Sunday, November 28, 2010

Parshat Miketz and Chanukah Roundup

Up till now Joseph's life has been like a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs. But that ride finally starts to slow down and keep an even keel (though at a high altitude) in this week's portion, Parshat Miketz.

That roller coaster ride started with a steep ascent when Joseph was doted on by his father and then took a real dive when he was beat down and almost killed by his brothers then sold into slavery. His ride took an upturn when he was sold to a man who was the chief steward of Pharoh, who treated Joseph with respect and gave him a good deal of responsibility.

But the ride plummets again when that man's wife falsely accuses Joseph, a pretty handsome guy, of unwanted advances and he is thrown into jail. The ride starts to slowly chug up an incline when he successfully interprets the dreams of two of Pharoh's stewards who he meets in jail. In return Joseph asks that they try and get him out of jail. But they forget all about him and Joseph's ride races downhill.

In this week's portion one of his former jail mates finally remembers Joseph when Pharoh is seeking some explanation for his own dreams. In Pharoh's first dream sickly sheaves of wheat swallow fat sheaves but don't look any fatter - in the second the same thing happens with skinny and fat cows.

They bring Joseph out of jail and spiffy him up so that he'll be presentable to Pharoh - the ride is slowly chugging upwards. He tells Pharoh that the two dreams mean the same thing - they're a sign of the next 14 years to come. First there will be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.

Joseph suggests Pharoh appoint someone to oversee the years of plenty and put some wheat away into a silo savings account to dole out during the years of plenty. Pharoh deems that here is no better person to do so than Joseph and at the age of 30 he is made Pharoh's second in command. His ride is no longer in danger of dropping after this ascent.

Pharoh pimps Joseph's ride - giving him a kingly signet ring, a gold chained necklace, royal robes and his own chariot to ride in. He also gives him an Egyptian name - Tzafnat Panea- and a wife named Osnat.

Joseph becomes a successful family man and his smooth ride continues. He has two children, Ephrayim and Menashe, and he collects so much grain in the time of plenty that he can't even measure it. When the famine hits, the people of Egypt complain to Pharoh for bread and Joseph rations out grain to all the Egyptians. And when people start coming from far and wide because the famine had spread all over Joseph is able to help them all too.

It's a no-brainer that this week's recipe needs to involve some kind of grain or bread. I've decide to share a corn bread recipe with you. It's completely dairy free but, in my opinion, tastes just as good as the versions that contain butter and milk. I've had a Southern friend challenge me but it's true, I've just got to get him to taste some. I think you'll appreciate this dish whether you're famished or not.

P.S. Thanks to Sam for all the transportation shots. What you can't see in the shots is me in the background tapping my foot and looking at my watch and wondering when he's going to stop taking pictures of the train/bus/car etc and let us get onto the next site. But now I can appreciate this habit of his as these shots are a great addition to this post and quite artistic when I look at each one on its own.

Corn Bread
This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light’s Annual Recipes 2004 Cook Book
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups of cornmeal
2 tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
5 ears of corn
1 and 1/4 cup of water
4 tbsp of oil, divided
2 eggs
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a 9 inch round cast iron skillet into the oven.
In a medium bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder.
Shuck the 5 ears of corn and then cut off the tips of the ears. One by one balance the ear on the cut off ends and slide the knife down the sides of the cob to remove the corn kernels. After you have done this with each ear divide the corn kernels in half.
In a food processor, blend half the corn, 2 tbsp oil, and water for a minute and a half. Add the eggs and process until combined. Add this wet mixture to the dry flour mixture. Add the rest of the corn kernels and stir until incorporated.
Using an oven mitt pull the cast iron skillet out of the oven and add 2 tbsp of oil and swirl while it melts to cover the bottom and sides of the skillet. Add the corn bread batter to the skillet. Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve warm.

Have you noticed that this year there is more to retail Chanukah than shiny gelt and gilded menorahs?

On a recent shopping trip to Target I noticed three end caps devoted to new and cool Chanukah paraphernalia like candle counter place mats that rotate to reveal another lit candle each night. At Bed Bath and Beyond they've got silver colored mats to place under your menorah flecked with star bursts and the blessings in Hebrew.

CVS also had, in my own estimation, 50% more Chanukah cards to choose from than ever before. I was drawn by the humor and art on many of them that I ended up buying a whole bunch to send out - and I am not much of a card sender.

I'm also feeling a greater devotion of cyberspace to the Festival of Lights. Target's website has returns 12 pages for a "hanukah" search - I'm loving the woman of valor recipe card holder and the ballet menorah. And if you're looking for more menorahs check out Apartment Therapy - they rounded up their favorite "modern" menorah's in a post today.

If what you're really after though is food, visit Bon Appetit's website and dig through their Chanukah menus from the last several years. There are some great choices that go well beyond golden latkas: chickpea latkas with harissa, latkas with zucchini and sage and porcini paprika latkas.

This year Chanukah starts on Wednesday night.

Aside from all the traditional fried food, there's also a tradition to eat dairy foods on Chanukah. This comes from the story of Yehudit, a woman who lived in the time of the Maccabees and had access to a Greek army general. She fed him some salty cheese to make him thirsty and then gave him plenty of wine to quench his thirst, and he promptly fell asleep. Yehudit then killed him which threw the Greek army into a state of panic and they fled from their posts.

Suggested Double Portion Recipes for Chanukah

Fried Goat Cheese and Roasted Beet Salad
Lox and Cream Cheese Roll Ups
Crostini with Fig Spread and Chevre
Date Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

Main Course
Green and Red Onion Latkas
Garden Vegetable Lasagna
Smoked Salmon and Swiss Chard Quiche

Drinks and Dessert
Winter Sangria
Key Lime Cheesecake

Have a Happy Chanukah!

And Happy Roni V'Simchi Abba!

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