Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rumble - Parshat Korach

Get ready for a rumble. In this week's portion, Parshat Korach, a fellow named Korach and a few of his buddies (250 of them actually) challenge Moses and Aron's leadership. They want to know why a holy nation needs a leader (never mind that Korach happens to be from the Tribe of Levi and already has a role of leadership). Moses is seriously disheartened by this challenge but faces it by setting up a test. He tells the rabblerousers to come back to the same place tomorrow with frying pans filled with incense and light them on fire - whoever's offering is consumed by God is the chosen leader.

At the showdown, God is so upset by the chutzpah of Korach and his gang that He threatens to wipe everyone out. After being calmed down by Moses and Aron, God instructs Moses to tell the nation to move themselves away from the homes of Korah and his other buddies, and not to touch any of their stuff unless they want to get hurt. The nation does get the heck out of there but stands by to watch what happens. Moses announces to everyone in ear shot that if the leaders of the rebel gang die in a way that is natural, God didn't have a hand in it. But if God brings some crazy abnormal phenomenon to kill them, you'll all know they have gotten God very mad. Just as he finishes speaking the ground beneath Korach and the other leaders started to shift and creak and then it suddenly bursts open, swallowing up the rebel leaders, their families, their homes and all their possessions. And then, just as quickly, the earth comes back together, settles down and looks perfectly normal.

Meanwhile, the other 250 members of the gang, are still with their fire pans. Well they all get killed by a fire. Then God commands that their copper frying pans be hammered into sheets of metal to cover the alter, and thus would serve as a warning to the nation. Well the nation clearly doesn't get the message- not from the hammered copper pots, nor from any of the incidents in the previous portions, such as God making meat come out of their noses when they complain about not having enough or the death sentence given to the spies who gave a bad report of the land of Israel. Instead of learning their lesson, they go on to accuse Moses and Aron of bringing death to the nation. So God knows He still needs to settle the matter of defending their leadership. Each tribe is instructed to bring a staff with the name of their tribe leader carved into it to the Tabernacle. The staffs get lined up and God pronounces that he will choose one staff to sprout and that will indicate the nation's true leader. They leave the staffs there overnight and when Moses goes back the next day to check on them, the staff of Aron, Moses's brother, the high priest, and his right hand man (thus also implying the leadership of Moses) had sprouted blossoms and almonds. Aron's staff remains in the Tabernacle as another reminder to the nation to behave. We'll see how long that lasts.

Onto the recipes. Two things come to mind this week. One is some kind of sunken cake to reenact the earth swallowing Korach and his compadres. When I looked for some recipes online I found that most people are actually trying to avoid sunken cakes, and there are many tips on how to resuscitate a cake whose center has collapsed. I actually want that to happen for this week's recipe and I found a recipe on a blog for a lovely cherry sunken cake, dusted in powdered sugar and looking concavely plump and moist.

I also want to do two almond dishes in honor of Aron's flowering staff. The image of his staff always reminded me of the scene in Pinocchio where Pinocchio's nose grow so ling from lying that it starts to sprout leaves, flowers and a bird takes up residence in a nest on his branch-like nose. I really liked spicy nut mixes and have toasted a few concoctions before. Below is one I think you'll enjoy making and eating. And for some time now I have been wanting to share my chocolate biscotti recipe. I usually make it with chocolate chips and pistachios, but have used almonds in place of the pistachios before with great results. The fun thing about these biscotti is that they not only contain almonds to tie into the portion, they also sort of look like long staffs, mimicking the ones that were brought to the Tabernacle to determine the nation's leadership.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti
I have been making this recipe for year from Martha Stewart Living 2002 Annual Recipes. I love to serve them in footed dessert bowls with a scoop of ice cream

2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (I love to use Sharfenbergers)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4.5 tbsp unsalted butter or non dairy butter substitute
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of slivered or chopped almonds
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a silpat at on a baking sheet.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until well blended and then add the eggs. After that is well combined add the flour mixture and stir until a ball forms. Then stir in the chips and almonds.

Transfer the dough to the silpat lined baking sheet and shape into a flat log - about 10- 12 inches by 5 inches. Bake for 25 minutes and then cool for 5 minutes and lowered the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Once the log has cooled a bit, slice with a serrated knife into 1 inch thick slices, on the diagonal. Flip them to be cut side down and bake for 8 more minutes. They will still be soft on the inside but crisp on the outside- a wonderful consistency. Serve plain or with ice cream.

Rosemary and Chile Spiced Almonds

2 cups of roasted almonds
2 tablespoons of butter
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaved removed from stem and chopped
1 tablespoon of coarse salt
1 tsp of chili powder
pinch of sugar

Melt the butter over a medium flame in a frying pan. Add in the nuts and swirl to coat with butter. Sprinkle with the spices and toast for a about 5 minutes stirring constantly, until fragrant, Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunken Cherry Cake

Give this recipe a go

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