Spring Foraging for Berries

yogurt, granola and foraged berries

While last spring was remarkable because the world had shut down, spring this year is remarkable as parts of the world start to slowly re-emerge. It was a collective, tragic, exhausting hibernation the past 16 months. When things dramatically stopped last year, my senses became more acute to the subtle, beautiful things in my life, such as wild flowers sprouting from sidewalk cracks, the remarkable shades of green leaves in the forest behind my home, and the symphony of birds that awoke me early every morning.

The covid winter was challenging in many ways but I was very fortunate to always be in good health. On the food front, I became uninspired in my daily cooking and my diet devolved into mainly smoothies, popcorn, and salads. My sole cooking inspiration was to bake breads and cakes for friends and family and the ingredients that were exciting were the ones that I foraged.

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Purim Treat: Vegan Orange, Tahini, Olive Oil Cake

Orange, tahini, olive oil vegan cake

The best thing I bought during the pandemic was a bright yellow Le Creuset loaf pan. The pan is so versatile and I’ve used it to make bread, cakes, truffles and polenta. I love giving people loaves of cake and bread as Covid gifts. And, with Purim starting in a few days, I think that in addition to hamantaschen, loaf cakes would be a delicious addition to mishloach manot this year. Loaf cakes are a simple, unassuming and easy. I also love using tahini and will find any opportunity to use it in a recipe. I adapted this recipe to make this light, moist, not overly sweet cake. Below the recipe I also included links to my other Purim recipes. Continue reading

Malawach and Jachnun

Malawach with date syrup

I am late to the party but finally joined the Covid baking club. I’ve got my sourdough starter, a fridge filled with a variety of flours, and a lot of time this winter to bake! I recently listened to a podcast interview with Israeli chefs Gil Hovav and Einat Admony (love the food at her veg restaurant Taim) and they talked about so many of the incredible Yemenite foods they grew up eating, which humbly inspired me to try to make some, including two breads, malawach and jachnun. Continue reading

Vegan Malabi with Roasted Fruit

vegan malabi with orange water infused roasted fruit.

Malabi is an amazing, delicious Middle Eastern dessert that is popular in Israel. I used to go a little cafe with a few wooden tables near Shouk Hacarmel in Tel Aviv for vegan malabi (not sure if the place served anything else besides vegan malabi and coffee. Its malabi was so good that it could perhaps get by with just serving it). It came in a little glass jar topped with a dollop of jam and was a perfect small sweet treat.

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Fall Foraging: Mushrooms

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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Vegan Sourdough Challah

Bread, a basic, humble food represents so much of what is happening during the pandemic. While some are fortunate to nourish their creativity and yearning for comfort foods by becoming amateur bakers, others line up 24 hours in advance at food banks to secure loaves of bread and other foods.  Bread highlights so many of our society’s problems, from the injustices of food access and increasing food insecurity during COVID, to the brokenness of food systems (such as the contrasting shortages of flour in supermarkets compared with food banks), to access to healthy foods (homemade breads, sometimes with heirloom grains versus processed), and the luxury of those of us with time and resources to delve into baking bread. Continue reading

Dusseldorf and Date Cake

Date cake

While we continue to hunker down at home, the competition to secure flour and yeast has become more challenging perhaps than buying hand sanitizer. I go through waves of intense cooking and baking, trying to conjure inspiration to keep my meals interesting, even when everything else in life has become so routine (and other times when I am not inspired and just have smoothies or oatmeal for dinner).  I have spent the past year or so trying to recreate many of my grandmother’s recipes and being stuck inside now during COVID19 has encouraged me to make more. She was a voracious cook who commanded her kitchen: you didn’t wander around because she would insist on putting together or finding for you whatever you thought perhaps you might want to eat (in a quantity larger than you needed).  And, I never left her home without tins of her mandelbrot. Continue reading

Covid19 and Italian Corn Bread

Italian corn bread

This is a frightening moment. It’s hard to write about recipes and food during this time when I incessantly read the news and my mind is mostly devoid of non-coronavirus thoughts or ideas.  I have noticed, though, that when I get especially anxious about what is happening, I am drawn to being in my kitchen. Chopping, cooking, baking all calm my nerves a bit and give me something purposeful to do. My sweet elderly dog patiently sits nearby, his intense eyes gazing at me, wondering if any crumbs might drop by his paws, completely unaware of the global crisis and singularly focused on food scraps.

In this challenging moment, my appreciation and awareness of beautiful, sometimes seemingly mundane things in life has become accentuated.

I have taped to my computer a quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live in radical amazement. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” Continue reading

Shalom Y’all

Grits

I recently spent time exploring the Lower South of the US, delving into the emotionally fraught history and legacy of enslavement and civil rights, overlaid with an exploration of Southern Jewish life. It was a provoking, at times emotionally draining, visceral, and absolutely fascinating trip that challenged me every day to examine and reflect upon the impact of our nation’s history of slavery and to explore the extraordinary and unique life of Jews in the South. 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