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  • Writer's pictureElie Ravitz-Basser

The Jewish New Year--New Beginnings on the Farm

Rosh Hashanah--The Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time of reflection, renewal, and introspection. Its customs and rituals, from dipping apples in honey to the sounding of the shofar, serve as powerful symbols of a fresh start. Rosh Hashanah, the "head of the year," can inspire us all to embrace the potential for change and growth as we embark on a new year filled with opportunity. For instance, the custom of dipping apple slices in honey represents the hope for a sweet year ahead. This simple act signifies the desire for a fresh beginning, filled with the sweetness of life's blessings. In Jewish tradition, food plays a significant role, with each dish symbolizing different aspects of the holiday. During this time, I always make round challah. Instead of the usual braided challah, Rosh Hashanah calls for round loaves of bread. because the circular shape symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and the eternal renewal of the new year. Similarly, this is also a new year for our animals.

A New Chapter for Pedro and Ashley

Our equines, Pedro and Ashley, have been the best of friends and constant companions for nearly a decade. While the two have always been close, we have been searching for another equine companion for them in their new home. Pedro and Ashley used to be part of an equine triumvirate. Sadly, their friend, Matilda, passed away several years ago. Concerned that her death left them feeling forlorn, we searched for a new companion to take Matilda's place. We did not have many requirements---just a calm, healthy female horse who would get along well with Ashley. Last week, with the help of our farrier, we found a match! Her name is Blonde Mare and she is a 15 year old mare. Blonde Mare used to be a polo horse but aged out of the sport so for the past few years, she has been a field-boarding horse. When we went to see her, it was immediately clear that she has a calm personality, well fit for riding and for befriending Ashley and Pedro.

From the Garden: Spotlight on Okra

The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah usually falls at the end of summer/beginning of autumn so it is a perfect time to use our farm's summer vegetables before they go out of season! As you can see below, I handpicked vegetables to incorporate in my own Rosh Hashanah dishes. The okra, which is the long, pod-like green vegetable, was the star in many of these dishes. Okra, also known as "lady's finger", is a versatile and nutritious vegetable that has found its way into the hearts and kitchens of many, including my own. While it has become a staple in Southern cuisine, the history of okra is a fascinating journey that stretches back centuries and across continents. The story of okra begins in Africa, where it was cultivated for thousands of years. Known as Okra is believed to have originated in West Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. The vegetable is an integral part of African cuisines, used in stews, soups, and various other dishes.

Okra's journey from Africa to the Americas

The transatlantic slave trade played a significant role in the spread of okra to the Americas. As enslaved Africans were forcibly transported to the New World, they brought with them their agricultural knowledge, including the cultivation of okra. The vegetable quickly adapted to the diverse climates of the Americas and became an essential ingredient in many dishes. Okra quickly became a key ingredient in Southern cooking, finding its way into recipes for gumbo, jambalaya, and other regional specialties. Okra is unique in its ability to thicken stews.

Okra's Nutritional Value

Because of it's unique texture, many people overlook okra as a nutritious vegetable. However, okra has extremely high fiber content, which helps clean out bacteria and other build up in your intestines. Whether you're looking to improve digestive health or simply enjoy a tasty and nutritious vegetable, okra is a good choice tom incorporate into your cooking repertoire.

(Bamya) Mediterranean-Style Okra

Extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion chopped (1 cup chopped onion)

4 garlic cloves minced

2 small green chiles such as jalapeno chopped

1 lb frozen or fresh cut okra sliced into rounds (or small whole okra, trimmed)

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon coriander

½ teaspoon paprika

1 ½ cup crushed tomatoes

½ cup water

1 tomato sliced into rounds

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (or pan with a lid) over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking.

2. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, garlic and chopped jalapeno peppers. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes stirring regularly (do not let the garlic burn, if needed adjust heat).

3. Add the okra and sautee for 5 to 7 minutes over medium-high heat.

4. Season with kosher salt, black pepper and spices. Toss to coat.

5. Add the crushed tomatoes and water. Stir to combine. Add the tomato slices on top. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover most of the way (leave a little opening at the top).

6. Let the okra simmer on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until the okra has softened.

7. Uncover and add juice of ½ lime (more to your liking).

Duck Egg Quiche:

1 pie crust (or homemade dough)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 ounces baby spinach

4 fresh duck eggs

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).

Roll out the dough and place in a 9-inch pie plate, or if using a ready-made crust, defrost according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the diced shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach and cook just till the spinach has wilted.

Spread the spinach mixture across the base of the pie dough in an even layer.

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Whisk till the yolks break. Add in the milk, half the cheddar cheese, and the salt. Whisk till combined.

Pour the egg mixture on top of the spinach mixture. Spread the remaining cheese across the eggs.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center of the quiche has set.

Allow quiche to cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pistachio-Crusted Salmon:

2 wild salmon fillets (approximately 6 ounces (175 g) grams each)

salt and pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 tablespoon honey

⅓ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Rinse salmon and pat dry. Place salmon on a lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place salmon on a parchment-lined quarter sheet baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and honey. Spread ¾ of the mixture evenly over the salmon.

Add pistachios to the remaining mixture and stir to combine. Spoon the pistachio mixture on top of the salmon and press lightly into salmon using the back of a spoon.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until salmon is flaky. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Apple Babka:

2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F (43°C)

2 and 1/4 teaspoons (7g) Platinum Yeast from Red Star (1 standard packet)*

1/3 cup (62g) granulated sugar, divided

5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, sliced into 1 Tbsp-size pieces and softened to room temperature

2 large egg yolks (reserve 2 egg whites for filling and topping)

1 teaspoon salt

2 and 2/3 cups (334g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more as needed and extra for work surface and hands


3 Tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, divided

2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced into bite-size pieces (2–2.5 cups, or 250–313g)*

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (or a mix of both)

1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour

2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 large egg white (reserved from dough)

Prepare the dough:

1. Whisk the warm milk, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

2. Add the remaining sugar, the butter, egg yolks, salt, and 1 cup (125g) flour. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add another 1 cup of flour. Beat on medium speed until relatively incorporated (there may still be chunks of butter). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1/2 cup of flour and beat on medium speed until the dough begins to come together. As the mixer runs, add another 2–4 Tablespoons of flour depending on how wet the dough looks. (I usually add another 2 Tbsp, which makes it about 2 and 2/3 cups of flour total.) This should be a very soft and almost creamy-feeling dough. Do not add more flour than you need.

3. Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 3 minutes. Add additional flour as you knead it, as needed to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. The dough is very buttery and soft.

4. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 3–4 hours or until nearly double in size. This dough is rich with fat, so it takes longer than other doughs to rise.

for the filling:

5. Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a large skillet on the stove over medium heat.

6. Add the apples. Stir and cook until the apples are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice to help prevent browning. Set aside. For the rest of the filling in this step, make sure you don’t prepare it too far in advance because the butter will solidify and spreading onto the dough will be difficult.

7. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a medium heatproof bowl in the microwave (or use the stove). Stir in brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract until crumbly and combined. Stir in the egg white. Set aside.

8. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

Shape the dough:

9. When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Flour a work surface, your hands, and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a 12×16-inch rectangle. Carefully and slowly spread the cinnamon filling mixture on top. Place the log on its seam. Fold in half, then twist it to form a figure 8. Pinch the ends together. Place in prepared loaf pan.

2nd Rise:

10. Cover shaped babka with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it’s puffy and nearly reaches the top of the loaf pan, about 1–1.5 hours.

the crumble topping:

11. Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add the cold butter and using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut butter into the brown sugar mixture until pea-size crumbles form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

12. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Place a baking sheet on a lower oven rack to catch any juices or crumbles that may drip/drop down. (Has only happened to me once!)

13. Carefully brush the surface of the babka with last remaining egg white. Using a toothpick, poke 10–12 holes all over the top of the loaf. This allows steam to escape from inside the loaf so the layers don’t separate. Sprinkle with crumble topping.


14. Bake for 60–65 minutes or until golden brown on top.

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