Rosh Hashana is early this year but don't sweat that arrival Sept. 4 at sundown. Cap holiday meals with cooling — and cool — desserts that are both festive and summery.
You may, especially if you shop locally and seasonally, want to alter your usual Rosh Hashana menu, with its fall focus on apple desserts, honey cakes and stewed fruit compotes, to take into account what's available at the market. But it can be done with nods both to custom and the calendar, says Nick Zukin of Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen in Portland, Ore., and co-author with Michael Zusman of the just-published cookbook, "The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home" (Andrews McMeel, $27.99).
"Look for what's good," he says. While apples and honey are traditional new year foods, Zukin notes Rosh Hashana is also marked by eating a new fruit just coming into season.
"It is something that represents something good and tasty and represents a good new year and going forward with something plentiful for the new year," he says. "For you, it may be blackberries or pears or pomegranates. Who knows?"
A chilled fruit soup, which concentrates the fruit essence while allowing you to add other flavors for complexity, is one such option, he said. Simply puree the fruit, add some honey or mint and garnish with fresh berries or cubes of melon.
Laura Frankel, executive chef of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago, also wants to retool traditional fruit dessert choices for a summery celebration.
"Some of the usual fare, like an apple tart, doesn't seem appropriate," she says. "Imagine making a honey cake on Labor Day weekend. Ugh!"
Frankel's idea is inspired by the snow cones of childhood. The author of "Jewish Cooking for All Seasons" and "Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes," takes those apples and honey, tosses them with the freshest fruit of the season and spoons them over mounds of ice with mint sprigs and pomegranate seeds (known as arils) for garnish.
"The number of arils is supposed to represent the number of commandments in the Torah," Frankel notes in an email about the recipe. "And that is part of the holiday tradition, to eat pomegranate arils and remind ourselves of the commandments."
For those who don't want fruit, there's always chocolate. Ruth Joseph, co-author of "Jewish Traditional Cooking" (Kyle, $29.95), suggests chocolate mousse.
"You make it in advance and it goes into the freezer," Joseph says by telephone from her home in Cardiff, Wales. "You can put it in a mold shape and cut it into slices if you wish so it's easy to portion. Put a little brandy with it and the adults will think it absolutely delightful."
Make it summery by serving fresh berries or a microwave-stewed compote of nectarines and peaches with each slice.
Just keep whatever you do easy. As Frankel notes, Rosh Hashana leads directly into the Sabbath on Friday at sundown.
"We are going to be feasting for many days," she says. "I want a festive and beautiful dessert but I don't want to plotz each and every evening trying to get the meal on the table."
Mixed berry and apple-honey snow
Prep: 1 hour
Marinate: 1 hour
Note: Use whatever seasonal fruit is best in your locale for this Rosh Hashana dessert, advises Laura Frankel, executive chef of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. She uses honey as her sweetener as "it is the new year and I am hoping it will be a sweet one." Frankel bought an inexpensive manual ice shaver to make the "snow." You can also make the ice by pulsing ice cubes in a blender or food processor. Some refrigerators feature a setting to dispense finely crushed iced.
2 small apples, cored, cut into julienne
2 cups strawberries, sliced