Celebrate the bounty of fall in the sukkah

Although Friday the 13th is believed to be an unlucky day for many Americans, as a Jew I’m looking forward to Oct. 13. It’s Shabbat and the last day of Sukkot, and we’ll be celebrating and eating in our sukkah. Last year, I infused vodka with our leftover etrog. Traditionally it should have been drunk at Purim, but I totally forgot that I had hooch steeping in the pantry until I cleaned out for Pesach. I’m thinking that now it’s ready to be enjoyed.

Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest, among other things. Our California autumn is an extension of summer, so we’re fortunate to have an abundance of figs, apples and pomegranates in addition to the best tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant of the season, and the last flavorful peaches. I try to incorporate some fruit and nuts into our meals, including this savory lamb with fruited couscous.

Our sukkah came out of a kit about eight years ago. The first year my husband built it, the process took a full day and three trips to the hardware store. Last year, we were able to assemble our sukkah in 20 minutes.

As our children grow and evolve, so do our sukkah’s decorations. The most colorful year was when we used their Beanie Babies to adorn the walls. Some years we’ve used pine and redwood boughs for the schach. Last year, my daughter Violet and I were seen loading giant palm fronds near the slough in Corte Madera into the back of my car. The best decorations of all, however, are family and friends, enjoying each other’s company and a little etrog vodka.

Mediterranean Lamb | Serves 6

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 clove garlic, through the press
1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried marjoram, ground
1/2 tsp. allspice, ground
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp. cumin seeds, ground
1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, ground
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, zucchini and carrots, and sauté until the onion begins to turn brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, lamb, and the pine nuts, and cook until the meat is cooked, about 5 minutes.
Mix in the tomatoes and the seasonings and allow everything to simmer for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve with fruited couscous.

Fruited Couscous | Serves 8

2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups couscous
1 tsp. coriander seeds, ground
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup yellow raisins
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
Bring the water, oil and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous and coriander, cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork, and stir in the apricots, raisins, and parsley.

Fall Peaches in Caramel Sauce | Serves 8

6 Tbs. unsalted margarine or butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 fall peaches, peeled and sliced
1 Tbs. lime juice
Heat the margarine or butter in a large sauté pan. Stir in the sugar and cook until the sugar dissolves. Add the peaches and sauté gently on both sides until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and serve warm.

Etrog-Infused Vodka

1 etrog
3 cups vodka
1 1/2 cups sugar
Peel the etrog, and place the peels in a large container with the vodka and the sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, and allow the mixture to sit in a cool, dark place for at least 1 week. Stir and strain out the peels before drinking.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].