Faith Kramer's Double Apricot Baklava (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Faith Kramer's Double Apricot Baklava (Photo/Faith Kramer)

This Sukkot, put the feast back in the ‘Feast of Booths’

Sukkot is also known as the Festival of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths — and I tend to focus on the feast part.

Eating with friends and family in a sukkah is one of my favorite activities of the Jewish calendar (this year it begins the evening of Sunday, Sept. 23). For me, it’s a joyous occasion combining potlucks with celebrations of harvests and the Exodus.

These recipes can be made ahead and are easily transportable. They also follow the Sukkot tradition of eating filled or stuffed foods, an act that symbolizes the abundance of the harvest and how we are wrapped in God’s blessings.

For the Double Apricot Baklava, choose dried apricots that are orange (not brown) and pliable. And for the Roasted Tomato Pie, I like to use tomatoes of different colors.

Double Apricot Baklava

Serves 16

  • 1 lb. dried apricots
  • 1 piece lemon peel (1 by 3 inches)
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 cups plus 3 Tbs. shelled pistachio nuts, unsalted
  • ¾ cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. plus ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Olive or coconut oil spray
  • 15 sheets of 9-by-14-inch filo dough, defrosted
  • ½ cup almond meal, divided
  • 1 cup apricot jam

Place apricots, peel and juice in bowl. Cover with water. Soak 15 to 20 minutes until apricots are soft. Drain, reserving liquid. Discard peel.

Pulse 2 cups of pistachios in food processor with ¼ cup sugar until chopped in small pieces. Place in bowl. Pulse apricots and remaining sugar in processor until well chopped but not smooth. Mix with pistachios and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 7-by-10-by-11-inch pan. Keeping remaining sheets covered, remove 5 filo sheets. Cut in half to fit pan. Place one half sheet in pan. Spray lightly. Place second sheet on top. Continue with remaining filo, spraying top sheet. Sprinkle half the almonds on top. Spread with half of apricots. Cut another 5 sheets of filo. Repeat spraying layers and top sheet, adding almonds and apricots as before. Cut 5 more sheets. Place first sheet on top, spray then top with second sheet, spray and repeat. Heavily spray top sheet. Cut into 16 squares or diamonds, cutting to bottom of pan.

Bake until golden, about 25 to 20 minutes. While baking make syrup. Combine jam, remaining cinnamon and 1 cup soaking liquid in pot over medium heat, stirring to dissolve jam. Bring to simmer. Keep simmering until reduced to half. Pour warm over hot baklava. Garnish with remaining pistachios. Cool. Slice into previously cut portions. Make up to 5 days ahead. Store at room temperature.

Roasted Tomato Pie with Challah Crust

Serves 6

  • Olive oil
  • 1½ to 2 lbs. tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. salt, divided
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
  • 6 half-inch slices of challah
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil or tarragon, divided
  • 4 oz. fresh (soft) goat cheese, room temperature
  • 16 oz. ricotta, whisked until smooth
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper or cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs. grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Grease with oil. Slice tomatoes ¼ inch thick. Spread out on pans. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt. Roast 10 minutes. Flip. Roast for 5-10 minutes until tomatoes are no longer watery and are slightly browned. Loosen with spatula.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9- or 10-inch round baking dish with 1 Tbs. butter. Line bottom of dish with challah, pressing firmly and leaving no gaps. Spread with remaining butter. Cover with single layer of tomatoes, reserving remainder. Sprinkle with 1 Tbs. herbs.

Mash goat cheese until smooth in bowl. Stir in ricotta, eggs, pepper, nutmeg, remaining salt and all but 1 Tbs. of herbs. Pour over tomatoes. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Arrange remaining tomatoes on top. Bake about 30 to 40 minutes until puffed and golden. Garnish with remaining herbs.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at Contact Faith at [email protected].