Monthly Archives: June 2012

8:16 PM

I have such a thrill that this week’s blogger, Jennifer, is an actual person who I actually don’t know who found the blog through a friend (thanks Alicia!) and decided to write for a week. Plus, she buttered me up by telling me that she loves the Advice Well, which means that someone I don’t know reads both of my blogs! You, too, stranger, can be such a person. Sign up to blog here. If I do know you, that’s good, too. And thanks, Jenn – this is beautiful!

By the time it will be time to kindle the Sabbath lights and welcome the Sabbath bride, my little ones will long be in bed. The first Shabbat of the summer of 2012 is hard to wrap my brain around. A proper Shabbat dinner in the winter is easy, it fits smoothly into our schedule, but Shabbat dinner in the
summer is a monkey wrench. My older daughter leaves for JCC camp on an 8:35am but and returns to the same spot at 4:15pm and by Friday, she’s an exhausted, sticky, happy mess. Bedtime is set as 7:30pm lights out if she makes it that long. The baby, she’ll be in bed by 6:30pm – if not, she turns into
an unpleasant creature no matter how light it is outside.

This brings us to dinner – Friday is pizza night in our house. It was pizza night growing up for me, but instead of a pie from the corner pizza shop, I make our pizza. Not a roast chicken in sight which may seem sacrilegious, but in my experience, what was important was having everyone around the table for a
meal on Friday night. While summer may make it difficult to light candles with my girls, it makes dinner easy-peasy. We do a CSA with a local, family-owned since 1832 farm and the bounty I get for $15.75 a week is insane. I found myself with mutant “scallions” last week and finally broke down to do something with them tonight – when all else fails and you don’t know what to do, make pesto. But what cheese goes with scallion pesto – I found suggestions of goat or mozzarella and many called for bacon. That was not going to work, so I went with a smoked mozzarella. I decided to grill the pizzas using my grill pan because it was just too darn hot to turn on the oven – and the individual pizzas came out perfectly. The girls’ pizzas were topped with garlic marinara from Trader Joes since the smell of the homemade pesto was too pungent for my older daughter’s liking. I sprinkled pine nuts on top for an added crunch and everyone got strawberries as a side. After dinner, DD had a homemade orange juice and vanilla yogurt popsicle, the baby got a diaper change, and my day feels bookended.

I know there are people out there that will cringe at the wrongness to say motzi over pizza bread but pizza is kind of my personal manna. I’ll take out my grandmother’s milk glass candlesticks and the Kiddush cup from my husband’s Bar Mitzvah and take care of the welcoming the Sabbath after I’ve taken care of putting my children safely in their beds.

Pizza with Scallion and Cilantro Pesto

1 lb. pizza dough (I buy store bought most weeks)
2 cups shredded smoked mozzarella
¼ cups toasted pine nuts
1 bunch scallions
Handful of cilantro (more or less depending on your taste)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the scallions, cilantro, and garlic in food processor and chop until thoroughly combined. Add lemon juice and turn the food processor back on. Drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture comes together as a nice paste. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pre-heat a grill pan and place one individual pizza sized dough “circle” on the grates; cook until it begins to bubble and flip with tongs. Remove to a parchment lined sheet pan and repeat until you have 4 grilled breads. Top the grilled breads with pesto, shredded cheese, and pine nuts. Place under the
broiler until the cheese is melted and the pine nuts are nicely browned.



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Four More Years

Me again. So on the one hand, I’m bummed that no one signed up to blog this week. As we reach the halfway point of the year, I’m concerned that this “someone different blogging every week” thing isn’t really sustainable and that perhaps my friends and readers have lost interest. On the other hand, I have a lot to say about this Shabbat, and I’m glad I created my own mechanism for telling the world what a totally beautiful day it was. That doesn’t change my seriousness about this request: please sign up to blog for a week!

Friday, Marc and I celebrated our four year anniversary. We had a glorious day, the weather was perfect, and we ordered take out Indian food for Shabbat dinner. We had some work done in our house this week, and we put everything back together Thursday night, so being able to enjoy the pristine state of our kitchen for another brief moment was key, and on top of that, the Indian food was pretty damn good.

Saturday morning, Aliza slept until 6:15, really late for her these days, and we had such a fun morning of watching her continue to explore walking and practice her new favorite trick of climbing into things. Around 9:30 she seemed ready for a nap, and so did we, and we all had the most amazing, incredible, gift of a 3.5 hour Shabbos nap.

And then the socializing started. First, we went to the Potluck Coalition’s lunch in Rittenhouse Square. Having already devoured the Indian leftovers, we weren’t there to eat, but we really came for the company, and it was wonderful.  From there, we did some wedding-watching in the park (we counted 4 different parties), picked up some free books from a sidewalk giveaway, stopped by the Bloomsday festivities at the Rosenbach Museum, and walked through the end of a neighborhood flea market.

Next up was Joline’s birthday party, and while we talked and laughed and noshed, Aliza tore up the apartment.  The number of DVD’s per second that she can clear from a shelf is truly impressive.  At some point, I expect her to learn the meaning of “no,” but until then, as long as she’s safe, I figure we’re doing our job, and our friends are gracious enough to indulge that parenting philosophy.

Shabbat is long these days, and by the time we got to Beverly and Naomi’s for seudah shlishit, we were totally wiped out and it was getting awfully close to Aliza’s bedtime, but the sun wasn’t even beginning to set.  We had some yummy veggies and dips and freezepops before heading home and putting her to bed.

I don’t have a recipe to share, and I already put this picture on facebook.  But I don’t think you’ll hold it against me.  What matters is spending a beautiful almost-summer day with family and friends and looking forward to many, many more of the same.

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The Whole World Sings

I’ve known Nancy for most of my life, and it is a true honor to have her as a regular reader of the blog and now as a contributor.  Also, given that potlucks are such an integral part of my life now, it’s worth noting that I first learned about potlucks as a kid from the UU community in Fredonia.

I have been waiting for the right moment to contribute to this blog that I’ve enjoyed reading for the last 18 months.  And finally, an open week and a get-together at my house coincided!

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs Choir held our season ending potluck Friday.  We don’t practice or sing in the summer.  Fourteen singers arrived bearing a lot of food.  We ate well, visited and even did some singing.  Conversations ranged from the weather and gardening to stories about our children and grandchildren to summer plans to house renovations.  After a strong thunderstorm, we opened the windows to fresh warm air.  Our director played the piano and we started with “Auld Lang Syne” for a member who is leaving to retire to Great Barrington, MA, and then we sang a few other very old songs from an early 20th century piano compilation “Songs The Whole World Sings.”  I kind of doubt that.

I believe in the true potluck, and with no instructions, folks brought a pretty good variety of foods.  We did have 3 pasta salads, but Bob cooked up a huge pan of teriyaki chicken, Judy brought eggplant parmesan and I cooked a turkey breast just in case we got no main dishes.  We also ate burritos, quiche and homemade pizza .  And for dessert, we enjoyed mixed fruit cobbler, apple crisp and brownie pie with whipped cream!  No one went home hungry from this relaxing evening.

I tried a new apple crisp recipe (from America’s Test Kitchen) that with a little extra work (and more butter and sugar) was quite a bit better than my old standby.  I followed the recipe except for substituting a cup of frozen cranberries (left over from Thanksgiving?) for one of the apples.  That made it a lovely pink color and added a bit of tartness.

Skillet Apple Crisp

3 lbs. apples (about 7) peeled and sliced
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon

1 c. cider/apple juice
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 T)

3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. pecans, chopped
3/4 c. oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
8 T melted butter

2 T butter

Cut up apples, toss with sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In skillet, reduce 1 c. cider to about 1/2 c.
While it cooks, combine the topping ingredients.
Pour off the cider and add juice of 1/2 a lemon.
In same skillet, melt 2 T of butter, add apples and cook about 12 mins.  Stir occasionally.
Turn off heat, add cider, spoon topping over apple slices.
Place in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until top is browned.

If your skillet isn’t oven-proof, transfer apples into a casserole, then add topping and put that into the oven.


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Manischewitz and Sotah

My lovely Marc blogged about last week’s Shabbat, including the Torah portion of the week.  His feminist take on a usually-regarded-as-sexist part of the Torah is so unique that I really wanted to share it with the blogosphere!  Also, in place of a picture, I’m including a link to a picture of Aliza in the Jewish Exponent’s kids contest.  “Like” the Exponent and the photo on facebook, and maybe we’ll win a free vacation!

Well, I’m happy to be writing for Miriam’s blog.  She asked me to write so I could share my d’var from last week’s Tikvah, which was a potluck, to which I brought “challah” from Trader Joe’s.  And I will, but first, a few additional notes about food.

Miriam and I hosted two meals this weekend.  Hosting a random group of people used to be something we’d do every two or three weeks.  This last year, it’s something we’ve done once every three or four months.  So things felt “back to normal,” and a bit nostalgic.  Miriam put together an astounding meal Friday night, including a sweet potato and bean “thing” (salad?), a green salad that wasn’t for me but that got compliments, excellent guacamole (which disappeared *fast*), a beet dip, which surprises me when I like it every time she makes it, and vegan chocolate cookies with homemade whipped cream.  I made a sangria, which was composed of Manischewicz cream peach wine, rum, lemonade, raspberry seltzer, and cut-up apples.  I’d tell you the proportions, but it’s better to just play it by ear.  The apples were especially tasty.

Below is the text of my d’var from last week, which I delivered without too much ad libbing.  Of course, my favorite part was when Aliza demanded for me to pick her up about 4/5 of the way through it.  Excellent distraction.  And, I should say, for this food blog: the parsha includes a recipe.  Sotah water includes water, dust from the floor of the tabernacle, and the ink of a written oath.  Like the sangria, the exact proportions of the ingredients are not listed.  Jonathan points out to me that this concoction would be unpleasant and unhealthy if it uses a lot of ash and ink, but I think we agreed that the ritual victual would be virtually harmless if it could employ just an iota of dust and ink.  So write the oath in tiny letters.


Hello, and welcome to the d’var.  Let’s get right to it.

By coincidence, I was also asked to give d’var on this parsha two years ago, I talked about Sotah.  I’d like to build on it.  I’ll summarize my previous argument, and then go a few steps further

First, a recap. The parsha describes Sotah, the ritual a woman suspected of adultery goes through.  Last time, I argued that this is an outstanding feminist institution.  In Egypt, the custom was for a woman suspected of adultery to be thrown into the nile.  The approximately half of women who survived were deemed innocent; the ones who died were guilty.  In Sotah, by contrast, a woman only needs to drink a glass of water and swear she is innocent, and if no harm comes to her that is taken as divine evidence of her innocence. In Sotah, no women are harmed, and the outcome of the harmless procedure is to reduce irrational male jealousy.

One the one hand, it sounds unfair – a woman has to go through some kind of ordeal just because her husband is irrationally jealous. That’s not fair.  On the other hand, look – a woman with an irrationally jealous husband has a harmless mechanism to get him to stop it already.  The unfair and harmful sexist thing is the male jealousy – Sotah is the fix to this problem.  Do we have a better system today?  Actually, no, there are few mechanisms in our culture that address male jealousy prior to committing harmful acts.  Sotah is sex-specific, but it is not sexist, not in the problematic sense of the term – or, it’s sexist like a women’s shelter is sexist, it helps with a preexisting problem.

That was the recap; now, a little more development.  First, some evolutionary psychology. Cross-culturally, one of the most consistent sex differences in jealousy.  There was just a meta-review by Sagarin et al about this analyzing hundreds of previously published papers.  Men are relatively more jealous over sexual infidelity, and women are relatively more jealous over a partner’s emotional attachments.  For example, when men and women hear that there was an infidelity, men would rather ask first, “Did you have sex with him,” and women would rather ask first, “Do you love her?”  This difference is like the sex difference in height – true cross-culturally, but still any particular male might be shorter than any particular female.  Sotah seems to acknowledge this difference. Most violence is committed by men – but that doesn’t make violence right, and it’s not an excuse.  The Torah is all about refusing to accept what is, and instead, works to make things the way they should be.

Does the Torah provide a similar institution with regard to jealous women?  Yes, it’s in the 10 commandments, do not covet other wives.  If women shouldn’t sleep around, this commandment says men shouldn’t cultivate emotional attachments. It’s like the Torah knew about Sagarin’s meta-analysis. Men and women are hurt by different things, and the Torah has separate laws that address men and women separately.

Here, though, to shift gears just a bit, is the broader point I’d like to make today. Let’s say that a ritual like Sotah can be seen as either anti-feminist or pro-feminist.  I want to argue that it is a stronger feminist perspective to focus on the pro-feminist messages in the Torah, rather than to find arguably anti-feminist messages.  If there is an option of going either way, why go negative? As I conclude, I’ll give two reasons why it is a more powerful feminist to be positive about the Torah as an exemplary feminist text.

First reason.  If you find Torah support for a progressive idea, your audience is much larger.  More people are willing to attribute errors to “the Rabbis” and commentators, including moral errors and sexist errors, than to the Torah ITSELF.  It is entirely consistent with the thrust of Judaism for you, now, to find a moral message in the Torah that has been overlooked before now.  If you go positive, everyone engaged in the process has a theological basis for at least listening to you.

Second reason.  If your perspective is that the Torah is creatively and progressively forward-thinking, then you might learn something from it.  If you give its ideas a chance to be better than yours, you might learn something from it.  But if the Torah is morally backwards promoting cruelty to women, then you can point that out, and then what?  Where do you go from there?  You won’t be in a mindset to learn anything new from a textbook that’s full of obvious errors.

If there seems to be an obvious moral mistake in the message of the Torah, take it as an opportunity to think creatively and find a way to make it work as progressive.  Sometimes, your new interpretation clicks, and opens up other sections of the Torah, like a key.

Let’s say your feminist perspective on the Torah is that it’s a deeply flawed book. Maybe you’re even right, but – so what?  Who cares if an ancient book has some anti-feminist idea?  On the other hand again, if a three-thousand-year-old book is outthinking us about how to deal with irrational male jealousy – well, then that’s pretty interesting. But you’ll miss it if you write it off, without giving it credit that you might be wrong, rather than that it is full of obvious mistakes.

Don’t be so sure the text is so flawed.  And, I think the same holds for sexual orientation.  Put the harmful biased sexist interpretations on the Rabbis.  Undermine their sexism by citing the Torah.  Amen.  Wait.  Not finished.  I’m not a preacher, I’m not one to end my own speeches with amen.  I should explain that I chose to say amen because it appears for the first time ever, in this parsha.  I forgot to mention that two years ago.  It’s what the text says women say at the end of Sotah:  Amen, amen.  And yes, what a relief – drink the water and when nothing happens that means g-d says you are innocent and your husband should stop accusing you.  Amen, in the worldwide context of abusive male jealousy, what a great mitzvah this Sotah does, plus of course all the other kind, fair, wise, and progressive feminist and egalitarian ideas in the Torah, many of which we know of, and many more we might still discover.  Let’s get learning!  And now back to your regularly scheduled services.

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Summertime and the livin’ is easy if you’ve got…GAZPACHO!

We’ve fallen a week behind, which is understandable, considering Yael had Shabbat plus a two-day holiday to write about.  Her gazpacho is indescribably better than any I’ve ever made, and I’m so excited to have the recipe!

My apologies for being so late with this blog-post! This is the blog-post for last weekend, a three-day scorcher of Shabbat leading into the holiday of Shavuot (May 27-28, commemorating the giving of the Torah). Thankfully, we remembered to program the air conditioning in advance. Also thankfully, it coincided with Memorial Day, so it was a particularly relaxing weekend since there was no need to take off from or make up lost time from work or school.

There is a custom of staying up all night the first night of Shavuot to celebrate the gift of receiving the Torah. The all-night Torah-study fest is called a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot. Many friends were out of town that weekend, so I organized a Tikkun in West Philly, which met in Penn’s Hillel building (many thanks to Penn Hillel!). We had study sessions led by community members
from 11:15am through 5:00am, at which point we had morning services, then straight home to bed. There was a fantastic turn-out, and I feel very grateful to be a part of the University City/West Philly/Grad Hospital communities.

There’s a custom of eating dairy over Shavuot. For some, this is a game-changer from usual menus of chicken soup, meat cholent, chicken, etc. For us, there wasn’t much of a change since we very rarely cook meat anyway. Nevertheless, I spent Thursday night in a cooking and baking frenzy: lasagne, tomato and onion quiches, onion gratin, cheesecake…

It was also particularly hot that weekend, which was a marvelous excuse for…gazpacho!

It is possible to make this recipe of gazpacho without a food processor (by chopping all the vegetables very finely), but that’s tedious work and I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have a food processor, it’s fairly easy, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser.

(Adapted from Moosewood: I generally triple this)

4 cups tomato juice cans (when tripling, I use 2 46 fl. oz. cans)
1 chopped small onion
2 cups freshly diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 tbs. honey (I generally don’t measure it out. Put in what feels right.)
2 cloves crushed garlic (feel free to add more of this, too)
1 diced medium-sized cucumber
2 chopped scallions
juice of ½ lemon, 1 limes
2 tbs. red wine vinegar (I sometimes use sweet red wine)
1 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry oregano
1 tsp. dry thyme
Dash of cumin
Dash of tabasco sauce (or really any hot sauce)
2 tbs. olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Throw everything into a food processor except the tomato juice and lemon/lime juices.
2. Pulse until everything is finely chopped (but not totally pureed). I try to leave a few larger chunks.
3. Put the mixture into large bowl or container, add tomato juice, lemon/lime juices.
4. Stir.
5. Sprinkle parsley on top. Make it look classy.
6. Tell your friends.

Before you serve it in individual bowls (or mugs; mugs are also fun for gazpacho)—try to remember to sprinkle parsley on top, for aesthetics and for taste. I frequently forget to do it at the serving stage.

If doubling or tripling, you might need to do two shifts in your food processor, in which case, do try to spread out the ingredients so that they all get blended together (that is, don’t blend just the cucumbers and tomatoes together—blend all ingredients together in each shift, even if not all the quantities of the ingredients fit).

My mother made gazpacho not infrequently when I was growing up. But she does it without cumin or tabasco sauce. If you’re spicy-sensitive or have a guest who is, you can do it without the cumin/tabasco or use less than the recipe calls for, although the flavors they add aren’t highly detectable. I find that my version is more flavorful (sorry, Ema), probably because of the
cumin, tabasco sauce, and indiscriminate honey and garlic adding.

As teasers, here are some pictures of the cheesecake, mini-cheesecakes, and quiche:

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