Succot is the Jewish thanksgiving. It offers thanks for a bountiful autumn harvest of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Many Jewish families begin building their outdoor succah (a three-sided gazebo) right after Yom Kippur, and will serve the first Succot meal on Sunday. Succot begins Monday and ends Oct. 2. The succah resembles the small huts that field workers lived in during the harvest season in ancient times. The succahs are decorated with Jewish new year greeting cards, greenery, bunches of grapes, baskets of fruit and sheaves of grain.
Traditionally food was carried from the home kitchen to the succah table, so casserole dishes and tureens of hot soup became popular menu choices. And the rich, ripe fruits and vegetables of autumn, along with whole grains, were used in their preparation.
This year, my menu will follow the custom of serving hearty soups and casserole combinations along with a grain-rich bread made from whole-wheat flour and cornmeal. Split peas and barley make a savory soup, and the addition of creamy yogurt adds protein along with a tangy flavor. My casserole is a vegetarian tzimmes , a popular Succot stew that is baked in the oven. This unique version of stuffed cabbage uses the tzimmes as a filling. It includes carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and apples, but not a trace of meat, so it is very low in fat.
For dessert, serve a robust, frozen lemon custard accented or combined with candied lemon peel and made in an ice cream freezer or the freezer section of the refrigerator.
Lemon desserts are a perfect choice for Succot, since the lemon is the modern-day counterpart of the ethrog , or citron, an important symbol that is used in the ceremony for observing Succot. If you want a lighter dessert, serve homemade lemon ice. Whatever the choice, decorate it with small clusters of grapes and pass a platter of Frosted Lemon Cookies.
Since grapes are part of the menu and decor, select a full-bodied wine to enjoy with the dinner, along with pitchers of grape juice for the children.
Barley and Split Pea Soup
Cabbage Roll Tzimmes
Corn Bread Squares
Lemon Ice Cream or Lemon Ice
Frosted Lemon Cookies
BARLEY AND SPLIT PEA SOUP
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups vegetable stock or pareve chicken stock
1/2 cup barley, boiled until tender and drained
1/2 cup split peas, boiled until tender and drained
1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Saute onion in butter in skillet. Bring vegetable stock to boil in large pot. Add onion mixture, barley, split peas, dill, coriander, mint and season to taste with salt. Simmer 20 minutes.
Blend eggs in bowl with flour and add yogurt. Blend 1/2 cup hot soup into egg mixture, stirring quickly to avoid curdling. Pour back into hot soup. Add lemon juice and mix well.
Ladle into heated soup bowls and garnish with parsley and mint. Makes 8 servings.
CABBAGE ROLL TZIMMES
1 pound cooked sweet potatoes, diced
4 large carrots, peeled, diced and steamed
1 pound firm apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 pound parboiled winter squash (pumpkin, Hubbard or banana), peeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small cabbage
Place sweet potatoes, carrots, apples and squash in alternate layers in casserole. Sprinkle to taste with salt. Combine olive oil, honey, water and wine and pour over vegetables. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 1 hour, or until tender and potatoes are glazed.
Cut away core of cabbage. Steam cabbage in large saucepan over simmering water until tender enough to separate leaves and fold without tearing or breaking.
Transfer filling to bowl, with slotted spoon, reserving sauce. Place cabbage leaf on flat surface. Place 2 tablespoons filling on root end of cabbage leaf and roll up to enclose filling, envelope-style.
Place cabbage rolls, seam side down, close together submerged in casserole with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes, or until heated through. Makes 8 servings.
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons safflower oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Combine flour, salt, baking powder, 1 cup cornmeal and sugar in bowl of mixer. Blend well. Combine milk, oil and egg. Pour into flour mixture, beating until dry ingredients are moist.
Brush 8-inch square baking dish with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Pour in batter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 425 degrees 20 minutes, or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack and cut into squares. Makes 16 squares.
LEMON ICE CREAM
2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup candied lemon peel, optional
Small grape clusters