold the filling in.  You’ll see the result below.

Fill the pie crust with the leek/mushroom mixture. Bake at 350 F – 180 C for 25 minutes. If the top looks like it’s browning too fast, put a piece of tin foil over the top of the tart and let the crust finish baking. The Little One calls this tart “shroomizza” and insists on having it every year.


There should be a siman based on “batsal” – onion. Everything I’ve cooked has onion in it one way or another. Let’s see…batsal reminds me of “batsah” – to slice.

May it be Your will to cut us a large slice of blessing in this coming year!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

  15 Responses to “Eat Your Words: Simanim”

  1. My mouth is watering. I bought the black-eyed beans, and I’ll soak them overnight. I like the idea of making a salad out of them. I found a recipe for apples and leeks with chicken, so they are going in the chicken. I’m going to use your stuffing recipe to help me stuff some acorn squash.

  2. Happy cooking, Leora!

  3. […] to the first night…so we have all these simanim on the table. With the help of Mimi’s Israeli Kitchen, I made the black-eyed beans (peas?) into a bean salad. She used: “seasoning it with a little […]

  4. Sorry for the trouble found the recipe, will try it.

  5. Hi, Trudy,
    No trouble – you worked it out before I could reply. Let us know how your kugel-crust quiche turned out.

  6. Thanks for the ideas. Yes, you are right there should be a siman for onion (bazal). How about “bezel kenafecha yechesyun” בצל כנפייך יחסיון (Psalm 36) – may God find shelter us for us in the shade of his wings!

  7. Really good, Jonathan. Ken yehi ratzon! And Shana Tova to you.

  8. […] (fish). (Here is a good resource for the text and some more information on these customs, and recipes). We want our year to be good and sweet so we eat those foods. We don’t want a sour or bitter […]

  9. […] (fish). (Here is a good resource for the text and some more information on these customs, and recipes). We want our year to be good and sweet so we eat those foods. We don’t want a sour or bitter […]

  10. My daughter made the leek tart to use as a side dish, remembering at the last minute to use soya milk rather than chicken soup as we had a vegetarian joining us that night. The whole thing vanished! A great success – thanks for the idea. We also enjoyed the carrot and sweet potato tagine. Gemar chatima tova.

  11. Wow, Mrs. Belogski, thanks for letting me know! I was serving the leek tart on the first night and wondering if any reader was doing the same…so gratifying. Actually this year I spooned the filling into vol-au-vent shells – the frozen puff pastry ones you bake at home. It was a little too heavy for the big meal – next year, I’m going back to the pie. And I’m glad you enjoyed the tajine. G’mar chatima tova!

  12. BTW on the topic of onions as a siman, we have friends who put up an onion with beautiful feathers as wings in their sukkah – betzel kenafecha – may you keep us under your wings.

  13. Love that idea, Mrs. B.

  14. […] Are you looking for some good recipe ideas? Me, too.  Here are some that I’ve found, focusing especially on the simanim we traditionally serve (Check out this article on simanim): […]

  15. […] (fish). (Here is a good resource for the text and some more information on these customs, and recipes). We want our year to be good and sweet so we eat those foods. We don’t want a sour or bitter […]

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>