A prominent Rabbi picks up an apple, pronounces the appropriate blessing, and bites into it. One of his students also picks up an apple, mutters a blessing, and takes a bite. Then he stops and asks:
“Rabbi, what is the difference between you and me eating an apple? We both say the same blessing, yet I can feel something emanating from you that I cannot define.”
“That, my son, is because you recite the blessing in order to eat, – says the Rabbi, – and I eat in order to have another chance to thank the A-mighty for offering me this beautiful, juicy, and sweet apple.”
I am sure that tomorrow your tables will be disappearing beneath a multitude of traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Until we came to the U.S., this holiday had not been a part of our yearly celebration roster. It was my father, may he rest in peace, who made it our family tradition. Every year, we had to have a turkey with all the fixings, and my father would raise a glass in gratitude. He always concluded the holiday dinner by saying, ”G-d bless America for taking us in!”
Four years ago he was already too weak to go out and to come to my house for dinner, so I cooked the turkey (just the turkey breast, please click here) with my father’s favorite stuffing (please click here) and all the fixings (please click here), packed it all up and brought the entire Thanksgiving celebration to his apartment. Today, there is emptiness not only at the head of the table, but also in my heart, even though I am sure that my father is now in a better place. Still, when I serve Placinda for dessert, I will hear my father’s voice: “G-d bless America for taking us in!”
Placinda, AKA Placinte, or, in German, Platchinda, is a flaky pie. It could be filled with anything you want, and its closest relative is Mediterranean Baklava, but this particular style, sometimes called Platschenta and filled with pumpkin, comes from Bessarabian Platchta – blanket, and that’s exactly what it looks like. Until we came to the U.S., it held no particular significance to us; we just loved it as a great dessert.
Take a butternut squash, peel it, and dice it to about the size of a bean. I’ve seen people grating it, but then you know how it is, everybody’s grandmother has the original recipe! You should get about 3 – 3 1/2 cups of it.
You’ll need a cup of brown sugar, some cinnamon, and a sprinkle of allspice. Add all this to your diced pumpkin and mix well. I do know how to make flaky dough, but Phyllo is so easily available!
Oil a deep baking pan and start lining it with individual sheets of Phyllo, making sure they overhang the pan by a couple of inches (about 5 cm) on all sides. Double-line the bottom. Now you have to spread the filling gently – don’t break fragile Phyllo sheets! – but evenly and cover it with flaps.
The blanket comes last, 2 – 3 more Phyllo sheets on top, and isn’t it pretty, misted with oil and sprinkled with sumac? Send it to the oven for about 45 – 50 minutes and go do something else. I am sure you still have plenty of things to do!
Light, fluffy, creamy and crunchy at the same time, here is my father’s favorite Placinda – flaky pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for a wonderful father I had been blessed to have, to learn from and to love for many years. I am thankful for his kindness and his smile, for his sense of humor and his sense of responsibility, for all the memories that will always be with me!
- 1 butternut squash, finely diced (about 3 1/2 – 4 cups)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 8 – 10 Phyllo or other flaky dough sheets
- A sprinkle of sumac
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Peel and dice squash into bean-size pieces. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice, mix well. Put aside.
- Spray deep baking pan with oil. Line with Phyllo sheets, making sure they overhang on all sides by 2 inches (5 cm). Double-line bottom of pan.
- Gently spread filling, cover with flaps, place 2 – 3 Phyllo sheets on top. Mist with oil, sprinkle sumac.
- Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until light golden. Cool and cut in pan.
Happy Thanksgiving – enjoy!