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Release date: 12/28/2004.

You'll find this story and these recipes and more in it, From AN EXALTATION OF SOUPS,
copyright © 2004
by Patricia Solley,
Published by Three Rivers Press.

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Soup to celebrate Rosh Hashana on 9/29/2000

(Holiday SoupSong 1: for September 29, 2000)

As promised, Soup of the Evening is delivering to your doorstep--in plenty of time--soup recipes and stories associated with specific celebrations around the world. In this shrinking world of ours, we owe it to ourselves to understand each other's holidays and customs...and one pleasant way to do so is to share with our families and friends soups that celebrate them. Today I offer a bounty of soups, because traditional Rosh Hashana feasts vary by location and by the traditions of different Jewish communities.

First, a little background.

THIS YEAR ROSH HASHANA, the first holiday of the Jewish New Year, begins on September 29. And it begins, as always, with a feast--a traditionally "sweet" feast that launches a 10-day period of reflection and prayer, ending with the celebration of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is believed that during this period all mankind passes before God, Who looks into their deeds and hearts and then passes judgment on them on Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashana's opening feast thus--optimistically--rolls out foods that symbolize hope and sweetness (raisins in Challah, honey, apples, figs, sweet potatoes, squashes, and carrots), fertility and abundance (pomegranates, eggs, and rice), or that signify the eradication of one's sins and enemies (leeks are karti in Hebrew, which means "cut off").

Soup shows up at most traditional feasts. Chicken soup with either matzo balls or kreplach is big everywhere. Leek soup is traditional in Sephardic traditions (the so-called Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal by Inquisitor Torquemada's 1492 decree and subsequently set up communities in Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, and the Middle East). Pumpkin and chickpea soup (Mark dil Gra il Chimra) is also a Sephardic tradition, and Morocco varies it by substituting yellow split peas for the chickpeas...and adding saffron, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Many Iranis eat a hearty chicken soup with rice after carrying out "simana milta," which describes the symbolic Rosh Hashana foods before consuming them. Iraqis dine on lemony "Hamuth" soup with lamb and fruits. Two recipes follow.

OMI ROSI'S PENICILLIN--AN AUTHENTIC BELGIAN/JEWISH GRANDMOTHER'S RECIPE FOR CHICKEN SOUP, for 8

1 chicken, 4-5 pounds
4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 bunch parsley root, peeled and chopped (if available)
2 large onions, chopped
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
4-6 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 celery root, peeled and chopped, if available (if not, add more celery)
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
handful of dill, finely chopped
4 quarts chicken stock
salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a big pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, lightly covered, for 2 hours--until everything is tender and soft. Skim off foam, from time to time, if needed.

Make matzo balls or kreplach (see below).

After 2 hours, remove the chicken and pick, discarding skin and bones. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Fish out half or so of the cooked vegetables and whirl into a blender, then returning to soup for thickening. Stir in the chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper. At this point, you can refrigerate overnight so flavors can blend--then skim fat before reheating.

Return to a simmer, let the steam build under a cover, then add matzo balls or kreplach, re-cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Don't lift the lid! Ladle into bowls and start thinking about your deeds over the past year and your hopes for the coming one.

Matzo balls:

1 cup matzo meal mixed with 1/3 cup shortening or rendered chicken fat (schmaltz), 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, a grind of white pepper, and 4 eggs--beat together, refrigerate for an hour, then form into balls and refrigerate til ready to cook.

Kreplach:

1 cup flour mixed with 1 egg, teaspoon salt, and 1/3 cup ice water--knead until smooth (about 5 minutes), shape into a ball, let rest 30 minutes. Flatten the ball and roll it out 1/8-inch thick, then cut into 18 squares, each 2 and 1/2-inches square. Drop teaspoon of filling (liver pate or minced chicken) onto each square, moisten the edges, then fold into a triangle. Press the tines of a fork all along the edges to seal. Let rest 20 minutes on one side, then 20 minutes on the other.

MOROCCAN PUMPKIN AND SPLIT PEA SOUP, for 8
(Mark del Gar'a

1 and 1/4 cups yellow split peas
1 large onion, chopped
10 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon saffron, heated and crumbled
6 cups (about 3-4 pounds) peeled, seeded, and cubed pumpkin (even better, butternut or another winter squash)
salt and pepper to taste
garnish: minced parsley

In a large pot, bring the stock, split peas, and onion to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30-40 minutes. Stir in the oil, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and squash cubes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer partially covered for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The squash will be beginning to fall apart and it and the peas will be tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Garnish each portion with minced parsley.

I hope you will write to correct, add, or contribute your own Rosh Hashana soup traditions.

Best regards, Pat Solley