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Sukkot: From House to Hut

October 5, 2011 By:
Ethel Hofman, JE Feature
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THE JEWISH KITCHEN

Sukkot, like Thanksgiving, celebrates a bountiful harvest. The joyful biblical holiday comes right on the heels of Yom Kippur when Jews all over the world will begin to build their sukkahs.

These structures are symbolic of the humble booths used by farmers for shelter and shade while harvesting crops. Another explanation is that they symbolize the portable tents set up by the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness.

Today, our sukkahs may be as simple or decorative as one likes. You can even buy "sukkah building kits," complete with wooden frame, plastic sheeting and colorful decorations.

When all our kids were at home, the big decision was always which day we should pile into the van and drive to a nearby farm to gather enough corn stalks to cover the sukkah roof -- not too many, for there needed to be enough space so that we could see the stars at night.

When all was assembled and decorated, space was left inside for ushpizim, invited holy guests from the past.

Kids love to help decorate. Cranberries, gourds and Indian corn may be strung or stapled to the framework. The etrog, a thick-skinned citrus fruit, considered to be the most important of the four species of plants blessed during Sukkot, may also be used.

But if you want to prevent bees from buzzing over the food, consider using plastic or paper versions of these foods.

Sukkot lasts for seven days beginning two weeks after the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Feasting is the keynote. As many meals as possible are eaten in the sukkah; and when the weather cooperates, the temporary dwelling is the center for entertaining, reading and relaxing.

The Sukkot recipes below are all quick, easy and can be made ahead, so the cook can enjoy meals in the sukkah, too.

Easy Seven-Seed Challah

(Pareve)

Ida Glazer, who lives in Tel Aviv, makes Shabbat challah from scratch but personalizes it by sprinkling seven seeds on top before baking. This is my easy method. Substitute seeds as desired.

1 challah from a bakery, unsliced 
2-3 Tbsps. honey, warmed 
1 tsp. each sesame seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, black sesame (nigella) seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 375°.

Brush the top of the challah with honey. Sprinkle each kind of seed separately over the top of the challah (example: sesame seeds over one area, poppy seeds over another area).

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crusty.

Serve with a dish of honey on the side.

Spicy Red Cabbage Soup

(Pareve)

You probably won't have leftovers, but if you do, this freezes well. Just add a squeeze of lemon juice when reheating. The secret ingredient -- Bloody Mary mix.

2 Tbsps. vegetable oil 
1 large onion, coarsely chopped 
3 cups shredded red cabbage 
1-2 cups shredded green cabbage 
1 cup shredded carrot 
1 and 1/2 Tbsps. parve beef bouillon granules 
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes 
4-5 cups bottled Bloody Mary mix 
3 Tbsps. fresh squeezed lemon juice 
2-3 Tbsps. brown sugar or to taste 
1-2 cups water

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium low and cook 10 minutes or until onion is softened and beginning to yellow. Do not brown. Add the cabbages and carrot. Cover and cook slowly until softened.

Stir in the beef granules, tomatoes, Bloody Mary mix and lemon juice.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add brown sugar to taste. If too thick, stir in some water. Heat through on medium heat and serve.

Serves 12 to 15.

Cumin-Scented Chicken With Figs and Dates

(Meat)

1 chicken, cut in 6-8 pieces 
1/3 cup olive oil 
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic from a jar 
1 medium onion, thinly sliced 
12 whole pitted dates 
8 large dried figs, quartered 
1/3 cup honey, warmed 
3 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar 
3/4 cup orange juice 
2 tsps. cumin 
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste 
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper or to taste 
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Wash chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a nonmetal roasting dish. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the rosemary. Pour over the chicken, turning to coat all sides. Cut the rosemary sprigs into 3 to 4 pieces each and tuck in between the chicken pieces.

Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, turning once or twice.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Turn chicken pieces skin side up. Baste with the pan liquids. Cover and bake 40 minutes. Remove the cover, turn the pieces over and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until golden brown and skin is crisp. Serve hot with couscous.

Serves 6.

Seeds and Parsley Stuffed Mushrooms

(Dairy)

12 large white mushrooms 
3 Tbsps. feta cheese, crumbled 
1 Tbsp. flax seeds 
2 Tbsps. unsalted sunflower seeds 
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, packed 
2 Tbsps. butter, melted 
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
3-4 Tbsps. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray the bottom of a large baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Rinse mushrooms quickly in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Remove the stems and chop finely.

In a small bowl, mix together the chopped mushrooms and all the remaining ingredients except the oil. Spoon the mixture into the mushroom cavities, dividing evenly. Press down with the back of a spoon.

Arrange the mushrooms in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil. Bake in preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are beginning to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12.

'Chiterein' Fruit Loaf

(Dairy)

So named by my friend Lillian Stein, who explained that "chiterein" is Yiddish for a "mish-mash." Use whatever over-ripe fruits you have, puree in a blender, and you have the beginnings of a delicious moist loaf.

2 eggs 
2 Tbsps. buttermilk 
2 large plums, pits removed and quartered 
1 over ripe, large banana, cut in chunks 
1/2 cup melon cubes (watermelon, cantaloupe) 
1/4 small lemon, most of the peel removed 
stick butter, softened and cut in 8 pieces 
1 tsp. instant coffee powder or granules 
3/4 cup sugar 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 tsp. orange extract 
1 and 1/2 tsps. baking powder 
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1 tsp. cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. nutmeg 
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Cut a rectangle of wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Press into the pan and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In the blender jar or food processor, place the eggs, buttermilk, plums, banana, melon, lemon, butter and instant coffee. Process to a smooth puree. Pour into a large bowl.

Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour or until center is firm (top springs back when pressed lightly with finger.)

Cool in pan 5 to 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.

Serves 10 to 12.

Roasted Honeyed Figs

(Pareve)

12 ripe figs, halved lengthwise 
1/3 cup honey 
1 Tbsp. margarine 
2 tsps. grated ginger root 
3 ginger snaps, processed to coarse crumbs

Preheat oven to 375°. Arrange the figs, cut side up, in a baking dish just big enough for all the figs to fit snugly. Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the honey and margarine until margarine is almost melted. Add the ginger root and stir to mix. Brush over the figs. Sprinkle with ginger snap crumbs.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until crumbs are golden. Serve warm, chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 12.

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