California fortune: fall fruits at New Year

Each Rosh Hashanah, as I set my table, I remember my mother setting hers with the new fruits of the season; a variety of apples, perhaps some pears and a bowl of dates and dried figs.

This was in Brooklyn, where the pomegranates, fresh figs, avocados and persimmons that grace my holiday table, didn’t exist except at very fancy grocers that imported them from “who knows where” as my mother would say.

They were considered very exotic, not to mention very expensive. How fortunate we are here in California to be able to go to our local green grocer or farmers market and select from a myriad of produce to make our New Year’s menu signify hope for a sweet year ahead accompanied by the prayer: “May it be Thy will, Oh Lord our God, to renew unto us a happy and pleasant New Year.”

In addition to arranging these fall fruits attractively on a platter for an edible centerpiece I love incorporating them in different courses for the holiday feast. Desserts come immediately to mind but even more enticing and interesting are using them in unexpected dishes.

Braised Cabbage and Apples | Serves 8

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large apples, cored and chopped
2 Tbs. honey
1 large head red cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat oil. Cook onion and apples until very soft. Stir in honey and cook 1 minute. Add cabbage and cook until wilted. Add wine and broth or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. If mixture is too liquid, uncover and cook over high heat for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates. Stir in salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Spinach Salad with Persimmons, Avocadoes and Pomegranate Seeds | Serves 8

8 cups torn spinach leaves or other seasonal greens (about 1 lb.)
3 Fuji (firm, squat) persimmons, cut into thin wedges
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
7 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper
seeds from 1 large pomegranate (about 1 cup)

In a large bowl combine spinach, persimmons, onion and avocado. Whisk together vinegar and oil. Toss with salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Baked Figs with Honey and Mint | Serves 8

16 fresh figs
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush figs with oil. Stand them upright on a baking sheet and with a sharp scissors cut an “x” in the top of each fig. Combine honey and lemon juice and sprinkle on figs. Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with nuts.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected] .