Sukkot and squash make for a lovely pre-Thanksgiving meal
Sukkot is the early Thanksgiving, that perfect season when we might still have access to late tomatoes and zucchini, but the winter squash is coming in as well, heralding the impending chillier autumn.
While Sukkot is not associated with specific foods or dishes in the same way as Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah or Passover are, vegetarian (or, at least, vegetable-based) dishes can still be enjoyed in the humble, makeshift setting of a sukkah, embracing this holiday as a celebration of the garden and of the spirit of impermanence and delicious relinquishment.
Both of the following squash-based dishes come from my new book, “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation,” which is being published in September 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
These dishes go well with a simple tomato salad: thickly sliced heirlooms (of various colors, if available), drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. A possible shower of herbes de Provence would top it off nicely.
Zucchini-Ricotta Cloud Cakes
Puffy savory pancakes are always a pleasant surprise for dinner. And these are among the fluffiest and most savory in my repertoire. Consider making these in two large pans—or on one large griddle, so that more people will be able to enjoy the result at the same time.
2 tablespoons olive oil (approximate)
3/4 cup finely minced onion
1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
1 medium-sized (7-ounce, 7-inch) zucchini, sliced into very thin circles and quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (in with the zucchini at the end of the sauté)
3 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves (could be more)
A touch of butter (optional)
Separate the eggs far enough ahead of time to allow them to get to room temperature. Place both yolks and whites in bowls large enough to accommodate additional ingredients and unabashed mixing, and cover them (plate or plastic wrap) while they stand.
Note: In the unlikely event that you are faced with leftover batter, it will keep for about a day in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Second-day cloud cakes will still be delicious—just a whole lot less inflated.
1) Place a medium-sized (eight to nine-inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add one tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the onion and cook, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until the onion becomes soft. Stir the garlic, zucchini, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and continue to cook (with a few stirs) for about five minutes longer, or until the zucchini is wilted. Toss in the vinegar and some black pepper, and set aside.
2) Use a handheld electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they form soft, firm peaks. Set aside, keeping the mixer handy (no need to clean it at this point).
3) Add the ricotta to the egg yolks, and begin mixing with the electric mixer at medium speed. After a minute or two, lower the speed, and keep it going slowly as you sprinkle the flour plus another 1/4 teaspoon salt. When the dry items are completely incorporated, put aside the mixer, and use a rubber spatula to fold in the cooked vegetables and the minced mint.
4) Spoon the beaten egg whites on top, then fold them in—gently but assertively, with a few quick strokes of the rubber spatula, circling down to the bottom of the bowl and around the sides. It doesn’t need to be uniform—just be sure the whites are reasonably distributed.
5) Place a large (10 to 12- Ω inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add a scant 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the pan, and then melt in about a teaspoon of butter, if desired. Tilt the pan to distribute the butter, and when it’s hot enough to instantly sizzle a crumb, use a 1/3 or 1/4 cup measure with a handle to scoop batter onto the hot pan, and fry for about two to three minutes on each side, or until golden and puffy. Serve right away, fresh from the pan.
Yield: 3-4 servings (6-8 big, puffy pancakes)
Black-Eyed Pea, Squash, and Shiitake Stew
Creamy black-eyed peas and chewy mushrooms play off beautifully against golden, sweet cubes of perfectly roasted butternut squash, while lemon and mustard infuse everything with sparkle and edge. I just plain love this recipe—truly one of my favorites.
The black-eyed peas can be cooked—and the squash can be roasted—simultaneously, and well ahead of time. You can also use two 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and thoroughly drained, instead of soaking and cooking dried ones. Your call.
Serve these with your favorite homemade biscuits or with crackers and cheddar.
1 cup (1/2 pound) dry black-eyed peas, soaked (see note above)
1 medium-sized butternut squash (about 3 pounds)—peeled, seeded, and diced in 1/2-inch pieces (5 to 6 cups)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced red onion
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt (possibly more, to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic
20 medium-sized (2-inch cap) fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Black pepper to taste
1) Drain and rinse the soaked black-eyed peas, then transfer them to a saucepan and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil, turn the heat way down, and simmer, partially covered, until pleasantly tender (but not too, too soft)—about 30 minutes. Drain (saving the water, if possible) and set aside.
2) Preheat the oven to 400°F, then line a baking tray with parchment or foil, and slick it all over with a tablespoon of oil. (You can use a piece of cut squash to do this.)
3) Spread out the squash in a single layer, and roast in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender and nicely browned around the edges. (Check in on the roasting squash beginning at around 10 minutes; shake the tray from time to time and/or use tongs or a spatula to loosen and move the pieces around during roasting. You don’t want the bottom surfaces to burn.) When the squash is done, remove the tray from the oven and sprinkle the hot squash with two tablespoons of the lemon juice. Let it sit and soak this up as it cools. Meanwhile, proceed with the other items.
3) Place a soup pot, large saucepan, or Dutch oven over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the remaining two tablespoons oil, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the onion, dry mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about eight to 10 minutes, or until the onions become very soft.
4) Stir in the garlic, mushrooms, and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, and covering the pot in between.
5) Add the beans to the vegetable mixture, along with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, plus the vinegar. Taste to adjust the salt (it could need a touch more) and also shake in a generous amount of black pepper. Stir from the bottom of the pot—gently, so as not to break the beans—but thoroughly enough to get everything coated with everything else. If it seems dry, add up to 1/2 cup water (ideally the reserved bean-cooking water) and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or so—just long enough to heat through.
6) Stir in the squash (actually fold it in—very carefully, to avoid mush) shortly before serving, and heat gently to your desired temperature without actually cooking the stew further. The goal is to keep the texture varied and interesting.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Mollie Katzen has sold more than 6 million books and is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all-time. She has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.”