Thursday, August 11, 2011

Revelation Remembered- Parshat Vaetchanan

Things are down hill from here for Moses. In this week's portion, Parshat Vaetchanan, Moses makes a final plea to God to let him enter the land of Israel but gets shut down. "Enough, never speak to me about this again." The best he gets is to go on top of a mountain and look at the land he has been yearning for all these decades.

Bummed out, Moses turns to the people with a plea - but this one isn't on his own behalf. He urges them to remember three big things
1) their exodus from Egypt
2) the revelation at Sinai, and
3) all the laws he has shared with them since.
He instructs them to continuously pass these memories on to the next generation and to abide by God's words. If not, the consequences, as he well knows, will be dire.

Funny thing is, the people who Moses is speaking to weren't actually around for the Exodus or the revelation. But Moses treats them like they are and indeed, they are commanded to act as if they experienced it themselves. We're familiar with this idea when it comes to the Passover Seder - but why doesn't a similar ritual exist where we reenact and the tell story of the experience of Sinai? Much like the injunction for Passover, the Torah commands us to remember the experience of Sinai as if we were there ourselves; "Do not think it was your fathers at Sinai who God made a covenant with - God spoke face to face with each of you."

Perhaps we can take this week to remember and retell the experience at Sinai. In the portion, Moses narrates the experience of Sinai so that it will be fresh in the minds of the nation; he sets the scene of fire, and smoke, repeats the ten commandments, reminds them that it was too much for them to hear it directly from God and that they asked Moses to intervene. So what kind of dish would be appropriate to evoke such a scene? It's a stretch, but a fiery red and earthy flavored dish that I cooked up in my kitchen this week just might fit the bill. What do you think?

Sorry there are no pictures of the dish - Sam and I devoured it over the course of two nights and I plum forgot to snap a shot. But these two images are other things that have been going on in our kitchen this week - I made a crispy, salty Rosemary Focaccia (only took 12 hours - urgh!) and turned those sour cherries into ice cream!

Polenta Tomato Cheese Bake
This recipe uses recipe crumbles, a great ground meat substitute. Serves 4-6.

2.5 cups water
1 and 1/4 cup corn meal
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
2 cups fresh spinach or arugula, roughly chopped
1/2 cup recipe crumbles
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 ounce Pecorino cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the water to boil in a medium pot. Generously salt the water and then slowly add the cornmeal, stirring. Add additional salt and pepper and stir for 10 minutes over medium flame until it pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Transfer the polenta to a loaf pan and smooth the top. Let sit for 10 minutes to cool and harden.

In the meantime, in a medium pot, heat the olive oil over a medium flame and add the garlic and onion. Saute for 3-5 minutes and then add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Add the parsley and salt and pepper. Continue cooking without a lid for 5-10 minutes.

Once the polenta has set, invert the loaf pan over a cutting board - the polenta should slide out easily. Cut it into 12 even slices and arrange flat in a casserole dish.

Over the sliced polenta evenly spread the chopped spinach or arugula, recipe crumbles, prepared sauce and then the cheddar cheese. Bake for 15-25 minutes. Sprinkle on Pecorino before serving.

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