NEW YORK (JTA) — Sukkot is a wonderful time of year to incorporate seasonal ingredients into your cooking. One of my most important rules for cooking and eating is to use what is best and freshest in the market — fish, vegetables, fruit and meat. The better your ingredients, the better your results.
Beets, cabbage and squash are vegetables that are especially delicious at this time of year and work well in many recipes. Sukkot also reminds me of savory sweet and sour dishes that we ate in Eastern Europe, where I was raised.
For the holidays, I like to stick with traditional family recipes, and fortunately we have many for Sukkot. I also try to plan ahead for a holiday like Sukkot, which lasts eight days. Many of the recipes freeze well, which helps with the planning and unexpected company.
Beet Salad with Ginger is a lovely way to start a Sukkot meal. It is a delicious appetizer that I like to serve at room temperature surrounded by greens lightly dressed with oil. Traditionally, beets are boiled or steamed, but I think baking gives them a much richer flavor and a gorgeous color.
It is a popular custom to make stuffed foods for Sukkot as a symbol of an abundant harvest, and Stuffed Cabbage Rolls is a perfect example of the tradition. Among the many versions of the dish is the one I feature in my cookbook, “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine.” It’s light, the cabbage rolls are small and not too filling, and it freezes well. The cookbook also includes a wonderful recipe for a vegetarian alternative, Barley Stuffed Cabbage.
Acorn Squash Sweet-and-Sour, a flavorful accompaniment to any kind of poultry, satisfies my need to eat sweet and sour dishes on Sukkot. Acorn squash is readily available in September.
A lovely way to end a sukkah meal is with a slice of Zucchini Cake and a cup of tea. The cake is moist and flavorful, and it freezes well.
The following recipes are from “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine.”
BEETS WITH GINGER
5 medium beets
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Snipped chives, for garnish
Mache or other greens, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; you can also use a toaster oven. Line a baking pan with foil.
Wash the beets and, while still wet, wrap each one individually in foil. (Be sure to wrap them tightly, otherwise some of the juice may ooze out.) Place in the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Remove each beet from the oven as it becomes ready.
When cool, slip the skin off the beets. Cut them into 1/4-inch slices, then into 1/4-inch cubes. Add the ginger, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper; combine well. Season to taste. Serve on individual plates, garnished with chives and accompanied by mache. Makes 4 servings.
Tips: I always wear thin plastic gloves when I work with beets to avoid staining my fingers with beet juice, which can be hard to remove. For those in a hurry, you can chop the beets in a food processor, but it will give them a different texture.
STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
In Eastern Europe, stuffed cabbage rolls are traditionally served on Sukkot. This one is a favorite, as it is light and sweet and sour. Like all stuffed cabbage recipes, this is a bit time-consuming, but you can do it in stages, and because it freezes well, you can make it in advance.
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 medium heads cabbage (about 3 pounds each)
1 onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 Idaho baking potato, peeled and cut in large pieces
1 large egg
1 pound veal and 1 pound beef, ground together
1/2 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup raw long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Granny Smith apples
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 onions, quartered
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup golden raisins
6 ounces dried apricots, diced
1 can (35 ounces) imported peeled tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) imported crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, plus more as needed
1 cup chicken broth
Cabbage leaves: Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the salt. With the point of a knife, cut out some of the hard center core of the cabbages. Remove and discard any bruised and discolored leaves. Add the cabbage to the boiling water and boil for a few minutes, turning the cabbage often. Remove the cabbage from the water by piercing the core with a large fork and lifting out the head.
To remove the leaves without damaging them, cut where they are attached at the core, then peel off. If necessary, return the cabbage to the boiling water to soften the leaves. Shred the small center leaves.
Repeat this process for the second cabbage. (You can do this earlier in the day or the night before. Place the leaves in a tightly sealed zip-top plastic bag and refrigerate until needed.)
Filling: Place the onion, garlic, potato and egg in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and add the meat, parsley, rice, tomato paste and soy sauce. Mix with your hands to combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To fill the cabbage leaves: Spread each cabbage leaf on a cutting board and cut out some of the center rib. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center. Starting from the smaller end, roll the cabbage halfway, fold the sides toward the center and roll tightly to the end. Continue until all the filling has been used.
To make the sauce: Peel, core and quarter the apples. Chop the apples, carrots and onions in a food processor, one at a time. (Chopping each ingredient separately preserves its distinct texture.)
Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the apples, carrots and onions, and saute for a few minutes. Remove to a large bowl and add the parsley, raisins, apricots, peeled and crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar and broth.
To cook the rolls: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rolls near each other, seam side down, in an enamel-lined saucepan large enough to hold the rolls in 2 or 3 layers. Scatter the leftover shredded cabbage on top. Add the sauce. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat. (If the heat is too high, the bottom will burn.)
Cover the pan with heavy foil and a tight-fitting lid. Place in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Season the sauce to taste with sugar, salt and pepper. Makes about 3 dozen small rolls.
ACORN SQUASH, SWEET-AND-SOUR
This is a pretty winter dish that goes very well with any kind of poultry or fish. I often serve it with Glazed Arctic Char.
1 small acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and brush the foil with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Rinse and pat dry the squash. Trim the ends and discard. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out all the seeds and fibrous strings. Cut into 1/2-inch wedges.
Arrange the wedges in the pan. Brush the squash with the remaining oil, then the vinegar; sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the wedges are tender and the sugar has lightly caramelized. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.
This moist and delicious cake is perfect when a surprise visitor pops in and you want to serve a light snack with your tea.
1/4 pound skin-on hazelnuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing pan
2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Generous 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons grated zest from a navel orange
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium zucchini (not more than 1/2 pound), coarsely grated
Roast the hazelnuts in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the skins are blistered. While the nuts are still hot, rub them in a dish towel to remove most of their skin. (Some skin will remain.) Cool. Chop them in a food processor until coarse.
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Dust the pan with 1 tablespoon of the flour, then invert and tap the pan to shake out any excess flour.
Place the 2 cups flour in a large bowl and add the hazelnuts, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup oil, the eggs, orange zest, orange juice, ginger and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, combine the wet ingredients with the flour mixture. Fold in the zucchini.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Run a metal spatula around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the loaf pan onto a serving plate. Makes 12 servings.