Traditions are great, but an exotic cuisine can be even better

My Rosh Hashanah menus are generally quite traditional: apples and honey, matzah ball soup, brisket, honey cake, kugel — all the usual suspects at an Ashkenazi, Eastern European table. I grew up with these recipes, and they are tried and true — and delicious.

In recent years, though, I have tried to interject one or two dishes of Sephardic and Mizrachi origin, and it has brought a delightful departure to the menu.

Sometimes I concentrate on just one cuisine; other times I adapt an assortment of ethnic recipes for the celebratory dinner. Because Jewish food writers have popularized these cuisines with well-researched cookbooks, it is now easy to find Middle Eastern ingredients that produce an authentic result.

Syrian Roasted Potatoes

(Adapted from “A Fist Full of Lentils” by Jennifer Abadi)

Serves 6-8

1⁄4 cup plus 2 tsp. vegetable oil

3 lbs. white potatoes

1 tsp. salt

11 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. paprika

Aleppo pepper for garnish

1⁄2 tsp. allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan with 2 Tbs. of the oil. Set aside.

Parboil potatoes 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into

1-inch cubes and place in large bowl.

Mix 1/2 tsp. salt with the garlic and toss with potatoes. Pour remaining oil over potatoes and mix gently.

Arrange potatoes in a layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika and Aleppo pepper. Place the baking dish in oven and bake, uncovered, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with allspice and bake another 20 minutes or until potatoes are crisp on top.

Cream of Dried Fava Bean Soup

(Adapted from “Arabesque” by Claudia Roden)

Serves 4

11⁄2 cups split skinless dried fava or lima beans, soaked overnight

3 whole garlic cloves

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

good pinch ground chili pepper


lemon wedges

Rinse and drain the soaked beans and put them in a pan with the garlic and 6 cups of water. Simmer, covered, for about 1 hour. Crumble in the bouillon cubes and simmer another 30 minutes or until the beans fall apart.

Still in the pot, mash the beans with a potato masher and add the cumin, paprika, chili pepper and if necessary, a little salt, bearing in mind the saltiness of the bouillon cube. Stir thoroughly and cook a few minutes more. Add a little water if you would like the soup thinner.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Hamim (Overnight Chicken)

(Adapted from “The Foods of Israel Today” by Joan Nathan)

Serves 4

1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs.

salt and pepper to taste, plus 1 tsp. salt

4 Tbs. vegetable oil plus 1 tsp. for spaghetti

1 lb. spaghetti

1 cinnamon stick

6 cardamom pods

3 whole cloves

1 head garlic

1 tsp. ground cumin

Wash and dry chicken, season with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides in 3 Tbs. oil.

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. oil. Boil until al dente, then drain.

Place the chicken in a well-greased casserole. Surround it with the spaghetti, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, garlic, cumin, additional salt and remaining oil.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and bake, covered, for 8 hours or overnight.

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].