Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Cure - Parshat Tazriah-Metzorah

I had two thoughts when I read over this week's Torah Portion; 1- Yay it's another Double Portion. 2- Oy Vey, there's nothing I want to talk about in relation to food.

You see Parshat Tazriah-Metzorah is full of a bunch of unappetizing concepts - a skin disease that can also effect ones clothes and home, a menstruating woman, a woman who just gave birth and a man who has a seminal emission. Are you still reading?

OK stick with me and we'll figure something out here. I already used my "I need a cookie" line. Um... just so as not to gross everyone out I think I need to go for another stretch.

I spend a lot of time on a home decorating website called Apartment Therapy. I get daily emails from them with pictures of other people's homes, ideas for DIY projects and resources for stuff for your home. Right now they are running what's called their Home Cure. I have participated in 1.5 of these. For my 26th birthday my brother bought me their book which outlines exactly why one's home would need a Cure and how to embark on the eight week process that they formulated. It involves steps like creating an inventory of everything that needs fixing in the house, creating an inspiration board of images you like, purging room by room, and filling your house with a few new things that are in line with your newly defined style.

This week's portion actually mentions a Biblical Home Cure. That skin disease I mentioned is called Tzara'at and is often incorrectly translated as leprosy, but is really more like vitiligo or psoriasis. If it got into the walls of a home during the time of the Temple you needed to Cure your home of the disease with the help of a Cohen (aka Temple Priest). Boy those priests were quite the jack of all trades- slaughtering animals, inspecting skin diseases and assessing houses!

Anyway, here's the deal. If you lived in the land of Israel way back when and saw some brown, red or green moldy looking things in your home (fridges didn't count and weren't around then) you had to completely empty your house and have a Cohen make a house call. The priest would inspect this colorful blight and if it looked suspicious to him he sealed the house for a week. At the end of the week he took a peek - if the decay spread you could remove the "infected" stones from the wall to a place outside of the city where it won't infect anything else.

Then you had to scrape down all the walls and purge the resulting dust to a place outside of the city too. The next step was bringing in new stones to replace the old ones and re-plastering them. If the mold came back again the house was a gonner and you had to tear it down. But if it didn't come back the Priest declared it "cured" and performs a ritual slaughter and sprinkles some blood on the house - not sure if they were allowed to clean that off after.

When Sam and I were in Mexico in March we saw people making what looked like a Hummus dish. I inquired about it with my deteriorated Spanish and after a lot of pantomime I got the recipe below. I whipped it up several times over Passover and everyone loved it. I've been wanting to share it with you so I'm stretching things to say that it represents the plaster that covered the new walls in the Biblical homes that were attempting to cure themselves of Tzaraat.

This traditional Maya dish and has a name that can get caught inside your mouth. Xuiclepax - with the "X" pronounced as "sh" so it should sound like Sheek-le-pak. When I made it in Florida I was doing it from memory and not from the scattered notes I had written on the brochure from the water boat tour we had taken that day. I got mixed up and used sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin seeds and can tell you that that worked too. This dish comes together pretty quickly and is as addictive as guacamole but with a nuttier, roasted flavor. Pair it with tortilla chips (we love Abuelita chips in our home which we buy at Costco) and you'll be scraping the bottom of the Xuiclepax bowl for those final traces of dip.

Roasted and salted shelled pumpkin/pepita seeds (or sunflower seeds)
Salt and pepper
Tomato sauce
3 tomatoes diced
2 onions diced
Olive Oil
Cilantro finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Pulverize the roasted seeds in a food processor until they are finely ground and resemble a thick flour. Add pepper to taste.

Spread the diced tomatoes and onions on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes until soft.

In a large bowl combine the ground pumpkin seeds, the tomato sauce and the roasted vegetables. Mash it all together with a potato masher and then stir in the chopped cilantro. It's preferable to serve warm with chips, challah or even matzah!

On Monday night we will celebrate Yom Haatzmaut - Israel Independence Day. This is a great holiday - it's all about the partying and being thankful for a Jewish State. They really know how to do it up in Israel - silly string flows in the streets, ceremonies with elaborate flag dances are everywhere. One year as a spectator I sat a few seats away from Ariel Sharon at the International Bible Contest in Jerusalem. Crazy stuff. At Stern College I used to enjoy the tradition of eating a black and white cookie decked out for the occasion in blue and white. This year I'll don a blue and white outfit and try to dig out my Star Of David cake pan and whip up a batch of brownies to be slathered with blue and white frosting. Unless of course I purged that cake pan in the last Home Cure I did.

This graffiti tag on the streets of Jerusalem says "Am Yisrael Chai" which translates to "The People of Israel Live!"

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