The Holiday Cooking Marathon

Maple-Glazed Mini Squash. Photo: Baila Gluck


September: back to school, back to work, and back to all things routine . . . that is, until the holidays come just a few weeks later. Rosh Hashanah kicks off the holiday season in the month of Tishrei, a period that can seem like an endless marathon of cooking festive meals.

Much like an accountant during tax season, I often think of September as “crunch time”—time to regroup from summer, reorganize for the coming year and physically and spiritually prepare for the upcoming holidays. The fresh recipes chosen are no-fuss, to ensure I get my time in shul as well. Consider advanced preparations an investment into your holiday experience, one which will allow for more time focused on the holiday itself and less stress in the kitchen. After all, Tishrei is about the journey, rather than getting to the finish line.

All of the following recipes have some “do ahead” component to make your yom tov prep easier. Wishing you a stress-free shanah tovah u’metukah—a sweet and happy New Year!


Maple-Glazed Mini Squash
Yields 8 servings

Mini squash are perfect for individual portions and for stuffing. Any mini winter squash can be used with this simple method, but I favor sweet dumpling. While I like to serve these freshly made, the squash prep is very easy to do 1–2 days ahead, and then it is 5 minutes to assemble and get into the oven!

4 mini winter squash (e.g., sweet
dumpling, baby acorn,
gold nugget, et cetera)

Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
½-¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup fresh cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.

2. Cut squash in half; scoop out seeds and any fibrous strings. Trim bottoms if needed so the squash halves sit flat on the baking sheet. Place squash halves on lined baking sheets.

3. Sprinkle each half with salt, pepper and cinnamon. Drizzle maple syrup and oil over halves, brushing the liquid to coat the whole cut area. Fill each half with approximately 8–10 cranberries (or as many as fit comfortably). Roast for 25–35 minutes, or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork and cranberries are bubbling.

Chef’s Note: The larger or thicker the squash, the longer the cook time.


Quick-Pickled Cucumber Salad Photo: Baila Gluck

Quick-Pickled Cucumber Salad
Yields 4 servings

This is a perfect do-ahead salad. Prepare the other ingredients and the dressing while the cucumbers are curing. Can be made a day ahead. Serve by itself or as an accompaniment to fish.

1 large English cucumber
(or 2 large cucumbers)

½ teaspoon Kosher salt,
plus more to taste

4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
13 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup vegetable oil 

1. Peel four strips from cucumber, leaving space in between peels to create a striped pattern. Slice cucumber into ¼-inch-thick slices on the bias; place slices in a large colander or sieve. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and set aside for 20–30 minutes. Rinse and drain well.

2. Place cucumbers, scallions, dill and parsley in a large bowl.

3. In a separate small container, combine vinegar, sugar, pepper and ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste). Cover tightly and shake until dissolved. Add oil; cover and shake vigorously until well combined. Pour over cucumbers and toss to coat.


Fresh Salmon Sliders
Yields 1012 medium salmon burgers or 1518 mini sliders

Versatile and family friendly, these fresh salmon burgers make a wonderful fish appetizer as a mini slider. A great do-ahead item, I prepare the burger patties and freeze raw in a single layer on a sheet pan until I need them. Patties can be pan-fried or grilled, and they reheat well too.

Salmon Burgers
1½ pounds salmon fillet, skin
removed, cut into chunks

3 tablespoons mayonnaise or 1 egg
Juice of ½ large lemon
(about 1 tablespoon)

1½ teaspoons sweet pickle relish
¼ cup fresh dill (stems removed)
¼ cup fresh parsley (stems removed)
1 scallion (white and green parts)
or ½ shallot, cut into chunks

¾ teaspoon Kosher salt,
or more to taste

¼-½ teaspoon black pepper
or more to taste

1cup coarse bread crumbs
or panko crumbs

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Cucumber-Dill Sauce
1 large cucumber, peeled,
seeded and diced

½ cup sour cream or mayonnaise
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
(or 3-4 teaspoons dried dill)

1 shallot, minced
Juice of ½ lemon (about 1
tablespoon), or more to taste

3-4 tablespoons water,
or more as needed

Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment; set aside.

2. Place salmon, mayonnaise (or egg), lemon juice, relish, herbs, scallion, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with an “s” blade. Pulse processor until contents are coarsely choppeddo not puree into paste. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add bread crumbs, mixing until well blended. Using moistened hands, form mixture into round patties (not more than ½-inch thick). Arrange on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for an hour (or place in freezer for 15 minutes) to set.

3. While burgers are setting, mix all sauce ingredients except water in a small bowl. Add water gradually as needed if sauce is too thick. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if needed. Cover and refrigerate.

4. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry cakes until nicely browned on each side and opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side (flipping once during cooking). Transfer to a rack or plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve warm or at room temperature on a bun topped with cucumber-dill sauce, lettuce and tomato.

Chef’s Notes: Burger patties can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Raw patties can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, or frozen up to 2 months (wrap well in parchment paper and plastic wrap in a single layer). Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Recipe yields about 1½ cups. Keep refrigerated.


Veal Roast with Moscato-Fig Sauce
Yields 6 servings

A tender holiday roast with the festive sweetness of dessert wine and figs. Can be made ahead and frozen. Slice before serving.

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ small fennel bulb, trimmed
and chopped (a scant cup)

1 shallot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (3½-pound) veal shoulder roast
¼ cup honey
10 fresh or dried black
mission figs, halved

1 cup Moscato (sweet white wine)
¼ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place chopped onion, fennel, garlic and shallot in the bottom of a medium roasting pan (large enough to fit a rack). Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place a roasting rack over vegetables. Rub remaining 1 tablespoon oil all over the veal roast and season liberally with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Place roast on the rack.

2. Roast for 10 minutes, until browned. Turn roast over and repeat for an additional 10 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and reduce oven to 325°F. Drizzle honey over roast and add figs and wine to the bottom of the pan. Cover with tented foil and return to oven. Bake for 1½ hours or until meat thermometer reaches 155°F internally.

3. Remove from oven and transfer roast to a platter or cutting board. While veal rests, pour the contents of the bottom of the pan through a sieve set over a small saucepan. Reserve the figs and set aside. Press the vegetables against the sieve to release any additional liquid into the saucepan. Discard vegetables.

4. Add stock and cornstarch to saucepan; whisk to blend until completely dissolved. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer, whisking often, until mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency (can coat the back of a spoon).

5. To serve: Slice veal crosswise into thin slices. Transfer to platter and pour sauce over veal (or serve on the side in a gravy boat). Garnish with reserved cooked figs.

Chef’s Note: A meat thermometer is an invaluable tool in determining perfectly cooked meat. Be sure to use one for perfectly moist veal. This recipe can also be made with a large turkey roast—cook until it reaches 158°F internally.

Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer based in Woodmere, New York. She teaches classes throughout the country and writes articles connecting good cooking and Jewish inspiration. She is excited to be writing her first cookbook, which will be released soon.


This article was featured in the Fall 2022 issue of Jewish Action.
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