Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim Partying - Parshat Titzaveh Part II

The blood orange salad was a great accompaniment to an Asian chicken and sesame noodle Shabbat dinner at Miriam and Michael's, despite the avocados not being quite as ripe as I would have liked.

If you'd like a quick tutorial on how to cut oranges for this salad check out this link on the kitchn.

I love that the cut peels, with multicolored pieces of citrus flesh stuck to it, looked a bit like stained glass.

Purim 2010 has been a great one. I filled five dozen mini hamantashen with strawberry jam and baked them, half a dozen of which we consumed before we shared them with anyone else.

I baked a double batch and had a 75% success rate of the hamantashen keeping their shape during baking (the rest lost their shape in varying degrees but were still presentable and edible).

Sam and I got gussied up as a 1950's housewife and a fallout shelter salesmen.

I got my costume, a vintage dress, from Etsy and we picked up a jacket and tie for Sam at the Garment District (which saw an influx of Jews this week searching for Purim costume material). I picked up props from Goodwill for a total of $1.60 for both of us - an old wooden rolling pin for me and a cut scotch glass for Sam. Sam also printed out a fallout shelter brochure that many people got a kick out of.

A far cry from the days of dressing up as Queen Esther and - was that Yentl? I was so amazed back then that my brother Ben was gutsy enough to not only wear my tights to synagogue on Purim but also his batman undies. Though it certainly did make the costume.

We heard the Megillah read twice at Minyan Tehillah and as always enjoyed my father's illustrations in the Megillah and I enjoyed telling people near me: my dad drew these!

We assembled our mishloach manot - some hamantashen and little bottles of old school Cutty Sark whiskey (we have our own unopened bottle from decades ago).

After we distributed our gift bags, the collecting began. When I was younger I used to love piling all of the mishloach manot we had gotten and then breaking them all down into big bowls which I would assign specific categories to: a bowl for chocolate, one for healthy snacks, one for general candy, one for fruit. My mother recently gave me two of the silver bowls I used to use for this purpose and you better believe that I broke them out for the sorting this year.

I have to applaud a few of my friends for some clever mishloach manot:

Lila did a Do Re Mi theme with tea, jam and bread. That will probably be breakfast tomorrow morning.

Miriam did a MishloachManOCEAN with tan m&ms and Hamantahsen for a sandy beach and blue m&ms with chocolate and candy fish for the ocean. This reminded me of one my mom and I put together one year in fish bowls which we adorned with gravel jelly beans, the plastic decorative seaweed sheets used on sushi trays and gum drops with toothpicks holding up jelly fish. We also managed to put in a bottle of water and a pack of cheese dolphins (think the kosher version of cheddar fish).

Oh and that Persian Purim Feast? We went bearing our pomegranate pizza, and I was dressed as Persian kosher cookbook author Poopa Dweck. Aside from looking great, we ate great food, especially some great wings and all the chocolate desserts. Thank you Lila and co.

I came up with a great use for some of that leftover pomegranate juice from the Pizza recipe:

Pomegranate Margarita
Makes one serving, multiply as needed.

1 jigger of tequila
1 jigger of triple sec
3 jiggers of pomegranate juice
7 ice cubes

Place ice cubes in a drink shaker. Measure out the liquids, place the top on the shaker and shake. Pour into a glass through the shaker's filter to keep the ice cubes in the shaker. Enjoy cold and responsibly.

Oy my belly hurts. Happy Purim. Keep an eye out for this week's parsha post.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bloody Right - Parshat Titzaveh

I reached a point towards the end of college when I was so turned off from my psychology major as a career choice (mostly because of depressing internship experiences) that I started brainstorming other options with my mom. Teacher? No way said my mom, who after thirty years of teaching felt it was no longer a creative nor profitable enough profession. Nurse? My grandmother, who passed away when I was three, had been an RN and I thought it might be nice to carry on a family tradition. "You realize you'd have to give people shots and take blood if you were a nurse?" asked my mom. "Oh, forget it," was my response. See, I'm not much a fan of physical pain, and really don't do well with the sight of blood. I'm useless when Sam or I have cut ourselves because with all that blood I can't really look at the site of the cut to deal with the injury. Therefore I must admit that reading parts of this week's portion,Parshat Titzaveh, made me queasy as there is quite a bit of blood.

Now that the Tabernacle has been set up (which took place in last week's portion) God appoints priests to preside over the services in it - Aron (Moses' brother) and his sons. They get special clothes and pretty cool accessories - like a multi-jeweled breast plate with the names of all the tribes on it, plus a robe trimmed with red fabric pomegranates and golden bells. And then they have an inauguration, which starts out innocently enough when Aron's head is anointed with oil. But then comes the bloody part- they are slaughtering a bull and putting its blood on the corners of the altar and spilling the blood at the base and burning the rest of the animal on the altar. Next they're slaughtering a ram and dashing it's blood against the sides of the altar, and worse, putting it on the ridges of their right ears, their right thumbs, big toes and then all over their robes. Apparently, according to the text, all of this makes them holy. Not to sound disrespectful but - yuck.

So I'm aiming to make blood seem a bit more appetizing this week for our Shabbat meal. I can't use any actual blood as an ingredient because it is prohibited to eat blood in the laws of keeping kosher. Besides that, recipes I have read in French cookbooks like blood sausage and blood soup make me want to hurl. Therefore I'm going with a riff on blood that won't be a turnoff (unless you're grossed out by citrus, and I certainly hope that you aren't). I'm going to make a blood orange salad!

By the way, despite all of my aforementioned fear, I do donate blood - a habit that began when a blood drive in Israel was advertised as a pint for a pint and I walked home with a pint of Ben and Jerry's Ice cream.

Blood Orange Salad

1 Head Red Leaf Lettuce
3-4 Blood Oranges
1 Cucumber
1 Avocado
Pomegranate seeds
Slivered Almonds, toasted
1 garlic clove
1 lemon
2 teaspoons of olive oil
Dash of water
1 teaspoon or coarse salt

Wash and dry the lettuce. Cut the peel off of the oranges (different than peeling the orange, as cutting it will remove the white membrane) and cut 1/4 inch cross sections so they will be big and pretty in the salad. A really sharp knife makes this process easier. Peel and chop the cucumbers. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Make cuts in the avocado flesh to form 1/4 inch cubes and scoop out with a spoon.

Combine the vegetables and pomegranate seeds into one bowl and make my most favorite, and famous dressing; cut the lemon in half and squeeze both halves with a handled squeezer into a cup. Crush the garlic clove with a good quality crusher into the cup. Add oil, water and salt. Mix it up and pour it over the salad and toss to serve.

Bonus Purim Recipes
This Saturday night we celebrate Purim, the holiday that commemorates when Queen Esther and her Uncle Mordechai miraculously saved the Jews from destruction at the hands of Haman and the Persian Army. Part of the traditions of the the day include publicly reading the Megillah of Esther (which contains the story of Purim), dressing up in costume, giving money to the poor, sending gift baskets of food to friends (in Hebrew called Mishloach Manot, which often contain hamantashen) and eating a festive meal, or seudah.

The parts that I love best about Purim are:
1) Figuring out a clever costume and tying our Mishloach Manot into the costume theme (for example, two years ago we dressed up as ipod ads with Batya and Nachshon and our Michloach Manot included a can of Rock Star energy drink).
2) Baking tons of mini hamantashen - they are so cute compared to all the big versions around.
3) Following along while the story is read in synagogue in the Artscroll Youth Megillah that my very own father illustrated (The original illustrations hang in my parents home, brilliantly illuminating their walls all year long).

Mini Hamantashen
I have been making these traditional 3 sided cookies (named for the hat of the Purim villain Haman) with this recipe since I was in high school. I have experimented with lots of different shapes and filling - I refuse to use prune or poppy seed fillings (just not my taste) and can leave the chocolate and peanut butter stuff behind. My favorites are apricot, strawberry and raspberry. At one point I began cutting mini hamantashen with the mouth of a shot glass and really love the way they come out and now mostly just make those. When there are so many versions of hamantashens to be eaten it's nice to have bite sized ones.

2/3 cup of butter or non dairy buttery sticks
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp of vanilla
3 cups of flour
Jam for filling

Cream the butter with sugar and egg until smooth. Add the orange juice and vanilla. Stir in the flour until a ball forms. Wrap in saran wrap or keep in covered bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the dough and cut into circles with a shot glass (or a regular sized glass if you prefer).

Fill each circle with a very small amount of jam. Don't ignore this instruction or all of your hamentashen will lose their shape when they are baking and will look like wavy circle covered in jam! Pinch three corners and make sure the dough folds over some of the jam.

Put on a silpat lined baking sheet and bake for ten minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack - and wait to eat or you'll burn your tongue on the jam.

Pomegranate Pizza
We'll be going to a Persian themed Seudah (festive meal) this Sunday and I'm planning on bringing this dish. I made it on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and have repeated it since because Sam and I loved it so much. I found it in one of the five published Jewish Living Magazine issues (January/February 2008), whose demise on Erev Rosh Hashana 2008 was a very sad thing for me (I took out all 5 issues - depicted at the top of this post - at our Rosh Hashana meal that year to show all of my guests. My way of gaining some closure). The magazine was like a hybrid of Real Simple, Martha Stewart and Hadassah for the next generation and I miss it very much.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup of tomato paste
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb of ground meat
1/2 cup of pomegranate juice
1 bag of pre-made non dairy pizza dough, room temperature

Heat the oven to 450.

In a large non stick frying pan heat the oil over medium high heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, allspice, cinnamon, salt, pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the ground meat and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Stir and break up for 5 minutes until brown.

Add the pomegranate juice and bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat.

Divide the dough into 8 or 10 balls and flatten each into a disc. Place on a silpat lined baking sheet and top with the meat mixture. Bake for 10 minutes. Can easily be reheated.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't do it - Parshat Terumah Part II

I mislead you and I'm sorry. Only last night when I was baking these cookies did I realize that I shouldn't have instructed you to preheat the oven at the very beginning of this recipe, since you go onto make the dough and chill it for an hour in the fridge. All the while your oven would be on, idly wasting resources. So I have amended that part of the recipe- don't preheat until you are closer to cookie baking time!

Ok, also, don't use bittersweet chocolate, use semisweet. You need a little more sweet on these cookies to counteract the savory of the tahini/techina.

And, lastly, don't waste money ordering the gold dust from anyplace- stop into your local craft/party/food store - they should have the Wilton's Gold Dust powder right there. I picked mine up at Party Favors in Brookline.

Here are some pictures of the cookies three ways- plain with gold, chocolate covered and gold and just covered in chocolate.

P.S. If you like halvah you will like these. And don't be miffed by all the leftover tahini you may have after the recipe - I'm planning on using some of the suggestions I heard a few weeks ago on the splendid table podcast (which I live for each week) and this recipe that showed up in the New York Times on Wednesday

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wish List - Parshat Terumah

Good morning from snowy Cambridge.

If you are ever wondering what to buy God as a wedding gift, look no further than this week’s portion, Parshat Terumah. For those who are familiar with the registry process, you will notice that it’s out of order here– first there’s the wedding (which is how many metaphorically interpret the experience at Mt Sinai and the giving of the ten commandments – God betrothing Israel), then there’s the honeymoon (a bit of time in the desert) and then comes the gift wish list. The Portion opens with God telling Moses “tell the Israelites to bring Me gifts- you shall accept gifts from every person whose heart so moves them.” A nice sentiment. But the list might be a hard one for the likes of Macy’s and Crate and Barrel, no less the Jews wandering in the desert:

Blue, purple and crimson yarns
Fine linen
Goats hair
Tanned ram skins
Dolphin skins
Acacia wood
Oil (for lighting)
Spices (for incense)
Lapis Lazulai (and other stones for the breast plate)

These are all materials that will be used to build the tabernacle- the portable temple that will travel around the desert with the nation. Luckily, the nation happens to have a bunch of this stuff on hand from spoils they took when they left Egypt.

So after God sets up this registry it’s time to set up the house. He gets a custom ark. It holds the tablets with the ten commandments and has a fancy 3D cover with two golden angels, a wooden table covered in gold to serve as the alter for sacrifices, matching bowls, ladles and jars for the job as well as a smaller copper alter for incense with matching accoutrements. There is a pretty elaborate lamp – that seven branched Menorah – this one made of pure gold. God asks for the ark to be set up behind a big blue, purple and crimson curtain which separates the Holy and the Holy of Holies. The table goes outside of the curtain on the northern wall and the menorah on the southern wall. The rest of the building, the coverings and courtyard are all fashioned according to God’s specs. Handily enough, each of these pieces are transportable with a ring and pole system.

For some great illustrations of the tabernacle and its furniture check out The Tabernacle by Moshe Levine (above).

All of the gold is really jumping out at me. There must have been a lot of gold amongst the Egyptian spoils, and now it’s going to good use (as opposed to when they used it to build that pesky calf). Typically, gold and other metals don't show up on a plate of food too often. There are Yukon Gold potatoes which may make a hearty mashed potato dish but don’t give off a very regal feel the way that edible gold on a dessert will! (I’m noticing I haven’t made too many desserts here yet.) You may have seen this edible extravagance gracing the top of a chocolate cake or other lavish dessert at a fancy dessert establishment. I first ate several small silver balls that sat atop a cake my mom made for an early birthday party - in the middle of a bundt cake my mother propped one of my barbie dolls and frosted the cake to look like her skirt. She procured quite an elaborate decorating kit for the job, including edible paints and said edible silver balls. To me it was magical - I could eat something that looked like jewelry.

There just so happens to be quite a number of kosher edible gold products out there if you are up for giving them a spin:glitter, spray, pricier flakes and icing.You could avoid such a frivolous cost by baking something in a golden cupcake cup but I’m going to be a bit frivolous this week. I'm ordering this gold luster dust. I'll bake sesame cookies in ring shapes (to mimic the tabernacle transportation system), dipped in chocolate and covered with gold.

I had been thinking of sesame cookie rings for this week before I came across a recipe for gold dusted sesame cookies. We used to enjoy savory sesame rings at the home of Sephardic friends, the Gelbands, before they moved to Israel. Esther Gelband was an amazing cook, hailing from Egypt, she had a bastion of alluring Middle Eastern recipes. She made the best baklavah, taught me how to efficiently cut and cube a mango and always made way too much food even though she often was feeding her family of nine kids plus guests. Her sesame rings I was always more hesitant about and it wasn’t until I was living in Israel with a more mature palette that I began to enjoy these. But the recipe for a sweeter version is very intriguing. I’m going to give it a whirl, but make it conform to a ring shape.

Gold Dusted, Chocolate Covered Sesame Cookies
Adapted from this Gourmet recipe

1 and ¼ cups of flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 egg white

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

½ cup of tahini (aka techina)

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup sesame seeds

¼ tsp gold or silver flakes, icing or sprinkles

3 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir the tahini very well by hand, or even better, put it in a blender.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg white, tahini and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing until a crumbly dough forms.

Put the dough on a silpat baking sheet, form into a circle, cover and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan for a minute or so, until you can really smell them.

Roll the dough into 3-inch coils, roll the coils into the sesame seeds and then form the coil into a ring. Place the formed cookie onto silpat covered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and then cool for 10.

While the cookies cool, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Carefully, using tongs, dip each cooled cookie into the chocolate, place back onto baking sheet and dust or paint with gold.

Ready for My Close Up

So you may notice that things look a little different on the blog. Most notably notice a brand new masthead - a collaboration between myself, Sam and my Dad.

Many food blog writers will tell you that once you throw your web address out there and start posting your own musings about cooking and eating and what have you (for me that would be the Torah portion tie-ins) a whole new experience begins of one door leading to another and to another of things that you previously didn’t have in your life. Someone at work asked me how I have time to write this blog and the truth is I’m not so sure but it doesn’t seem like a burden and I’m wondering what I had been doing before with all the time I now spend on my blog. The house cleaning is still getting done, I’m still going to work, still sleeping and I’m still having fun. Besides, it’s been a few years since I was on a solid schedule of reading the parsha all the way through each week, a rhythm rejuvenated by this blog that I’m enjoying having in my life again.

I’m also reading a lot of other food blogs and devouring food memoirs – that genre of writing that mixes recipes with food and life experiences. I started with Julia Child’s bio My Life in France mostly because after watching that movie I wanted more of her. And then I was hooked – I was wrapped up in other people’s world of cooking/eating and writing about it. I was often so inspired and transported that I tried to get myself to the setting of the books, or at least cook or eat the cuisine that they were eating. My reading list progressed to include MFK Fisher (given to me by my very special neighbor), Lori Colwin and all of Ruth Reichel’s memoires. I love finding new titles in the Home section of the new Cambridge library. Yesterday I just picked up two new titles- Clementine in the Kitchen and On Rue Tatin. I’m on a roll and look forward to the stage when I’ll be turning my posts into a cookbook that will cover a years worth of recipes and Torah portions.

The food blogs that I’m following gave me the inspiration for the new masthead. After a month or more of conversation with my father, brother and hubby the lovely image you see at the top of the page emerged. It took me a while to articulate what I wanted. Those seeds you see are whole coriander seeds, which I asked Whole Foods to special order for me. The Torah text says the manna looked just like these seeds – for a refresher on the tie-in to double portion go to this earlier post.

Sam and I did a photo shoot last Sunday in the Cambridge Common across from our apartment, catching the last of the afternoon light. In addition to our newly procured bottle of coriander seeds, we dragged two bags of various platters, bowls and dishes from our home to the “shoot.”

In the end this combo of my treasured tea scoop and white tea saucer (both gifts from Shifra, who seems to be having quit a bit of impact on this blog!) was what wowed us – when we saw this series of pictures I knew I had the new masthead.

My dad played around with the size of the picture, the shading and tested out different fonts. The fonts were all looking too cliché so I asked my dad if he would hand write the title and scan that in. I absolutely love my dad’s handwriting. My copies of the books that he has illustrated have personal inscriptions from him that are beautiful not only in sentiment but in appearance and makes me feel that the art starts on the inside jacket flap. The notes he has scattered around his office may serve as rote reminders to him, but to me they are beautiful graphics. I’m so glad that a piece of his handwriting is in the masthead.

A huge thank you to my wonderful Abba who spent so much time on this with me over the last few weeks. And to Sam for the beautiful picture. And to Ben for your ideas and encouragement. Go team!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Package - Parshat Mishpatim II

I came home from a late night meeting at CJP and was very excited to see that our Golden West Package O' Meat had arrived! In it were more oxtails than I had anticipated, plus 4 Ribeye steaks and some ground beef (I mentioned my blog and the recipe and managed to get $5 off shipping - they also unexpectedly threw in the ground beef for free). Oh baby, I never thought meat in the mail would be quite this exciting.

And it all looks so good. I'm actually slightly intimidated by the steaks - I haven't cooked anything like that and really don't want to mess up such beautiful looking cuts of meat. I'll be sure to consult Cooks Illustrated before I start on those. But the meat at hand is the oxtail for the oxtail soup this week.

So now, which recipe shall I choose? The one from Marcel is honestly too long and complicated for me to tackle tonight or tomorrow - plus I don't have some of the ingredients called for (like extra bone marrow to make the stock and leak leaves to make a bouquet). But I'll share it with you verbatim at the end of this post and I have promised Sam that we will make a second attempt at oxtail soup and stick to that recipe. The other ones I am considering are from Epicurious and the Golden West website. So below is a wedding of the two.

For now, I have to wait for my oxtails to defrost. I'll be sure to let you know how it all turned out after Shabbat.

Easier Oxtail Soup I'm going to do a big chunk of my cooking in the crock pot and I'm going to make a smaller version of the recipe below.

3 lbs of meaty oxtail (mine are from Golden West)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 cups water
3 cups beef or chicken broth (home made or in a container - try to avoid powered)
3 cups dry red wine
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and cubed
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
You can either serve with the vegetables or remove them to make it more of a broth with meat.

Complex Oxtail Soup
Thanks to Marcel for typing this from memory during a ski trip! His version is based on one by Paul Bocuse.

It goes in 2 stages: (Suppose you want to serve this soup on a Friday evening Shabbat dinner - start on Thursday evening).

STAGE 1 prepare a tasty "warm" beef bouillon , nearly a "demi glace"
3 lbs marrow bones
1 lbs lean "soup meat" like brisket or shoulder
2 large onions cut in quarters
4 carrots peeled
1 leek, green part cut and kept aside
1 celery root, cut in quarters
1 or 2 leaves green cabbage (optional)
1 little bunch parsley
1 bay leave
1 twig of thyme
a dozen whole black pepper corns

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Put the bones and the onions in a pyrex and into the oven and let them become slightly brown, about 30 min.

In the meantime, peel the carrots, the celery root, rinse the cabbage leaves, and the leek and prepare a pot with 4 quarts of water .

Take two cabbage leaves and place one of the big green leaves of the leek, the parsley, the bay leaf the thyme inside of the cabbage leaves, bend and close it with kitchen twine (you can use unwaxed floss instead). This is your "bouquet garni."
When the bones are ready, put them and the onions in the water, bring to a boil, take out the scum if any then add the carrots, the leek, 1 quarter of the celery root, the bouquet garni and the lean meat.

Bring to a boil again, add the peppercorns, bring down the heat. Leave on a very slow fire the whole night or at least 6 hours.

In the morning, take the ingredients out of the pot. Let the bouillon cool down and degrease it, either with a special device if you have one or using a simple trick: let the fat go to the surface, and use kitchen paper towels that you slowly put on the liquid till it absorbs the fat and take it away. Repeat the operation until your bouillon is lean (and delicious). If you have cheese cloth in your kitchen, I recommend slowly passing the bouillon ladle by ladle through a folded sheet of it, so your bouillon is perfectly clear.

You can use the soup meat cold for your lunch sandwich or anything else. It is possible to make a large quantity of this bouillon and freeze what you don't need. You can use it later for the base of sauces or soups. Notice I didn't say to add salt. Kosher meat is always salted. Otherwise the bouillon would be too salty.

2 lbs oxtail or whatever you've got
bouquet garni
the other parts of the celery root
Beef bouillon as above -3 quarts will make 4 large servings. It should be very concentrated. (Please do me a favor, and don't replace the bouillon by powder mixed with water.... It would be a sin!)

Rinse the oxtail. Put the oxtail in a pot of water, bring to a boil and scum. Throw away the water, rinse the oxtail again. Put the oxtail and all the ingredients in the cold bouillon, and slowly bring to a boil. Bring down the heat to medium, so it is barely frizzling, and let cook for at least a couple of hours, until the little bones become gelatinous.

Pour the soup through a fine colander, and take away all the ingredients except the little bones. The soup should have a pale golden color, be completely clear and a little viscous.

Check for salt and pepper, but the taste should be of "liquid beef" not salt! Put the oxtail bones back in your soup, and warm it up.

Serve in heated soup plates with a leaf of parsley.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rules Shmules - Parshat Mishpatim

I think this was the type of Parsha that people had in mind when they asked me what I was going to cook on the weeks when we hit the "bad ones." That would be the portions that have zero story line, are chock full of rules and might want to make a blogger like me cry. But I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, and a few partners in crime, so it's too early in the game to get tripped up. This week I actually really need to credit Sam with the recipe, but I'll tell you more about that in a bit.

Parshat Mishpatim contains an awful lot of laws for a Nation that just got ten big ones (i.e. the Ten Commandments). But they are setting up a community for themselves and there are bound to be civil disputes that they will need guidance on. Who is responsible when one farmer's ox gores another farmer's ox? If you kill someone by accident what happens, or if you kill a thief who has broken in to your home are you culpable for murder? And how will we take care of the poor in our communities?

The answers to all of these conundrums can be found in this week's portion; the ox gets sold and the proceeds are split (unless the ox is in the habit of doing such things and his owner is negligent - then the farmer who owns the violent ox must pay the farmer whose ox was gored for the value of his ox). The original witness protection program starts with safe cities to flee to if you have accidentally killed someone. You do have the right to kill a thief who enters your home, but only if it's during the night (don't try this one at home, the American legal system is a bit different). And everyone will leave the corners of their fields for the poor to harvest for themselves.

So what am I going to make? Cookies shaped like field corners? Nah. Deadly asparagus spears? Uh uh. Ox? Sam says yes.

He has told me more than once about one of the best meals he ever ate - it was on a Shabbat or holiday afternoon in Washington, DC at the home of a friend of a friend. At the famed meal Marcel cooked up a mean oxtail soup. And every time Sam tells the story I say "is that Kosher?" Yes, yes it is, he patiently reminds me. Ok well then it's time for some oxtail soup. But where the heck does one get kosher oxtail (I never recall seeing it in a kosher butcher, hence my skepticism about it's kosher status) and how would I know a good recipe for one when I saw it?

So Sam got on the case and started emailing around for a recipe and I got on my computer. For a few months my friend Miriam has been telling me about this website that she has been ordering amazing kosher meat from called Golden West. Now when I first heard this I didn't order any for myself because unlike Miriam, who likes to order everything she possibly can online - from her entire bedroom set to most of her groceries and all of her kosher wine - I am a leery online purchaser. But I do like a good deal (Miriam is the ace of online deals) and the convenience of home delivery was swaying me. So I tried my luck at the Golden West website and sure enough they carry glatt kosher oxtail! So there is some on its way to me now - thanks Miriam!

And thanks for the idea Sammy. Way to come together friends. Hopefully we'll have a recipe here soon but you'll want to start by getting some oxtails, veggies and stock or wine. Check back soon for the Oxtail Soup recipe.