Rosh Hashanah

Chef Nathan “Tany” Hashmonay, a native of Israel, studied at culinary schools and worked at restaurants in Israel and France before coming to the United States to continue his studies. He and his wife, Dina, have two sons, Itay, 12, and Evyatar, who is 9. Chef Tany, who was hired as the first chef/instructor for The Art Institute’s public restaurant, Artisan, currently teaches Classical Cuisines, including the Cuisines of Europe and the Mediterranean.

Those of us of the Jewish faith in September look forward to Rosh Hashanah, literally, “the head of the year.” We celebrate the Jewish New Year with a big family meal of traditional dishes and with services at the synagogue. Rosh Hashanah also marks the start of 10 days of reflection on hurts we have caused. The 10 days culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on which we ask for forgiveness.

Dishes vary, but the symbolic foods are the same, whether you live in Israel or the U.S. They represent what anyone wants in a new year: honey cake, for a new year as sweet as honey; apples, for a year smooth and without bumps like an apple; the head — not the tail — of a fish, that we may look forward, not backward; and the pomegranate, for a year as full as the pomegranate is full of seeds.

I use a regular fork to mince garlic finely. Hold the fork down diagonally against your cutting board. Scrape the garlic clove back and forth against the edge of the fork to get very fine garlic bits without any chunks.

Challah: Braided bread eaten in Jewish homes on the Sabbath and holidays, made with vegetable oil instead of butter. Baked in round loaves for Rosh Hashanah.


Honey Cake is a traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert symbolizing a “sweet” new year. You can make a large cake for a celebration or make two smaller cakes and freeze one. Serve them at any time like you would serve banana bread or pound cake. You can mix and match spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered cloves or ginger, depending on your family’s personal tastes. My wife adds all of the spices except cloves. It takes about two hours to prepare. Since you need brewed coffee for the recipe, you can enjoy a fresh-brewed cup of coffee while you cook.

3½ cups sifted flour
¼ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1½ cup nuts, walnuts or almonds
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
4 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cups dark honey
½ cup brewed coffee

Optional spices
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/8th tsp. powdered cloves
½ tsp. ginger

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices (according to personal taste).
Beat eggs, gradually adding the sugar, until thick and light in color.
Beat in oil, honey and coffee.
Stir in flour mixture and nuts.
Grease an 11x16x4 inch baking pan and line with aluminum foil (for two smaller cakes, use two 9-inch loaf pans), and turn the batter in to the pan(s).
Bake at 325° F (170° C) for 1¼ hours (50 minutes for two smaller cakes), or until browned and cake tester comes out clean.
Cool on a cake rack before removing from pan.