Last Sunday, July 25, 15 people gathered at Oregon’s Museum of Science and Industry for Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz’s 2nd annual Jewish edible garden bike tour. Portland is laid out in grids, like Washington, D.C. Last year’s tour covered NE Portland; this year we set off to explore neighborhoods in SE.
Our ride leader, Tuv member Beth Hamon, is an old-school bike geek. Last year she created spoke cards for our ride (when you do something for the first time, it’s an innovation; twice is minhag) So of course she made a new one for this year’s ride. Here’s a picture:
Here in the City of Angels, the thermometer has rocketed into the triple digits. It’s more like gehanna than heaven.
That means it’s time to celebrate Los Angeles’ cultural diversity and make some agua fresca.
An agua fresca is a cold beverage made with blended fruit or juice and water popular in Mexico and Central America. It is similar to a licuado, except a licuado is made with milk and more closely resembles what we call a smoothie.
In his blog Torah Flora, Dr. Jon Greenberg shares his unique insights and vast knowledge on Judaism and plants (or as he more articulately puts it, “biblical ethnobotany”). Some of us had the chance to witness that knowledge first hand today at the New York Botanical Garden, where Dr. Greenberg gave an enthusiastic group a “Torah Flora Tour.”
The goal of the tour (and blog), according to Dr. Greenberg, is to “use knowledge of plants and nature to better understand Torah and Halacha.” He cites a long-lost relationship during the biblical era between Judaism and nature, and a wish to reconstruct it.
This entry is cross-posted at http://yourhealthisonyourplate.com
Last week, Gene [not his real name] the computer guy showed up at my office for the first time in a while. Right away, I knew something had changed. I said, Gene, how are you? You’re looking very well! He responded with an uncharacteristic grin, and answered by telling me one thing all of us know, but few believe (despite numerous confirmatory personal experiences!). I sat up fast when he said, Diets don’t work.
The affects of our crazy winter weather are not passed us yet. Generally, we think of bad weather as leading to increases in the prices of food. Examples include, damaged oranges when the temperatures drop below freezing or farmers having to charge more since, they had to remove 3 feet of snow from their potato crops. But this time, the cold winter is going to make your produce cheaper.
Florida’s cold weather caused a delay in the harvest date for Florida’s strawberries. The delay caused Florida and California to strawberries to hit the markets at the same time. Last week, 80 million pounds of strawberries were picked – a new record for this time of year. In 2009, a pound of strawberries cost $3.49, while this year strawberries will go for $1.25 per pound.
The month Nisan begins tonight and with it, so many associations. Last year, I wrote about the practice of refraining from eating Matzah from Rosh Hodesh Nisan (i.e. tonight) until Passover. Most people make, if any, the association of dreaded Pesach cleaning and preparation. I’ll be writing some about that in a few days or next week, God willing, but for now, let’s stick to things connected specifically to Rosh Hodesh Nisan.
One association fewer people make is that Birkat haIlanot, the blessing over blooming trees, is typically said in the month of Nisan:
Do you love your CSA (or Tuv Ha’Haretz) but also want sustainable products that are not found locally where you live? Things like olive oil and dates are local to the Mediterranean Sea – not New England. But for folks in the greater New York area committed to sustainable agriculture, some of our CSAs have recently partnered with a new company that supports small-scale farming and economic development in the Negev Region of Israel.
Negev Nectars, a new business that launched last week, will be bringing gourmet, sustainably produced foods to CSAs (and Tuv Ha’Haretz) to the United States. Negev Nectars members will be sent olive oil, jams, chutneys, honey, dried herbs and other unique products (check them out here) three times a year just before Hanukkah, Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Negev Nectars can be shipped all over the U.S., although your share can be picked up at participating sites. Currently Negev Nectars can be picked up at the Tuv Ha’Haretz in White Plains, NY and Forest Hills, NY with additional sites coming soon in New York and New Jersey.
The Delicious Pie, Sans First Slice
On Sunday night as my mother and I stood outside and began the slow, sad process of dismantling our Sukkah, I started to think about autumn and more specifically, why it ranks as my favorite time of the year. The end of the fall holidays always hit me hard, perhaps even harder than the thought of returning to my daily routine. And yet there I was, shivering in my pajamas and thanking Hashem Almighty that it was fall in New York.
Considering my deep loathing of the snow and my firm belief that the winter should be spent hibernating (with only rare breaks for hot chocolate and cookies), I’m always surprised by my love of its seasonal predecessor. But then I remember that the fall is the start of a brand new year for us Jews. Everything is open before us, and we haven’t had much chance to mess up yet. My favorite flavors come into the Farmers’ Markets: apples, butternut squash, fresh figs, and best of all, pumpkins. And for me, the fall comes with a wonderful combination of those two notions.
Since the next day was Columbus Day (or as I like to call it, the most arbitrary day off of the year), my mother, two of my
Farmer Freed’s Super Easy Cake With Fruit On Top
Around this time of year, my kitchen is overflowing with bowls of local apples from my friend’s farms. On Rosh Hashana, Farmer Leon brought over a few honey crisps which as the name implies are crisp, delicious, and spicy sweet. I saved a few of these special gems for a break fast cake. While I was making the cake, my friend Heidi called and said she was making the cake too and her break fast version was featuring peaches and blueberries. The recipe below can be made with any type of seasonal fruit and as the name says, the cake is super easy to whip up and very delicious.
About three weeks ago I became a tourist in Jerusalem. My family packed up our home in the States, stuffed things in storage, and after one stop-over found ourselves in Ben Gurion Airport. The shiny polished floors of the airport were soon a dim memory as we tried to trespass the littered streets of Jerusalem in the oppressive heat. I kept trying to think up reasons for why the Holy Land seemed dirtier then mid-town Manhattan but those justifications didn’t lift my spirits. It was only when my young children began pointing out the pomegranate trees that were also littered all around my neighborhood that I began to feel a bit better. They are beautiful trees with small green leaves and winding branches. The pomegranates seem like such an obvious object to inspire art, literature, and cooking and not surprisingly, they have done so for centuries.
The pomegranates weren’t the only eatables that got me through the high temperatures, long lines, and jet lag. Pretty much anything wrapped in puff pastry or stuffed in a pita seemed to do the trick.
If my summer were a cookbook, it would be called What to Expect When You’re Expecting— Expecting Company, That Is, and It’s a Heat Wave.
Yes, welcome to life in the global warming oven. We are on at least heat wave #3 of the summer here in usually temperate Portland, and I’ve had a potluck to attend or guests to host for all of them. And while the hot weather makes me want to eat ice cream three meals a day, I know I really shouldn’t.
Especially not when “eating” means “bringing to a potluck where it will sit out in the sun.”
So what has been on the menu? Lots, and I figured I’d share it in case you can’t stand the heat but still need to be in the kitchen.
It’s amazing how when you put something out there, the Universe will respond accordingly. Lately I’ve been thinking of the trip we took to Israel a couple of summers ago. More specifically, I’ve been recalling a meal we enjoyed at a beachfront cafe in Tel Aviv, where I tentatively ordered a watermelon feta salad. I wasn’t sure about the flavor combination, but my culinary curiosity was piqued. I reasoned that it had good potential since the two components of the dish were both items that Israel does well- watermelon and feta. And, of course, it turned out to be wonderful, a delicious contrast of cool sweet juiciness and salty creaminess.
My family are not big jam eaters. We’ve got assorted jars of various home-made kumquat and quince jams that friends have given us over the past year or so in the back of the fridge. Still, when the fruit on our little old apple tree is showing the first blush of red – before it turns mealy and gets attacked by bugs – I can’t resist cooking up a batch of apple butter and handing it out. Just the smell of simmering apples and spices sends me back to my early childhood in Minnesota and the giant apple tree in our backyard that had seven different varieties grafted on to it. My Mom would spend hours each fall stirring big pots of applesauce and apple butter to put up for the winter.