By June Hersh

Sukkot is the middle child of Jewish holidays. Wedged between Rosh Hashanah and Simchat Torah, this autumn “festival of booths” is a reminder of when the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years. The fragile huts they lived in during their journey are recreated on rooftops and in backyards as Jewish families gather inside the sukkah, a temporary structure with open air roofs of branches and leaves. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explained Sukkot by saying, “…it’s a tutorial in how to live with insecurity and still celebrate life”. This message certainly resonates in today’s uncertain times.

A big part of the celebration are the meals enjoyed in the sukkah, with many built around the bounty of the season.

With autumnal fruits and vegetables taking center stage, we present delicious recipes that originally appeared in Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival (available at the Museum bookstore, through Amazon and at www.junehersh.com). The book, written in association with the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is a compendium of stories and recipes I gathered from my interviews with Holocaust survivors. The book’s focus is to honor the survivor legacy and preserve food memory. Throughout the year, we will be presenting recipes from the book that mirror the season or relate to a Jewish holiday.

The following recipes are an homage to the fall harvest when crisp apples and a variety of late summer vegetables are abundant. We hope you find yourself enjoying these dishes under the delicate protection of a temporary hut, so you too can experience the true meaning of Sukkot.

Florence Tabrys’ Polish Apple Cake

Excerpted from Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival, 10th Anniversary edition, written by June Hersh, Eat Well-Do Good 2021
Florence & Henry Tabrys in DP camp circa 1946-49
Florence & Henry Tabrys in DP camp circa 1946-49

Florence Tabrys endured the Holocaust, at first by living in confinement in her home under Nazi occupation and eventually as a slave laborer in a munition’s factory. As the war drew to a close, she and her sister–her only remaining relative–were moved to Bergen Belsen, where she was liberated by the British army. Florence shared that one of the things that kept her going revolved around family gatherings and food. None more vivid than this cake which is a delectable compote of apples and raisins baked between layers of crunchy dough. They create the national treasure that is Jablercznik, Polish for apple pie. Florence’s twist was a layer of grape jelly that introduces another flavorful note to every bite.

This cake is delicious warmed with a scoop of ice cream or wonderful as a breakfast treat served cold.

Florence Tabrys’ Polish Apple Cake
Florence Tabrys’ Polish Apple Cake

Yields: 24 pieces; Start to Finish: Under 1 ½ hours

For the dough:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon zested orange peel
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

For the Filling:

  • 2 ½ pounds ( 8 to10) Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Topping:

  • ¼ cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the layering:

  • 1 cup grape jelly, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch Pyrex baking dish

To make the dough, in a large bowl, beat the eggs, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, sugar and baking powder on medium speed. Turn the speed to low, begin adding the flour. When you have added 5 cups, remove the dough from the bowl and begin kneading by hand, on a floured surface. Add up to ½ cup of flour to form a smooth, elastic dough. Let the dough rest, covered, while you prepare the filling.

For the filling, peel, core and grate the apples on a box grater or with a food processor shredding disc. Spoon the apples into a bowl and stir in the raisins and cinnamon. Toss to completely coat the apples. On a floured surface, roll out a little more than half the dough, to fit the bottom of the baking dish. Use a rolling pin to roll up the dough and carefully lay it in the bottom of the dish. Gently press the dough evenly, bringing it halfway up the sides.

With an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of grape jelly on top of the dough. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour over the jelly and then spread the apple mixture, as you would pie filling. Roll out the remaining half of the dough and lay it on top of the apples. Smooth it out, cut off any excess. Press down lightly on the sides to form a seal around the edges. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon topping. Lightly score the cake into 24 pieces and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until the top of the cake is golden brown. Allow the cake to cool completing so the juices settle before cutting all the way through.

Luna Cohen’s Tourlo-Greek Ratatouille

Excerpted from Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival, 10th Anniversary edition, written by June Hersh, Eat Well-Do Good 2021
Luna Cohen’s Tourlo-Greek Ratatouille
Luna Cohen’s Tourlo-Greek RatatouilleLuna’s family lived a simple, humble life in Larissa, Greece, where her father was a broom-maker. When the war came to their village in 1942, they sought refuge in a peasant community outside the city. There they lived under false papers and were known as the Chiliakos family. Luna’s cooking was heavily influenced by her Greek roots.

Perhaps no dish defines the Mediterranean cuisine she grew up eating more than this vibrant mix of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers enlivened with garlic and oregano and the option of adding sausage to the mix. Now is the time to prepare this dish as a nod to the late fall harvest when these vegetables are still gracing backyard gardens and local markets.

Yields 4 to 6 servings. Start to Finish: Under 2 hours

  • 1 eggplant, cut into chunks, salted and drained
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped ( about ¾ cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 zucchinis, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into chunks
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ pound sausage, chunked- optional

Place the chunks of eggplant in a colander and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Place a plate on top of the eggplant to help weigh it down. Let the eggplant drain for 30 minutes, then rinse, dry and reserve. While the eggplant drains, prepare the remaining vegetables.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, cook and stir the onion and garlic over medium heat, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, green and red peppers. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon the vegetables into a baking dish and season to taste with salt, pepper and oregano. Stir in the sausage if using and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Serve as a hearty side dish or main over rice or noodles.

Note: Eggplants are 95% water and if not handled properly can soak up your sauce or cause it to be watery. Whenever time allows, drain the eggplant as described before cooking. If roasting the eggplant this step is not necessary. When choosing eggplants, pick the lighter ones, they have fewer bitter seeds.

As for sausage, some cringe when they hear the word, assuming it renders the dish treyf. But kosher sausage is a thing and there are wonderful varieties of beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or veal. Give them a try to spice up any dish and turn it from a side to a main instantly.

June Hersh is a food writer, speaker and cookbook author. She welcomes your feedback at Eatwelldogood18@gmail.com.