By Tina Wasserman
Many historians believe the Pilgrims’ first celebration of Giving Thanks was patterned after our festival of Sukkot. Jews made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem after the fall harvest to give thanks not only for the bounty of the earth they had just gathered but also for God’s deliverance to the Promised Land. Likewise, the Pilgrims lived in temporary huts and gave thanks to God for their deliverance to the New World and the first harvest that would sustain them through the winter.
The Talmud (Betzah 30b) suggests using nuts, almonds, peaches, grape branches and jugs of freshly pressed olive oil to decorate the sukkah but does not suggest what to eat. One of the mitzvahs of the holiday is to actually eat meals in the sukkah and invite guests to partake of the meals with you. The great Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria offered an invitation to the Ushpizin — symbolic guests Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David — who were all great wanderers of our heritage who lived in huts.
Fruits, vegetables and grains figure prominently in the harvest foods of Sukkot as they did in the Mediterranean diet.
For Sukkot, Jewish cooks throughout the Diaspora have traditionally made foods that are rolled or stuffed, symbolic of the abundance of the holiday harvest. Rice and couscous dishes made with seasonal fruits and vegetables and cooked fruit compotes are prominent on menus for Sukkot as well. Most dishes are prepared as casseroles because they are easily transported from the kitchen to the sukkah.
The sukkah represents the transient nature of our material wealth. What our homes contain is temporary; what our hearts contain can lead to caring for others and tikkun olam (repairing the world). May the Ushpizin you welcome into your home be recipients of your care and friendship.
Butternut Apple Soup
Don’t panic. No peeling of a whole, slippery butternut squash is required! This recipe calls for roasting the whole squash so that the flesh is smooth and not watery and roasting enhances its flavor. Fall harvest in a bowl!
- 1 2-pound butternut squash
- 2 Macintosh or Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut up, or 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup apple cooking liquid or vegetable stock
- ½ cup half-and-half cream, oat milk or nondairy creamer
- ½ tablespoon loosely packed Mexican mint marigold or tarragon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- Pierce the squash with a fork in 2 places and then bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until a knife easily cuts into the flesh.
- Place the cut apple pieces in a small saucepan and add water to a depth of ¼ inch. Cook, covered, for 8 minutes or until apples are very soft.
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and then scoop out the flesh. Place the squash flesh and the apples in a food processor work bowl and process until smooth.
- Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the pine nuts and process until well blended. Add additional cooking liquid if soup is too thick.
- Place mixture in a clean saucepan and heat thoroughly over moderate heat for about 6 minutes.
- Serve in individual soup bowls or little pumpkins, sprinkled with some toasted pine nuts.
- No need to agonize over the butternut squash in this recipe. I know it’s a pain to peel! Because you want the squash to be soft but not watery, baking it in the oven creates a smooth flesh perfect for this soup.
- If you want, this soup can be made pareve for inclusion in a meat-based meal.
- This soup can be made in advance and gently reheated in the microwave or on the stove.
Baked Chicken with Cherries
Something delicious for your dinner that transports easily from your kitchen to your sukkah. Serve with cooked barley salad or Basmati rice.
- 2 cups frozen pitted cherries, defrosted
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon Coleman’s powdered mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 15 grinds of fresh black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons dried cherries
- 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 3 pounds chicken thighs and/or breasts (if breasts are big, cut in half or thirds)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch roasting pan with nonstick spray.
- Remove any excess fat or hanging skin from the chicken pieces. Rinse, pat dry and place in the prepared pan, meat side up. Set aside while you make the glaze.
- Remove any pits from the cherries and place in a 1½-quart saucepan with the orange juice and the honey. Bring to a boil and cook on medium-high for 5-8 minutes. If you are using defrosted cherries then it will take all of the 8 minutes.
- Place contents in a blender container. Add the mustard, ginger, salt and pepper to the cherries and then blend until fairly smooth.
- Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat for 20 seconds. Add the olive oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the diced onion and sauté until lightly golden and soft — about 4 minutes.
- Add the dried cherries to the onions along with the minced rosemary. Pour the cherry puree into the pan and stir to combine.
- Pour cherry sauce over chicken and cover with foil, shiny side up.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove the foil and baste once with the accumulated juices. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Serve with a grain of your choice.
- This recipe can be made with skinless chicken but white meat will feel drier.
- When chicken is cooked with bone in and some skin, the flavor of the dish is elevated.
- This dish can be made in advance and doubled or tripled for a crowd.
- If you make this dish in advance, you can separate the sauce from the chicken and then refrigerate until fat congeals on the top of the sauce.
- After skimming off excessive fat, return sauce to chicken and reheat in the microwave oven. Heating this way will prevent the chicken from drying out.
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage with Apples
Classic Eastern European fare that is easy to make but rarely made today. Apples, sweet taste, fall vegetable equals a perfect dish for Sukkot!
- 1 small red cabbage (about 1½ pounds)
- ¾ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower or canola)
- 2 Fuji or Gala apples
- 1 small onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 whole onion, peeled and pierced with 6 whole cloves
- 1 quart boiling water
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 3 tablespoons red currant jelly or raspberry jam
- Wash and core the cabbage and cut into quarters lengthwise. Cut each quarter crosswise into ¼-inch strips. Place in a large bowl with the vinegar, sugar and salt.
- Peel, core and thinly slice the apples.
- Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven for 15 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds more. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes until it is lightly golden. Add the apple and sauté for 5 minutes longer.
- Put the cabbage and the clove-pierced whole onion in the Dutch oven with the apples.
- Pour the boiling water over all the cabbage and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to moderate and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- When cabbage is ready, remove Dutch oven from heat, remove whole onion, stir in the wine and jelly and season to taste with salt, pepper and more sugar if necessary.
- Although this dish can be served freshly made, it tastes better refrigerated overnight and then served warm.
- Because this dish is rich in flavor, serve as a side dish to simply seasoned poultry or fish or simply prepared meats.