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Sukkot shortcuts for a spectacular holiday meal

These festive recipes contain some time-savers, but don’t compromise on taste — so you can get out of the kitchen and celebrate

Lamb and squash bourekas (Shannon Sarna/JTA)
Lamb and squash bourekas (Shannon Sarna/JTA)

JTA — By the time Sukkot arrives, we are three weeks into nonstop Jewish holiday mode. Some people might be a little tired of cooking, and I don’t blame them one bit.

But Sukkot is probably my favorite holiday of the season to cook for. I love sitting outdoors in the brisk autumn air enjoying harvest-inspired dishes with friends and family.

Even so, I understand how slaving away in the kitchen can get tiresome — especially when there are so many dishes to wash. That’s when it’s time to employ cooking shortcuts. Tricks like store-bought puff pastry, frozen veggies and one-pot dishes will save you time on Sukkot without sacrificing a stitch of flavor.

Spiced squash and lamb bourekas

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Bourekas are an easy appetizer to throw together using store-bought puff pastry. If you don’t like ground lamb, substitute ground beef. You can also make a vegetarian version by using tofu or feta cheese with the squash.

2 sheets store-bought puff pastry, left to thaw at room temperature for around 30 minutes
1/2 pound ground lamb
2 cups cooked pureed or mashed butternut squash (can also use sweet potato or frozen butternut squash)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten for glaze
Sesame seeds, nigella seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent. Add spices to pan and cook until toasted, around 1 minute. Add ground lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon as you cook. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Combine butternut squash and lamb mixture in a medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry. Cut each sheet into 9 even squares. Using a rolling pin, roll out each square slightly.

Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of the lamb/squash mixture into the corner of each square. Fold puff pastry over filling, forming a triangle.

Using the tines of a fork, crimp the edges.

Repeat with second sheet of puff pastry.

Brush each boureka with beaten egg. Top with sesame seeds, nigella seeds or poppy seeds, if desired.

Bake 18-22 minutes, until golden on top.

One pot chicken and rice with sweet potatoes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This one-pot wonder can be made one to two days ahead of time and reheated for guests. If you don’t like sweet potato, you can substitute carrots, butternut squash or even pumpkin. For more spice, add spicy paprika or red pepper flakes. Because the chicken and veggies are all cooked in the same pot, the rice is super flavorful and will feed a crowd.

One pot chicken and rice with vegetables (Shannon Sarna/JTA)
One pot chicken and rice with vegetables (Shannon Sarna/JTA)

6-8 chicken thighs, skin left on
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 large onion
2 celery ribs, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups white or brown rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
8-10 ounces mixed frozen vegetables

Combine paprika, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Rub spice mixture onto the skin and underside of each chicken thigh.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Sear chicken, skin side down, for 5 minutes, until chicken has browned slightly. Remove chicken from pan.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté sweet potato 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add onion and celery and cook another 5 minutes, stirring and scraping brown bits off bottom of pan. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

Add rice to pan and stir with veggies and oil to coat. Add stock and water and bring to a boil. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Place chicken back into pan. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook 25 minutes, then add frozen veggies to pot. Cook another 5-7 minutes, until rice is cooked and all liquid has evaporated. Fluff rice and serve.

Apple and pear streusel recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

This crumble is delicious all year, but it’s especially tasty when apples and pears are in season. By adding dried cherries, you get a pop of color and bright tartness. The addictive crumble topping is perfect whether you make it pareve or dairy.

Apple and pear streusel crumble (Shannon Sarna/JTA)
Apple and pear streusel crumble (Shannon Sarna/JTA)

For the fruit:
4 medium apples, peeled and diced
3 pears, peeled and diced
1/3 cup dried cherries (can also substitute dried cranberries or raisins)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

For the streusel:
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch square pan.

Place apples and pears in a large bowl. Add cherries, lemon juice, sugar and flour. Mix well and set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Stir in the melted butter and then flour. Mix until resembles coarse crumbs that stick together slightly.

Pour fruit mixture into prepared pan. Crumble streusel topping all over the fruit in an even layer.

Bake 45-50 minutes, until topping is golden brown. Can be made 1 or 2 days ahead of time. Serve warm if desired.

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