In Jewish astrology, a fish is the sign for mazel (luck), prosperity and innocence. It is also the symbol for the month of Adar, which the Talmud calls the most joyous of months.
This year, we get an extra dose of good fortune and happiness since it’s a leap year and when that happens, the lunisolar Hebrew calendar realigns itself by adding a second month of Adar known as Adar II (in Hebrew, Adar Sheni or Adar Bet).
Adar I (Adar Aleph) begins on the evening of February 8th and Adar II (Adar Bet) on the evening of March 10th. The Jewish leap year occurs seven times every 19 years and when it does, the celebration of Purim is moved to Adar II (Purim is said to add to Adar’s reputation for bringing luck).
It is thanks to Oakland Ruach Hadassah, my local Hadassah chapter in northern California, that I first became aware of the unique ebb and flow of the Hebrew calendar and of Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the beginning of each of the 12 months of the Jewish year (13, in a leap year).
My Hadassah chapter, in conjunction with the women’s group of Temple Beth Abraham (my Oakland, Calif., synagogue), meets monthly to discuss the symbols, history and the promise of the new month and to share Jewish learning. Being the author of a cookbook, I always like to contribute information on any food connections there are to the new month.
Mark the double luck of Adar I and Adar II, and the leap year, by serving a fish dish (which I realize may be not so lucky for the fish!). Consider my recipe for roast salmon with citrus-honey sauce, adapted from my cookbook, 52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen (The Collective Book Studio). It offers big flavor with minimal fuss (for the best taste and to support the environment, choose wild or sustainably raised salmon).
In this recipe, which I serve all year round, the spices and mint mesh with the citrus and honey sauce. The optional Sichuan peppercorns, the dried husks of prickly ash seeds, add a mild, pleasant tingle (they are available in spice stores, Asian and specialty markets and online). Crush them lightly with a mallet or in a mortar and pestle before using. If you are worried about their intensity, start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more if desired.
Roast Salmon with Citrus-Honey Sauce
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course or 8 to 10 as a starter
1/3 cup fresh orange, blood orange or tangerine juice
1/2 cup light-colored honey
1/2 tsp. crumbled dried mint leaves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or paprika
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. lightly crushed Sichuan peppercorns, optional
1-1/2 to 2 lbs. salmon fillet
6 Tbsps. thinly sliced green onions
Vegetable oil for the baking sheet
In a small bowl, mix the orange juice, honey, mint, salt, cayenne, black pepper and crushed Sichuan peppercorns (if using) to make a marinade. Set aside half of the marinade to use later for the sauce.
Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Place the salmon, skin side down, in the pan and brush the top of the salmon with some of the marinade. Let sit for at least 30 minutes but no more than 60 minutes, brushing often with the marinade.
While the fish is marinating, heat your oven to 350°F and while it is warming, make the sauce: Pour the reserved half of the marinade into a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds (15 to 20 minutes). Taste and adjust the salt and other seasonings, if desired. Set the sauce aside until serving.
Brush any of the remaining uncooked marinade over the salmon. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, basting with the pan juices after 10 minutes, until the salmon is cooked to the desired doneness. When the fish is fully cooked, an instant-read thermometer, placed in the thickest part of the fillet, should read 145°F and the flesh should be opaque but still very moist all the way through.
To serve, transfer the salmon to a platter and spoon the sauce over the fish. Sprinkle with green onions and serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Make it in advance: The fish and sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated separately in airtight containers.