Forget the agonizing, here’s an easy and elegant Rosh Hashanah menu

By SHANNON SARNA

NEW YORK (JTA) — We love to kvetch about how early or late Rosh Hashanah falls — as if we have any control or say when the holidays will appear. But this year, the Jewish New Year falls on the early side for us Americans, right after Labor Day and the start of school. So there’s no time to agonize over menus or prep for weeks, which can sometimes be a good thing.

If you haven’t been menu planning since July, don’t fret. You can still put together an elegant but time-conscious meal for a deliciously sweet New Year.

CROCKPOT SHORT RIBS WITH POMEGRANATE MOLASSES
Yield: 6 servings

Short on time but still want to make a beautiful main dish? Break out your slow cooker. These short ribs taste like you were slaving over a hot stove all day, when in fact you just threw it all in your slow cooker and then poured yourself a big glass of wine. The pomegranate molasses adds a traditional, sweet flavor perfect for the New Year. For an extra festive presentation, garnish the short ribs with colorful pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a larger crowd. I do not recommend skipping the step of browning the meat and veggies before putting into your slow cooker. It will add depth to the meat and vegetables and the overall richness of the sauce.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 pounds short ribs on the bone
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried coriander
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 or 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 ribs of celery, diced
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken, beef or veal stock
1 1/2 cups red wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses, plus extra for serving
Fresh parsley (optional)
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions:
Mix together the cinnamon, coriander, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the short ribs on a large plate and rub the spice mix all over the ribs, covering all sides. Allow to sit in the fridge covered in plastic wrap a few hours if you have the time.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Sear the short ribs on all sides until brown. You will want to do this in batches depending on how many ribs you make.

When all the ribs have been seared, place them into the bottom of your slow cooker.

Drain off all oil in pan, except for around 2 or 3 tablespoons. Add onion and celery to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook. After a few minutes, add 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste and cook until the tomato has incorporated into the vegetables.

Add the cooked vegetables to the slow cooker with the stock, wine, soy sauce and pomegranate molasses. Set your slow cooker for 6 hours on high and allow to cook, ensuring the short ribs are completely covered with liquid.

When short ribs are finished cooking, garnish an extra drizzle of pomegranate molasses, fresh chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds, if desired.

BABA BILLIE’S POTATO KUGEL
Yield: 10-12 servings

This kugel is renowned in my husband’s family, but the real credit goes to his grandma, Baba Billie Goldberg, of blessed memory, whose cooking was legendary. What I have learned from my husband about making potato kugel is that it is essential to heat the oil in the pan before adding the potato mixture. This step will ensure a crispy outside on the bottom and top.  This is not a recipe for anyone watching their waistline, so take a deep breath, embrace the indulgent nature of this traditional dish and enjoy the fat-laden ride.

Ingredients:
8 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded
2 medium-large onions, coarsely shredded
5 large eggs
1/4 cup matzah meal
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Paprika for sprinkling
Thick sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is preheated, add 1/3 cup olive oil to a 9-by-13 Pyrex dish and put into the oven to heat.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl. Add shredded potato, onion, matzah meal, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix until combined.

When oil has been heating about 10 minutes, remove from oven. Add a small spoonful of the potato mixture and if it starts sizzling, it is hot enough. If not, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.

When oil is ready, add the entire potato mixture and spread in a even layer using an offset spatula or large spoon.

Sprinkle sweet or hot paprika on top and a sprinkle of thick sea salt.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until crispy around the edges and golden brown on top. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ROASTED BROCCOLI WITH GARLIC
Yield: 6 servings

Broccoli is an easy and accessible side dish to make all year. Throw it in the oven, let it caramelize and you have a crunchy, slightly sweet vegetable that will have your guests raving. Extra points: It’s super easy and requires almost no prep time.

Ingredients:
2 large or 3 medium heads of broccoli
5-6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove stems from broccoli. Cut broccoli into medium florets. Spread on a large baking sheet, or 2 medium baking sheets so as not to overcrowd while cooking.

Add garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

Roast for 35-40 minutes, until just starting to get crispy and caramelized.

APPLES AND HONEY BUNCH
(Recipe by Brittany Fishman Pais)

No family fathering would be complete without a proper cocktail to mellow everyone’s mood, right? This recipe is a family favorite from Brittany Fishman Pais, whose mother likes to serve this punch to prevent the family “crazies,” as she calls them. And who doesn’t want to enjoy a festive drink that incorporates the traditional New Year flavors of apple and honey? Brittany recommends serving this drink with a honey swizzle stick and a thin slice of apple as garnish.

Ingredients:
1 quart apple cider
1 quart ginger ale
2 cups honey bourbon
1 or 2 Granny Smith apples, cut into slices
Honey sticks (optional)

Directions:

Chill apple cider, ginger ale and bourbon (if using).

Pour the apple cider, ginger ale and bourbon into large pitcher or punch bowl and add ice and apple slices.

Garnish individual glasses with an apple slice and honey stick, if desired.

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