Friday, July 27, 2012

Parshat Devarim - Zucchini Territory

I'm back for the beginning of the last book of the Torah, Devarim/Deuteronomy. As I'm into the last week before my due date this seems fitting. Equally fitting because the book opens with Moses addressing the nation in the 40th year, on the first day of the month (Next week, right before August 1st, I'll hit the 40 week mark).

In this week’s portion, Parshat Devarim, Moses lecture opens with a history lesson (similar to the amazing Shlock Rock song); Having emerged a large nation from the land of Egypt, Moses needed assistance in the leadership department and God appointed judges to aid him, but that combination didn't seem to keep the nation in check. The 12 spies sent to scout out the promised land delivered a less than favorable report, which threw everyone into a panic and their disloyalty is punished by having a generation wait it out to die in the desert. Trying to reverse the punishment, some scramble into the land of Israel to prove their loyalty, but it's against God's wishes and they're smote by the inhabitants. So the nation traveled and wandered for quite some time. And during that time Moses was punished and can't go to the promised land. Joshua will be his successor and is present as the nation travels on the final leg of their journey.

That terminal jaunt takes them though some territory that they must tread lightly on. Starting with the land of Esav's descendants, then the land of the Moabites and Amonites, God explicitly instructs them not to walk around like they own the place. Because in fact they will never own it and must act like gracious visitors, paying for any food or water consumed and passing through peacefully. When they try this out in the land of Heshbon they're met with resistance from the king who refuses to let them pass, despite their promise to pay for food and drink. God commands the nation of Israel to take possession of his land, and they do so successfully and continue on a conquering streak. Some tribes start to settle in these border areas while others are commanded to do so in towns of Israel proper. But they must all keep up the fight until everyone has a place to call home. I'm sure this was a struggle as after their hard journeys they were probably dreaming of a home cooked meal, not more battle.

I have a recent home cooked meal to share with you. It doesn't have a very strong tie in with this week's portion, but it was certainly inspired by bounty from someones territory that I gladly paid for. This someone was set up at one of the local farmers markets I am enjoying frequenting. It's a whole different experience to shop this type of market when pregnant (OK to shop anywhere is different - people are so friendly and interested in you!). Every farmer wants to know when I'm due, if I know the gender of the baby, how I'm holding up in this heat. As my due date gets closer it gives me a little rush to say - I'm due in a week - don't know if it's a boy or a girl and I'm being sure to stay hydrated. Hand extend free peaches to me, home remedies for pregnancy ailments are doled out and gender predictions abound. It's a lot of fun. Plus I come home with great produce - like the giant zucchini I bought last week that served us for multiple meals. One of the winning dishes was a new polenta concoction. After cooking the polenta in a saucepan I transferred it to a baking dish, topped it with shredded, sauteed zucchini and cheese and baked it. The polenta stayed soft and pillowy and the seasoned zucchini and sharp cheese made for a flavorful topping on every bite. 

Polenta with Shredded Zucchini and Cheddar

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large zucchini, shredded or grated
3 cups water
1 cup polenta
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 block cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add in shredded zucchini - season with salt and pepper, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Slowly stir in the polenta and continue to stir until it reaches a smooth consistency. Add in salt and pepper to taste. After 5-10 minutes of stirring transfer the thick corn mixture into a small baking pan. Smooth it out with a spatula and cover with sauteed zucchini, then the cheese. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes and serve hot - the polenta should stay creamy. Yum.

Past Recipes for Parshat Devarim
Last time I posted about this Parsha was in 2010
Sweet and Tangy Chicken Wings
Asian Short Ribs (had been linked to Golden West, here is a reprint)

Asian Short Ribs
Adapted from Jeff Nathan's Family Suppers: Bringing the Ones You Love to the Table

3/4 cup of soy sauce
3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar (I buy the Trader Joe's one)
2 tbsp of sesame oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed with a good quality garlic crusher
Pinch of ground black pepper
6 scallions, thinly sliced
6 lbs of short ribs

Mix all of the above, minus the ribs, in a measuring cup or small bowl. Place the short ribs in a glass or Pyrex baking dish and cover with the marinade. Let it sit overnight.

Flip the ribs and let marinate another 4-7 hours. separate the ribs into batches of like-sizes - group the big ones with the big ones, medium with medium and small with small.

Turn on the broiler. Start with the batch that has the smaller size ribs and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Next, cook the medium batch for 6 minutes on each side and then the large batch gets 7 minutes per side. Keep these in an oven at 150 degrees until you serve them.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Complain of Grain - Parshat Chukat

I was already thinking I would make tabouli this weekend before reading the weekly Portion, Parshat Chukat, and visiting my past relevant post. Go there to learn about this significant portion where Moses loses both of his siblings and is barred from entering the promised land.

The complaining Israelites can be found once again in this week's portion - lamenting the lack of water in the desert, as well as some of the very items that the spies recently reported could be found in the land they are headed to. "Why did you make us leave Egypt to bring us to this wretched place, a place with no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates? There isn't even water to drink!" Clearly, they are not the best bunch when it comes to delayed gratification. Soon after their whining, Moses hits a rock for water instead of speaking to it as God instructed and receives the crushing punishment of not being able to complete the 40 year journey with his nation.

This year I've got another grain recipe - one that actually pairs well with tabouli. It's based on a rather processed form of grain - Japanese Panko bread crumbs - that adds a great crunch to foods in frying or baking. The plain Panko readily takes on the flavors of herbs and spices and I often use olive oil to bind such a mixture together - mixing the dry Panko with the viscous oil reminds me of playing in the sand at the beach. Which is exactly where I'd like to spend the last few weeks of this wonderful pregnancy - under a beach umbrella, with my toes dug into some wet sand and my hands gripping a bottomless cup of chilled sparkling lemonade.

The Tabouli with the Panko Turkey

Couscous TabouliServes 4
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp of olive oil, plus 1tbsp
3/4 cup of couscous
1 cup of water
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, add the water, salt and 2 tsp oil and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Let the couscous sit in the pot with a cover on for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and refrigerate to cool completely.

Add the juice of the lemon, 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to the the cooled couscous. Mix well, then add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. Serve cold as a side dish or with tortilla chips as a snack.

Parsley and Pepper Panko Turkey
Adapted from two epicurious recipes (this one and this one). Serves 4

1 egg
2 tsp mustard
1 cup Panko (I can easily find Jeff Nathan's in my supermarket)
2 tbsp parsley, plus 1 tsp
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried chili pepper
Salt and pepper
6 turkey breast cutlets

Pre heat the oven to 450 degrees.

In one bowl whisk the egg, mustard and 1 tsp of parsley - season with salt and pepper. In another bowl combine the Panko, parsley, olive oil and peppers. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Spread the Panko mixture out on a plate.

Working with one turkey breast at a time, dip the cutlet into the egg mixture and then press onto the plate of Panko, being sure to coat the turkey well with Panko. The transfer to a glass baking dish and repeat with the remaining cutlets.

Bake for 25 minutes, uncovered, and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chosen Frozen - Parshat Korach

On the hottest first day of summer I can remember, all I can think of is ice cream. But since I haven't written here in a month I think I should start with some portion talk first - ice cream second.

This week we read Parshat Korach, chronicling the challenge to Moses' leadership by Korach and 250 leaders in the Israelite camp. They want to know what really qualifies Moses to lead the nation - if they have all been told they are holy people. Moses isn't sure how to handle this confrontation and asks God to sort it out for them. Things don't end well for Korach and his buddies since at that point Moses is clearly the most chosen of the chosen people.

Moses wonders why Korach and his cronies-  themselves leaders (being of the tribe of Levi he is among the group that serves in the Tabernacle) - are hungry for even more power. He tries to talk to some of the group one-on-one but they refuse to even come to a meeting with Moses. "Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also hold it over us? We won't come." Talk about a mud-slinging campaign.

Actually, let's talk about milk and honey. I am a huge fan or milk in general, and specifically when it comes in a frozen form. My little babe in utero has certainly been demanding a lot of ice cream lately, and it got to be time to break out the ice cream maker. I had some leftover dulce de leche in a jar and went in search of an egg-free ice cream recipe to use it up. I wasn't sure if I should go for a vanilla ice cream swirled with the dulce de leche or incorporate the gooey sweet stuff right into the base of a batch. I was thrilled to stumble on a recipe that suggested the latter, had no eggs, used vanilla extract instead of beans and wouldn't keep me on my bare feet in the kitchen for too long : ) After enjoying the finished product with Sam and our friend Jason we all agreed it was the best dulce de leche ice cream we'd ever had. Take that Haagen-Dazs - I challenge your leadership! And because of the abundance of milk and the honey-like dulce de leche, this dish ties in with the milk and honey zinger from this week's portion.

Milk and Honey Ice Cream 
This is a dulce de leche ice cream recipe adapted from - it is egg free
and incredibly decadent but not overly sweet
. The recipes calls for pre-made dulce de leche, making your summer that much more relaxed.

2 cups of heavy cream (I love a Boston local brand High Lawn)
1 cup milk
1.5 cups of prepared dulce de leche (I used La Salamnadra)
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Boil heavy cream and milk in a sauce-pan over a medium flame.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then whisk in the dulce de leche until it has dissolved.

Chill this mixture in a bowl in the fridge, freezer or in the counter over another bowl of
ice - chill completely before pouring into an ice cream maker or it will not freeze!!

Freeze in the ice cream maker according to its directions.

Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden for an hour - if you can wait that long! Or just start enjoying right away.

Past Recipes for Parshat Korach
Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Rosemary and Chili Spiced Almonds

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Shavuot

This year I didn't have the energy to whip up my own cheesecake (such as this key lime version I've loved in the past) but am excited to devour this four-flavored cheesecake by David's Cookie's that we picked up at Costco.  Each slice features some form of decadent chocolate - truffle, peanut butter, chocolate chip, and I'm contemplating how good of a sharer I am going to be this weekend.

Here is a round up of some great dairy dishes for you to prepare for the pilgrimage holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the end of the barley harvest, the beginning of the wheat harvest and the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Feast for a Priest - Parshat Tzav

We're onto the second portion, Parshat Tzav, in the second book of the Torah - Leviticus (or Vayikra). The portion starts off with a listing of several different "korbanot" Hebrew for offerings/sacrifices. Each is brought by a member of the nation of Israel, upon a different life occasion to the Temple, where the priest offers it on their behalf. The occasions include: a sin offering, a guilt offering, an offering of thanksgiving, and a just because offering. 

It's certainly hard for us modern readers to relate to Temple offerings, but seeing this list of times in one's life when you might be driven to bring an offering could resemble a list of times in your life when you might bring someone a bouquet of flowers (I heard this idea from my teacher Alex Israel) - you send roses to tell someone you love them, bring a colorful bouquet to someone in the hospital to wish them well, or patch up a relationship misstep. These gifts are all symbolic gestures that express emotions you are feeling, and in Temple times, sacrificial offerings served the same purpose.

They also serve a more practical purpose - the leftovers feed the Priests who work in the Temple. A system is set up for Aron and his sons, and all priests who come after them, whereby they eat the leftovers that don't get burnt during the process of offering to God. Three of the offerings have a special system set up - the Cohen (priest) that helps an individual bring a guilt offering, a burnt offering or a baked meal offering gets to eat the leftovers from that one all to himself (in the case of the burnt offering he just gets to keep the skin). With all the other offerings - including the bread, oil and wine that accompany many of the sacrifices - they get divided up among all of the priests serving in the Temple at any given time. It's a sound system.

The way that the meat of all the offerings was cooked was by fire on the altar, which is  kept burning continuously. Every morning the Cohen dresses in his linen garments and gathers the ashes that the burnt offerings have been reduced to and places them beside the altar, he then changes his clothes to a clean outfit in order to carry the ashes outside of the camp to a clean place. 

While you may not want to keep your stove on all the time or change into clean clothes just for cooking - you too can enjoy amazing meat. I want to share some of the meat I have been cooking lately for Grow and Behold and invite you to pop over there for some great recipes like London Broil with Avocado Relish or Porter Pomegranate Roast or Root Beer Flanken (if these make your mouth water, think about using the Double Portion reader discount on their site for a Passover order - "DBLP5" for 5% off an order over $50 and "DBLP10" for 10% off over $100).

Happy meat cooking and eating and almost happy Passover!


Perhaps you can find a way to adapt this Baby Moses woven squash basket tart for Passover - I just might try.
Also check out the full Recipe Index for plenty of Passover friendly salads, sides and main dishes!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Empanadas and Pictures from Israel - Parshat Tezaveh Part II

These Empanadas are delicious when served with some cholula hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Pictures as promised.

And while we're on eye candy - here are some culinary shots from my Israel trip (if you're not hungry yet, you will be shortly).

The assembly line at Burgers Bar - note the ketchup smiley face

Wine tasting in the North - I didn't actually taste much

Wild flower lemon Herbal Tea in Jerusalem

First Shwarma of the trip

Towering meringues in Tel Aviv's outdoor market

Trays of steaming "Marzipan" ruggalach (I brought home 2 boxes for Sam)

I took all of these pictures on my iphone!

Dried kiwi! Tel Aviv market

Sam would have loved this shop - fishy fish and olives

Quite the assortment of Baklava

Mixed grill

Mixed grill appears with onions and hummus in my pita!

Nana, or fresh mint leaf, tea

Halva at the outdoor market in Jerusalem

Delicious fruit in Jerusalem's outdoor market

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hello Again - Parshat Tezaveh

It's been a while since I wrote here. Wow, as in two-months-while.

There were several times I attempted to return (I have the unpublished draft posts to prove it), but then lost steam. It started out with some morning sickness, which lead to all day sickness and a general revulsion for food preparation, finding myself completely exhausted at 8 pm, expending my energy on keeping a certain secret, then on sharing that secret with some people before they found out online.

If you're a sharp reader, and I know you are, you may have surmised that Sam and I are expecting! It's a nice piece of news to be able to share here.

I'm feeling good now in my fourth month but for the first few months I wanted nothing to do with my kitchen. Sam valiantly took over our lunch preparations (I mostly wanted cheddar cheese on whole wheat bread with mustard) as well as dinner (mac and cheese!) and breakfast (hold the coffee, way to pungent). Then I was whisked away to Israel for 2 weeks in January (just as my queasiness was subsiding) to lead a birthright trip for young adults from Boston. But now, finally, I'm here to tell you that there will hopefully be another little portion in our lives come the end of July.

Well it's good to be back. So let's get to the weekly portion and the recipe! The last several portions in the Torah have included the instructions for setting up the Tabernacle - how to build it and decorate it. In this week's portion, Parshat Tezaveh, we get the step by step process on how to inaugurate it - and one important piece of the inauguration is initiating those who will be working there. 

Aaron and his sons will be presiding as priests in this holy, portable building. They are given special garments for the job which are described in rich detail (tunics, pants, smocks, sashes, and jewelry in purple, gold, crimson, teal - hello project runway challenge!). But then, to a clothing designer's horror, they get their apparel all mussed up during the rather messy ritualistic inauguration.

First a young bull and two rams are placed in a basket along with freshly baked olive-oil-bread. Aron and his sons are led to the Tabernacle's entrance - or as it is called here "the tent of meeting" - for a good washing. Then they are dressed up in their fine outfits, only to be doused in anointing oil. But that makes them ready to begin the steps of offering their first sacrifices.

They begin by ritually slaughtering the bull from the basket - whose blood they sprinkle on the corners of the alter and the bull gets burned as a sin offering. Next, they slaughter the rams and offer them to God along with the bread from the basket (they get to eat some of this combination too). There is even more use of the ram's blood than the bull's blood. They fling the ram's blood on the alter, smear it on their ears and toes (weird!) and sprinkle some on their clothes. This act isn't seen as defiling or soiling the clothes, rather it is the process that makes the clothes holy. And these holy vestments will be passed down from father to son as each generation takes over the service in the temple/tabernacle. Likely to lead to a hefty dry cleaning bill.

That beef and bread must have made a great combo and it got me thinking of a way to enjoy both at once as a finger food, with minimal mess. While it would have been prohibited for non-priests to eat the slaughtered meat and specially baked bread during the times of the priests, it's perfectly okay for us to make our own beef empanadas in our home kitchens.

Beef Empanadas
Adapted from a Real Simple Recipe (Pictures will be added later today!)

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
2 store bought pareve pie crusts
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beef and break it up into small chunks with a spoon while stirring. Add the tomato paste and spices and saute for another two minutes, stirring until the beef is no longer pink. Stir in the dried cranberries.

Cut the pie dough into 2 inch circles using a cup or a cookie cutter. Divide the beef mixture amongst the circles. Brush the edges of the dough with water and fold each circle in half, crimping the edges down with a fork.

Place the formed empanadas on a baking sheet and brush with the egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until light brown.

I'm wishing everyone a very festive Purim next Wednesday night - click here for my hamantashen recipe (the secret ingredient is orange juice!)- a great way to enhance your celebrations.