Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Finger of God - Parshat Vae'ira

Did you know that the Pharoh of the Exodus story was a pretty hygienic fellow? Each morning he would bathe in the Nile - and in fact that is where Moses often has his confrontations with him during the period of the plagues. And did you know that Moses was 80 years old when he goes to confront Pharoh and his brother Aron is 83? In this portion the two of them team up with God to bring seven out of the ten plagues to bear on Pharoh's court and country.

Moses's first demand of Pharoh is to just let his nation go on a three day road trip to sacrifice to God. But Pharoh isn't even cool with that. So then come the plagues. The first happens right as Pharoh is bathing in the Nile - it turns to blood and he is grossed out when dead fish start to surface around him. Pretty soon all of Egypt is smelling pretty putrid and there's no potable water. But, since Pharoh's magicians were able to do the same to the water with their spells, Pharoh is unimpressed.

Next, Moses threatens Pharoh with a frog infestation so bad they'll be in people's beds, oven and mixing bowls. At first Pharoh doesn't flinch, but he does get irked by the multitude of frogs that Moses summons from the Nile and begs for Moses to reverse the plague. So all the frogs die, making Egypt smell even worse. But Pharoh goes back to being stubborn and refusing to let anyone go anywhere.

It isn't until the third plague rolls around that Pharoh and his assistants finally recognize God's handiwork. When Aron turns all the dust of the earth to lice with a flick of his rod the little creatures crawl over every Egyptian human and animal. Try as Pharoh's magician's might they can't produce the same effect with their wands, nor can they reverse Aron's plague. The magician's declare, "This is the finger of God." But of course this revelation is short lived as Pharoh again refuses to let the people go. And even after Moses, Aron and God bring on swarms of insects, a blight on livestock, blistering skin boils, and deadly flaming hail, Pharoh is unmoved.

Not to gross you out but I've got a recipe that combines the first and third plague. There will be no actual blood or lice, but this savory rice dish is colored bright pink from beets which results in a well seasoned and visually pleasing bite. I had never thought to add beets to rice but when I saw the recipe in my Italian Jewish cookbook I knew it would probably be as good as everything else I've made from it. And indeed, it's made repeat appearances on our Shabbat table and will likely leave you wanting double portions..

Beet Rice
This recipe is adapted from Classic Italian Jewish Cooking by Edda Servi Machlin

3 large beets, washed and peeled
1 cup basmati rice
2-3 cups water
Pinch of salt

Place the peeled beets in a medium pan and cover with water. Boil for 15 minutes, until you can easily poke a fork 1/2 an inch into the beets. Remove the boiled beets from the water and measure out 2 cups of beet water. If you have less than two cups add regular water to get two cups total.

Lay the beets on a cutting board to cool down and place the 2 cups of beet water into a clean pot. Add one cup of rice to the liquid and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Dice the beets and mix the pieces into the cooked rice and serve.

New Year

Lot's of blogs that I read are doing a year in review this week, highlighting some of their favorite posts from the last year. I'd actually like to take an opportunity to share some things from the last year that never made it to the blog because I couldn't make a portion connection. Mostly, they're things I ate around town and want to share.

I had my second kosher hot dog at Fenway this year. The first time I had one I kept our seats warm while Sam procured the hot dogs. But this summer, on a small work outing, I got to see the workings of the kosher hot dog machine myself. The machine is located under a large Kosher Food sign and you get a glimpse into it's working mechanism. Digital messages narrate the process - "Your Bun is Warming" sent Emily and I into a laughing fit. Sadly, they were a bit more exciting than the hot dogs themselves. The bun and the hot dog were both rather limp and I was wanting for some sour kraut.

On a tastier note, Sam and I discovered new bourekas at Cafe Eilat (the Brookline Pizza Shop) and one tasted like a kosher croque monsieur in a triangular crispy puff pastry packet, with muenster cheese, tomato and instead of ham, some black olives. Yum.

Around Chanukah time I finally made it out to Donuts with a Difference in Medford, an off-the-beaten path kosher shop with a small window of operating hours. Holiday jelly donuts seemed worth the early morning pre-work venture and indeed they were the best jelly donuts I've eaten outside of Israel. The dark blueberry/strawberry jelly was well distributed inside of each donut - half of the ones I bought were covered in thick gooey sugar glaze and the other half we're powdered (Sam favored the latter and I the former). Every bite was thick and doughy, giving me a good teeth sinking experience, and while at first my Hebrew College coworkers stayed away claiming necessary diets, there were soon chunks missing from donuts and a family trip planned to sample the plethora of other different donut flavors.

No comments:

Post a Comment