Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In the Beginning-Parshat Toldot

This blog began as a gentle suggestion from my friend Shifra. For years I've been mentioning to her that I want to compile a cookbook with recipes that relate to the weekly Torah portion, but a busy life full of endless plans has lead to many distractions from writing such a book. My cookbook laments usually surface around this time of year when we re-start the Torah reading cycle in synagogues. This year, when Genesis came along, I started a Google doc with a rough draft of the cookbook (literally just jotting ideas down about what recipes I could use for each of the first few weekly portions) and I reported my progress to Shifra. But she was one step ahead of me. "Instead of keeping it all in a google doc why not blog about it?"

At once I loved and loathed this suggestion. I loved it because it would hold me more accountable to adding to my "rough draft" than a Google doc would. But I loathed it for the fear of not stacking up to the food blogs of friends and for the regularity it requires. I surprised myself by starting to casually drop, "I'm thinking of starting a food blog..." when around friends. I was more surprised that one of my close friends, Jess, who writes the most amazing food blog, was uber into the idea (and didn't think it was too kitchy). Thanks to Jess's encouragements over the last month (name ideas, posting schedules and a peppering of questions) I was almost ready to start. After two more excuses to procrastinate (the url I wanted was taken, and I absolutely wanted my father - a graphic artist - to design the masthead, even though he was in the middle of a move to Florida) time is up! The name is set, the url is ligit, and isn't my dad's illustration great?

On to this week's recipe. In synagogue this Shabbat we will read parshat Toldot, the 6th portion in the book of Genesis, and hear about an infamous Biblical instance of sibling rivalry. Isaac and Rebecca give birth to twins, Esav and Jacob, who grow up to be interested in very different things: Jacob is very interested in his older brother Esav's birthright and Esav is very interested in hunting and eating food. Jacob essentially gets Esav to sell him his birthright for a pot of lentil soup (the lentil translation is debatable, but we're going with it because frankly, I don't have a recipe for pottage).

So I thought I'd share with you my favorite vegetarian lentil soup recipe, which I learned while studying in Israel for a year after high school. Get ready, this soup has a kick - achieved by adding whole grain mustard and red wine vinegar after it has been cooked. I think the twang goes nicely with the drama of the Esav and Jacob story.

If you decide to make this for a meal this Shabbat (and I hope you will!) you could totally drop a reference to the weekly portion, or not. I work full time in the Jewish community and Jewish education is my passion - so I think this kind of thing is pretty cool and would throw an unabashed reference out. But subtlety works too.

Lentil Soup with a Twang

1 tbsp Olive Oil
2/3 cup of diced celery
1/3 cup of diced onion
1/3 cup of diced carrots
3 tsp crushed garlic
2 quarts vegetable stock or water
1 1/4 cup of lentils, washed
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tsp red wine vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute all the vegetables and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the vegetable stock and lentils, as well as the salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook covered for about 30 to 45 minutes until the lentils are tender (but not too soft).

Before serving, remove the pot from the heat and add the red wine vinegar and mustard.

P.S. My plan is to generally post twice a week - once on Tuesday/Wednesday with my recipe plan for Shabbat and again on Thursday/Friday with the results of how it turned out and pictures. I hope you'll enjoy these light-hearted connections to the Torah portion and that you'll come back... for a double portion.


  1. I love it!! Thanks for the shout-out :) can't wait to read more...

  2. Fun! I heard your voice as I read... made me feel like Boston and Chicago aren't that far apart. Thanks for the vegetarian recipe - I will attempt this sometime soon. love, amy

  3. I must have been channeling your energy, cause I made lentils this past shabbat without even thinking about the parsha (or so i thought, obviously i must have been!).

  4. Of course you get a shout out Shif - you are the blog's progenitor.

    Thanks Amy - glad to showcase veggie dishes. I like how the web can help us feel closer- but I can't wait to be with you guys in another month or so.

    Liore- hope your lentils were yummy - let's see if you can channel me every week :)

  5. You're off to an amazing start, Elisha! It's such an honor to have been an "insider" on this project before you launched the site. Now I'm the one anxiously awaiting your posts!

  6. I'm flattered! Now I'll get to see what it's like living in your shoes :)

  7. I made this soup this past Shabbat and it was a great addition to our meal. Plus I got to have an "Esau" moment when I was famished Saturday evening and had leftover soup and challah for dinner!

  8. Glad to hear it. Sounds like the perfect meal both times around!