Growing up in the Cooper household, we were not the most religious family. We didn’t go to temple every Friday and Saturday night. And we did not keep kosher in our house. One thing we did do, though, was to come together and celebrate on the holidays. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were always memorable occasions to go to temple because we always met up with family and friends we had not seen in a while.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which ends with Yom Kippur. (This year it starts Sept. 16.) During Rosh Hashanah, Jews are encouraged to spend the days in introspection by considering their behavior and making amends in order to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. We also light candles, bless bread, recite prayers and put on feasts with traditional dishes.
We serve sweet foods, such as apples dipped in honey, to symbolize the promise of sweetness in the year ahead. Challah, traditional braided Jewish egg bread, is studded with raisins or small sweets, then shaped into a round—mirroring the cycle of life. Honey replaces salt for the blessing of the Challah as well.
I remember the most exciting part was waiting for the end of the Rosh Hashanah service when the rabbi would blow the ceremonial Shofar (a ram’s horn instrument traditionally announcing the new moon), signaling the beginning of festivities. Our suits and ties would come off, replaced by jeans and T-shirts. The house would fill with all the wonderful smells that would come from my mother’s kitchen.
If I close my eyes now, I can still smell the amazing and delicious aromas.
Shooed away from trying to sneak a taste of the freshly made chopped liver in the fridge, we’d rush into the dining room where the table—extensions added to accommodate visiting relatives—would be set with all of my mom’s favorite China and special silverware. Everything would be laid out: Gefilte fish, Tzimmes (sweet stew), carrots, sweet potatoes or prunes, the Challah bread, bottles of wine and juice, salads, dressings and horseradish. My brother and I would always laugh at whoever was tasked with making the horseradish next because the harsh spicy fumes that come off of the freshly made version will make anyone cry.
It was a real feast: steam-filled bowls of golden broth with two Matzo balls, then the crème de la crème, my mom’s brisket: fork-tender pieces of meat. Next was the roasted chicken stuffed with herbs. I couldn’t wait to get a piece of that crispy skin. Platters of vegetables followed and my mom’s famous noodle Kugel.
By this time, we would start to feel full, but we somehow were always able to make room. More wine and juice would be poured; more laughter and stories would be shared; then desserts and coffee; lastly, mom’s apple cake. Later, she would get containers ready for to-go bags for everyone. My mom always made enough food to feed an army… no one would ever go hungry in the Cooper Household.
Every time before friends and family arrived, and once everything was set out, my parents would call us into the living room so we could sit and just talk. This was considered quality bonding time. Discussing all of the fun things we did over the past year, the sad times we had and what we planned to do for the New Year. I really didn’t understand it back then, but now as a parent I look back at all of the amazing ways my parents brought us together. Family was so important—and what better way to bring us all together than sharing food?
1. Cook and strain the noodles. Set aside.
2. Grease the pan for baking.
3. Combine eggs, vanilla and white sugar in a large bowl.
4. Add cottage cheese, nuts, butter and sour cream.
5. Combine all remaining ingredients.
6. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
7. Bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees F. (Cover with foil, then remove about five minutes before done time.)
8. Cool slightly, then serve warm.
9. No need for a garnish because with the brown sugar caramelized over the top, it looks great on its own. Makes five servings.
1. Peel and slice apples, then place into a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cinnamon
2. In a larger bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
3. In a medium bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients.
4. With a wooden spoon, stir the sifted dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until smooth. This will make a firm batter, but the end result is a really moist cake… as all of the apples release their juices causing it to loosen up.
5. Grease and lightly flour a Bundt pan. Pour in some of the batter, place some cinnamon apples on top of the batter, then repeat until all of the batter is used.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
7. Once ready, place a wire rack on top of the cake and turn it upside down to slide the cake out. Cool and serve at room temperature with a scoop of honey or vanilla ice cream. Serves eight.
Note: If balls don’t hold together, add more Matzo Meal.
1. In a bowl, mix water, melted shortening, salt and pepper to the beaten eggs.
2. Mix well into Matzo Meal.
3. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight (covered).
4. Using a tablespoon, measure out the dough in little dollops onto a cookie sheet so it is all equal pieces.
5. Boil a pot of water.
6. When the water is boiling, wet your hands so the dough does not stick and form balls, dropping one at a time into the boiling water. (Do not make in soup or soup will become cloudy.)
7. Serve immediately. Makes six servings with two Matzo balls per person.
Read more about Hualalai in Four Seasons Magazine.
As executive chef at New Mexico’s Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, Andrew Cooper is passionate about bringing the kitchen to the dining room so guests can experience the beauty of fresh, seasonal ingredients. A graduate of the esteemed Culinary Institute of America, Chef Andrew has also worked at Four Seasons properties in Hawaii, Los Angeles’ Westlake Village, California and New York. His pastimes include bike riding, visiting galleries and museums, and spending time with his wife Ruby and two young sons.
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