Sukkot might be the festival of the booths, but to me it is the feast of the potlucks because of all the invitations to share meals under the sukkah. Gathering around with other guests and sampling their dishes has always been a way to widen my acquaintance with new friends (and old) and their food ways. Add in that Sukkot is a harvest festival and celebrates seasonal food, and my plate runneth over.
What to serve in the sukkah varies. Some families look to serve dishes that reflect the ancient biblical harvests while others look to more local, seasonal crops. Foods that convey abundance, especially filled or stuffed vegetables or pastries, are also associated with the holiday.
Whatever the menu, the most important food tradition that accompanies Sukkot is not what is eaten, but the act of eating under it under a sukkah and inviting others to share the experience.
The parve fig tart with its easy-to-make crust fits into the Sukkot tradition of filled dishes. The roasted eggplant casserole is accented with the nutty taste of millet and the tang and crunch of pomegranates. Both dishes are ideal for a holiday potluck and reflect the foods of the season — pomegranates have long been associated with Sukkot, millet is a biblical food harvested in late summer and figs are bountiful right now from California fields.
Fig Tart with Cornmeal–Olive Oil Crust
1 lb. fresh black figs, quartered
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1⁄8 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1⁄2 cup yellow cornmeal
1⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 10-oz. can almond paste
Put figs, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and sugar in sauce pan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and jammy, 25-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar in bowl. Stir in oil. Mix thoroughly with hands until dough comes together. Press evenly into bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Prick all over with fork. Bake for 15-18 minutes until crust is lightly browned. (If crust puffs up as it cooks, prick again.) Let cool. Pat almond paste onto tart. Top with cooked figs.
Roasted Eggplant-Pomegranate Casserole
2 eggplants, 1 lb. each
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup pomegranate juice
1⁄4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. salt
12 oz. baby spinach
4 cups cooked millet (see below) or brown rice
6 oz. crumbled soft goat cheese, divided
1⁄3 cup pomegranate seeds
1⁄3 cup chopped parsley and or mint
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice eggplants in half vertically, place face down on baking sheet greased with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Bake 30 minutes until cut side is browned and eggplant is completely softened. Let cool. Shred flesh with fork. Discard skins.
Lower oven to 350 degrees. In a large fry pan, heat 2 Tbs. oil, sauté onions until golden, add garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add juice. Cook until syrupy. Add pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Stir. Add half the spinach, sauté until cooked down. Add remaining spinach. Sauté. Mix in shredded eggplant and cooked millet (see below). Combine thoroughly with two-thirds of the cheese. Turn into a casserole dish greased with remaining oil. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 40 minutes. Just before serving scatter pomegranate seeds and chopped herbs over top.
To cook millet: Rinse and drain well 1 cup millet. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large pot. Add millet and stir until lightly toasted. Add 2 cups of boiling water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Lower heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes until water is absorbed. Take off heat, leave covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Faith Kramer is a Bay area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com. Contact her at email@example.com.