When I was growing up, our Simhat Torah meals resembled those of Shabbat. The
main meal of the holiday followed what Zipporah Kreizman, author of Aromas of
Shabbat and the Holidays (in Hebrew), described as the usual pattern of festive
meals – “a fish for a first course, steaming-hot soup, a meat main course, side
dishes and dessert.”
So I found it interesting that some families
consider stuffed cabbage an important Simhat Torah specialty. Although my mother
did occasionally serve stuffed cabbage on Simhat Torah, we didn’t associate it
specifically with the holiday.
“During the daytime feast,” wrote
Kreizman, “there is no Hungarian household without stuffed cabbage on the table;
delicate, narrow leaves on a rich bed of chopped tart cabbage.”
added that on the plate alongside the cabbage there are slices of tongue, beef
or rolled stuffed meat.
Some say there is a symbolic reason for serving
stuffed cabbage leaves – their shape recalls a Torah scroll.
Torah meals I’ve had at synagogues were sometimes prepared by the synagogue’s
cook or by a caterer but I like the potluck meals cooked by the families the
best. Most of these holiday buffets are what I consider party food. In addition
to the popular Israeli spreads and salads like humous, eggplant and tehina and
American favorites like egg salad and tuna salad, the other items served vary
Among the Simhat Torah synagogue foods that stand out the most
in my memory are the kugels that were served several years ago at an Ashkenazi
shul. There were three kinds – a potato kugel, a savory noodle kugel seasoned
with salt and pepper and a sweet noodle kugel. They accompanied roast chicken
drumsticks, coleslaw and Israeli salad, which added up to a pleasing lunch to
sustain those who prayed and recited from the Torah during much of the day and
expended a lot of energy dancing and merrymaking.
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At a Yemenite synagogue
following a Simhat Torah evening service, I enjoyed a meatless buffet that
included potato and cheese burekas and a fresh green salad enhanced with
cashews, almonds and a sweet dressing. I prepared a cumin-spiced eggplant and
tomato stew and served it over a yellow rice pilaf with chickpeas.
friend Bruria Hadad made tasty puff pastry roll-ups with a filling of halva, jam
The next year at the same synagogue the Simhat Torah meal
was a feast for lovers of traditional Yemenite breads and pastries. There was a
fine array – malawah (rich, layered flatbread), jahnun (baked layered
scroll-shaped pastries) and a sweet steamed bread called kubaneh, served warm.
Yeast-leavened pancakes called lahuh were served with homemade s’hug (hot pepper
garlic relish), hilbeh (fenugreek dip) tinted green from fresh coriander and
homemade matbuha salad of cooked peppers and tomatoes. For dessert there were
crisp apples, sweet grapes and honey cake.
Cabbage for Simhat Torah is
not necessarily stuffed. Joan Nathan, author of Jewish Holiday Kitchen
, makes it
into strudel flavored with caraway seeds. Kreizman recommends blintzes filled
with mushrooms or potatoes. She notes that a popular custom is to make preserves
from seasonal fruit, including etrog jam, and to use them to enhance baked
Candies also play a part in the holiday celebrations. Some make
honey-coated sweets like teiglach or bake pastries with sweets like rahat lokum
(Turkish delight) embedded in them – a Romanian custom, according to Gil Marks,
author of Encyclopedia of Jewish Food
At certain synagogues people give
the children fresh or candied apples or throw candies at them after they are
called up to the Torah.
Apples, nuts and wine are time-honored
ingredients that contribute a festive note to the Simhat Torah meals. When used
together, whether in a noodle kugel, blintzes, pie or cake, the result is
delicious.Faye Levy is the author of
1,000 Jewish Recipes.
Sweet-and-sour cabbage rolls with turkey stuffing
For many years my mother made stuffed cabbage the traditional way, with a
filling of beef and rice. Because nutrition was important to her, she started
using ground turkey in the stuffing more and more often. These cabbage rolls
cook in a sauce of chicken broth, sauteed onion and tomato paste, flavored with
raisins and lemon juice.Makes 6 servings.
a 1.4-kg (3-pound) head
of cabbage, cored
1⁄2 cup long-grain rice
1 to 2 Tbsp. extra virgin
olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
225 gr. (1⁄2 pound) ground turkey
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground
1⁄4 tsp. cayenne pepper or paprika
1 to 2 Tbsp. extra virgin
olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon ground paprika
cups chicken broth, skimmed of fat
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1⁄3 cup raisins
1⁄2 tsp. sugar salt and freshly ground pepper
Carefully remove 15
large outer cabbage leaves by cutting them from core of cabbage. Put leaves in a
large pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.
carefully to a colander and rinse gently with cold water. Pat dry with a
Coarsely chop remaining cabbage, add to boiling water, and boil
for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain well.
Boil rice uncovered in a saucepan of 3 cups boiling salted water for 10 minutes.
Rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to a bowl. In a nonstick skillet
heat oil, add onion and cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Add garlic and
paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Transfer mixture to bowl of rice
and let cool. Add turkey, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
Knead by hand
to blend ingredients thoroughly.
For sauce: Heat oil in a large heavy
casserole, add onion and cook over low heat, stirring often, 2 minutes. Add
paprika and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Trim thick ribs of each
cabbage leaf slightly so leaf can be easily bent. Put 2 tablespoons stuffing on
stem end of each leaf and fold stem end over it. Fold sides over stuffing to
Beginning at stem end, roll up leaf to a neat package. If any
leaves are torn, add a piece of another leaf, and use to make more cabbage
rolls. Arrange cabbage rolls tightly, with seam end facing down, side by side in
casserole. Chop any remaining leaves and add to casserole.
Add 2 3⁄4 cups
broth to casserole.
Mix tomato paste with remaining broth and add to
casserole. Bring to a simmer.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour
and 15 minutes.
Add raisins, lemon juice and sugar and simmer for 1
minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When serving, spoon a little sauce
over cabbage rolls.Apple Blintzes with walnuts and wine
Apples cooked with wine and sugar and combined with walnuts make a delicious
filling for blintzes.
These blintzes, sprinkled lightly with cinnamon and
sugar, are a lovely finale to the holiday dinner.
You can make the
filling 1 or 2 days ahead and keep it in a covered container in the
refrigerator.Makes 6 servings.
900 gr. (2 pounds) apples, sweet or tart
2 to 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, or 2 to 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (for sauteing apples)
1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup dry or sweet wine, white or red
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 to 8 Tbsp. sugar, according to sweetness of apples and wine
1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup chopped walnuts
3 to 4 Tbsp. butter or margarine (for frying or baking)
2 to 3 Tbsp. finely chopped walnuts (optional, for sprinkling)
1 tsp. cinnamon mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar (for sprinkling)
For filling: Peel and halve apples. Core them and cut them in thin slices. Heat
2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet or saute pan. Add half the apples and
saute over medium-high heat, turning pieces over from time to time, for 2
minutes. Remove to a plate. Heat remaining butter in pan and saute remaining
Combine all apples in the pan. Add wine, cinnamon and 6
tablespoons sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cover and
cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until apples are just tender. Raise
heat to high and cook, stirring often, until mixture is thick and most of liquid
evaporates. Remove from heat. Taste and add more sugar or cinnamon if necessary;
heat, tossing apples gently, just until sugar dissolves.
Stir in chopped
walnuts Spoon 2 to 21⁄2 tablespoons filling onto brown side of each blintz along
Fold over edges of blintz to right and left of filling over so
that each covers about half of filling; roll up, beginning at edge with
Blintzes can be baked or fried. To bake them, preheat oven to
Arrange blintzes in one layer in a greased shallow baking
dish. Dot each blintz with small pieces of butter. Bake for about 15 minutes, or
until heated through and lightly browned.
To fry blintzes, heat butter in
a skillet, add blintzes open end down, and fry over low heat 3 to 5 minutes on
each side; be careful not to let them burn.
Sprinkle blintzes with
walnuts and cinnamon-sugar before serving. Serve hot.Carrot-apple kugel
This colorful, loaf-shaped kugel is adapted from The Hadassah Jewish Holiday
edited by Joan Schwartz Michel. The kugel can be baked in a moderate
oven, or can be baked overnight at a very low temperature for
Some cooks use little or no sugar in a kugel like this in order
to serve it as a side dish; others sweeten their kugel generously and serve it
for dessert. You can taste the mixture before adding the eggs and adjust the
sweetness to your taste.Makes 10 to 12 servings
8 carrots, peeled and
3 apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup dried cherries
1⁄2 cup pistachio
1 cup matza cake meal or regular matza meal
1⁄2 cup oil 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon
2 to 3 tsp. grated orange zest
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
2 Tbsp. to 3⁄4 cup sugar, according to
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF) to bake
the kugel the conventional way, or to 205ºC (400ºF) for the first step before
baking it overnight. Grease two 20- x 10-cm. (8- x 4-inch) loaf
Combine carrots, apples, cherries and pistachios in a bowl. Add
matza meal, oil, lemon juice, orange zest, cinnamon, salt, ginger, allspice and
2 tablespoons sugar.
Taste, and add more sugar if you like. Add beaten
eggs and mix well. Divide mixture evenly between the pans.
To bake the kugel conventionally, bake it at 180ºC (350ºF) for
1 to 11⁄2 hours or until firm.
To bake kugel overnight, bake it at 205ºC
(400ºF) for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest temperature and bake kugel
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