How a Potluck Party Inspired Me to Build a Back Yard Sukkah

Posted on September 28th, 2012 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

Amy, Sharon & Colin

Is there a better way to celebrate the fall – the autumnal equinox, and a dear friend’s birthday—than a (fairly) impromptu pumpkin potluck party on our patio? We gathered outside and enjoyed pumpkin hummus* [recipe below] on fresh veggies, curried pumpkin soup with a balsamic reduction, salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin risotto*, Moroccan couscous and a variety of pumpkin desserts.

pumpkin soup

The air was nearly crisp enough to warrant a jacket, but when the sun went down we lit a fire and enjoyed the warmth and glow. Even though you couldn’t see the stars in the sky from our city yard, the evening was nearly perfect.

That is until Colin said that he wanted to cut down and even out our fence posts. It’s true they do extend way past the gate top, but Eric left them that way on purpose. And if they were chopped down we couldn’t build a sukkah in the backyard. Okay, we’ve never built a sukkah in our back yard, but now I kind of want to.  We can use our fence as the framework, and then we just need to rig up a roof of branches. The idea is that the sukkah is a temporary structure representing the biblical booths, and that light (and rain!) can stream in through the ceiling. Since it is a mitzvah to eat in the sukkah, we’ll have a chance to try out some more fall favorite recipes!

For inspiration for sukkah construction, I turned to the JMM photo collection.

The Lutsky family Sukkah, 1904 seems very formal with framed photographs and glass lanterns, 1994.206.1.

Chizuk Amuno Nursery School children built their sukkah out of cardboard bricks, but a good strong wind might knock it down outside, 2002.111.159.

This sukkah is the size of a gymnasium! I’d love to play basketball in a sukkah, but it may be a little too big for my rowhouse back yard, 1999.167.

While most people decorate the inside of their sukkah, I really like the painted garden on the exterior of this one.

I love the beautiful streaks of light coming through this sukkah. Plus, it looks like it was constructed the same way Fluid Movement makes their sets!

This one might require a little bit more engineering than I can manage.

The exterior house wall gives a solid, homey feel. I don’t think our white vinyl siding will have the same effect.

This style matches our back-gate, which is also made out of recycled doors! I love the idea of being eco-friendly. I bet a quick trip down to the Loading Dock (http:///www.loadingdock.org/) would net us all of the supplies we need.

 

pumpkin hummus

Recipe for Pumpkin Hummus

1 15 oz can drained garbanzo beans

1 cup (or more) pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

Or the pulp of one roasted sugar pumpkin

½ cup oil

2 TBS tahini

2 TBS lemon juice

1-2 cloves of garlic

¼ cup parsley

2 tsp. ground cumin

¼ tsp. ground smoked paprika

¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Blend all of the ingredients in the food processor to the your preferred hummus consistency .

Serve with toasted pita chips or fresh vegetables

 

 

Pumpkin Risotto

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 TBS oil

2 cups arboio rice

2 cups pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

6 cups vegetable stock (or more), heated

½ cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

 

 

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat and sweat the onions until soft.

Add the rice, stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure each kernel is coated with oil.

 

In a separate pot, heat the vegetable stock to a simmer. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Maintain at a simmer.

 

Add the broth to the rice, 1 ladleful at a time.  Stir the rice so that the broth is fully absorbed before adding another ladleful. Continue to cook the rice until it is slightly al dente and most of the broth has been absorbed.

 

Finish the risotto by stirring in the Parmesan cheese.

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Celebrating Rosh Hashanah: Grandma Hilda’s Chocolate and White Cake

Posted on September 21st, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

It’s erev Rosh Hashanah and as I arrive at my parents’ house for our family meal (and by family I mean all 30+ of our nearest and dearest) to kick off the holiday celebration, I am overwhelmed by the delicious aroma of dinner – homemade gefilte fish, brisket, turkey, and all the trimmings.  It’s true that for many, it’s the traditional foods that hold center court – kreplach (check out Esther Weiner’s recent blog post for her wonderful recipe at http://?s=kreplach), matzah ball soup, gefilte fish. For me, however, it’s all about the dessert. And not just any dessert, but Grandma Hilda’s chocolate and white cake.

Grandma Hilda’s Chocolate and White Cake at the dessert table.

While I have fond memories of many of my grandmother’s meals (fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, and let’s not forget the iceberg salad wedge!), it is her famous cake that has lived on as a must-have at family celebrations including birthdays and holiday meals. I have shared the recipe with many friends who are always delighted by how easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.

Recipe for Hilda Edelman’s Chocolate and White Cake

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter*

3 eggs

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 cup milk*

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

¾ can chocolate syrup

¼ tsp. baking soda

Cream together sugar and butter, blend in eggs. In two separate bowls, mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) and liquid ingredients (milk and vanilla). Alternate adding dry and liquid ingredients to sugar mixture. Begin and end with dry ingredients. Pour 2/3 of the batter into a well-greased and lightly floured tube pan. Add chocolate syrup and baking soda to remaining batter. Spoon chocolate batter over white batter in pan. Do not mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and ten minutes.

*To make a pareve version, substitute margarine and coffee rich for butter and milk.

See how pretty it looks inside!

Best wishes to everyone for a sweet and happy new year!

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The Rosh HaShanah Seder

Posted on September 12th, 2012 by

By Rabbi Barbara Aiello 

After the Chosen Food exhibition opened almost a year ago, my research on Jewish food slowed considerably, but it did not come to a complete halt. I’m forever hearing about something that is new to me, or seizing on bits of history and culture that I put aside for further investigation. The Sephardic/Mizrachi custom of the Rosh HaShanah seder was included in our exhibition, thanks to Poopa Dweck’s generosity in sharing a photograph from her beautiful cookbook, Aromas of Aleppo (Harper Collins, 2007), but we didn’t explore it in depth. So I reached out to Rabbi Barbara Aiello, a woman on the forefront of popularizing this lovely custom in America, to write about her experiences for us.

Rabbi Barbara, as she likes to be addressed, is the first woman rabbi and first non-orthodox rabbi in Italy. She serves Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria since Inquisition times. During the winter months she serves the Kobernick senior living campus in Sarasota, Florida where she is resident rabbi. Contact her at www.rabbibarbara.com.

For more information about how to celebrate a Rosh HaShanah seder, complete with a “mini haggadah,” go to Rabbi Barbara’s 2010 post on Interfaith Family at http:///www.interfaithfamily.com/holidays/rosh_hashanah_and_yom_kippur/The_Rosh_Hashanah_Seder_Who_Knew.shtml

 Shana tova umetukah!

Karen

Rabbi Barbara Aiello

All of us know the most popular seder of all – the Passover Seder. “Seder” is a Hebrew word that means “order,” and the Passover seder includes an order of prayers and blessings, symbolic foods and songs, and of course, a special seder plate, to help tell the story of the our Jewish ancestors’ flight from slavery in Egypt to freedom.

The less well-known Rosh HaShanah seder is a Sephardic custom.  In Jewish homes in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, North African countries like Morocco and Egypt, and India, it is traditional for families to hold a seder on the night before Rosh HaShanah.

The Rosh HaShanah seder is similar to the Passover seder in many ways.  It includes stories, prayers, blessings, songs and symbolic foods. In recent years seder plates designed especially for the symbolic Rosh HaShanah seder foods have become available so that families can create a specific “order” to celebrate the birthday of the world.

The Rosh HaShanah seder  is called “Seder Yehi Ratzon,” the Seder of God’s will, because we offer blessings that it will be God’s will that we are blessed with bounty, strength, and peace in the coming year. The seder has its origins in the Talmud (Horayot 12a) where Rabbi Abaye writes about eating those foods that grow in abundance at this time of the year. We serve this abundance at our Rosh HaShanah seder table as a symbol of prosperity.

As a Sephardic Jew and rabbi who serves a congregation in Calabria, Italy, for part of the year, I brought the Rosh HaShanah seder to my congregants who live at the Kobernick senior community in Sarasota, Florida.  I’ve offered the seder tasting for three years to participants who range in age from 70 to over 100 years old, and members of the community who volunteer on our campus. We create small seder plates so that each individual can sample the symbolic foods. A larger plate contains a taste of the symbolic foods such as dates or pomegranates, figs, apples and honey, carrots, pumpkin or squash, beets, scallions or leeks and tuna fish. The table centerpiece features a large fish head, reminiscent of the ancient seder tradition where a large steamed fish was offered as the main course.

The Rosh HaShanah seder is quickly becoming an important event in the celebration of the Jewish New Year, mainly because it offers a joyful simcha during a solemn time of the year. Sometimes the birthday of the world is secondary to Rosh HaShanah’s more  somber message of teshuvah (return). The Rosh HaShanah seder offers a moment of joy prior to the services that contain a more serious theme.

The cultural element to the seder experience gives American Jews, the majority of whom have roots in the Ashkenazi tradition, a chance to experience a simcha that originates from Sephardic or Middle Eastern culture. Because we Sephardic Jews are a minority within a minority, our unique culture is often obscure or misunderstood. The seder gives Jews of all backgrounds a glimpse into the beauty of the Mediterranean Jewish culture, broadening the “meshpucha” feeling for all of us.

Finally those who participate in the Rosh HaShanah seder have the opportunity to add another family-based observance to the New Year experience. We Jews enjoy gathering around the family table. The Rosh HaShanah seder is another way to bring the family together, not only to tickle the palate, but to share in gratitude for another year of love and life.

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