Thursday, April 8, 2010

Something Fishy - Parshat Sheminy

I'm pooped! Sam and I have been traveling for the last two and half weeks and now I'm sporting a nice tan and can hardly peel myself off the couch to get anything done. So please excuse the shorter post.

Our travels first took us to a long overdue (as in 2 years and nine months overdue) honeymoon to Tulum, Mexico. We spent a week lounging on the picture perfect beach, exploring Maya ruins and enjoying some delicious dishes. Then it was onto Boynton Beach, Florida to my parent's new snow bird nest for lots of family time, Passover cooking, Seders and more beach! It was all 100% enjoyable. But I think I just got a little more tired thinking about it all - and our suitcases still aren't unpacked.

Ok so onto the Parsha and the food - the reasons you've stopped by. In this week's Parsha, Shmini, we learn all about the animals which are kosher and those which are not. Lots of people ask me - "What makes something kosher?" and I have to think about where to start my answer - well this Parsha is a great place to start. At the basic level there are some animals that are just never gonna be kosher - if a mammal doesn't both chew it's cud and have a split hooves it's off the list. If a bird is a bird of prey (such as a hawk or vulture) same deal. If a fish doesn't have fins and scales no dice. And if it's a four-legged creepy crawly or a flying insect you can't eat it (with a few explicit exceptions). And that's what the Parsha lays out as "abominations" - the other pieces of the kosher answer are about how those permissible animals are killed and processed. But that's a longer explanation so ask me after class if you still have questions.

Fish are actually a pretty cool thing in the kosher world. It doesn't need to be ritually slaughtered and it's not considered meat or dairy but pareve (neutral), however it can't be served with meat (hence a smaller gefilte fish plate and fork).The part of Mexico we were in is known for amazing fish (both for snorkeling and eating purposes), thus I'm inspired to offer you two fish dishes - both strictly follow the kosher rules, only one doesn't look it.

The first is ceviche. I have always loved serving and eating this citrus cured fish with lime soaked onions, avocado, cilantro and tomato (I believe I've just named the building blocks of Mexican cuisine). It's best to start with a firm white fish like cod that will stand up to the curing and not fall apart. You can vary the other ingredients (mango can be a bright addition). I love to serve ceviche in margarita glasses.

The second sneaky dish is one with imitation crab meat. I love this brand of imitation crab and shrimp - no clue if it tastes like the real thing, but I like it anyway. We serve the "shrimp" whole with wasabi or cocktail sauce as appetizers, munch on the "crab" sticks as snacks or when we're feeling fancy throw it into sushi or sushi pie. The latter is a great dish I learned to make from Sandy, a family friend. It's sort of like a lazy man's sushi - you start with a layer of seaweed on the bottom of a pie dish then add cooked sushi rice with vinegar and top that with a layer of blended crab, mayo and wasabi sauce. Soy sauce and pickled ginger still make great accompaniments.

2 lbs of wild cod or perch
1 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
2 avocados cut into one inch cubes
Juice of 4 limes

Cube the fish into bite size pieces (try to get them as uniform in size as possible). Place the pieces into a glass bowl along with the onion, cilantro and avodaco. Completely cover with lime juice and then with plastic wrap and leave over night in the fridge. Drain from the lime juice, add salt and serve cold.

Sushi Pie with Imitation Crab

4 sheets of seaweed
2 cups of cooked sushi rice with vinegar (follow instructions on the pack you buy)
1 package of Dynasea imitation crab meat
1/2 cup of mayo
1/4 cup of wasabi sauce
1/4 cup of sugar
soy sauce
pickled ginger

In a food processor blend the crab meat with the mayo and wasabi. Layer the seaweed at the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate so that it covers the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Spread the sushi rice over the seaweed at the bottom of the pie plate using your fingers. Using a spatula spread the crab meat mixture on top of the rice. This dish is best served at room temperature. Cut into slices and serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger.

Thanks to Sam for some of these vacay pics (including the ones of the fish underwater). I look forward to sharing more adventures and inspiration from our trip in the upcoming weeks.


  1. Interesting recipes!
    Love the pics - especially the one of the fish underwater with Japanese type 'lettering' on the water plants on front of them!

  2. Thanks MPH, aka Emma. I think that picture was one of the best we got with our underwater camera on the trip.

  3. Hi Elisha, great definitely have a fantastic book in the making....
    The thing that struck me about the parsha this week was the revulsion with "swarming" things. I forget what the hebrew word is but the swarming word seemed to show up quite a bit in the translation. I figure it was basically a case of our Hebraic forebears getting a major case of the willies...But then it was odd that locusts and crickets were deemed a-ok....ain't nothing that swarms more than a locust...maybe it's that those insects swarm in the air or hop around where it was the "creepy crawly" swarmers that really freaked out the ancients (and us moderns as well). What do you think? (oh and that big Vav thing was pretty cool, no?) Stuart

  4. Hi Stuart - thanks for the comment! The Hebrew term you're looking for is "sheretz haof" which means winged insect. And yeah there are a lot of them mentioned- probably because there are a lot of bugs everywhere! You pose an interesting question but I tend to just take a more literal approach to the text - they were an abomination. But I agree about the locusts sneaking under the radar being a bit suspect. When I was a kid a family friend told me he would be serving chocolate covered grasshopers for dessert that Shabbat lunch and I was pretty freaked out - he was bluffing.