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.


  1. The stone fruits are part of many Rosh HaShanah dishes from my grandparents' region of Germany. There is fruit soup in which you take the filling of the fruit bake and cook it down until near jam, then strain, chill and serve. Then, there's zweschegenkuchen, which to make you would reverse the order that you put the batter and the fruit into the pan, placing the halved plums skin side up, cut fruit down into the dough.

    L'shanah tovah!

  2. These dishes sound delicious Leah! What great family traditions and recipes. Shanah Tovah to you too.