As an American with both Persian and Jewish roots, I have the privilege of celebrating new beginnings three times each year on New’s Year’s Eve, Nowruz, and Rosh Hashanah, marking each occasion with its unique traditions. Much like Rosh Hashanah, Nowruz incorporates various symbolic foods to welcome sweetness, prosperity, health, love and other desired attributes into the new year.
Historically, I kept the Jewish traditions separate from the Persian ones, because that’s how I inherited them from my parents, but a few years ago, one of my cousins discovered a Persian Jewish cookbook that had been passed down the generations on my maternal grandfather’s side who is Sephardic Jewish and immigrated from Urmia, Iran in the early 1900s. After finding the book, my cousin started incorporating some of the recipes into her Jewish high holiday meals and inspired me to do the same. I had always loved the savory flavors of saffron, turmeric, and sumac and the sweet flavors of rose water and pomegranate molasses, but had never experimented with using these traditionally Persian flavors when making meals for the Jewish holidays until recently.
My husband and I hosted an intimate dinner for six on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Although we tried to ensure all the traditional Rosh Hashanah foods were represented, we also incorporated flavors commonly found in Persian cuisine. To start, we served our guests Challah with a mixture of Persian and Jewish cold appetizers, including whitefish, chicken salad, and yogurt dip with cucumber and mint. This was followed by apples dipped in honey and glasses of wine as my husband recited the Jewish prayers in Hebrew. This year, I found myself distracted by the delicious aromas that filled the house and thankful for his perfect Hebrew as a consequence of growing up in Israel, which meant that minimal time was spent on prayers and more time dedicated to enjoying our carefully curated meal together.
The salad course consisted of simple arugula and spinach salad with pomegranate seeds, walnuts, cooked shallots, and feta cheese, an adaptation of this recipe. On the side, we served a Persian-style carrot and black-eyed peas dish, similar to what is found here. Our main course consisted of herb and walnut pomegranate stuffed fish and Persian style rice with Tadig, or crust, topped with dried cherries, dates, pistachios, and orange peels, inspired by this recipe. For the fish, we used the New York Times cooking recipe, which our guests loved.
Dessert was honey cake, but next time we’ll add a honey-based Persian sweet, like baklava or zoolbia bamieh. Voila, Rosh Hashanah dinner with a Persian twist.