Like many of you, I like to design fabulous Shabbat menus. Every week I go through recipes on this site and my collection of cookbooks to create a menu that is unique, seasonal and contemporary. You will never see the same menu twice. For years I followed the same approach for the holidays. The result was that our holiday meals moved farther and farther away from the food our parents and grandparents served to us.
I myself am guilty of wounding some traditions as I have said to audiences when discussing nutrition that kugels have no place at our tables every week if we want to eat a healthy diet. I have said, “If we turn our vegetables into cake, how can we justify eating dessert at the end of the meal?”
Yet, if we snub our noses at the food of our ancestors, then the next generation will be culinarily disconnected from their roots. Already my children think bagels are thoroughly American and won’t touch chopped liver. Admittedly, I realized at some point that I was failing to show them the beauty of traditional Jewish food. So I went back to tradition.
I continue to serve tuna tartare, veal osso bucco, mango gazpacho, and apple tart tatin for Shabbat meals, but when it comes to the holidays, I make sure the meal highlights the best of old world Ashkenazi cuisine. On Rosh Hashanah quinoa is replaced by kasha, skirt steak and chimuchuri sauce with brisket cooked with eight pounds of onions, apple and parsnip soup are replaced with traditional matzoh ball soup and I even make homemade gefilte fish. For dessert we have apple cake, strudel, rugelach and honey cake. OK, I have tweaked those recipes a bit to make them a little more modern, but my children now associate Rosh Hashanah with these traditional desserts.
For the first recipe, I took classic honey cake and made it into a cupcake with a toasted seven-minute icing that tastes like marshmallow. The second recipe turns honey cake into a banana bread-type cake with gooey chocolate and crunchy nuts. These are definitely traditional honey cakes, only better.