Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins today at sundown. This year is unusual because of the early arrival of the holiday, which is determined by the lunar calendar; it has not been this early in the year since 1899 and won't be again until 2089.
As with most holidays, sharing meals is a core part of the celebration that brings family and friends together. But depending on the origin of your host, the food they serve will be very different.
Today, all "Jews who lived in lands that were part of the Islamic world" are called Mizrahi or Sephardim, distinct from the Ashkenazim associated with central and eastern Europe. Mizrahi is defined as "Jews who never left the Middle East and North Africa since the beginnings of the Jewish people 4,000 years." The word Sephardim derives from the Hebrew word for Jews from Spain, but is now a term applied to a much wider group.
Accordingly, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews incorporated culinary influences from their Middle Eastern surroundings but have made modifications so as to follow the laws of kashrut (dietary restrictions). These dishes often feature "rice, legumes, dried fruits, fish, pastry and exotic spices."
Here are a few delicious recipes to try from the MENA region, whether or not you observe the Jewish New Year.
Shana Tova (happy new year) and happy cooking!
(Adapted from the NY Times, which was in turn adapted from Esperanza Basson)