Oh Honey!

0819_SGPV_Sticky_BOTTOM_CookingIT’S ONE OF our oldest foods. We see early evidence of it in cave paintings found in Spain dating back to 7000 B.C., and fossils from 150 million years ago attest to its longevity. We’re talking, of course, about honey, the iconic food of Rosh Hashanah. We spread it on challah, use it as a dip for apples and include it in cooked dishes and cakes. Sweetness is the order of the day for this holiday as we wish each other a sweet New Year.

Sugar was unknown in Biblical times. “For sweetening their dishes, biblical cooks relied upon wild honey, honeycomb, or more frequently sweet, viscous syrups (called dibs) made by boiling down the juice of grapes, pomegranates, figs and dates,” writes Kitty Morse in “A Biblical Feast: Foods from the Holy Land” (Ten Speed Press). “Honey symbolizes wealth. No wonder the promised land was described as the land of milk and honey.”

For Rosh Hashanah we want to use the best, but is there really a difference between the honey you find on the supermarket shelf and the fresh honey you buy locally from a beekeeper?

“The honey in stores, a lot of it comes from China,” explained David Marder of Bee Busters and Sundance Honey in Laguna Beach (949-497-6264). “Besides helping out the local economy, fresh honey contains pollens from your area and helps you from a health standpoint with allergies and asthma. You can use honey for burns, and chewing the comb helps your sinuses. Store honey is heated up to 160 degrees, which filters all the great things out.”

And then there’s the taste. “When I call for honey in this book,” writes Cara Mangini in “The Vegetable Butcher” (Workman, $29.95), “I mean the pure, raw kind. There is a big difference between this unpasteurized, deeply fragrant honey and the one-note commercial-grade honey sold en masse at the grocery store.” Use it in the dressing for her Kale and Spelt Berry Salad, a doubly-fitting addition to the Rosh Hashanah table, as spelt is an ancient grain.

Local honey sounds great, but if you spot a hive, are you thinking not in my own backyard? “We’re trying to make people more aware that we lose a lot of honeybees because people don’t want them around if they’re on a neighbor’s property,” noted Angel Powers of Angel’s Honey Farms in Anaheim (714-606-9539). “When people see bees, they panic. They don’t try to find a beekeeper – they call an exterminator. We do honeybee rescue as well as honey production. We take them and put them in a hive box so they can pollinate the flowers.”

Varietals of local Orange County honey include wildflower, sage, clover and orange blossom. To find other beekeepers in your area, go to www.honey.com/honey-locator.  

How about a break from the traditional honey cake this year and try this Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Honey Cream Cheese Frosting from “The Kosher Baker” by Paula Shoyer, the Martha Stewart of kosher baking. While the frosting pays homage to the honey, carrots couldn’t be more appropriate for Rosh Hashanah as well. The Yiddish word for “carrot” is “mehren,” meaning “increase,” and the round slices resemble gold coins, both reflecting our hope for a prosperous year.

And here’s a heads-up for you. Shoyer, a graduate of the Ritz Escoffier pastry program in Paris and author of “The Kosher Baker,” “The Holiday Kosher Baker” and “The New Passover Menu,” will be appearing at the JCC in Irvine on October 18th at noon to talk about her latest book, “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen (Sterling Epicure, $24.95).” A delicious catered lunch from the book will be served. The cost for JCC members is $27, non-members $32. Mark your calendar and reserve a spot now by calling 949-435-3400.

“Most Jewish cookbooks still have too many recipes with processed ingredients, not enough whole grains, too much salt and fats, and too much sugar, even in savory dishes,” Shoyer noted. “In this book I’ve made Jewish classics healthier and updated for the modern table. It’s food you recognize, because you still want to feel connected to your ancestors’ kitchens, but I made them more nutritious and often easier.”

 

Kale and Spelt Berry Salad with Sweet Cranberries and Honey-Lemon Dressing  

SERVES 4 to 6

FOR THE SALAD

Fine sea salt

1 cup dry spelt berries, picked through and rinsed

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

¼ cup very finely diced red onion

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra as needed

Honey-Lemon dressing (Recipe follows)

1 bunch curly green and/or purple kale (about 12 ounces), washed, ribs and stems removed, cut into two-inch pieces

Crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese, for topping (optional, for dairy meal)

Procedure:

1 Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add spelt berries and cook, partially covered, until tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Drain and spread out on rimmed baking sheet to cool.

2 Combine spelt berries, cranberries, walnuts, onion, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Drizzle in half the dressing and toss to combine all ingredients. Add kale and more dressing to taste, and toss until kale is evenly distributed and dressed. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, and top with feta, if using.

FOR THE DRESSING

Honey-Lemon Dressing

Makes about 2/3 cup

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk together lemon juice, salt, and honey in small bowl. Gradually stream in oil while whisking quickly and constantly until mixture emulsifies. Dressing can be made ahead and stored in airtight container in refrigerator up to one week.

Adapted from: “The Vegetable Butcher” by Cara Mangini

 

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Honey

Cream Cheese Frosting

YIELD 12 SERVINGS

Spray oil, plus flour for dusting pan

4 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup olive oil

½ cup orange juice

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 cups peeled thinly grated carrot (from about 5 large carrots)

 

Cinnamon Honey

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces cream cheese

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2¼ teaspoons cinnamon

3 tablespoons honey

7 cups confectioners’ sugar

1½ tablespoons milk

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round pans.

2 Beat eggs and sugars at medium speed 3 minutes until thick. On low speed mix in oil, orange juice, and vanilla.

3 In medium bowl whisk dry ingredients. Add half to bowl with egg mixture; mix on low speed to combine. Add remaining dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Mix in grated carrots.

4 Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake 40 minutes or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; turn out onto rack to cool completely.

5 Trim top and sides of cooled cakes with sharp knife. Slice each in half to create four layers.

6 Frosting: Beat cream cheese, vanilla, cinnamon and honey at high speed to combine. Add confectioners’ sugar in three parts on medium speed, mixing each addition completely. Add milk; beat 30 seconds until frosting looks creamy.

7 Frost each layer, turning tops of cakes top-side down. Frost top, then sides. Refrigerate until serving.

Adapted from “The Kosher Baker” (Brandeis University Press, $23.48) by Paula Shoyer  
Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.

 

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