Succot-themed recipes; Beet and Pomegranate Salad, Baked Pears and Braised Chicken with Cilantro, Lemon and Figs.
Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
When I was growing up in Chicago, Succot wasn’t a time when it was particularly
nice to be outside. October can get pretty cold in the Windy City. The
foods we ate in the succa were designed to keep us warm: soup, stuffed cabbage,
hearty tagines – foods that were appropriate to the season and
Here in Israel, Succot feels like an extension of
summer. The rain hasn’t begun yet. It’s still sunny. The market is
overflowing with produce: mangoes, plums, pomegranates, pears and figs – and
that’s only the fruit. Succot all over the world is a celebration of nature and
the harvest, whether you are in frigid Chicago or in sunny Israel. If there is
any time to eat local and seasonal food, Succot is that time.
following recipes take advantage of the great abundance of seasonal fruit we
enjoy here in Israel during the Succot holiday.
Beet and Pomegranate Salad
Beets and pomegranates are two of the most beautiful
foods in the world. This salad, adapted from Janna Gur’s book The Book of New
Israeli Food pairs them in this visually stunning, and delicious dish. Roasted
beets are tossed in a dressing of pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice and pinch
of cayenne. It is finished off with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, parsley
or cilantro and a good glug of olive oil. Pomegranate concentrate can be found
in most Israeli grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can also reduce
unsweetened pomegranate juice in a saucepan until it is thick and syrupy, and
then use that.
3-4 medium beets
2 tablespoons pomegranate
freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (or to taste) dried
chili peppers, crushed
coarse sea salt
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Preheat the oven to
200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit).
1. Wrap each beet individually in
tin foil. Place in the oven and roast until the beets can be pierced easily with
a knife (exact cooking times will vary. Start checking on them about 30 minutes
in. For very large beets, roasting times can run over an hour). Remove beets.
Cool and peel. (Beets can be roasted up to a day in advance. If you are
doing this, do not peel the beets until you are ready to use them.) Cut the
beets into a medium dice.
2. Mix the beets with the pomegranate
concentrate, lemon juice, chili peppers and salt. Set aside for 15
3. Add the parsley or cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle
olive oil on top. Serve.
Braised Chicken with Cilantro, Lemon and Figs
Braised chicken has an undeserved
reputation as a homely dish. In reality, though, it can be as elegant and
complex as any other chicken dish and, when reheated, holds up better than
roasted or baked chicken. In this dish, which is adapted from the December 1996
edition of Bon Appetit Magazine, the chicken is braised in the classic
combination of white wine and chicken stock. What makes it less mundane is the
addition of figs, cilantro and some lemon juice. Despite the figs, this
dish is less sweet and more earthy and grassy than you would think, and a
last-minute addition of fresh cilantro keeps it bright, both in terms of flavor
and presentation. It is great served with any number of grains, but goes
especially well with quinoa.
1 three-and-a-half to
three-and-three-quarter chicken, cut into 12 pieces
4 teaspoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1⁄2 cup white
1⁄2 cup plus
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon
8 figs cut in half lengthwise
1. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large, heavy
pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the
chicken, skin-side down, and fry for about 7 minutes until brown on all sides.
Take care not to crowd the pot or the chicken will stew, and not brown. You may
need to do this in batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
2. Add the
remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pot and lower the heat to medium. Add the
onions and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes until golden. Pour in
the wine, simmer for a few minutes while scraping the bottom of the pot with a
wooden spoon. Then, stir in the broth, the half-cup of cilantro and the lemon
juice, and bring to a boil. Add the figs and the chicken to the pot along
with any accumulated juices. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the
chicken is tender. Alternatively, you could put this in a preheated oven at 160
degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) for 45 minutes.
3. Using a
slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Boil the juices in the pot for about 5 minutes until they have
thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce
over the chicken. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro over and serve.
This dessert, which was adapted from a recipe posted by the food
writer sdebrango on Food52.com, is an elegant way to serve baked pears. The
pears are baked in little individual parchment paper parcels and can be
presented at the table as little edible gifts. The original recipe called for
walnuts and raisins. I prefer pears with almonds and ginger. If you have your
own nut and dried fruit combination you like, feel free to substitute.
Additionally, I list coconut oil, which can be found at most health-food stores,
as an optional ingredient, but if you don’t have any, feel free to leave it
out. The pears will come out just as good, if a little bit lighter and
less complex. If you happen to be making a dairy meal, butter can of course be
used in place of the oil.
1⁄4-1⁄2 cup blanched
almonds (depending on the size of your pears)
1⁄8-1⁄4 cup candied ginger,
chopped (depending on the size of your pears)
1⁄8-1⁄4 cup dried cherries
(depending on the size of your pears)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes until they are
golden and smell fantastic. Keep an eye on them. They go from
smell-fantastic to burnt quickly.
2. Chop the almonds. In a small bowl,
toss together the almonds, dried fruit, brown sugar and cinnamon. This
step can be done a day in advance.
8 medium pears
1-1 1⁄2 teaspoons coconut oil, softened (optional)
1⁄4-1⁄2 cup demerara sugar
(depending on the size of your pears)
Almond-dried fruit mixture
parchment paper Kitchen twine
1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375
degrees Fahrenheit). Wash the pears. Using a small paring knife, core the pears
from the bottom. Leave the stem. Peel the pears. Stuff each one with the
almond-dried fruit mixture. If you are using the coconut oil, rub the pears with
the oil and then roll each pear in the demerara sugar. If you are not using the
oil, just roll the pears in the sugar.
2. Place each pear in the middle
of a sheet of parchment paper, gather it up around the pear and tie the neat
package with kitchen twine. Place the pears on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25
minutes. (Larger pears can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.) Serve pears in