Jan 252013

image fresh pomegranate-tu-b'shvat
Happy Tu B’Shvat!

The Jewish new year for the trees falls this coming Shabbat, Friday the 25th of January, after nightfall.

If you’re plannng to conduct a Tu B’Shvat seder, here’s  a list of haggadot you can download.

And recipes with the Biblical seven species that grow in Israel, for your seder – enjoy!


Eggplant Stuffed With Burgul and Dried Fruit

Spiced Olives and Potatoes With Olives


Turkey Breast Stuffed With Fruit and Nuts

Roasted, Fruited Chicken


Sourdough Walnut Herb Bread

Basil Bread

Sourdough Onion Bread



Baba BeTamur – Iraqui Pastries Stuffed With Dates or Almonds

Chocolate Fruit/Nut Clusters

Jan 192011


For our Tu B’Shvat feast, I thought I’d stuff an eggplant.  I saw this gorgeous shiny purple “baladi” – prime – eggplant in the shuk. Brought it home, set it down on the kitchen counter, and contemplated it.

I could imagine layering it, fried, with cheese. Doing something tomato-saucy.

Umm, too much.  Too big to chop up into ratatouille. We would be eating ratatouille for weeks. Too big for babah ganoush for the same reason. Too big to grill. Too big, too big, too big. There’s only three of us in the house these days. What was I thinking?

But it looked so good.

Then I recalled a fruity bulgur salad that was sitting in the fridge. It was full of chopped nuts and fruit and chives and celery. Hmmm. Wheat. Walnuts. Currants. Sounds like Tu B’Shvat to me. So I stuffed and baked the purple monster with fruity bulgur and let me tell you, it was good. We didn’t have any trouble eating it up. If you’re fond of eggplant, try this one.

Eggplant Stuffed with Fruity Bulgur


1 large eggplant

olive oil

1/2 cup medium-grade bulgur

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling water

1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/4 cup raisins or currants

1 celery stalk

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons minced chives or 1 shallot

1/2 red apple

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon cumin

dash cinnamon

1. Place the bulgur in a heatproof bowl with the salt and mix. Pour the boiling water over it and cover the bowl. Leave it alone for 1/2 hour.

2. Meantime, toast the sunflower seeds in a medium oven for 5 minutes. Chop the walnuts coarsely and the celery and apple finely (don’t peel the apple). Chop the chives (or shallot).

3. Pour some of the lemon juice over the apples to prevent browning. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and set aside.

4. Remove the green cap from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in half horizontally. Cut away the pulp, leaving a thin shell inside. Chop the pulp finely and add it to the fruit bowl. Mix well.

5. Brush the insides of the eggplant halves with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and grind some pepper over all.

6. Fluff the cooked bulgur up with a fork. Add it to the fruit/eggplant bowl and mix well. Drizzle more olive oil into it, mix, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, honey, cumin or cinnamon to taste.

7. Stuff the eggplants, tamping the bulgur mixture down with your hands to keep it firm. Drizzle yet another little olive oil over all.


8. Tuck a strip of tin foil tightly around each half. Bake at 350° F – 180° C for 1 to 1-1/2 hour, depending on size of eggplant. When the meat on the shells and the chopped eggplant in the stuffing is tender and an appetizing odor of “cooked” arises, it’s done.

Remove the tin foil and bake another 10 minutes to make the top crisp.

The stuffing tends to crumble when first taken out of the oven. To slice firm portions, allow the dish to cool and then re-heat it. Good at room temperature too.

slice w fork in foreground blurred

Jan 242010

Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, falls on Friday night, the 29th of this month – this coming Friday. It’s an agricultural holiday, marking the cutoff date by which to calculate the age of a tree. As Jews may not eat fruit of a tree less than four years old, we need to know its age. Another important issue with regard to a tree’s age is tithing the fruit: one may not bring tithes of fruit from the previous year as this year’s tithes. There are more, complicated halachic issues, but they are outside the scope of this blog. Follow the links below for more information.

There is a custom, dating from the 1600s,  to hold a seder to honor this minor holiday; a seder similar to Passover’s. Although Jews continued the custom of eating fruit from Israel on the day, observance of the seder lapsed. It was revived in Israel in the late 1800s and has since then taken hold in Jewish homes and congregations all over the world.

It’s a short, pleasant ceremony that involves eating fruit and drinking four cups of wine (or grape juice), always accompanied by the blessings and some meditations on the meanings of these symbolic acts. The seder is easily incorporated into the Shabbat meal. Kids love it, and so do grownups. For people living outside of Israel, it refreshes the connection with the land of Israel. Actually it does so for those of us living here too, especially those living in towns and who seldom think of our deep relationship to the land.

There are different takes on Tu B’Shvat. Many religious folks interpret the holiday according to the Kabbalistic tradition set down by Rabbi Yitzak Luria. Secular people might prefer to emphasize the relationship between man and ecology on this day. Some observe the seder through a feminist perspective. Vegetarians and those who hold by the macrobiotic way of life especially enjoy this holiday. But as loose as the guidelines may be, everyone needs a plan to follow, so here are links to Tu B’Shvat seder haggadot: booklets providing a framework for the event.

Planting a tree is a popular Tu B’Shvat activity in Israel; this is usually done through organized trips managed by schools, community centers, or the Jewish National Fund.

The simplest way to present foods appropriate to the day is to set out plates of dried fruit and bread. Featured should be the seven species of fruit and grains native to Israel and which were offered in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem:

  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Pomegranates (you can use pomegranate molasses to season a dish, or drink bottled juice if the fresh fruit isn’t available)
  • olives
  • grapes or raisins
  • wheat – as bread
  • barley – I suggest a soup with barley in it: mushroom/barley or chicken soup with barley in it, or pea/barley.

At least one kind of nut with shells, like walnuts or pistachios should be on the plates, as well as fruit with peels like oranges, fruit with edible seeds like strawberries, and  fruit with inedible seeds like plums. Each kind has symbolic meaning (discussed in the haggadot, links above).

If you can’t tolerate four cups of wine, it’s fine to drink grape juice. Whichever you use, you need dark red, light red, pink, and white wine or juice. I have white and red wine on hand and just mix at the table, but if you like you can certainly buy all four kinds.

Here are some recipes that feature fruit, bread, and olives:

It’s not too late to plan a Tu B’Shvat seder at home, or even to join a tree-planting trip. Mark the day in the way that appeals to you most.

What are you planning to do for Tu B’Shvat?

Mar 072009

There’s been a hiatus here on the blog, for good things. My sister came from the States to visit, and we’ve been traveling, eating out, and when at home, getting ready for Purim.But right now, I want to show you what I cooked for Shabbat night.  Some time ago I posted a photo of turkey tajine to the blog, but not a recipe. Let me make up for it now. I served this tajine with brown rice, string beans, and sliced tomatoes.

Turkey Tajine with Dried Fruit

Serves 4 generously

This recipe could have easily been made with chicken, beef, or lamb. Turkey is simply my preference. The dried fruit may vary also: I just had prunes and figs around but dates, raisins, cranberries, apricots, or any combination of them, would add piquancy and sweetness also.


1 1/2 kg. red meat of turkey

olive oil

1 large red onion

4 garlic cloves

a large handful of dried fruit

2 Tblsp. Silan date honey or maple syrup

2 Tblsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. ginger

1 small piece of chili pepper

1 large bay leaf

1 medium orange, peeled and quartered

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tblsp. dark honey

1/2 cup chopped parsley


If you don’t have a tajine, use a deep skillet that has a lid.

1. Peel the onion and slice it into thick rings. Heat a little olive oil in your tajine/skillet and start cooking the onions in it, over a low flame.

2. Peel and chop the garlic coarsely. Set it aside.

3. After the onion has become soft but not caramelized nor fried, add the cumin, ginger, chili pepper, fruit, bay leaf, and orange quarters. Allow this to cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic.

4. Add the turkey pieces and brown them, turning them over a few times during the process. This should take about 15 minutes over a medium flame.

5. Add the silan/maple syrup and  soy sauce, drizzling the liquids over the turkey. Add 1 tsp. salt; grind some pepper over all.

6. Cover the tajine and lower the flame as far as possible. Allow it to cook gently for up to an hour, checking once in a while to make sure the turkey isn’t sticking to the pan or becoming overcooked.

When it seems ready, add the honey. Stir it into the liquids, which should have become a thick sauce. Taste the tajine and add salt and pepper if liked.

The stew will be pungent and slightly sweet, but an uninteresting brown. To please the eye, scatter some chopped parsley over it before serving – or some lightly toasted pine nuts if you have some on hand.

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