Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cornucopia - Parshat Ki Tavo

A well scripted, produce-laden pilgrimage is in store for the nation. Once they arrive in the land of Israel they'll be bringing baskets full of the first fruit of their land to the central worship area in Jerusalem. The words that they are instructed to say to the Cohen in this week's portion, Parhsta Ki Tavo, may sound familiar. "My forefather worked for an Aramean, then went down to live in Egypt and became a great nation." So, do you recognize the phrase? We say these exact words during the Passover Seder to kick off the telling of the Exodus. We begin with reference to Jacob, continue with the slave labor the nation was forced into by Egyptians, ending with God saving them with a strong arm, an outstretched hand and some spectacular miracles.

The actual culmination of the story of the Exodus is when the nation arrives in their own home land, where they can reside freely and safely. Moses is still preparing them for when they will have their own land, their own produce and he charges them charged to show appreciation by bringing a basket of amazingly fresh produce, from their first gleanings, as an offering to God. They are to rejoice in what they have and share it. The Cohen will offer up the basket of produce on the alter to God. And I'm sure that collection of cornucopias was quite a sight. This week we're going to cook up some stuffed peppers and tomatoes because on your Shabbat table they will look like brimming baskets, mimicking those brought by the nation with their first fruits. And they will be filled with some delectable riches.

The dish I have in mind doesn't much resemble the typical stuffed pepper that gets filled with meat and rice. Intsead, panko bread crumbs, herbs, raisins, capers and anchovies are used. They are a surprisingly satisfying combination of tastes - achieving a real yin yang of salt and sweet. The bread crumbs stay crisp but are moistened with some olive oil and come together with some spices into a cohesive texture. The skins of the pepper get nice and soft so that they are easy to cut but they aren't mushy and they don't fall apart. This dish makes such a pretty presentation that it became a staple on my Rosh Hashana menu.

Since this is the last official week of the blogging event, Summer Fest*, and I've finally caught up to tomato week I decided to use some tomatoes to stuff in addition to the peppers. I think they'll go along with the peppers beautifully after their seeds are hollowed out. And if you want to go multicolored you can do so with both the tomatoes and peppers- in the last week I've received beautiful bright orange tomatoes, warm plump red ones and some that are a deep purple green - all in our CSA. They each taste incredibly delicious, and very much like summer.

Stuffed Red Peppers and Tomatoes
I found this unique recipe in Jeff Nathan's Family Suppers and have adapted it. I've added the tomato idea and also only use half a pepper or tomato per person, the recipe below is for 10 people.

3 red peppers
3 tomatoes
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup of raisins
6 canned anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 cup of capers, rinsed
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each pepper and tomato in half horizontally. If there is a large stem on the pepper trim it with a knife so that the pepper half can stand up on its own. Remove the seeds from the pepper and scoop and the seeds and juice from the tomato (find another use for this!!). Lay each half pepper and tomato - your vegetable "cups" - in a large baking dish.

In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs, raisins, anchovies, capers, parsley, oregano and pepper. Add the oil and stir to get a consistency like wet sand. Divide the mixture into the vegetable "cups" and top each with a dollop of tomato sauce.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the vegetables look soft and the filling is golden brown.

*Summer Fest is an annual online celebration of good food and great ideas, featuring food and garden bloggers from around the globe. Every week we highlight a different seasonal ingredient – corn, stone fruit, tomatoes – and our guest bloggers share great recipes, stories and tips. You can participate by visiting these terrific blogs and leaving links or comments – and if you’re feeling particularly inspired, you can contribute a post of your own. Drop by A Way to Garden for details on how join the party.


Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: Heirloom Tomato Tart with Parmesan Crust

Nicole at Pinch My Salt: What to do with slow-roasted tomatoes

Alison at Food2: Heirloom tomatoes

The FN Dish: Tyler’s Ultimate Tomato Salads

Margaret at A Way to Garden: More than one way to ripen a tomato

Gilded Fork: Celebrating summer lusciousness with a tomato dossier and recipes

Diane and Todd at White on Rice Couple: Sun-dried tomatoes (actually made in the sun!)

Paige at The Sister Project: 3 substantial, healthy, vegetarian tomatoey main dishes

Liz at the Cooking Channel: Easy Tomato Tart

Kelly at Just a Taste: Tomato Jam

Alexis at Food Network UK: The seven deadly tomato sins

Michelle at Healthy Eats: Top 10 Things to Do With Tomatoes

Alana at Eating From the Ground Up: Roasted Green Salsa (green zebras and tomatillos), and how late August makes her hurt for New Mexico

Caron at San Diego Foodstuff: Chunky Garden Gazpacho with Flowered Corn Tortillas and Melissa Clark’s Tomato Tarte Tatin

Judy at Divina Cucina: Tomatoes, the Italian Way

Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Savory Tomato Crumble

Tigress in a Pickle: Over 50 ways to preserve tomatoes in jars

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fruit Fall - Ki Taytzeh

These last few portions feel like Moses is giving us his cliff notes on the Torah. He is really trying to pack in the moral, legal and spiritual instructions that the nation will need to follow in the land of Israel when he is no longer with them. In this week's portion, Parshat Ki Taytzeh, there are several agriculturally themed rules that are laid out. Did you know that you can go into somebody else's vineyard, eat as many grapes as you like, even filling yourself up in this manner? But you can't cart any away in a container. Sounds like I can relieve myself of the guilt I mentioned regarding my blueberry picking/noshing habit the other week. You can also, according to the Torah, pluck some grain from another person's field, but you can't use a sickle to do so. Basically take what you need from everyone but no more. There's actually an organization out in LA that takes this notion into the 21st century and encourages people to go picking in other people's orchards.

Some further agricultural rules in the portion continue along these ethical lines. When you're reaping in your field and overlook a stalk, don't go back for it - it's now designated for the stranger, widow, orphan. And when you beat down your olive trees or harvest your vineyard, don't do it more than once - what you haven't gotten goes to the less fortunate. And like the familiar Biblical produce (getting tired yet of grain, olives and grapes?) the familiar phrase gets repeated "remember that you were a slave in Egypt."

Now let me tell you that when you have already paid for your food, there is no shame in bringing more home in a vessel. When I was a Masters student at Brandeis I helped plan our month long study in Israel. One of my greatest contributions was the packing list I compiled replete with essential items as well as some tried and true packing tips. I recalled meeting an alum of the program right who shared one message for me - bring a stash of sandwich sized Ziplock bags on the trip to collect food at the breakfast buffet. This she promised me would ensure access to snacks during the rest of the day.

The tip made it onto the official distributed pack list and one of my good friends Rosa took it to heart. Each morning on the trip, after we had all stuffed ourselves on the Ramat Rachel Hotel breakfast, Rosa would go over the tables one last time, dropping cut vegetables, fruit and granola into her Ziplock bags. The rest of us were too lazy or embarrassed to partake in this food gathering but we were not too shy to bum some snacks off of Rosa throughout the day.

So what Rosa did was admirable. But don't be doing this in other people's fields unless you've paid to be there for picking. For food stuff this week I've consulted with my mom and after a conversation that got me very hungry I settled on a fallen fruit theme. We're going a little broader than the olives and grapes. Our family friend Debbie used to make a wonderfully simple and addictive stone fruit crumble. She cut up the fruits she had in her kitchen that were getting overly ripe, threw them into a rectangular baking dish and blanketed them with a thick batter topping. There would hardly be any leftovers but I always tried to grab the dish while we were clearing the table, and then consume the final bits in the kitchen.

P.S. The name of this blog appears in the portion - can you find it?

Stone Fruit Bake
Thanks to Debbie Jonas for sharing the recipe with me - which she rattled off by heart over the phone. Debbie noted that it can be made with all kinds of fruit and adapted to different seasons - she recently made one with blueberry and likes to include apples in the fall (a wonderful Sukkot dish!)

2 nectarines
2 plums
2 peaches
zest of a lemon
1 egg
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp of baking powder
Dairy or non dairy ice cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice all of the fruit and remove the pits. Lay the slices into a rectangular glass dish and sprinkle with the lemon zest, then gently toss to combine.

Now mix the topping - the results will be thick. Mix the egg, sugar, oil, flour and baking powder and spread over the fruit- it's OK if it doesn't cover all of the fruit as it will expand during cooking.

Bake for 45 minutes or until it is golden brown and serve warm with some non dairy/dairy ice cream.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Post #50 - Parshat Shoftim

Woo hoo - it's time to celebrate this milestone; Welcome to post number 50 at Double Portion.

I've always been very into anniversary celebrations of smaller milestones. "Guess what today is?" I would frequently ask Sam, my parents, friends or co-workers. Some rolled their eyes, some chuckled, but they all grew to learn that the answer would be along the lines of "It's mine and Sam's two year dating anniversary/ three month wedding anniversary/ five year anniversary of the day we met." True, not everyone gets so sentimental, and I'm not sure why it's such a big part of my nature, but I can't help it. So I must tell you all that this day marks the 50th post, one week shy of the blog's 9 month anniversary, 115 fans on facebook and 1,404 unique visitors to the site!

Now that's some nice stuff to celebrate!

I'm loving every minute of this process of blogging and love every fan. And as I'm getting closer to finishing the cycle of Torah portions (I still have a number of posts to do in the Book of Genesis, since I started midway through) I'm starting to think more about my cookbook project. My dad and I are actually going to start working on a mock up of a few pages. Another great thing is that in the last several months the contents of this blog have leapt out of the bloggospeher when I've had the chance to lead several classes in the community in the spirit of my blog. I've enjoyed looking at text and then eating or making some related food with folks around Boston and Cambridge. As before, I'll keep you informed when I'm doing more classes but also want to say that if people want to bring me to their communities to lead such a session I'd love to talk! Feel free to email me at

Well, onto this week's portion, Parshat Shoftim. That name means judges and there's a lot about judging fairly - there's a local and a national system, judges can't take bribes, can't show partiality - and we hear the phrase "Justice, justice you shall pursue." If a judge faces a difficult case in which he can't reach a decision, he would come to the Temple to ask the Levites and Cohanim for help and then carefully follow the verdict they formulated. These leaders, the Cohens and Levites, are quite the characters. Not only did they give of themselves to the nation by serving in the Temple, aiding in judgments, teaching in communities during their time off from the Temple - they also had to forgo any land ownership.

They are the only tribe not assigned a portion in the land of Israel, instead "God is their portion." Practically speaking, they are supported by the sacrifices that people bring to the Temple. This is a beautiful give and take model of the Jewish community. There are certain parts of the sacrifices designated for the Cohanim and Leviim; the shoulder, cheeks and stomach from an ox or sheep, the first shearing of sheep, and the first of new grain, oil and wine.

I wonder if the Levites enjoyed the beef cheeks. I myself have never had any and I'm intrigued to try some. I have a few on their way to me from Golden West Glatt. I know that beef cheeks are usually cooked for a long time and often braised or served in a stew. But I went searching for something more summer appropriate and found the most amazing looking recipe for beef cheek tacos that I plan to try out later this week when the cheeks arrive. The most amazing part is that the original recipe doesn't call for any cheese- so I don't need to edit around it! There is still 3.5 hours of cooking required for the beef but it's at a relatively low temperature which I think will make it more bearable in this summer heat.

This post is dedicated to all of our community leaders and educators - here's to getting the support you need from your community.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Plenty Indeed - Parshat Re'eh

Summer is my MOST favorite time of year. I'm finally warm, the days are longer, and I could just listen to Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles over and over. I walk down the non-shady side of the block in flowy skirts and short sleeves, and I give myself permission to eat ice cream at least once a day. As my father notes, eating ice cream is my second most favorite thing to do after people watching.

And it’s not just me that’s in a better mood. Look at these three public servants above, taking a cool break with frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit.

I feel like a much more generous person in this season than in the winter. It's funny that in the winter I'm supposed to be making year end gifts and spreading smiles to strangers but am often too concerned about my fingers freezing off to do so. I think that since I feel surrounded by abundance in the summer, it makes me want to be abundantly nice to others.

In this week's portion, Parshat Re'eh, the Nation is reminded of the abundance they'll come upon in the land of Israel, and that they'll have to share it with others. There are four different ways that they are mandated to share in this portion, and they are listed in order of increasing difficulty. The first is a yearly tithe when one must take a 10th of one's wine, oil, grain and newborn animals to the Temple and eat it all there. This is a funny kind of tithe, since the owner is the one who gets to eat it. But it's a practice that starts weaning us off the idea of completely owning our possessions.

The next tithe described in this portion is one that must go to the poor every three years, so the owner has some time to mentally work up to this gift. Next, debts must be forgiven every seven years and not expected to be paid back - one may be more inclined to give out money if you know you'll get it back but then you have to let go at the seven year mark. And finally the imperative that charity must be given at all times to those in need. Since at the end of the day we are all slightly reluctant to part with something that we own, the Torah eases the nation into the idea of these practices by starting out with the easier and less frequent ways of giving and ending with the notion of being selfless at all times.

I'll be keeping this top of mind during this season of abundance. And for now I'm going to share with you all how grateful I am for all the summer produce that's in my life right now. Just look at the bag full of goodies we get from our CSA grown in our area.

I get giddy when I’m en route to pick these up each week, sometimes not checking the farm website ahead of time and letting the produce surprise me when I arrive. I get equally exited about farmers markets - my endorphins kick up a notch when I spot the white tent tops downtown or in Harvard Square. Take a peek at the sour cherry jewels I picked up this week at the South Station farmers market. I'd heard about this produce on spilled milk’s podcast and was so excited to see them on the East coast! I immediately went out and bought a tub of vanilla frozen yogurt to whip up some sour cherry milk shakes, as the show suggested.

And I have been pouring over a new cookbook purchase- Eating Local by Janet Fletcher and Sur La Table. The photographs, CSA farm profiles and recipes are inspiring. In a stroke of genius they have organized the recipes by CSA ingredient. I’ve already made their blueberry clafouti (a cross between a custard and a pancake) and can’t wait to try more recipes.

A miracle happened in my kitchen. Before my own eyes, some frozen bananas turned into banana ice cream. I heard about this amazing feat on the kitchn but had to see it to believe it. Would frozen slices of banana really turn into a light ice cream consistency (be so easy and so low fat)? Well my two frozen bananas went into my Cuisinart food processor, they needed a little drizzle of liquid for help and I decided to add some peanut butter (one of my favorite combos) but there it was- ice cream-like desert!! I devoured it quickly with a few chocolate chips on top.

Oh and one last thing to share - Sam and I enjoyed our first free concert at the Hatch shell this season. This is one of our favorite summertime activities. We had our neat sheet blanket, some lemon -rosemary bread, cheese, jam and chocolate stout. What more could you ask for? How about some non dairy banana ice cream with chocolate chips and peanut butter for dessert? I've got that recipe for you and I haven't forgotten about the parsha related recipe- read on for an Oil and Wine Chicken - you don't have to tithe it : )

Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream"

2 peeled bananas
1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 cup of coconut or plain rum, or milk or water (helps things come together)

Slice the bananas into small round pieces. Arrange the slices on a plate or baking sheet and put it in the freezer for 2 or more hours.

After the time has elapsed place the frozen bananas in a food processor with the chocolate chips and peanut butter. Blend for a minute and then slowly add the rum or other liquid to help it come together. Pulse to break up any chunks and scrape the mixture back down to the blade between processing. It should start to resemble ice cream after 2 minutes- add more liquid if it's having trouble coming together. Eat right away!

Oil and Wine Chicken
I saw this on a Food Network show, Down Home with the Neely's, and she called it "get yo man chicken" which cracked me up. I liked the featuring of the oil and wine as those are items mentioned in the portion that got tithed each year for the owner to eat at the Temple.

2 tbsp olive oil
6 chicken thighs
1 medium onion diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary, chopped
1 tsp thyme, chopped
1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup of white wine
1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, season the chicken with salt and pepper and add the chicken to the pan. Let the chicken cook for four minutes on each side and then remove from the pan and set on a plate.

Add the diced onions to the pan and let them cook in the olive oil and chicken fat, stirring for 3 minutes. Then turn the flame off from under the pan and add the chicken stock and wine and scrape up all the bits that have stuck to the pan. Turn the flame back to high and let the liquid reduce for several minutes. Add the herbs and tomatoes and give it a good stir. Then add the browned chicken thighs to the liquid and cook with a cover on for 40 minutes on medium low heat.

Serve the chicken with some of the cooking sauce. And if you spot a man in the vicinity who you want to get- go on and serve him some.