Plan High Holy Days menu with help from my black book

It’s that time of year: time to begin menu planning for the High Holy Days. I always start by consulting my giant black book.

This repurposed sketchbook is where, for almost 30 years, I have recorded special or memorable meals I have served family and guests. Before I started my blog it was also where I saved recipes I created or collected. Going through it for menus and recipes past, I can see how my tastes and cooking evolved. My favorite part is seeing who joined me at the dinner table.

Below are two entries from my black book. The Apple, Honey and Vinegar Chicken is a holiday favorite for nights when it is just the four of us. The Pear and Fig Cake is my adaptation of a recipe I got from a chef whose dessert I enjoyed many years ago.

Apple, Honey and Vinegar Chicken

Serves 4

3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 lb. small Granny Smith apples

4 Tbs. oil

2 cups sliced onion

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. dried mint, crumbled

1/4 tsp. ground mustard powder

3/4 tsp. dried rubbed (ground) sage

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 cup chicken stock

3 Tbs. honey

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 Tbs. parve margarine

3 Tbs. finely chopped parsley

Pour vinegar into bowl. Peel apples if desired. Core. Slice into 1/4-inch wedges. Place in bowl, stir to coat.

Heat half of the oil in 12-inch frying pan on medium-high heat. Sauté onions until golden. Stir in red pepper, mint, mustard, 1/2 tsp. of the sage, and half of the salt and pepper. Add apples with vinegar. Pour 1/4 cup stock and honey into pan. Cook until apples are half cooked. Remove with sauce and reserve.

In the same pan, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Sprinkle with remaining sage, salt and pepper. Pan fry until browned and almost cooked through. Remove, cover with foil and keep warm. (Chicken will continue to cook.) Return apples, onions and sauce to pan. Add remaining stock. Raise heat. Bring to low boil, scraping up any browned-on bits from pan bottom. If chicken has exuded liquid, add it to pan. Stir in margarine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half.

Taste, adding more honey or vinegar if needed. Use tongs to place apples and onions on platter. Top with chicken. Drizzle with some of pan sauce, serving remainder alongside. Sprinkle with parsley.

Pear and Fig Cake

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup oil plus extra for greasing pan

12 fresh black figs

15 oz. can pear halves packed in juice

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1 egg, beaten

Spice syrup, optional (see below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Grease paper.

Cut 6 figs into 1/4-inch pieces. Cut each of remaining figs into 3 round slices. Line bottom of pan with fig rounds. Drain pears, reserving liquid if making spice syrup. Cut pears into 1/4-inch pieces.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in oil, egg, diced figs and pears. Spread in pan. Bake 50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean and top springs back. Cool in pan on rack. Invert on platter. Serve drizzled with spice syrup if desired.

Spice syrup: Place 1 cup of pear can juice (add water if needed) into pan with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg. Boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced in half. Cool (syrup will continue to thicken).


Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].