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A Movable Sukkot Feast

Eat it inside, or outdoors under the sukkah.

October 11, 2000|JUDY ZEIDLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sukkot is a Jewish holiday that offers thanks for the fall harvest of fruits, vegetables and grains. It is the custom to build an outdoor sukkah, which resembles the small huts that farmers lived in during the harvest season in biblical times. To strengthen the harvest image, apples, grapes and other fresh and dried fruits are hung overhead.

Nowadays, Sukkot (which begins Friday evening) is also a time when families invite friends to share their meals outdoors in the sukkah during the eight days of the holiday. This year, my menu will follow the custom of including hearty soups, which are a perfect choice because they can be made in advance and easily served.

I just returned from Italy with a great recipe for a kale and bean soup that is combined with grilled halibut, which transforms the dish into a main course.

It was inspired by Francesco Berardinelli, chef/owner of two restaurants in Tuscany: Osteria di Rendola near Montevarchi, and Becco Fino, a new restaurant along the Arno River in Florence.

Francesco is extremely creative and has been featured in several food magazines this year as one of the hot young chefs of Italy. He explains this unusual combination by saying that texture is very important to his cooking and that the creamy soup complements the crisp grilled surface of the halibut.

Another good main course would be mushroom and barley soup. Based on an old family recipe, my version includes lots of fresh shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery and garlic. But it contains no meat, making it a good choice if some of your guests are vegetarians.

The technique of sauteing all of the ingredients first and then adding the stock brings out the intense mushroom flavor of this robust soup.

These two soups are good on the first day but even better when reheated and served on the second day. Give your family a choice--serve both during the holiday and let them choose their favorite.

For dessert, serve lemon ice or a lemon poundcake as a modern-day counterpart of the etrog, a type of citron that is an important symbol used in the ceremony observing the holiday.

Kale and Bean Soup With Grilled Halibut

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

I love making this soup with kale or Cavolo Nero (black cabbage) and fresh cannellini beans when they are available. If you find fresh cannellini beans, cook them along with the kale.

1 bunch kale

Water

2 leeks, washed and cut in 2-inch pieces

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds halibut filets, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 cup fine dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

* Wash kale in cold water, rinse, remove tough stems and discard. Cut leaves in thirds. Place in large pot with water to cover, bring to boil and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Cool. Transfer kale and cooking liquid to a blender or food processor and blend to a fine puree. Pour back into pot and set aside.

* Place leeks in medium pot, add 2 cups water, bring to boil and simmer until tender, 20 minutes. Place in blender or food processor with cooking liquid and blend to a fine puree. Add to kale mixture and mix well.

* Place beans with liquid in blender or food processor and blend to fine puree. Pour into kale-leek mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

* Coat halibut cubes with bread crumbs. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and brown halibut quickly, 1 to 2 minutes per side. (Do not over-cook)

* Ladle soup into shallow soup bowls and spoon halibut cubes into center of each bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

10 to 12 servings. Each of 12 servings: 216 calories; 380 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 1.31 grams fiber.

Variation: Omit halibut and sprinkle each serving of soup with grated Parmesan cheese.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

The technique of sauteing all the ingredients before adding the stock brings out the intense mushroom flavor of this robust soup.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup pearl barley

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon dry Sherry

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat and saute onion, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

* Add stock, soy sauce, barley, thyme and Sherry. Reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer gently 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls.

6 servings. Each serving: 225 calories; 1,411 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 2.56 grams fiber.

Sukkot Lemon Pound Cake

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