Sukkot & Simchat Torah: Stuffed eggplants

Just a quick post to share a stuffed eggplant recipe that is great for both Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Sukkot, an agricultural holiday (ie farm-to-table holiday) that is an opportunity to use the produce that is in abundance at the farmers markets right now makes it one of my favorite holidays. Lots of eggplants are in season at my local farmers markets and the basil was plucked straight from my plants. The filled eggplants are also symbolic of “stuffed” foods commonly eaten on Simchat Torah to represent the Torah scrolls. Scroll to the bottom for more of my Sukkot, Simchat Torah and even Shmini Atzeret recipes. Chag sameach! Continue reading

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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Very berry charoset

Very Berry Charoset

I created this charoset recipe to use one of my favorite flavor combinations, along with many of the dried berries and fruits I love, such as goji berries, barberries, cherries, elderberries and raisins. But, you could really use any combination of  your favorite dried fruits. If you can make this in advance and let it soak overnight, the flavors become more pronounced and the berries plump. Continue reading

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

Roasted Carrots for Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana roasted carrots

As we prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashana to mark the birth of the world, it’s hard not to be confused and/or overwhelmed at times by the surreal world we are now living in. From COVID to wildfires to flooding to addressing systemic racism, our physical reality is forever altered.

The past six months have brought to the forefront of our daily lives both the devastating consequences of human actions that are the most un-God-like, but also the incredible, resilient, responses by humans to these crises.  When we wish people a healthy, good new year, I cannot think of a time when this has ever meant more than now, for all beings.

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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

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

Elul: Plums and Flames

Elul: poached plum

Elul: poached plum

The month of Elul is an acronym for the phrase “Ani l’dodi v l’dodi li” from Song of Songs (I am my beloved and my beloved is mine). It is about the relationship between ourselves and God.  Rabbi Yoel Glick writes that the process of teshuva (return) is “about repairing our shattered vessel. It is about returning to the sense of inner balance and clarity that will make us fitting pipelines to channel the Divine emanation.. . . radically transforms our consciousness. To do teshuvah is to see light instead of darkness – to view the world through God’s transcendent eyes.”

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Sivan & Shavuot: Eating Dairy-Free

Sivan & Shavuot vegan blueberry ice cream

Sivan & Shavuot vegan blueberry ice cream

We begin the month of Sivan during which we celebrate Shavuot, when the Israelites received the Torah at Mount Sinai. If you’re not a coffee drinker or dairy eater, like me, Shavuot can be challenging. In celebrating the holiday, people’s all night Torah study is generally fueled by cheesecake, blintzes, ice cream and lasagna. There are many explanations as to why we eat dairy foods on Shavuot. One is that the Torah is like milk and “just as milk has the ability to fully sustain the body of a human being (i.e. a nursing baby), so too the Torah provides all the “spiritual nourishment” necessary for the human soul.”

However, eating dairy foods on Shavuot is a custom, not a law.  But, there are lots of delicious ways to enjoy Shavuot without eating dairy.One way is with the the vegan blueberry ice cream recipe that I created for the holiday.

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