What to serve when your New Jewish Table is in the sukkah

During Sukkot, we are often still harvesting grapes at Covenant Winery. We move from the crush pad at the winery to the sukkah — all outside in cool, fall weather.  It’s a time for warm, filling food.

Our lamb tagine (or stew) offers slow-cooked meat braised until tender that matches the holiday perfectly. It is redolent of exotic spices and just a touch of heat. Highly aromatic, this tagine brings me right back to the shuk (marketplace) in Jerusalem. We serve it with Israeli couscous, the round-shaped pasta now commonly served in both Israel as well as America.

We also recommend starting the meal with a salad. At meal’s end, still in the sukkah, we borrow a French tradition and serve tisane, a caffeine-free tea made with fresh herbs from the garden. I like to use a mix of sage, mint and lemon verbena with a dash of honey; my husband is a purist and likes sage, without the honey. Ultimately, any fresh herbs will do.

In our glass: Fruit-forward wines such as pinot noir or zinfandel work well with the lamb and its fruity, currant component.

Spiced Lamb Tagine with Israeli Couscous

Serves 4 to 6

1 tsp. ground cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. ground coriander

â…› tsp. saffron threads

½ tsp. salt, plus 1 tsp.

2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 1½-inch cubes

½ cup dried currants

4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger

5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths

2 Tbs. tomato paste

4 cups homemade chicken broth, or canned low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups Israeli couscous

½ cup minced cilantro

Freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, saffron and ½ tsp. of salt. Mix thoroughly. Place the lamb on a large plate and sprinkle the spice mixture over it. Place the seasoned lamb in a zipper-sealed plastic bag, close the bag and massage the lamb to evenly coat the meat with the spices. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove lamb from refrigerator 15 minutes prior to cooking.

Place the currants in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Working in batches if necessary, sear the lamb on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove seared meat from pot and set aside on a plate.

Add 2 Tbs. water to the pot and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits that have formed or might be sticking on the surface.

Add onions and sauté until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots and stir them to coat with the onion mixture. Continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Drain water from currants and add them to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste. Add chicken broth and stir to mix well. Return the lamb to the pot, add remaining 1 tsp. salt and mix well. Raise heat to high and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low and partially cover pot, leaving sliver of space open at the top. Continue to simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove cover from the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes, allowing sauce to thicken.

In a medium pot over high heat, bring 2½ cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add Israeli couscous, stir, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 8 minutes.

To serve, place ½ cup of couscous in a wide, shallow soup bowl. Top with the lamb, carrots and a generous portion of sauce from the pot. Garnish with cilantro and pepper.


Jodie Morgan

Jodie Morgan is a co-owner of Covenant Winery in Berkeley and has co-authored eight cookbooks with her husband, Jeff Morgan. Their latest is “The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table.”