Seven vegetable couscous is a colorful dish traditional to the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), but you need not save it for special occasions only. Though it’s a joyous time, Rosh Hashanah is also the first of the Ten Days of Awe, a period of spiritual reflection and repentance that culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
As with almost every sacred and ancient celebration, food plays a central role and is filled with symbolism. When making challah bread, for example, the baker might pinch off a bit of dough and burn it in the oven as a symbolic sacrifice. Serving carrots at Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the wish for prosperity in the coming year; the Yiddish word for “carrots” also means “to increase.”
Rosh Hashanah is more than a New Year’s celebration. The holiday’s ancient roots are as a harvest festival, and enjoyment of the abundant produce of early autumn remains central to the celebration. The foods served emphasize the holiday’s optimistic spirit.
Seven is a lucky number in Jewish tradition, so a soup or stew featuring seven vegetables is a New Year favorite among Sephardic Jews. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. This recipe is as easy as can be.
More vegan Jewish New Year
(Rosh Hashanah) recipes
For the couscous
- 1 1/2 cups couscous, preferably whole grain
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the vegetables
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 cup finely shredded white cabbage
- 1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
- 1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh or jarred ginger, or more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon each ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- Dried hot red pepper flakes to taste, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup golden raisins or finely chopped dried apricots
- 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup sliced or slivered toasted almonds
- Combine the couscous and water in a heatproof bowl. Cover and let stand until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then stir in the vegan butter, turmeric, and salt. Cover and set aside.
- For the vegetable stew, heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Stir in cabbage and sauté until both it and the onion are lightly golden.
- Add remaining stew ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add water as needed to produce a moist, but not soupy, consistency. The vegetables should be just tender, but still firm.
- To serve, arrange the couscous on the outer edge of a large serving platter and make a well in the center. Pour the vegetable mixture in the center, then sprinkle with the garnishes. Let each guest place a mound of couscous on his or her dinner plate and top it with the vegetable mixture.
You can substitute quinoa for the couscous. It will be less authentic, but no matter—it will be delicious, and also gluten free.
- Here are more Jewish vegan recipes.