Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Color Schemes - Parshat Vayeshev

The Torah portion of Vayeshev opens with the affectionate relationship between Jacob and his favorite son Joseph. Joseph was the second to last child born to Jacob and earns a special place in his father's heart for being a son of Rachel, Jacob's true love. To exhibit Jacob's great affection for is son he makes Joseph an amazing, technicolor dream coat (to borrow from the name of the famous play).

I loved this play when I was little - saw it twice on Broadway and in countless school and camp productions. To me it was amazing that a story that I learned in my Judaic studies class was part of mainstream pop culture. It was a veritable miracle to my 5th grade self - right up there with the Nickelodeon Rugrats Chanuka special. I came across some youtube videos of the movie with Donny Osmond as I was writing this blog and had a grand old time belting out the show tunes late at night - much to Sam's amusement.

So, while Jacob's love certainly helped Joseph in the fashion department, it didn't help him in the brotherly love department. His brothers in fact hate him because of the special attention he gets from their dad. Lest you think Joseph an innocent lamb, I should mention that he seems like a pretty bratty teenager in the text - he spies on his brothers while they are shepherding and tattles on them to his dad. Plus, he has these grand dreams that he interprets and shares with his family about ruling over his brothers (the eleven sheaves of wheat all bowing down to the one in his dream - according to Joseph that would be his eleven brothers bowing down to him).

Joseph's relationship with his brothers reaches a breaking point after he shares these dreams, and they plot to kill him; "then we'll see what he dreams about" they all snicker. But the oldest brother, Reuven, talks the gang of brothers out of fratricide (mostly because he wants to be #1 in his dad's eyes for saving Joseph) and instead they devise a plan to stage his death and sell him as a slave. Unfortunately, while they had Joseph stowed in a pit during their deliberations about his fate, a band of travelers comes along, kidnaps him, and sells him as a slave. So while their brother is no longer their problem, they're bummed that they didn't make a buck off him.

It is Reuven who discovers that Joseph is no longer in the pit and he gets pretty panicky. He devises a cover up scheme, and takes the colorful coat they had previously stripped off of Joseph - that coat that reminds them all just how much more their dad loves Joseph - and dips it in animal blood. They then rush back to their father and play dumb. Showing him the coat they ask "do you recognize this coat - is your son with you?" At which point Jacob breaks down, believing that his favorite son Joseph has been killed, and he goes into full mourning.

A sad ending for a beautiful coat.

As a tribute to it, I'm thinking of doing either a tri-colored kugel or a colorful roasted vegetable torte this week. I was first introduced to tri-color kugel during the planning for my brother's bar mitzvah. When our family sat down with the caterer Uri, who owns the Middle Eastern style Riverdelight , he had lots of great ideas he wanted to try for the Shabbat family luncheon on the bar mitzvah weekend. The tri-colored kugel really caught my mom's attention as something totally new, and a way to have something of everything (an objective my mom often strives for).

Here's the recipe for the torte, I'll let you know later in the week what I end up doing. I'm still searching for the recipe for the tri-colored kugel, but generally you will need eggs, onions, carrots, potatoes and broccoli (or spinach if you prefer).

Roasted Vegetable Torte

2 zucchinis cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 red onion sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 red peppers
2 yellow peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
1 eggplant (1.5 lbs) peeled, cut into 1/4 inch slices
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pan, saute the garlic and zucchini in olive oil over medium heat for 10 minutes until tender. Remove from pan. Saute the red onion slices in olive oil for 4 minutes on each side. Place the onion and zucchini on a roasting sheet, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

In the mean time, set the eggplant slices in a colander and salt both sides. After 5 minutes rinse the slices. This helps remove the bitterness from the eggplant.

Set the eggplant and the peppers on a roasting sheet, brush with oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes on one side, then flip the eggplant and peppers and roast for 30 more minutes until soft. Watch that they do not burn. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, then remove the skin from the peppers.

Divide the eggplant, peppers, zucchini and red onion in two. In a 6 inch round cake pan start to arrange each vegetable in a single layer, and repeat the pattern once. Cover with parchment paper, plastic wrap or tin foil, and put a plate on top and then heavy objects, such as cans, to weigh it down (to extract liquid).

After several hours drain the liquid (do not refrigerate the dish before this step as the oil in the dish will congeal and make it difficult to drain the liquid). Invert the cake pan onto a platter and coax the torte out. Slice the torte with a serrated knife and serve.

I hope you will notice how reminiscent the colorful layers of the torte are of Joseph's striped coat.

No comments:

Post a Comment