Monday, September 20, 2010


We had a wonderful Rosh Hashana and I hope you did too. Our table was beautifully set before the holiday began with the tablecloth that my father brought that my grandmother embroidered, a Vichinsky honeypot, red red pomegranates, homemade round challahs, our polished kiddush cups (thanks Abba) and flowers from Brattle Square Florist (where Steve makes us wonderful local bouquets), so I had time to snap some pictures. These shots really transport me back to that Rosh Hashana moment and feeling. For a glimpse into the one holiday snafoo we had visit my post at Golden West's blog.

However, for the first time in 10 months I didn't post on the blog last week. There technically wasn't a weekly Torah portion that was read so I shied away from coming here to say something about Yom Kippur but now I regret it. First of all the Torah reading was enthralling, even though we've read it already this year (hopefully you'll be able to read about it in my cookbook), and second of all I didn't get to send you my wishes for a meaningful day.

Well we won't let that happen this week. No weekly portion again because this week is the holiday of Sukkot. Before I jump into an explanation of that holiday I need to confess that I made a mistake in my last post. I told you that we were reading the last two portions of the Torah in a double portion, wehen in fact on the 11th we only read the second to last portion. So please excuse me. We will finish the reading of the Torah next week, at the end of Sukkot on the holiday of Simchat Torah when we celebrate the Torah and finishing the cycle of reading it ... and then immediately start reading it again.

Onto Sukkot. I have always loved this holiday and have a bit of a sukkah obsession. While some East coasters may tell you the act of eating in a sukkah over the course of this Holiday is God's way of testing our dedication, they've got it all wrong. You see we sit in sukkahs to commemorate when God settled the nation in sukkot (booths/huts) after taking them out of Egypt. Our modern day sukkots are reminiscent of the temporary huts they lived in in the Middle Eastern Desert! So they weren't bundling up to keep themselves warm in those sukkahs. And if you live in places like California and Israel, you see right through this.

The commandment to keep the holiday of sukkot is found in Levitikus along with the commandments for the other major holidays - Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Shavuot. The two big rituals are hanging out in the sukkah (eating is ideal, as well as sleeping) and blessing and waving the four species each day - lulav, etrog, hadasim and aravot - a palm branch, a citron, myrtle and willow branches.

Growing up we didn't have a sukkah of our own since we lived in an apartment building (though most apartment buildings in Israel are outfitted with staggered balconies for people to build a sukkah on and not have their view of the stars blocked by their neighbors). All of our friends with sukkahs would invite us over for the holiday meals and during the week we would often eat at the sukkah at our synagogue. When my parents downsized to a one bedroom after I graduated from college they had a huge terrace to build their sukkah on - we filled it with hand made decorations (by my mom), friends and warm food. Their sukkah even won the title of "Riverdale's #1 Family Sukkah" in a Riverdale Jewish Community Council Contest (ahem don't forget about my contest).

The root of my obsession with sukkahs developed in the last 6 months of my stay in Israel when I was a student at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem and picked up a copy of the illustrated Mishnah sukkah. I had an absolute blast learning it with my friend and chevruta, study partner, Shira. We couldn't get over the ridiculous scenarios for places a sukkah might be and whether or not they were considered a legit sukkah- on a camel, on a boat, in a tree. To compound that was a trip we took to a national park in Israel where they rebuild every type of sukkah mentioned in the Mishnah. When we got to see the camel live with a little sukkah on it's back I was beside myself with excitement, and obsession.

The pictures above were taken in the Harvard Law School Sukkah and the Harvard Hillel Sukkah. For a review of many Boston area public sukkahs that I recently wrote go to and check one out next week!

I have a great recipe to share with you that I actually made to fill up on during the week before Yom Kippur (this is much more thrilling to me than breakfast food since by the time that rolls around I just want to eat a bagel and crash into bed). I had several veggies that I wanted to use up and they went into this lasagna. I think this warm and hearty dish would be the perfect thing on a cool night in the sukkah next week.

Garden Vegetable Lasagna

1 box of lasagna noodles
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 bunch of collard greens
1 red bell pepper
3 plum tomatoes
1 10 ounce container of cottage cheese
4 tbsp Feta Cheese
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
Basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix the cottage cheese in a bowl with the egg and add some salt and pepper. Thickly slice the peppers and tomatoes. Rinse the collard greens and tear into bite size pieces.

In a large glass baking pan pour a thin and even layer of sauce. Layer one layer of lasagna noodles over it. Spread the cheese and egg mixture over that and place some torn pieces of collard greens and several slices of pepper and tomato over the cheese then sprinkle with some feta cheese and Parmesan. Continue layering again with the sauce, noodles, cheese spread, vegetables and sprinkled cheese until you can't fill the pan anymore.

Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes. Enjoy warm with some nice fall soup or baked squash.

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