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.


  1. Hi Elisheva,
    Someone forwarded me your blog and I wanted to connect because I also recently started a blog that connects to the Parsha. I am more focused on weekly kids crafts but I have been doing a number of food items as well - you can check it out at -
    I looked at your photo and I actually think that we have met - I can't remember where - maybe at the Washington Square Minyan? I live in San Francisco and go to the Mission Minyan...
    Be in touch,

  2. Thanks for stopping by Emily. We met at the Independent Minyan Conference. Your blog makes me want to go back to teaching - very fun and creative projects - your girls must love it.

  3. Yes, the indie minyan conference, that was it! So glad to find your blog - it is a great idea and will definitely buy your book! I am also going to try your hamentashen - I love the idea of "minis"! They are especially perfect for our kids shabbos program which is called "Mission Minyan Minis."

  4. Thanks Emily - I hope the mini hamantashens were enjoyed by the Mission Minyan Minis. I look forward to keeping tabs on each others blogs. Happy Purim!