For me, sukkot isn’t just a holiday for eating in a hut. The hut part is cool (duh, al fresco dining is all the rage), but there’s reason for sukkot being my favorite fall holiday. Here in Boston, we have a tradition. For one of the holiday’s seven days, my lady friends and I pile into a car bound for my roommate and best friend Arielle’s hometown just outside Boston. On this night, sukkot is analogous to homemade pizzas made by our own floured fingers. Thanks to Arielle’s (and my second) parents, Mark and Roxanne, the sukkah is twinkling, the table is set and the toppings for our pizzas our splayed out on the table when we arrive. For us, all that’s left is putting it all together. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a big part of this harvest holiday, so we pile all kinds over canvases of freshly pulled dough before baking each in the oven until plump.
It’s not an ancient custom, but it’s ours.
This year, we “sourced” our plain and whole wheat doughd from Bertucci’s, deviating from the Trader Joe’s kind we used last year. We rolled out each floured ball, stretching each one onto a non-stick pan and brushing with olive oil.
All of our pizzas were red and blanketed with shredded mozzarella. The rest, however, was up to us and our hankerings. We’ve never been shy pizza-toppers and, yes, sometimes we go overboard. You could call it our collective flaw or consider it endearing—take your pick. Before we arrived, Roxanne had slowly roasted cherry tomatoes in the oven for a few hours, and also set out roasted cloves of garlic, eggplant, caramelized onions, peppers and fresh spinach. The cheese didn’t end with the obligatory layer of mozzarella either. As usual, we piled high on the ricotta and sprinkled parmesan and feta when the mozzarella ran low.
After some tinkering, we finally set the oven temperature for 400° and baked each pizza for around twelve minutes, or until the ricotta sunk into the foundation and the crusts could hold up all of our toppings (Confession: that wasn’t the case for all of our pizzas—let’s just say that when we got overzealous with our toppings, there was no earthlyhope of crust holding it all up).
In the end, we pulled the bubbling pizzas out of the oven, made a few slices and nestled under the sukkah sitting shoulder to shoulder. This group is close. We’ve been going to school together for a few years now and, though we’re not all Jewish, feel attached to this night that we set aside for one another. Tucking into more slices than an undergrad’s tummy can hope to handle, we appraised each combination as each kind slid onto our paper plates. Mikaela and Erin made a picturesque pizza of mozzarella, ricotta, roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, spinach and caramelized onions (pictured above). The other rectangles and circles of pizza strung cheese from the pan to the plate, mandating that we forsake our hands for forks. It was all tangy yet comforting, doughy yet crisp.
I don’t know where I’ll be next year, but all I can hope is that I find a way to end up under the Horenstein’s sukkah. It’s our tradition.
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