Christianity and Judaism have many customs and symbolism in common. Naturally, as the aphorism states, the child does not stray far from the mother. We both take vows to repair our character. But, in one area, we grossly diverge: the proclamation of the new year.
To put it plainly, New Year’s Eve to your Christian friends may be an office party with wine, stolen kisses and shrill music that drowns the clarion call of the shofar. Rosh Hashanah is both private and public sober meditation, as serious as death. You can tell it’s Rosh Hashanah even without a calendar when Jewish faces go serious – when Jewish eyes are not smiling.
In both religions, we reexamine our behavior, note our lapses and vow to improve our moral balance. But, in Judaism, ceremony and symbolism take the throne. The environment is much more regal. After all, we are asking of this shofar-announced first day of the year to come – the king of days, so to speak – mercy and goodness. And, above all, life. May that lump on your leg be benign. May Bennie turn a dark corner and find through honest labor the means to feed his family. We attempt to woo good fortune with a shofar blast, the bugle call of the Jewish warrior. We give tzedakah. We fling away our sins, contemptuous of our selfish errors of the past. This is the first bright, shining day of the year to come. Repent, so that the year to come will reflect the life to come. Sweet as the honey in which we dip our challah.
If we were a bit morally careless during the previous year, we bear down hard on the 10-day interval leading to Yom Kippur. We must be as angelic as a human can be so that we are properly inscribed in the Book of Life – and please, Sir, spell my name right. It’s one “b,” not two.
Forgiveness depends not only on repentance, but also on restitution. If I burned down my neighbor’s house, I must rebuild it. “Sorry” is not enough. I must repay my debts of insult, deceit, thievery and violence. And, to be heretical for a moment (rabbis, read no further) it is vulgar, but not a sin to lust after your neighbor’s wife who looks like Jennifer Lopez. So long as you suppress your evil inclination and take no action on your devilish desire.
Deeds, deeds, Judaism is all about deeds.
Ted Roberts is a freelance writer and humorist living in Huntsville, Ala.
Sukkah Hill Spirits’ Howard and Marni Witkin. (photo from sukkahhill.com)
There are any number of traditional Jewish holiday foods, but not nearly as many holiday-related beverages. Hands down, wine dominates. But, company has arrived. Two new – and already medal-winning – artisanal liqueurs will be a welcome addition to your table.
Los Angeles-based Sukkah Hill Spirits’ Etrog Liqueur and its Besamim Liqueur both won gold in the 2013 SIP awards: out of some 300 entries, Etrog was deemed the best fruit-based liqueur and Besamim the best herbal/botanical. Both liqueurs are kosher (including for Passover), gluten-free and made with no additives or stabilizers. Not only are they a pleasure to drink, they are aromatic as well – lemon and cloves, respectively. Take a sip of either, and a host of recipe possibilities come to mind.
When the Independent heard about Sukkah Hill liqueurs, the first question was whether we can get it in Canada.
“We will be in stores in Washington, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in the next few months, and have a list of stores that ship listed on our website,” responded Howard Witkin. “We are adding a number of new online retailers and will update the site as we put it together.”
Witkin’s wife and business partner Marni is the creative force behind these products. He refers to her as the “Taste Mistress” – “No barrel goes to bottling unless she has tasted it and approved it,” he said.
“Marni’s been making liqueur for almost 10 years,” he explained. “She started out making it for our own home, and to share with friends. Soon, she was making dozens of bottles at the request of friends all around the community. When we were approached by a local storeowner who suggested he could sell whatever we could make, we realized that we had a product that people really enjoyed, and which could become a new business.”
The inspiration to use etrogim came from the fate many of the fruit face after Sukkot – the compost.
“Marni wanted to do more with it than allow it languish after the holiday,” said Witkin. So important during the festivities, “it seemed like a waste to let its potential just fade away. So, we started bottling it.
“Besamim is based on a twist of a traditional spice mixture from Havdalah,” he continued. “Besamim at Havdalah gives an extra lift to your soul as Shabbat wanes. We wanted to tie into those wonderful family times and warm moments. Smell has such ties into memories and experiences. I feel the warmth and closeness of Havdalah and Shabbat every time I taste our Besamim liqueur.”
Transforming something done for pleasure into something commercial can sometimes diminish its enjoyment
“Because we make everything by hand, and use the same pure and simple ingredients and processes we started with, it still feels like a fun project,” said Witkin. “Just the barrels are a lot bigger, and there are thousands of bottles to label. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the creative process of putting together labels and art, and sharing what we are making with so many more people.”
Sukkah Hill Spirits’ website offers several drink ideas. In response to a request for food suggestions, Howard Witkin offered the following recipes, noting also that biscotti dipped in a glass of Besamim is delicious, as is either liqueur over ice cream or sorbet.
GRILLED TROUT WITH ETROG
Combine Etrog Liqueur, brown sugar, black pepper and tarragon vinegar. Marinate red trout fillet – skin on – for up to four hours.
Spray/brush the grill with olive oil. Cover the skin side of the fillets with a thick coating of olive oil and lay on the oiled grill. Leave in place until the top of the fish starts to become opaque. Shake a light rub of brown sugar and pepper over the trout, lightly mist with olive oil.
You should now be able to lift the fillet with a spatula from the skin and flip it over back onto the skin, which has remained on the grill. (The skin protects the trout from burning.) Drizzle the remaining marinade over the fish, sprinkle with brown sugar rub. Cook until flaky (a few extra minutes).
Variation: Drizzle soy sauce on the trout as it grills.
4 large carrots 3 medium yams 3 tbsp Besamim Liqueur Cinnamon to taste (3-6 tsp)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange carrots and yams cut to size in a baking pan. Spoon liqueur over the carrots and yams and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
ETROG HONEY CAKE
Dry ingredients: 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tsp baking soda 2 tsp baking powder 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
Liquid ingredients: 1 cup clear honey 1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup strongly brewed black tea, cooled to room temp. 3 large eggs 1/3 cup Etrog Liqueur 1 cup plus 2 tbsp applesauce 1 tsp vanilla extract
For finishing: honey and Etrog Liqueur (approx. 1/2 cup each)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three eight-by-four-inch loaf pans.
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. In small bowl, combine honey with oil, then add to dry ingredients and whisk in remaining liquid ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 45-55 minutes until cake springs back when lightly pressed and cake tester tests clean.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then poke all over with a skewer and very slowly spoon the honey/Etrog Liqueur mix over the cakes, allowing the liquid to thoroughly saturate them. When cool, remove from the pans. Wrapping and storing the cakes for a day improves the flavor.
When ready to serve, top with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
The holy month of Elul has begun, the sixth month in the Hebrew calendar. There is a rabbinic allusion that the month was named from the initial letters of “Ani le dodi v’dodi li” (“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”), describing the relationship between G-d and His people. In the Aggadah, we read that Elul has special significance because of Moses’ 40-day stay on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28), which was calculated to have begun on the first of Elul and ended on the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur).
Every weekday morning, the shofar is sounded and Psalm 27 recited. Sephardim have already begun saying Selichot, but Ashkenazim recite this only in the last days of the month. The word selichah means forgiveness – it is a plea for forgiveness for sins and, as we approach the time when we know that we will be judged, we practise a kind of spiritual stocktaking. We look inward, trying to assess what happened to last year’s dreams/goals, asking pardon for wrongs committed and hoping, with repentance, charity and prayers, to be written into the Book of Life for another year.
Rav Nachman of Bratslav expressed it beautifully: “Every word of your prayer is like a rose which you pick from its bush. You continue until you have formed a bouquet of blessings, until you have pleated a wreath of glory for the Lord.”
Prayer takes on special meaning in Elul, as we move toward Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the birth of the world. Then, we will recite the special prayer called Unetenah Tokef (“Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day…”) when we are reminded of our mortality. The translation for part of it reads: “Humanity’s origin is dust, and dust is our end. Each of us is a shattered pot, grass that must wither, a flower that will fade, a shadow moving on, a cloud passing by, a particle of dust on the wind, a dream soon forgotten…. But You are the Ruler, the everlasting G-d.” Legend has it that this prayer was written some 10 centuries ago by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz. Ordered to convert to Christianity by the local bishop, Rabbi Amnon refused. His limbs were amputated and, as his mutilated body lay before the ark as he was dying, he said these words, which are also part of the Yom Kippur liturgy.
When mystics pray, they believe there is an ascent of the soul to upper worlds. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise are deemed worthier than petitionary prayers (when we are asking for things), because they are selfless. Some people believe that the highest form of worship is silence. The Bible tells us that Abraham was the first to utter a true prayer – for his fellow man.
In these times, when we are at war, agonizing over our losses and the many families who have lost loved ones, we in Israel need to have faith more than ever. We pray for all Jews to have a good, safe year. We share a common destiny – Jews in Israel and abroad – and it is this shared destiny that binds us together, no matter how different our ethnic and cultural boundaries may be.
I memorized the following poem when I was a schoolgirl. I never knew the author, and doubt that he was Jewish, but I think it is appropriate now and all the year: “I shall pass through this world but once / Any good therefore that I can do / Or any kindness I can show / To any human being / Let me do it now / Let me not defer it or neglect it / For I shall not pass this way again.”
This year’s Summer Celebration cover is a collaborative effort between Jewish Independent production manager Josie Tonio McCarthy, JI publisher Cynthia Ramsay and archivist Jennifer Yuhasz of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, which granted the JI permission to use the circa 1950 Leonard Frank photo that appears on the left of the cover and blends into the current-day photo taken on the Granville Street Bridge of False Creek, with the Burrard Bridge and North Shore mountains in background.
Frank was a well-known professional photographer in British Columbia, active between 1910-1944. He was born in Germany and first moved to San Francisco, before traveling to Port Alberni, B.C., to work in the mining industry. He began his photography interest there. In 1916, he moved to Vancouver and began to work as a photographer. He traveled throughout the province, taking a wide array of photographs, thereby preserving a detailed record of life here. Frank was interested in photographing city scenes (buildings, bridges, waterfront), industry (logging, construction, shipping) as well as scenic views (mountains, lakes, woods). In 1946, two years after Frank died, Otto F. Landauer purchased the Leonard Frank Photos Studio, which he owned and operated until his death in 1980.
The JMABC has approximately 39,000 photographs in the Leonard Frank-Otto Landauer Photos Studio collection – the largest collection of Frank photos in existence. Of these, the JMABC has digitized almost 7,000 photographs and made them available for viewing on its website. You can search them using the JMABC’s Yosef Wosk Online Photo Library: jewishmuseum.ca/archives.
Fresh cheese is a staple in classic Shavuot foods, traditionally wrapped in a soft, egg-like blintz that is then fried lightly in butter. Variations on this theme can keep things interesting and expand your kitchen craft. You can try freshening up your blintz package with a cheese upgrade – namely, simple homemade ricotta, which tastes sublime.
Cheesecake is another way to expand the joy of this holiday. Small cheesecake bars, topped with early strawberries, are a wonderful way to usher in the transition-to-summer month of June. A Thai tea cheesecake is beautiful and surprising, rounding out your holiday with a sense of orange expansiveness, and it is actually easier than handcrafting blintzes.
If you love cheesecake, but feel guilty after eating it, pursue it in a small way instead. These bars hit that spot perfectly, especially when adorned with a perfect, small, ripe strawberry.
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese 1/2 cup (half an 8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 2 tsp fresh lemon juice 2 large eggs, beaten handful or two of ripe strawberries (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F if using a glass pan). Have ready a six-by-nine-inch baking pan (ungreased) or the equivalent.
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the brown sugar, crumbling the sugar into the flour with your hands until uniformly distributed. Add the melted butter and stir to thoroughly combine. Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan.
3. Combine the cottage cheese, cream cheese, granulated sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and eggs in the bowl of a food processor and buzz until completely smooth. Pour this mixture into the pan, spreading it into place.
4. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top surface is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, and allow it to cool completely before chilling. Let it chill for at least two hours and serve cold, cut into 1.5-inch squares; ideally, topped with sliced strawberries.
Makes about 1.5 dozen.
Homemade ricotta is not only more soulful than anything you can buy, but also more economical, producing approximately one pound of cheese for the price of a half-gallon of milk. You can determine the thickness of the cheese by keeping watch over the project and wrapping it up (in every sense) when the cheese achieves your preferred texture. The longer it stands, the firmer it becomes. Time and gravity – and your taste – are the textural determinants. You also get to decide on the salt content. Try this for dessert or brunch, with some artisan honey warmed and spooned over the top like a syrup, and possibly also some fresh fruit, toasted nuts and scones or little cookies. You can get cheesecloth in most grocery stores.
1/2 gallon whole milk 1 cup whole milk yogurt 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1. Combine the milk and yogurt in a large saucepan or a kettle and whisk until smooth. Place over medium heat and warm for about 15 minutes, or until tiny bubbles form along the sides. The top surface may bulge slightly and a little skin might develop. All normal.
2. Remove the pan from the stove and pour in the lemon juice without mixing. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for an hour to curdle.
3. Prepare a four-layer cheesecloth net about 16 to 18 inches square. Lay this inside a medium-large fine mesh strainer or colander balanced over a bowl. Long pieces of cheesecloth will drape down the sides. Pour the curdled mixture into the net so the liquid drips into the bowl and the solids remain in the cheesecloth. Don’t press it or try to hurry the process along in any way, or you’ll lose some of the cheese. The whey needs to drip at its own pace.
4. After about an hour, lift the side-flaps of cheesecloth and, without actually knotting them, tie them neatly around the cheese. Let it stand, slowly dripping, for another two hours, or even longer, if you like a firmer, drier cheese.
5. Salt the cheese to taste, transfer it to a tightly covered container, and refrigerate. It will keep for about five days.
THAI TEA CHEESECAKE
From The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation. Thai iced tea morphs into a dessert (it didn’t have far to go), and all I can say is, this is kind of amazing. No baking required, just a patted-into-place crumb crust and a stovetop-thickened filling. Cool to room temperature, then chill and/or (in my perfect world) freeze.
Brew and strain the tea well ahead of time. To get the proper strength for this recipe, steep 1/2 cup Thai tea in 2 1/2 cups boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain, pressing out and saving as much of the water as you can.
Chocolate crumb crust:
6 to 7 ounces graham crackers (10 or 11 long ones) 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 tbsp sugar 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Place the graham crackers in a food processor and buzz to fine crumbs. You should have about two cups.
2. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl, stir in the cocoa and sugar, and pour in the melted butter. Mix to thoroughly combine and then transfer to a nine-inch pie pan.
3. Spread it out to cover the bottom completely and evenly, letting it begin to climb up the sides of the pan. Pat it into place, gently at first and then firmly, turning the pan as you go, and building a nice edge flush with the rim. Set aside.
1/2 cup sugar 3 tbsp cornstarch 1/4 tsp salt 2 large eggs 1 1/2 cups strong-brewed Thai tea, strained and cooled 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 8 ounces cream cheese
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, eggs and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in the tea and vanilla.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently. Cook and stir for five to eight minutes, or until the custard thickens to the point where it starts to resist being stirred.
3. Remove from the heat and immediately add the cream cheese in pieces; it will melt in. Whisk exuberantly until the cream cheese is completely incorporated and the mixture becomes uniform. This will likely take several minutes.
4. Pour the hot mixture directly into the crust and let it cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Make the topping in the meantime.
2/3 cups sour cream 2 tbsp brewed Thai tea (optional) 1 tbsp sugar 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract pinch of salt
1. Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth and uniform.
2. Spoon on to the top of the pie, spreading it to the edges of the crust.
3. Carefully (so as not to disturb the top surface) cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until serving time. Serve at any temperature, from very cold to partially (or even mostly) frozen.
Yields eight or more servings.
With more than six million books in print, Mollie Katzenis listed by the New York Times as one of the bestselling cookbook authors of all time and has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.” Her new book, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, was published in September 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
This year, Pesach begins at sundown on Monday, April 14, and continues through to Tuesday, April 22. The Exodus from Egypt was ordained by G-d to take place in the month of spring. Moreover, the Torah has ordained that special care should be taken to ensure that Pesach always occurs in spring, as it is written: “Observe the month of spring and keep the Passover unto G-d your G-d, for, in the month of spring, G-d your G-d has brought you out of Egypt by night.” (Deuteronomy 16:1)
To ensure that Pesach should indeed occur in spring, in view of the fact that our calendar is based on the moon and the lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, while the four seasons are determined by the sun, our calendar provides a “leap year” once every two or three years with the addition of a whole month, Adar II, as it did this year. In this way, the lunar year is “reconciled” with the solar year, and Pesach always occurs in the spring. All of the other months of the year, and all our festivals, are regulated accordingly, so that they, too, occur in their due season.
The circumstance of the Exodus from Egypt having been in the spring is explained by our sages as a special Divine benevolence in taking the Jews out of Egypt during the best time of the year. Pesach falls in the middle of the month of Nissan, when nature reveals its greatest powers. We can see and smell blossoms on trees, watch fruit appearing from buds and hear the song of the red-breasted robin.
In fact, there is a special blessing that the rabbis composed for Nissan, for the coming of springtime, that is to be recited when seeing a fruit tree bearing fruit: “Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who has made nothing lacking in His world, and created in it goodly creatures and goodly trees to give humankind pleasure.”
The blessing is said just once a year, preferably in Nissan, but if one didn’t get a chance to say it then, it can also be said in Iyar, the next Hebrew month. Our relatives in South Africa recite this blessing in the months of Elul and Tishrei, as that is when their spring occurs.
The great descriptions that appear in King Solomon’s Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim) include “the times of the rain are passed, the time of the songbird has arrived, the blossoms of the trees are seen throughout the land.” This refers to the Land of Israel, where springtime is warm but not summer hot, and the threat of rain all but gone for the year. The smell of spring and renewed life fills people’s souls, and this season in the holy land of Israel is the beloved partner of Pesach, the holiday of renewal and redemption, optimism and hope. Pesach weather carries with it special blessing and encouragement.
When we were taken out of Egypt by G-d’s outstretched arm, we became a nation. In fact, G-d loves us so much that He came down and took our ancestors out Himself, instead of sending an angel to perform the task. As it is written in the Haggadah, in the portion beginning with “Avadim hayeenu,” “We were slaves,” it says, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and
G-d our G-d took us out of there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
Here in Canada, and indeed in so many places, spring arrives with Pesach, however the weather isn’t necessarily springlike. As a child in Toronto, I remember one Pesach having to be carried by my father during the holiday over snow-covered sidewalks. As a teenager in Florida, we were able to have guests over during Pesach and sit outside for our seder. Having lived in Vancouver for more than 30 years, I have experienced Pesach in pounding rain, as well as in sunshine and warmth.
Pesach is, of course, celebrated by Jews the world over. Our dear daughter and her husband, as emissaries for Chabad, will be hosting more than 30 people in their small apartment in Turin, Italy, for the seders, for example. I wish you and your family a very happy and kosher Passover wherever you will be this Pesach – and whatever the weather. Enjoy!
Esther Tauby is a local educator, writer and counselor.
Passover is soon upon us, and many Jews will celebrate by singing rounds of their favorite classic Passover songs. “Chad Gadya” is a song that ensnares the singer in an increasingly complex chain of causality. Starting with one’s father who buys a goat that gets eaten by a cat that is bitten by a dog that is beaten by a stick, etc., etc. But “Chad Gadya” is not simply an incredibly fun shanty, it is also a great lesson in food chain ecology.
A food chain describes the complex interconnections that occur in nature from different organisms that eat each other. At the start are plants that absorb energy from the sun. The plants are then eaten by herbivores, that are then eaten by predators, that are then eaten by higher-level predators and so on. Each step up the food chain is called a trophic level, from the Greek word trophikos, meaning food.
One phenomenon documented by ecologists is called a trophic cascade. When you remove a key species from the food chain, say from the top, the effects will cascade down the food chain, affecting every organism along the way. One classic example involves the sea otter, a charismatic marine mammal that lived off the coasts of North America as far south as California. Unfortunately, the sea otter was once prized for its lovely fur and, by the early 20th century, they had become extinct south of Alaska.
Sea otters happen to eat a lot of sea urchins. Sea urchins eat a lot of kelp. When the sea otters disappeared, the effect cascaded down the food chain. Sea urchin populations skyrocketed, and began feasting on the kelp. Entire forests of kelp began to disappear, only to be replaced by barren underwater fields full of spiky urchins. This spelled trouble for the many fish and other animals that depended on the kelp forests for shelter and food. Bald eagles, for instance, would normally eat fish hiding in the kelp forests. Without those fish, the eagles had to search elsewhere for food.
Fortunately, sea otter hunting was banned, and populations from Alaska were shipped in. Those new immigrant sea otters have begun to repopulate our coasts, restoring the kelp forests and returning balance to the ecosystem.
Understanding how ecosystems work can be very helpful. For instance, in Israel, on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, they grow many useful crops, such as alfalfa and oats. But voles (a type of rodent) can be a huge pest problem. Thousands of burrow openings can accumulate per hectare, causing severe damage to their crops. Poisons are expensive, can be dangerous for consumption and for other animals, and are often ineffective anyway because more voles can just immigrate from nearby fields. Barn owls eat voles, but they only nest in pre-existing cavities, so farmers began putting up nesting boxes to encourage the owls. The strategy worked, the owls keep the voles under control, and they end up being more cost effective than poisons. Manipulating ecological systems for pest management in agriculture – known as biocontrol – is an increasingly common strategy used around the world to improve yields.
So, when sitting down for your Passover seder, eating your favorite foods, reclining and singing your beloved songs, take a moment to reflect on the complex chains of events that brought that food to your table.
Ben Leyland is an ecologist at Simon Fraser University, a musician and an Israeli-Canadian resident of Vancouver.
In anticipation of the Jewish holiday of Passover, Curly Orli and I are making cute froggies. It is true that frogs were one of the Ten Plagues, but frogs are also believed to be the bringers of spring! These days, they are happily hopping around in parks and forests after a long winter slumber. Now, you can have one of them at home … a Plasticine one, that is.
1. Prepare green Plasticine. Separate it into pieces for different body parts: eyes, head, torso and two pairs of legs.
2. Using white and blue Plasticine, make eyes. With the help of a toothpick, make a nose by poking two holes, then a mouth and, finally, add a red tongue.
3. From earlier prepared pieces, let’s make a lower part of the body and legs. Attach them together.
4. Connect upper and lower body. The froggy is ready!!!
5-6. Our froggy is festive and joyous, so let’s give him a beautiful flower. We can make petals from various small and round colorful Plasticine pieces by making them pointy at the end.
7. Let’s add petals to the flower and connect them to the stem.
8. Now, we will give this flower to the froggy. Our creation is complete.
Happy Passover to all the readers of the Jewish Independent! We wish you peace, joy and new creative adventures.
Lana Lagoonca is a graphic designer, author and illustrator. At curlyorli.com, you will find more free lessons, along with information about Curly Orli merchandise.
Beet salad from Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet. (photo by Ruchy Schon)
At least three times a year – Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Passover – I liven up my dinner menus by trying out some new recipes from recently published cookbooks. I don’t keep a kosher kitchen, I’m not gluten or dairy intolerant, nor am I diabetic or allergic to corn, yet I ventured this spring to try Vicky Pearl’s Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet (Moznaim Publishing Co.), which actually came out last September. While many of the recipes may be appropriate for Pesach meals, many are not chametz-free, particularly in the dessert section – but they’ll make for delicious treats after the holiday.
There are more than 100 recipes in Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet; most are easy-to-follow and quick to make (even without a mixer), but others require a few hours (preparation plus cooking time), so make sure to plan ahead and carefully read through the recipes before setting about to make them. Everything I tried in Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet turned out just like the photos (which are lovely) and, with the exception of the kugel – which, for some reason, I couldn’t get to the quite the right consistency and which had too much salt for my liking – everything tasted great. There was one typo in the book that I came across: the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe makes almost four-dozen cookies, not 18, as indicated.
Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet contains useful information on many of the ingredients used in the recipes, including their nutritional benefits. It has numerous sections: dips and drinks, salads, soups, meat and poultry, fish, mock dairy, side dishes, breads, desserts, and cakes and cookies. It would have been nice to experiment with these last chapters more, as the cookies I made were so delicious – and all indications are that the other gluten-free desserts and breads will be just as tasty.
The following recipes will give readers an idea of how good “free” eating can be. Enjoy!
Try to buy beets that are uniform in size, since they’ll cook more evenly. As an added bonus, smaller beets are sweeter.
10 beets, peeled 1 red onion
Dressing: 1/2 cup liquid from cooked beets or water 1/3 cup vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/4 cup agave, xylitol or granulated sugar 1/4 cup oil 2 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Place beets in an eight-to-10-quart pot (depending on size of beets); cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook for one or two hours, maintaining a rolling boil, or until beets are tender enough that the tines of a fork meet with little resistance. Reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water, remove beets from water. Cool slightly. Slice beets according to your preference.
Place beets in a serving bowl; add onions. In a separate small bowl, mix together dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over vegetables, tossing gently until well coated. For best results, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Yields eight to 10 servings.
CREAM OF ZUCCHINI SOUP
5 large zucchinis, scrubbed clean, washed and cut into thirds 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters 1 large onion, halved 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1-2 tbsp (heaping) kosher salt
Place all ingredients into an eight-quart pot. Fill three-quarters full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium; cook, with lid slightly ajar, for half an hour.
Place immersion blender in pot; blend until smooth.
Makes eight to 10 servings. Freezes very well for up to six months: chill before freezing and thaw in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together eggs and oil. Change paddle attachment to a dough hook.
Add sesame seeds, salt, flour, potato starch, onion and garlic to bowl; mix well.
Divide dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, roll out between layers of parchment paper to 1/16th of an inch thickness.
Remove the top parchment paper; transfer the dough with the parchment paper still under it to a cookie sheet. Cut into one-by-three-inch rectangles. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake in preheated oven 14 to 16 minutes or until golden.
Allow crackers to cook on parchment paper on rack.
Yields 60 crackers and the crackers freeze well for up to two months. They will store well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
1/4 cup oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 3 large onions, sliced thinly 1 lb shoulder steak or pepper steak, or 4 pieces minute steak 1 cup semi-dry red wine 1 bay leaf 1 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic 1/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves (optional) 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic; brown for about one minute. Add onions; sauté until translucent, three to five minutes.
Add steak, wine, bay leaf and spices. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Add five cups water; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, for two to two-and-a-half hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Makes four servings. Freezes very well for up to six months.
5 large eggs 1 cup oil 2 tbsp (heaping) kosher salt 10 large Idaho/russett potatoes (about 5 lbs), peeled and cut in half lengthwise 1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in oil and salt.
In a food processor fitted with the blade with tiny holes and working in batches, process potatoes and onion until almost smooth. Transfer potato mixture to bowl, blending well with egg mixture.
Pour mixture into a parchment-paper-lined nine-by-13-inch baking pan.
Bake in centre of preheated oven for one hour or until top is browned. Reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for two hours.
Yields 12 generous servings.
OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1 cup peanut butter 1/4 trans-fat-free margarine, room temperature (1/2 stick) 3/4 cup agave 1/2 cup xylitol or granulated sugar 2 large eggs 1 1/4 tsp baking soda 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 2/3 cup chocolate chips (sugar-free, if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream together peanut butter, margarine, agave and xylitol (or sugar). Add eggs and baking soda. Mix well.
Stir in oats and chocolate chips until well combined.
Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 11 minutes or until golden yet soft. Do not overbake. Remove to rack to cool completely.
Veganism is about much more than dietary choice. It is an ethical philosophy based on the belief that other animals are not ours to use. Like humans, animals are sentient: they experience pain and pleasure, they suffer and they form deep emotional bonds with others in their families and communities. Vegans do not use animals for food, clothing, entertainment or animal experimentation regardless of taste, pleasure or tradition. Being a vegan is also much more commonplace today, as is following a vegan diet for health reasons. This means it might not be unusual to find a vegan at your table on Passover.
For the fourth year in a row, my wife and I will be hosting an all-vegan Passover seder, or “veder,” as we call it. We started this tradition after a group of Jewish vegan friends expressed how alienating it can be to celebrate the holiday in the traditional way. As ethical vegans, it is difficult to sit at a table laden with the body parts of the nonhuman animals that we are working to protect and rescue. Many had stopped attending their family dinners, and one friend was no longer invited simply because others felt uncomfortable when she passed up most of the food on the table. But our hunger for the Jewish tradition of Passover remained.
The Passover seder commemorates our liberation from Pharaoh and the larger issue of the immorality of slavery. As Jews, we have a long history of suffering, oppression and slavery and, as animal activists, this has informed our choices to work to help others end their own oppression – including animals. It’s no wonder Jews have played key roles in other movements such as civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and animal rights. The liberation of animals is another social justice movement for which the Jewish community should naturally feel empathy. Jews and vegans share common values such as justice, fairness, equality and compassion.
How we as animal activists celebrate the meaning of the Passover seder is to remember the evils of the past and to expand our circles of compassion and justice so that no group, human or nonhuman, need experience the suffering and exploitation of being different or unequal. Passover is a great opportunity to reflect on how we can create less suffering for all those who are oppressed through our personal behaviors and choices.
Simply adding vegan foods and vegan versions of traditional dishes to the table is a way of making a statement that we include the most vulnerable and innocent among us when we celebrate this holiday. These days, it’s as simple as Googling “vegan [whatever dish] recipe,” vegan or “vegan Passover recipes,” and thousands of animal-free options will magically appear. At our veder, we serve all of the traditional dishes we grew up eating – matzah brie, brisket, gefilte fish, potato latkes, matzah ball soup, kugel, macaroons – in veganized versions without meat, dairy or eggs.
With a little effort and creativity, your entire seder dinner can be made vegan. We even have an animal-friendly seder plate. Instead of a lamb shank bone, we use a dog cookie-cutter to make a playful bone-shaped piece of tofu. Instead of an egg, we use a small dab of commercial “egg replacer” used in vegan baking. I encourage all Jews to embrace the meaning and tradition of the holiday while also incorporating new traditions that reflect values of justice, ethics and compassion. When we can celebrate the holiday without doing any harm to others, why wouldn’t we?
VEGAN CHOPPED LIVER
Adapted from The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook by Roberta Kalechofsky and Roda Rasiel (Micah Publications, 1997).
1/2 lb brown lentils 1 large onion, diced 2 tbsp olive oil 1 cup walnuts salt and pepper to taste
1. Put lentils in a two- or three-quart pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure water has not boiled off, and add water as needed.
2. Sauté onions in olive oil until golden and tender. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Drain lentils and blend, along with the walnuts and onions, in a food processor until homogenized, but leave some of the texture intact.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill about two hours.
Gary Smith, co-founder of Evolotus, a PR agency working for a better world, blogs at thethinkingvegan.com and has written for many publications. He and his wife are ethical vegans and live in Los Angeles with their cat Chloe and two beagles rescued from an animal testing laboratory, Frederick and Douglass.
(Editor’s note: Some vegan recipes will contain ingredients that are not strictly kosher for Passover. For those who are less strict, the options abound. For more strict kosher diets, incorporate dishes that are heavier on fruits and vegetables, and avoid using legumes, like lentils, or products that contain wheat or gluten. Also, only certain egg substitutes are kosher for Passover, and many Ashkenazi Jews abstain from eating kitniyot on Passover; tofu is made from soybeans, and is considered to be kitniyot.)