Under the Harvest Moon

I love Thanksgiving. The idea of family and friends gathering around a table groaning with food to count their blessings is so special that I feel sorry for those who get to celebrate it only once a year.

Sukkot, also known as the Jewish Thanksgiving, gives us one more opportunity for such a celebration — this time, in gratitude for a rich seasonal bounty. The word Sukkot, which means "booths," refers to the huts or temporary dwellings in which the Jews had to live in their 40 years of wandering the desert.

Whereas our American holiday takes place in the warmth of a well-furnished dining room, Sukkot feasts are served outside, in sukkahs colorfully decorated with strung cranberries and other fall fruits, gourds and paper chains. Everyone partakes of the excitement and novelty of festive meals under a leafy roof geared to let in the stars and moon.

The foods served during Sukkot represent the rich bounty this season has to offer. Many dishes are sweetened with honey or fruit to continue the wish expressed during Rosh Hashanah for a good and sweet year.

The following menu is meant to be served easily outdoors at room temperature.

Pear-and-Parsley Bisque

5 cups water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsps. honey
1 strip lemon zest
5 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan, combine water, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and let simmer 5 minutes.

Add the pears, potato and half the parsley. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor.

Taste for salt and pepper. If too thick, add more water.

Serve warm, or chilled sprinkled with remaining parsley.

Serves 6.

Pomegranate Mango-Chicken Salad

For the Dressing:

1 clove garlic
31/2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
31/2 Tbsps. soy sauce
11/2 Tbsps. pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsps. honey
2 tsps. salt

For the Salad:

1 lb. spaghetti, broken into 3-inch pieces, cooked and drained
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 lb. chicken breast, poached, skin and bones discarded, and the meat torn into thin shreds (about 4 cups)
1 mango, pitted, peeled and diced
1 cup pomegranate seeds

For the Dressing: Combine ingredients in food processor until well-blended.

Toss half the dressing with noodles. Add in half the green onions and half the cilantro.

Arrange noodles on a serving platter. Toss remaining dressing with chicken and mango. Mound on noodles.

Sprinkle with the remaining green onions, pomegranate seeds and cilantro.

Serves 6 to 8.

Prune-and-Carrot Tzimmes

3 Tbsps. vegetable oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
6 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup pitted prunes, quartered

In a large skillet, heat the oil.

Add the onions. Cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the carrots, orange juice, lemon zest, honey and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boil and let bubble a few minutes. Simmer, uncovered until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the prunes and simmer for another 8 minutes.

If there is any liquid left over, boil a few minutes to evaporate.

Let stand 30 minutes; serve.

Serves 6.

Mushroom-Corn Salad in Radicchio Cups

3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 Tbsps. chopped shallots
4 medium portobello mushroom caps, diced
2 cups sweet corn kernels
2 Tbsps. chopped tarragon leaves
1/2 cup golden raisins
salt and pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
8 radicchio leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet.

Cook the shallots and mushrooms until mushrooms appear dry. Stir in the corn and cook for about 1 minute.

Add the tarragon and raisins, and taste for salt and pepper. Remove the mushroom mixture to a bowl and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the vinegar and the stock in the same skillet until slightly syrupy.

Toss with the mushroom mixture and adjust seasonings.

Fill radicchio cups with the mixture. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4 to 8.

Apple-Honey Cake

1 cup hot brewed coffee
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 large apple, cored, grated
12 whole blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine coffee and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the honey, sugar and oil until well-blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until mixture looks homogenized.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

Beat flour mixture into honey mixture, alternately with coffee mixture, until well-combined. Stir in the grated apple.

Pour batter into pan. Place almonds on top, to mark the center of each of 12 squares.

Bake until the cake is golden-brown, about 45 minutes.

Cool and cut into squares.

Serves 12.



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