Tu B'Shevat

 

Israeli Inspired Cookies for Tu B’Shevat

 

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I wanted to create a recipe that was at once inspired by the foods of Israel- fruit, seed and nuts for Tu B’Shvat. The connection to using fruit is so clear- of the four renewal holidays in Judaism, it is all about trees and the fruit they bear at it’s literal essence after all. But many Jewish dishes for this celebration also utilize the Biblical 7 species: wheat, barley, dates or honey, figs, pomegranates, olives and grapes or wine.  I wanted to focus on the contemporary Israel- widely multi-cultural, sophisticated and rich in local food traditions as well. My first thought: tahini. I can’t think of the Middle East, or mizrachi cuisine without it.

Heralded chef Yotam Ottolenghi, in his book Jerusalem with Sami Tamimi, has a great recipe for a tahini cookie – and I have made  it and enjoyed it. There are plenty of tahini cookie  recipes around – Bon Appetit’s Tahini Cookies; David Lebovitz’s Tahini and Almond CookiesMartha Stewart’s Tahini Cookies


 

How To Celebrate a Tu b’Shevat Seder

 

 

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Tu b’Shevat is one of these hidden minor holidays, which haven’t gotten much attention until the last few decades. It is kind of a New Age, cutting age type of holiday with no ‘don’ts’ and not even any specific must ‘dos.’ If you are looking for spiritual renewal through mystical teachings, meditational practice and conscious mindful eating, then Tu b’Shevat has much to offer.

On Tu b’Shevat, the sap in the tree begins to flow once again to revitalize the tree. The secret of Tu b’Shevat gently whispers; “when everything looks dead, dark and murky, life, light and glory is hiding just below the surface.” The time when nothing seems to be happening on the outside is the beginning of the richest inner life. Tu b’Shevat begins a period of renewal for the individual and the community. On Tu b’Shevat we can tune into the redemption of spring. Even though we may be experiencing the winter of exile in both personal and collective stage of our lives on the outside, a new life force begins to emerge within our souls on the inside.


 

Kosher Wine for Tu B’Shevat *Giveaway*

 

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The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat is one of four “New Years” mentioned in the Mishnah and you don’t have to wait until midnight to start your celebration! Occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, there is a widespread custom to eat foods of the Land of Israel, wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of olives and date honey.

In celebration of the grape, we wanted to introduce three special kosher wines from Israel to celebrate Tu B’Shevat:


 

3 Menus for Tu B’Shevat

 

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Because Tu B’shevat has fallen out on shabbos lately, I can’t seem to remember what it’s like to celebrate it outside of the normal shabbos meal.  I suppose it’s the same really, except that we get two celebratory meals in one week, and double the normal amount of cooking.  To help keep things simple, below are three Tu B’shevat menus that are holiday worthy, but won’t have you slaving away for hours in the kitchen after work.

 


 

Tu B’shevat And The Seven Super Foods of The...

 

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Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, is observed this year on February 4th, 2015 on the Western calendar. This is the day when trees in the Land of Israel officially wake up from their winter slumber and begin blooming and bearing a new fruit cycle.

In our home we find it especially meaningful to eat something from all of the Shiv’at HaMinim, seven species of the land of Israel – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates – that have a special significance in Judaism.


 

A Healthy and Sweet Tu B’shvat Treat

 

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I grew up in a ‘healthy’ house. What is a ‘healthy’ house, you may ask? Well, my mother, a former nurse, believed that we were only to put food that was good for our body into our mouths. There was never candy or junk food to be found in our home. There was no sugar cereal in the cupboards. There was no soda or juice in the fridge.

If we were thirsty, we drank the same liquid we used to wash our hands with, bathe in, wash our clothes and fill the dog’s bowl with: H2O from the tap. Despite all the limitations on what we could eat, my mother was a good cook.


 

Favorite Tu B’Shevat Recipes

 

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This year Tu B’Shevat, translated as the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, begins in the evening on Wednesday January 15, 2014 and ends in the evening on Thursday January 16th, 2014.  This “New Year for the Trees” holiday marks the beginning of the slow process when the trees begin blossoming and flowering with new life and new fruit.  In our home we find it especially meaningful to eat something from all of the Shiv’at HaMinim, seven species of the land of Israel – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates – that have a special significance in Judaism.

So now that you know what’s what, I’m sharing my favorite recipes featuring each of the seven species.


 

Gluten Free and Natural on Tu B’Shevat

 

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It is customary to celebrate Tu B’Shevat by eating the Seven Species of fruit and grains which are native to the land of Israel. When I think of Tu B’Shevat I think of slicing open a pomegranate, eating the seeds over Greek yogurt and drizzling it with honey for breakfast, while for dinner I’d imagine Moroccan chicken marinated and then baked in olives and prunes.

Tu B’Shevat is a special day not only for celebrating trees but also for celebrating everything the earth provides for us; all of our fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, wheat and barley, etc. Tu B’Shevat is a day to celebrate our health and maybe even re-evaluate our eating habits.  The perfect time to introduce new fruits and vegetables into our daily meals.  After all Tu B’Shevat is a new year, and on New Years we make new resolutions.


 

Tu B’Shevat Celebration Menu

 

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One week from now is the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, beginning the evening of January 15th.  For many years in my life this holiday went unnoticed.  Of course, I remember the celebrations in school with the hard to chew boxer that you either loved or hated and the annual planting of trees (I grew up in Florida, so we could plant this time of year and not freeze to death), but in the years between my being in school and having kids, I will admit I didn’t do much celebrating.  Now, I realize that there many ways we can go about celebrating this holiday, whether it be the smallest gesture of making a seven species granola (thanks for the great idea in the comments here) or going all out with a Tu B’shevat Seder.

Tu B’Shevat literally means the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.  It is the birthday of the trees in Israel.  The day that the trees begin their new fruit bearing cycle.  So we celebrate by eating the fruits of the trees.  Really any fruit counts, but it is tradition to eat the kinds that are mentioned in the Torah when praising the bounty of Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.  Some go even further and like to include the full seven species of Israel which adds wheat and barley to the fruits.   There are also many kabalistic rituals around this holiday which have become more popular recently and is the reason many people hold a seder, get a guide to making your own seder from Hazon, here.


 

A Sweet Tu B’ Shevat Celebration

 

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Tu B’ Shevat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year of the Trees, is something I fondly anticipate each year in the midst of winter. As a child growing up in Northern California we always held our Tu B’shevat seder outside on the grass and then planted new trees in the back yard. The first bulbs of spring would be beginning to bloom and it was the perfect time of year to plant new trees. While it is a bit harder to feel that kind of tangible connection when in much of the country it is still the heart of winter, it is still wonderful to celebrate planting and trees and a time when the earth will be blooming again.

 


 

A Tu Bishvat Decorated Table

 

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The concept of “hiddur mitzvah” was always ingrained upon us by our teachers in yeshivah. If you spent a little more on your shabbat ingredients or table decor, then you were sure to be rewarded somehow, and for sure your extra splurges would be replaced.

Well, as The Jewish Hostess, I have taken that advice to heart! Since the holiday of Tu Bishvat is all about fruits and trees that are”new”, let’s add a “new” twist to our Tu Bishvat Shabbat table decor. I hope to inspire you to to dig into your heirloom dishes (people will think that they are new!), take out the fine china (new!), unearth your pretty vases (new!), add a “new” splash of a bright table cloth, and hunt down cool “new” table accessories that will light up your guests faces as they enter the room.


 

Celebrate Tu B’Shvat

 

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In honor of the holiday of Tu B’Shvat we share with you some of our favorite Tu B’Shvat posts and recipes. Tu B’Shvat starts tonight, February 7 and continues through to sunset tomorrow Feb 8th.


 

Food of Istanbul for Tu B’Shevat

 

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The smells and tastes of the fresh spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits in the Turkish market linger in my nose, on my tongue and in my mind. How better to retain these memories my recent travel to Istanbul than by recreating them in my own kitchen. Starting with this inspiration, I then realized that Tu B’Shevat begins on the eve of February 7, 2012. Tu B’Shevat celebrates a New Year for the Trees-specifically the fruit of the tree and the vine. It’s a celebration of renewal and ecological awareness.  I picked up a non kosher cookbook I had bought before my trip about the food and customs of Turkey; and there, in the beginning pages, is a column referencing the publisher’s Ethical Trading Policy. They acknowledge that they use a lot of wood pulp to create the paper for printing their books. To balance that, they have a program to plant new trees to replace the ones they are using in order to assure that forests are maintained in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way. I decided to work with this book and a Sephardic Kosher cookbook I bought in the Zulfaris Museum gift shop, in Istanbul, to bring you recipes that are delicious, can be made in kosher kitchens and that also reflect the characteristics of Tu B’shevat.

Tu B’Shevat is all about the seven species (Shivat Haminim) that are plentiful in Israel and are mentioned in the Bible. They are: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. To mark the holiday in the simplest way, many people make a point of eating from this group of fruits and school children plant trees. Another custom, observed by many, is to prepare a Tu B’Shevat Seder modeled after the Passover Seder and which includes four cups of wine: both red and white. This custom began in the 17th century with the Kabbalists from Safed and spread from Safed to Sephardic communities from Turkey, Italy and Greece to Europe, Asia and North Africa.


 

Celebrate Tu B’Shvat – Seder Style!

 

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Tu B’Shvat higia is the refrain of the popular Israeli children’s song, meaning, Tu B’Shvat is here, YAY! and this year the celebration begins on January 20th 2011.

This holiday celebrates the “rebirth” of the trees. Tu B’Shvat marks the beginning of the slow process when the trees begin blossoming and flowering with new life and new fruit.


 

On Tu B’Shvat, Make Sweets From the Tree, Not...

 

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In celebration of the “The New Year for the Trees” which this year falls on January 20, it is customary both to eat and cook with the fruits of nature, literally fruit and nuts, the center of most Tu B’Shvat tables and feasts. This seems, however, to overlook the gifts that the tree itself can provide! The bark of one tree is actually edible, has become commonplace in both its whole and ground forms, and is indispensable in both our sweet and savory culinary creations. Which bark am I referring to? It is cinnamon, the warm, sweet, fragrant and versatile spice which is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree of the laurel family.

Cinnamon is harvested in quills, which are the dried strips of inner bark rolled one into another, and is also ground into powder for ease of culinary use. Whole quills, commonly used to infuse flavor into hot liquids such as hot chocolate, coffee, and tea, will keep their flavor indefinitely, but store them in an airtight bag or container to maintain freshness. Like other ground spices, ground cinnamon will lose its flavor more quickly and so should be purchased in small quantities and also stored in airtight containers, and out of direct light.


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