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How Do You Like Your Simanim?

Written by Leah Schapira on Sunday, 18 September 2011. Posted in Food Mood


I didn’t grow up eating most of the simanim featured here. When I was a child, our Rosh Hashanah table always had dates, figs, pomegranates, carrots, and, of course, the head of a fish. Flash forward a couple of years; I got married and saw that my sister-in-law prepares an entire spread — a full course of simanim appetizers.  We eat simanim as omens for a good year. They are also a wake up call to remind us to improve our behavior in the future. The source is in the Talmud, which explains that these foods that we eat on Rosh Hashanah night are omens for good things to come. The names of the foods in Hebrew and Aramaic hint at the blessings, for us to have a good year and for the evil decree of our sentence to be torn up.

The first thing you may notice as you peruse these recipes is that most of the recipes have sugar in them. And even those recipes that aren’t full of sugar, still contain some!  Sugar is sybolic for a sweet year. Thank you to my sister-in-law Debbie Englard for these recipes and inspiring us to incorporate these symbolic foods into our Rosh Hashanah meal. 

Symbolic Foods we eat:

Dates -

“May … our enemies be consumed.”

Pomegranates -

“May … our merits increase like (the seeds of) a pomegranate.”

Apples in Honey -

“May … you renew us for a good and sweet year.”

Head of a fish or sheep -

“May … we be as the head and not as the tail.”




Caramelized Carrots

“May it be your will, Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that our merits increase.”
8 carrots
1 cup sugar
½ cup oil
juice of one lemon
dash of salt
1. Peel the carrots and slice thinly. 
2. In a small pot, heat the oil. Add the carrots and sauté for 5 minutes. 
3. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt. 
4. Cook, covered, over low heat for 45-60 minutes. Uncover the last 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. 
Yield: 2 cups
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Leek Patties

“May … our enemies be destroyed.”
These are so delicious! If you like latkes, you will like these, as they are quite similar. Leek patties are our family’s favorite and I think we would make them even if they weren’t included in the simamin. Though it isn’t a very traditional ingredient, my sister-in-law adds a bit of chicken soup powder to the batter. If the batter is very loose, add a bit more bread crumbs. 
3 large leeks (or 4 smaller ones), white and light green parts only
water as needed
2 tablespoons oil
4 eggs
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs or matzah meal
pinch sugar
oil for frying 
1. Cut off the dark green part off the leeks and discard. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly. Cut the leek into strips and dice. 
2. Place leeks into a pot with enough water to cover. Add 2 Tablespoons oil. Bring to a boil. 
3. Drain very very well, pressing out excess water. 
4. Add the eggs, crumbs, salt, and sugar. Form the batter into patties. 
5. Pour a thin layer of oil into a skillet over medium heat and bring to a frying temperature. Slip patties into hot oil and fry until browned on one side. Flip patties and brown the other side. 
Serve at room temperature or cold. 
Yields: 20-24 patties
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“May … our merits be read before You and the EVIL decree of our sentence be torn up.”
Strictly speaking, the gourd family of vegetables includes cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash — the latter of which is our custom to use for this siman. In the United States, winter squashes SUCH AS spaghetti squash are often used. The choyote squash, with its edible skin, is widely used in Israel and other places with warm climates. 
3-4 chayote squash
juice of ½ lemon
1½ cup sugar 
½ cup water
dash of salt
1. Cut the squash in half. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and pith. Dice, with the peel, into small cubes. 
2. Place into a small pot. Add lemon juice, sugar, water, and salt.
3. Cook 1 to 1 ½ hours until caramelized and candy-like.
Yield: about 2 cups
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Beet Leaf Patties

“May … our adversaries be removed.”
The beet leaves shrink all the way down, so don’t worry if they fill the entire pot at first. In Israel, beet leaves are commonly used and are sold pre-washed in bags. Many also use spinach or Swiss chard. 
8 bunches beet leaves (each bunch is about 6 leaves)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs or matzah meal
dash of salt
dash of sugar
1. Wash the beet leaves very, very well. Remove the leaves from the stalks; discard stalks.
2. Place the beet leaves into a pot. Cook over low heat until they shrink and are very soft. Stir with a fork occasionally to break up leaves. 
3. Drain very, very well. Combine with the eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, and sugar. Form into small patties.
5. Pour a thin layer of oil into a skillet over medium heat and bring to a frying temperature. Slip patties into hot oil and fry until browned on one side. Flip patties and brown the other side.
Yield: 18 patties

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Black-eyed Peas

“May … our merits increase.”
½ pound black-eyed peas
water, for soaking and cooking
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
dash salt
1. Soak the peas overnight in water. 
2. Drain peas. Place into a pot and cover with fresh water. Add the sugar and lemon juice. 
3. Cook, covered, until the water has cooked off and the peas are very soft, about 2 to 3 hours. You may need to add more water if peas aren’t soft enough. 
Yield: 12 Servings
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As originally appeared in Ami Magazine

What are your Rosh Hashana traditions? 

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About the Author

Leah Schapira

Leah Schapira is the bestselling author of Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking. In 2010, Leah launched, the popular online kosher recipe exchange. Her cookbook career began at the age of 21, when she wrote her first cookbook as a fundraiser to begin channeling her passion for recipes. Leah is also a monthly columnist for Whisk, the popular kosher food magazine published by Ami Magazine, where readers appreciate her humor and wit. She has been featured in The Washington Post, The Star Ledger, and The Blue Lifestyle, among many others. When she's not writing cookbooks Leah enjoys traveling the world with her husband and children.

Comments (2)

  • cook7
    28 September 2011 at 14:42 |

    just saw this in the nick of time. i am just about to start cooking my carrots and will be trying your recipe! thanks and a gut yahr.

  • AidelK
    14 September 2012 at 00:52 |

    Those leek patties look so good! Today I made a sort of blackeyed pea stew, a new beet recipe, and caramelized butternut squash. Usually, though, I'm not so fancy! This will be bookmarked--thank you! L'shana tova!

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