What could be better than dining inside a sukkah? I love looking through a lattice roof entwined with greenery and gazing at stars. I love the scent of autumn air mixed with the medley of produce dangling from the sukkah's walls.
I've always felt that Sukkot — the Jewish harvest holiday — beats Thanksgiving hands down. Sukkot not only lasts for eight days, but it means eating as many meals as possible inside a backyard hut surrounded by sweaters, family and friends.
But it's not easy getting food to the outdoor table and keeping it warm. Dinner is the most challenging of the three meals.
Here are some things that I've learned about serving food inside the sukkah. On chilly nights, forget about elegant fare or a meal composed of many courses. Besides the fact that it's tricky to carry numerous platters and serving bowls outside, food that is plated in such an isolated way loses its heat quickly once night falls.
I've found that one-pot meals are the most practical way to go. While the word stew doesn't conjure up four-star dining, there is nothing more delicious than the results of slowly steeping a protein (such as meat, fish or tofu), along with veggies and a starch.
This cooking method yields a complete meal that it easily transported outside. Prepared in cast iron or similarly insulated cookware, the meal inside retains its warmth far longer than slices of any roast spread out on a platter. Some recipes can actually be made entirely in one pot, while others require a second saucepan during preparation yet are finished in one large pot.
I suggest serving a salad and a crusty bread to round out your dish. If you want to dress up sukkah dinners, use a tablecloth in autumn colors. Make a centerpiece of sunflowers or fill a basket with seasonal foods, like pumpkins, pomegranates and gourds.
Unlike the High Holidays, which call for more formal dining, Sukkot is a celebration of nature and a more casual air.
8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin optional
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp., plus 3 Tbsps., olive oil, or more if needed
4 small-medium onions, sliced thin
1 green pepper
4 baking potatoes
2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
3 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 lb. noodles, optional accompaniment, prepared according to package directions
Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Sauté chicken in oil until brown on both sides. Reserve on a plate. Let grease in pot cool to room temperature.
While chicken browns, separate onion slices into rings using your fingers. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion rings until lightly caramelized, stirring often.
Rinse the green pepper under cold water. Remove stem. Cut in half; rinse out seeds and remove fleshy pith. Cut into thin slices.
Add the peppers to the onion rings, and sauté until softened.
Scrape the skin off the potatoes and cut into a coarse dice. Scrape the carrots and cut into a coarse dice.
From the Dutch oven, pour off the cooled grease and discard.
Place all of the ingredients, including the paprika, inside the Dutch oven and cover it. Simmer on a medium flame for 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are soft. Stir every few minutes to prevent food from sticking.
Check the seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
Serve with noodles, if using, or refrigerate and reheat.
4 round bone shoulder veal chops (3/4 lbs.), cut into quarters
2 Tbsps. olive oil, or more, if needed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small head of cabbage, sliced into ribbons 1/2-inch thick
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 of a 6 oz. can of tomato paste
2 Tbsps. parsley, chopped fine
kosher salt to taste
In a large pot, sauté the veal chop pieces in olive oil until just brown. Remove to a plate and reserve.
Sauté the garlic in the same oil until fragrant but not scorched, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the cabbage and potatoes. Stir occasionally until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add more oil, if needed.
Return veal to the pot.
Mix tomato paste in 3 cups of water until well-combined. Pour into cabbage pot and stir. Sprinkle in the parsley and stir again.
Add kosher salt until well-seasoned.
Cover the pot and simmer on a medium flame for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are soft and veal is cooked through.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat before serving.
Ground Turkey, Rice and Mushrooms
3 Tbsps., plus 4 tsps., dark sesame oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
11/2 lbs. ground turkey
salt to taste
2 cups long-grain rice, uncooked
1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsps. sesame seeds
2 Tbsps., plus 1 tsp., soy sauce
1 bunch scallions
In a large pot, heat 3 Tbsp. of sesame oil briefly over a medium flame. Sauté the onion, stirring frequently until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and turkey to the pot. Add the salt. Stir to break up the clumps of turkey that form. Sauté until mushrooms soften and meat browns, about 10 minutes.
Add the rice, red-pepper flakes, cilantro and ginger. Stir to combine. Add the amount of water called for in the instructions on the rice box for 2 cups of uncooked rice, about 4 cups. The water should cover the ingredients by about 1/2 inch. Cover the pot and simmer.
Meanwhile, cover the cooking tray of a toaster oven with aluminum foil. Spread sesame seeds evenly on the foil. Bake at 350° for 1 to 2 minutes, or until seeds start to brown. Don't take your eyes off of seeds — they burn instantly. Reserve the toasted seeds.
After the rice has cooked for 20 minutes, check for doneness. Continue cooking if water remains in the pot.
When water evaporates, taste rice. If it's too hard, add more water 1/4 cup at a time. Continue cooking until rice is soft enough to eat. When rice is ready, remove the pot from the flame, keep lid on, and let rice "soak" or rest for 5 minutes.
Stir in the soy sauce, remaining 4 teaspoons of sesame oil and the sesame seeds. Garnish with scallions.
kosher salt to taste
2 red-snapper fillets (1 lb.each), skin on
2 Tbsps. sweet butter, plus 2 more Tbsps., sweet butter
1 large onion, cut into thin slices and separated into rings
2 large zucchini, cut into thin slices
1 can (19 oz.) cannellini, or also known as white kidney beans, rinsed in a colander under cold water
11/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, minced
1/4 tsp. ground thyme
3 Tbsps. cream at room temperature
2 Tbsps. fresh parsley, minced
Sprinkle salt on both sides of the fillets.
On a medium flame, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Place fillets, skin-side down, in the melted butter and sear until brown.
With a spatula, lift the fillets and place on a plate.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pot. Sauté the onions and zucchini in the melted butter until wilted.
Add the beans; stir to combine.
Return the fillets to the pot, and place over the vegetables and beans. Pour in the broth and wine. Sprinkle in the dill and thyme. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine.
Cover the pot and simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes, or until fillets are cooked through.
Remove pot from the flame. Place a ladle of broth in a bowl.
Slowly pour in the cream, mixing constantly until combined. Gradually drizzle the cream mixture into the pot, stirring.
Sprinkle the parsley over the stew. Serve immediately.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at: [email protected].