Simchat Torah translates as “rejoicing with/of the Torah,” and it is one of the most joyful of all the holidays.
Congregants sing and dance in synagogues as the Torah is carried around the bimah seven times, and children are encouraged to join in the festivities by waving flags and carrying miniature Torahs.
This year, to celebrate the tradition, I developed a cookie recipe made in the shape of a flag. Allow the children to participate by helping decorate the cookies with blue and white icing in the shape of a Jewish star.
Cabbage, one of the oldest cultivated plants, is the traditional vegetable served during the holiday. Franco-German Jews used it in sauerkraut, soups, noodle dishes, pastry fillings and salads.
Serve Cabbage Strudel as your main course, using a sweet cabbage filling wrapped in filo dough, topped with sour cream and dill, instead of cabbage rolls, which are also served on Simchat Torah. The Cabbage Strudel can be made several days in advance and stored in the freezer. Bake just before serving.
During the holiday, we serve some of our children’s favorite foods. Include egg noodles with Parmesan cheese on your menu, a dish the children always enjoy. This is just the beginning possibility of another pasta dish — go one step further by adding sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini or tomato sauce for the adults.
Another dessert that is a favorite with the children is dipped strawberries. Serve the berries on a large platter with bowls of brown sugar, sour cream and melted semisweet chocolate.
CABBAGE STRUDELWITH SOUR CREAM AND DILL SAUCE
1 package (about 1 pound) filo dough
1 pound unsalted butter or margarine, melted
2 cups fine bread crumbs
Cabbage Filling (recipe follows)
Sour Cream Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
Place a damp towel on a work area and cover with waxed paper. Remove four sheets of filo from the package. Keep the remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and a damp towel to prevent drying out.
Fold the filo leaves in half like a closed book and unfold one page. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. Continue turning the pages of the filo, brushing with the butter and bread crumbs until you come to the center. (Do not brush the butter in the center yet.) Close the second half of the book over the first and work backward: Open the last leaf and continue spreading the butter and crumbs until you come back to the center. Now brush the center with the butter and sprinkle with crumbs.
Depending on how thick a strudel you want, spread 2 to 3 cups of the Cabbage Filling lengthwise on the open filo book, 2 inches from the edge closest to you and 2 inches from the sides. Cover the filling with the closest edge and fold the sides over. Brush the sides with butter and continue rolling up the filo, jellyroll fashion.
Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with butter or place a nonstick silicone baking mat on a baking sheet. Place the strudel on the foil or baking mat, seam side down, and brush it with butter. Using the point of a sharp knife, make three or four small cuts through the top sheets of the strudel. Refrigerate uncovered until the butter hardens, 15 to 20 minutes. (The strudel can be frozen at this point.)
Repeat with 4 more sheets until all of the filling is used. This should make 3 to 4 strudels.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Slice immediately and serve hot with Sour Cream Dill Sauce and garnish with sprigs of dill.
Each strudel makes 4 to 6 servings.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons paprika
3 cups finely chopped onions
4 quarts shredded cabbage
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and, using a wooden spoon, stir until dissolved. Add the paprika and mix well. Add the onions and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
Add the cabbage, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool. This mixture can be made a day ahead and stored: Transfer to a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
SOUR CREAM DILL SAUCE
2 cups sour cream or nondairy sour cream
1/8 cup snipped fresh dill
In a bowl, combine the sour cream and dill. Cover and chill.
Photo by Dan Kacvinski
BUTTERED EGG NOODLESWITH PARMESAN CHEESE
12 ounces egg fettuccini noodles
12 cups water
6 to 8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup water and drain noodles.
In a large sauté pan, melt butter, add drained noodles to pan and toss, coating thoroughly with butter. Add Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste; mix well, adding additional reserved noodle water if needed. Spoon onto serving plates and top with additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Variations: Add sautéed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini or tomato sauce.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
SIMCHAT TORAH FLAG COOKIES
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon almond extract
Powdered Sugar Frosting (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 300 F.
Line a baking sheet with foil and brush with butter or line baking sheet with silicone baking mat and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter or margarine and almond extract; blend until the dough begins to come together, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Knead until smooth, then shape into a 2-by-3-inch rectangular log. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Cut 1/4-inch slices from the log. Gently push a wooden stick into the bottom end of each cookie. Arrange them about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on racks.
Decorate with Powdered Sugar Frosting.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen.
POWDERED SUGAR FROSTING
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons cream or milk
1 tube blue decorating icing
In a bowl, blend the powdered sugar, lemon juice and cream until smooth and creamy. Add additional powdered sugar if needed. Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting on top of each cookie. Decorate with blue frosting.
Makes about 2 cups frosting.