Rosh Hashanah: Challah with extra virgin olive oil
In Judaism the olive tree, its fruit and its oil all have very special meaning. We all remember the story of the flood when the dove comes with an olive branch in her mouth as a sign of peace. In Psalms it states that homes with children like olive trees are truly blessed (strength, persistence and productivity). The purist, first pressed olive oil was used to light the menorah and the eternal light. The oil, which gives light, represents enlightenment and knowledge. The olive tree helps to sustain life by giving us shade, wood, fruit, and oil (for light, consumption, medicine, cleansing, and ritual). Could this tree be the tree of life? The olive tree can be cut to the ground. As long as the roots are strong it will grow back and is given a new beginning.
Although olive oil, in Judaism, is most related to the festival of lights, Hanukah, I thought it is also very appropriate for Rosh Hashanah recipes. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. We eat apples and honey to ensure a sweet year ahead. However, perhaps the olive symbolizes even more that we search for in the upcoming year: peace, purity, strength, knowledge, enlightenment, the ability to lift ourselves out of hard times thanks to our strong roots, and to be written in the book of life. I do not think it is completely coincidence that the holiday also falls very close to the season of olive harvest.
As every year, I will join my small group of Jewish friends in Seville for a Rosh Hashanah dinner. This year I was asked to make the challah. It is a first for me. I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I have just changed a few things in the recipe. I used fresh yeast (the only kind available), honey (instead of sugar since it is Rosh Hashanah), and EVOO (Arbequina).
I chose arbequina (the brand Melgarejo) because it often has a more buttery taste and is lighter than a hojiblanca or a picual. I think an hojiblanca could be an interesting addition to the recipe but since we are a mixed crowd tonight I thought it best to go with a more smooth flavor.
Happy New Year to those who celebrate and for those who don´t may we all find sweetness, peace, knowledge, enlightenment, and good food.