What Happens in the Sukkah….

In her sermon on Friday night, Naomi talked about Sukkot. She said the rabbis called the holiday, “The time of our happiness,” and command us to be “only happy” during the seven days of the Festival.

“What does it mean to be ‘only happy’?” she asked. “How can one command happiness?”

The answer, of course, is eating in the sukkah. It’s pretty hard to be miserable when you’re sitting in a play house dining and drinking with friends.

We’ve had two dinners in ours so far, Saturday and Sunday night, and the novelty hasn’t worn off.  Except for the fact that the weather in Venice plunged below 70 degrees and we had to fend off the bitter mid-60s chill, our sukkah meals proved that religion, like armies, march on their stomachs.

Saturday Night Sukkah Menu for 15

Prosecco and Pomegranate

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata and Arugula

Wild Coho Salmon with Salsa Verde

Broccoli Sauteed with Garlic, Anchovy and Hot Pepper

Roasted New Potatoes

Pumpkin Chalah and Pumpkin Pie

Fresh Lemon Verbena Tea

Now, Sunday night was going to be a whole different menu, but I had a side of fish I hadn’t cooked, more tomatoes, more burrata and more pie.  So:

Sunday Night Sukkah Menu for 18

Prosecco and Pomegranate

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Avocado and Basil

Wild Coho Salmon with Fig Vin Cotto

Rapini Sauteed with Garlic and Melted Burrata

Olive Oil and Potato Puree

Fig and Apple Crostata made and brought by a friend

Fresh Lemon Verbena Tea

At the end of the meals Naomi offered everyone a chance to shake the lulav an etrog.  The lulav is a set of three branches—myrtle, willow and palm—bound together ina kind of woven palm sheath. The etrog is a kind of citrus fruit, an oblong lemon-looking thing with a pronounced stem and blossom bud at either end.  The idea is you stand holding the two items together, say a blessing,  then shake the branches until they make a rain-like sound, side to side, up down and behind you.  It looks like a Jewish rain dance—and it just might have its origins in that kind of ritual.  No one really knows how it developed, and it’s not as widely observed a ritual as, say, circumcision or eating lox or reading the Sunday New York Times.  The kids liked doing it last night—I got a sense the adults were a bit self-conscious—or maybe I’m just speaking about this adult.

Naomi can do these things with meaning and abandon—ancient ancient acts that make me feel as if I might as well be shaking blowing a conch horn and howling at the moon.  But I suppose that why we’re a good balance—she handles the arcane mysteries of our faith, and I serve it up hot and steamy and real.

It makes for a complete experience, I suppose.  It makes us all want to linger a little longer in the sukkah, and even start talking about clearing out the table and spending the night inside it. 

“Go for it,” a friend suggested. “What happens in the sukkah stays in the sukkah.”


Rapini Sauteed with Garlic and Melted Burrata

I copied this dish from a menu item at Luna Park on La Brea and Wilshire.  If you want to get your kids to love dark, bitter green vegetables, this is the way.

1 pound rapini

2 balls burrata

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

½ c. good olive oil

¼ t. red chili flakes

salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the rapini until they are tender and still bight green, but softer than al dente. Remove and drain.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until the slices are sweet and translucent.  Add the red pepper flakes, then the rapini, and tos until well coated and heated through. Cut the burrata in quarters and place over the rapini. Let melt into the greens on their own, or place in a hot oven until just beginning to melt.  Serve warm.

Tomorrow: “The Heresy of Pot Luck”