Succot suppers

Dishes that can sit on the table for a while and are served buffet-style are convenient.

Sweet potato (photo credit: Yakir Levy)
Sweet potato
(photo credit: Yakir Levy)
When we saw the array of vegetable dishes on the buffet table at a recent luncheon at the Skirball Cultural Center, a museum of Jewish heritage in Los Angeles, we thought that the selection would be suitable for our Succot suppers. Chef Sean Sheridan’s colorful vegetable dishes included a salad of baby tomatoes and fresh mozzarella balls with basil leaves and olive oil, and a dish of asparagus spears and diced roasted red peppers moistened with a shallot-flavored butter sauce.
The showstopper was Sheridan’s stacked salad of roasted butternut squash, beet slices and baby arugula flavored with basil oil and balsamic vinegar. The chef used round molds to hold the vegetables in layers so that each portion came out like a small tower. For a Succot buffet, you could instead serve overlapping slices of the roasted vegetables on a bed of dressed greens on a platter – a different presentation but the same tasty, colorful combination (see recipe).
Dishes that can sit on the table for a while and are served buffet-style are convenient for Succot. A favorite of ours is a tray of roasted eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, which are at their seasonal peak. We like to roast the vegetables because we can combine all of them in one pan and we don’t need to saute each one separately. Usually we roast this trio of vegetables with olive oil and chopped onions and finish the dish with garlic, parsley and either fresh coriander or basil. The medley makes a flavorful salad served on vinaigrette-dressed greens or on its own. You can also combine the roasted eggplant-pepper mixture with rice or pasta, or spoon it into pita halves with goat cheese or feta cheese for casual supper sandwiches (see recipe).
For our harvest holiday buffet salads, we also combine vegetables with fruits. Diced sweet kiwifruits make a tasty and attractive addition to red cabbage salad with vinaigrette. For a simple, colorful salad, we combine cooked sliced carrots with dried cranberries and dress them with mint vinaigrette. In the latest volume of their Cookkosher series, Starters & Sides Made Easy, Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek use mangoes to complement black rice in a striking salad flavored with red onion and mint leaves.
A cooked green bean salad with sauteed red onions, toasted pecans and a basil-garlic dressing is another buffet-friendly dish made by Schapira and Dwek. So is their golden roasted cauliflower with plum tomatoes seasoned with a flavorful mixture of olive oil, garlic, cumin, turmeric and crushed red pepper, which reminds us of my husband Yakir’s mother’s Yemenite-style cauliflower (see recipe).
According to Schapira and Dwek, their recipes are divinely inspired: “We always say that our ideas aren’t ours. We can be totally stumped, but then Hashem [God] inserts something brilliant into our heads. We owe Him credit for every little teaspoon in this book.”
Butternut Squash, Beet and Arugula Salad
This salad is based on a recipe by chef Sean Sheridan of the Skirball Cultural Center. To vary the salad, Sheridan sometimes adds a layer of yellow tomato or roasted yellow beet slices. He flavors the salad with cherry balsamic vinegar, but told us that we can use ordinary balsamic vinegar and cook it until it is syrupy in consistency. Assemble the salad in individual ring molds to make salad stacks as in the recipe, or serve it on a platter, following Note C below. Choose a butternut squash with a long neck to get round slices.
Makes 6 servings
❖ 1 butternut squash❖ 1 to 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil ❖ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste ❖ Sugar to taste ❖ 1 large red beet ❖ Basil oil (see Note A below) ❖ 1 large Hass avocado, cut into cubes (optional) ❖ 2 to 3 cups baby arugula or coarsely cut regular arugula; or 4 or 5 cups if serving the salad on a platter ❖ Reduced balsamic vinegar (see Note B below) ❖ Fresh basil leaves (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Peel butternut squash and cut neck into rounds about 1 cm. (½ inch) thick. (You can slice the rest of the squash and roast it along with the rounds, and save it for other dishes.) Coat the butternut squash with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar on both sides. Set the rounds on a baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes or until soft.
Coat the beet with olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, and wrap it in foil. Bake it for 45 minutes or until tender.
Make basil oil: See Note A below.
When beet is tender, rub it with paper towels until its skin comes off. Cut the beet into 6 disks about 1 cm. (½ inch) wide; cut the remainder of the beet into small cubes.
If you want to assemble the salads as towers, prepare 6 individual ring molds and set each on a plate. Cut the squash and beets into disks with a round cookie cutter, slightly smaller in diameter than the molds. Season the squash and beet rounds lightly with the reduced balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Assemble them in layers in each ring mold as follows: first a beet disk, then arugula to make a layer of about 2.5 cm. (1 inch), then diced avocados, finally a squash disk. Refrigerate molds for 30 minutes.
Remove molds and place salads on serving plates. Sprinkle the diced beet cubes on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and with basil oil. Garnish each portion with a fresh basil leaf.
A) Basil oil: Chop 1 bunch of parsley. Add to a pan of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds. Transfer parsley to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well. Roughly chop 1 bunch of basil.
Combine parsley, basil and ½ cup olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a very fine mesh strainer, and let it sit for 30 minutes to drip through.
B) Reduced balsamic vinegar: Pour about ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar into a small skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until it thickens to a syrupy consistency, and about 2 or 3 tablespoons remain. Pour into a small dish.
C) To serve the salad on a platter: Toss the arugula with the diced beets, 2 or 3 tablespoons basil oil and 1 to 2 teaspoons reduced balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make a bed of the greens on a platter. Alternate slices of butternut squash and beets on top. Drizzle the slices with balsamic vinegar, then with basil oil. Garnish with basil leaves.Easy Roasted Eggplant with Peppers
If you like, drizzle the vegetables lightly with fruity extra virgin olive oil at serving time.
❖ 900 gr. (2 pounds) eggplant, cut in about 2.5-cm. (1-inch) cubes ❖ 1 large red pepper, cut in 2.5-cm. (1-inch) squares ❖ 1 green pepper, cut in 2.5-cm. (1-inch) squares ❖ 1 onion, halved and sliced ❖ 2 to 2½ tablespoons olive oil ❖ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste ❖ 3 garlic cloves, minced ❖ 450 gr. (1 pound) tomatoes, diced ❖ 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley ❖ 1 to 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) or basil
Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Put eggplant, red and green peppers and onion in a large roasting pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring twice. If mixture becomes dry during baking, add a little more olive oil. Add garlic and mix well. Bake for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir lightly. Bake for 10 minutes or until eggplant is very tender.
Add parsley and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.Golden Cauliflower and Plum Tomatoes
Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek, authors of Starters & Sides Made Easy, use frozen cauliflower to make this dish quick and easy. Instead, you may also cut a large fresh cauliflower in medium- size florets and bake them at 190C (375F) for about 45 minutes. To avoid mushy cauliflower, the authors advise, keep the florets spread out on a baking sheet, rather than crowded together in a baking pan.
❖ 700 gr. (1½ pounds) frozen cauliflower ❖ 2 plum tomatoes, chopped ❖ 1½ tablespoons olive oil ❖ 1 garlic clove, crushed ❖ 1½ teaspoons ground cumin ❖ ¼ tsp. turmeric ❖ Pinch crushed red pepper ❖ 1 tsp. salt ❖ Pinch coarse black pepper ❖ Juice of ½ lemon
Preheat oven to 225ºC (450ºF). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine cauliflower and tomatoes on prepared baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, garlic, cumin, turmeric, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.
Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve warm.Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.