Celebrating Sukkot With Culinary Stars’ Favorites
Starry, starry nights, eating meals in the Sukkah with its leafy roof partly open to the star-studded sky, and enjoying a variety of vegetables and fruits from the final fall harvest is always a memorable and spiritual experience. The Sukkah symbolizes the temporary shelters in which our ancestors lived during their 40 years in the desert.
To celebrate the agricultural theme, fruits and vegetables take center stage on the Sukkot menu, including stuffed harvest vegetables (cabbage, eggplant, peppers, pumpkin, squash, eggplant and zucchini).
Sukkah kits are advertised on the internet and in various Jewish publications several weeks before Sukkot. As I’m writing this article, I receive an email announcing that I can order a complete set of arba minim (four species) for Sukkot online, with everything needed to perform the special mitzvah of arba minim on Sukkot. The set includes:
1 Lulav (palm), bound in a keshel (lulav holder made from palm leaves)
1 Israeli Etrog (citron) in a box
3 Hadassim (myrtles)
2 Aravot (willows)
My friends Cheryl and Len Goldberg of Toronto follow the tradition of serving a new fruit for Sukkot. Cheryl told me, “The best place to find a special or unusual new fruit is at an Asian market. I might use dragon fruit this year, or whatever catches my eye.” Since Len is a vegetarian, there is always a wide variety of vegetarian dishes to choose from at their table. I’m looking forward to seeing what special fruit Cheryl will choose this year when I am one of the many guests at their Sukkot celebrations.
New Sukkot traditions include “Sukkah-Hopping.” The guests go from Sukkah to Sukkah, admiring the delightful decorations created by each family: Sukkah walls decorated with children’s crafts, fall pumpkins filled with autumn flowers, candles placed in unusual shaped gourds, twinkling party lights on the walls and open, leafy roof simulating the stars.
Many families participate in progressive Sukkah meals, starting with a vegetable-based appetizer and/or a hearty vegetable soup in one Sukkah, various vegetarian dishes and fragrant chicken simmered in a fruity sauce in a second Sukkah, and ending with fabulous fruit-based desserts in a third Sukkah.
I’ve included several vegetarian dishes along with some vegetarian options for your eating enjoyment, so if you have vegetarians at your table, you can be sure no one will go away hungry! The meat eaters are sure to enjoy them as well. Chag sameach!
Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her latest book is NORENE’S HEALTHY KITCHEN: Eat YOUR Way to Good Health (Whitecap). For information about her cookbooks, cooking demonstrations and culinary services, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at http://www.gourmania.com
NORENE GILLETZ’S VEGETARIAN CHOPPED LIVER (Pareve)
Source: The Food Processor Bible (Whitecap) by Norene Gilletz
1/2 pound green or yellow beans
4 green onions, cut in 3-inch lengths
3 hard-cooked eggs, halved (or 1 hard-cooked egg plus 3 whites)
2 tsp mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Trim ends off beans and cook in boiling salted water until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.
2. Insert Steel Blade in the processor bowl. Drop onions through feed tube while machine is running. Process until minced. Add remaining ingredients and process 6 to 8 seconds longer. Chill before serving.
Yield: 4 servings. Do not freeze. (Recipe multiplies easily.)
* One 14-oz can of green or wax beans, well-drained, may be substituted.
* Two sauteed onions can replace green onions, if desired.
LISA TUTTLE’S MOROCCAN RED LENTIL SOUP
Adapted by Lisa Tuttle from a recipe she got from Maxim’s Restaurant, now closed. Lisa Tuttle who writes a food column for The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, shared the following two recipes with me which are excellent for Sukkot. This marvelous Moroccan lentil soup is perfect to serve in the Sukkah. Lisa also shared the recipe for Eti Cohen’s wonderful stuffed zucchini, which is a perfect way to incorporate vegetables from the fall harvest and can be made with out without meat. It also includes lemon, which reflects the citron flavor of the etrog that is one of the four species for Sukkot.
The Moroccan flavoring technique used in this recipe is one that can be used not only with soups, but with poultry and vegetables as well.
2 cups red lentils
3 tablespoons bulgur wheat
5 cups cold water
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 medium onion, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 teaspoon pareve chicken-flavored soup mix (such as Osem, Telma, or Kojel)
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Put lentils, bulgur, and cold water in a medium saucepan, cover pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until lentils split and become soft, about 30 minutes.
2. While the lentil mixture is cooking, put the remaining ingredients into the work bowl of a food processor. Using the metal chopping blade, process about 1 minute until you have a thoroughly combined paste.
3. Add the contents of the bowl to the pot with the lentils and simmer for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, adding more water if needed to achieve a thin, creamy consistency, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
ETI COHEN’S STUFFED ZUCCHINI
Here’s a dish that Eti Cohen traditionally prepares each Shabbat for the folks at Congregation Mikveh Israel. She varies the vegetables—bell peppers, onions, or cabbage leaves can be used in place of the zucchini. Stuffed vegetables are ideal for Sukkot because of their connection to the agricultural theme. The piping hot casserole dish can be brought to the table and is perfect for a buffet.
6 medium zucchini
2 medium onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ pound ground beef, turkey or chicken
3 tablespoons raw white rice
1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cut off the stem ends of the zucchini and hollow out the seeds and some of the pulp using a melon-ball tool or paring knife.
3. Chop one of the onions and saute along with the zucchini pulp in the olive oil until translucent.
4. In a bowl, combine the sauteed onion mixture, ground meat, rice, dill, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well with your hands or a spoon.
5. Fill each of the zucchini with the filling.
6. Grate the remaining onion and add it to the tomato sauce.
7. Spread half the sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top with the stuffed zucchini, and cover lightly with the remaining sauce. Cover dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Serve hot.
Yield: 6 servings.
(Meat or Pareve)
Pareve Variation: For a delicious vegetarian dish, substitute one 12-ounce package of meatless ground round (such as Yves Good Ground) for the ground meat and 1 cup cooked brown or white rice for the raw rice. You can also add grated carrot and celery or any other combination of vegetables to your filling.
LAURA FRANKEL’S VEGETABLE TAGINE
Laura Frankel, author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons (Wiley) recommends this wonderful Vegetable Tagine as part of your Sukkot menu. She writes: “This is a great dish to make ahead, as it seems to get better overnight. The cooked tagine can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to 5 days. Reheat the tagine covered at 350 degrees F until hot, adding a cupful of stock if the mixture seems dry.”
This riotously colored stew, full of beautiful squash and dried fruits, is one of my favorite dishes. The barley and potatoes also make it my ultimate comfort food. For a special occasion such as Sukkot, this stew looks gorgeous served from a large pumpkin that’s been hollowed out. Alternatively, you can use scooped-out mini pumpkins for individual servings. Of course, if you have a tagine or Dutch oven, it can be served directly from the pan. If you decide to use the pumpkin as your serving vessel, simply scoop out the pulp and seeds. Rub the inside with a little olive oil and roast the pumpkin in a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until lightly colored.
1 Tbsp coriander seed
One 2-inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp anise seed or fennel seed
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 medium Spanish onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup pitted dates, thinly siced
1/2 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
1 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Combine the coriander seeds, cinnamon, anise seeds, cloves and chili flakes in a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Set aside spice mix.
3. Heat a large saute pan and lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Saute the vegetables , seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, in batches until lightly browned, adding more olive oil between batches if needed. Transfer the vegetables to a tagine, a large, deep casserole dish, or an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.
4. Lightly coat the pan with oil again and sear the tomato paste until visibly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add the ground spices to the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the wine and 3 cups stock, stirring to dissolve the paste, then pour the liquid over vegetables. Stir in the dates, apricots, barley, and salt and pepper to taste over the tagine and roast about 1 1/2 hours, until the barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Serves 8 generously.
SUE EPSTEIN’S BIBLICAL CHICKEN
6 to 8 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp margarine
1 cup blanched slivered almonds (optional)
2/3 cup orange juice
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup semi-dry white wine
1 tbsp honey
2 small oranges, peeled, thinly sliced and the slices cut in half
1/2 cup white raisins
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle chicken breasts with flour, salt and pepper. Heat oil and margarine in a large frying pan and saute almonds until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.
2. In the same fat, saute chicken on both sides until golden brown. Remove chicken from the pan to a baking dish. Discard as much of the fat as possible without removing the brown bits in it. Add orange juice, lemon rind, chicken stock and wine; stir to incorporate any residue sticking to the pan. Stir in honey and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Arrange chicken pieces side by side in baking dish and pour the sauce over it. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
4. Remove chicken from baking dish and transfer to a serving dish; arrange orange slices on top. Cover and keep warm in a low oven or electric hot tray. Pour sauce into a small pan with lemon juice and raisins and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until thickened. Taste for seasoning if necessary, then pour sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
STEVEN RAICHLEN’S SEPHARDIC PUMPKIN STRUDELS
(Rodanchas de la Calabaza)
Steven Raichlen, author of Healthy Jewish Cooking (Viking), offers up these wonderful pumpkin strudels for Sukkot. His book contains 150 healthy, delicious recipes and is ideal for anyone wanting to prepare health-conscious Jewish holiday dishes.
Raichlen writes in the introduction of “Healthy Jewish Cooking:"The older I get, the more I come to appreciate the monumental importance of family. I've been shaped by family more than I can ever say – by my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – many of whom have passed on but who live on in my heart and memory. Their love nourished me as much as their cooking. I truly believe that what lies within me comes from them."
These coiled pumpkin strudels are a popular Greek-Jewish dessert. They’re traditionally served at Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot: their spiral shape symbolizes the cycle of life and the ascent of the soul into heaven. There’s a more practical reason for serving rodanchas in the fall: this is when calabazas (the squash used for making rodanchas) are harvested. This recipe comes from Steven Raichlen’s great-aunt Lily Modiano, who found when she moved to America that canned pumpkin could be substituted for calabaza. To reduce the fat, Raichlen uses spray oil and sprinkles finely chopped nuts between the layers of filo dough.
Note: The easiest way to chop the nuts is in the food processor.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
For the Filling:
2 (15-ounce) cans pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
To Finish the Rodanchas:
1/3 cup toasted unflavored bread crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp very finely chopped toasted walnuts, plus 1 Tbsp for garnish
1/2 tsp cinnamon
16 large sheets filo dough
Spray oil or 3 Tbsp melted butter
1. Prepare the filling: Combine the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a large, heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick and pasty, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. (The mixture should be thick enough to leave clean traces on the bottom of the pan when stirred with a wooden spoon.) Let the filling cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold.
2. Combine the bread crumbs, sugar, 3 Tbsp walnuts and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and toss to mix. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Open the package of filo, unfold the dough, and keep covered with a damp cloth. Spread a single sheet of filo on the work surface, narrow side facing you. Spray the filo with oil (or brush with melted butter), then lightly sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Place another sheet of filo on top, spray with oil, and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Fold up the bottom quarter of the filo rectangle, as though you were folding a business letter.
4. Spoon one eighth of the pumpkin mixture in a cigar shape along the bottom of the filo dough, not quite to the edges. (You’ll need 2 spoons to do this. If you’re handy with a pastry bag, you could pipe the pumpkin mixture through a 1/2-inch tip.) Starting at the bottom, roll up the filo and filling into a tube.
5. Starting at the end on the left and working gently so as not to tear the filo (it may tear a little anyway – don’t worry if it does), loosely coil the filo tube into a spiral. Set it on a nonstick baking sheet you’ve lightly sprayed with oil. Make the remaining rodanchas the same way.
6. Spray the tops of the rodanchas with oil (or brush with butter) and sprinkle with remaining chopped walnuts and any remaining bread crumb mixture. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm.
SHEILAH KAUFMAN’S CRAZY CRUST PIE
My foodie-friend Sheilah Kaufman is a cookbook author and cooking teacher based in Potomac, MD and we love to share our favorite recipes with each other. Her Crazy Crust Pie is perfect to serve in the Sukkah - or anytime of year. This recipe comes from her cookbook “Simply Irresistible: Easy, Elegant, Fearless, Fussless, Kosher Recipes from Around the World.”
Sheilah writes “This is a great recipe for those who love pies but who hate to make pie crusts – or, like me, eat the inside and discard the crust. In the summer I often use peaches instead of apples.”
5 to 6 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (or peaches)
4 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the apple slices in a 9- or 10-inch pie pan.
2. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle half over the apples.
3. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, cream together the margarine and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Add the flour, mixing only until ingredients are blended.
5. Spread the batter over the fruit, being careful to leave a 1-inch rim of fruit showing at the edge. Sprinkle the remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture over the batter.
6. Bake the pie for one hour. Cool on a wire rack for one hour.
7. Serve the pie at room temperature or chilled. Freezes beautifully.
Serves 6 to 8.