Every fall, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) rolls around right as the apple harvest comes into full swing. The timing could not be more fortuitous, since apples dipped in honey are the holiday's best known food symbol — an edible representation of one's wishes for a sweet and round year ahead.
As someone who regularly throws dinner parties, I understand the magic of a well-curated cheese board to make guests feel lavishly welcomed — and to tide them over until dinner is served. I adore the cheese, naturally, but often find it's the extras — the fruit, olives, breads, and spreads — that make the board feel particularly special.
I thought of these cheese board treats as I remembered how, growing up, I reveled in the sweet, sticky honey on my fingers and the crunch of the apple wedges as they enhanced and deepened the Rosh Hashanah holiday celebration. Over the years, I have also discovered that, after Passover, Rosh Hashanah is likely the Jewish calendar's most important entertaining holiday. Families and friends get together for big, festive meals to delight in each other's company, and celebrate the bounty of the season and the new year ahead.
This year, it occurred to me that Rosh Hashanah's traditional apples and honey pairing would make the ideal base for a killer cheese board. Riffing off the holiday food duo, and inspired by Middle Eastern flavors, I swapped out the apples for pears, switched up the honey, and layered several other Mediterranean treats onto a board to make a beautiful cornucopia worthy of a holiday dinner — or any fall gathering.
A Rosh Hashanah Cheese Board
- Pears: Traditionally, juicy apple wedges play the starring role on Rosh Hashanah. For a bit of variety this year, try swapping out slices of crisp, sweet Bosc pear.
- Silan (date honey): Try drizzling silvan — a molasses-colored, complexly sweet Middle Eastern syrup made from dates — over your fruit instead of regular honey. Or better yet, swirl the silan and bees honey together in a small dish to create a beautiful yin yang effect.
- Fresh figs: These Mediterranean jewels are in peak season during the late summer and early fall, making them the perfect addition to a Rosh Hashanah cheese board.
- Dried dates: A little extra sweetness never hurt on Rosh Hashanah, and plump Medjool dates fit the bill perfectly.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranates are a highly symbolic fruit in Jewish tradition — their many seeds are said to represent the 613 Jewish commandments. More importantly here, their jewel-toned hue adds a splash of color to the plate.
- Herbed goat cheese: Enhance a log of fresh goat chèvre by rolling it in the fragrant, Middle Eastern spice mixture, za'atar. For added creaminess, add a small bowl of tangy labneh (strained Middle Eastern yogurt) drizzled with olive oil to the mix. Or, if you keep kosher and are serving this board with a meat meal, substitute a dish of white bean dip topped with za'atar.
- Olives: Meaty green olives add an emerald brightness to the board, and their round shape is evocative of the cyclical nature of the year.
- Sourdough bread: Slices of sourdough provide a tangy base for the sweet and creamy cheese board goodies. If you prefer, substitute slices of your favorite baguette or crackers.