Healthy and Favorite Recipes of 2011

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Last January I wrote about dieting and the benefits of healthy habits. However, while I still strongly believe that the Japanese diet has a lot to offer, I have also found that it is difficult to stick to it as there are so many ingredients we cannot find here.

Because of the similarities in climate between Southern Scandinavia and Northern France, which greatly influence available produce, I have come to the conclusion that the so-called Nordic Diet works best for me.

Using local products has been greatly helped by the CSA basket I get every week and this diet does not mean you have to relinquish all the recipes and tastes you like. Thus it is quite possible to make a curry with vegetables that are grown locally.

I hope you enjoy this following list, which more or less reflects what I make and eat regularly.

Nordic Recipes:
My Latest Favorite (root vegetable gratin)
Root Parsley Recipes
Vegetarian Pyttipanna
Swedish Fish Soup
Rye Soda Bread
Rye Focaccia
Cardamom Buns

Mediterranean Recipes:
Ribollita con Ceci
Panzanella (Italian Summer Salad)
Tian – Vegetable Gratin

Asian-Inspired Recipes:
Thai Fishcakes
Butternut Squash and Chard Red Curry
Tofu Burgers
Salmon in Foil
Ramen Stir-Fry

More on the New Nordic Cuisine:
Claus Meyer’s website
I am a chef therefore I cook, a lecture by Trine Hahnemann

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Jewish Ethics and Social Justice

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I was privileged to receive a review copy of Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz‘s first book, Jewish Ethics and Social Justice. Yanklowitz is the Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, the first and only Orthodox Jewish social justice organization and a columnist for a number of Jewish publications.

Jewish Ethics and Social Justice is an anthology of articles. They were written over the past few years and many have been published in various publications such as The Jewish Press ,The Jewish Week, Conversations, HaAretz, etc.

All the essays are deeply rooted in our every day life. Rabbi Yanklowitz writes about a variety of subjects such as child labor, the role of women in Judaism and in the world, vegetarianism, globalization, the Davos World Forum, life in prison, hotel workers, and so much more. He starts by presenting a topic, then explains what the Jewish tradition has to say about it – drawing from the Talmudic sages, Medieval commentators as well as contemporary Jewish leaders. He then brings his own conclusions on the topic and shows immediate and concrete implications in our post-modern society.

In addition, Rabbi Yanklowitz encourages us to act as a community and constantly reminds us of our collective responsibility as a unique people, making sense of our presence in the diaspora as “light to the nations”. Thus, he never shuns disturbing topics such as the Rubashkin scandal or money laundering among the Orthodox community.

Obviously, what appeals to me may not appeal to other people, but I found that most essays are thought-provoking, engaging and easy to read.

The 54-essay format is also a great idea because s it means the book could be used by reading groups – as well as individuals – on a weekly basis following the Torah reading cycle.

Those who are familiar with this blog know how important it is to me to stress the relevance of Judaism in our time and within our environment, what Rabbi Yanklowitz calls “Street Torah”. This is exactly what this book does. It challenges the reader and won’t leave you indifferent.

Thai Soup with Chickpeas

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Ingredients (serves about 4 people):
I red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 red pepper
1 parsley root, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp of red curry paste
lime juice
coconut milk
1/2 can of chickpeas

Gently sauté the onion, then add the garlic. Add the vegetables after about 5 minutes. Cover with water and add the curry paste. Cover and simmer for half an hour.

When the vegetables are cooked, purée the soup until it is very smooth. Add some coconut milk to taste, 2 or 3 tablespoons of lime juice and the chickpeas. Simmer gently for another 5 minutes. Season to taste – I added a splash of soya sauce – and serve.

Option: sprinkle with chopped cilantro just before serving.

Training a Trainee II

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I was quite awed last year about having a trainee for a full year – I needn’t have been: my trainee was competent, conscientious and also very pleasant.

When September came this year, I was confident that I would probably have a similar experience and be responsible for a youngster who was eager to learn and share teaching enthusiasms and doubts. I didn’t worry – I should have!

This year my trainee is 56. When he was younger he had no desire to teach and he went to college to study economics and management. Later he specialized in IT and worked in this sector for over a decade.

At some point in his professional life, he decided to switch to teaching and because he had lived in Britain for a number of years, teaching English must have looked like a good idea. Like all potential teachers in France, he took, and passed, the very difficult exam that allows candidates to become qualified teachers – provided their training is a success.

Unfortunately the last part did not happen and he is now repeating his training period, with me as his tutor. His weakest point is class management. This man shuns conflicts and thus implicitly allows the students to test his limits. Therefore the noise level in his classes often reaches an intolerable level as the students are busy talking rather than working.

Advising trainees on class management is far from easy. The way you manage a class has to do with who you are as a person. What works for me – apart from common sense – might not work as well for another teacher. In addition my task is all the harder as this person is older than me and not always ready to acknowledge his failings and shortcomings. It does not help that he is also not very brave and will use the same lessons and tests with very different classes.

Because of this reluctance, each of my visits is followed by a short exchange and then an email where I try and clarify what went well, what went wrong and how he could improve. So far however I have seen very little change and I am not sure how I can help him in a positive and efficient way.

My Latest Favorite

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The title of this post is a reference to a simple dish I have been making lately. We get a lot of winter vegetables in the CSA basket at the moment and unfortunately I have little time to cook because of evening class meetings. So fast, easy and tasty is what I am cooking.

I had left a little message on Facebook asking my friends for reading suggestions. Miriam Kresh suggested A Thousand Days in Venice. The Italy-lover in me wanted to read the book so I ordered it and was delighted to find a few recipes at the end of this autobiographical novel. One for a Gratin of Leeks caught my fancy.

I slightly adapted the recipe and make it with leeks or turnips; I believe it is also great with zucchini. Here are the ingredients for two people.

1 pound of vegetables, peeled, sliced and steamed for about 7 minutes
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tbsp grappa or vodka, I use vodka
1 pinch grated nutmeg
black pepper, freshly cracked
fine sea salt
1/2 cup grated cheese
Olive oil

Oil a baking dish. Mix together all other ingredients but only 2/3 of the cheese. Coat evenly the vegetables with the cream mixture. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.