In ancient times, the sukkah was a flimsy shelter built by farmers bringing in the harvest. Not today! Excited children and parents construct sturdy modern structures -- some prefab and easy to assemble -- in backyards, patios or apartment balconies.
So that stars can be seen at night, corn stalks and branches are arranged loosely over a roof trellis. Bright carpets are often used for the walls, and inside are comfortable chairs, a table and even cots for those who want to sleep in the sukkah.
As Sukkot is a harvest holiday, decorations always include fruits and vegetables that happen to be in season. In Israel, it may be figs, dates and pomegranates; here in America, it's more likely to be apples, gourds, Indian corn and cranberries.
But remember, fresh produce does attract bees and wasps, especially in warmer weather and when food is laid out. Young children and older people need to be especially careful, as does anyone allergic to beestings. In light of that, you may decide to substitute the real stuff with plastic or paper fruit and vegetables. On a practical note, plastic produce is recyclable and may be stored for future use. Plastic fruits and vegetables are now available in Israel and becoming more widely used there.
Feasting is key during the seven days of Sukkot. In keeping with this harvest festival, the "Thanksgiving" Sukkot supper that follows is based on the best fresh produce of the season.
Tomato and Olives on Arugula
May use oil-cured olives, which are not usually pitted. Warn your guests, anyway. Use cayenne judiciously -- it's extremely hot!
2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
tiny pinch cayenne pepper
2 medium red tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium yellow tomato, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup small pitted black olives
1/4 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup finely shredded basil
4 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup croutons
In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and cayenne.
Add the tomatoes, olives, onion and basil. Stir gently to coat with the dressing.
Arrange arugula on a platter.
Spoon tomato mixture over top and decorate with croutons.
Serve at room temperature.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 180; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 14 g; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 464 mg.
Baked Chilean Sea Bass With Parmesan Crust
Tilapia, salmon or another type of fish fillet can be substituted for the sea bass.
2 Tbsps. butter or margarine, melted
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsps. finely chopped green onion
2 Tbsps. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup matzah meal
4 portions (6 oz. each) Chilean sea bass
1 large tomato, cut in 8 thin slices
paprika to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 425°.
Spray a baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray.
In a small bowl, mix the butter or margarine, lemon juice, hot sauce, onion, cheese and enough matzah meal to make a crumbly mixture.
Place the sea bass in one layer on the prepared baking dish.
Place two slices of tomato on each portion.
Spoon cheese mixture equally on top. Sprinkle lightly with paprika.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until flakes are opaque when separated with a fork.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 252; protein, 33 g; carbohydrates, 6 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 72 mg; sodium, 160 mg.
Caramelized Parsnips, Carrots and Yams
Parsnips, carrots and yams, with their firm texture and high sugar content, caramelize easily. Purchase baby carrots in a bag, already peeled and ready to use.
2 medium yams, peeled and cut in 11/2-inch chunks
4 parsnips (about 1 lb.), peeled
8 peeled baby carrots
11/2 tsps. dried thyme
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsps. honey, warmed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.
Coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Wrap the yams loosely in paper towels. Microwave on high for 3 minutes.
Cut the parsnips into strips about 3/4-inch thick and 3-inches long. Cut baby carrots in half, lengthwise.
Arrange the parsnips, carrots and yams in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Sprinkle with thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and honey. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Stir and toss to coat vegetables. Pour 2 tablespoons water into baking sheet.
Bake until bottom of the vegetables are golden-brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; turn vegetables over to brown.
Bake about 15 minutes more.
Serves 4 to 6.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 250; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 41 g; fat, 9 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 21 mg.
'Mishua' (Vegetables, Tunisian-Style)
I watched Haluma Ouhada prepare this at her home in the Tunisian village of Zagabouan. The combination of roasted peppers and tomatoes is topped with tuna, hard-boiled eggs and lemon; it works as a lovely luncheon dish.
2 large green bell peppers, seeded and cut in half
3 large tomatoes, halved
2-3 Tbsps. olive oil
11/2 tsps. ground cumin
1 tsp. bottled minced garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 can (6.5 oz.) can chunk tuna, well-drained
3 hard-boiled eggs, halved
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Preheat the broiler.
Brush the skin sides of peppers and tomatoes with olive oil.
Arrange, skin-sides up, on a broiler pan. Broil 5 to 6 inches from the heat until the skins are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from broiler.
When cool enough to handle, remove the skins from the peppers and tomatoes and discard.
Place vegetables in the food processor, along with the cumin and garlic. Pulse to chop coarsely. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a serving dish.
Flake the tuna and scatter over the top. Garnish with hard-boiled egg and lemon.
Serve at room temperature.
Serves 4 to 6.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 126; protein, 10 g; carbohydrates, 3 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 118 mg; sodium, 145 mg.
Marmalade Fig Tart
Use a store-bought chunky orange marmalade. After Sukkot, homemakers may make a marmalade from the etrog. Meurbe Teig is a rich pastry used in many European cake recipes. To make this dairy, substitute butter for the margarine, and serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream.
For the Meurbe Teig:
1/2 cup unsalted margarine, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
3/4 cup chunky orange marmalade
1 package (6 oz.) dried figs, stems removed and halved
2 Tbsps. kosher orange liqueur or apple juice
1 Tbsps. grated fresh ginger
fresh orange wedges to garnish
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray a deep 10-inch pie dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Cut margarine into 8 pieces.
Place in the food processor along with the sugar, egg and 1/2 cup of the flour. Pulse 3 to 4 times to mix. Pulse while adding the remaining cup of flour to form a ball.
Press the dough into the bottom and sides of prepared pie dish. Prick all over with a fork to prevent rising. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil weighted down with 1 cup dried beans or pie weights.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
Remove the beans and foil. Cool on a wire rack.
To prepared the filling, place the marmalade, figs, orange liqueur or apple juice, and ginger in a medium pan.
Warm over a low heat until the marmalade is completely melted and the figs are coated. Cool slightly.
To Assemble: Spoon the fig mixture into the cooled, baked pie shell, arranging the figs attractively, cut-side down. Before serving, garnish with orange wedges.
Approximate nutrients per slice: calories, 282; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 48 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 21 mg.