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Sunday, October 4, 2015

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It’s a new year for trees – enjoy your fruits and nuts

Tags: Food

Feb. 7, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, it’s time to celebrate Tu b’Shvat, New Year of the Trees. On Tu b’Shvat, it is customary to eat fruits and nuts, especially those that are associated with Israel. I have several Israeli friends who eat carob on Tu b’Shvat and some will eat some form of etrog, either candied or as preserves. 

A Tu B’Shvat Seder is somewhat similar to a Passover seder and involves enjoying the seven species (sheva minim) for which the land of Israel is praised: dates, figs, grapes or raisins, olives, pomegranates, wheat and barley (in the form of bread, cake or cereal.)

I’ve selected some simple, yet scrumptious recipes from The Bais Yaakov Cookbook (Feldheim) that incorporate typical ingredients for Tu b’Shvat or any yom tov.

This unique fundraising cookbook, recently published by the Fund for Jewish Education, contains “200 original recipes and guidance to uplift and enhance your Shabbos, Yom Tov and everyday table.”




Good enough on its own but enhanced when served with your own homemade garlic twists. These are a great accompaniment to any meal.


1 lb. boneless flanken


ground black pepper

3 tsp. olive oil, divided

8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced

1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)

1 1/2 cups peeled chopped parsnips

1 cup chopped celery

4 garlic cloves, minced

7 cups hot water

1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup pearl barley, uncooked

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

6 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 1/2-in. pieces


Season beef with salt and ground black pepper. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a slow cooker.

Add remaining 2 tsp. olive oil to the same skillet. Add mushrooms, leeks, parsnips, celery and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to the slow cooker. Stir in hot water, tomatoes with juice, barley, salt and ground black pepper. Cover; cook on high until meat falls off bone and barley is tender, about 4 1/2 hours.

Remove meat from the slow cooker and cool slightly. Discard bones and fat. Shred meat; return to slow cooker. Add green beans. Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 10 servings




Preheat the oven to 400. Roll out one package of chilled puff pastry dough until it is about 1/4-in. thick. Use a sharp knife to trim and straighten the edges. Cut the dough lengthwise into 1/4-in. wide strips. Brush olive oil over the dough and sprinkle on kosher salt, minced garlic, parsley, ground black pepper and poppy seeds.

Grab each end of the dough strip with your fingers and twist the strip in opposite directions. Lay the twists on a baking sheet so they do not touch. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.



Remember when fruits were piled in a bowl and eaten as a snack and salads were savoury? This salad takes fruit to a new level.


Poppy Dressing:

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. dry mustard powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. poppy seeds



1 (10 oz.) bag romaine lettuce, chopped

1 orange, peeled and cut into thin segments

1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into thin segments

1 red onion, diced

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Combine dressing ingredients. In a jar or cruet add olive oil, sugar, apple cider vinegar, dry mustard powder, salt and poppy seeds. Shake well to combine.

To assemble salad: Place romaine lettuce, orange wedges, grapefruit wedges, red onion and avocado into a large salad bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.  6 to 8 servings




Finally a delicious dessert that has no chocolate! Light and luscious, try serving the lemon curd as a dip for fruits or scones.  A personal favourite is to dip blueberries and strawberries in it. Use margarine and non-dairy whipped cream to make this dessert pareve.


Lemon Curd:

5 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

4 lemons, zested and juiced (zest is optional)

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter or margarine, cut into cubes

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1 in. up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure lemon juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest, if using, to egg mixture and whisk smooth.

Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place the bowl on top of the saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter or margarine, 1 piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Remove curd to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.


Vanilla Cake:

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

3 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

raspberry jam (optional)

whipped cream, regular or non-dairy (optional)

fresh fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a jelly roll with parchment paper; set aside. Beat eggs in bowl of an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla sugar, baking powder, vegetable oil and all-purpose flour. Pour onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool. Cut cake into squares the size of your trifle bowl. Place cake in serving dish. Spread half of lemon curd over cake. Top with second cake and finish with lemon curd. Alternatively, spread raspberry jam between the cake and lemon curd. To serve as individual desserts, layer the curd and cake in shot glasses. 12 servings


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