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.


  1. The final stretch: so exciting!

    Thanks for the zucchini recipe. It's about that time in the season when there aren't enough meals in the day to eat all the squash that's in the fridge.

  2. Thanks Molly. Yes it's all about the squash!