Succulent Sukkot

Sukkot is a joyous holiday. It is regarded as the happiest of biblical festivals, celebrating the gathering of a bountiful harvest. The holiday begins two weeks after the first day of Rosh Hashanah and lasts for seven days.

Right on the heels of Yom Kippur, Jews all over the world will put up a sukkah, symbolizing the fragile booths used by farmers and their families while working in the fields to bring in the harvest, and of the tents the Israelites used as they wandered in the wilderness.

The sukkah is decorated with season-al fruits and vegetables. Produce varies in each country, so while corn stalks are used for the roofs — and cranberries, gourds and Indian corn strung on the walls — of American sukkahs, in Israel, decorations include pomegranates, oranges, grapes and star fruit indigenous to the area.

The etrog — a large, thick-skinned citrus that looks like a lemon — and lulav may also be included. The etrog is an ancient citrus fruit considered to be the most important of the Four Species of plants blessed during Sukkot. These days, plastic or paper versions may be used to prevent bees and insects buzzing over food served in the sukkah. An added bonus, these may be stored away to use next year.

During Sukkot, feasting is the keynote; fasting is forbidden. As many meals as possible are eaten in the sukkah, especially the main meal on the first day. Providing the weather cooperates, the sukkah may be used for entertaining, reading and relaxing.

When fresh produce was only available in season, creative cooks incorporated sun-ripened fruits and vegetables in almost every Sukkot dish, and homemakers were kept busy preserving the seasonal produce in jars to liven up winter meals.

These use the abundant autumn fruits and veggies in keeping with this thanksgiving harvest festival. Most are even vegetarian-friendly.

Chag Sameach!

Garden Gazpacho


A delicious catch-all for fresh vegetables and handfuls of fresh herbs. Substitute as available. Use rubber gloves when cutting the jalapeño pepper.

2 ripe, medium tomatoes
1 small zucchini
1/2 cucumber
1 scallion
1 small yellow, green or orange bell pepper, seeded
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
11/2 cups mixed fresh herbs, packed (i.e., parsley, basil, thyme, cilantro)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
11/2 cups spiced vegetable juice (i.e., Bloody Mary Mix)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the vegetables and peppers into chunks. Place in the food processor, along with the herbs. Process until mixture is coarsely chopped.

Add in the lemon juice and enough vegetable juice to make a thick soupy consistency.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 33; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 7 g; fat, 9 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 200 mg.


Middle East Luncheon Salad


4 wedges (about 1-inch thick) iceberg lettuce
1 jar (6.5 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and halved
6 baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
11/4 small zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cups cooked or canned tuna, broken into chunks
1/2 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
4 fresh figs, halved or 6 dried figs, halved
1 cup pitted black olives
6-8 canned anchovy fillets, drained
Italian vinaigrette dressing

Arrange the lettuce wedges, artichokes, carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, tuna, cheese and figs attractively on a large platter.

Garnish with olives and anchovies.

Drizzle with Italian dressing.

Serve chilled.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 169; protein, 12 g; carbohydrates, 13 g; fat, 9 g; cholesterol, 10 mg; sodium, 391 mg.


Shepherd's Sweet-Potato Pie


This is a variation on the traditional shepherd's pie, which is made with white potatoes and ground beef.

2 large (about 3/4 lb.) sweet potatoes
2 Tbsps. margarine, melted
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
3/4 lb. ground turkey or chicken
1/3 cup frozen chopped onion
1 tsp. prepared chopped garlic
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
11/2 cups shredded carrots
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. steak sauce
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch pie dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 11/2-inch chunks. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with boiling water and cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes (a knife should slip in and out easily). Drain well.

Mash together with the margarine and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey, onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Sauté until the turkey has lost its pinkness. Stir in the tomato, steak sauce and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to the prepared pie dish.

Top with the sweet-potato mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling at edges.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 214; protein, 11 g; carbohydrates, 19 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 45 mg; sodium, 167 mg.


Greens and Beans With Cornbread Topping


Even if you haven't tried winter greens, such as collards and kale, consider including them in cooked vegetable dishes. Nutritionally rich, they add texture, gentle bite and fiber.

3 Tbsps. vegetable oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large tomato, coarsely cut up
1 can (15 oz.) red beans, rinsed and drained 1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) chopped tomatoes, undrained
11/2 tsps. chili powder
2 Tbsps. tomato paste
1/2 lb. kale, shredded
1/3 cup snipped Italian parsley, divided
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
11/4 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onion and bell pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until onions are softened.

Add the tomato, beans, canned tomatoes, chili powder, tomato paste, kale and half the parsley. Stir well.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to simmer.

Cook for 5 minutes. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Prepare the Cornbread: In a large mixing bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center.

Stir in the egg, buttermilk and remaining oil. Mix well.

Spread the batter evenly over the vegetable mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown.

Garnish with remaining parsley. Serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 331; protein, 13 g; carbohydrates, 50 g; fat, 9 g; cholesterol, 37 mg; sodium, 670 mg.


Mushrooms Stuffed With Seeds and Herbs


6 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
16 large mushrooms
3 Tbsps. grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, toasted
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or basil
2 Tbsps. butter, melted
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a large ovenproof pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Set aside.

Rinse mushrooms and gently remove stems. (Reserve for use in a soup or omelet.)

In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients except the mushroom caps and remaining olive oil. Use a spoon to pack the filling into the mushroom caps, and the back of the spoon to press it down.

Place stuffed mushrooms in the prepared pan. Brush remaining oil equally over the top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Makes 16 mushrooms.

Approximate nutrients per mushroom: calories, 102; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 5 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 5 mg; sodium, 24 mg.


Ziti Salmon Salad With Spinach Pesto


4 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 lb. salmon fillet, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz. whole wheat ziti or penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
4 cups baby spinach leaves, packed and divided, locally grown
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the salmon.

Sauté for 5 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through (flakes are opaque when separated with a knife).

Add to the cooked ziti or pasta, along with 2 cups of the spinach. Toss gently. Set aside.

In the food processor, blend the remaining spinach, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, basil, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice until puréed.

Pour into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into the salmon mixture.

Garnish with red bell pepper.

Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 340; protein, 18 g; carbohydrates, 28 g; fat, 17 g; cholesterol, 41 mg; sodium, 107 mg.


Pickled Plums


Use the blackish-bluish, slightly tart Italian plums that are in season now. Serve as a side dish with meats or fish, or, for a fanciful dessert, chop them coarsely and spoon over vanilla ice cream. The result is a delicious contrast of flavors.

2 lbs. Italian plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsps. ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick, 2 to 3 inches long
1 tsp. dried red-pepper flakes

Place plums in a heat-resistant glass bowl. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the vinegars, sugar, 3/4 cup water, coriander, cinnamon stick and pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes longer. Pour over the plums.

Cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours or up to a week. Before serving, discard cinnamon stick.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 149; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 37 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 6 mg.


Marmalade-Crusted Apples


4 large Cortland or MacIntosh apples
2 Tbsps. brown sugar
2 Tbsps. dried cranberries
1 Tbsp. grated ginger root
4 Tbsps. orange marmalade

Cut a 1/2-inch slice from top of apples. Discard.

Core apples leaving about a 1/2-inch flesh at base. Cut a thin slice from bottom of apples so they sit without wobbling.

Place in a microwave-safe dish just large enough to fit apples snugly. Set aside.

In a cup, mix the sugar, cranberries, ginger and marmalade. Spoon into the apple cavities dividing mixture evenly. Pour 1/4 cup water around. Cover loosely with paper towel.

Microwave on medium for 10 to 12 minutes, or until apples are tender.

Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes longer.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 160; protein, 0 g; carbohydrates, 42 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 13 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman, the author of Mackerel at Midnight, is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.



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