There's the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and then there's the miracle of the cucumbers.
The night before Succot Eve, a Tuesday, I took some things home from the supermarket and overlooked five cucumbers in a plastic bag. They stayed in the trunk of my car, which was parked in the street throughout the first days of the festival, until they were discovered on Friday morning.
Lo and behold, they were firm and fresh - as a cucumber.
HERE'S A colorful garnish from Michelle DeMars, via the Internet, that should make your guests ooh in aah-dmiration:
whole cucumbers, washed but unpeeled
whole carrots, peeled
Cut the cucumbers into 8-cm. lengths. Hollow out the middle section containing the seeds. Push a carrot into the center of each cucumber piece. Cut the cucumber into half-centimeter slices - each one will have a neat carrot center.
For prettier slices: Before beginning, score the cucumber skin by scraping a fork lengthwise down the cucumber all the way around.
DURING Succot, I took a day off work to join some friends from the Sam Orbaum Jerusalem Scrabble Club who had gathered in Elazar to indulge their passion. It was, to my mind, an act of bravery since they were mostly "A" players and I am in the "B2" division, with no sign of quitting it anytime soon. I felt like a Sunday afternoon golfer suddenly and unaccountably finding himself on the Olympic team. Though I lost every game, I enjoyed them all and felt that they hadn't been total pushovers for my opponents.
My reward came afterward, in the form of dinner, served informally but with flair by our hosts, Madeline and Aryeh Wetherhorn.
"This is my version of Russian cabbage borscht," said Madeline of the main course. "It has no beets - but when did that ever stop anyone?"
This savory, satisfying and fragrant recipe serves 12. I think I'll be making it often over the winter.
BEETLESS CABBAGE BORSCHT
a small amount of canola oil to just cover the bottom of an 8-liter pot
2 large onions, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, finely diced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 large carrots, sliced diagonally
3â„4 head of a medium white cabbage, finely sliced
1â„2 head of a medium red cabbage, finely sliced
1 830-gr. can crushed tomatoes
1 454-gr. can tomato paste
1â„2 kg. ground beef
1â„2 kg. ground turkey
4 generous Tbsp. each of citrus vinegar and brown sugar
1 scant tsp. salt, or to taste
coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Saute the onions and garlic, add the meat and saute until it loses its pinkness. Throw in the cabbage, stir and cover. Let the cabbage sweat for 3-4 minutes. Stir and add the other vegetables. Stir again and add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir.
Add enough water to cover, then add the vinegar, sugar and seasonings. Cover, and cook on low heat for at least an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
"CABBAGE has been beneficially linked to reducing risk of cancer," writes British food maven Nigel Slater in Real Fast Food. Have you tried it stir-fried?
450-gr. green cabbage
2 Tbsp. oil, vegetable or peanut
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1â„2 tsp. salt
Remove any tough stalks from the cabbage. Roll the leaves tightly, then shred them finely with a sharp knife.
Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until very hot, pour in the oil and the garlic. Fry, stirring constantly, for no longer than 30 seconds. Add the salt and the cabbage and cook, stirring and tossing the cabbage for 3 minutes until it is wilted but still crisp, and with a bright color.
WRITES Manja Angel from Rehovot: "In your last column, a reader wanted to know why there are no wheelchairs or motor-operated cars to help seniors in big Israeli supermarkets - but there are. For example, Hatzi Hinam does have very nice cars, and Super-Sol here in Rehovot also has a few. They've been around for a very long time already."
Adds Dena Rubens in Metar: "In addition to assisted transport for handicapped shoppers, US stores have baggers and people who wheel your cart out to your car and assist in loading groceries into it. It's called being civil, it's called service, it's called courtesy. Some things haven't made it here yet."
OVERHEARD during lunch on Simhat Torah: "Eat and drink, for tomorrow we diet."