There’s nothing to make you realize you stink at sukkahs quite like dining in the sukkah of people who have been doing it for years. Imagine the cringe I felt in my heart as I approached the home of our friends, Dan and Valeri Remark, who, you will recall, also put on one prodigious Passover this past printemps. But please don’t think for one minute that we weren’t made to feel extremely welcome or that we didn’t enjoy ourselves.
Still, I have to laugh at myself and the thoughts running through my mind as I walked toward the Remarks’ home. Things like…oh, they have tiki torches lit…how charming…is that wisteria growing over the sukkah frame…please don’t tell me they trained wisteria to grow over the frame…of course they have wisteria growing over the frame—Dan and Valeri are awesome…oh, it’s branches of butterfly bush…yeah, that’s not any less gorgeous.
And don’t get me started on Valeri’s table. In a word: Wow. Each place setting had a different yet perfectly coordinated bowl and plate, there was an eclectic mixture of wine glasses, and candelabras from Don Drumm Studio & Gallery graced the table. For just a touch of whimsy, chili pepper and shotgun shell lights were strung beneath the branches adding to the glow from the candles.
We dined on Dan’s homemade chicken soup. Other guests brought cucumber salad and challah bread . My contribution was a cheeseball and assorted crackers. I’ve provided my recipe below. Dessert was extra special because we celebrated the fourth birthday of Dan and Valeri’s grandson, Roman, with a chocolate cake with whipped icing.
My thoughts regarding our soggy sukkah back home (it’s been a very rainy Sukkot this year) were allayed by stories Dan and Valeri shared with us on their first attempts toward keeping the moedim (appointed times). We may be eating off a card table and a too-small teak table from a patio set, but our hearts and our motives are in the right place. As I said before, there is always room for growth with Adonai.
Pineapple Cheese Ball
1 – 8 oz. bar of cream cheese, softened
1 T sweet onion, finely diced
½ c. crushed pineapple, thoroughly drained
1 t sea salt
2 T green pepper, finely diced
1 c whole pecans
Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast at 400° F for exactly five minutes. Pecans toast quickly, so set an accurate timer. Set aside to cool for later used. Drain the crushed pineapple in a fine mesh sieve or colander with small holes and press out the excess liquid with the back of a large spoon. Place the softened cream cheese, onion, green pepper, drained pineapple, and salt in a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Use a spatula to form into a ball. Coarsely chop the pecans and spread them in a neat pile on a cutting board. Roll the cheese ball in the nuts, gently patting them in when necessary, until the entire cheese ball is covered. A spatula helps with this process. Serve with assorted crackers.