Fall Foraging: Mushrooms

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I have had the great opportunity to trample through the woods and fields just outside Rock Creek National Park to forage for edible plants, berries, flowers and mushrooms this fall. Foraging aside, I have spent endless hours during Covid inside Rock Creek park. I joke that it is my second home but it really is: I don’t start any morning now without hiking or biking in it, no matter the weather, and end many days with a quick jaunt on trails. Spending so much time in Rock Creek has made me keenly aware of the subtle changes every day to the spectacular landscape from the multitude of distinct shades of green leaves in early spring to the trails disappearing afoot as they become layered with leaf cover in the fall. And, my connection to the land has deepened as I have learned about the myriad edible plants and mushrooms living in it.

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Sukkot: Roasted Apples and Yams with Barberries

Roasted apple and yam with barberries

Like everything else, this is an unusual Sukkot. But due to my COVID routine, I have had the privilege for a deeper physical and sensory connection to the holiday’s harvest themes. It includes more time to tend to edible plants on my balcony and long hikes in woods filled with mushrooms and other edibles. And while the holiday celebrates an agricultural harvest, I like to more broadly think of it as a way to celebrate all of our food sources, whether foraged or grown on a farm. Last weekend, I went on a guided foraging trip just a few miles from my house. In a mere mile long walk, we found more than a dozen edibles, including black walnuts, shiso, sorrel, burr cucumbers, American persimmon, and turkey tail mushrooms. We nibbled little bits of each plant along the way but left everything there for birds and other creatures to enjoy. Continue reading

Animals, Pandemics, & Shavuot

vegan blintzes with extra filling.

Living through a pandemic has become the ultimate opportunity to look at our food sources and the interconnectedness between what we eat and a host of global issues.

More than 70 billion land animals are raised and killed each year for food and other products around the world, including nine billion in the US alone. Animal agriculture is the main cause of an array of global crises, including climate change, pandemics, water pollution, poverty and hunger.

Zoonosis, the transmission of diseases from animals to humans is, according to the CDC, the source of 75% of all new viruses facing humans. It is happening at a rapid pace because of how animals are raised and slaughtered, primarily in industrial animal agriculture factories and live “wet” markets. From the origination of COVID-19 at an animal market in China to swine flu at an industrial farm in the US to mad cow disease in the UK, the raising and killing of wild and domesticated animals is causing pandemics. Continue reading

Simchat Torah: Zucchini Quiche

Simchat Torah–which starts Monday night– is the end of a long season of holidays and marked by both completing and beginning the reading of the Torah. But, we are not starting over in the same place with the Torah or in life. Rather, we are like spirals, moving into a new place that is deeply connected to the past. How will we understand or be guided by the Torah in this new cycle and year?

The foods of Simchat Torah usually elongated to represent the Torah scrolls  or round to represent hakafot–the circles one dances in to celebrate the holiday.   This year, I prepared a vegan zucchini quiche with lots of circles. It’s a great way to use up the season’s last bits of zucchini and is easy to prepare. There are many zucchini varieties and it would be interesting to try an assortment in this dish. Though, I perhaps should have made a dish with the super popular spiralized zucchini! Continue reading

Sukkot: Environmental Refugees and Stuffed Kabocha Squash

Sukkot is a harvest festival that allows us to experience and reflect upon our vulnerability and fragility in the world. All of the practices of this holiday–celebrating fall harvest foods, inviting community and strangers to one’s sukkah and living in an impermanent dwelling for a week–can be examined through the lens of how we are addressing and will deal with the impacts of climate change crisis. Continue reading

Vegan Cholent

Cholent is truly a Jewish food. Jewish communities around the world prepare it specially for Shabbat, each with its own variation in name and ingredients. Also called dafina or skinha (Morocco) and hamin (Sephardic in general), the common thread of cholent recipes are that each is slowly cooked overnight so that it’s ready for Shabbat lunch. You cannot cook cholent quickly in a microwave or pressure cooker. It is a long process, and like Shabbat, it requires one to slow down from the rapid pace of weekday life. And no matter what goes into it, cholent is usually so hearty and filling that a Shabbat meal can be complete with it and nothing else. Continue reading

Simchat Torah: Stuffed Cabbage

Simchat Torah Stuffed Cabbage

Serving stuffed cabbage is a common dish for Simchat Torah. The recipe I share with you is from a dear friend–like a family member–who lives in Tel Aviv. I have had countless Shabbat and holiday meals at her home. Whether in the kitchen or dining room, the tables are always inevitably overflowing with dishes that she painstakingly prepared over a few days after spending hours picking out and discussing with the shopkeeper about the most beautiful produce at her local tiny fruit and vegetable market. Mindful of my plant-based diet, she not only would worry that I have enough to eat, but also creatively updated some of her meat dishes to be vegan. I have had this incredible stuffed cabbage dish at her home many times and every time she excitedly and proudly presents it on a platter to guests. I humbly present  my best attempt to try to recreate her delicious recipe. Continue reading

Sukkot: Poverty and Ecology (and Stuffed Spaghetti Squash)

Sukkot Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays for the obvious reasons: a harvest festival, the ultimate farm-to-table holiday filled with delicious meals eaten outside. I offer my recipe this year–inspired by the abundance of delicious apples and squash at farmers markets–with the note that the holiday, especially after Hurricane Florence, is a time for us to reflect upon and examine our fragility and impermanence, ourselves, our food systems and the world around us. Continue reading

Rishikesh, Kitchari, and Passover

I spent a good chunk of last year in India. While there are still tiny remaining Indian Jewish communities (read my Fort Cochin post), there is now a transient Jewish population of tens of thousands of mostly post-army Israelis who generally travel through the country generally along a route known as the “Hummus Trail”. The trail is easy to figure out because in each location there are Chabads and other Jewish outreach organizations. For Passover, I joined the Hummus Trail community and went to Rishikesh. 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