Finding Order in Disorder & Chocolate Olive Oil Passover Cake

Chocolate Olive Oil Passover Cake

I’m still the same as when I last wrote-focused on COVID19 most of the day and trying, like everyone else, to function as best possible. Beyond the obvious irony of living in a pandemic during Passover, how I will celebrate it this year has been hard (beyond simply finding holiday foods).

I know that many of you, like me, struggle to find grounding and order in this surreal moment. For me, the idea of the order of a seder and all of the holiday’s beautiful rituals that take us out of our normal daily routines is confounding and challenging now. If Passover already turns my regular routine upside down by changing what I eat, and completely transforms my kitchen, already creating a disruption, how do I create a semblance of the “normalcy” of the holiday routine when nothing is normal now? And, how to celebrate the idea of freedom and liberation when there’s so much sadness, stress, and darkness in our lives? How are we not consumed by these emotions and recognize the potential to survive and embrace the beautiful things in the world?

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Vegan Tahini Hamantaschen

Vegan tahini hamantaschen

Purim Sameach! A quick post to share with you my new hamantaschen recipe-vegan tahini dough filled with pomegranate molasses-tahini-maple syrup-sesame seed mix. These are definitely not overly sweet and almost savory.

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Rosh Hashana: Apple Galette & a Plant Forward New Year

Apple galette

As we reflect on our own behaviors of the past year during the High Holidays, we must examine the impacts of our food choices. We are living in a world that is experiencing the effects of climate change (1/5 of all greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock for meat and dairy consumption), the unprecedented burning of the Amazon for livestock grazing and food along with the horrific treatment and killing of farm animals for food (including for kosher slaughter), dwindling freshwater sources and water pollution.

Though these global issues can seem overwhelming and daunting, we are living also in an incredible moment where we have the resources to help to solve these problems, guided by Jewish values and ethics. Judaism challenges us to live to the highest standards, including how and what we eat; bringing more humane and environmentally sensitive plant-based foods to our tables will reduce climate emissions, cut water consumption and protect animals. Continue reading

Purim: Vegan Treats and Sustainable Tips

This Purim round-up includes lots of tips and recipes to help you prepare plastic-free, vegan, healthy-ish and sustainable mishloach manot (gift baskets). There’s a range of recipes including, of course, vegan hamantaschen.

As important as giving treats to friends and family is giving matanot la’evyonim (gifts for low-income people) and I offer some resources for local groups for you to support.

 

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Nina’s Apple Cake

Nina’s apple cake

This is the story of an apple cake. But not the ingredients or how to make it. It’s the story of its maker—someone who brought warmth and joy to my family’s home for Shabbat meals and holidays and who selflessly cared for so many people (including painstakingly preparing a beloved cake for voracious eaters!) despite a past that was far from sweet.

The baker of the famous apple cake is Nina Merrick, an 89-year-old resident of Silver Spring, Maryland. She and her husband, Leon, have been friends of my family’s ever since I first began to study with her to prepare for my bat mitzvah, a connection that came about thanks to her lifelong commitment to teaching Judaism. Continue reading

Rosh Hashana: Easy Baked Apples

Baked apples for Rosh Hashana

I love visiting farmers markets wherever I am in the world to explore the diversity of local produce and foods, talk with farmers, and soak in the festive atmosphere. And, I am never disappointed in my regular jaunts to markets when visiting family in Chicago. During my recent visit, I found an incredible offering of apples I had never heard of grown by Nichol’s Farm. They had colorful bins arranged in two long parallel lines, fully stocked with apples arranged from the most tart to the sweetest.

I decided to experiment with many of these beautiful apple varieties by simply baking them with a touch of maple syrup and doused in cinnamon, with the intention of letting their flavors and textures be the centerpiece of the dish. The fruit alone would stand out for each of its deliciousness. And, what better (and super easy) dessert for Rosh Hashana? Continue reading

Vegan Sweet Noodle Kugel

Vegan sweet noodle kugel

I’m going to be creating vegan updates to many traditional Ashkenazi dishes. Even though the recipes will be schmaltz and dairy-free, the dishes generally are still unhealthy because they are made with sugar, white refined flour, etc. Like their traditional counterparts, they definitely should be enjoyed sparingly, rather than  part of your everyday menu.

This first recipe for sweet noodle kugel was originally posted on the Jewish Food Experience site. It’s an adaptation of my grandmother’s beloved sweet noodle kugel that she prepared so often. B’tayavon! Continue reading

Septimania and Turron

Turron

Before going to Catalonia, Septimania and turron were two words I’d never heard before. Septimania– a Jewish kingdom? Yes, it’s true. I first learned about it while visiting some family who live in a tiny village on the French side of Catalonia (population 100. And, no they actually aren’t the only Jewish people in the area). The village is nestled at the base Mt. Canigou, a revered peak to Catalans. Continue reading

Portugal and Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah cookies

I had an unexpected detour in my travels last year and ended up in Portugal, a place I hadn’t planned to visit and certainly not during Jewish holidays. Portugal had initially been a refuge for Jews fleeing Spain during the Inquisition but it subsequently followed in Spain’s footsteps, expelling or forcing the conversion of its Jewish populations. It was surreal at times to return to the country which now has a Jewish population of 1500 people now, spread amongst a few cities and towns. I spent time in the stunning Algarve region on the southern coast, including the town of Faro, where previously there had been a Jewish population, though the cemetery and museum were closed when I tried to visit. On the other hand, there’s a small but vibrant community in Lisbon, where I spent Simchat Torah. It is a spectacular, dramatic mountainous coastal city filled with the most beautiful buildings whose exteriors are covered in the most colorful tiles. It is quickly becoming an international cultural and technology destination and I predict it to become “the next Berlin.” Continue reading

Shabbat in Germany

Plum cake/pflaumenkuchen/zwetschgenkuchen/flomenkikhen

I recently spent time in Germany-mostly Berlin, with a couple of days in Munich–where I visited   Jewish museums, the Topography of Terror, Holocaust memorials, artists commemorations of the Holocaust (including the Places of Remembrance and stolpersteins), and read lots of books and commentaries (including here, here, here and here).

Trying to comprehend and process my thoughts and emotions about the dichotomy of Germany’s history and the present day was challenging and hard to reconcile, especially against the backdrop of Berlin: a modern, colorful, vibrant, fun, flourishing, art-filled city with a sizable immigrant community from around the globe and a small Jewish community.  There are now four yeshivot and 13 synagogues in Berlin, I heard Hebrew spoken on the street a few times, and had dinner with several Israeli artists living in Berlin. Continue reading