Every year when Sukkot rolls around, I dream of building a sukkah, a temporary hut reminiscent of the ones farmers in ancient Israel lived in while gathering the year’s last crops.
“Have you ever eaten in a sukkah?” I asked my two granddaughters.
“Yes, I had a snack there,” the 7-year-old said. “In Hebrew school.”
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have our own sukkah?” I asked.
I’ve always had sukkah envy. Every year when Sukkot rolls around, I dream of building a sukkah, a temporary hut reminiscent of the ones farmers in ancient Israel lived in while gathering the year’s last crops. That tradition evolved into Sukkot, the eight-day harvest festival that begins this year on Oct. 17.
Because we are apartment dwellers, erecting a sukkah is a challenge. Nonetheless, I’d love to throw a Shabbat dinner inside our very own harvest hut.
For many people, the Shabbat that falls during Sukkot is the holiday’s highlight and calls for an elegant autumn menu. So late in the season, only the most intrepid will brave sukkah dining, and I intend to be one of them. The trick is to dress warmly and serve food in insulated cookware that retains heat.
“I’m going to turn our terrace into a sukkah,” I told the girls. Somehow, I’ll rig the lattice-style roof that is required, one that lets in sunlight and moonlight.
“Let’s hang fruits and vegetables from the walls,” my 9-year-old granddaughter said. “Or even pictures of fruits and vegetables like the synagogue does.”
“We’ll eat Shabbat dinner there for sure,” I said. I love Sukkot, because it reminds us that food comes from the land, not the supermarket. Even on a terrace, a sukkah connects us to the earth and stars.
Chicken in a Pot | Meat
Equipment: Dutch oven
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus ¼ cup
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
4 Italian plum tomatoes, diced
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
White pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
½ cup dry white wine
⅔ cup frozen peas, defrosted to room temperature
Accompaniment: Fluffy White Rice (recipe below)
Dissolve the bouillon cube in
¾ cup of boiling water. Reserve.
Rinse the chicken pieces under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Briefly heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven on a medium flame. Place the chicken pieces in the Dutch oven and sear until golden brown. Turn and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate. Cool the oil to warm and discard. Wipe the Dutch oven with paper towels and discard.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in the Dutch oven on a medium flame. Sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, oregano, white pepper and a little kosher salt. Do not oversalt, as the bouillon contains salt. Stir until coated and sauté. Stir every couple of minutes until the tomatoes start to give off some sauce.
Return the chicken to the pot. Pour in the dissolved bouillon and white wine. Stir to combine. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the peas and stir. Simmer until the peas are warmed. Do not overcook or they will shrivel.
Serve immediately with the Fluffy White Rice. If serving outdoors in a sukkah, bring the chicken to the table in the covered Dutch oven.
Fluffy White Rice | Pareve
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups of uncooked rice
3¼ cups water
Salt to taste
Equipment: A heavy pot is recommended, as it holds heat for dining in a sukkah. The rice may quadruple in size while cooking, so select a large, deep pot as well.
Heat the oil inside the pot on a medium flame until warm, for one to two minutes. Pour the rice into the pot and stir until each grain of rice is lightly coated with oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Continue stirring until the rice appears translucent, about two more minutes. Pour in the water and stir again. Cover the pot and drop the heat to a low flame.
Check the rice’s progress after 10 minutes. If it appears to be soaking up most of the water, add more water, ¼ cup at a time. Stir to combine and cover the pot again.
In another 10 to 15 minutes, the rice should absorb all the water. Take it off the flame and let it rest for two minutes in the covered pot. If it is not yet tender, add a tablespoon of water, cover the pot and simmer on low until it’s absorbed.
Serve immediately. Serve in the pot for sukkah dining to retain the rice’s heat.
Roasted Butternut Squash | Pareve
Equipment: 9-by-13-inch baking pan
Nonstick vegetable spray
1 package butternut squash, peeled and cubed
¼ cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt to taste
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Red pepper flakes to taste
Coat the baking pan with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the squash in the prepared baking pan. Drizzle it with oil and toss until all sides of every piece of squash are coated. Sprinkle on the spices and toss again to coat the squash evenly.
Place the pan in the oven. With a long-handled utensil, turn the squash every five minutes or so. Roast for 40 minutes, or until the squash is caramelized and soft in the center when pierced with a fork.
Serve immediately. If serving in a sukkah, cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil to retain heat.
Israeli Health Salad | Pareve
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and dill
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more if needed
Core the tomatoes and cut them into wedges. With a knife, push out the seeds. Discard the core and seeds, then dice the tomatoes. Place them on paper towels to drain.
With a scraper, remove the cucumber skin. Cut the cucumbers in half vertically. With a knife, remove and discard the seeds. Dice. Place them on paper towels to drain.
Core the pepper. Rinse the cavity under cold water to flush out the seeds. Dry with the paper towels and dice.
Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and toss gently until combined. Salad tastes best when made several hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate, but serve at room temperature.