Celebrating Sukkot With Culinary Stars’ Favorites

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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