The Jewish year 5774 is a bit of an odd year. Rosh Hashana is right after Labor Day and the second night of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving (really, check the calendar). But before you start thinking about stuffing your turkey with latkes, rejoice in the fact that this year you can say, “It’s Rosh Hashana: Fire up the grill!”
An early-September holiday — it starts at sundown on Sept. 4 — means we have the opportunity to adorn the New Year’s table with all manner of seasonal produce usually unavailable by the time of the High Holy Days. It’s a little early for apples and honey, and a little too warm out for my family’s usual roast chicken with prunes. But keeping the spirit of meat and fruit alive (a culinary proclivity embraced by both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews), try grilling chicken with a simple spice rub and add some late-season peaches to the grill for a fruit accompaniment so juicy that sauce is unnecessary.
For a vegetable side, slather grilled ears of corn with honey butter to get the year off to its trademark sweet start. And for starch, a fresh herb-studded pilaf with cashews and curry powder celebrates bright, warm flavors that complement the lingering warm weather.
In my family, Rosh Hashana without cheesecake would be unthinkable, regardless of the season, so that’s one thing that won’t (and shouldn’t) change. But a few fresh figs alongside as a garnish are a luxury afforded by the unusual calendar, and much appreciated. Add a fresh stone fruit tart (here, plum and almond, but many combinations would work), because one dessert is never enough. We can get used to this. Bagels on the beach for Yom Kippur, anyone?