Monthly Archives: February 2012

Shavua Tov, Ya’ll (what? I’m from Texas!)

This week, it’s Rebecca’s turn. It was such a lovely surprise to have her in Philly for Shabbat, and Aliza certainly enjoyed sitting on Rebecca’s lap and clapping during Tikvah post-luck singing! As of now, no one’s signed up for next week, but you can change that.

Shabbat is my favorite day of the week; time to unplug, turn off my phone, relax, rest and spend time with family & friends… This week I prepared for Shabbat early. When I first offered to guest-blog, I thought I’d be in upstate NY for Shabbat to visit my friend’s student pulpit in a smaller Jewish community … but my plans changed and luckily I got to spend a wonderful, restful, relaxing and of course delicious Shabbat in Philly!!! On Thursday night, I helped bake for the Oneg: we made Lemon Bars, Carrot Cake, Caramel Grahams, and these… can you tell what they are?

These cute cookies are vanilla wafers with red and yellow icing, a peppermint patty and coconut with green food coloring (probably more fun to make than eat).

On Friday morning, I headed to Philly early. I started preparing for Shabbat by visiting Jewish patients and families at a hospital in Philadelphia, delivering challah, candles, and letting them know that the Jewish community is thinking about them and wishing them a Good Shabbos. Although I don’t do this every week, it is one of my favorite ways to start off Shabbat, and something I would highly recommend to anyone who has time to volunteer about once a month.

After finishing at the hospital, I headed to one of my many “homes” in Philly. These days I spend lots of time commuting from New York to Philly, and consider myself incredibly lucky to have amazing friends to stay with and who even let me cook in their kitchens! While I heard that there were a plethora of potlucks all over Center City this weekend, I was exhausted from a long week and decided to lay low and rest Friday night. So, I ate a quiet dinner of Kosher Vegetarian Chinese, with Yofitofi (the cat) and went to bed early for some much needed “Shabbat Menucha” (rest).

Saturday morning, Minyan Tikvah was meeting for services and a potluck lunch! It was so cold and windy on my way to shul, I almost turned around, but I made it just in time for the beautifully read Haftorah, and a wonderful “Mishenichnas Adar” inspired Musaf davening! Kiddush this week was all of those snack foods you might have had as a child: “Ants on a log”, chocolate pudding, pretzels w/frosting, animal crackers and more! As for lunch, I have been to many potlucks, and this group does not mess around. There was lots of delicious food, including but in no way limited to 3, yes that’s right 3 quinoa salads, two included black beans, and the one I made which was quite tasty!

Besides the quinoa salads, a few of my favorites were Jonathan’s peanut noodles, Miriam’s white bean and chickpea salad, and the spinach salad with strawberries and goat cheese! While the food was good, the company was better, and the singing w/Aliza’s table clapping fantastic! After lunch a few of us headed to Mattea’s for a relaxing afternoon playing cards, laughing so hard it hurts and eating leftover quinoa salad, hummus and chips. Before we knew it, Shabbat was over, we made Havdallah and I braved the cold, windy streets on my way back home!

Ingredients for Rosemary & Olive Oil Quinoa and Brown Rice Deliciousness…

1 box NearEast brand Rosemary and Olive Oil Quinoa and Brown Rice
1 cup of dry tri-color quinoa (prepare as directed, mine was 1 cup to 2 cups of water)
asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, yellow/orange bell pepper, black olives, feta, garlic (fresh or frozen), salt, pepper and olive oil…

Here is an approximation of what I did: Prepare the quinoa per the package directions. cut the asparagus into about 1 inch pieces, sauté with lots of garlic a bit of olive oil, cooked to desired tenderness, add in sun dried tomatoes. Slice/chop/crumble the peppers and black olives and feta; when the quinoa is cooked, first add the peppers while it’s hot, so they soften a bit, but don’t actually cook…and then combine remaining ingredients. (I usually add the feta last and then salt and pepper to taste.) Serve warm, or cold, it’s delicious either way! Enjoy!



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More than twice-a-year community

Mattea strategically signed up to write about the NHC Chesapeake Retreat, but I also want to add two thoughts of my own about the weekend: It was an incredibly awe-inspiring experience to bring a baby to that space and see the love exuded by the community towards Aliza, and I finally got to teach a class I’ve been thinking about for a long time on how invested the “millennial generation” feels towards Jewish institutions.  Good times for all!

This weekend was the National Havurah Committee Chesapeake Retreat! Last year, Miriam wrote about community, rainbow cake, and eco-kashrut. This year, the theme was “Shall the Rich Pay More?” Many of the workshops focused on economic inequality, and the ones I attended offered a lot of food for thought.

This was my second Chesapeake Retreat and my third NHC event (I was an Everett Fellow at last year’s summer Institute). Some of my favorite things about NHC are the spirited Shabbat services, the friendly and welcoming community, and the sense of intellectual curiosity. I love the philosophy that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn.

On Saturday afternoon, I learned more about Jewish approaches to remedying economic disparities. In the seventh (shmittah) year, all debts are forgiven. In the fiftieth (jubilee) year, all land is returned to its original owners. Additionally, it says in Deuteronomy that we have an obligation to help people in need. The second workshop I attended Saturday (“From Shylock to Payday Lenders: What’s a Fair Price for a Small Loan?”) covered ethics of moneylending. Lenders are not allowed to exploit borrowers, especially ones who are desperate.

Following the workshops and dinner, musical ma’ariv (evening service) and havdalah happened. Large group havdalah always reminds me of summer camp in the best way. Immediately after, there was a community jam session (featuring piano, saxophone, and Rise Up Singing), and more. At last year’s bonfire, I didn’t get to make s’mores, since there weren’t vegetarian marshmallows. This year, the organizers provided veggie-friendly marshmallows (which I melted successfully by accidentally catching them on fire), and I made two s’mores.

One highlight of the retreat was the after-party, an opportunity for late night singing (with acoustic guitars and drums, of course), dancing, noshing, and catching up. The songs were a mix of folk songs, music from the late ’90s, “classics” from previous Chesapeake Retreats, and more.

After a short night’s sleep and lingering over breakfast, I hurried to what I thought was one of the most practical of the workshops, “Move Your Money Minyanim Project”. Building on previous conversations around how to tackle economic inequality, we talked about preventive and restorative measures for economic injustice and what this means in contemporary times. We explored reasons why people feel emotionally connected to supporting small-scale means of contributing to economic justice (like shopping at a farmers’ market or buying fair-trade coffee), and looked at differences between banks and credit unions.

I had a really amazing time at all of the NHC events I’ve attended, but this Chesapeake Retreat felt different from last year for a few reasons.

  1. My Philly community came with me! Not my whole community, of course, but a lot of my close friends from Tikvah (and some of my friends who I consider part of the extended Tikvah community even though they don’t live in Philadelphia).
  2. Last year, I mostly just spent time with people who were already my friends (see above). This year, since I’d been to Institute and traveled a bunch of times since Chesapeake, I managed to spend time with old and new NHC friends while still meeting new people.
  3. Over the course of the week before Chesapeake, I had some really interesting conversations about communities. While on a break from watching curling matches on Sunday, Josh, Benjamin, and I talked about what makes NHC different from other volunteer-led organizations. NHC has a very “grassroots” feel to me, in that it’s informal in a good way and that the expectation is that everyone contributes to building community together. Similarly, when I was hanging out with Naomi, we talked about Tikvah and how it’s great to come together to form a Shabbat community even though that might not mean the same thing to all of us.

Except for the s’mores, the food wasn’t particularly remarkable, so I don’t have a recipe from the weekend. But over the past few months, I’ve been totally hooked on pizza and flatbread, and if you want to be too, I highly recommend you try making pizza margherita.

And on that note, I’m going to leave you with a picture of everyone enjoying kosher Chinese food!

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First Gumbo and Last Call

I’m really excited to have Danielle writing this week about a different part of the Philly Shabbat scene.

This week I received two Shabbat invitations: one to my new friend Talisa’s, one to my former boss Adam’s. I decided to celebrate this abundance of blessings and attend both, and I was rewarded with a Shabbat of harmonious dichotomies and personal introspection.

Talisa’s Shabbat was her first in her new home in South Philly, a 5-course Creole dinner honoring her Louisiana roots. Across the city, Adam and his wife, Tamar, were hosting their last buffet-style, musical Shabbat at their home in Old City. (By the way, you try picking out an outfit to match both these scenes!)

I went to Talisa’s in the afternoon to help her in the kitchen, alongside our friend Ahava. Talisa is an observant convert who keeps Shabbat in the traditional sense, so we experienced the exhilarating time crunch that can only come in the hours before Shabbat begins. I didn’t know Talisa and Ahava all that well before, but our day spent cooking was fun and memorable, the stuff that friendships are built on. Our flustered, frantic time in the kitchen was a refreshing reminder of the three years that I kept Shabbat in my early 20s — setting up a blecht, unscrewing light bulbs, pre-tearing lettuce, and all the other little things that I had forgotten about. We lit candles, something I haven’t done for longer than I care to admit, and I was able to take a deep breath and send a thank you to the sky just like I used to.

As Talisa finished up preparations for dinner, I picked up my fiance, Misha, and we ran across town to Adam and Tamar’s. Adam is an eclectic guy, a complete original; he was my first ever boss in the Jewish communal world, my mentor and a true friend. His home for me is the site of countless meetings, Shabbat
dinners, and general hanging out, and though he’s just moving to Northern Liberties, saying goodbye to his cozy, welcoming home felt like saying goodbye to a bit of my past.

Adam called his Shabbat “Last Call” because this Shabbat also marked the retirement of his in-house bar, dubbed the “Before and After Bar and Grill” for his friends’ propensity to start and end the evening at his place. This Shabbat was true to his style: classic and new Israeli tunes playing overhead, cocktails flavored with orange bitters and arak (a licorice-y Arab liquor), and a buffet style dinner of teriyaki tofu bites, broiled eggplant with tangy tehina, and some glatt Kosher smoked meat he bought off a guy at his dad’s shul. As friends arrived, we laughed and chatted, pausing for Adam’s rendition of Kiddush, which he began by stating “in the words of my ancestors…”

Adam’s was a Shabbat of the type I have grown to love: relaxed, no pressure, simple good times. The religious element was light, but the spirit of Shabbat lit up the room.

After spending time at Adam’s, we headed over to Talisa’s and arrived just in time for the 3rd course. The crowd was mostly Orthodox, the conversation deep and thoughtful. I loved catching up with friends from my days in the Orthodox circuit and chatting into the night. Talisa’s first Shabbat was a first for me, as well: When I went to New Orleans a few years ago, I wasn’t able to experience the authentic cuisine because I keep kosher. At Talisa’s I tasted my first ever gumbo, a delicious bowl of spicy goodness, full of the love and
warmth Talisa exudes.

Fish is the traditional second course of a French meal, so Talisa sent me out to buy salmon in South Philly's Italian Market two hours before Shabbat, instructing to me "go left at the fruit stand and find the $12 bagged fish".

Talisa’s was the Shabbat I once knew; the Yiddish banter, the prayers, the traditional vibe mixed with community spirit.

For me, this was a Shabbat of reflection, of honoring where I have been and what Shabbat has come to mean to me. This Shabbat I tried gumbo for the first time, and said goodbye to a place I’d grown to love. I spent time with old friends, and made some new ones, too. My relationship with Shabbat will continue to ebb and flow, to grow and change, as I do the same, but knowing that I have Shabbat in my life means I will always be able to look forward to weekends like this one.

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Sister Blog

I’m honored this week to have my sister Gillian blogging!  She has had much input into my Shabbat menu planning over the years, most notably through introducing me to the wonders of baked ziti and teaching me how to make cholent, though somehow she credits me with the recipe, while I credit her (see below).  This post features the classiest food pictures this blog has seen, plus pictures of my adorable nephews.  Enjoy!

Greetings from New York City! I’m excited to be guest blogging this week, and my husband Mark is also excited because he has a new camera and spent the week reading about how to take photographs of food. You will all reap the benefits of his study.

Shabbat dinner this week was a pretty standard meal for just the four of us: honey chicken, boiled potatoes, and veggies. The chicken was especially good, and it made the whole apartment (and at least half of the hallway outside the apartment) smell fabulously like Shabbat. It’s my mother-in-law’s recipe:

Mix together ¾ c. honey, ¼ c. soy sauce, ¼ c. olive oil, 1 tbsp. garlic powder, and 1 tsp. black pepper. Pour all of this over one chicken cut in pieces. Cook for about a half hour and then flip over the chicken pieces. Cook for another 45 minutes or so until the chicken has a dark crust.

Mark and I agree that this photo is a bit TOO close, but the chicken really did look appealing if you were more than a few inches away. It turns out that food photography is harder than it looks!

(Advertisement: our chicken always comes from KOL, a place that produces ethically-raised, humanely-slaughtered, and environmentally-friendly kosher meat. They also ship to your door. It’s not cheap, but you’ll feel virtuous.

For lunch, I had luckily planned a healthy vegetarian menu, which was great because the d’rash at shul was about healthy eating and the environment, and I would have felt very guilty serving up a big slab of beef after that!

We started with whole wheat challah with homemade guacamole (a little too much lime juice, but still good) and homemade hummus, which the boys helped me make in the blender. The blender is a source of endless entertainment for my kids, so we end up making a LOT of hummus.

Then we had black bean and corn salad with bell peppers, couscous salad with chickpeas and fresh veggies, Miriam’s vegetarian cholent, and my favorite easy spinach pie:

2 packages frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
½ c. whole wheat flour
½ c. milk or almond milk
¾ c. feta
¼ c. shredded mozzarella
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs

Beat the eggs for a few minutes until they’re frothy. Then add all the other ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 casserole and bake for 45 minutes at 350 until brown around the edges. This is also really good cold the next day.

The couscous pictures also turned out well, so here’s one of those too:

Our terrific company brought along fresh figs in honor of Tu B’Shevat, so we served those, along with a fruit salad of pears, apples, bananas and strawberries with “fruit salad dressing,” which I learned from my friend Chani and is so good that I can’t believe I ever made fruit salad without it. Just mix a bunch of fruit in a bowl and pour on a little orange juice, a little honey, and some cinnamon. It really brings fruit salad to a new level.

OK, that’s it for the sister blog. Looking forward to more recipes from the rest of you soon. Shavua tov!

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