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.

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