So Fast, Sukkot and Simchat Torah Are Here!

One, two, three, where did it go so fast? Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, break-fast — the fastest meals of the year. Now it is Sukkot and Simhcat Torah to end the High Holidays.

Hoping for good weather, all the meals can be made ahead and reheated for home or travel, inside or outside. My friend, Aliza Friedman, makes the very best shakshooka in Baltimore.  She is  Israeli, and her recipe is one from her childhood as her mother made it. It’­s that seasoned sauce that makes the dish so outstanding.

“I don’t really have an exact recipe, says Aliza, but here goes: two onions, sliced or diced; three large cans of plum tomatoes; three pieces of garlic (or to taste), minced; one tablespoon sweet paprika; and salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the onions; add cut-up tomatoes (use only one-half can of liquid from the canned tomatoes); add all the other ingredients; and cook on medium to low heat until the liquid evaporates. Add one teaspoon of sugar and mix well. Personally, I like to add one-half teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Bake in a large casserole dish until hot. Carefully break the eggs on top and place back in the oven until the whites are done but the yolks are still very soft. Watch carefully! I suggest using tiny quail eggs to get more than 12 servings. Sauce can be made in advance in a saucepan and assembled in baking dish to serve.

And me? My go-to recipe is ratatouille. I can use end-of-summer not-so-perfect produce as well as fall produce. It’s the seasonings that make this dish so originally “Southern French.” And it is a filling main course that reheats even better.

I did notice that those end-of-season delicious tomatoes are turning into everything pumpkin very quickly. A friend of mine has solved that problem by roasting half-inch slices of off-season tomatoes in the oven and using them with her bagels. Great idea! She places them on a flat  nonstick aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkles them with a little salt, pepper and a very light spray of olive oil, roasting them at 375 degrees until a little brown. They caramelize and are delish. Or why not include a pumpkin kugel?  The accompanying recipe turned out light and delicious.


(© Patterson)

(© Patterson)

> I see a lot of pomegranate recipes for fall. Why? My spin is that those seeds bring many  delicious blessings!
16 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
16 ounces sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ready-made 6-ounce pie crusts,  defrosted and placed in 9-inch pie dishes (or use 2 graham cracker crusts)
8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate for chocolate topping
Pomegranate syrup
Pomegranate syrup:
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed  lemon juice
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

> Bring ingredients to a boil (allowing sugar to dissolve), then lower flame and stir until thickens. Allow sauce to cool off, then combine it with 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds.

Directions: Combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly add in eggs and beat until combined. Divide batter between the two crusts. Using 1/4 cup of pomegranate syrup for each cheesecake, dot the top and swirl around with a knife. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Set aside the remaining syrup for serving. Once the cheesecake has cooled off, melt the baking chocolate and cover the top of the cheesecake with the melted chocolate. Once the chocolate has hardened, drizzle the remaining pomegranate sauce on top of the chocolate topping. Makes two 9-inch pies. Each pie serves 8.



2 large onions, cut in half and sliced thick
1 large eggplant, sliced and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
4 small zucchini, sliced
3 garlic gloves, minced
2 large green peppers, deseeded and cut into thin strips
2 large tomatoes, cut into half-inch wedges
8 ounces large white button mushrooms, cleaned (remove ends of stems)

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence (important  ingredient)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 ounces canned tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions: Combine all the seasoning ingredients, except the olive oil and tomato paste, and mix in a bowl. Layer half the vegetables in a large crockpot in this order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green pepper and tomatoes. Sprinkle with half the seasonings.  Dot with half the tomato paste. Repeat the layering process with the remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover and cook on low-medium for 7-9 hours. Add the mushrooms during the last 2 hours.  Refrigerate to store.  Extra good reheated or freeze.  8 servings.

> This recipe is lighter, as it doesn’t have noodles.  The flour takes its place. I also added my own version of a great topping.

11/2 cups cornflakes, crushed coarsely
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, roughly  chopped
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt

1 29-ounce can cooked pumpkin (Libby’s brand large can, not  pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
11/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup soy milk or nondairy creamer
Dash ground cinnamon

Directions: Beat the pumpkin, white sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and soy milk (or nondairy creamer) together. Fold egg-milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture and blend thoroughly. Pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Sprinkle with topping ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until firm. Cut into squares and serve. 12-15 servings.

Tips & Tricks

  • Asian, Japanese or Chinese eggplants have less seeds and are less bitter. Their shapes make more uniform slices.
  • A bundt or tube pan can be used as a vertical roaster.  Oil and surround with layers of vegetables; place on a cookie sheet and roast.
  • Freeze red or green seedless grapes to chill wine in glasses.


Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

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