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.