My Shaved Fennel Salad


Inspired by Heidi Swanson’s own recipe

1 small zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved paper-thin
loosely chopped fresh dill
1/6 cup/80ml fresh lemon juice
1/6 cup/80ml extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
2 or 3 generous handfuls arugula
honey, if needed
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup/2 oz/ 60g pine nuts, toasted (I did not have any kind of nuts but wish I had some)
1/4 cup/50g fresh goat cheese, the original recipe calls for feta but I didn’t have any either

Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.

When you are ready to serve the salad, put the arugula on a plate. Scoop some of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and pour some of the lemon juice dressing on top of that. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt if needed. If the lemons were particularly tart, you may need to counter the pucker-factor by adding a tiny drizzle of honey into the salad at this point. Let your taste buds guide you.

Serve topped with (pine)nuts, cheese and cherry tomatoes

Tutti-Frutti Crumble My Way


On her blog, Heidi Swanson a six recipe sampler of her new book Super Natural Every Day. The sampler includes Tutti-Frutti Crumble. I wanted to try this recipe for last night’s Shabbat meal but lacked three ingredients: rolled oats, dried currants and Beaujolais wine. Yet, since I had all the other red fruits, I thought it would be a shame not to try it all the same.

I decided to do away with the dried currants altogether and use ground almonds instead of rolled oats and peach liquor instead of Beaujolais wine. I had an unopened bottle of this light liquor in the pantry and thought that it would go well with the other summer flavors in the crumble. I also omitted the poppy seeds included in the original recipe even though I had some. It turned out to be a lovely crumble and one that could be a nice dessert in a Shavuot menu.

So here is my own version of Tutti-Frutti Crumble:

Tutti-Fruti Crumble

adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday

3/4 cup / 3 oz / 85 g spelt flour
1/2 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g ground almonds
1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g natural cane sugar
1/3 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g salted butter, melted

1 tablespoon all-natural potato starch
1/3 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g natural cane sugar or muscovado sugar
11/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g raspberries
11/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup / 60 ml peach liquor

Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C with a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch / 20cm square baking dish.

To make the crumble, mix together the flour, ground almonds and sugar in a bowl. Use a fork to stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture into three portions and use your hands to form three patties. Place the patties in the bowl and freeze for at least 10 minutes, or until you are ready to bake.

Make the filling by whisking together the potato starch and sugar in a large bowl. Add the raspberries, strawberries and cherries and toss until evenly coated. Wait 3 minutes, add the liquor, and toss again.

Transfer the filling to the prepared baking dish. Remove the topping from the freezer and crumble it over the filling, making sure you have both big and small pieces.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the topping is deeply golden and the fruit juices are vigorously bubbling. Let cool a little before serving, 20 to 30 minutes.

Heidi Swanson’s original recipe

Zucchini Crumble


Since my next interview series seems to be a little delayed, I am starting a mini series of Shavuot recipes. It is customary to eat dairy food on Shavuot therefore I have opted for dairy recipes.

One explanation for the consumption of dairy foods on this holiday is that the Israelites had not yet received the Torah, with its laws of shechita (ritual slaughtering of animals). As the food they had prepared beforehand was not in accordance with these laws, they opted to eat simple dairy meals to honor the holiday.

Zucchini Crumble for 6

1 kg zucchini, thinly grated
200 g fresh goat cheese, cubed
fresh mint or a mixture of herbs and parsley
2 tbsp semolina
salt & pepper to taste

150 g flour
75 g butter
2 tbsp olive oil

Press the grated zucchini in a colander so as to squeeze out the liquid. Mix in a glass bowl with the cheese, the semolina and the herbs. Season to taste.

Rub the butter into the flour. Keep rubbing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Spoon the zucchini mixture into the bottom of a well-oiled baking dish, then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top. Drizzle with oil. Bake at 375°F for at least 25 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown.

My Mother’s Ice Cream


1 can evaporated/unsweetened condensed milk
250 g / 1 cup sugar
500 g / 1 pound fruit (one of the following: strawberries, peaches, blackcurrant, …) washed, peeled if necessary and pureed

Put the can in the fridge one or two hours before you start the recipe.
Pour the milk in a glass bowl and whisk it until it is quite foamy. Fold in the sugar and the fruit. Mix carefully.
Pour into a mold and put in the freezer for a few hours.

Shavuot Roundup


Last year Leora and I studied Megillat Ruth, the Book of Ruth, and Shavuot together. If you haven’t read what we wrote at the time or if you wish to refresh your memory, here is the list of our posts.

On Leora’s blog:
Ruth and Public Domain Images
Ruth: Famine, Infertility and Ploni Almoni
Truth and Beauty
Ruth: Bitterness to Hope

On this blog:
Megillat Ruth
Getting Ready for Shavuot?
Shavuot for Today
Shavuot: an Algerian Custom
Shavuot: Afterthoughts

Shavuot: Afterthoughts

180px-WheatFlower1.jpgSince I spent some time studying The Book of Ruth before the holiday, I was quite happy when my favorite rabbi talked about it yesterday morning.

One important point he made was about decision making. He noted that, in this text, two people say they are going to do something, or start to do it, and then change their minds.

These two people are Orpah and Ploni Almoni. The former sets off for Bethlehem with Naomi and Ruth and then leaves them when Naomi tells the two women to go back to Moab. The other is Ploni Almoni who first agrees to buy Naomi’s field and then retracts when he is told he is supposed to marry Ruth – as part of the deal.

His point was that people have different options – even when they believe they don’t – and that, had Orpah followed Naomi and Ruth, she could have had a fate similar to Ruth’s since there were in fact two potential husbands, Boaz and Ploni Almoni.

Apparently, the Talmud (I am sorry I am unable to cite the sources) says the same about the strife between Yakov and Esav. They did not have to fight for birthright and could have reached some sort of agreement. People often have the choice and, when important things are at stake, should always ensure the decision they are making is the right one.

Shavuot: an Algerian Custom

180px-Phoenix_dactylifera1.jpgI was invited to Paris for Shavuot by my friend Joelle and her husband Pierre. On her mother’s side, Joelle’s family comes from Constantine where there used to be a large Jewish community before Algeria became independent in 1962.

Her mother’s family came to France at that time and when Joelle was a child her grandmother lived with them. This old lady kept the family traditions and taught my friend her recipes and customs. One such custom was the three items of food they ate on the first morning of Shavuot before they went to shul.

They would eat fromage blanc (a thick yoghurt-like dairy product), a date and a piece of matzah ashirah (enriched marzah). A ritual we repeated on Monday morning before leaving for the synagogue.

The soft cheese and date were obvious references to the Torah being like milk and honey. “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11).

Joelle was not quite sure why they ate matzah but we assumed that the idea behind the custom was to link the two holidays Pesach and Shavuot. We also supposed that matzah ashirah was favored since one is not supposed to eat bread (and matzah ashirah is not considerd bread) before morning prayers, whether at home or in a synagogue.

News from Other Blogs


With Shavuot literally round the corner, I have little time to blog. So instead I prefer to point to some nice posts:

Ima Shalom deals with child friendly shuls in Tel Aviv.

Frumteacher weighs the positive and negative elements of her third school year as a teacher in the Netherlands.

In Simple Dinners, SuperRaizy provides us with tips to counteract rising grocery prices.

Leora offers a mouthwatering recipe for orange cake.

The Jew and the Carrot posts about eating local on Shavuot, complete with a recipe for lasagna.

Chag Sameach!

Shavuot for Today

ruth-boaz.jpgAs Jews we don’t believe the Torah is a historical document, one to study like any other ancient text, but that God gave it to us to live with, in our time. Rabbi Levi Meier sums it up beautifully in Second Chances:

“The Torah is not meant to be understood only on an esoteric, philosophical level. It also constitutes a practical guide for how to live our daily lives.”

« Neither with you only (do I make this covenant), but with him that standeth here with us, and also with him that is not here with us this day » (Devarim 29:13-14)

Concerning the giving of the Torah, the Talmud is quite specific and understands the verses above as a clear reference to the generations of Jews to come and to the future converts who would later accept Judaism.

Consequently next week, when we hear the reading of the ten commandments and the following day that of the Book of Ruth, we are expected to hear these words not mainly as a historical record but as a message that is still relevant today.

Yet is it as easy today as it was 2,000 years ago? We live in a world that is shaped by painful historical events, rapid advance in science, psychoanalysis, new technologies… We have become more learned in lots of areas but also more sceptical.

Rabbi Levi Meier draws an interesting comparison between Naomi and the Klausenberger Rebbe that may be worth looking into and try to develop.

In Moab, Naomi lost a husband and two sons and her response to suffering was ethical. She was kind and made sure her daughter-in-law had a secure future. As for Ruth, after losing a husband and being left childless, she joined the Jewish people. The spiritual path she chose helped her make the right choices for herself and her mother-in-law who thus became the great grand mother of King David, the greatest king in Jewish history.

Rabbi Levi Meier recalls that despite losing his wife and eleven children during the Holocaust, the Klausenberger Rebbe still believed in life. He remarried, had seven more children and after settling in Israel in 1957 raised money for the establishment of key institutions to serve his neighborhood. These institutions include girls’ and boys’ schools and yeshivas, an orphanage, and an old-age home. He also set up a community hospital, “a very special institution where no patient is ever turned away and every employee is treated with dignity and respect.” He created a program called Mifal HaShas, in which students would master thirty folios of the Talmud in one month. Mifal HaShas continues to operate today worldwide.

His own response to his own suffering as well as that of the Jewish people was both ethical and spiritual. Could that be the message God still conveys to the Naomis, Ruths and Boazs of today?

For more posts on Shavuot, see:

– Leora: Ruth: Famine, Infertility and Ploni Almoni
– Leora: Truth and Beauty
– Leora: Ruth: Bitterness to Hope
Getting Ready for Shavuot?
Megillat Ruth