Monthly Archives: June 2012

Parshat Chukat – June 30, 2012

Here it is! My first webisode for my series, ‘Burnt Offerings.’

For the first webisode my featured cook is our wonderful friend Chanoch Ephraimson who very generously agreed to share some of his chef’s tips with us. My old friend Allan (literally, since I was 12 years old) assists him. We shot this in my kitchen a couple of decades after I first proposed a kosher cooking show with Allan to a local cable station. (Anyone remember Newton Cable? They said yes, but I was in the process of moving to NYC.)

I decided to do sushi for Parshat Chukat because the parsha opens up with the issue of ‘Tum’at Ha’met’. (Isn’t that sooooo obvious? Tum’at Ha’met: ergo…sushi!) Allow me to explain:

A person who is ritually impure because of their contact with a dead person is purified through the ashes of the Parah Adumah – the red heifer. (Parah Adumah cake here.) A huge chunk of Torah deals with laws of Tumah (impurity) and tahara (purity). According to Rabbi Moshe Grylak:

The truth is that when we talk about tahara, we’re really talking about immortality. They are two sides of the same coin. Tumah is equated with mortality – the natural as opposed to the supernatural, submission to the forces of nature that eventually end all human life.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh defined Tahara as:

the freedom of the soul even as it is ensconced in an earthly body. Tahara affirms that even on Earth the soul is not bound by the forces of nature, and is completely free.

Tumah on the other hand reflects the reality of those natural forces and their dominion over our lives. The ashes of the young red calf are used as a vehicle to elevate people from tumah to a state of tahara, and according to Rabby Grylak, “in limiting and directing our own natural tendencies, our physical bodies can facilitate tahara as well.”

The yin and yang of Tumah and Tahara, the physical versus the spiritual, the finite versus the infinite; these are the forces that we’re commanded to harness in order to elevate ourselves from Tumah to Tahara.

Sushi is delightful to the palate because it combines distinctive flavours and textures into bite-sized treats. The sensation of biting into a piece of sushi is particularly pleasurable because of the balance of textures. The avocado’s creaminess, the paper-like feeling of the nori, and the chewiness of the rice, come together to create a singular culinary experience. I thought of the Parah Adumah and how it might be represented by the salmon, red pepper, or mock-crab, but really it’s the separateness of the ingredients that reminded me of Tumah and Taharah.

Here are images of Chanoch’s sushi artistry: (thanks to Aliza for these awesome photos.)

I’m not going to write up a recipe since it’s contained in the video. Please do watch it – I guarantee you’ve never seen a kosher cooking show like this one!

Enjoy your sushi.

B’Tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Korach – 23, 2012

This Parsha deals with the rebellion of Korach and 250 men of Israel against the leadership of Moshe and Aaron. According to Rashi and Ramban, their’s was a rebellion motivated by jealousy. It wasn’t service to God that Korach coveted – rather, it was the trappings of leadership and fame. They are ultimately punished by God and swallowed up by the ground.

God then instructs Moshe to set up a test to demonstrate that only Aaron and his descendants are and will be the true kohanim (priests) forever. The leaders of all of the tribes (along with Aaron) provide their staffs to be placed inside the Kodesh Kedoshim. (Holy of Holies) All of the staffs remain the same except for Aharon’s, which miraculously blossoms and produces almonds.

Bamidar 17:23 And on the following day Moshe came to the Tent of Testimony, and behold, Aaron’s staff for the house of Levi had blossomed. It gave forth blossoms, sprouted buds, and produced ripe almonds.

Rashi points out that the almond blossoms much faster than other fruits. Likewise, those that opposed the designation of God’s priests – the Kohanim – were punished quickly.

The demonstration was clearly miraculous – a dry stick of wood bearing fruit. And that would have been enough of a sign that the selection of Aaron as the High Priest was a Divine ordination. But God did not simply make almonds appear on Aarons staff. According to a Chabad source:

Rather, He stimulated in it the full natural process of budding, blossoming, and the emergence and the ripening of the fruit. Aaron’s staff defied natures laws and restrictions, yet it conformed to the phases of growth that the almond naturally undergoes. It transcended nature, but did so on nature’s own terms.

I’ve got two recipes to mark the miracle of Aaron’s rod with almonds and blossoms. Both of them are dairy. And VERY decadent. Now that it’s summer and it’s hot, hot, hot I’ve been making pareve Shabbat lunches. Goodbye Cholent; Hello Salmon. (And sushi, and breaded sole, etc, etc.) If you’re not into the non-meat lunches, Shabbos is very loooooooooooong these days, so both recipes would be fun Seudah Shlishit (Third Meal) desserts:

Bamidar 17:23 And on the following day Moshe came to the Tent of Testimony, and behold, Aaron’s staff for the house of Levi had blossomed. It gave forth blossoms, sprouted buds, and produced ripe almonds.

Bamidar 17:23 And on the following day Moshe came to the Tent of Testimony, and behold, Aaron’s staff for the house of Levi had blossomed. It gave forth blossoms, sprouted buds, and produced ripe almonds.

 

Almond Cranberry Fudge

  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1 cup almonds

Melt milk and chocolate in microwave. Add craisins and almonds and pat into an 8″ square pan that’s lined with parchment paper. Chill for two hours. May be frozen.

Here’s a similar idea but with slightly different ingredients and a look that’s a bit different:

Cranberry Almond Bark

  • 8 oz white chocolate
  • 2-3 oz. chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup whole almond
  • 3/4 cup craisins (dried cranberries)

Melt white chocolate in microwave in 30-second ‘blasts’. Stir in almonds and cranberries. Pour onto a large piece of wax paper. Pour melted chocolate on top, and with a knife create swirls.

Have a great Shabbos and B’Tayavon!

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Parshat Shelach – June 16, 2012

So this was a week where I actually thought I could post the recipe on Wednesday night. (Sorry Marilyn, I was thinking of your Thursday morning Parsha class.) I knew what the D’var Torah would be and had the ingredients for the recipe ready to go. But you see dear reader, I made a terrible mistake. I had a horrendous allergy attack that lasted for an hour so I took a ‘daytime’ anti-histamine.

Friends: Learn from my mistake!

DO NOT BELIEVE THE BOX WHEN IT SAYS ‘DAYTIME.’ It was only after I took the pill that I noticed that it also said, ‘may cause drowsiness’ as well as ‘don’t drive.’

I fell asleep at 9:30 am. When I woke up I tried going to the gym but I could barely lift my legs. I fell asleep in the afternoon again. After dinner I lay down to ‘rest’ for two minutes… I woke up in the next morning with my clothes on. Ewww.

I essentially took a sleeping pill first thing in the morning.

Rant over.

Anyhow, back to the Parsha. This week’s Parsha gives the dramatic account of God allowing Moshe to send scouts to the land of Israel to survey it before the nation of Israel will enter. In Bamidbar 13:23

They came to the Valley of Eshkol and they cut a branch with a cluster of grapes. They carried it on a pole between two people

Rashi comments that two poles were used. Eight of the spies took the cluster of grapes, one had a fig, and one had a pomegranate. That totals ten out of the twelve scouts. The remaining two: Yehoshua and Calev didn’t take anything. This confirms that the intention of the ten spies was to bring back a terrifying and slanderous report about the land. The fruit was extraordinary, so imagine how gigantic the people are!

Midrash Rabbah adds that they prefaced their fear-mongering with the words, ‘the land does indeed flow with milk and honey…’ Such is the way with gossip – start off with something positive and then get to the evil.

In this week’s recipe we’ll celebrate the extraordinary bounty and gift of the produce of Eretz Yisrael. And let’s be honest – we all know that the fruit and veggies taste a thousand times better in Israel!

Orzo, Grape, and Almond Salad

  • 2 cups orzo, cooked
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • oil for sauteing
  • lemon juice to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute almonds with garlic, basil, and oil until they have a nice golden colour. Add to the pasta. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Add grapes.

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Bahalotcha – June 9, 2012

This Parsha begins with God telling Moshe how Aaron should light the seven lamps of the Menorah casting their light toward the face of the Menorah.

Bamidbar 8:4 This was the form of the menorah: hammered work of gold, from its base to its flower it was hammered work; according to the form that the Lord had shown Moses, so did he construct the menorah.

A short description follows of the Menorah. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch gives a detailed description of the construction and symbolism of the Menorah. The general shape of the Menorah is a tree-like shape and is built from hammered gold. It includes elements of a flower: stems, buds, and flowers.

 Dr. Russell Jay Hendel, writing an explanation of Rav Hirsch sums up the significance of these three elements:

The (a) stem, (b) bud, and (c) flower have as their functions (a) the
gathering of nutrients (b) the embryonic outline of further plant parts (c) reproduction.
In the intellectual-spiritual-emotional sphere this would correspond to (a) raw knowledge
and exposure to an item, (b) intuitive feel and familiarity with an item, (c) an ingrained
reproducible habit.

Bamidbar 8;4 This was the form of the menorah hammered work of gold, from its base to its flower

Spinach Salad with Edible Flowers

Where does one find edible flowers? I happened to find these at the awesome supermarket Pomegranate (definitely the kosher answer to Whole Foods) while visiting New York last week. To be completely honest, the flowers have no taste. But they do look fantastic, so who cares??

  • 1 package spinach
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • mung sprouts
  • 6 strawberries, sliced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian spices
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 3/4 cup oil

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Parshat Naso – June 2, 2012

Bamidbar 6:5  he shall allow the growth of the hair of his head to grow wild.

In this Parsha, the Torah discusses the status of the ‘Nazir:’ the individual whose desire to separate from the physical world and cling to God takes a vow of abstinence from wine/grapes, cutting their hair, and becoming ritually impure. He’s referred to as a sinner but also as ‘Kodesh’ (holy). Rambam explains that a person should seek moderation in their ways and not choose extremes. According to Rabbi Yakov Haber striking a balance is the ideal.

Partaking of the physical pleasures of the world within moderation for the purpose of nurturing the body and providing the necessary physical happiness to serve as the backdrop for ‘avodas Hashem is the approach the Torah advocates for most. 

Here’s a recipe that gives homage to the Nazir (as ‘Kodesh’ of course) and his uncut hair – as symbolized by spaghettini.

Bamidbar 6;5 …and he shall allow the growth of the hair of his head to grow wild

Spaghettini with Grilled Chicken 

  • 2 cups cooked spaghettini
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Marinaded and Bar-b-q’ed Chicken Breasts
  • 4 pieces skinless/boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Mix cooked pasta with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Top with chicken marinaded in soy sauce, ketchup, and honey and then grilled. Add sliced scallions and peppers and sesame seeds.

 

 

 

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