Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tumultuous Beginings - Parshat Breishit

I've been blogging for two years now, but haven't written a post about Parshat Breishit - the very first portion in the Torah. In year one I went public a few weeks too late and in year two I got caught up in the swing of the holidays. This year I'm not gonna let that happen. On Wednesday night we'll extend the celebration of Sukkot a few more days with Shmini Atzeret ("The 8th day of stopping") and Simchat Torah ("Rejoicing in the Torah"). On the latter we'll complete the reading of the Torah only to  start reading it all over again the very same day. Then, the next day on Shabbat we read the full portion of Genesis - so I'd better get to it.

In Genesis we read about God creating the world in seven days. He starts with heaven and earth - but it wasn't how we think of them now- at first they are unformed and void, think primordial soup (no, that will not be the recipe this week). God sets about bringing order to chaos - on the first day creating light and dark and proclaiming it a good thing (way before Martha ever did).  Day two brought a distinction between the waters of the earth and the sky. Day three brought the appearance of dry land masses between the seas and sprouting of vegetable and fruit plants. Also good. Day four brought the moon and the stars to shine at night and the sun to distinguish the day - another good idea, a way for us to forever measure time. Day five brought some more living breathing things come into being - creatures of the sea and birds of the sky - not only are they good, they get blessed to increase and multiply. Day six things get crowded - cattle, critters and humans oh my! This was not just good, this was very good. And humans get a special blessing - increase and multiply and master the universe. On day seven it was time to create rest, establish a holy-day, and take a break.

Bringing order to chaos is a favorite activity of mine, under certain conditions. I love transforming a pile of groceries into a few delicious dishes, overturning a basket of laundry onto the bed and then folding it all neatly into drawers, or culling several post it's with messy scrawls into one neat to do list. Perhaps it is the divine impulse in me, or the type A personality, but there is a pull for me towards the unformed. The text calls the state of the world on that first day before order was implemented "Tohu Vavohu." As a play on the word, I've been thinking of a "Tofu Vavohu" stir-fry.



Delicious order

Every time I make a vegetarian stir fry, the tofu doesn't get the kind of crackly, crunchy crust that I'm after. I've tried using a lot of oil in the pan and giving the tofu it's own time in there before involving any vegetables. But the saute pan method wasn't doing it for me so I tried a baking pan. Last time we were making stir fry I tossed cubes of tofu with some of our soy sauce, sugar and sesame seed "dressing" and spread them out on a baking pan. They went unto the oven at 375 for 15 minutes, and came out exactly how I wanted I served them over the stir fried vegetables that I prepared while the tofu was roasting, and I doused it all with our lip smacking dressing. So order was made of yet another mess.

Tofu Vavohu
Makes 2-4 servings depending on how hungry you are.

1 clove garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grated ginger
pinch of chilli powder
1 package of extra firm tofu
1 red pepper, washed, seeded and sliced into match sticks
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
optional: cooked rice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Drain the tofu and cut into 1 inch cubes.

Mix the first 7 ingredients to form the "dressing." If you are having trouble dissolving the sugar heat the dressing gently over a low flame and stir until it dissolves.

Take half of the dressing and toss it with the cubed tofu. Spread the tofu out on a silpat lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, until golden brown and a bit crackly.

In the mean time, heat the olive oil in a wok or a large saute pan over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add the cut vegetables and stir for 3 minutes until slightly soft. Add 2 tbsp of the dressing and stir fry for another minute.

If you'd like to use rice in this dish, portion some into 2-4 individual bowls. Divide the vegetables into each bowl and spoon the tofu over the vegetables and drizzle another 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing over each bowl. Enjoy warm.

A meat stir fry


  1. That is the best name for a dish I've ever seen. Ever.

  2. Ha! I've been sitting on this one since high school!