Rosh Hashana's rich, slow-cooked foods and honeyed golden fruits reflect the changing seasons and offer the promise of a sweet new year. What if, however, the view outside the window isn't of maples and oaks but palms and banyan trees? And the colors aren't the rusty yellows and oranges of soon-to-fall leaves but the vivid turquoise of a sun-dappled bay or the hot pinks of an art deco hotel?
And, yes, that braised beef brisket of family tradition is surely delicious, but does anyone really want to eat that when the temperature is still surfing 90?
Chef Michelle Bernstein is not above cooking brisket for Rosh Hashana, which begins at sundown Sept. 16, but she's just as likely to toss it on the grill and sauce it with chimichurri.
"With the Caribbean and Latin influences down here, the food has to change. It's a little lighter and a little brighter in color," said the celebrity restaurateur behind Michy's and Crumb on Parchment, both in Miami.
Of Argentine and Jewish descent, Bernstein was born and raised in Miami. She is mindful of her family's traditions and helpfully distributes copies of her mom's brisket recipe to those who ask. It calls for two envelopes of Lipton's onion soup mix and a splash of whatever wine, white or red, that happens to be open.
Ask her for a Rosh Hashana menu that reflects today's South Florida vibe and she'll offer a whole roasted fish as the main course: yellowtail snapper with toasted garlic, sour oranges and chilies. And, for a starter, fried squash blossoms filled with burrata cheese and topped with a gazpacho vinaigrette.
"There's always something a little fried on the table. It's the Jewish way," she explained.
Also on the table: A salad, perhaps made of beets and Brussels sprouts, which takes Bernstein back to her South American background. The dessert? A mango upside-down cake, which smells of spice and honey when baked. That's appropriate for Rosh Hashana, she said.
"It's all about the sweetness, the honey, the celebration," Bernstein said.
Whole roast fish with toasted garlic, orange and chilies
Prep: 16 minutes
Marinate: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Note: Michelle Bernstein uses whole yellowtail snapper for this recipe; substitute striped bass, branzino, "anything fresh with scales," she said. (We used striped bass.) You may use fish fillets instead, just shorten the cooking time accordingly. Bernstein pairs this fish with sauteed Swiss chard and Israeli couscous accented with ground cinnamon, chopped fresh parsley and mint.
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 2 limes