Sukkot: Ashkenazi-Sephardi blend cuisine for the holiday

While the Ashkenazi/Sephardi mash-up is a bold choice, and there is something to be said about preserving our traditions, this soup represents the beauty of Israel and the Jewish people. Enjoy!

 KREPLACH STUFFED with mushroom, carrot and onion. (photo credit: Ellie Rudee)
KREPLACH STUFFED with mushroom, carrot and onion.
(photo credit: Ellie Rudee)

I am a sucker for a good mash-up. There’s something creative and playful that happens when bringing together two elements that might not be traditionally combined.

I grew up in an Ashkenazi, foodie home in Seattle, Washington, where I was exposed to cuisine from around the world, as well as European, Greek and Turkish Jews. My cousin once quipped that with one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi parent, she was “Ashkefardi,” and I’ve thought about that intriguing mash-up and play on words ever since. 

Since making aliyah in 2015, nearly all aspects of my life have become a mash-up of my Jewish-American upbringing with my newfound Israeli-ness. My way of thinking and speaking, my mannerisms and, of course, my cooking have all transformed.

In Israel, I became a full-fledged foodie and met Jews from all around the world. Finding inspiration from the diversity of people, local ingredients and seasonal produce at the Mahaneh Yehuda market (“the shuk”), I started the Jerusalem Cooking Club for young Jerusalemites, became a culinary journalist and tour guide of the shuk in Jerusalem, wrote my first cookbook, Tastes of Freedom: A Passover Cookbook, and began hosting food retreats and international cooking workshops. 

Today, when I cook, I like to mix the foods I grew up with, with new foods I discover in Israel. But you don’t have to live in Israel to introduce Israeli cuisine to your Shabbat or holiday table. Bringing Israeli cuisine to the Sukkot table is a wonderful way to honor the roots of Jewish culinary traditions – and it is no coincidence that on the holidays we eat foods like dates and pomegranates that are in season in Israel during this holiday season.

If you’re looking to break out of your matzo ball mold this holiday season, try a modern mash-up of Ashkenazi with Iraqi-Kurdish – my “red kreplach” soup. The recipe incorporates some seasonal, fall ingredients such as root vegetables, warming spices like baharat, ras el hanout, cinnamon, paprika, and pumpkin spice (totally not traditional, but it goes nicely).

Kreplach (small triangular dumplings made of rolled pasta dough and usually filled with ground meat) is a dumpling commonly eaten on Sukkot – it’s traditional to eat “stuffed foods” to symbolize being wrapped in God’s blessing and protection after the summer harvest comes to an end.

Kreplach is also served on days of judgment, to wrap the harshness of judgment – represented by meat, which takes away life while sustaining another – with the compassion of dough, which does not require us to take a life.

In my own endeavor to lean just a little more toward compassion for animals, I’ve chosen to go for a vegetarian kreplach, but I won’t judge whatever you choose to put in your kreplach.

I’ve mixed Ashkenazi kreplach with Kurdish red kubbeh soup, which is traditionally beef-filled semolina dumplings that are cooked in a hot, beet soup.

The moment I discovered kubbeh in the shuk, I fell in love with it as a comfort food that always seems to be my go-to when I am feeling ill, or need just want warm, flavorful comfort. I’ve come to find that for every Iraqi-Kurdish grandmother, there is a different kubbeh recipe, and many recipes contain a mix of vegetables such as okra, eggplant, squash or zucchini, so make it your own by playing around with the veggies you love and have in your kitchen and practicing and adjusting like a true Iraqi-Kurdish grandmother.

If you’re not cooking for a crowd, make enough to enjoy immediately and freeze the rest for when you need that flavorful, comfort meal.

While the Ashkenazi/Sephardi mash-up is a bold choice, and there is something to be said about preserving our traditions, to me, this soup represents the beauty of Israel and the Jewish people. Enjoy! 

RED KREPLACH

2 hours – 10 servings

Kreplach dough:

  • 1¼ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg 
  • 2 Tbsp. water

Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour, add egg and water and slowly incorporate. Stir to combine and then form ball and knead with hands. If sticky, add more flour. Roll out the ball and cover in plastic wrap to chill in the fridge while you make the filling. 

Kreplach filling:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 onion, finely diced 
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. baharat
  • 7 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • ½ bunch parsley leaves, finely chopped 
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 Tsp pumpkin spice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a medium-sized pan and add olive oil. When hot, add the onion and carrots and cook on medium-low heat until they become softened, stirring often to prevent burning, about 5 minutes. Add the baharat, pumpkin spice, mushrooms, garlic and parsley, and sauté another 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook for another minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside to cool while you make the soup. 

 THE RED BROTH incorporates some seasonal, fall ingredients such as root vegetables, warming spices like baharat, ras el hanout, cinnamon, paprika, and pumpkin spice.  (credit: Ellie Rudee) THE RED BROTH incorporates some seasonal, fall ingredients such as root vegetables, warming spices like baharat, ras el hanout, cinnamon, paprika, and pumpkin spice. (credit: Ellie Rudee)

Soup:

  • 4 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5-6 celery stalks, cut into sticks
  • 2 tsp. ras el hanout
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika 
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. tomato paste 
  • 4 beets, peeled, sliced into sticks 
  • Your choice of root vegetable, such as okra, eggplant, squash or zucchini
  • 6 cups vegetable stock 
  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onion until it starts to become translucent, and add celery, ras al hanout, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, salt and black pepper. Add tomato paste and continue to dry fry for a minute.

Deglaze the pot with vegetable stock, and add the beets, sugar and lemon juice.

Bring soup to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer. 

Prepare a second pot with boiling water for the kreplach. 

Forming the kreplach 

Take the dough from the fridge and dust pasta-rolling surface well with flour – don’t be shy with the flour or else the dough might stick to the surface. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick or as thin as possible. The thinner the dough, the more flavor your kreplach will have. Cut into 3-inch squares. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in center. Moisten the edges of each with water and fold over to create a triangle, and seal with a fork. 

Drop kreplach into the boiling water you prepared and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove with slotted spoon, place them in the soup, and serve, adding chopped parsley to garnish.