Sweet potatoes with honey and harissa (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Sweet potatoes with honey and harissa (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Sweet and spicy fall flavors plus let your freekeh flag fly

Seasonal vegetables star in two side dishes for autumn Shabbat dinners

Slightly sweet and slightly spicy Sweet Potatoes with Honey Harissa Butter can also be made vegan/parve. Freekeh with Pumpkin Pilaf plays up the grain’s smoky flavor. Freekeh is green, roasted wheat. Use whole, not cracked, grain.

Serve on their own as sides or together for a fall-themed Shabbat meal with roast chicken, grilled fish or a Near Eastern Bean Stew. For a recipe, go to tinyurl.com/bean-stew.

Harissa, za’atar and freekeh are available online and in specialty, Middle Eastern and kosher markets. You can also make your own harissa with this recipe.

Sweet potatoes with honey harissa butter

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1- to 1¼-lb. orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. harissa paste (see notes)
  • ½ tsp. ground, dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. tahini
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ tsp. paprika

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish, souffle or casserole dish, or a small oval baker (about 10-by-5 inches) with 1 tsp. butter.

Scrub or peel sweet potatoes. Slice into ½-inch rounds.

Melt remaining 2 Tbs. butter in pan over low heat. Stir in honey, harissa, oregano, garlic (if using), cumin and salt. Cook, stirring until honey is dissolved.

Cover bottom of baking dish with single layer of sweet potato slices. Brush with seasoned butter. Top with second layer, brush with seasoned butter. If necessary, place any remaining slices on top and brush again with butter mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes. Brush top with seasoned butter. Bake another 15 minutes and brush again. Bake another 10-15 minutes until sweet potatoes are fork tender. Brush any remaining butter over top. Serve warm or room temperature with drizzle of tahini and dollops of yogurt. Sprinkle with paprika.

For a vegan or parve dish: Substitute olive oil or a nondairy margarine for butter. If using margarine, omit salt. Substitute nondairy yogurt.

Freekeh and pumpkin pilaf

Serves 4

  • 1 cup whole freekeh
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. za’atar (see note)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne
  • 2 cups peeled cubes cooking pumpkin (such as kabocha) or butternut or other winter squash (1-inch pieces)
  • ½ cup total chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint and/or dill), divided
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped or grated lemon zest, divided

Put freekeh in bowl. Cover with cold water. Soak 10 minutes. Remove floating debris. Drain well.

Put broth in saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover. Lower heat to keep at simmer.

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of oil over medium-high heat. Add onion. Sauté until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes until golden. Stir in za’atar, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne. Sauté 1 minute. Add pumpkin cubes. Sauté until beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Stir in freekeh until coated in oil. Sauté 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup broth, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat twice more. The pumpkin and freekeh should be cooked through and the freekeh still firm in the center. Add more broth if needed to achieve this.

Remove from heat. Stir in ¼ cup of herbs and 1 Tbs. of lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with remaining ¼ cup herbs and remaining 1 Tbs. zest.

Note: Can substitute ½ tsp. ground oregano and ½ tsp. ground thyme for za’atar.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].