Truth & Lies

Once again, I’m writing a politically charged article that I had not planned to write. But what I have to say needs attention as history is repeating itself, albeit in a different arena.

One of the many reasons we moved to Israel (and there are many) was the fact that it provided us a much more affordable launching pad to travel to Europe. We always dreamed of traveling, and have been able to take advantage of low-cost airfare and shortened travel times.

John and I just returned from two glorious weeks in the Czech Republic. For our last day’s excursion, we arose very early to make the hour train ride from Prague to Terezinstadt, one of the 633 European Nazi concentration camps. We knew it would be a most difficult day.

In 1780, the Hapsburg emperor, Josef II had a fortified town built as a deterrent to Prussian attacks. Surrounded by high walls and moat, the lovely island of a village was continually inhabited until 1941, when a truly diabolical plan was hatched.

There needed to be a spin put on the Nazi’s true program of liquidating the Jewish population of Europe. A different face to show the world. A kinder, gentler, human face. A mask for what was truly happening. A concentration camp “showplace” so to speak, to prove to the International Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies that anything they might have heard about the unethical, inhumane treatment of “undesirables” was just rumor. Terezinstadt became the perfect place for their propaganda machine.

The town was emptied of its Bohemian residents, which once numbered about 5,000 people. Apartment buildings were turned into dormitories for over 500,000 Jews over the next three years. But this was no ordinary camp. For most, it was a sorting place on the way to the death camps in the East. For a select few of the most elite… artists, composers, writers, doctors, professors – and children – it served a different purpose. While most people suffered and died from malnutrition, disease, cruelty, a select few thousand were chosen to be the faces of Nazi propaganda.

Away from the crematoria, the fierce guard dogs, the machine-gunned sentries, the brick walls and iron bars, was a lovely village. Lush gardens filled with fresh vegetables tended by the Jews in their model village(which actually served the Gestapo…the Jews were forbidden to eat from the plots they tended upon threat of being shot if discovered). There were cafés, theaters, a symphony orchestra, choirs, and happy Jewish families, well-dressed, well-fed, well-cared-for. A large town square provided for ample fresh air, exercise, picnics and outdoor concerts. All a lie. The inmates were only allowed out of doors when visitors came. It was a cruel ruse. A mere facade. An act.

From this part of the town, propaganda films were made. Fake documentaries to hide the truth of atrocities being committed just a few hundred meters away. Films like “The Fuhrer Gives the Jews a City” and”GhettoTheresienstadt. “For three all-too-short years, these chosen few (many were children) had a temporary reprieve as humanitarian agencies were paraded through this “typical” camp.

However, from within the walls of Terezin, something else amazing was happening. The children were organized and taught by artists such as Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. They wrote stories and poems and published their own little weekly newspaper. They created art. With the help of composers Viktor Ullman, Patel Haas and Hans Krasa, they staged magnificent plays. The most famous is an original children’s operetta, Brundibar, about a mean organ grinder(Hitler) persecuting helpless children in a dystopian land. With the help of brave woodland animals, they chase the organ grinder away. It was performed over 50 times for the Nazi officers and their special guests, although no one seemed to catch on to its symbolism. Still, the weekly artistic performances gave the Jews an outlet for their misery and proved a temporary diversion.

After the SS and Gestapo sat to have their portraits drawn by rather famous artists of the day, another type of art was being produced…. and hidden away for posterity. These were the true sights of what life was like within the camp. As under cover of darkness, trains of human cargo would come and go; more people added to the pre-existing crowded conditions; death ruled, and crematoria destroyed the reality of human life snuffed out prematurely, the truth was being painfully recorded.

After the Jewish inhabitants served their purpose, they were sent on to the death camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen. Thousands crowded into boxcars standing room only, deprived of water, food and bathroom facilities for days at a time. Many of whom died in transit. Soon, World War II would be over, only to be replaced by the Communist regime. Terezin would be reinhabited by local population.

Even though the camp serves as a memorial to the atrocities of man’s inhumanity to man, today there are stark and surreal inconsistencies. Local villagers now inhabit many of the town’s dormitories that once housed The Jewish population. Laced curtained windows look out across the street from old abandoned barracks once crammed with the suffering. Who in their right mind could live here? What could they think? How can you raise a healthy young family with reminders of torture, suffering and death directly across the street?

It’s an indescribable juxtaposition. The most inconceivable absurdity was the antique bazaar, set up in an unused, dilapidated dormitory building. Today it sells old furniture, housewares, vintage clothing – and leftover remnants from the Nazi and Communist regimes. For me, it was just too much to bear.

It was a bone-chilling winter day. Bleak. Strangely silent except for my muffled sobs as we walked the desolate streets haunted by memories of the past. The train ride back home was equally painful, punctuated by the deafening squeals of the metal wheels of the train as it pulled into Prague Station. John and I just needed time to decompress. To find something a bit more uplifting.

We returned to the comfort of our warm hotel room and turned on the television to watch the Winter Olympics from South Korea. We don’t have television in our home in Israel ( by choice), so this was a real treat. Or so we thought.

About fifteen minutes into the pageantry and festivities, the camera turned to a lovely young woman and a bevy of her smiling, clapping, red-outfitted entourage. This was none other than North Korean Kim Jung Un’s sister, second in command and Minister of Propaganda!!! This, a head of an absolutely evil, totalitarian regime, was being hailed by the commentators as a diplomat, an ambassador of peace and goodwill!!! After the day’s outing, we could hardly believe what we were seeing. “How radiant and happy they are! So cute! Look at her smile!” This was the same story being peddled to the ignorant masses around the world. The personification of an Evil Empire bent on the destruction of man disguised as innocence and congeniality. Obviously, the propaganda was having its desired effect. I could only think of the starving millions in North Korea, the defectors, the over 150,000 “political” prisoners – and of Otto Warmbier, the young Jewish student who made a class trip to North Korea. He was imprisoned for taking down a poster as a souvenir of his time there, brutally tortured, then shipped back to the States many months later, comatose. His last few days were spent in a US hospital, never regaining consciousness…. just one example of the cruelty of this regime. Were his parents watching this mockery- and what could they think? As the American reporters fawned over Kim Yo Jung and bashed Vice President Pence as a nefarious sort, we recalled a subtitle from the Terezin documentary:

We are, ironically, about a week away from the Jewish holiday of Purim. A time when we celebrate the bravery of Queen Esther and her heroic saving of the Jewish people from destruction. It was during the captivity of Israel in what is now present day Iraq/Iran. A decree had gone out under the evil Haman, the king’s vizier, for all the Jews to be killed. His plan was thwarted by a fearless and outspoken woman, who drew the king’s attention to the diabolical scheme ( which would mean her ultimate death as well). This was a favorite play of the Terezinstadt Jews, performed numerous times as a source of hope and reminder of eventual justice. We need more people today, willing to call attention to the TRUE injustices of the world – at what reality truly exists. We can no longer gloss over the twisted and evil and downplay the good. Or we will be doomed to replay the same tragedies.

If you have been touched by this article in any way, please share this post. The world needs to see the hidden truths.

Hidden Truths

I really had not planned to write a political post. Not at this time, anyway. But after this week’s events, I cannot keep silent.

Last Wednesday  I received a series of ‘interesting ‘ emails and calls from one of my daughters in Los Angeles. She had been out with a group of her young, hip, urbane, well-educated friends. It was a very diverse group racially, religiously, politically. They had begun discussing the Mid East. And they had begun discussing Israel: the colonialist, apartheid, unjust occupier of Palestinian land. Their talk led to the unfair treatment and persecution of all Arabs, most notably, Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian  poster child.

My daughter tried to refute the many assaults against Israel….after all, several family members have made Aliyah. She stated historical facts not only about the Jewish people returning to their ancient and promised homeland, but cited modern day treaties and declarations.  She explained that Israel was the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where Arabs have rights, where Arab women do not have to wear burkas or hijabs- where Arab women drive freely, unescorted; where the university system is open to all; where not only Jews, but Christians & Muslims can and do serve as members of Knesset (Parliament), doctors, engineers, architects, actors.

The discussion then moved on to the current US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the rightful capital city of Israel. My daughter confronted one of the men as being anti-Semitic. His response to her was that he was by no means anti Jewish, but was anti Zionist (against Jewish people claiming Israel as their home). And then the Tamimi affair popped up.

Ahed Tamimi is the blond haired, blue eyed 17 year old Palestinian activist. She is often pictured wearing “love” and “peace” T shits and jeans. Very Western. She hails from a long line of Hamas supporters. Her  cousins include the first female plane hijacker and a female suicide bomber. The parents of Ahed have a long history of using their children, most notably, Ahed, in the front lines of protesters, rioters, and hecklers of IDF soldiers. In the latest video clip, two IDF soldiers have come to the Tamimi home. There were only two soldiers. It was not a raid. That December day, there had already been several outbreaks/riots in the village of Nebi Salih. There was a report to check  the Tamimi house, as that was a usual hotspot for terrorist activity.

In the clip, Ahed can be seen taunting the soldiers. She and her sister (filmed on cell phone by a friend), slap and punch the soldiers, spit on them, curse them, and punch them about the face and head. The soldiers show great restraint and eventually leave the premises. They do not engage or respond to the verbal or physical abuse. After the video is posted to Facebook and other social media as a resistance movement advert, Ahed is arrested. It has since become a propaganda piece for those who claim the injustice of the Israeli occupiers towards the Palestinians.

My daughter texted me and called to find out what we knew about it. She wanted factual information to rebut what she perceived as inaccurate reporting. I had been following the story for the past month in several of our media outlets. In fact, I bookmarked a couple of the stories.

My first surprise came when I went to retrieve the articles. They had been removed!!! So I googled Ahed Tamimi. I found plenty of articles from the mainstream American and European news outlets, Memri, Al Jezeera, NPR, the Guardian, the BBC, Newsweek. All slanted in Tamimi’s favor. It wasn’t until page 16/20 that I found an article published in The Tower which told the whole story. I copied it and sent it to my daughter. An hour later, I could no longer bring up that exact article in my google search. Also, all the other reports from our Israeli news outlets were not present. I finally reached the end of my search on page 20 to find this:

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The plain truth is that the real truth has been hidden. Obscured. Obfuscated. Obliterated.

I have recently been hearing about how Google, Facebook, YouTube and other outlets have been selectively removing facts with which they do not agree. But here it was up close and personal, so to speak. Revising facts. Absolute censorship. Selective reporting. Even fake news. I was seeing it all firsthand. How can one see both sides of complex issues when truth is hidden? How can this happen when there is supposed to be freedom of press and speech? Where is our world heading when basic up-to-date information is twisted, slanted, or in this case, altogether buried?

Much food for thought. In the meantime, we are trying to provide our daughter with both sides of this story, as well as with reports of the good that comes from this country. Operation Good Neighbor: the IDF work to provide food, clothing, and desperately needed medical care to Syrian War civilian casualties. The Search & Rescue teams Israel sent after the Nepalese and Mexican earthquakes. The well digging, water purification and reclamation projects by Israel to help draught-stricken African nations.

In conclusion, I refer you to an article written in November,2015 in The Tower Magazine(thetower.org). It is entitled “How a Family Became a Propaganda Machine.” I hope my next posts will resume a more pleasant tenor….

The Great Bird Migration

The first week of January, John and I took a trip to the Hula Valley to witness the yearly winter migration of the Great Cranes from Europe to Africa. It was something we had planned on doing for two years, and was a spectacular sight.

Located in Israel’s far north, the Hula Valley lies just north of Lake Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Formed by the Syrian-African Rift, the valley is framed by the Golan Heights to the east; snow-capped Mount Hermon to the north; and the Naftali Mountain Range to the west. In this small area, a mere 30 km long and 7 km wide, is some of Israel’s most fertile agricultural land filled with fruit orchards, wheat, corn, peanut and barley fields, spotted with well-stocked fish ponds and lined with canals.

It is also one of the best places in the world for bird watchers. Israel, lying at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa – the Rift Valley especially- is a superhighway for over 450 species of traveling birds. That’s over 500,000,000 birds each year!!! The Hula is the last green spot before flying over the vast Sinai and Sahara Deserts in Africa. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come in the fall and spring to see the great bird migration.

At the end of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s, this area was a vast swampland inhabited by a few Bedouin tribes who made their living weaving papyrus mats, and a few early kibbutniks, mostly from Russia and Poland. It was a harsh land and malaria was always a problem. The Jews settling in the valley bought the land for their kibbutzim from the Bedouins at exorbitant prices. Even then, as they tried to farm the area, they were constantly under Arab attack.

Shortly after independence, in the early 1950s, the Jewish National Fund invested in the first national engineering project- the draining of the swampland. One third of the valley was totally swampy, another third had groundwater right under the surface. The water came from the aquifers of Mt Hermon, the Dan River and tributaries of the Jordan River which runs from the base of Hermon through the Hula Valley and into the Kinneret. The draining left spontaneously igniting peat bogs, which then had to be cleared, but which added to the richness of the soil. Canals were built parallel to the fields for adequate drainage, and in the late 1980s, man-made lakes and ponds were added and stocked with many varieties of fresh water fish. Today, not only is it prime agricultural land, but Agamon Hula has become a nature reserve for a number of animals.

Twice a year over 300 species of migratory birds (White Pelican; Cormorants; Great Spotted Eagles; Imperial Eagles; Cranes; Storks; Snowy Egrets;Herons) rest and refresh here as a midpoint in their travels.

We started our day early in the morning- entrance is free to wander the 8.5 km of meandering trails. Bikes are welcome and available for rent as well as golf carts and family friendly covered pedal carts. Our first stop was one of the beautiful bird watching platforms right on the lake. We took binoculars, but free telescopes are available for public use on each platform. Our morning sighting started with several varieties of duck, coot and loon as well as a few herons and graceful white egrets.

No one could have prepared us for what was in store next. We decided to buy a ticket to the tractor-hauled, camouflaged duck blind for a trip into the fields.

Passing through magnificent landscape, we finally arrived at a massive field where over 42,500 Great Cranes awaited. They had just arrived from Russia and were feasting on corn. In order to prevent these creatures from reaping havoc in the farmland, over 3 tons of corn per day is scattered in one of 3 fields specially designated for the ravenous sojourners. What a sight it was!

From there, we went closer to the lake to watch thousands of White Cranes and long legged storks.

Also in the adjacent fields were a herd of Water Buffalo being raised for their milk which is used by a nearby kibbutz for artisanal mozzarella.

Because these birds are so well fed here, many refuse to leave, staying in the area throughout the Hula, Golan and Galil year round. The White Cranes and Blue Herons are often spotted tagging after herds of local grazing cattle. The fish in the Kinneret are also an abundant food supply. Just last week, right above our house, there was a regal presentation of Aya, or spotted hawks. This truly is a land of diversity and plenty, and we are so blessed to be able to live in such a remarkable place.

Making the Connection

IMG_0862The United States today is facing a time of the erasure of its history; “cultural misappropriation” and confusion; fractioned families; identity confusion. Colleges and universities have been taken over by waves of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and Boycott, Divest and Sanction programs against Israel. There has been an ongoing bias in the UN and in the media against Israel.  Also, there has been a growing shift towards secularism and away from any and all religion. How then to connect the Jewish young adult to his/her heritage? How does one foster a connection to Judaism, to the land of Israel, to awaken a dormant spirituality, to create a sense of heritage, belonging, and identity?

Aaron Botzer, who immigrated to Israel in the late 1970s has done exactly that. From humble beginnings in the scenic mountain town of ancient Tsfat in the Upper Galilee, Aaron has cobbled together an amazing program for Jewish young adults. Livnot U’Lehibanot, Build and Be Built, is a program like no other in Israel. It is a holistic, physically and spiritually challenging Jewish experience that connects the participants to their heritage and community in an open environment. Combining hiking through the beautiful countryside while learning about the history, the land, the ecological balance, and the flora and fauna is only one experience to feed the soul. Through nature, hands-on experiences, seminars, connection to the local community, field trips, and unique cultural opportunities, the soul is elevated and can make connections not otherwise drawn.

Situated in the mystical city of old Tsfat, which is literally built atop layers and layers of history provides another advantage. Not only are the youth able to enjoy the artsy and spiritual vibes of this unique place, but the Livnot Center itself, is built on a most amazing archaeological site, the Kahal. Located on a 700 square meter site, in the heart of Tsfat’s ancient, Jewish quarter, are underground stone passageways and tunnels leading to rooms, structures, ritual bathing pools (mikvaot), synagogues, and homes from the 16th century, Tsfat’s Golden Age. The participants in this program spend time actually working on the ongoing excavations and renovations of the site. It provides a unique hands-on opportunity to connect with the past as well as to enjoy all that it offers in the present. There is a large communal hall that has been unearthed and restored. It contains wood-burning ovens from the 1500s, where today, pizza is made and challah is baked. The carved-out stone seating area along the walls of this spacious stone room is lined with richly colored Middle Eastern pillows and cushions – a perfect place for seminars, musical concerts and just hanging out.

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Livnot U’Lehibanot is not only concerned with the past, but community service programs and opportunities to volunteer within the local communities provide a link to present-day Israel. There are seminars and group discussions led by leading experts in different fields. Also, there are interactive workshops, in art and music, challah making, cooking, folk dance, ecology and sustainability, and spirituality. Fantastically fun and spirit-filled Shabbat celebrations are another highlight of the program. There are classes in leadership training as well, as the future leaders of society make up the different groups.

This life-changing program is not affiliated with any particular denomination of Judaism, which is very unique here in Israel. The philosophy behind this is that all denominations have the ability to influence one another for the good of all. There is no pressure on the youth to go one way or another, just to enjoy and grow from the experience. There are many different paths of Jewish spirituality that vary from individual to individual. It is quite open-minded in its holistic approach, which helps bridge many gaps. Ultimately, to form a bond with the Almighty, with Judaism, and with the land of Israel is the ultimate goal. Here, the young adult will meet many different people from all over the world – not just the States, but Europe, South Africa, Canada, Australia and South America. Trained mentors oversee the activities in a safe and fun environment.

The Livnot programs consist of short term 1 week, 2 weeks, and 6 weeks intensives. Each group consists of no more than 24 youth. The intensives are highly subsidized by generous patrons, making it very affordable indeed (a full week including room and board is only $195/ a six week course runs $500). It is perfect for the person who has made a Birthright trip and wants something more – to take that adventure to a higher level.  There are winter programs, running from December through February; summer programs from May through August; and special holiday programs. Perfect for the university student as well as the post graduate, who is looking for a different kind of spiritual experience. To date, over 1000 alumni of Livnot have completed the program and have gone on to become active young professionals and lay leaders in their own communities back home.

“In retrospect, there has probably been no single life experience                     that has had such a profound effect on my life. I was able to discover what a gold mine was out there for Jewish souls. Shabbat evening, with its candles and sensual setting, was a profound experience of peace and belonging, connection and fulfillment. My life has been forever transformed.”   Avi R., Program T25

” I am reminded of how one week in Tsfat set me on the path of personal legacy. Livnot has been the catalyst of my Jewish journey…my program showed me that being Jewish isn’t about scrambling to save people from being washed out by modern society, but rather that we are privileged to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We are connected to a thriving, growing family and culture that is infused with thousands of years of spirituality and wisdom.”  Abigail C., Program 256

“Life altering is an understatement!”   David B., Program 126

For more information, as a potential participant, or to donate – contact www.livnot.org

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Recipes & Ideas for the Fall Feasts

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It’s a few days after the observance of Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – and I’m finally beginning to catch my breath. John & I had just returned from two weeks in Europe, and I was having five extra guests plus my son (on army leave) over for dinner. I wanted a really pretty table and menu with a minimum amount of hardship. Plus, we would be celebrating a traditional New Year Seder here in Israel.

For the centerpiece, I used my Rosh HaShannah seder plate which I got at Shalom House in Tarzana, California. Underneath I laid (silk) fall leaves with grapes and chestnuts (I picked off the ground in Geneva & will cook later) surrounding the plate. I decided to use my autumn colors tablecloth so I didn’t have to iron my good white damask one. Gold trimmed placemats, my autumn (meat dishes) china, and we were almost good to go. Hollowing out a few tiny acorn squash and inserting a tea light in each one was inexpensive, easy, and really lovely.  I put a hostess sized Tamar Gourmet Preserves or Chutney at each of the guests’ plates.

Now for the traditional foods and their meanings: the Seder Plate contains nine symbolic items, each associated with a blessing. The first is a pomegranate. I discussed the symbolism of the pomegranate in my last blog post. May the 613 arils remind us of the commandments in the Torah, so we  can have a holy year. Scallions or leeks are used to remind us of the whips of taskmasters and oppressors. May we never come under the rule of oppressive dictators and Pharaohs again. Amen! A gourd: may our good deeds in the coming year be as numerous as seeds of the pumpkin. The head of a fish (I use a paper one) so that we may always be the head and not the tail in the year ahead. A beet or carrot. Some of the words in Hebrew form the meanings or word play for the symbolism. They just don’t translate into English well. Also, each community has their own tradition – go with me on these. The beet (or carrot). May G-d in His mercy keep our enemies far away from us. A double Amen as we live in a very uncertain world these days. Black eyed peas: a few traditions on this food. One is that our enemies will be turned back; another is that the eyes of G-d, the angels and holy ones watch over us to guard us and guide us throughout the year. Dates. I discussed the significance of the date palm (tamar) last post, but may we bend under troubles and not break, as other less supple trees during storms.

I really love these sticky, sweet fruits for so many reasons. As an object lesson, think on the date palm. They bend: they give when pressure is applied. When an intense wind storm hits, they drop their fruits. I like to think of myself as being especially fruitful during a hard situation. Yes, sometimes I lash out and can be pretty miserable; but like the date palm, that’s when I want to be spreading the most help, the most cheer, the most optimism to others. Going with the flow, accepting what I have no control over, and being as positive as possible.

The next food, perhaps the most famous combo associated with Rosh HaShannah is apples and honey. May we have a sweet year. A year of health!!! A year of joy!!! A holy year. A year of prosperity. A year of peace!!! And lastly, the wine and the challah. From Rosh HaShannah through Simchat Torah we use a round bread, not the traditional braided one. The roundness is to remind us of many things – the cycle of the year and the cycle of life. The fact that G-d has no beginning or end. He was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Also, the rounded loaf looks like a crown. During this season we crown Him King of our Lives.

I love the new round challah cover I just bought for the holidays in Budapest last week. It was made by a 93 year old woman who somehow survived during the Holocaust and now works at the Dohany St. Synagogue. She’s a lively, chatty old soul – but has had to slow down over the years due to her failing eyesight. She now uses a machine instead of sewing by hand, but either way, this is a beautiful piece I’ll treasure always. It says in Hebrew “Sabbath Peace and Holiday Happiness.”

During, the holidays, I try to keep to a healthy diet, using as many of the fall fruits and veggies – Israel’s Seven Species, and incorporating as many of the symbolic foods as possible. Because there is so much cooking this time of year, I also try to make things as simple as possible. Hope you can try a few of these as well during your fall feasts.

BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD, ITALIAN STYLE                      parve, serves 8

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked black-eyed peas or 1 large package frozen peas
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 large stalk celery (or 6 tiny Israeli stalks)
  • 6 large scallions (green onions)
  • 1 small bunch flat, Italian parsley, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  •  Italian dressing (I make my own using 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1/4; 4 cloves smashed garlic; 1 tsp oregano; 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper; 1 tsp sea salt)

Soak the dried peas overnight, covering with boiling water. Drain, rinse, then cook in salted boiling water 15 minutes. Let simmer for 1-2 hours or until softened. Drain & rinse well. Drain again.                                        You can save yourself all the extra trouble by using defrosted frozen or drained & rinsed canned black eyed peas, if available.  Place peas in a large bowl. Cut up veggies into a small dice. Add to bowl. Pour the Italian dressing over top. Before serving, mix in the minced parsley leaves. Garnish with parsley leaf and the top of a pepper. Refrigerates and keeps well for leftovers. Can be served as a hearty salad lunch or as a side with either meat or dairy. Protein packed!!!

HARVEST QUINOA SALAD                                         parve   serves 6-8

I love quinoa. It’s gluten free and great for special needs diets; so versatile and easy to prepare!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked, fluffed quinoa (cook according to package directions)
  • 1/3 cup dried sweet pitted cherries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1’4 cup sliced almond pieces
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or pumpkin cubes
  • 1/2 cup dressing (if in US, Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette is amazing!!!!! If not, recipe follows…

Cook the quinoa according to package directions to yield 2 cups. Fluff and set aside to cool in large bowl. Halve and de-seed a butternut squash or small pumpkin. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. In  220*C/450 *F oven, roast the gourd for about 15-20 minutes until tender. Let cool. Add dried fruits, sliced scallions and almonds to quinoa. Mix gently to incorporate. Cube the flesh of the squash/pumpkin into small bite sized chunks and add to quinoa bowl. Mix gently. Pour dressing over top, and mix in. Can be served room temp or refrigerated. This makes tasty leftovers – if there are any!!!

Dressing: Blend well-

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup blush or rose wine
  • 2 Tbsp red onion juice (I use my garlic squeezer to juice my onion) and remaining pulp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger juice (squeeze fresh) – optional
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg -optional

 

              ROASTED FIGS ON BABY GREENS                    parve      serves 6

Another easy one, that is raving delicious! I cook the figs with all the other items I’m roasting that day, running the oven only once….

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, halve washed figs. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil, salt & pepper. You can also add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, but only if it’s sweet (3-5 coins on packaging). Roast at 220*C/450*F oven for 10 minutes.  In large bowl, put pre-washed mesclun or baby green salad mix. Lay the roasted figs on top SAVE THE JUICE!!!!!! Add a few thinly sliced purple onions to the top, and sprinkle on some candied pecans.

Dressing: pour the reserved fig juice into a small bowl. Add a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. Squeeze in 2 Tbsp onion juice (I use my garlic press) and pulp. Blend well & pour over salad just prior to serving.

SHOESTRING VEGGIES SALAD

This is also quick and easy. It’s very colorful and oh so good for you. Can be served at any meal. The veggies can be bought pre-prepared and mixed or you can run the fresh veggies through a food processor. I use my mandoline slicer –

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  • 3 medium red beets, peeled, raw, and julienned
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, raw, julienned
  • 1 large kohlrabi or jicama, peeled, raw, juilienned
  • 1/3 cup Brianna’s Blush Wine Salad Dressing if in the US. If not see recipe for the dressing above in the Quinoa Salad.

Enjoy, my friends. I hope your Fall Feasts are sweet – filled with family, friends, good food & good music. And in this holy season of introspection before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atoning:

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The Seven Species

“For the Lord, your G-d, is bringing your into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and (date) honey; a land where you will always have bread and lack nothing.”                                         (D’Varim)Deuteronomy 8:8

 

I absolutely love this Scripture!! It is so true!! Israel is exactly as this is described – from the warm springs of Park HaMayanot/Sachne and Tiberias to the cold waterfalls of Banias and Ein Gedi. So beautiful! And the area around our town in the Galilee is surrounded by grove sand groves and groves of olive trees and pomegranates, ripe for the picking! And the figs…don’t even get me started!!! There are seven species of plants indigenous to Israel, each with their own Biblical and spiritual characteristics. They are fig, date, barley, wheat, pomegranate, grape and olive.

We are fast approaching the Fall Feasts, the Jewish holidays of Rosh HaShonnah (the New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Covering of Sins/Atonement); Sukkot (Tabernacles & Harvest); Shimeni Artzeret (Great Rejoicing); and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah). The stores are all brightly decorated with holiday sales on clothes and home goods. The outdoor markets and grocery stores are full of late summer produce, and I am thinking RECIPES!!!! Today, I’ll incorporate the Seven Species into each recipe, giving the significance of each.

                                    FIGS (Tay’ ah neem)

Did you know that there are over 70 varieties of figs???? Green, brown, red, purple, yellow – small and large. I didn’t until last year when John and I went wild fig picking in the Golan. Israeli figs ripen only at this time of year, late summer, and are best picked at sunrise before the bees come! There are both male and female fig trees, and the buds never open, but go on directly to the fruit. Some species are very seedy, others more fleshy, some are dry, others moist – and a couple varieties are actually poisonous in their alkalinity. Picking these can cause terrible itchy rashes, so we learned to take along gloves and a lemon to rub on our skin afterwards. I use the figs mostly to make my Tamar Gourmet Fig & Port Wine Conserves, but we absolutely devour them roasted on the grill or in the oven!!! They are so succulent, sweet, tender and delicious. Served on top a warm cheese or in a salad – yum!!!

Archaeologists here have unearthed ancient clay pots with pressed, dried figs – 3000 years old!!! They are said to be used to help with constipation, high cholesterol, and warts, and from Biblical times have been written of as a true aphrodisiac. There is a legend that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was actually a fig.  The Hebrew word for fig, te’enah, is very closely related to the word for trouble, ta’anah. This is one kind of temptation that would be totally hard for me to resist!!! Adam & Eve, put fig leaves together to cover their nakedness after their great disobedience. The fig is spiritually symbolic of the virtue of patience because they take so darn long to ripen!!! And the fig tree is often used as a metaphor for Israel. With that said, I present an amazing, and easy to assemble salad-

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CARAMELIZED FIG SALAD (Serves 4.  Pareve or Chalavi)

  • Ingredients:
  • 8-12 ripe figs
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 heads Endive
  • Blue or Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
  • Candied pecans

2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar (best quality for sweetness)

Wash and quarter the figs, checking thoroughly inside for any unwanted crawlies. Place the quartered figs on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Wrap up well and put on the grill or into a 400*F/220*C oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Vent steam, and let cool. Do NOT throw out juices!!!!

Arrange washed endive leaves on a platter. If dairy meal, sprinkle the blue or gorgonzola crumbles. Lay the cooled roasted figs on top. Sprinkle the pecans onto the salad, and drizzle the fig/oil juice over that. Sparingly drizzle the Balsamic vinegar over top. Amazing!!!

                                 OLIVES (Zay teem’)

Here in the Galilee the olives grow EVERYWHERE!!! Rows and rows! EVERYWHERE!!!!! It is a source of food, wood, cosmetics, light. The olive tree grows in the harshest of environments and lives for centuries!! The listed, gnarled tree and its oil are mentioned a lot in the Scriptures. The dove bringing good news to Noah carried an olive leaf in his beak. It is now the international symbol for peace. Kings and priests were anointed with pure olive oil – as in Tehilleem, (Psalm 133) – ‘Behold how good and pleasant is the dwelling of brothers in unity. Like the precious oil upon the head running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down over his garments, so the dew of Mt. Hermon descends upon the mountains of Zion.‘  Jesus spent his last night on earth in agony in the Garden of Olive Trees in Jerusalem, directly across from the Temple Mount. The symbol of modern-day Israel is a menorah flanked by olive branches (Zechariah 4:2-6). And olive leaves signifying the desire for peace decorate the insignia of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Because next month, I will be participating in the olive harvest, pressing, curing, and making olive oil, I’ll save the recipes for a later date…

                  POMEGRANATES (Ree moe neem’)

Pomegranates!! So beautiful – make great centerpieces!!! So healthy – in this season I drink my fresh squeezed pomegranate & orange juice every day for the antioxidants. Prevalent everywhere here in nature and in art! And so spiritual!!! I have learned to love them even more since I’ve been here.

We used to do homeschool lessons with the pomegranate. The pomegranate has 365 arils or seeds inside. Count them – and there are 365 laws in the Bible. Silver pomegranates adorned the hem of the robe of the High Priest. They were actually tiny tinkling pomegranate bells. The High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur each year to make atonement on behalf of Israel. If he was not perfectly pure, he would die – so a rope was attached to his waist. If the pomegranates stopped tinkling, it was a sign that something went wrong… Josephus Flavius described the oil lamps illuminating the inner colonnade if the Holy Temple. They were in the shape of pomegranates. If you cut the fruit in half across its equator, the Star of David is visible. The top of the fruit has a royal six-pointed crown that also forms a Star of David. The juice stains scarlet red – remember the saving power of the red blood on the lintels of the door of the Israelites escaping the angel of death in Exodus; the red pitch that covered both Noah’s ark and the baby basket of Moses; the scarlet thread that hung from Rahav’s window in Joshua…. lots and lots of meaning there. Especially at Yom Kippur.

So, I present you now with a fabulous great-for-company dish that is borrowed from the Jewish people of Northern Africa. A one-pot wonder, great in a crockpot for Shabbat, easy to make… I adjust the spices way down for my family, so be alert to that. Serve with Israeli Couscous or rice… and bread for sopping up the sauce!

       NORTH AFRICAN CHICKEN STEW (serves 4-6.           Basari, but can omit chicken & sub veg broth for vegetarians)

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 pound (1/2 kg) boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite sized bits
  • 2 cups chickpeas, canned or cooked
  • 1/2 cup dates, cut into slices
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 purple onion, cut into bite sizes
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut bite sized
  • 1 chipotle or ancho chili, minced (can omit if too hot)
  • 4 carrots. peeled and cut up
  • 1 cup broth (chicken or veg)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice, concentrate
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Silan (date syrup) or honey
  • 1 juiced lemon plus the zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pistachios

Mix the dry spices together in a small bowl.  Coat the chicken pieces in the spices. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the spiced chicken mixture. Brown on all sides. Set aside. In same pan, heat oil and sauce’ the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, ginger & chili about 6 minutes. Add chicken back to skillet along with (canned or cooked) chickpeas. Stir in broth and pomegranate juice, honey or silan, and tomato paste. Bring to small boil, then turn way down to simmer until mixture thickens. In crockpot, I set on high 4 hours or low 6-8 hours.

Remove to serving bowl and top with sliced dates, pomegranate arils, pistachios, and fresh cilantro. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and add a dash of lemon zest as well. Fragrant and intensely flavorful meal!!

          GRAPES (Ah nah veem’)

There is a song I used to love from waaaay back in my childhood. It was an Israeli song about the coming year in Israel. Despite all the hardships faced in the past year, next year was sure to be sweet – peaceful and relaxing. “Od tireh, od tireh, cama tov yee’hee’yeh” – how sweet it will be. We’ll sit on the patio at sunset with a big platter of freshly picked, cold, sweet red grapes. Today, I live the song… of course grapes are made into the sweet, holy Kiddush wine, but I’ve recently tried something new. You MUST try this one!! Easy, yet elegant and bursting with color and flavor! Serve it as a a pareve (neither meat nor dairy) dessert at any meal, or over a warmed brie with crackers. Oh – don’t forget that bottle of wine!!!!

 BAKED GRAPES

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup red, seedless (or concord!!!!) grapes
  • 1 tbsp honey or silan
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp finely minced lavender leaves or rosemary)
  • Sprinkling of freshly ground sea salt

Sooooo easy peasy!!! Just combine all ingredients and dump onto a piece of aluminum foil formed into a well sealed packet. Roast in the oven 220*C/400* F for 10 minutes. Pour over ice cream. Over sponge cake. Over warm goat cheese or Brie. Or just enjoy as is…

WHEAT ( Khee tah’)

Wheat is the absolute staple life. We use it to make bread. According to my friends in the Mystical City of Tsfat, wheat teaches us many spiritual lessons. It represents our ability to change and improve, a great lesson for this holy tie of year. According to Jewish tradition, the word “Adam” has two meanings: taken from the soil (ah dah mah’) – and man (likened to the divine adahmeh l’elyon)created in the image and likeness of G-d. There are two sides of human nature – the pure, the divine, and the sinful. The first side of the soul wishes to contribute to society, to act selflessly out of unconditional love. To love G-d and neighbor. The other side, the sinful nature (yetzer ha rah) is totally selfish, prone to sin. There is always an internal struggle over the two natures. We must learn to live our lives continually dying to self, choosing truth and good and right. Not easy at all. But in dying to ourselves, we produce much fruit. All of our actions are a reflection of our innermost being. What actions do you express?

The next recipe uses cracked wheat in a traditional Israeli cold salad, tabbouleh. With the addition of grilled veggies, and either chicken strips or feta cheese crumbles (not both), this makes a hearty meal. It will be one I serve in our Sukkah in a few weeks, to be sure!

             TABBOULEH WITH A TWIST

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  • Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound  (250 grams)cracked wheat (cook according to package directions)
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh mint
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 small purple eggplant
  • 2 large zucchinis
  • 1 purple onion.halved along the equator
  • 1 whole garlic
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup feta crumbles (optional)
  • 1 grilled seasoned chicken breast in strips (optional)

Cook cracked wheat according to package directions. Rinse, drain, let cool.

Brush sliced veggies with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill or oven roast until nice and tender (this includes whole unpeeled garlic). I find the grilling method lends an incomparable layer of depth of taste and smokiness.

In large serving bowl, combine the cracked wheat, mint, parsley, 1/4 cup olive oil, squeezed juice from lemon, salt and pepper. Add warm veggies. Squeeze the soft cloves of garlic from their skins. Toss and serve, chilled. If desired, you can dress this up with the addition of either crumbled feta cheese or chicken strips.

   DATES (Tamareem)

I’ve saved the date palm, the Tamar, for last. It is the Hebrew name I was given when I was born. I LOVE my name!!!! Tamar (pronounced Tah mahr’ – NOT Tay’marr!!) I love it’s deep meaning. From Tehillim, the Psalms -number 92: the righteous person will flourish like a date palm. It is a beautiful song we sing at the Shabbat table, and a beautiful dance. I love the image of the date palm, growing strong and stately  in the barren desert land. Tall, thin, graceful, it bends in severe windstorms without breaking from stress like other, heavier trees.

And the fruit it produces is sweet, sticky, like caramel. The honey mentioned in the Scriptures was most likely the syrup extracted from the dates, Silan. At least this is what the archaeologists and anthropologists are now saying. I love to use this product! Very healthy and you only need a little to sweeten.

Date palms have been growing in Israel for thousands of years. Bedouins still feed ground date pits to their old, toothless camels who can no longer chew. The pits are rife with vitamins and nutrients. Fibers from the palm fronds are used to weave baskets and make ropes, mats, even sandals!! The fronds were used to make thatched roofs for houses, to build tabernacles, and to wave in praise of a passing King. Like the fig, the date palm comes in male and female.

Palms are labor intensive to be productive. When Max was in Mechina, he used to prune the sharp fronds in the early spring.

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Fresh baby palm fronds brought home by Max. Soooo Cool in their intricacy!!

The female plant often has to be fertilized by hand with pollen from the male tree to produce fruit. Up and down ladders, all by hand. Because it is fairly salt tolerant, it grows in the desert and especially around the Dead Sea and Gaza areas. It can thrive where few other plants can. In the late summer, nets are cast over the hanging bunches of dates as they ripen. Everything is done by hand. After the sugar cane was brought to Europe by the Crusaders (who ripped up large swaths of Israeli palms and planted sugar cane), the dates & silan waned in popularity. The fresh dates are usually bright yellow or red in color and can be found attached to their stalks in bunches at the shouk. Most people are familiar with the sun-dried dates, brown and plump, glistening with stickiness.

Anyway, we just returned from a vacay in Scotland, where fudge is all the rage. Except it’s not like American fudge. It’s more of a caramel. So I found and made experiments using dates to make this scrumptious treat. It’s a British style fudge, or American style caramel – Israeli style! Easy! No cooking involved!

 DATE CARAMEL FUDGE

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  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dates (Medjoul are the best!!!!), pitted
  • 1/2 cup tahineh (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • Sea salt

In a food processor, or in a bowl using an immersion blender (that’s what I did), combine the PITTED dates, tahineh, oil and vanilla. Blend until a thick, creamy paste is formed. Spread out in a parchment lined baking dish. Press down. Scatter sea salt on top. Put in fridge or freezer until hardened (fridge about 2 hours; freezer about 30-45 minutes). Cut into small, bite-sized squares, which can be wrapped individually in waxed paper.

 

 

 

 

Food, Fall & Feasts

When I lived in California, I always had a big, beautiful and very productive garden in which I grew organic, heirloom vegetables. Our fruit trees provided us with plums, peaches, citrus, cherries and figs. It seemed sensible with five children and one steady income to supplement our grocery bill with healthy, garden-fresh produce. With super abundant yields, I learned home canning and preserving, making sauces, pickles, chutneys and jams to last us into winter. Living in earthquake country, it also seemed wise to have a store of food on hand in the event of emergency. And when I needed holiday or hostess gifts, I used what I had made to create some pretty fabulous gift baskets. There was always enough at hand to give to a new neighbor or friend in need.

Coming to Israel, not only was continuing an organic garden important to me, but making my (award winning in California) lines of preserves, chutneys, relishes and pickles would become my business – Tamar Gourmet. We were so blessed to rent a home with huge concrete planter boxes outside every window and surrounding our upstairs balcony. The first thing I did when we moved here was to plant.

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Herbs grow outside my kitchen window

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Red, Choggia & Golden Beets

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Peach Blow Tomatoes

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Brandywines on the balcony

From the beginning of our Israeli adventure, the realization that there was more to Jewishness than the narrow Ashkenaz (European Jewish) culture than that which I was brought up in. This place is diverse in its mix of Jews from all over the world: the Spanish Sephardim, the Middle Eastern Mizrachi; the Ethiopian, Ugandan and Indian. They have all come here with their own palates creating a taste explosion of spices and food preparation styles, each with their own contribution to this remarkable land. What fun it’s been to get a sampling and learn from the different cultures!!! And for me, experimenting to create a fusion of the different flavors has been challenging, and many times yielding amazing results.

This time of year, late summer, is especially wonderful here, as everyone seems to be preparing for the great Fall Feasts!! From Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Mercy & Forgiveness – to Sukkot, the Feast of the Harvest where we dwell for a week in tabernacles – to Simchat Torah, the rejoicing over the Five Books of Moses given to the Jewish people by G-d. And each holiday comes with its traditional foods (yes, even Yom Kippur, a fasting day, starts with a heavy meal before and ends in a sumptuous break fast).

I’d like to share with you some recipes incorporating these different cultures and traditions.

                     SWEET PEAR PICKLES                    

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I guess home preserving runs deep in my blood, because I remember my parents making pickled pears every year before Rosh HaShannah. Last year, I was going through some boxes and came across my dad’s recipe! So, I’m glad to be able to continue the family tradition. Totally Ashkenaz!

As my parents did, I use the tiny, brown Sekel pears. They are hard and sweet and stand up well to pickling, retaining their firmness without any mushiness. They keep really well for a year, and are delicious as a side dish or sliced up in a salad with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts. I’ve also used them on top of a cake with my Tamar Gourmet Vanilla Pear Conserves as a filling for the middle layers. Absolute heaven!

 

Ingredients: (makes 8 pints/4 quarts)

5 pounds Sekel Pears (2 1/2 kg)                             2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice                 3 cups spring water                                                  1 cup apple cider vinegar                                     2 cups sugar                                                               4 sticks cinnamon (broken in half for pint jars)                                                                               whole cloves                                                              24 whole peppercorns

Thoroughly wash the jars and lids. Submerge  them in a large pot filled with water so that they are completely covered. I use a wire rack underneath to insure water circulation. (If using Mason, Kerr, or Ball jars, sterilize lids only, not screw bands). Bring to boiling and let boil for 20 minutes while you prepare the pears and syrup.

Wash the pears and cut in half. No need to peel them. Core out the seeds. Place in large bowl of ice water with lemon juice to prevent browning.

For liquid –  Add vinegar, sugar and 3 cups spring water to a pot and heat on stove until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Remove jars from water bath. Add 1/2 stick cinnamon, 8 cloves & 4 peppercorns to each PINT jar. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 16 cloves, 8 peppercorns to the QUART size.  Firmly pack in the halved pears. Ladle syrup over the top until there is 1/4 inch headspace. Place lids on top. Screw on the bands.

Place filled jars back into hot water bath and process (bring to boil) for 10 minutes to insure any germs are gone. Take out of bath and let cool on clean towel. The lids will make a slight popping sound as they seal, and should not feel springy when pressed on with finger. This could take up to half an hour. Store when room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.

                              CHUTNEYS

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Chutneys give limitless opportunity for experimentation. I make several varieties and use them on sandwiches, as part of an hors-d’oeuvre board with crackers and cheese, and even mixed into cooked rice as an accompaniment to meats. Especially yummy on burgers or with spices Indian food! I’ve  developed my own basic recipe, but really enjoy playing around with different veggie, fruit and spice combos to create the ultimate, perfectly balanced pickle.

The British set seem raving mad about their chutneys, each having their own opinion on the perfect combo. I’ve learned a few new twists from my Indian friends from B’nei Menashe. But ultimately, I rely on what I have at hand and my family’s taste preferences.

I start with a kilo (about 2 pounds) of vegetable – my last endeavor used up the beets in my garden. Sooo yummy! You can try cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, peppers… Into a very large pot, cut peeled veg into bite sized pieces. I always add 1 whole, peeled purple onion, cut up. Then add your fresh fruit: 2 cups cut up pears or apples, apricots, peaches, mangos, pineapple. Mix in a cup of dried fruit such as dates, raisins, cranberries, cherries, Add 1 cup apple cider vinegar to the mixture in the pot. Next stir in your sweetener, if you need it (to your taste. Often I leave out the sweetener as the fruits make it rich enough). You can add honey, brown sugar, silan – date syrup- or maple syrup. The spices can be as conventional or exotic as you wish. Powdered cloves, ginger, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, curries, allspice, turmeric, chili, even espresso powder in small amounts or horseradish are interesting additions. Use the spices that best suit your flavor palate. Add a little at first and increase very, very gradually. The chutney flavors tend to intensify during cooking and in the week after. After bringing up the heat on the stove to a near-boil, I let the mixture simmer for a few hours, until the fruits and veggies are soft, and the fragrance in the house becomes irresistible. (Works great in a crock pot too!) Then I ladle the hot chutney mixture into sterilized jars, sealing the lids, and processing for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath. The chutney keeps for a year unopened, but can be stored in fridge for up to a month after opening.

PICKLED BEETS

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My Choggia Beet harvest was pretty sweet last fall, so I made the most delicious – and easy pickled beets. They are soooo beautiful!! If Choggias aren’t available, golden or red beets will work as well. They’re pretty tempting straight from the jar, but my favorite is to place them on a bed of mixed greens with my pickled onions and feta cheese. I use a little of the juice as a dressing. Pretty amazing!!

Ingredients:   (3-4 pint jars)                                                         2 pounds (1 kilo) beets, peeled & sliced into circles                                                                           1/2 cup white (or champagne!!!!) vinegar         1  cup spring water                                            1/4 cup sugar                                                           1 /2 cinnamon stick per jar                                   8 whole cloves per jar                                             4 peppercorns per jar

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water bath 20 minutes. In large bowl, mix the vinegar, water & sugar, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cloves and whole peppercorns to each jar. Pack in beet slices. Pour liquid over top. Add the cinnamon stick. Seal with lid and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Keeps for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

This summer, my basil has been out-of-control outrageous! I’ve trimmed it up numerous times for Caprese Salad (sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, drizzled olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper & basil leaves). It’s a tremendous add to my spaghetti sauces, pizzas and panzanella (stale bread cubes, tomato pieces, red onion cubes, and basil with an Italian dressing poured overtop).Lately, I’ve been making pesto, canning much, freezing some in ice cube trays, and stirring it into a 15% cream sauce with some grated Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano to serve atop pasta. Really delicious! So – here’s an easy Pesto Recipe that’s sure to delight! Pour it over roasted chicken for an awesome change of pace.

  PESTO

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3 cups fresh, washed basil leaves                       1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil                                    4 nice big pieces garlic                                          1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Place all of the ingredients in food processor or cup of an immersion blender and process until a thick paste forms. Can be used immediately; refrigerated; frozen in ice cube trays (stored in freezer baggies); or processed in glass canning jars.

Pickles are all very popular here in Israel – the Yemenite and Mizrachi Middle Eastern Variety. Pickled eggplants done up many ways, pickled cauliflower, turnips, olives, cucumbers, green tomato, carrots. Most are very vinegary and most are harif – very, very spicy for my family’s tastes. You will not find the usual Kosher, half, sour garlic dills here (although I have an old New York deli recipe that I’ve played around with). These assorted pickles can be found at any falafel stand and are often served at table before a meal.

Here, I will present 4 versions of pickled carrots, each representing the different cultures.

          SHABTAI’S CARROTS (HARIF!!!!!)

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These are sure to knock your socks off!! Please adjust to your own taste-

Ingredients:

2 pounds very fresh, hard carrots, peeled & sliced into rounds (1 kilo)                                     5-10 small, green chilis, sliced into rounds (please don’t rub your eyes – and wear gloves. I did this with him, and it burned my skin for hours!!!!)                                                                  1 white or yellow onion, sliced and quartered                                                                1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds                                             1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds                                     1 tsp carraway seeds                                                  3 cups white vinegar                                                 1 cup water                                                             3/4 cup sugar                                                          1/4 cup salt

Shabtai didn’t bottle to sterilize his jars (I would). He recycled old mayo jars (I wouldn’t). I guess the peppers will kill almost anything…

In large bowl combine the veggies.

Toast the seeds over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to release fragrance. The seeds should just start popping, but not turn brown.

In another bowl add vinegar, water, sugar & salt. Mix well for sugar & salt to dissolve as much as possible. Pour over veggie mix and let sit for an hour. Ladle into jars. Put in fridge.

     ROLA’S EEMAH’S CARROT PICKLES

This is a Mizrachi family recipe. It’s more than possible that it came from the Persian Jews who immigrated to Israel to escape persecution and genocide in the 1970s, as did Rola and her parents.

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh, hard carrots, scrubbed & sliced into strips                                                        1 small head cauliflower, washed, cut into bite sized pieces                                                     1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into thin strips                                                                1 Tbsp mustard seeds                                                1 Tbsp coriander seeds                                            1 Tbsp cumin seeds                                                 1 Tbsp whole cloves                                               1 Tbsp whole peppercorns                                   1 large bay leaf, crumbled                                   1/2 tsp curcuma (tumeric powder)                     10 cloves garlic, peeled, whole                                600 ml (2 1/2  cups) white wine vinegar              100 grams (1/2 cup) white sugar                         1 tsp salt for each jar made.

Cook the carrots and cauliflower in very salted boiling water 5 minutes to soften. Drain.  Toast seeds and bay leaf in large pot until it releases it’s fragrance, about 1-2 minutes on medium heat. To this, add vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.

Arrange veggies and divided garlic cloves to each clean (sterilized) jar. Pour pickling liquid over top to cover the veggies completely. Add 1 tsp salt to each jar before sealing. I would place this in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for safety reasons, but Rosa didn’t seem concerned. Let it sit for 2 weeks before serving at room temp.

               URI’S PICKLED CARROTS                          I really like Uri’s carrots. I  stayed with Uri during my pilot trip, and after a long day, I would come back and devour a bowl of these light and tasty carrots! He was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors of Eastern Europe. Uri fought in the 1967 War, and is an amazing vegan chef who still practices yoga and goes for long bike rides. This is his own recipe ( I added the sugar just to balance the tartness).

1 kilo (2 pounds) peeled carrots, sliced into rounds                                                                       3 green onions, cut into bits                                 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder                                 1/2 cup white vinegar                                               1/4 cup sugar                                                           1/2 tsp salt                                                              2-3 fresh dill sprigs

Cook the carrots in boiling, salted water for a few minutes to soften. Drain. Combine rest of the ingredients, minus green onions and mix well to dissolve. Pour over carrots. Stir in green onion. Place dill sprigs on top. Cover and refrigerate.

MY MOM’S  “COPPER PENNIES”IMG_4353-525x700

OK, so this was a staple in my house when I was growing up. My mother would give them out to friends and neighbors at holidays. Today, they remain a favorite item. John & the kids use the sauce to spoon over backed chicken or roast beef. They’re a  Shabbat table regular at our house. Years ago I “stole” her original clip out recipe… if she were alive today, I hope she’d feel honored…thanks, Mom!

copperpenny

(Note: here in Israel, I haven’t been able to find canned soups, so I’ve learned to make and store jars of my own – even tomato!!!!)

Next week’s post will have recipes using the Seven Species of produce grown here in Israel and their significance, both spiritually and culinary…. stay tuned!