Sukkot recipes that bring tastes of autumn

Sukkot is such a beautiful holiday: eating outdoors, decorating the sukkah and enjoying the flavors of fall with family and friends. The fasting is over, and the craziness of the New Year rush has passed. You can leisurely enjoy long holiday meals outside.

Even though the holidays fall a bit early this year, I still enjoy bringing autumn flavors into my menu. These recipes are beautiful and crowd pleasers, sure to further liven up your sukkah.


Yield: 2 large loaves

Butternut-Squash-Challah-horriz (1)If butternut squash challah sounds a bit bizarre, it’s actually quite similar to a pumpkin or sweet potato challah, which may be more common. The texture of this dough is smooth, slightly sweet and pairs perfectly with savory sage. It is equally delicious slathered in butter for breakfast or dipped in a hearty bowl of soup or stew for lunch or dinner.


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 5-6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (I prefer to use King Arthur)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butternut squash puree (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks plus 1 teaspoon water
  • Additional fresh sage leaves for garnish
  • Thick sea salt



Place vegetable oil and fresh sage leaves in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Heat through until sage becomes fragrant, around 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit 25-30 minutes. Strain sage leaves but do not discard. Finely chop leaves.

In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1½ cups flour, salt, butternut squash and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and chopped sage leaves. Mix thoroughly.

Add another 1 cup of flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.

Add an additional 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic. You can do this in a bowl with a wooden spoon, in a stand mixer with the dough attachment or, once the dough becomes pliable enough, on a floured work surface with the heels of your hands. Dough will be done when it bounces back to the touch, is smooth without clumps and is almost shiny.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least around 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 45-60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.

In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 teaspoon water.

Brush egg wash liberally over challah.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh sage and thick sea salt.

If making one large challah, bake around 27-28 minutes; if making 2 smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes.


Yield: 6-8 servings

This easy side dish screams autumn, and is my way to feel like I am eating a nice bowl of pasta while also getting in a serving of whole grains and veggies. Add any combination of colorful fall vegetables that you like. The sweetness of the dried cranberries and the crunch of the pepita seeds is delicious outdoors in the sukkah on a crisp, sunny day.


  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup wheatberries
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash
  • 2 purple carrots or 1 large beet
  • 1/4 cup cooked peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought pepitas (you can also use slivered almonds or sunflower seeds)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel butternut squash and carrots. Dice each into 1/2 inch cubes. Place butternut squash and carrots, separately, on a baking sheet, drizzle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, tossing once, until carmelized.

Note: If replacing the carrot with beet, wash the beet gently and place in tin foil. Roast in oven at 400 degrees for around 45 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool and remove skin. Once beet has cooled, dice into 1/2 inch cubes.

While vegetables are roasting, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook orzo around 11 minutes and drain. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a large bowl.

Cook wheatberries according to directions on package. (For 1/2 cup wheatberries, you will need around 1 cup of water. Bring water to a boil and then simmer covered for around 15 minutes).

In the large bowl with orzo, add cooked butternut squash, carrots (or beets), peas, wheatberries, cranberries, pepitas and another 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve room temperature or warm.


Yield: 4 servings

This recipe is so easy I don’t even think it should count as an actual recipe. If you are serving a crowd, just double the amount. You don’t have to cut the potatoes into slices if you don’t want, you could just cut them into quarters and toss with paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil. But for me, there is something about chicken fat dripping onto potatoes while they roast that gets me a little excited.


  • 4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
  • 2 tablespoons smoky paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice potatoes into 1/2-inch slices.

Grease the bottom of a Pyrex dish.

Lay potatoes on bottom of pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Whisk together spices, lemon juice, zest and olive oil. Spread all over the chicken including underneath the skin. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes if you have time, though not necessary.

Place chicken and whole garlic cloves on top of potatoes.

Roast for 50-55 minutes, or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

Remove chicken and set aside. If you want your potatoes crispier, you can place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness.


Yield: 1 dozen cookies

I love chewy oatmeal raisin cookies. But when you combine tart, dried cherries with dark chocolate chips, you get a truly unique cookie that your guests will rave about. These cookies are great pareve or dairy and can me made a few days ahead of time.

Tip: To bring out the sweetness of cookies, don’t forget the salt! Combine 1/2 tablespoon thick sea salt with 1/2 tablespoon sanding sugar and sprinkle just a pinch on each cookie. The sanding sugar with make the cookies look beautiful and the salt will really add a depth of flavor and bring out the cookie’s sweetness.


  • 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 tablespoon thick sea salt (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sanding sugar (optional)



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter or margarine with sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until just combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and cherries (or other add-ins). Don’t overmix. In a small bowl combine sanding sugar and sea salt.

Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Lightly flatten cookies with moistened fingers. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and sugar on top of each cookie.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to cooling racks.

Shannon Sarna is the editor of The Nosher, a 70 Faces Media company.

Soups are super for the sukkah

Cold or hot, soup is ideal for the sukkah.

What better way to warm up on a chilly night or cool off on a warm afternoon?

“In The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking,” Phyllis and Miryom Glazer write that the Jews of Russia and Poland served borscht on Sukkot as a “hot and nourishing meal-in-a-bowl” soup made with beets—a mainstay of the diet of Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Polish Jews—with cabbage and sometimes a piece of meat.

Claudia Roden writes in “The Book of Jewish Food” that kreplach, the triangular filled dumpling in chicken soup, is traditional for Ashkenazim on the last day of Sukkot.

“This soup symbolizes the covering up of God’s stringency with loving kindness,” Roden says.

Edda Servi Machlin, an author of Italian cookbooks, says that a traditional Italian Jewish menu for Sukkot might include vegetable soup or vegetable cream soup.

Roden also relates that while couscous is a popular dish for North African Jews, sweet potatoes and raisins are added to the soup made during Sukkot and is poured over the couscous.

The sages declared it a mitzvah to eat 14 meals in the sukkah, and in keeping with the holiday’s agricultural meaning, gratefulness is expressed to God after the harvest through the eating of autumn fruits and vegetables.

Here are a variety of recipes to make use of harvest vegetables.

A bisque is a thick, cream soup with vegetables.


1/4 cup pareve salty margarine
2 chopped onions
2 cups sliced carrots
8 cups diced zucchini
3 1/2 cups pareve chicken soup or made with pareve chicken soup powder and water
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 cup whipping cream
Ground nutmeg
Chopped parsley


1. In a soup pot, melt margarine. Add onions, carrots and zucchini and cook until onion is transparent.

2. Add chicken soup and marjoram. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3. Whirl vegetables in blender in batches and return to soup pot. Add whipping cream. To serve, ladle into bowls, sprinkle with nutmeg and parsley.

Makes 8 servings



5 peeled and quartered sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sliced onions
2 cored and quartered apples
4 cups water
4 teaspoons pareve chicken soup powder
2 crushed bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups milk or soy milk
2 tablespoons pareve margarine
1/4 cup bourbon
Lemon slices


1. In a soup pot, place sweet potatoes, onions, apples, and chicken soup. Add bay leaves, thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.

2. Puree vegetables in batches and return to soup pot. Add milk, margarine and bourbon. To serve, pour into soup bowls and garnish with lemon slices.

Makes 8 servings



2 small cut up heads of cabbage
2 pounds of short ribs
10 cups water
4 teaspoons beef soup powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
2 cut-up onions
2 cups tomato sauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice


1. Place cabbage, meat, water and beef soup powder in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Add brown sugar, white sugar, onions, tomato sauce and lemon juice. Continue cooking 2 hours or until meat falls off the bones.

Makes 8 servings



2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 pound sliced onions
1 1/2 teaspoons flour
1 1/4 cups pareve chicken soup
2 cups pumpkin
2 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
Dash white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Dash cinnamon
Dash nutmeg


1. Melt butter or margarine in a soup pot. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Stir in flour and chicken soup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Pour into blender in batches, blend a few seconds and return to pot. Add pumpkin, milk, 1/2 cup whipping cream, salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat soup and simmer 15 minutes.

4. Beat remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream in a bowl. To serve, ladle soup into soup bowls and spoon whipped cream on top.

Makes 6 servings

Atoning for the sin of rushing dinner to get to Kol Nidre

I consider Yom Kippur eve the sandwich holiday. Not because I would ever serve my family and friends sandwiches before going to synagogue on the eve of a solemn fast. I see the start of Yom Kippur this way, because it’s sandwiched between two days of Rosh Hashanah celebrations and the Day of Atonement. Not to mention the eight-day festival of Sukkot, which rushes in four days later.
With the emphasis that night, as it should be, on getting to Kol Nidre services on time, sometimes little thought is given to this very important meal whose menu should be in perfect balance to ready people for the fast ahead. Ideally dinner on Yom Kippur eve should be hearty but light, nourishing but satisfying, tasty but not too luxurious. The challenge is daunting at a time when school and fall activities have just begun, and the Jewish calendar is so full.
I recall one year when I was still peeling potatoes an hour before eight people were expected for dinner on erev Yom Kippur. I panicked, fearing that we’d never get to Kol Nidre services on time.
Fortunately my husband always comes to the rescue whenever I’m in a jam. He microwaved the potatoes, threw together a salad and broke into a sweat basting the chicken. I set the table, barking orders, as our 9-year-old daughter scampered to her room to avoid my tension. I swore I’d never do that again. Since then, I’ve given much thought to organizing this special dinner to save time, lower stress and serve foods that will facilitate a meaningful fast.

With Yom Kippur beginning this year on a Sunday night, people who observe the Sabbath have additional considerations. If possible, they should complete the bulk of their organizing and food preparation by Thursday, leaving Friday free to focus on Shabbat cooking. After Friday evening, their next opportunity to address the Yom Kippur eve meal is Sunday morning, when the countdown begins. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’ve solved this dilemma by imitating a staple of women’s magazines — the make-ahead menu. The day after Rosh Hashanah, while I’m sipping coffee and drizzling honey over a piece of challah, I start planning for Yom Kippur eve. I fine-tune my menu and compose a shopping list.

On each of the following days, I prepare a dish and freeze it, or I make most of the steps in the directions, refrigerating foods until I’m ready to proceed. On the day of Yom Kippur eve, I have only a few last-minute touches to handle. I glide into the holiday with a sense of serenity, a far cry from the frenzied person I used to be. For peace of mind, I now serve the same menu every Yom Kippur eve. It meets my most important criteria: healthy, appealing and easy to execute. This menu can be expanded to include additional dishes, but it’s filling enough to stand alone.
Inspired by Greek Jews, who often partake in stewed chicken and tomatoes before the Yom Kippur fast, I created my own version of this traditional dish. The chicken is sautéed and then poached in plum tomatoes, which simmer into a sauce that moistens the chicken. However, this dish is fairly bland and doesn’t cause undue thirst the next day. The ample tomato sauce calls for a bed of rice. Throughout the world, chicken and rice are served on Yom Kippur eve, because they are filling and easy to digest. However, many people, particularly when pressed for time, have difficulty finessing rice, which needs some tender loving care. They end up with a sticky ball of starch, rather than a pot of fluffy rice. My recipe, relying on a bit of olive oil, comes out perfectly every time.
Roasted Autumn Root Vegetables are a medley of seasonal produce flash-cooked at a high temperature. You can prepare this dish three days in advance, finishing it quickly just minutes before serving dinner.
Filled with dried fruits, flakes of oatmeal and a dollop of honey, Baked Stuffed Apples is not an indulgent dessert. For that reason, it’s a nutritious and appropriate way to end the pre-fast meal.
When it comes to Yom Kippur eve, my motto is to do as much as possible as soon as it’s feasible. On the morning after Rosh Hashanah, finalize your Yom Kippur eve guest list. Decide what you want to serve. Select which linens you will place on the table. White is traditional on Yom Kippur. If you’re using the tablecloth and napkins from Rosh Hashanah meals, make sure they’re washed and ironed or back from the dry cleaner on time.
If you’re expecting a crowd, you may have to expand your dining table. Know in advance how many leaves you’ll require. If you need a folding table, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. If you have to borrow a table and chairs from a family member or friend, organize this well in advance.
I suggest setting the table after breakfast that morning. Eat lunch in your kitchen or on the living room coffee table. To make life easy, order a pizza. Although it goes against my creative nature to be repetitive, under certain circumstances, it makes sense.
On Yom Kippur eve, I’m a big proponent of the preset menu, one you can follow year after year. Select a combination of recipes you can manage. Of course you can make reasonable substitutions, such as casseroles or other make-ahead dishes. But with so much going on, Yom Kippur eve is not the time to strike a new course or leave things to chance. It’s the time to be methodical and calm, to guide yourself and your family into a peaceful fast.

Poached Chicken Breasts and Tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed

Thanksgiving’s Sukkot Roots

Did you know that Thanksgiving is really a Jewish holiday? Although Thanksgiving is not on the Jewish calendar, historians believe that Sukkot may have inspired America’s favorite farewell to fall, often nicknamed "Turkey Day."

"The pilgrims based their customs on the Bible," said Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of the "New Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Times Books, 1999). "They knew that Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival, and there is evidence that they fashioned the first Thanksgiving after the Jewish custom of celebrating the success of the year’s crops."

Linda Burghardt, author of "Jewish Holiday Traditions" (Citadel Press, 2001), said, "Sukkot is considered a model for Thanksgiving. Both holidays revolve around showing gratitude for a bountiful harvest."

Today Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, but President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t propose this timing until 1939.

It was Abraham Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Roosevelt actually changed Lincoln’s decree that Thanksgiving be observed on the last Thursday in November, which may fall on the fifth Thursday of the month.

The pilgrims’ invited local Indians to the first Thanksgiving during the fall of 1621. Historians speculate that this celebration occurred somewhere between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9, but most likely in early October, around the time of Sukkot.

"Originally, Sukkot entailed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem," said Greene, who believes the two holidays share much in common.

The Puritan Christians who landed on American shores seeking religious freedom were called pilgrims, in deference to their journey from England. Their dream of finding a place where they’d be free to worship as they pleased is a recurrent theme in Jewish history.

After their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the ancient Israelites lived for a week in temporary huts while giving thanks for a plentiful harvest. Likewise, during their first winter in Massachusetts, the pilgrims dwelled in makeshift huts, wigwams that the Indians helped them build.

While Sukkot remains a seven-day observance, the first Thanksgiving celebration continued for three days, a time frame more similar to the Jewish harvest festival than today’s Thanksgiving dinner, which often begins in late afternoon and ends several hours later.

With its pumpkin pies and cranberry garlands, Thanksgiving mirrors many of Sukkot’s customs and culinary themes.

Burghardt said she is amazed at how many of the same foods are connected to both holidays.

Piping hot casseroles brimming with vegetables and fruit grace the American and Jewish harvest tables, as do pastries that are filled with apples, nuts, pumpkins and squash. Stuffing one food inside another as a metaphor for abundance is the hallmark of Sukkot cuisine.

Yet there’s nothing more opulent than the elaborate bread stuffings found inside Thanksgiving turkeys.

Greene enjoys transforming traditional Thanksgiving recipes into kosher cuisine.

"I like mixing new and old world themes," she said.

One of her favorite recipes is glazed turkey with fruit-nut stuffing. Bursting with so much produce, it’s a one-dish harvest festival. Because the pilgrims and Indians shared roasted corn during the first Thanksgiving, Greene’s double-corn bread is a fitting choice. It is soft and moist, almost like a kugel.

Harvest-time cranberry relish is always a big hit at Greene’s house.

"Several years ago, I invited a family of Russian Jewish immigrants to celebrate their first Thanksgiving. While they adored traditional American foods, they were especially fascinated with the taste and bright color of cranberries."

But since the two holidays are so close in time, is there any reason for American Jews who celebrate Sukkot to pay homage to a second harvest festival six weeks later?

"Participating in Thanksgiving is how we feel American," said Greene, a former food columnist for the Baltimore Jewish Times, who used to submit a Thanksgiving story every year.

She agrees with Burghardt that Thanksgiving is a lovely experience. It’s an easy holiday to include friends and neighbors of other faiths.

"While Thanksgiving is not technically a Jewish holiday, it’s not a Christian one either," Burghardt said. "It’s a great equalizer with a multicultural theme."

Although Burghardt believes that Thanksgiving, with its chocolate turkeys and pilgrims, lacks Sukkot’s depth, Greene feels there’s something spiritual about the whole country partaking in a communal meal, even though menus and customs vary from home to home. At her table, she asks guest to share one thing for which they’re grateful.

"Like Sukkot, at Thanksgiving you’re supposed to invite people to share abundance with your family," Burghardt said. "You can’t serve too much food. Could there be anything more Jewish than that?"

Glazed Turkey With Fruit-Nut Stuffing

Fruit-Nut Stuffing:

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, diced

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups cranberries

12 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped

6 dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 cup raisins

3 medium apples, cored and diced

1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. In a medium-sized saucepan sauté the onion and celery in oil over medium-high heat, stirring until tender but not browned. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In the same (unwashed) pan, combine orange juice and sugar, bringing mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in cranberries and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer cranberries, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until berry skins pop.

3. Mix in prunes, apricots and raisins. Remove from heat. Transfer mixture to bowl containing onion and celery. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining stuffing ingredients and mix well.


1 12-14 pound turkey, completely defrosted in refrigerator

Canola oil

1. Clean turkey well and discard giblets. Rub skin with canola oil.

2. Fill the body and neck cavities of the turkey with stuffing, allowing room for expansion. Tuck the legs under the band of skin or tie legs together with heavy cord. Skewer or sew neck skin closed against the body. Place turkey, breast up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 325 F oven for about three hours.

Yield: 10 servings

Double Corn Bread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup canola oil

1 (about 15-ounce) can cream-style corn, including liquid.

(Note: Because cream-style corn does not contain dairy products, it is pareve.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with no-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, and add eggs, oil and canned corn. Beat wet ingredients with a fork to combine them, then incorporate dry ingredients. Stir only until all ingredients are completely moistened and combined.

3. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into 16 squares and serve directly from the pan.

Harvest-Time Cranberry Relish

1 medium-sized navel orange

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, sorted, rinsed and drained

1 medium-sized apple, cored and cut into eighths

1 medium-sized pear, cored and cut into eighths

1/4 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup dark raisins

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Use a sharp knife to remove the colored part of the orange rind. Set aside. Remove and discard the white pith. Cut orange pulp into chunks.

2. Put orange rind and pulp into food processor fitted with the steel blade with the remaining relish ingredients. Pulse the mixture until ingredients are finely chopped but not smoothly pureed.

3. Chill relish covered for several hours, stirring occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and flavors blend.

Yield: about 3 1/2 cups

From "The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook," by Gloria Kaufer Greene.

Succulent Sukkot Recipes

What a difference a decade makes. In fall 1992, my husband and I visited Israel during what now seems such innocent times. Only once did our tour guide announce a change in itinerary when a particular site was deemed unsafe. We visited friends in Jerusalem and sat leisurely sipping cafe hafuch in front of a cafe on Ben Yehuda Street, which I later recognized on Fox News reduced to bloodied shards. We even rode a city bus into Jaffa one day, soaking up “local color,” with nothing on our minds but shopping.

We could not have picked a better season to be there. Leaving Los Angeles the day after Yom Kippur, we found Jerusalem bustling with preparations for Sukkot. The terrace of every apartment sported a sukkah, and we ate breakfast each day under fruit-laden branches, our lavish Israeli buffet feast mirrored in the sukkah above. Truly we had reached the Promised Land at its most lush and bountiful season.

Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is the harvest festival mentioned in the Torah (Leviticus 23:34-39). Immediately following the fast of Yom Kippur, Jews the world over begin constructing sukkot in preparation for the joyous feast that begins four days later.

The sages of the Talmud prescribed the measurements and method of erecting the sukkah within which people would eat and sleep during the week of Sukkot. How our forefathers must have rejoiced to enjoy the fruits of their labors, closer to the heavens, as the growing season culminated in bushels of plenty.

Now is the season to consult the plethora of vegetable cookbooks in bookstores today, and no one is more knowledgeable on the subject than Clifford A. Wright, whose latest book, “Mediterranean Vegetables” (Harvard Common Press, $29.95) cries out to be purchased for Sukkot. Subtitled “A Cook’s ABC of Vegetables and Their Preparation in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, with More than 200 Authentic Recipes for the Home Cook,” it is as much a valuable reference book for the food scholar and gardener as it is a cookbook.

“Mediterranean Vegetables” contains delicious recipes such as stuffed artichokes, eggplant, grape leaves, mushrooms, onions, chard and yellow peppers.

“I don’t even mention Israeli cuisine, because I don’t believe there is such a thing,” Wright said. “Its origins in the Mediterranean are mostly in the Arab world. Jews who came from Arab countries — Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and of course Spain, too — brought with them their cuisine.

“There really is no difference between Jewish cuisine and the local cuisine in which it finds itself. What makes it different, is it is almost exclusively connected with holidays and the self-realization on the part of the Jewish community that these dishes are special to those holidays.”

From the esoteric acanthus-leaved thistle to the more common zucchini, Wright lists each plant’s characteristics and varieties, its botanical and etymological origin and instructions for growing, buying, storing and preparing them.

Most fascinating is the history of each vegetable through the ages. In Sicily, ingesting eggplant was once thought to lead to insanity, and it was called “mad apple.” The ancient Romans used cabbage to prevent a hangover, while the Egyptian Copts placed cucumber leaves mixed with salt on women’s breasts to promote milk production.

While you’d hardly know it from the diet of most Ashkenazic cultures (beets and cabbage being notable exceptions), Jewish cuisine, at least in the Mediterranean, from biblical times has had a long love affair with vegetables, and what better time to show them off than Sukkot.

Because the “dining room” of the sukkah is farther away from the area of food preparation, traditional dishes for this holiday are easily transportable, one-dish stews and casseroles like tsimmes, borscht, stuffed cabbage or kibbeh. Stuffed vegetables are a popular choice, particularly in Israel, where every Sephardic and Asian culture has a favorite recipe.

“Turkish cooks are masters of the stuffed vegetable,” Wright said, “but you find stuffed vegetables very popular with Arabs, too.”

Ten years after our Israeli Sukkot journey, a more desperate mood prevails. Yet, said Wright, who began his career in the field of international affairs and is a former executive director of the American Middle East Peace Research Institute, “to those who think the Arab-Israeli conflict is hopeless, remember, Arabs and Jews lived together for thousands of years, and this conflict actually began historically only recently. Look at the Spanish Jews who were expelled during the Inquisition. Although some went to Germany, the majority went to Muslim lands. Why in the world would they escape to Muslim lands if there were not welcoming hands to greet them? I see that history as a hope that there is a possibility for peace eventually.”

Stuffed Eggplant
in Olive Oil

(Zeytinagli Patlican Dolmasi)

3 large eggplants (about 3 1¼2 pounds)

3¼4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1¼2 cup uncooked medium-grain

rice, soaked in tepid water for

30 minutes and drained or rinsed well

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 3¼4 cups water, divided

1¼2 cup ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded

and chopped fine or canned

crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried currants

1¼2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1¼2 teaspoon freshly ground

allspice berries

1 tablespoon finely chopped

fresh mint leaves

1¼4 cup chopped fresh dill

1¼2 teaspoon sugar

1. Cut off the stem end of the eggplant and save this as a "lid." Hollow out the eggplant by removing the seeds and flesh, being careful not to puncture the skin. Reserve the eggplant pulp to make another dish such as eggplant fritters. Place the hollowed-out eggplants in a bowl or stew pot filled with salted water and let them leach their bitter juices for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry inside and out with paper towels.

2. Heat 1¼4 cup of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the onions with 1¼2 teaspoon of the salt, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about eight minutes. Add the drained rice and pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is well-coated with oil, about two minutes. Add 3¼4 cup of the water, the chopped tomato, currants, pepper, allspice, mint and dill. Stir, reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, but is still a little hard, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar.

3. Stuff the eggplants with the rice, not too lightly, not too loosely. Replace the "lid" of the eggplant, and arrange the stuffed eggplants in a deep casserole, side by side. Divide the remaining 1 cup water, 1¼2 cup olive oil, and 1¼2 teaspoon salt among the three stuffed eggplants, cover, and cook until the eggplants are soft but still maintain their shape, about 1 1¼4 hours. Let the eggplants cool in the casserole.

Serve sliced at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Judy Bart Kancigor, the author of “Melting Pot Memories”
(Jan Bart Publications, $19.95), can be found on the Web at