For a Festive Meal
I’m very lucky to come from a diverse, Middle Eastern background. Throughout the years, I’ve put my own twist on these traditional dishes that I learned to prepare from my grandmother’s kitchen. I’d like to share some of my favorite Syrian and Iraqi inspired recipes to help you expand your flavor profiles and learn new cooking techniques. I hope you will be inspired to make these recipes on your own for an especially flavorful Sukkot menu!
Chicken Roulade with Cherry Sauce
Transform something as simple as chicken breast into something spectacular with this recipe. The dark cherry glaze and sweet sauce kissed with red wine will make this dish stand out on your Yom Tov table.
Yield: 8-10 servings
6 chicken breast, boneless skinless
1/2 lb. ground meat
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
For the sauce:
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. oil
1/2 cup red wine
2 cans cranberry sauce
2 cans dark pitted sweet cherries
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsps. White vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground meat with the salt and spices, and set aside.
2. Place the chicken breast on a chopping board, and with your hand flat on top of it, use a sharp knife to slice into one side of the breast, starting at the thicker end and ending at the thin point. Be careful not to cut all the way through to the other side. Open up the breast and cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, cut side up. Use a rolling pin or poultry hammer to flatten the chicken to 1/3″ in thickness.
3. Once all the chicken breasts are flattened out, fill them with a thin log of the ground meat mixture and roll. Then seal each breast with 3 toothpicks and set aside. If there is any remaining meat, form into meatballs.
4. Heat the oil in a wide pot on medium high heat, then sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Then add in the cranberry sauce, water, salt, vinegar, and canned cherries.
5. Once the sauce is boiling, lower the flame to medium and add in the chicken roulades. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
6. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the pot and reduce the sauce on high flame for 15-20 minutes until it becomes a thick syrup. Slice the chicken and top with the sauce.
The chicken breast can be butterflied, stuffed, sealed, and frozen weeks ahead of time. Just make sure to thaw completely before cooking.
Iraqi Meatballs Stew (Marak Kubbeh)
This recipe is my variation of the classic Kubbeh Adom, which is made with beets. The warm tomato broth and tender root vegetables are so comforting during the breezy autumn months, not to mention extremely festive to serve in your Sukkah!
Yield: 8-10 servings
For the dough:
2 cups semolina
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
For the filling:
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
For the stew:
1 summer squash/zucchini
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 white potatoes, chopped
1/2 tbs. oil
3 tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. white vinegar
6 cups water
Salt, to taste
4. Heat a large pot on a medium flame; add the oil and sauté the tomato paste for 1 minute. Add the vegetables and mix for 30 seconds. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
5. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and add the meatballs. Make sure not to overcrowd.
6. Season with salt to taste, add the sugar and vinegar, and allow to simmer for 1 hour until the meatballs and vegetables are tender. Garnish with freshly minced cilantro leaves, serve hot alongside basmati rice.
The meatballs themselves can be made ahead of time and frozen; there is no need to even defrost before reheating! An easy tip for keeping them round during freezing is to use an empty egg carton lined with plastic wrap to avoid sticking. Just pop them out whenever you’re ready to cook them.
Since both these recipes go perfectly with rice, I’ll teach you a little trick that has come in very handy throughout the years. Rice always tastes best when made fresh, but I don’t always have time to prepare it that way. What I like to do is make one large batch ahead of time and add boiling water to it before reheating on the stove or hot plate (based on your halachic guidelines). This gives the rice a chance to steam and become as fluffy as freshly-made rice.