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

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

Yom Kippur Break-Fast: Easy Squash Soup

Break-fast squash soup

Fasting is hard for me and I prepare by spending days whittling down meals, drinking an excessive amount of water, and gobbling as many nuts as possible just before the fast begins. I then struggle at break-fasts because there’s few foods that feel good in my stomach. Even if vegan, the pre-requisite bagels and cream cheese, cakes, kugels, cookies, and more feel like poison darts shooting through my now parched mouth and queasy stomach. I prefer to end the fast with fresh pressed juices, soups, and other gentle foods that are digestible and energizing as I transition my body back to heavier foods. So, to add to my options, this year, I prepared a butternut squash soup that is incredible easy to prepare, has minimal ingredients, and is satiating and filling (i.e. good for the tummy).  Continue reading

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

Salad at Hummus Yossef

My Hummus Yossef’s salad.

I don’t have the guts to declare one place with the best hummus. I will decidedly write, though, that I eat a lot of hummus, and taste test it the way some do with wines, (albeit a lot cheaper). And, I will argue that Hummus Yossef, from Pardes Hanna Karkur–and now with some locations in Tel Aviv–has some of the best hummus I have ever eaten. It is made fresh for each customer (check out their Cuisinart blenders whirring by the cash register) At its modest first shop—with an outdoor seating area that protected us from the searing sun with intensely blowing fans and a tarp roof –a bowl of Galilee-style hummus was presented to us. It is creamy, very lemony hummus, and heavy enough to seemingly cut it with a knife. Presented in a deep, nearly overflowing bowl, the hummus is immersed in a thorough amount of fruity olive oil, while flecked with whole chickpeas, drizzled with green delightful spicy schug, pillowy drops of tahini, and sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley.  The hummus decidedly strong flavors were enhanced by the perfect balance of spicy, mild and fruity liquid toppings. It made a regular “plain” bowl of hummus seem almost bland or naked in comparison. Continue reading

Tel Aviv Tivoni

The ubiquitous “vegan friendly” sign at the Tel Aviv Vegan Fest

Tel Aviv, aptly called the global vegan (tivoni) capital of the world, is the hub of a culinary, social and consciousness movement that is sweeping Israel. Within the White City’s concrete jungle of bauhaus buildings, abutting glass and steel skyscrapers, is a city teeming with “vegan friendly” signs proudly affixed to businesses, from restaurants to markets to stores. The culinary and social atmosphere is decidedly one that gravitates towards conscious plant-based eating. The breadth of this fascinating Israeli social movement was evident at the city’s two day vegan fest that attracted a shocking 40,000 people (and yes, overwhelmingly Israelis). More people turned out for it than Eurovision the previous week. From labane to burgers, the throngs of Tel Avivians of all stripes lined up to eat from local restaurants, taste new Israeli vegan food brands and celebrate in an atmosphere that was decidedly positive, welcoming of everyone.

Continue reading

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

Tu B’shevat Toasts

Tu B’shevat toasts

Tu B’shevat–the new year celebration of trees and also known as the Jewish Earth Day–means eating lots of delicious fruits with edible interiors, edible exteriors, and edible everything at holiday seders.  For the holiday this year (which starts on Sunday evening), I created a DIY “toast toppings” to enjoy during that meal that includes most of the seven species of ancient Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, olives, figs, dates and pomegranates), along with other significant fruits-including carob–and a nut butter. 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