Finding sukkot foods can present something for a challenge for the Jewish cook. Passover is characterized by its food restrictions and places serious culinary demands on a cook; Shavuot is a celebration of milk and dairy food, Rosh Hashanah recipes are sweet, full of honey, apples, dates and carrots, and Hannukah recipes are traditionally fried. Sukkot follows closely behind Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but does not have the same clear dietary traditions that mark the other festival.
Sukkot (Succot) is the Jewish harvest festival and therefore Sukkot recipes include many fruits and vegetables. In keeping with the idea of abundance, foods are often stuffed. The best known traditional sukkot food is “holishkes” an Eastern European dish composed of cabbage leaves stuffed with a meat and rice filling. “Dolmas” or stuffed vine leaves are the Middle-Eastern alternative. More recently, sukkot has become associated with fall (autumn) produce including pumpkins and squash, apples, pears and plums.
Sukkot lasts for 7 days, and during this time food is eaten in a sukkah. For some people the sukkah is conveniently located on their porch or in the garden. For others, the sukka may be up or down stairs, or they may share a communal sukkah. In such a case, it is helpful to plan menus which include foods that can easily be transported – don’t try to carry individually plated antipasti stacks up 2 flights of stairs!
Sukkot is a time to enjoy the best of the seasonal produce and make the most of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available. Don’t limit yourself to stuffing cabbage or vine leaves – sukkot is a time to take advantage of the colorful fruit and vegetables available at this time of year. Try meat stuffed tomatoes, pesto stuffed mushrooms, cheesy stuffed zucchini (the round ones are wonderful for stuffing), and baked stuffed nectarines for desserts. Meat and chicken can also be stuffed and rolled – instead of meatloaf, try meatloaf roulade stuffed a mashed sweet potato filling; delicious and different. Or try stuffing chicken breasts, this works well with pesto, dried fruits or mushroom sauce. Strudels are another variation on the stuffed theme – you can take this is many different directions – stuff with meat, sautéed eggplant and mushrooms, tuna, or fruit.