Sunday, July 29, 2012

post tisha b'av split pea soup

today is tisha b'av, the 9th day of the hebrew month of av, it is a day of fasting and mourning, commemorating numerous tragedies that have befallen the jewish people throughout history, most importantly the destruction of both our first and second temples. it is a really hard day, we dont go to work, we dont listen to music, or take showers, or even brush our teeth, or do much of anything, instead we sit on the floor and embrace our brokenness. our communal brokenness, our historical brokenness, our global brokenness, and our personal brokenness. as afternoon approaches we begin to feel the light of chatharsis after eicha, kinos, and long talks with the one above, we begin to feel the eternal hope of our people, the hope of our inner divine spark which never gives up, which always believes things will get better. as we share our sadness with our creator, and give him some of our burden, to partner with him in making it better....

that is also usually the point in the day where people start fantasizing about food, and all the yummy things they are going to eat after the fast. trust me when i say never to go grocery shopping while fasting, i assure you in that moment your eyes are much bigger than your stomach. 

when i was little we called tisha b'av tissue bug. i still call it that in my head. i also still have the book "in the mouth of the wolf" which i got for my bat mitzvah and read every year, it is about a young girl hiding in nazi germany during the shoah. i have not read it in years, but maybe one day i will pass it on to my daughters. but maybe by then the geulah will have come, and instead of a day of mourning this will be a day of joy. i hope so. these days on tisha b'av afternoon i often watch the pbs documentray called kingdom of david, available on netflix streaming, it chronicles the jewish exile and destruction of both temples. being in america, and away from the communal outpouring at the kotel, it is a good focus for what this day is really about. a few years ago a well respected modern orthodox female communal leader laughingly told me that nobody thinks about the beis hamikdash anymore on tisha b'av. i didnt know how to respond to her. i still dont. but i bless her, and you, and me to know what is broken. to accept that it is broken. and to work to fix it.

but i was going to tell you about soup.

when i was little to break our fasts my mother would always give us orange juice, ice cream, and home made soup. today i will be breaking my fast on coconut water, which is easier on the stomach and full of electrolytes. and on split pea soup, which is gentle to your tummy, hearty, and satisfying. my recipe follows, but whatever you do, dont fill your body with processed crap post a fast (sorry for foregoing the ice cream mom), you just released so many toxins, give your body a moment of healing.

split pea soup:

16 oz green or yellow dried split peas
1 lb carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 can cheap light beer, budweiser or coors work well
a few spoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

heat soup pot over medium heat, add oil, onion, garlic, and carrots, saute for a few minutes. then add peas, broth, beer, thyme, soy and fill the pot up with water, turn flame to high bringing to a boil. once boiling, turn down flame to low (to avoid burning) and simmer until the peas break down and the soup has a creamy consistency, around 1.5-2 hours. you will loose a lot of water during the process and may have to add more so keep half an eye on it, giving it an occasional stir. at the end add the salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes to meld the flavors.

serves 6.
recipe can be easy doubled, tripled....

so that is where i am. sitting on my floor, watching sad movies. really wanting to wash my face and drink some water. getting a headache. thankful that it is not so hot today. thinking about making soup. thinking about what is broken in my life. still aware of how many blessings i have. trying to understand where that fits into the bigger jewish picture. wanting to let god in but still a little bit pushing him away from the pain of everything that has gone wrong.

thank you for honoring me in this place, and maybe even joining it in your own way. blessings for an easy and meaningful fast. and a nourishing, loving, and healthy post fast.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

i was jealous of your tart, so i made my own

so we have this awesome washington heights shabbos meal pot luck club that was recently started, shout out to my friend E for being the motivator behind the idea. it's a great way to host low key style, and a great resource to meet new people and hook up with a meal of friends of your friends when you don't have one planned. so at the inaugural summer event a few weeks ago E had this lovely fresh berry tart he picked up from some food genius in BK, and being incredibly jealous i decided i had to make my own. those of you who know me know my food is usually home style so this was a little ungapached compared to what i normally go for. but hey, into every country table a little artistry must fall. and yes i did just declare my tiny city apartment table squeezed into a corner of my living room to be a country table, got a problem with that?  :)

vegan fresh berry tart:

for the crust-
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup earth balance or butter (if you dont care about the parve part)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

for pies or tarts i always make the flaky pastry dough crust from the all new joy of cooking page 859, substituting all butter or all earth balance for the shortening, substituting half whole wheat flour (as indicated above), and leaving out the sugar. follow her directions for making it in the food processor, roll out between two sheets of waxed paper, and then bake blind at 400 for 20 minutes weighted with dry beans or pie/tart weights at the beginning which you remove halfway through. i have not yet tried making crust with coconut oil but imagine it would be divine, that will be experimented with soon friends..... as you can see from the pic below, i don't currently own a tart pan, although it is the next thing on my kitchen wish list, so if you want to buy me one i will be forever grateful and even make you a tart. for realz. i will bake. for you. in the meantime, my initial inclination was to use a pie pan, but that is really too deep and the delicate little slices would not release as well, so i used a springform cake pan and only formed the tart sides partway up, and after baking removed the side ring, it worked pretty well.

for the cashew cream-
1 cup raw cashwes
enough coconut milk to cover the nuts
2 tablespoons agave

soak the nuts overnight in cold water, drain and rinse well. place in food processor or blender, pour in coconut milk til the nuts are just covered, add agave and jujj away until smooth and creamy.

spread a thick layer of the cashew cream over the baked tart shell, smooth it out, and if you have any leftovers that you didn't already devour they can be stored in the fridge for a week.

and now to make it pretty-
1 pint blueberries
16 oz strawberries
1/2 pint raspberries or blackberries

wash all your berries, cut the tops off strawberries and slice in half, and lay out on your tart in circles or whatever design you think is pretty.  don't skimp like i did, although in my defense the strawberries i bought went moldy on me within a day and it was right before shabbos so i had to make due. i don't think anybody noticed but i will rat myself out to you now.

in terms of checking black and raspberries for bugs you gotta figure out what you do, so open a sefer, learn something, talk to a rav, check out the berry construction to see what you find necessary, and make a decision for yourself and be comfortable with it. i personally soak them in white vinegar and water for 15 minutes, drain and rinse well, and then look at each one to see if any little white worms are crawling out. after 10 years of part time mashgiach work with rabbi abba i still follow my momma's lead on this one. when i was about 5 we had a mulberry tree in our yard in syracuse, and even though all the neighborhood kids would join us in climbing said tree and pop the delicious berries into their mouths on the spot my mom made us wait, come inside, soak them, and check for worms, way to go with your piousness mom, at the time i resented you but i am still doing what you taught me when i was 5 so i guess you did something right.

anyhow, now that your tart is beautifully assembled give it a little sheen with some preserves, paint them on with a pastry brush, i personally use fig preserves that i heat up in a hot water bath because they have very little added flavor or color and just give things a hint of sweetness and some shine. if you are trying to keep things refined sugar free feel free to skip this step altogether or to get the no sugar added preserves.

leave your now divine looking tart to set in the fridge til it cools, at least a few hours, serve and enjoy. ok, so in truth mine might not look as divine as it could have, as i mentioned my berries went moldy and i skimped, and i don't have a tart pan, but the taste was still divine, and for a totally macgyvered tart it was a pretty good effort, and rest assured the next one will look as good as it tastes!

happy eating!
and happy 4th of July....