Rosh Hashana’s symbolic foods represent things we ask to be granted in the coming year, the Jewish New Year. But they simply might represent words. Enjoy these easy-to-make symbolic salads and the puns that go with them on Rosh Hashanah.
Apples dipped in honey are the classic first siman. They represent our wish that the coming year may be sweet.
Beets are selek (in Hebrew), which reminds us of the word lesalek – to remove. “May our enemies be removed.”
Make a beet salad with some thinly sliced onion, salt, pepper, a little cumin, olive oil, a little sugar, and vinegar. Just add seasonings and keep tasting and adjusting till you like it.
Black-eyed peas are rubiah – similar to yirbu – to increase. “May our merits increase.”
Rather than serve them hot, make another salad of them, seasoning it with a little chopped onion and a handful of mixed, chopped cilantro, parsley, and celery tops. Add lots of fresh lemon juice to balance the earthy taste of the peas. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pumpkin – in Hebrew k’ra. This is a homonym, in Hebrew, for both “tear apart” and “read.” “May any evil decree be torn up, and may our merits be read in Your presence.”
This is a simple saute of onions, chopped tomatoes, and thin slices of pumpkin in olive oil. Add a handful of your favorite fresh herbs: cilantro, parsley, a little sage, thyme. For body, splash in a dollop of white wine or two tablespoons of good soup. Give it all a good stir and it’s ready.
Leeks, in Aramaic karsi, are associated with the Hebrew word karas – to cut down – “May our enemies be cut down.”
Slice the whites of slender, fresh leeks and stir-fry them in olive oil. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve cold.
Dates, tamarim, sound like the word sheyitamu – consumed. We wish for those intending evil to be consumed.
Stuff pitted dates with pecans or walnuts, and serve.
Pomegranates are said to contain 613 seeds each: the number of the mitzvot given to the Jewish people. We eat pomegranate seeds in hopes of fulfilling all our mitzvot in the coming year.
An easy way to get the seeds without splashing yourself scarlet from the juice is to submerge the fruit in a deep bowl full of water. Cut and de-seed the pomegranate while it’s in the water. Remove the seeds with a slotted spoon to a bowl for serving.
Carrots – gezer in Hebrew, sounds like g’zar – decree. May we be granted a good decree for the coming year.
An ever-popular carrot salad: finely grate 1 medium carrot per person; add the juice of an orange and a handful of white raisins.
The Head of a Fish symbolizes our wish to be “as the head, and not as the tail” in the world.
Lay a fresh, cleaned fish (making sure it’s local and chemical-free) in oiled baking paper. Stuff it with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, 1/4 cup chopped onions, and a handful of parsley/cilantro/mixture of thyme and rosemary as you like. Salt and pepper it, shake ground cumin and paprika over it, and drizzle olive oil over all. Bake for 20 minutes – 1/2 hour at 350 F 180 C, or until the flesh comes away from a probing knife in white flakes.
Or try this recipe for Moroccan Fish Stew. Enjoy the fish – save the head for the siman!
How to say the request. Before the first bite of each siman, say the following formula, ending the sentence according to the symbolism attached to each one.
“May it be Your will, our G-d, and G-d of our fathers, that (apples with honey) we have a sweet new year…(beets) that our enemies be removed…(black-eyed peas) that our merits increase…(pumpkin) that any evil decree be torn up, and may our merits be read in Your presence…(leeks) that our enemies be cut down…(dates) that those intending evil be consumed…(pomegranates) that we fulfill the mitzvot…that we be granted a good decree for this year…(fish head) that we may be as the head and not as the tail!”
…And…Does anyone actually ever eat the head of the fish? Depending on the size of the fish, there’s actually a nice amount of flesh in the cheeks. But many families simply display the head and eat the rest.