Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Color Splash - Parshat Terumah

Reading this week's portion, Parshat Terumah, on a gray, cold, sleety day in New England, I'm drawn to the vibrant colors in the narrative. God asks the nation to build a home for his ark, a tabernacle where they can worship and where God will rest. And he wants it decorated with crimson curtains, purple linens, acacia wood furniture, lapis lazulai stone and lots of gold.

Sam and I have recently been doing some home decorating. After living amongst hand-me-down couches and sagging Ikea bookcases, we've been slowly acquiring sturdier pieces at bargain prices to replace them. We planned a weekend getaway around the Crate and Barrel Maine outlet (our Crate and Barrel crush developed while wedding registry building and has endured - to keep it affordable we stalk their pieces on Craig's List and at outlets) and are now nesting in our new living room set up. So I can understand God's desire to surround Himself with rich colors and quality materials.

One thing that needs replacing after this make over are our curtains. The fabulous Merimekko fabric, which we bought at a Crate and Barrel close out and had my mother sew into curtains for us, is too dark next to the new pieces. While we search for a replacement I am trying to picture the curtains that were made for the tabernacle. They're not like our curtains, which drape to the floor, suspended by a bar, accenting the sides of our large windows. The tabernacle curtains were more like thick room separators. And ours are striped, not angel clad.

"Make these of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, crimson yarns, with a design of cherubim (angels) worked into it." The tabernacle curtains are used in three places - stretched around the outer-beam structure to form the building's walls, hung as an inner wall to partition between the area designated as the Holy and the Holy of Holies, and draped at the tabernacle entrance, serving as a blue, purple and crimson welcome screen.

The recurring spalshes of color - blue, purple and crimson - are not only all over the text but have also been all over my kitchen this week. There was the second iteration of a creamy tomato red soup which I've been trying to nail after receiving the recipe in bulk proportions from a restaurant. There was unseasonal blueberry pie baked at the request of a birthday girl (I'll try not to blame the purple confection on Batya as she gave me an excuse to make one of my favorite and easiest desserts in my repertoire). And finally, to comfort us amidst this cold there was an eggplant, mozzarella and tomato creation. I hope you'll enjoy some of them yourself.

Tomato Bisque

2 cans, 1 lb 12 oz each, canned whole peeled plum tomatoes with basil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
Red wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of oregano
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup of wine
8 oz buttermilk
8 oz milk

In a large bowl crush the tomatoes by hand and remove the dark basil leaves. Add salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar.

Chop onion, celery and carrot. Set a large pot over a medium high flame with the olive oil and add the chopped vegetables to the pot along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Crush the garlic cloves into the pot. Cook until the onion softens - 5-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, thyme and oregano and stir.

Pour the wine into the pot and scrape any bits that have stuck to the pot and stir. When the wine has cooked down a bit add the butter milk, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf and 1/2 of a can of water. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to smooth out the texture. Serve warm.

Eggplant Roulade

1 eggplant
4 ounces mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of herbed panko crumbs
1/3 cup zinfandel wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 large shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice and lay them in a colander for 5 minutes. Rinse them and place on a baking sheet (the salting, soaking and rinsing removes some of the eggplant's bitterness). Drizzle the eggplant slices with olive oil and roast in the oven for 2o minutes. Allow the slices to cool.

In the mean time, heat half the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add crushed garlic and diced shallot and stir. After 2 minutes add the herbs, wine, tomato paste and dried oregano.

Cut the mozarella into long thin rectangular pieces that will fit into each piece of eggplant when you roll the eggplant slice around it. Proceed to do just that- fold/roll a cooked and cooled slice of eggplant around the cut cheese and place it into a baking dish. Do this with each eggplant slice and cheese rectangle, arranging the rolled eggplant and cheese in the baking dish.

Spoon the tomato sauce over the eggplant and cheese. Sprinkle with panko crumbs and bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Blueberry Cobbler
This is a Real Simple recipe that I go to every time I serve a dairy meal on Shabbat. I used Meyer lemons this time which were divine in the cobbler crust. I use a milk and buttermilk combination as a replacement for heavy cream when I'm feeling a bit heavy myself, but if you'd like to indulge go ahead and omit the milk for 2 cups of heavy cream.

2 pints of blueberries
1/3 a cup and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1.5 cups and 1 tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon zest
5 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1.5 cups of butter milk
1/2 cup of milk

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the washed blueberries into a 1.5 quart baking dish and toss with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 tbsp flour.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Add the butter and blend with your fingers by pinching it into the flour mixture until you get a gravely mixture. Add in the milks and mix.

Drop this mixture by heaping spoonfuls over the blueberries, doing a pretty good job to cover most of the surface. Bake for 35 minutes until the top is golden.

Pairs great with vanilla ice cream. If you're lucky enough to have a neighbor who makes honey ice cream you must eat it with that. Thanks Jess for allowing us to discover this winning combination.

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