Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crafty - Parshat Vayakhel

Amy Sedaris may poke fun at crafters in her book Simple Time: Crafting For Poor People, but crafting has some serious history. Last year's post on this week's portion, Parshat Vayakhel, had me commenting about the highly skilled artisans who helped build the Tabernacle. But when I read the portion this year I noticed that there are throngs of crafters who help to get all of the work done. "And all the skilled women spun with their own hands, and brought the goat hair they had spun to the Tabernacle." Some of the crafty Israelite women who had been spinning linen at home volunteer to learn how to spin goat hair and the other material that was to be used to construct the Tabernacle.

This kind of crafting effort reminds me of my mom who not only makes crafts for her own pleasure, but looks for ways she can put her crafts to use for the community. I'm lucky to have many of her beaded necklaces among my jewelry collection, and to have a home made Irish green quilt to snuggle under, but she was often the costume maker for our synagogue plays and the chuppah designer for family friends- finding ways to give back to the community with her two crafty hands.

The project of building the Tabernacle in the dessert required all hands on deck. When Moses asks the nation to contribute the necessary materials the collection piles overflow and he has to request that they stop bringing and start building. When Moses asks them for their skills, they show up. The crafters get to weaving an angel pattern into the cloth paneling, which was secured to the wooden frame of the Tabernacle. The architects build that frame with Acacia wood planks and bars. The planks and bars are overlaid with gold by the artists and melded together. Just as the materials were all connected to form the building, the Israelites come together with their various skills to make their community center a thing of beauty.

My post on this week's portion last year received a comment from my sweet neighbor Marissa, who suggested that I could use some acacia honey (I had been struggling to find a good food connection that week). Acacia wood is one of the many items listed as a Tabernacle building necessity that the Israelites donated. So I'm going to take her up on that suggestion.

I've done a bit of reading up on Acacia wood and Acacia honey. What I've gathered is that the tree is thorny with a reddish bark, thin feathery green leaves and wispy yellow blossoms. While the bark may have a bite, the honey from the blossoms is one of the most mild in flavor and is great to use in recipes where you want some sweetness but don't want it to overwhelm the dish. The honey is very light in color and keeps a more liquid, rather than viscous, consistency that makes it easy to mix with other liquids. You can purchase Acacia honey online, in specialty food shops, and even in some larger grocery chains. There are two honey showcasing recipes that I want to try out this week. One is an ambitious salmon dish with berries, honey and lime and one is a tamer but exotic pine nut honey tart. And if you're as fancy as Marissa you could even serve these dishes on Acacia wood platters.

By the way, there's a new feature on this blog that I've forgotten to tell you all about. You may have noticed the long list of recipes on the right side bar have gone missing - but don't panic- if you click on the recipe index link at the top right of the page you'll see a much more organized list that makes it easier to find a recipe by dish category - salad, fish, meat, dessert etc.

Honey Berry Chipotle Salmon
Adapted from a recipe that appeared in the December 2004 edition of Bon Appetit

1 cup frozen blackberries, thawed
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons chili powder
4 6- to 8-ounce salmon fillets with skin

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Press the berries through a sieve into a bowl and discard seeds. Take 1/4 cup of the pressed berries and put it into another bowl with honey, oil and lime juice. Whisk together for a glaze.

On a plate mix the brown sugar, cumin, salt, and chili. Dredge the salmon into the mixture and place each piece on a baking sheet. Brush with the honey, lime glaze, reserving a bit for a sauce to serve the fish with.

Bake the salmon for 15 minutes and serve warm withe the unused glaze drizzled over the top.

Pine Nut Honey Tart
I found some beautifully photographed pine nut tarts on several websites, and then found one with a pretty simple recipe on

If you don't use Acacia honey, heat the honey over a low flame for a few minutes to make it less viscous and easier to work with.

2 cups flour
1 cup butter, divided
2 tbsp powdered sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Acacia honey
1 lemon
3 cup pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the flour and 1/2 cup of butter into a food processor and mix until it looks like bread crumbs. Add the powdered sugar, 1 tbsp of water and 1 egg and pulse until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the food processor bowl.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 9 inch baking tin. Prick with a fork and chill for 10 minutes. Bake the dough for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cream 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of sugar. Then add in 3 eggs and beat. Add in the honey. Add the zest and juice of the lemon to the mixture as well as the pine nuts and the salt.

Pour the mixture into the baked dough and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Let it cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

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