By Eileen Goltz
Chag HaSukkot is unquestionably one of our most enjoyable holidays. Preparation, however, is something else. Grown men and women will instantly lose 400 I.Q. points trying to put slot “A” into tab “B” while building their sukkah. The ability to use a hammer or screwdriver inexplicably escapes us and suddenly we’re making threats to the lumber and fiberglass. There are two schools of thought as to how to assemble a sukkah. One is to wait until three hours before the holiday starts and scramble like mad to find all the pieces you’re sure were put away in the storage box last year. Where did they go? Somehow, the instructions are always missing and it’s always my fault. (Your honor, I never touched that piece of paper; the dog ate it). Method two is more traditional. You start right after Yom Kippur, make six trips to the hardware store, get started eight times, and you’re still not able to get it set up until three hours before Yom Tov. (Decorating the sukkah is an entirely different article).
During this process of the Great Assembling, I’ve always found the safest place to be is in the kitchen, preparing for the holiday meals. After all the hours of building (and rebuilding), my crew looks forward to eating well when the holiday begins.
The challenge is to come up with dishes that use many of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available. I keep the menus simple, because everything has to be transported from the kitchen to the sukkah and the more complicated the preparations, the colder the food seems to get as we transfer everything from indoors. Simple does not, however, have to mean boring. The following recipes are easy, simple and are guaranteed to enhance any sukkah experience.
1 c. minced scallions, including some green tops
1 c. minced onions
12 T. butter or margarine
1-1/2 lbs. mushrooms, finely chopped
1 T. minced parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 c. matzoh meal, approximately
salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the scallions and onions in 6 T. butter or margarine until soft. Add the mushrooms and saute over moderately high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until all of their liquid has evaporated. Turn into a mixing bowl and let cool. Add the parsley, eggs, and gradually, the matzoh meal; the mixture should have enough body to hold together during frying. Add another T. or two of matzoh meal if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining butter or margarine in a large heavy skillet. To form each schnitzel, place 1 heaping T. of the mushroom mixture into the hot fat and spread with the back of a wooden spoon (note: do not use a metal spoon for this; it will conduct the heat) to a diameter of about 3 inches and fry until lightly browned on both sides. You can also make smaller schnitzels to serve as hors d’oevres. As the schnitzels are done, drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges or sour cream.
Pepper and Peanut Salad
8 thick peppers (green and red)
1/4 c. oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. lemon juice
1 T. vinegar
1/2 c. roasted peanuts
Clean the peppers of their seeds and cut into strips. Saute in oil until the strips begin to brown. Add the garlic and continue to saute for several minutes. Add salt and pepper. Remove from the fire, cool slightly and add the lemon juice and vinegar. Before serving, decorate with whole peanuts. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.
Beet Salad with Oranges and Spanish Onion
12 whole baby beets; tops removed
2 navel oranges (or sweet oranges)
1/4 small Spanish onion, halved lengthwise; thinly sliced
10 mint leaves; coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
Place the beets, unpeeled, in a foil-lined baking dish. Cover with more foil and seal the edges of the top and bottom layers of foil to completely enclose the beets. Place them in a 400 degree oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the beets are tender when pierced with a sharp paring knife. While the beets are baking, peel the oranges. First cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of the orange so that it can sit firmly on the countertop. Using a sharp paring knife cut the peel and pith off with sawing downward strokes so that the orange is completely peeled. Cut the individual sections out from the membranes. Place in a mixing bowl together with the onion and mint. When the beets are tender, hold them under running water and slip the skins off. Trim the stem end, then cut them in half and then into slices. Add the beet slices to the bowl with the oranges. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle the olive oil over to taste. Toss to mix. Can be served immediately or allowed to marinate up to 2 days.
6 small zucchini, trimmed and cubed or shredded
salt to taste
2 medium onions, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. oil
2 T. margarine
5 c. chicken stock
2 T. fresh herbs (combination of oregano, basil and parsley) 2 T. lemon juice
Place cubed or shredded zucchini in colander, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 10 minutes. In a large soup pot, saute onions and garlic in oil until the onions are golden. Dry zucchini on paper towels and add to onions in the skillet. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly and puree soup in blender or food processor. Return to pot, heat and season with herbs. May be served hot or chilled. Serves 8.
3/4 c. packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. instant espresso
Combine 2 1/2 cups water, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low; boil gently for 3 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and add chocolate, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk until chocolate is melted and well incorporated. Pour mixture into a bowl set in an ice-water bath; let stand until chilled, stirring occasionally. Transfer to an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Makes one quart.
Eileen Goltz c 1997