Sometimes, it is the little things that children remember and carry with them into the next generation. I wonder if that is why we have continued to build sukkot each year for so many millennia? We certainly do not have to go to far-off fields to gather crops. And, thankfully, we do not have to trek through the desert to escape those who enslaved us. So why carry on the tradition? Why eat outside with the bugs and the rain and, sometimes, the freezing cold!!
When our children were young, our sukkah meals were limited to whatever we ate in the sukkah at my synagogue. At the first sign of a bee, my kids took their plates and scurried inside! Allergies and asthma (thankfully now outgrown) also presented problems, so my kids preferred indoor eating and the creature comforts of weather-proof and bug-free meals. I wanted a sukkah in the backyard; they absolutely did not. But, most importantly, my husband did not then, and still does not, in any way, like eating in anything that even resembles the outdoors.
Recently, though, my now grown kids were talking and the discussion turned to how much fun (usually) it was to decorate the sukkah at school or at the temple. Paper chains and cranberry strings were mentioned, as were asthma and allergy attacks and the fear of the bees at lunch time. Laughter permeated the conversation, which was tinged with both sarcasm and nostalgia.
I had feared that my beloved offspring would have no memories of the holiday because we didn’t build our own back-yard sukkah year after year. I also thought they would miss it and think that we were negligent in some way (Jewish mother’s guilt knows no bounds!) I was wrong. Their memories are strong; their beliefs solid. While listening and thinking, I, correctly or not, concluded that one of the core ways in which we keep our traditions alive is through the memories we make — and help our children make — each and every holiday. Chag Sameach!
Roasted Harvest Vegetables in Baked Pumpkin (Pareve)
This makes a gorgeous presentation. You can use any veggies and seasonings you like.
1 large pumpkin
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
2 to 3 pounds of mixed root vegetables such as: red bliss potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, carrots, turnips, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, beets, leeks and/or celery root, mushrooms, leeks, cauliflower, yellow summer squash, zucchini, and/or any veggies you like
2 large red onions, cut in chunks
6 to 8 whole peeled shallots, diced
4 to 12 garlic cloves, minced, to taste
2 to 4 bay leaves
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
Fresh sage leaves (about 5 or 6)
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: Roasted red and green peppers
Blistered grape tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line one or two large, rimmed, baking sheets with foil and then a piece of parchment to fit. Set aside.
Cut off the top of the pumpkin in such a way that gives you a “top” with a handle. Scoop out the seeds of the pumpkin and save them for toasting or discard them. Wipe out the inside of the pumpkin and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit of the kosher or sea salt and add 1/2 cup of water. Cover with foil just to cover the top (or use the top if your oven is tall enough). Place the pumpkin in a 325-degree oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until slightly softened on the inside, but still firm on the outside. Remove from the oven and set aside. Increase the heat to 425 degrees.
Meanwhile, peel the root vegetables and cut them into large pieces, about 1-2 inches square, but all about the same size. Place them in a large bowl, add 1/3 cup olive oil and toss to coat. Pour the vegetables in an even layer on the prepared pan(s).
Add the cut onions, shallots, minced garlic and herbs to the large bowl. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the rest of the kosher or sea salt and some black pepper. Sprinkle over the veggies on the pans.
Place the pan, uncovered, in the oven. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan two or three times. Rotate the pan and reduce the heat to 375 degrees and roast for another 20 minutes, shaking or stirring to keep the vegetables from burning. Continue baking until all veggies are soft, 10 to 20 minutes more.
Remove the vegetables and scoop them into the warm pumpkin and cover with the top. Serve, adding small pieces of the softened pumpkin. Cover with the top of the pumpkin. Place on a beautiful platter and garnish with small gourds. Remember to remove the bay leaves before eating.
Variations: Add some roasted red or green peppers and charred sundried tomatoes. Drizzle with a bit of honey to celebrate the New Year. Add a bit of cayenne pepper for a “hot” taste. Serves a crowd.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Peppers (Meat)
My husband loves stuffed peppers, but I have tried to use less red meat and he didn’t particularly like them with ground turkey. He loved these.
1-1/2 cups long grain rice (Basmati is fine or regular white rice)
1 to 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 1 pound ground chicken, turkey, beef, or cooked faro or other whole grain or seitan or tofu
1 large leek, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced
1 to 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger, about a one-inch piece
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp. peanut or extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Juice of two large lemons, divided, (about 1/3 cup)
1 to 2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. turmeric, more to taste
6 medium bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a small roasting pan. Set aside. Cook the rice according to directions just until barely tender. Drain and set aside. If you don’t have previously ground chicken, cut it into small pieces and process it in the food processor by pulsing until just ground but not pasty.
Heat a skillet and add 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and saute the leeks until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix the ground chicken, ginger, garlic, half the oil, sugar, spices and lemon juice. Add the cooled leeks and the rice, mix well and set aside.
Cut off the tops of the peppers, scoop out the seeds and veins and rinse. Stuff with the chicken mixture and cap with the pepper tops. Drizzle the remaining oil and lemon juice over the peppers. Place in the prepared pan, add about an inch of water and bake at for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the peppers are soft but not burned.
Serves 3 to 6.
Tomatoes Stuffed with Spinach and Feta Cheese (Dairy)
4 Tbsp. olive oil
4 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh toasted breadcrumbs
10 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
6 large ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Add the shallots and stir until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté about another minute. Set aside.
Place the breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet and heat in a 350-degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes until slightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
Roll up several basil leaves and slice into thin strips. Chop the spinach leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Mix in the feta cheese and half the garlic-shallot mixture. Add half the breadcrumbs and mix well. Add the basil and mix.
Cut off the top quarter of the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds. Place the tomatoes in a well-oiled glass or ceramic baking dish. Spoon the filling into the tomatoes and pack firmly.
Add the butter to the skillet and melt over low heat. Add the remaining garlic and shallots; stir well. Turn off the heat and add the remaining breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Mix quickly to keep the cheese from melting, and spoon over the tomatoes, mounding the topping gently. Bake until lightly golden brown.
Sesame Crisps (Dairy)
Great sukkah dessert!
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
3/4 cup unbleached flour or 1/2 cup unbleached and 1/4 cup whole wheat
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup white sesame seeds (make sure they are hulled)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour 2 baking sheets. In a mixing bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until very light. Add the brown sugar slowly and then add the granulated sugar. Add the melted butter and the vanilla. Beat until blended.
Sift the flour and baking powder together. By hand, stir the flour into the egg mixture. Add the sesame seeds and mix well. Using a measuring tsp., scoop generous tsp. of the dough and drop onto the prepared baking sheet. Leave 2 to 3 inches between cookies.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 4-6 minutes. The cookies are done when they bubble and the bubbles subside, and then the cookies turn golden on the edges only. Cool the cookies for 2 to 3 minutes on the sheet, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 18 to 24 cookies.
Pumpkin Spice Bars (Dairy)
These are a seasonal favorite! They are even good without the cream cheese frosting.
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin together. Add other ingredients and mix by hand. Pour batter into greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Frost when cool.
4 oz. brick-style cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Mix first three ingredients in mixer. Gradually add the sugar and beat slowly until spreading consistency. Spread on cooled bars.