Sukkot is a harvest festival and it's fun to celebrate it by including plenty of vegetables and fruit in our meals. In particular, I like to include the ones which appeared in my Rosh HaShana seder, such as Swiss Chards, pumpkin, leeks, pomegranate etc. And of course the Etrog! Besides the following dishes, you can borrow from my Rosh-hashana and (post) Yom Kippur menus! We keep serving many of those dishes over and over, especially the omni-present Bolo (sweet bread).
- What is Sukkot?
- And after Sukkot?
- Swiss Chard Risotto (Dairy)
- Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)
- Pumpkin and Pomegranate Cream Soup (Dairy)
- Creamy Carrot Soup with no Cream (Parve)
- Pasta Soup with Beans (Parve)
- Stuffed Cabbage for Simchat Torah, Italian-Style (Meat)
- ... Or wrap your Meatloaf in Cabbage Leaves! (Meat)
- Turkey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)
- Fruit Salad inside the Orange (Parve)
- Drunk Pear Pie for Sukkot (Parve or Dairy)
Sukkot is an eight-day harvest holiday that starts four days after the fast of Yom Kippur; it is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. In ancient Israel Jews would build huts (Sukkah = hut) near the end of their fields during the harvest season, so that they could spend more time in the fields and harvest more efficiently. But Sukkot is also a reminder of how our ancestors lived while wandering in the desert for 40 years (Leviticus 23:42-43), moving from one place to another and using tents or (sukkot) for temporary shelter. Associated with these two meanings are the three Sukkot traditions: 1 - Building a sukkah. 2 - Eating inside the sukkah. 3 - Waving the lulav and etrog. (in the picture, the holiday of Sukkot as seen by Italian artist Emanuele Luzzatti) Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot , observant Jews construct a sukkah in their backyards or on their deck when possible (in absence of space, people will use their synagogue's sukkah). In ancient times most people would just "move" to their sukkahs for the whole holiday and sleep there: nowadays very few people do, but it's customary to eat meals in it reciting a special blessing. Luckily we are exempt in case of rain! Since Sukkot celebrates the harvest, there is a custom of waving the lulav and etrog: (a kind of citron, similar to a big lemon/lime, and a bunch of myrtle,willow and palm twigs). The lulav and etrog are waved in all directions representing God's dominion over the whole creation. All kids love decorating the sukkah with drawings, and mine are no exception!
The seventh day of Sukkot is also known as Hoshana Rabbah. In the traditional synagogue service, Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark and worshippers make seven circuits while holding the Lulav (branches of four plants with symbolic meanings) and reciting Hoshanot (Psalm 118:25). Right after Hoshana Rabba comes Shemini Atzeret, the day for prayers and celebrations for rain and harvest. One would think that a prayer for rain should be recited at the beginning of the New Year (Rosh HaShana) but it would be hypocritical to do so when everybody is really hoping for nice weather for the week of Sukkot...so it's postponed to Shemini Atzeret. After Shemini Atzeret comes Simchat Torah ("Rejoicing with the Torah."): on this holiday, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and paraded around the synagogue while people dance and sing around them. Every Shabbat during the year, a different portion of the Torah is chanted in synagogue, and it takes a year to complete the whole thing. On Simchat Torah, the end of Deuteronomy is finally reached, and we start again from Bereshit (Genesis). See how the Jewish Community of Rome celebrates Hoshana Rabbah in this video: Picture: Solomon Alexander Hart The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy, 1850
Venetian Jews were always famous for their creamy risottos with a bewildering variety of ingredients. This combination will surprise you! Besides Swiss Chards, this recipe works well with Kale or Mustard Greens.
- 4 to 6 cups boiling hot vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 a large onion, very finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cup Italian rice (Vialone Nano, Arborio or Carnaroli type)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed well, trimmed of stems, finely chopped (4 or 5 cups chopped)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons high-quality unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Both pumpkin and pomegranate are Harvest symbols, which were already served at our Rosh HaShana table: why not combine them in a super-festive, super-pretty soup? The pomegranate appears quite often in Jewish tradition, as it's said to contain an average of 613 seeds - the number of mitzvot (commandments) that Jews are supposed to observe. And what celebrates fall better than pumpkin? In Venice we call it "Zucca Barucca" (Holy Pumpkin - from the Hebrew "Baruch"). The base of this soup is a take on a very traditional dish served in Venice and Ferrara, "Zucca Disfatta" (which I posted for Rosh HaShana here). The addition of pomegranate and orange juice adds a little tartness, which pairs really well with the sweetness of the pumpkin. Ingredients (serves 4) - 2 lbs cubed pumpkin - 1 medium onion, very finely chopped - vegetable stock - 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt - 1/2 orange (or 1/3 cup orange juice) - 1 pomegranate (or 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup pomegranate juice) - 3 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil - salt and black pepper to taste - 2 or 3 tablespoons coarsely ground hazelnuts (optional) Directions Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and allow it to cook till soft (add little water if it starts sticking). Add the pumpkin and allow it to cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the orange juice and 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice. Keep cooking until the juice has evaporated, then add enough hot vegetable stock to barely cover the pumpkin, salt and pepper, and cook till very tender. (at least 30 minutes). Process with a hand mixer; add more salt if needed, pour into individual bowls, decorate with the hazelnuts (if using), a few pomegranate seeds salt, and a little sour cream or greek yogurt with the addition of a few drops of lemon juice. Serve hot.
The Etrog is one of the symbols of Sukkot. It is a special fruit, which looks like a giant lemon and grows on very delicate trees. They grow in warm climates like Israel and Italy, and some Hassidim actually prefer the Etrogs from Italy (from the region of Calabria), because of a tradition that says that Moshe used one from there. A lot of people, after using their Etrogs in the Sukkot services, like to make jelly or other specialties with them at the end of the holiday. In the movie Ushpizin the protagonists use its juice to dress a salad, but here is another fun use for your precious etrog at the end of Sukkot... and you can make this recipe any time using regular lemons! Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cups boiling hot vegetable stock
- 2 shallots, or 1/2 a large onion, very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups Italian Rice (Vialone nano, Arborio or Carnaroli type)
- juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime or etrog
- grated zest of 2 organic lemons or one etrog
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
- 1/2 cup ricotta (ricotta is naturally low-fat, do not use low-fat or fat-free ricotta)
- (you can substitute mascarpone for the ricotta for a creamier version)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
In Italy cream soups (vellutate) are not made with cream: the texture is given by the addition of a potato, or, more often, a handful of Italian rice. The starches in the rice are slowly released during the cooking, and act as a thickener and an emulsifier at the same time. These starches are also what gives creaminess to risottos, and that's also why we add a little cooking water to our pasta sauce. This method obviously helps limit saturated fats, but it's also a great resource for kosher cooks as it allows us to make creamy Parve soups. Ingredienti (serves 4 to 6): 2 pounds carrots 1 onion 1 celery stick 1 ½ quarts chicken or vegetable stock or to taste 2 garlic cloves 4 to 6 tablepoons extra-virgon olive oil ½ cup rice (a starchy Italian rice such as Arborio) 1 ½ tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley (or basil/parsley mix) salt and pepper to taste Directions Peel the carrots and slice them thinly. Chop the celery, onion and garlic very finely. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot and cook the mix of celery, onion and garlic in it on medium/low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and the bay leaf and cook for 5 more minutes. Add 2/3 of the hot stock and bring to a boil, then add the rice, lower the heat, cover almost completely and allow to simmer for about an hour. Discard the bay leaf, process with a hand mixer, add the rest of the hot stock and the herbs, and allow to simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes, stirring continuosly. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with black pepper and serve.
Ingredients (serves 4-6) - 1 quart hot water - 2 or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil - 1/2 an onion, finely chopped - 2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed - 1 celery stick, chopped - 1 small carrot, chopped - 1 cup of dried beans - 1 small ripe tomato, seeded, peeled and diced (or you can use canned peeled tomatoes, drained) - salt and pepper to taste - 1 1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley and basil - 2 cups fresh egg pasta (maltagliati), or you can use dried egg pasta. *(to make fresh pasta, follow the instructions in this video) Directions Soak the beans in a bowl of cold water overnight. Blanche the tomato, peel it and seed it, and drain it well.Dice the carrot, thinly slice the celery, and chop the onion finely. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and sautee for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomato, beans, and salt, and cook for another 2 minutes. Cover with hot water, bring to a boil, and simmer for one hour or till the beans are cooked. Add the pasta and allow to simmer until the pasta is also cooked (for fresh pasta, usually 3 to 5 minutes; for dried pasta, follow the instructions on the package). decorate with the parsley and serve hot.
In Venice we cook these in stock; in Rome they use oil, onion and tomato; other communities make the Sephardi version using lamb instead of veal/beef, raisins and pine nuts. Ingredients (serves 4) - 12 perfect leaves of cabbage - 1 pound ground veal or beef - 1 small onion or 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped - 2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs - 1 small or medium egg - 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley - 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg (if liked) - meat or chicken stock - salt and black pepper to taste - 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil Directions Choose only the best, most perfect leaves of cabbage (you could also alternate cabbage and red radicchio leaves for a nice chromatic effect). Blanch them in boiling water for one minute, and drain them on paper towel. Cook the onion in one tablespoon of oil for a couple of minutes without burning it., allow it to cool and drain from the oil. Combine the ground meat with all the other ingredients (except for the l Make little meatballs with the mix and put one inside each leaf. Close each leaf on top of the meatball like a gift bag and tie with white string. You can also close them with a toothpick, adding a sage leaf under each toothpick. Place the stuffed cabbage in a deep pan, cover with stock (enough to reach the top of the cabbage), and cook on medium/low heat, covered, for 1 and 1/2 hours (checking every 30 minutes and adding stock if it's drying out). Uncover the pan and if there is still a lot of liquid, allow most of it to evaporate. Serve with the juices from the pan.
Here is another way to serve stuffed cabbage, a very ancient and truly international Simchat Torah specialty! Instead of stuffing each leaf, you can make a large meatloaf and wrap it in several leaves. Italian Jews have many versions of "Polpettone" (meat loaf) made with beef or poultry, stuffed with different vegetables, frittata or boiled eggs, and encased in turkey or chicken skin, or in a goose neck. Ingredients (serves 6) 1 lb ground beef, or veal (or a mix) 2 slices bread, crust removed beef or chicken stock 4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, finely minced ½ cup peas, cooked 1/2 cup carrot, cooked and cut into small cubes ¼ tablespoon nutmeg 1 egg 2 or 3 tablespoons plain bread crumbs 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley salt and pepper Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Soak the bread in meat stock and set aside. Blanch the best leaves of a cabbage in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread mixture (liquid squeezed out), nutmeg, salt, pepper, the egg, and after everything is well combined, fold in the carrot and peas. Allow to rest for one minute, then add some breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture. Shape the mixture into a meatloaf and wrap it in the cabbage leaves. Tie well with kitchen string (to make sure it won't break you can also place the meatloaf in a muslin bag. Place in a deep pan, cover with stock (enough to reach the top of the cabbage), and cook on medium/low heat, covered, for 1 and 1/2 hours (checking every 30 minutes and adding stock if it's drying out). Uncover the pan and if there is still a lot of liquid, allow most of it to evaporate. Serve with the juices from the pan.
On the holidays, I usually serve dairy at lunch and meat for dinner. This colorful "roast", which is actually cooked on the stove, usually "wows" guests. It's much easier than it looks! If you prefer, instead of the boiled eggs you can use a thin frittata made with eggs and chopped parsley or spinach. It's filling, so I would serve it after a vegetable soup or a light broth-based pasta soup. Ingredients
- 3 slices Hungarian salami and 3 slices good pastrami
- 1 boneless turkey breast in one piece, about 2 pounds, butterflied (or veal)
- 1 tablespoon (or more) freshly chopped parsley
- 2 boiled eggs
- 1 1/2 tablespoon plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 a medium onion, chopped finely
- one small carrot, chopped finely
- one celery stick, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic (one whole, one minced)
- 1 ripe tomato, completely seeded, salted and drained.
- 1 1/2 tablespoon plain bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (do not use "cooking wine")
- salt and black pepper
If you are actually observing the 2-day holiday, which this year is directly followed by a Shabbat, that makes a whopping 6 festive meals in a row. Unless you are related to the Cookie Monster, by the time Friday comes you probably won't feel like any heavy desserts, but you will still need something pretty and sweet to end your Shabbat dinner and lunch in the Sukka. In Italy we often serve Macedonia, a simple salad made with a variety of fruit cut into small pieces, so that when you put a spoonful into your mouth you will taste a combination of different flavors. For big, blue, fuzzy and hungry creatures, make sure to also have a "serious" dessert handy (will post a recipe tomorrow, or pick one of my RoshHaShana cakes). Ingredients (serves 6): 6 oranges or grapefruits 1 1/2 bananas 1 small basket of strawberries or raspberries 1/2 a cup of pomegranate seeds 1 small basket of blueberries 4 Tbsp. lemon juice, OR 1/2 cup of Prosecco, OR Orange Liqueur or Amaretto 4 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste a few mint leaves, to decorate Instructions: - Halve the oranges or grapefruits. With a serrated grapefruit spoon, scoop the pulp out. Separate the slices, peel them (remove the membrane), and cut them up into small pieces. - Cut the strawberries and bananas into small pieces (the smaller, the better!) and place in a bowl. with the oranges . - Dress with the lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus 3 parts Prosecco or liqueur), and the sugar. - Add the blueberries. - Fill the empty half-oranges with the fruit salad (to help them stand straight, you could remove a super-thin slice from the bottom, but be careful not to cut through). Decorate with the mint and the pomegranate seeds. - Refrigerate before serving.
In Northern Italy we make a lot of different pear cakes and pies during the fall holidays, from Rosh HaShana to Simchat Torah (just have a look at my Rosh HaShana chapter for other ideas). This pie is something I tasted for the first time when visiting a friend from the Jewish community of Padova, a few miles from Venice. My friend's mom's version was made with sweet liqueur in the filling. I loved it and asked for the recipe. Years later, in my early 20es, I decided to experiment, and instead of the liqueur I used a lovely kosher Barolo, which was available in Italy that year: I fell in love with the result! Kosher Barolo can be hard to find, but other rich red wines can be used (Chianti, Sangiovese, SuperTuscan, Primitivo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo). I'm almost sure that all alcohols should evaporate with the cooking, but I'm still too nervous to serve this to my children because it tastes really grown up 😉 so they get chocolate cake instead. Ingredients (For the Pastry) - 1 cup (250 gr) pastry or cake flour - 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine, OR 1/3 cup olive oil + 3 tbsps chilled water - 1 cup sugar - a pinch of salt - 2 egg yolks plus one white - grated zest of 1/2 an organic lemon - a spoonful of marsala (optional) (For the Filling) - 3 pears - 1/2 cup dried prunes (pitted) - 1/3 cup sugar - 1 cup of earthy red such as Barolo, Chianti or SuperTuscan - 1 clove - 1 lemon peel, whole - 1 cinnamon stick Directions Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor; blend for a few seconds. Add the butter (or margarine, or oil and water) and pulse until crumbly. Add the sugar and egg yolks and lemon zest (and marsala if using). Pulse until combined. Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 or 3 hours. The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept chilled. Peel the pears, core them and slice them; place them in a pot with the dried prunes, the sugar and the wine . Bring to a boil and add the clove, the lemon peel and the cinnamon stick, and simmer until the pieces of fruit are soft but still whole, and the sauce has thickened. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Divide the pastry into two balls, one slightly larger. On a floured surface or over a sheet of parchment, using a floured rolling pin, roll the larger pastry round into a round 2 inches larger than the 9-inch pan. Place it in the greased baking pan, pressing against the bottom and sides. Fill with the fruit compote, then roll out the smaller pastry ball into a round the size of the pan and use it to cover the pie. Seal the edges with your fingers, brush with the egg white, and make some holes with a toothpick. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 45 minutes. Serve slightly warm. *** If you decide to use olive oil for the pastry, you should know that it yields a crumblier result, and it might be hard to roll out the discs.