September 23rd, 2018


Fish dishes offer a feast of meaning for Jewish new year

Bill Daley

By Bill Daley Chicago Tribune/(TNS)

Published Sept. 11, 2015

Fish dishes offer a feast of meaning for Jewish new year

Rosh Hashana menus are ripe with foods symbolizing hopes for a sweet, successful year ahead, from rounds of challah bread to apples dipped in honey to pomegranates, whose arils are said to equal the number of commandments in the Torah. Fish, too, can be a delicious and symbolic addition to the two-day holiday.

Fish symbolize fertility, prosperity and abundance, said Laura Frankel, executive chef of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. Eating foods rich with meaning is an important Rosh Hashana tradition.

"It's the whole practice of eating our intentions or hopes for the year," said Frankel, who is also author of "Jewish Cooking for All Seasons." "It's kind of like eating beans at the New Year in the non-Jewish world."

Even a fish head serves as a reminder, said Denise Phillips, the Britain-based author of "The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook" and host of

"We want to be seen as the head and not the tail," she said.


Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25-40 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

This recipe comes from "Jewish Traditional Cooking" by Ruth Joseph and Simon Round. If you prefer, you can ask the fishmonger to remove the large backbone from the fish and scrape off the scales.

Herb stuffing:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup each, chopped: fresh flat-leaf parsley, fresh dill

  • 3 tablespoons drained capers

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 cup pitted olives

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

  • Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon or lime 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 whole sea bass, 3 to 4 pounds, or 4 smaller sea bass, about 1 pound each

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

  • Olive oil for drizzling

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. For the stuffing, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion; cook until tender and just starting to color.

2. Meanwhile, puree the herbs, capers and egg in a food processor until smooth. Scrape into a mixing bowl. Chop or pulse the olives; add to the herb mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, cooked onions, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

3. Fill the cavity of the fish with the stuffing. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of foil; arrange lemon slices down the center. (If using multiple fish, wrap each separately.) Place fish on top; drizzle with olive oil. Wrap fish to form a tight parcel; bake, 5 minutes. Turn temperature down to 325; bake until the fish is tender and flakes when poked with a fork, 20-35 minutes depending on size of the fish. Unwrap fish; carefully scrape away skin. Arrange on a serving dish.

Nutrition information per serving: 273 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 97 mg cholesterol, 13 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 530 mg sodium, 2 g fiber


Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

This dish from Laura Frankel, executive chef of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, can be used as a first course or entree. The sauce can be made and refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days.

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, about

  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced

  • 4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, ground coriander, cumin

  • Pinch of saffron

  • 1/2 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives

  • Freshly cracked pepper

  • 2 pounds halibut or favorite lean fish, cut into 3-ounce pieces

  • Fresh chopped herbs, pomegranate arils (seeds)

1. Heat a large skillet, lightly coated with olive oil (1 to 2 tablespoons), over medium heat. Add the eggplant; season with salt to taste. Brown the eggplant on both sides; set aside.

2. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons oil to the pan; add the onion and peppers, seasoning with salt. Cook until lightly caramelized and softened.

3. Add back the eggplant along with the tomatoes, garlic and spices. Reduce the heat to a simmer; cook until the tomatoes have released their juices and the mixture has cooked to a sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir in the olives; season with pepper and more salt, if needed.

4. Add the fish to the pan; cook until the fish has cooked through and is opaque and firm, about 10 minutes. Garnish with herbs, pomegranate arils and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with steamed rice.

Nutrition information per serving: 289 calories, 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 91 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 37 g protein, 377 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

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