Noshin' Recipes: Ringing in the (Secular) New Year

As Jews, we officially have four “New Years” each year, but none match the revelry of December 31st. So, how can we make a decidedly non-Jewish holiday, well, Jewish?
Well, this is a food column. So, I propose we take a page from the food traditions that shape our other new year meals at other times of the year. Sweet foods for a sweet new year. Round foods to highlight the cyclical nature of our lives. Fish, specifically the head of the fish, to symbolize the head of the year. New fruits and grains (and animals, if that’s your eating persuasion) of the season, followed with a shehecheyanu.
And to further compound the awesomeness, New Year’s Eve falls on a Friday this year – Shabbat. As if you needed another excuse to celebrate.
To help you plan for this momentous super New Year’s Eve-Shabbat, I’ve got two recipes for you:

  • Salad of frisee with grapefruit and orange supremes and honey-sherry vinaigrette
  • Apple cider-spiced sweet potato souffle topped with baked apples and pecan praline sauce

Citrus Salad with Honey-Champagne Vinaigrette
Serves 6+
Take advantage of the just-picked citrus crop (who knew something so bright could be a winter item?) and toss it with the beautiful lacy, spiny frissee for an impressive starter. The honey-sherry vinaigrette is a nod to the honey we eat at Rosh Hashanah.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup Champagne (oh no! An open bottle of champagne on New Years! Whatever shall we do?!)
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
A generous pinch of salt
1 large tub/6-8 cups frisee (or any field greens you prefer)
2-3 oranges, sliced into supremes
2 grapefruit (try one regular and one ruby red for color variety), sliced into supremes
1/2 cup crumbled semi-soft cheese, like feta or gorgonzola (optional)

  1. Mix all the ingredients from the olive oil to the salt in a sealable container. Let stand until you’re ready to dress the salad.
  2. Combine the frissee/greens and citrus supremes.
  3. Toss salad with the dressing. Serve with crumbled cheese on top if you like.

Apple Cider-Spiced Sweet Potato Souffle Topped with Baked Apples and Pecan Praline Sauce
Serves: 8-10
This dish is at once light and comforting, even though there’s a fair amount of butter and sugar gracing two seasonal superstars – sweet potatoes and apples. It dares you to have leftovers. (Because they’re just. so. good.)
Souffle Ingredients:
5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
1/4 apple cider (or one packet instant cider plus 1/4 C water)
3 eggs, beaten
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick or 1/4 C) butter, melted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 apple, sliced into 1/4″ sections or rounds
Praline Topping Ingredients:
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick or 1/4 C) unsalted butter
3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 C pecans
2 tsp vanilla

  1. In an oven at 400 degrees, bake the sweet potatoes 35-50 minutes, until fork-tender. Let cool.
  2. While the potatoes are cooling, make the praline topping. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Stir in the remaining topping ingredients. Heat to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. The mixture should begin to thicken; don’t let it boil and splatter.
  4. Scoop the flesh out of the baked sweet potatoes and mash with a fork or use a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except the apple slices; stir to combine. The mixture should be light and easy to work with.
  5. Pour potato mixture into a greased casserole dish (a 3-quart dish works well).
  6. Place the apples slices in a single layer over the top of the potato mixture.
  7. Stir in pecans into the praline sauce just before removing from heat, and as close to the time the souffle is ready. Pour the pecan praline mixture over the apples, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.
  8. Bake until the top is set and the edges are starting to brown, about 30-40 minutes.
  9. Serve hot (although it makes a superb breakfast the next day served cold, if you must).

(Photos: John Keogh, blockwork, and Darwin Bell)