Sunday, December 19, 2010

Parshat Shemot

Last time around for Parshat Shemot, we talked about the trepidatious beginning of Moses's life. This time, let's take a look at how the guy turns out. Despite having grown up in the palace of Pharoh, his allegiance doesn't lie with the Egyptian king. When he witnesses an Egyptian task master beating one of the Hebrew slaves he's unable to stand by and watch such a ghastly act. Moses confirms that the coast is clear before he knocks off that Egyptian task master and buries him in the sand.

Moses continues on this valiant path and next reproaches two Hebrews for fighting with each other. They do not take kindly to this feedback and ask Moses "So, what are ya gonna do about it? Kill us like you did that Egyptian?" That's when he realizes he's in trouble and soon Pharoh sets out to kill him so Moses flees. And like the good Israelite that he is, he ends up at a well outside of the Kingdom of Egypt. It's evident that Moses is a descendant of Jacob when he flexes a little muscle well-side and saves damsels in distress from some harassing traveling herdsmen. The impressed women bring Moses to their father, the king of Midyan. Grateful for Mose's bravery he gives him his daughter Tziporah's hand in marriage.

Now a family man, Moses lives in Midyan until the Pharoh with the vendetta against him dies. It is after this that he encounters God in the form of a burning bush while tending his flock. God calls on him from amidst those branches, to be the leader that will take the Hebrew nation out of Egypt. But despite the fact that he's already stood up to power in three situations, this makes Moses nervous.

His self confidence gets put to the test when he finally makes it back to Egypt, and together with his brother Aron goes to face the new Pharoh. Despite Moses' cry to let his people go, Pharoh is unmoved. Instead he decides to make the Hebrew nation's work even harder; from now on, he orders, we won't provide the slaves with straw to make bricks, they'll have to go and collect the straw themselves. And they'll still have to meet the same daily quota for brick production. The nation blames Moses for this harsher situation they find themselves in, which isn't much of a confidence booster for Moses. But God assures Moses that He's on his side and that soon Pharoh will bow to a greater power and let them go. But you'll have to wait till next week to see how that gets resolved.

In the mean time, I've got the idea to make something related to the straw in the story. Not that straw itself is a particularly delicious ingredient, but a dish that looks like straw could actually be quite tasty. Especially if that dish is puff pastry strips twisted into sticks (or straws if you will) and dusted with zaatar. Sounds delicious and easy right? Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice that has a green color and is made up of sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram, and sumac. It's musky flavor is used in falafel balls as well as Israeli cheeses and salad dressing. Most pizza shops in Israel will also have some zaatar in a glass salt shaker next to the requisite garlic salt and red pepper flakes. You can buy zaatar in specialty or kosher supermarkets and I promise that after you use it in this recipe you'll find many other ways to enjoy it (it's great over eggs, baked with chicken and labane yogurt with pita).

Zaatar Straws
I found this delectable recipe at

1/2 cup flour
1 package of puff pastry
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp zaatar
1 egg
2 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set the puff pastry dough onto a floured surface and roll the dough out with a rolling pin to an perfect 8 x 12 inch rectangle.

Brush the olive oil all over the dough and sprinkle one half of the rectangle with zaatar. Fold the clean half over the zaatar covered half. Sprinkle with flour and roll out to an 8 x 12 rectangle again. Again brush with oil, sprinkle zaatar over one half of the rectangle and fold the clean half over the zaatar half. Roll with a pin a few times and then slice with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch long strips aka straws.

Take each straw one at a time and twist a few times. Lay the twisted straws on a baking sheet. Mix the egg with water and paint the mixture over the straws.

Bake the straws for 12 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for a minute before loosening from baking sheet. Serve alone or with a dip like hummus or tatziki.

No comments:

Post a Comment