Jewish tradition is full of delicious foods that are used to celebrate love – from wedding feasts to simpler meals enjoyed with loved ones. Here are some festive recipes that celebrate love and fellowship. Try them today!

Chocolate

In 2013, the French Government officially thanked its Jewish community for introducing the most quintessentially romantic food – chocolate – to France five hundred years before. In the 16th Century, Sephardi Jews fleeing the Inquisition settled in France – and brought the New World food cocoa with them. Chocolate soon spread throughout France – and beyond.

Chocolate-Dipped Oranges

These easy-to-make chocolate treats were popular throughout Jewish communities in Western Europe.

  • 2 small oranges
  • 4 oz fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Line a rack with paper towels. Cut a thin slice from top and bottom of each orange. Cut orange into segments. Put them a lined rack. Let dry about 30 minutes, patting them often with paper towels. (A small amount of moisture can make the melted chocolate solidify and make it impossible to use in dipping.)

Line a tray with waxed paper. Melt chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove bowl from pan; cool to 88-90 degrees F, or until it feels neither warm nor cold to the touch.

Dip ½ of one orange segment in chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip into bowl. Transfer orange sections to wax paper. Dip remaining sections, setting on wax paper with chocolate-half of all oranges pointing in same direction. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until chocolate sets. Remove from refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 to 16 dipped orange segments.

Recipe from 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy (IDG Books 2000).

Mustacchioni (Almond and Chocolate Cupcakes)

These delicious pastries are a specialty of the Jewish community from Trieste.

  • 7 oz (200g) dark, bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup (200g) lightly roasted blanced almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (90g) sugar
  • 2 T rum (optional)

Put everything in the food processor and blend to a soft, creamy paste. Drop into little paper cups by the heaping tablespoonsful. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F (180 degree C) oven for 25 minutes, or until slightly firm. They are meant to be soft and moist.

(For a version from Padua Jewish community, use only 2 oz – 50g – of chocolate and add 2 oz – 50g – of chopped candied citrus peel.)

Makes about 28.

Recipe from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996).

Dates

Dates are another sweet treat that has long featured in romantic dinners. In Jewish tradition, dates are one of the foods we eat at Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize our hope that we triumph over our enemies in the new year.

Ajweh Helou (Walnut-Stuffed Dates)

This delicious, easy-to-make rich snack is from the Syrian Jewish community. It makes an elegant end to a meal or accompaniment to drinks.

  • 1 pound Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup whole walnuts
  • ¼ cup sugar

Fill the hollow of each date with a walnut. Finish the dates by rolling in the sugar. These are best eaten fresh.

Makes approx. 30 stuffed dates

Recipe from Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews by Poopa Dweck (2007).

Date and Walnut Loaf

This exotic, rich cake is popular among the Jewish community of Britain; where it’s often enjoyed sliced, with a cup of tea.

  • 8 oz (225g / 1 1/3 cups) chopped stoned dates
  • 6 o (175g / ¾ cup) soft brown sugar
  • 1 o (25g / 2 T) butter
  • 1 level t bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 8 oz (225ml / 1 cup) boilingwater
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t vanilla essence (extract)
  • 2 oz (50g / ½ cup) chopped walnuts
  • 8 oz (225g / 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 t baking powder

Put dates, sugar and butter into a basin, sprinkle with the bicarbonate of soda anad pour on the boiling water. Leave until steaming stops, then add the beaten egg, vanilla essence, walnuts and flour. Pour into a 2-lb (900g) loaf tin, greased and bottom-lined with silicone or greaseproof paper.

Bake in a preheated oven, Gas No. 4 (350 degrees F / 180 degrees C) for 1 – 1 ¼ hours, depending on the depth of the tin. When done, the loaf will spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave overnight before slicing.

Makes one 2-lb (900g) loaf

Recipe from The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook by Evelyn Rose (Robson Books, 2000).

Beets

Perhaps it’s because of their ruby-red color, but beets were long associated with love and romance in the ancient cultures of the Middle East. New research has given us a modern reason to eat them: beets contain tryptophan and betaine, which enhance feelings of well-being.

Borscht (Beet Soup)

This recipe, from Holocaust survivor Chana Wiesenfeld, is a way to connect her grandchildren with the past, she says: preserving beloved family traditions like recipes and favorite dishes is a way to “start a conversation” about family history. After the Holocaust, Chana traveled to Israel, served in the Israeli army, and eventually moved with her husband to the United States, where she cooks this rich Ukranian borsht still.

  • 1 lb. beef flanken
  • 4 large purple-red beets (about 2 ½ lbs.), washed, peeled and halved
  • 1 lb. carrots (about 5 or 6), peeled and grated
  • 1 small green cabbage (about 1 lb.), shredded in long striops
  • 1 whole onion, peeled
  • 4 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly chopped dill leaves
  • 2 T chicken flavor powder (optional)
  • Boiled new potatoes, for garnish (optional)

In a very large pot, bring 6 cups of water to boil and cook the flanken, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface. While the flanken cooks, prepare the vegegables for the soup. Take a spoon or small melon baller and scoop out the center of each cleaned and peeled beet half. (Chana warns the centers are tough and sometimes bitter; discard them.) Using a large box grater, grate the beets and carrots on the largest hole. Shred the cabbage into long strips and peel the onion, but leave it whole. By this time, the flanken should be cooked.

Remove the flanken from the pot, rinse and pat dry. You can remove the meat from the bone and cut it into small chunks, or leave it on the bone. Rinse out the pot and fill it with 8 cups of fresh water or broth. Stir in the beets, carrots, cabbage, onion, tomato sauce and lanken. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 1 ½ hours, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface. After 1 ½ hours, stir in the powder (f needed to boost the flavor), garlic, and dill and season to taste with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the soup hot with the traditional garnish of boiled potatoes.

From Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival – The Remarkable Stories and Authentic Recipes of Holocaust Survivors by June Feiss Hersh (Ruder Finn Press and The Musium of Jewish Heritage, New York, 2011).

Plums

Plums play a major role in Chinese tradition, where they are associated with wisdom and age. In western culture, their sweet taste and juicy texture make them an ideal food for celebrations.

Zwetschenkuchen (Rich Plum Cake)

Jewish scientist Otto Loewi won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1936. His granddaughter, Ruth Weiss Bollinger, recalls “Because of that, he and two of his sons were rounded up and imprisoned on the very night of the Austrian Anschluss, one week before I was born. He was forced to buy all three lives with the Nobel Prize money.” Loewi was eventually able to bring his family out of Israel to safety in the United States. His granddaughter still makes this delicious cake out of small Italian plums; it was Loewi’s favorite.

  • About 5 lbs. (or more) Italian prune- type plums
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 eggs-weight of sugar
  • 2 eggs-weight of flour
  • 1 egg-weight of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash, halve, and de-pit the plums. Separate the eggs. Whip the whites to a stiff snow, and refrigerate them. Cream the egg yolks and sugar. Blend in the flour and gently fold in the egg-white snow. Spoon our pour the mixture into a well greased glass baking dish. Pour in the butter and mix in carefully; make sure the dough entirely covers the bottom of the baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Stand the plum halves in the dough on their edges, densely enough that they keep each other from falling over. It’s fine if they are actually touching. (Weiss puts them in 3 or 4 dense rows.) Bake for another 45-60 minutes until the dough (which has risen around and between the plums) is nicely browned and/or a small knife or skewer pierced into the dough, not a plum, comes out clean.

Recipe from Holocaust Survivor Cookbook (Caras and Associates, Inc., Port St. Lucie, Fl, 2007).

Wine

Fine wine can enhance any celebration, from a wedding to a warm family dinner. Wine is also traditionally associated with love and romance. In the Song of Songs, it is compared with love: “Your love is better than wine” (Song of Songs 1:2). While wine is wonderful to drink, these recipes offer some ways to incorporate wine into celebratory dishes, as well.

Sugar-Crusted Wine Mandelbrot

Mandelbrot are a Jewish biscuit similar to Italian biscotti. They are baked twice: after the first baking, these biscuits are cut into thin strips and baked a second time, resulting in a crunchy, light cookie. This unusual variation of a traditional dish is divine.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sweet red kosher wine
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped cranberries

Dipping mixture

  • ½ cup sweet red kosher wine
  • ¾ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl, blend the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Blend in the eggs, then add the wine. Fold in the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter, then stir in the nuts and cranberries. The batter will be loose and sticky.

Spread or spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheets in strips approximately 9 inches long by 4 to 5 inches across. Bake until set and golden, 28 to 35 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.

Dipping Mixture: Set out 2 plates, fill one with the wine, and the other with the sugar.

Cut the baked cookies on the diagonal about ½ inch thick. Using a pastry brush or spoon, generously drizzle some wine onto one side of each cookie, then dip it into the sugar. Alternatively, you can just dip one side of the cookies in wine, then in sugar. If you do this, the cookies will be outstanding, but you might find they will need a longer second bake to dry out properly. Lay the cookies sugar side down on the parchment-lined baking sheets.

For the second bake, return the Mandelbrot to the oven until they appear crisp an dry (30 to 35 minutes), turning them once after 20 minutes.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size

Recipe from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman (Doubleday, 1996).

Jaffa Orange Delight

Cookery writer Joan Nathan recalls being given this recipe by Kena Shoval, the wife of Zalman Shoval, the former ambassador of Israel to the United States; Kena liked to serve this dish – incorporating Israeli oranges and wine – at official luncheons. It gains its intriguing flavor from brandy liqueur; brandy is a strong alcoholic drink that is distilled from wine.

  • 6 Jaffa, or other flavorful oranges
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup orange brandy liqueur
  • 6 sprigs of fresh mint

With a sharp knife, remove the rind and pith of 4 oranges. Cut the peel into very narrow strips, about 1/8 inch wide. Put them in a saucepan of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and wash with cold water, then drain again.

Peel the remaining 2 oranges and remove the pith. Leave all 6 oranges whiole.

Mix the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then slip in the 6 peeled oranges. Cover with a plate so they won’t float, lower the heat, and simmer slowly for 1 hour.

Remove the pot of oranges from the heat and let cool. Fish the fruit out of the syrup and drain, then refrigerate. Add the strips of rind to the syrup, bring to a boil, and cook to reduce the syrup by half. Remove from the heat and add the orange liqueur.

When the oranges are completely cold, slice them in thin rounds. Serve with the syrup and strips of the peel on top. Decorate with fresh mint leaves.

Yield: 6 servings

Recipe from The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001).