Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gotta Getaway - Parshat Shelach

Jonesing for a a day trip, a weekend get-away, a summer vacation? The bright weather in this season makes me want to be outside exploring new places, stumbling upon small pleasures in the absence of obligations.

In this week's portion, Parshat Shelach, a few Israelites get to go on a get-away. A group of twelve men set off from the desert to the promised land for a short expedition. In pre paper-back-travel-guide era, they had to discover the culture of the place all on their own. The report (and the souvenirs) that they would bring back to the rest of the nation would serve as a pseudo travel guide for the nation's impending entry into the land of milk and honey.

However, ten out of twelve travelers gave this destination a thumbs down. Ratings like this on Trip Advisor might not irk a large Hilton or Holiday Inn chain, but God gets upset. They were giving bad marks to the land He was gifting to them. He wanted the nation to look forward to reaching their destination after 40 years of wandering - not hear this report and decide they'd rather choose another destination. God didn't want them getting hung up on the fortified cities that would be hard to conquer or the strong people living inside of them - He wanted them to delight in the massive grapes, figs and pomegranates the men came across and brought back for the nation.

But, like on any well rounded review site, there are those who extoll the places that have been bashed. Two of the twelve guys, Joshua and Caleb, come out in strong support of the venue "It really is lovely, flowing with milk and honey - we can overlook/overcome the obstacles!" For the continuation of the story, visit last year's post.

This year, we'll revisit those souvenirs. Grape clusters so large the 12 Israelites rigged them on a large plank that two people had to carry. Purple green figs bursting with ripeness. Large pomegranates containing thousands of jeweled seeds. Sounds like produce worth sneaking past the sniffing dogs at customs. Especially pomegranates that someone would be kind enough to turn into juice for you to drink, or to add to a drink. We've already brought you a Pomegranate Margarita so it's time for another pomegranate-pink drink. This time with Vodka.

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan
Inspired by a cocktail in Ina Garten's Back to Basics

1 ounce Vodka
1/2 ounce Cointreau or other Triple Sec
1 ounce of Lite Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice Cocktail (this is a watered down version of the Pom Wonderful Pomegranate juice which is less intense and bitter than the regular one)
1/2 large lime or 1 ounce of Rose's Sweet Lime Juice

Measure the liquids into a shaker. Squeeze the lime juice in an add in several ice cubes. Shake well and pour into a chilled margarita glass. Garnish with some lime rind and start sipping!

Friday, June 3, 2011

And Vinegar - Parshat Naso

Last year there was shavuot, graduation and Parshat Naso all in the same week. Well the graduation parties ended last weekend and Shavuot isn't until next week, but we will read the weekly portion of Naso this week, and I'd like to revisit a theme: the Nazir. This is someone who
takes on extra responsibility by making a vow to act more like a priest than a citizen of the world- no wine, no haircuts and no mourning.

What I didn't tell you about last year when it comes to the Nazir is that not only is wine forbidden, so are all manner of grapes - the text tells us "he shall abstain from wine and all other intoxicants, neither shall he drink anything in which grapes have been steeped, nor eat grapes fresh or dried... nothing from the grapevine - not even seeds or skin." Well that is certainly a culinary limitation. But since one can't take on these vows anymore I thought we would use a grape inspired dish - but with a little subtlety.

Last weekend Sam and I were visiting his family in DC and cooked a collaborative Shabbat dinner. Sam was busy roasting fish while his mother put together a salad and I was roasting sweet potatoes as well as some string beans with balsamic vinegar.

I always thought that balsamic was a wine vinegar, but after some online reading, it turns out it uses unfermented grapes. It would still be outlawed for a Nazir. I love balsamic vinegar for it's sweet yet astringent taste (too much on it's own burns my nose though). In particular I find it complements lightly roasted vegetables. But last week it wasn't enough - the large batch of srting beans came out of the oven tasting a bit bitter. To solve this taste conundrum I sprinkled lime on top of the beans and came up with a recipe I wanted to share with you.

Roasted String Beans with Balsamic and Lime

4 cups of green beans, trimmed and washed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 lime
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss 4 cups of green beans on a baking sheet with 2 tbsps olive oil,
salt an pepper and roast for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven, and cool 5 minutes. Then queeze the juice of one lime over the beans and drizzle with 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar.

Parmesan would go nicely with this if your going dairy.

Sorry no time for pictures - things have been hectic around here with the launch of the Jewish Teacher Corps and the culmination of the Wanderings and Wonderings Program.