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Honoring Family Traditions: A Persian Rosh Hashanah Feast

This year the final iftar, or breakfast for Muslims who celebrate Ramadan, falls on the evening of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Iftar culinary traditions vary widely, much like those for Rosh Hashanah, depending upon the community where it is celebrated and the local foods.

Louisa Shafia, author of “Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life,” whose father is from Iran and is Muslim, and whose mother’s family is Jewish and from Eastern Europe, grew up with both holidays and celebrated with dishes from both heritages.

“My dad is from Iran, and when I was little my mom really wanted to cook the dishes he grew up with – stews, a lot of rice, lots of fresh fruit and nuts,” Shafia says. It was “always about fresh and healthy food.”

Her family culinary traditions have continued and, though Shafia says her family is not particularly religiously observant anymore, they still celebrate holidays with a delicious meal. “When my family celebrates Rosh Hashanah this year it will really be about getting together and having a special meal and thinking about the New Year,” she says. Her dinner will combine her family’s culinary legacies in a Persian-inspired Rosh Hashanah feast.

Iranian Jewish culinary traditions have links to both Ashkenazic and Sephardic customs, and include unique dishes of their own as well. “If you were in Iran on Rosh Hashanah you would eat chives, apples, honey, zucchini, black eyed peas, beef tongue or meat from a sheep’s head beet root, dates and pomegranate,” Shafia explains.

Drawing inspiration from Jewish and Persian cuisines, her dinner will consist of fesenjan, a traditional persian chicken stew made with pomegranate syrup and beets, green rice flavored with dill, cilantro, parsley and saffron and Indian-inspired chickpea fritters served with a honey-lime sauce. And for dessert, she will serve apples and pears poached in orange blossom water, to ring in a sweet New Year.

Recipes for Louisa Shafia’s Rosh Hashanah Dinner:

Fesenjan (Chicken in Pomegranate Walnut Sauce)

Green Rice

Chickpea Cakes with Lime Honey Dipping Sauce

Poached Apples and Pears in Orange Blossom Water

All recipes are reprinted or adapted with permission from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press. Available January 2010.

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