Cook: Celebrate the bounty of the season

Without question, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Lucky me, I get to celebrate it twice.

Sukkot, the Jewish Thanksgiving, begins at sundown Sunday, Sept. 30 and coincides with the end of the fruit harvest period. It is followed in November by the American Thanksgiving, when a bronzed turkey surrounded by an autumn bounty takes center stage. Both are times of rejoicing for the generous goodness of the earth.

The word “sukkot” means “booths” and refers to the makeshift huts the Jews called home during their 40 years of biblical wandering. Today, it is customary to build a sukkah in one’s garden or patio and decorate it with fruits and vegetables of the season. Sharing a meal with family and friends in the sukkah is considered a mitzvah and is very much part of the festivities.

While the following menu is perfect for this holiday because of the seasonal ingredients, it can be made throughout the fall and winter. It is meant as picnic fare that can be served outdoors or in at room temperature.


Fresh Figs Stuffed with Watercress and Walnuts

Makes 16

1 bunch watercress, stemmed and coarsely chopped

1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

3 Tbs. snipped chives

1⁄2 tsp. salt

pinch cayenne pepper

2 Tbs. plain yogurt or sour cream

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

16 fresh green or black figs

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except figs.

Stand figs upright and, with scissors, cut an X through tops. Gently pull 4 sections apart, creating a cavity in figs. Fill each fig with about 1 Tbs. mixture. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil

2 leeks, white part only, chopped

1 vegetable stock or water

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into1-inch cubes

1 cup half-and-half or cream

1 bunch watercress leaves

salt and pepper

In medium saucepan, heat oil. Cook leeks until soft. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add squash and simmer, partially covered until tender, about 20 minutes. Purée mixture in blender or food processor with about 3⁄4 of the watercress. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve garnished with remaining watercress leaves. May be served room temperature, cold or hot.


Greek Tuna Salad Pita Wrap

Serves 6

1⁄2 lb. imported Feta cheese, crumbled

1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

2 tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

4 green onions, chopped

1 cup imported black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. capers, rinsed and drained

1⁄4 cup chopped parsley

71⁄2-oz. can tuna, drained

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. dried oregano

salt and pepper

6 large pita breads

2 cups spinach leaves

In large bowl, combine first 8 ingredients. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil and oregano. Toss with salad ingredients and taste for salt and pepper.

Heat pita breads just until warm. Make a slit at one end and fill with salad and some spinach leaves.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to

Louise Fiszer