Hoshana Raba is the last day of Sukkot, which precedes Shmini Atzeret and Simhat Torah. On every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat), it is customary to say Hoshanot prayers and circle the bima in the synagogue with the lulav. But on Hoshana Raba, this ceremony is performed seven times. Willows of the brook were used in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the custom of taking the arava branches on Hoshana Raba remains in Jewish homes and synagogues to this day.
Hoshana Raba is known mainly as one of two holidays on which Jews study Torah all night long. In Ashkenazi and hassidic communities, it is customary on Yom Kippur, Hoshana Raba and Purim to eat kreplach (meat-filled dumplings) in soup.
The Hoshana Raba custom for Jews who hail from Tripoli in Libya is to eat dishes made with liver and lungs and then to recite sections from the books of Deuteronomy and Genesis. One of the traditional dishes served is stuffed grape leaves, though today many families prepare a variety of stuffed cabbage, peppers and squash dishes, or dumplings.
As a tribute to these wonderful traditions, I’ve listed below a number of recipes that are easy to prepare and with which you can create impressive-looking delicacies for the upcoming Hoshana Raba holiday.
Below are three stuffed-vegetable recipes. The first is for small quinces, which I cook in sugar and cinnamon and serve with cream or a hazelnut sauce.
The second recipe is a dessert made with apples. I scoop out the insides of the apples and fill them with nuts, raisins and cinnamon, which are then wrapped inside pastry dough and baked.
The third is pastries stuffed with cabbage, apples and pomegranates, which are twisted into a snail shape.
STUFFED QUINCES WITH HAZELNUTS AND CINNAMON
Use the smallest quinces you can find. Makes 8 servings
4 quinces ¾ cup sugar 3 Tbsp. honey 2 Tbsp. silan 3 Tbsp. lemon juice 1 cinnamon stick
½ cup walnuts, ground or halved 1 cup lightly sweetened ready-made parve cream
Clean and rinse the quinces. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a knife or melon baller to create a hollow space inside the quinces. Rinse well. Put the quince pieces in a medium pot, and pour in water to cover to 1 cm. above the quinces. Cook over medium flame for 20 minutes.
Remove quinces and set aside 1½ cups of liquid that the quinces were cooked in.
Arrange the quinces on a rectangular tray. In a separate bowl, add sugar, honey, silan, lemon juice, cinnamon and the quince liquid that was set aside. Mix well until sugar is mostly dissolved. Pour on top of quinces and bake in an oven that was preheated to 180° for 90 minutes. Every once in a while, baste quinces with the juices, until the entire fruit turns an amber color.
Let cool completely and then serve each piece of fruit with cream in the hollowed part, with a little syrup on top. Transfer the cream to an icing bag with a serrated tip and squeeze out cream on top of quinces and serve.