Welcome Rosh Chodesh with appetizing round foods

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The Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. As each new moon appears as a slim crescent every 29 to 30 days, Rosh Chodesh — or the head of the month — arrives.

Rosh Chodesh is also called the "Little New Year," sort of a small Rosh Hashanah with lots of celebrating and feasting each month.

While my children get to celebrate each Rosh Chodesh with music, dancing, doughnuts or bagels at their respective Jewish day schools, most people rarely have a chance to observe this cyclical event with any fanfare.

I thought it might be nice to find some ways to celebrate this monthly occurrence at home. A brunch, if the holiday falls on Shabbat or Sunday, or a quick-fix dinner for just your family or friends is a nice way to make the day special.

Rosh Chodesh foods are traditionally round to reflect the shape of the moon. Two of the recipes below qualify, with tomatoes and portobello mushroom caps. The tabouli recipe could count because it uses oranges, but I really included it because of its fresh and healthy ingredients.

In addition to special foods, there are other ways to enhance your Rosh Chodesh celebrations:

* Check out the Native American names for the moons and talk about the significance of each new moon to them.

* Have your children make placemats or use a white paper tablecloth and have them draw pictures about each the new moon right on the cloth.

* Discuss what each of the new moons meant to our farming ancestors in terms of their lives and activities.

MIDDLE EASTERN STUFFED TOMATOES

12 medium or large tomatoes

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

2 onions chopped

1/2 cup currants, soaked in hot water and drained well

1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)

2 Tbs. fresh dill

2 Tbs. minced parsley

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. paprika

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 cup cooked white rice or aromatic rice such as basmati or jasmine

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup water

additional 1/4 cup olive oil

Slice off the tops of the tomatoes, scoop out the pulp and seeds. Sprinkle the insides with 1/4 cup of lemon juice and salt. Invert onto a paper towel and let drain.

Heat 1/3 cup (minus 1 Tbs.) oil and sauté onions until golden. Add the well-drained currants, pine nuts, dill, parsley and seasonings. Stir for about two minutes. Add the 2 Tbs. lemon juice and stir. Add the rice and blend well. Fill the tomatoes.

Grease a baking dish with 1 Tbs. of the oil and place the tomatoes to fit snugly in the dish. Mix the wine, water and 1/4 cup oil and drizzle over the tomatoes. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Cool slightly or serve at room temperature.

This recipe can be made a day ahead. Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

— Adapted from "From Soup to Nosh" by the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston.

ORANGE SESAME TABOULI

1-1/4 cups water

1 cup bulgur wheat

1/2 cup tightly packed, minced fresh parsley

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp. orange juice

2 or 3 scallions, minced, white part only

1-1/2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds*

1 Tbs. grated orange zest

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the bulgur and let the water return to a boil. Cover and remove from the heat.

Let the bulgur sit covered, for about 30 minutes. Pour through a strainer and press out the excess water. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.

Toss well and serve chilled or at room temperature.

*If you cannot find sesame seeds that are already toasted, toast them by spreading them over a cookie sheet and baking them in a 350-degree oven for about 3 minutes. Watch closely to make sure they do not burn. Cool and pour into the tabouli.

GRILLED PORTOBELLOS

6 Tbs. olive oil

6 to 8 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

4 scallions, minced (including green part)

4 shallots, minced

2 Tbs. minced fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil

2 Tbs. minced fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 portobello mushroom caps (about 3 inches in diameter) wiped clean and cut vertically into thick slices

4 to 5 cups mixed salad greens such as mesclun mix or baby greens mixture. You can also use baby spinach leaves.

freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

In a glass bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, garlic, shallots and scallions. Whisk well to mix. Remove about one-third of the marinade for later use.

Add the mushroom slices to the remaining sauce and stir well to thoroughly coat them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three to six hours (or longer), stirring occasionally.

Heat the broiler. Lay the mushrooms on a cookie sheet or baking dish and drizzle with a tiny amount of the marinade. Place the tray about 2 inches from the heat, if possible. If the heat source is farther away, you will need to broil for a few minutes longer. Broil for about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the mushrooms and broil them for another four minutes. Cooking time depends on the temperature of your broiler. Watch carefully.

Heat the remaining marinade to just boiling. Remove from heat and cool. Drizzle over the greens and mushrooms.

The mushrooms can also be grilled on an outdoor barbecue. Cook on a hot grill for about 6 minutes. Turn the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure they don't burn.

To serve, distribute the greens evenly on individual serving plates. Place several broiled mushrooms on top and cover with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Or place all the greens on a large platter, cover with the mushrooms and then with the cheese. Drizzle the sauce over the greens and mushrooms.

This recipe can be done in the morning and left to marinate while you are at work. Broil when you get home.