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There were several times I attempted to return (I have the unpublished draft posts to prove it), but then lost steam.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.


  1. As soon as I read "morning sickness" I said, "Oh, is that so?" Mazel tov, mazel tov. Of course, I'm writing this while spitting on the floor. Glad to know you're feeling more like yourself.

  2. Thanks so much Molly - I can picture you doing just that!!