By Tina Wasserman
Many historians believe that the New World’s first Thanksgiving was patterned after our holiday of Sukkot. THE harvest festival (often called Ha-Hag) was a celebration of thanks for a bountiful harvest. This year I am involved with the kickoff of the 150th celebration of Temple Emanu-El’s founding, and the celebration committee has aptly coordinated the beginning of the year-and-a-half celebration to coincide with Sukkot.
At Sukkot we traditionally invite guests into our homes or sukkahs to share the bounty of the fall harvests. There are no prescribed foods that must be eaten during the holiday but, obviously, fruits and vegetables that are picked in this season are highlighted in our meals. The only suggestion for your menus is a practical one. Any food you prepare should be able to be easily transported into the sukkah or to a friend’s home for a shared meal. Sliced meat on a platter doused in gravy might be delicious but the gravy might slosh off your platter right onto the carpet on its way to the table. For Sukkot it is advisable to eat foods that are made in casseroles or served in bowls straight from the cooktop or your refrigerator.
The following international recipes are not only delicious but remind us that Jewish communities exist or existed around the world. This year, especially, it is good to bring some history to our tables.
Pear Salad with Jicama and Snow Peas
We tend to focus on apples for fall recipes, but a new crop of pears is arriving in markets now. This recipe is a wonderful alternative to spinach and mushroom salad and a bright addition to any meal in your sukkah.
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts or pecans
- 2 cups snow peas
- 2 ripe pears
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup jicama
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 scallion
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 2 tablespoons corn oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Toast the nuts in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside.
2. String the snow peas and blanch in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Plunge into ice water and then cut them lengthwise into ¼-inch strips.
3. Peel and core the pears and cut them into ¼-inch strips lengthwise, and then toss with the lemon juice.
4. Rinse the spinach well and remove all the stems. Make a chiffonade by cutting the spinach into ¼-inch widths.
5. Peel the jicama and cut into 2-inch lengths, ¼ inch wide.
6. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, mustard and garlic together. Slowly drizzle the oil while you whisk rapidly to form an emulsion. Lightly whisk in the scallion, pepper and basil. Allow to set for 15 minutes.
7. To arrange the salad, place the snow peas, pears, spinach and jicama in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Spoon onto individual plates and sprinkle with the toasted nuts. Serve immediately.
• To string snow peas, hold one pod by the top stem in your right hand and then place your thumb into the pod on top in the middle and pull the stem down. If pods are stringy, both stringy sides will peel away.
• If you prefer, sugar snap peas may be used instead.
• The little bit of mustard in the vinaigrette will help the oil bind to the vinegar and create a creamy dressing rather than a clear liquid that will separate upon standing.
This recipe is a wonderful alternative to noodle kugel or any potato dish that you might make as a side dish. Originating in the Alsace region of France, this recipe is my adaptation of a recipe from my friend and colleague Claudia Roden. Very easy to make and a great side for any main entrée.
- 1 large onion, chopped into ½-inch dice
- 3 tablespoons olive or safflower oil
- 1¼ cups long-grain rice
- ¾ cup raisins
- ½ cup diced pitted prunes
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 cups water
1. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over high heat for 10 seconds. Add the oil and heat for another 10 seconds until hot but not smoking.
2. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown. Stir occasionally so onion doesn’t get too dark.
3. Add the rice and stir until all grains are coated with oil.
4. Add the fruits and the seasonings to the pan and stir to combine.
5. Add the water and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the water.
Serves 4-6 people
• Never use instant rice for this dish. Long grain is preferable over medium-grained rice often sold in bulk because it contains less starch, the grains separate easily and the finished dish is more delicate.
• Do not use commercially cut prune pieces if they are coated with sugar. Whole dried prunes will be significantly more moist and it is easy to cut the prunes into halves or quarters.
Ugandan Fall Harvest Fruit Salad
I created this recipe for Reform Judaism Magazine to honor the Abayudaya Jews from Uganda whom I met when they came to Dallas for a fundraiser. This salad contains the three most eaten fruits in Uganda: bananas, mango and jackfruit. Bananas are a staple of the Ugandan diet; almost 500 pounds per capita each year are eaten. Many of the spices in this recipe are now grown in Uganda, a legacy of the spice trade route through Africa centuries ago.
- 3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed (divided use)
- 1 20-ounce can of jackfruit in syrup
- 1 cup coarsely chopped mixed dried fruits (apples, peaches, pears, apricots)
- 2 bananas, peeled and sliced into ½-inch slices
- 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon prepared Garam Masala or to taste
- 1 teaspoon tamarind liquid concentrate or lemon juice
- Honey (optional)
1. Use a mango cutter to remove the fruit from the pit, or slice from the stem to the bottom of the mango, running your knife along the edge of the pit on both sides. Cut the flesh away from the skin of the mango and then cut into ½-inch dice.
2. Puree about 1/3 to ½ of the mango cubes to make 1 cup of mango puree. Place puree in a serving bowl with the remaining cubed mango.
3. Remove and drain the jackfruit and cut the translucent white ovals into strips lengthwise. Add to mango mixture.
4. Add the dried chopped fruits, the sliced bananas and the salt to the bowl and gently stir with a rubber spatula. Set aside.
5. In a small processor workbowl, combine the coconut, Garam Masala and tamarind concentrate (or lemon juice). Turn the machine on and pulse the mixture until it forms a paste.
Stir the spice paste into the mixed fruit carefully, using a rubber spatula. Taste to see if any honey is needed.
6. Refrigerate until ready to serve. May be served for dessert or as an accompaniment to grilled meats.
7. Just before serving, you can sprinkle a little extra coconut on top as a garnish.
• When I created this recipe decades ago, fresh jackfruit was not widely available. It is large and difficult to handle, but the canned fruit version saves a great deal of time preparing this dish. I have seen it in the local market but could not begin to tell you how to work with it!
• To ripen mangoes, place them in a brown paper bag. If you include a banana in the bag, the mango will ripen faster.
• Never buy a mango that is soft and very pliable. It will be overripe and stringy and possibly discolored. I would rather see you buy the frozen cubes of mango for this recipe.