Monthly Archives: January 2012

Parshat Beshalach – February 12, 2012

Note: Both recipes are up – see below.

This week’s Torah portion includes some spectacular moments. Hashem parts the sea for B’nei Yisrael, the sea closes on the pursuing Egyptians, Moshe and Miriam sing a song of praise for G-d with the entire nation, G-d sweetens the waters of Marah, Moshe brings water from a rock, manna rains down every morning, and quails are available every night.

So many miracles. So many recipes.

So little time.

The first one is based on Pasuk, (Shemot 15:24). After three days of wandering in the desert without water they arrive at Marah where B’nai Ysrael complain that they can’t drink the water because it’s bitter.

G-d showed him a tree and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There’s a Chassidic tradition that says, because they — the Children of Israel — were bitter, everything they tasted was bitter to them.

The Zohar describes the tree as  actually being the Tree of Life whereas the Midrash says it was bitter to the point of poisonous. This contradiction is explained by Rabbi Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher rebbe as representing the different stages of overcoming evil. Controlling behaviour while still experiencing evil urges is the first step that leads to eliminating these urges and then ultimately channeling them to do good. The tree thrown in the water transforms the water from bad to good, representing G-d’s desire for us to change the physical world to a spiritual one.

Shemot 15:25 God showed him a tree; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet

This recipe is a literal interpretation of Moshe throwing a tree inside the water and transforming it to sweetness.

Lemon Grass Lemonade

  • three stalks of lemon grass, rinsed, checked, and cut in half, lengthwise
  • eight cups water
  • one cup sugar (adjustable to taste)
  • one cup bottled lemon juice
  • one lemon, sliced

Mix ingredients in translucent or clear pitcher, and place in fridge a few hours before serving.  If you can’t get lemon grass, use mint or peppermint as a substitute. The drink will still be lemony and refreshing, and most of all, will have the tree-in-water effect. Add ice right before serving.

Recipe Number 2: Miriam’s Drum

Shemot 15:20. Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

According to the Mechilta, Moshe sang and the Israelites sang back to him. Then Miriam, his sister sang to the women and they responded. Why did the women have ‘timbrels’ or ‘drums’ (Hebrew word: ‘Tof’). It was because they were so sure that they would witness God’s miracles. So they took their instruments out of Egypt. I assumed the translation of “Tof” is drum, but I see it also translated as ‘timbrel’ or tambourine. I’ve done the cake as ‘drum’ but it can easily by done as a tambourine by horizontally attaching Oreo-type cookies around the sides of the cake.

Miriam, the prophetess...took a drum in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Miriam’s Drum Cake

(this can be done as a tambourine by horizontally attaching Oreo-type cookies around the sides of the cake.

I’m rushing off to the OLA Super Conference now so I’ll just post the most important part of this recipe. The cake is a basic chocolate one with a butter cream icing on the sides. The top (when done properly, not the way I did it this morning as I’m rushing to get to the conference) is a beautiful and smooth glaze.

  • 1 part margarine
  • 2 parts chocolate chips
  • optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring

Melt in a microwave for 30 – 60 seconds. Pour on the top of cake and allow to drip down sides.

Have a great Shabbos and Betayavon!



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Parshat Bo – January 28, 2012

In the earlier plagues, Paroah’s heart was hardened. From the sixth plague onward, the Torah states that Hashem hardened Paroah’s heart. The obvious question then, is how can Paroah be punished for his deeds if his free will was removed by Hashem.

There are a number of explanations. Rambam focuses on the removal of free will as a punitive act of G-d.  Rabbi Yosef Edelstein offers the following answer from the Chafetz Chaim:

The Chofetz Chayim explains that Hashem did not, in fact, take away Pharaoh’s free will.  When the Torah says that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means, simply, that G-d took away the divine assistance that is usually offered to a person who sincerely wants to repent. In the fifth blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, which deals with teshuva (repentance), we ask Hashem to “…influence us to return in perfect repentance before You.” (Artscroll Siddur, p. 103; emphasis mine.) In choosing this wording, our Rabbis wanted to teach us that we need help from G-d Himself if we want to achieve complete repentance. By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, Hashem is, in effect, saying to Pharaoh, “If you want to repent, you’ll have to do it on your own.  I withdraw My helping hand from you.” Pharaoh’s free will is not taken away, then; he can still choose to change his ways, and act righteously. But the path will not be so smooth.

This week’s recipe is a nod to Hashem’s act of hardening Paroah’s heart.

A heart-shaped potatonik with a ‘no’ strip on top. Potatoniks are a bit starchier than regular potato kugel. This recipe reminded me of  the potatoniks we used to buy at Moishe’s bakery for Shabbat when we lived in the East Village of Manhattan.  If you live near a dollar store somewhere in Galus, Valentine’s Day has a strange proximity to Parshas Bo. That gives you a good shot at picking up a heart shaped pan for almost nothing at the Dollar Store. Once again – way to go, Dollar Store!

Paroah’s Hardened Heart Kugel

Put 1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil in the pan. Place on the bottom rack of the oven set to 420 F.

  • 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking power
  1. Chop potatoes into small chunks in food processor with steel knife. Empty potatoes into a bowl of water so they don’t get brown.
  2. Place eggs and onion in food processor and grind until smooth and creamy. Stop the food processor and add salt, pepper, flour with baking powder sprinkled on top.
  3. Process for another five seconds.
  4. Add the potatoes and process just until all the ingredients are mixed. Pour contents into hot pan and spoon some of the extra oil on the sides, to the top of the potatonik. Bake in over for 40 minutes or until it’s brown on top.
  5. Top with a diagonal strip of salami or corned beef that you can cut with a meat knife.
Happy Birthday Dad!
This Parsha is a special one. I just discovered that it was my dad’s bar mitzvah Parsha. (Hello Mordechai Aharon Ben Shneir Zalman HaKohen!) He was able to recite part of his Parsha and the Haftorah when I asked him about it yesterday. His bar mitzvah was at the old Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa. He remembers a Kiddush at their home on Stewart Street right after davening. This took place in 1932. He’s been making wine for almost 70 years now and in recent years has been making delicious liqueurs. Here’s a recipe of one of our favorites:
Delicious Coffee Liqueur (Imitation Kahlua) 
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee (or 1/2 cup cocoa powder for chocolate liqueur)
  • 3 cups vodka
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Boil water.
  2. Add coffee (or cocoa) slowly, to avoid lumps.
  3. Add sugar and boil for an additional five minutes.
  4. Remove from stove. When cooled, add vodka and vanilla.
  5. Mix thoroughly. Bottle and close cap tightly.
  6. Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of two weeks.
Shake well before using. This recipe should make around 40 oz. of 25% alcohol. My dad says not to bother using expensive vodka – it won’t make a difference.
He also says: Enjoy…Ober mit Rachmonos!!

Have a great Shabbos and B’tayavon!

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Parshat VaEira – January 21, 2012

In this parsha, Moshe understands that his mission is twofold: one is to free the Jewish people physically, (Paroah’s role)  the other is to liberate them spiritually (acknowledging G-d.) As G-d hardens Paroah’s heart, the display of Hashem’s spectacular powers grows.

The process begins when Moshe and Aaron approach Paroah and reveal His powers through the miracle of the rod transforming into a serpent. I asked Rabbi Daniel Korobkin if there any significance to the fact that in Parshas Shemot, Hashem offers ‘proof’ of Himself in a similar way that Moshe is instructed to offer proof to Paroah? Rabbi Korobkin’s answer:

The serpent from last week’s parsha is a nachash, which is a land snake, and the serpent shown to Pharaoh is a tanin, which is translated either as sea serpent or crocodile. Hashem doesn’t offer proof of Himself, he offers to Moshe proof to Bnei Yisrael that he is the authentic emissary of Hashem. One of those signs is a serpent. Rashi understands that the miracle of a serpent was used for Moshe to allude to him that he had spoken lashon hara on the Jewish people when he argued that they wouldn’t believe him. The serpent is the symbol for lashon hara, as it was the first creature to speak ill of Hashem. It is used with Pharaoh because Pharaoh had prided himself as being the “sea serpent” who ruled over the Nile.

In Shemot 7:10 "Moshe and Aharon came to Pharaoh... Aharon threw his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants and it became a serpent."

Inspired by the second instance (Parshat Shemos was the first) of the rod transforming to a snake, Challah snakes (Shemot 7:10) on ‘rods’ are an excellent dish to put out with an appetizer of dips.

Challah Snakes on Rods: (inspired by a recipe from

For the pumpernickel Challah:

Place these ingredients in the following order in the breadmaker:

  • 1 1/8 cup water
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (or rye)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
For the white Challah:
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
For each recipe, set the machine on dough. When the dough is ready, roll out strings that are approximately 10″ and 3/4″ thick. Wrap around a kebab skewer and let rise until double in size. Before baking, brush on egg and sesame seeds. Place on parchment paper and loosely place a foil ‘tent’ on top so that the top doesn’t harden too much. Baking times depends on your oven. For my regular Challahs I bake them at 330 F for 42 minutes. I remove the foil for the last two minutes so that the top browns a bit. Oven times vary. Make sure the bottom is browned a bit. When cooled, place in a vase.
Here’s another treat. Chocolate cupcakes and green icing, topped with gummy crocodiles to represent the ‘tanin’ – that Aaron’s rod transformed into:
Have a good Shabbos and B’teyavon!

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Parshat Shemot – January 14, 2011

By Parshat Shemot the Jewish people have experienced a total  reversal of fortune. No longer the recipient of Pharoah’s favor, they are now at the receiving end of his suspicion and deathly intentions. Rashi is not clear as to whether this is a new policy by the old Pharoah, or the new policy by a new Pharoah. Either way they’re now under an edict by Pharoah to place all newborn sons in the river.

In Shemot 2:3 Yocheved, the mother of Moshe Rabbeinu places him in a box in the river, hoping for his survival. Ibn Ezra asks how Jocheved could have taken such a risk with his life. He offers two possible explanations: 1) she (like Hagar with Ishmael) would be spared the sight of his dying, or 2) Miriam might have prophesied that this was the correct course of action.

When she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus box and coated it with clay and tar. She placed the child in it, and placed it in the reeds near the bank of the river.

Rashi describes the ‘papyrus’ as a pliable substance that can withstand soft or hard pressure. The first recipe this week is inspired by Moshe’s escape on the river Nile.

Salmon Cigars in a Cucumber ‘Basket’

  • 1/2 pound skinned salmon filet
  • package of won ton wrappers
  • 1/2 bag of frozen spinach
  • Mrs. Dash – any flavor
  • chives

With food scissors, cut the salmon into thin strips, 1/3 ” thick and 2″ long.

Position the won ton wrapper in a diamond position and place the salmon on the bottom third.

Place 3/4 teaspoon spinach on top of the salmon. Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash.

Roll up, like a blintz, tucking in the ends and sealing with water.

Place in a pan, sprayed with Pam and spray the tops of the cigars. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Serve 2 or 3 cigars tied with a chive on a bed of cucumber that’s been cut length-wise with a peeler. Serve with honey mustard.

Now, about the basket…

You can easily roll out puff dough and shape it on the back of a muffin tin. Or you can bake large egg roll wrappers on the back of muffin tins. That’ll get you a nice round ‘basket’ to represent the the one that carried Moshe. I chose to go with cucumber because of it’s ‘pliable’ nature (see Rashi) and also, because the dish is starchy enough already. The cucumber seemed like a healthier alternative.

Either way… B’teyavon!

Shemos 2:3 She (Yocheved) placed the child (Moshe) in it, and placed it in the reeds near the bank of the river.

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Parshat Vayechi – January 7, 2012

In Parshat Vayechi, Yaakov, on his deathbed, gathers his sons (and grandsons in Yoseph’s case) to bless them. He does so with a keen understanding of their personalities and character traits — both the positive and negative. He speaks to Yehuda in 49:11 and 12 he says:

Tzora Vineyard

He loads his young donkey with grapes of a vine, and his she-donkey’s foal with a vine-branch. He washes his clothes in wine, and his cloak in the blood of grapesHis eyes are red from wine, and his teeth are white [from an abundance of] milk.

According to Rashi, the multiple mentions of wine in these two pesukim represents a prophecy that the land of Yehuda would flow with wine like a fountain. And in fact the Judean hills were the main source of wine in the Biblical era. According to Ben Ami Bravdo, Judean Hills winemaker and viticulturist at Hebrew University, “Archaeologists have found a winery in almost every second house around here.” His estimate is that Jews were consuming 400 litres per capita in the times of the second Bais HaMikdash. (In contrast to 4 litres in modern Israel.) Much of the wine was consumed for sacramental purposes related to the Temple.

In the last twenty years a renaissance of wine making has occurred in Harei Yehudah. To date, there are now approximately 30 wineries in the Judean Hills.

Here’s a fun recipe to celebrate this Pasuk and the modern rebirth of wineries in this ancient area that was prophesied by Jacob.

You ready for this?

Sangria Slushies!! (how awesome is that?)

(I bought wine from the Judean Hills for this recipe.)  Adapted from a recipe from

  • 8-19 ounce canned crushed pineapple
  • 2 1/2 cups wine (I used half sweet and half dry)
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until sugar is dissolved and ice cubes are mixed. Pour mixture into a lasagna pan and freeze. Take out and let defrost to room temperature when ready to serve.
Here’s another dish that’s inspired by the Parsha:
In 48:16 Jacob says the famous blessing that is part of the night time “Shema” prayer:
The Angel who redeemed me from all evil, should bless the lads, and let my name be called on them, together with the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchok. May they be like fish, multiplying within the land.
The theme of fish, multiplying and growing and becoming a nation is the inspiration for this recipe:
Be-Like Fish Salmon in Puff Dough
  • one package puff dough
  • two onions
  • 10 mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • one cup rice
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • steamed spinach,
  • two fillets of salmon
  • egg and sesame seeds for egg wash

Saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Add rice, water, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Shut off the heat and cover pot and let simmer until rice absorbs the water. Roll out puff dough into cut into 12 squares (approximately 5 x 5″) In the middle of each square of puff dough, place a square of skinless and boneless salmon, topped with a tablespoon of spinach and two tablespoons (approximately) of rice. Gather the puff dough and squeeze together on top of the filling. Flip upside down so that the gathered ends are on the bottom. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Press down on the puff dough so that it’s circular. Cover all of them with a beaten egg and sprinkle on sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden in color. At 350 F.


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Parshat Vayigash – December 31, 2011

This is an interesting post– a food blog about starvation. Obviously some Parshiot are going to be a bit tricky. (I’ve got the VaYikrah Blues already. I mean, think about it. It’s not like I’m going to come up with new sheep recipes every week.)

Anyhow… in Bereishis 47:24, we read of the desperation and hunger that torments the Egyptians. They use up all their money buying bread. Eventually they’re forced to sell their livestock to Yoseph. When that’s gone, they sell their land and then ultimately themselves. Yoseph gives them seed grain and institutes a policy that continued in Mitzraim–tithing one fifth of their produce.

“When it produces you must give a fifth to Pharaoh. Four parts shall be yours for seed for your fields and for your food, and for those of your households, and for food for your little ones.”

Admittedly, this week’s recipe is going to be very difficult to guess, if you want your diners to guess the connection to the Parsha. (My son called this one beyond even Chidon Hatanach!) Pasuk 47:24 is the inspiration for this five-stranded Challah. One strand is Pumpernickel and the other four are made with regular white flour. Braded together they represent the proportion of produce that belong to the growers and to Pharoah.

Five-Strand Bread Maker Challah with Pumpernickel and White

Pumpernickel Challah:

Place ingredients in the following order in the bread machine:

Four strands of white and one strand of pumpernickel ready to be braided.

1 1/8 cups water

1/3 cup molasses

3 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 cups white  flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons baking cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon dry yeast

White Bread Maker Challah:

Place ingredients in the following order in the bread machine:

Challah is braided and ready for egg wash with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups sugar

1/3 –  1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon yeast

Here’s an excellent video on braiding a five-stranded Challah:

You’ll only use half of the white dough and a fraction of the pumpernickel for this Challah. You can use the rest of the dough to make regular Challahs or bulkahs (buns.)  After braiding the challah, cover with a towel and let rise until double in size. Just before baking, brush on a beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Bake for 42 minutes at 330 degrees F.

Here’s my final result. Not bad for a mid-Friday-super-rushed Challah.

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