The Jewish High Holidays begin Oct. 2 with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, and will continue through the end of Yom Kippur on Oct. 12.
For the Jewish people, it is a time for celebration, reflection and repentance.
Dinner tables will be laden with tradition.
But, as with Thanksgiving or any other holiday meal, home cooks walk a fine line between tradition and boring.
Longtime cooking instructor Betty Ann Litvak of Columbus, Ohio, said younger generations of Jewish cooks are veering away from heavy, traditional Jewish holiday foods in favor of Israeli and other Mediterranean flavors.
The food traditions of Sephardic, or Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Jews, she said, are coming into favor over those of Ashkenazi Jews, who trace their roots to Eastern Europe.
Amy Stopnicki, author of the recently released cookbook “Kosher Taste” (Feldheim, 300 pages, $29.99), said honoring tradition at the holidays doesn’t mean a meal has to be boring, stale or heavy.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a couple of the real traditional dishes on your table,” she said. “Pair it with something a little more modern, a little newer and fresh.”
Stopnicki, of Toronto, Ontario — a wife, mother of four and full-time event planner — advises cooks to “mix it up.”
“You could have a really, really traditional brisket and a really new potato or potato stack, so that not everything on the table feels 50 years old,” she said.
Traditional recipes, particularly with kosher foods, she said, can be heavy and many folks today prefer to lighten up at least part of the meal.
On her own holiday table, Stopnicki said, she might prepare traditional beef brisket, roasted with mustards and served with herbed mashed potatoes and a spinach salad with apples and maple vinaigrette.
Apples are traditional Jewish New Year food, which are eaten symbolically as a hope for a sweet new year. Adding them to a salad is a new way to approach the tradition.
Stopnicki advises sitting down to create a menu before the meal to make sure the dinner features a balance of old and new, as well as a balance of flavors, colors and textures.
That balancing is the same theory she put into practice when creating her cookbook, in which she purposely included some of her grandmother’s recipes as well as dishes using new ingredients such as quinoa, pad Thai and tofu.
As with any other holiday, preparations go more smoothly with planning, she said.
Her advice: Take things in stride, and do things in a timely order.
She suggested making any foods that freeze well, such as soups and baked goods, in advance.
“Then, closer to the holiday,” Stopnicki said, “you’re really just focused on your sides and your main, and you can get them on the table without feeling like you are exhausted or running yourself ragged.”
— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.