Z’man Simchateinu

The holiday of Sukkot is known as z’man simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing, or, as Marc has dubbed it, “happy times.”  And, after a couple of really solemn holidays, we deserve a big ol’ party, which is pretty much what the last three days have been. Read on for lots of little snippets of stories about meals, bunches of recipes, a sukkah count, and some of the cutest pictures of Aliza to date.  This is a long one.

The party started last week, when, as I mentioned, we built a sukkah on the roof (1).  Basically, a sukkah is a temporary structure with a bunch of rabbinic specifications for what makes a wall and what it means to be able to see the stars.  Last year, we had a ginormous sukkah on our roof that seated 20 comfortably, but the whole thing was a little rickety and, ultimately held up by a flip flop.  Really and truly.  (This year, the flip flops were only decoration.)  With a baby and a lot of other things going on, we decided this year’s sukkah should be off our kitchen instead.  So last week, I went up to the roof to start bringing down materials, and instead, I remembered how awesome our roof is and stayed up there.  I am now putting this in writing for my future self of next Sukkot: go for ground level.

In case you  can’t tell that Aliza’s in this picture, here’s a closer up.

When we have these three day holidays, they all blend together and into Shabbat, and into one glorious indulgent taste memory.  Wednesday night, Warren hosted a potluck and requested my sesame noodles, so I made a double batch to have for the Grad Network potluck on Friday as well.  Lots of people requested the recipe, which, back in January, I wrote up here.

The potluck and Warren’s sukkah (2) were both lovely, and we managed not to get stuck in too much rain during the walk in either direction, though it was chilly enough to debut Aliza’s amazing full body sweater.  Thanks, Gill!

All the food was great, and Warren’s butternut squash soup and cider cream were especially noteworthy.  Though I rarely give much attention in this blog to store-bought items, Fred bought a pumpkin roll filled with cream cheese frosting that I’ve been thinking about for days.  I also found out at this dinner that some people who I don’t know read this blog.  Hi strangers!  Thanks for reading!

Ilana had me over for lunch on Thursday, and she made spaghetti squash and cheese, which is another recipe that people have requested recently.  It’s actually my favorite mac and cheese recipe, with cooked spaghetti squash instead of macaroni and spinach instead of sweet potatoes.  Ilana also wins the distinction of the cutest little sukkah (3) in the whole wide world, which sits on her front steps.

Thursday night we ate at Beverly and Naomi’s, and I was responsible for dessert.  I had the brilliant idea to make chocolate covered caramel apples, because it could be made during the holiday and only had a couple of ingredients.  Long story short, it turned into a huge sticky mess, and I made chocolate almond pudding instead.  Then I brought the apples to dinner anyway and also brought some cookies, too, just in case we needed more dessert.  The pudding is our favorite and much-linked-to Mexican chocolate gelato recipe, minus the cinnamon, plus almond extract, and put in the fridge instead of the ice cream bowl.

Friday, we hosted lunch.  Marc wanted to highlight the ephemeral nature of the holiday, and we wanted to minimize what needed to be schlepped to the roof, so we made an almost utensil-less Ethiopian-style meal.  Marc made injera, the spongy Ethiopian bread that I never would have attempted, but which worked quite well as a backdrop to everything else.  Turns out, we still needed plates, and we needed a lot of napkins, and we probably owe Jonathan for his dry-cleaning bill.  Marc also made glasses out ice and a kiddush cup out of grape juice, and though they might not all have “worked” in the sense of holding liquid, it was definitely a novelty, and once they went back in their cup molds, they kept our drinks pleasantly chilled.

The rest of the meal consisted of pumpkin saag from Veganomicon; potato stew, cabbage stew, and red lentil stew all sort of from Olive Trees and Honey but kind of made up as I went along; and a tomato salad of the last-minute Jewish food paranoia variety that actually really rounded out the flavors of everything else.  For a utensil-less dessert, we had vanilla almond ice cream in individual graham cracker crusts.

Potato Stew, Ethiopian Style (sort of)

2 onions
olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tomato sauce
5-8 potatoes, a mixture of white and sweet, cubed
chili peppers, minced (optional)
cumin seeds, ground curim, a dash of sriracha sauce, a dash of cardamom, about 1 teaspoon turmeric, minced fresh ginger, ground coriander, ground mustard, salt and pepper

Saute the onions and garlic, the add the spices (except turmeric) and saute a little bit more.  I haven’t given you amounts since I just kept tasting and adding.  The cardamom is likely to be the most overpowering flavor, so use it sparingly.  Add half the tomato sauce and about 1/4 cup water and stir and simmer until it’s thickened.  Add the potatoes, turmeric, the rest of the tomato sauce and another 1/4 cup or so of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are done.  Taste and adjust spices.  Cook uncovered until the sauce reached the desired thickness. 

What if I don’t have enough food tomato salad

fresh, local tomatoes, chopped
chopped fresh parsley
lemon juice
red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix it all together and enjoy with mushy, spicy stews.  Or by itself.  But do it quick, ‘cuz tomato season’s almost over.

Then the wind picked up and rain started just as we were finishing, and everyone left the roof very happy and very full and in quite a hurry.  Everyone, that is, except for Naomi and me, who decided that the tarp wall was going to pose a hazard in the wind, so we took it down.  After accomplishing that task, we left the roof very happy, very full, and completely drenched from head to toe.  By the time we got dried off and in fresh clothes, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out.  But it just wouldn’t be Sukkot without these kinds of antics.

And, 900 or so words in, I’ve finally reached the Shabbat part of the three day yontif…(Yiddish for chag, which is Hebrew for holiday).  Friday night, Molly and Jon graciously hosted the Grad Network potluck in their sukkah (4), and our new spreadsheet system seems to have taken care of any food issues, and there was more than enough yumminess to go around.  Laura’s kugel was great, and so was Molly’s mom’s ratatouille.

Saturday, we actually didn’t have lunch plans, and we went down to City Hall to visit Occupy Philly and the sukkah there (5).  I was so glad to see Chana, and it was nice to feel part of the scene there for a little while.  A woman was visiting from Des Moines and came to the sukkah for a minyan to say kaddish, which was pretty cool.  An older woman and her husband came by with freshly baked cookies, and another couple came by to say that this was the first time they’d ever seen a sukkah at a protest.  Though I’m still a little unclear on the goals of the Occupy movement, which I realize is kind of the point, I was impressed with the kindness and communal feeling around City Hall, and also struck by the medic volunteer who thanked us for bringing the baby and said it lent credibility to the movement to have people with kids walking around.

Saturday afternoon, in lieu of hosting lunch or expecting anyone else to, we had a Sukkot open house.  Except the wind was kind of crazy, bamboo poles kept falling, Aliza wouldn’t stop crying, we had to keep all the food in bags so it wouldn’t blow away, and we came inside.  Oh well.  It was still a lot of fun, though the quantity of junk food far exceeded pretty much any other event we’ve ever hosted, and my tongue actually hurt from eating cheese puffs.  And I can’t decided whether to be happy or sad about how many cookies were leftover.  Also, as requested, my cookie recipe: it’s the Nestle tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe plus about 2 cups of oatmeal and some butterscotch chips.

To keep the count going, we also visited the BZBI sukkah (6), Sara’s sukkah for a Penn Med gathering (7), and we’ll be in the Penn Hillel sukkah tomorrow for Sangria in the Sukkah (8).  That’s three more sukkot than the number of months old Aliza turned yesterday.  Oh yeah, and the holiday keeps going, and the holidays keep coming, so there’s more food and more celebrating just around the corner.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Z’man Simchateinu

  1. Suzy

    Yummy foods and adorable Aliza photos! I’m kind of jealous of the full body sweater suit…

  2. Mattea

    I love the Aliza pictures (especially the close-up of her in the giant chair)! Those sound like great recipes too—I will definitely have to try the tomato salad!

  3. Pingback: The moral(s) of the story | 25×52

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