I love the holidays. Yes, they are a tremendous amount of work, but they are also a wonderful time to refresh, to count our blessings, and to connect to G-d, ourselves, and to our families. The special traditions and foods associated with the holidays always serve to remind me of my childhood and connect me to my roots. Yet, I am no longer a child and I no longer live in the same way that I did as a child. I live in a different country, far from where I grew up, my husband’s traditions are different from those of my father, and my children are sabras–along with everything that entails. Like all families do, we have blended and merged and now we have new traditions that sit alongside the familiar old ones. This is a dish which has become a tradition in our family and a way of combining both the old and the new. Here I retain the idea of serving a stuffed fish (gefilte fish), but I no longer stuff carp with carp but rather trout with pomegranates. The flavor of this dish is Oriental. The spice that I use in this recipe is cardamom, the same spice commonly used in Turkish coffee and one which I naturally associate with Israel. Thus this recipe symbolizes to me the fusion of the old and the new, where I came from as well as where I am now. I am using the same symbols as my parents (ad meah ve’esrim) use, but in a completely different fashion.
This dish uses two of the Rosh Hashanah symbols, the pomegranate and the fish. The fish is a symbol of luck as well as of fertility. We serve a fish head on Rosh Hashanah and ask to be larosh veloh lazanav (to be the head and not the tail). Pomegranates are eaten with the blessing sheneheye melaim mitzvot karimon (that our good deeds should be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate). Another ingredient in this recipe is pine nuts. Some Ashkenazic Jews don’t eat any nuts on Rosh Hashanah because the hebrew numeric value for nut (egoz) is the same as the numeric value of misdeed (chet). Others hold that the prohibition against nuts applies only to walnuts. If your tradition excludes all nuts then pumpkin seeds are a good alternative.
As a nutritional counselor as well as cooking instructor I always look at the health benefits of a dish as well as at the flavor. The nature of a holiday is one of excess. Holidays are a time when we strive to reach beyond the ordinary, to set ourselves new goals, and to appreciate all that is special and holy in our lives. While I am a big believer in reducing the amount of animal products that we eat, I think that holidays are the time to eat it. The richness of the animal products corresponds to the general holiday atmosphere and emphasizes our celebration. When asked to choose between animal products, fish is of course the healthiest. Fish is the animal product that is lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol and also a source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Pomegranates are a great health choice as well. They are high in the Vitamins A, C, and E and contain folic acid, niacin and potassium. They are rich in anti-oxidants, beneficial in healing breast and prostate cancer, help prevent hardening of the arteries and help to lower blood pressure. They are used in remedies for bladder disturbances and are also used to strengthen gums as well as soothe ulcers of the mouth and throat.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year.
2 fresh trout
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
pinch of cardamom
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
juice of 1/2 lemon
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Scoop out the seeds of the pomegranate and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the onions with the salt, pepper, and cardamom.
Clean the fish and set on a lightly oiled ovenproof dish.
Mix the fried onions with the remaining ingredients and use it to stuff the fish. If necessary, use a toothpick to keep the trout closed.
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Serve on bed of lettuce and garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Note: To make for easier eating, ask your fish-seller if he will fillet the fish for you without removing the head.