Succot, the Jewish thanksgiving, is celebrated starting today and lasts for eight days. Originally, the holiday was observed in small three-sided buildings, called succahs , which were decorated with bunches of grapes and the fruits, vegetables and grains of the autumn harvest. The same holiday spirit still prevails--whether in the family dining room or the succah --and the same traditional Succot foods are still served to each generation. Stuffed foods are another tradition, and casserole dishes are popular because they can be carried from kitchen to succah without losing any heat.
My family and friends will enjoy some interesting foods in a meatless menu that is healthful and low in fat. Much of it can be prepared in advance. First, there is hearty Holiday Pumpkin Soup, which you might also keep in mind for Thanksgiving next month. It is garnished with a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds, adding a crunchy texture. Then, in true Succot spirit, we will have Harvest Stuffed Pepper Casserole with a savory vegetable stuffing. This stuffing is unusual because the ingredients are sauteed for a rich blend of flavors, before the peppers are stuffed. For eye appeal, the recipe calls for red, yellow and green peppers.
Grain and fruits are combined in the Cracked Wheat-Fruit Salad, adorned with crimson pomegranate seeds, the pomegranate being part of the ancient lore. This mold makes a pretty addition to a holiday centerpiece of fruits and vegetables.
A light and tangy dessert concludes the dinner--Lemon Mousse Slices with a chocolate glaze, an irresistible combination. The lemon represents the etrog , or citron fruit, the traditional symbol of Succot. Add a Chardonnay or a light dry red wine and you will have a dinner that offers much to be thankful for on this holiday.
MEATLESS SUCCOT MENU FOR 10
Holiday Pumpkin Soup
Molded Cracked Wheat - Fruit Salad
Harvest Stuffed Pepper Casserole
Lemon Mousse Slices With Chocolate Glaze
Suggested beverage: Chardonnay or light , dry red wine HOLIDAY PUMPKIN SOUP
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tart apple, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups pumpkin, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups pareve chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Heat butter in heavy saucepan and saute onion and garlic until tender. Add apple and pumpkin, then saute 2 to 3 minutes, until tender. Add thyme and broth. Bring to boil, or until soup thickens.
With slotted spoon, transfer all of pumpkin to food processor and process, slowly adding 1 cup broth, until pureed.
Return pureed mixture to saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until soup thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into heated soup bowls and sprinkle with parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds. Makes about 7 cups.
Note: If pumpkin is not available, use banana or Hubbard squash.
MOLDED CRACKED WHEAT-FRUIT SALAD
1 (16-ounce) box bulgur wheat
1 cup raisins, plumped in sweet wine 1 hour
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
1 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup minced mint
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 large oranges, peeled, seeded and sectioned
1 large orange, peeled and thinly sliced in rounds for garnish
1 cup roasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup peeled roasted whole almonds
1 pomegranate, peeled and seeded
In large bowl, soak bulgur in enough cold water to cover by 1 inch, about 45 minutes or until tender. Squeeze water from bulgur wheat by handfuls, or press bulgur in cheesecloth-lined strainer.
Transfer bulgur to large bowl. Add drained raisins, dates, parsley, mint, green onions and orange sections, then toss. Pour Lemon-Orange Dressing over salad. Gently toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Line mold with plastic wrap. Arrange orange slices on bottom and spoon in salad. With back of spoon, pack salad down firmly. Chill at least 3 hours. Just before serving, unmold onto large platter and peel off plastic wrap. Garnish with mint, almonds and pomegranate seeds. Makes 10 servings.
3/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
In small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and orange juice. Blend in cinnamon, cumin and sugar.
HARVEST STUFFED PEPPER CASSEROLE
10 green, red and yellow peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped celery, with tops
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced basil
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine