Full of helpful advice for families starting to think about their child's bat or bar mitzvah, Bar & Bat Mitzvah For The Interfaith Family will be a helpful primer to all families (not just interfaith!).
This colorful booklet will give all the basics about this holiday which combines elements of Halloween, Mardi Gras and the secular new year. It is a holiday not only for children who know immediately that anything with a costume will be fun, but for adults too.
Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
This is an interactive, fun, and low-key workshop for couples who are dating, engaged or recently married. The sessions will give you a chance to ask questions about faith, to think about where you are as an adult with your own spirituality and to talk through what's important to you and your partner.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
Purim is one of the most accessible Jewish holidays to celebrate. Like Halloween, a big part of it is dressing up and being silly. (All-night reading of The Scroll of Esther and lots of drinking are the other parts.) Unlike Halloween, there’s a beautiful part of Purim that involves the giving of gifts to friends and tzedakah (charity) to the poor. If you’re just dipping your toes in the holiday for the first time, a great way to celebrate is with delicious food. Hamentaschen, symbolizing Haman’s hat, from the story of Purim (which has an interfaith story line), are cookies traditionally made with jam or poppy seed filling, but who doesn’t love chocolate?
I was inspired to do a hamantaschen based on my favorite Girl Scout cookie, the Thin Mint. It focuses on that sweet, decadent chocolate and the mint is brought in via a subtle peppermint glaze. And, if peppermint isn’t your thing, just leave it out and you have yourself a delicious chocolate hamantaschen that will please all your friends and family and maybe just introduce the holiday of Purim to a newcomer.
Makes 2 dozen (give or take a couple)
1 cup oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. baking powder
6 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon strong coffee
1/4 – 1/2 cup large chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk will work. I used milk chocolate)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp peppermint oil
3 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat Oven: 350°F
2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.
3. Next, add baking powder and flour to the bowl and mix well to combine. Finally, add the cocoa and strong coffee and give it one more good stir (dough should be thick, almost like bread dough).
4. Knead the dough until smooth.
5. Flour a rolling pin and roll out to roughly 1/8 inch thin on a floured board.
6. Using a round cookie cutter or a drinking glass with a wide opening, cut out circles (use the scraps to make cookies as well, just keep forming into a large ball and rolling out thin and repeat process until dough is done).
7. Drop a handful of chocolate chips (should be roughly 10 chips or more) into the center of each circle.
8. Have a glass or small bowl of a little bit of cold water near by so that you can dip your fingers in to help fold the dough into three sides over the filling forming a triangle (water acts as a glue to the dough and will help edges stick).
9. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes on a lined cookie sheet.
10. Once fully cooked, let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes. While cooling, place the powdered sugar, peppermint oil and milk into a small bowl and stir until milky consistency.
11. Once the cookies are cool, brush the sugar/oil mixture over the tops.
Valentine’s Day. How does this fit into a Jewish or interfaith home? Technically, yes, Valentine’s Day is named for a saint. It was first instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 496 C.E. to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Valentine. Yet scholars know almost nothing about this St. Valentine. There is an abundant amount of literature on St. Valentine but most of it is not historical but based on legend. And, truth be told, Valentine’s Day is not a “religious” holiday. The association of a saint does not necessary make it so. I’m sure some might take issues with the previous sentences but to my estimation, Valentine’s Day is an American “holiday” and perfect for families that celebrate Jewish and non-Jewish holidays.
My kids go to private Jewish preschool. They haven’t come in contact yet with Valentine’s Day. But, our oldest will be headed to public Kindergarten next year and we can almost guarantee that we will be met with Valentines. And I ask you? What’s not “Jewish” about showing your like and care with the giving of sweet cards and yummy treats? But, if you’re like me and you’re still struggling with the concept of bringing Valentine’s Day into your home, then why not make it a little more Jewish with the inclusion of seemingly “Jewish” foods like, I don’t know, tahini!
Therefore, I bring you a simple and delicious tahini and vanilla ice box cake. I love ice box cakes. They’re great for impressing your family and friends while not having to actually cook anything. I mean, what says, “I love you” more than frozen tahini in the shape of hearts set in a pink ice cream cake!?
Tahini Vanilla Icebox Cake
Ingredients for Halva:
2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups tahini, well stirred to combine
Ingredients for Icebox Cake:
2pints vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons of natural red gel food coloring or 4 1/2 teaspoons red liquid food coloring (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray
(optional) 1 cup rainbow sprinkles
Directions for Halva Hearts:
1. Heat honey on medium heat until your candy or instant-read thermometer reads 240˚ F, or indicates the “soft ball” stage of candy making. To confirm that you are at the “soft ball” stage, drop a bit of the honey into a cup of cold water. It should form a sticky and soft ball that flattens when removed from the water.
2. Have the tahini ready to heat in a separate small pot, and once the honey is at the appropriate temperature, set the honey aside and heat tahini to 120˚ F.
3. Add the warmed tahini to the honey and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. At first it will look separated but after a few minutes, the mixture will come together smoothly.
4. Continue to mix until the mixture starts to stiffen, for a good 6-8 minutes. Pour mixture into a well-greased and parchment paper-lined 8 x 8 deep-set baking sheet or loaf pan (it MUST have at least 1 inch sides on the pan you use as it’ll keep the tahini within the pan), or into a greased and parchment paper-lined cake pan with a removable bottom.
5. Let cool to room temperature and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours. This will allow the sugar crystals to form, which will give the halvah its distinctive texture.
6. Once done, cut out at least 8 – 10 hearts using a sharp, metal cookie cutter.
Directions for Vanilla Ice Box Cake:
1. In a chilled bowl combine vanilla ice cream and food coloring. Cover and freeze for 1 hour or until mixture is spreadable.
2. Line a 9-inch Pullman or a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with two sheets of plastic wrap, enough to cover the bottom and sides, allowing plastic wrap to extend over sides of pan. Spread half of the vanilla ice cream evenly in the bottom of the pan.
3. Place the tahini stars down the center of the ice cream pressing down so that the bottom points of the stars are completely submerged in the pink ice cream and the tops are just visible, and placing stars so that they are touching. Freeze for 1 hour.
4. Spread the rest of the pink vanilla ice cream in an even layer over the stars to cover. Cover the top of the cake with heaps of rainbow sprinkles. Freeze for 24 hours or until very firm.
5. Use the plastic wrap to lift mixture from pan. Transfer to a serving plate and cut about an inch into the cake to reveal the first heart. Enjoy!
Valentine’s day is fast approaching, but we believe in celebrating big love, little love, silly love, happy love, sad love and family love any day of the week. In our diverse Jewish, multi-faith community, it’s important to show our love for one another, and take advantage of opportunities to spread kindness. This quick and easy chocolate and strawberry nacho recipe is perfect for whenever love strikes.
“Not Your Average Love” Nachos
2 cups of frozen strawberries
zest from 1/4 lime
4 Tbsp. of sugar, divided
3-4 handfuls of Churro style nacho chips (cinnamon sugar corn chips) or Cinnamon Sugar Pita chips
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 3.5 oz tablet of dark chocolate
1. Over medium low heat, heat two cups of frozen strawberries in a small saucepan. Add the zest from 1/4 of the lime and 2 Tbsp. of sugar to the saucepan and cook with the lid off. Once the strawberries have started to release their juices and are completely thawed and soft, take the pan off the heat and let it cool slightly.
2. Once cooled, put the strawberry mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Be careful when blending because if the mixture is still warm the steam may create pressure and pop the lid off the blender.
3. Pour the strawberry mixture into a cute bowl and then prepare the chocolate drizzle. In a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup of cream and 1 Tbsp. of butter and heat over medium low until the butter has completely melted. Add 2 Tbsp. of sugar to the cream and butter mixture. Once the sugar has dissolved, take the pot off the heat.
4. Break the chocolate into squares and let them dissolve in the hot cream.
5. Spread the cinnamon sugar chips over a platter or plate and drizzle with the chocolate sauce. Put the extra chocolate sauce in another cute bowl to serve on the side.
6. Dip a chocolate drizzled chip into the strawberry salsa and feed it to someone you love.
Christmas and the first night of Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. Growing up the child of a divorced, interreligious family, this would have blown my mind even more than it does as an adult. While I was raised primarily in my Jewish mother’s home, my brother and I spent every Christmas with my dad, stepmother and half-sister, and we loved it. I mean, loved it. Sure, the extra presents were nice (very nice), but the experience of both holidays was nothing short of warmth.
Now, at 36, as I think back to having to shuffle between houses for holidays, I feel nothing but warmth. I loved lighting the menorah and the smell of the match as it lit a fresh batch of Hanukkah candles. I equally loved the smell of eggnog and the sound of Nat King Cole’s classic Christmas record as I helped my dad and family decorate the tree. I never once felt I was compromising my enriched and grounded Jewish identity as I played along with my dad and stepmom in pretending, for the sake of my beloved half-sister, that Santa and his reindeer were, in fact, on the roof trying to figure out how to get down the chimney.
Somehow, my family figured out how to give my brother and me a safe and inviting interreligious experience growing up and never asked us to choose. It was our normal, and it was perfect. I hope this recipe helps you bring some of that warmth into your home.
For the doughnuts:
1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar, plus ½ cup extra for coating
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast
¼ cup plus 2 tsp. warm water
4.5 Tbsp. room-temperature butter
4 cups neutral oil for frying (like canola)
For the filling:
½ cup cream
¼ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. ginger
1 Tbsp. allspice
¼ Tbsp. nutmeg
¼ Tbsp. ground cloves
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1. Place all doughnut ingredients, except the butter, into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Work on a low speed for about 4 minutes, or until well-combined and elastic.
2. With the mixer still running, add the butter piece by piece, until it’s all worked in and incorporated. There should be no visible pieces. This will take about 5-8 minutes.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
4. While the dough is rising, make the filling. Place the cream, milk, vanilla and gingerbread-spice mixture into a small saucepan over medium heat.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. When the milk begins to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.
6. Pour the mixture back into the pan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until it boils and becomes very thick, about 1-2 minutes. Once the mixture is the consistency of soft butter, scrape it out into a bowl, cover and set aside to cool completely.
7. When the dough has risen, punch it down and scrape it out onto a well-floured surface. Make sure your hands are properly floured and pat the dough into a rectangle, about ½-inch thick, and cut out nine doughnuts using a well-floured 2.5-inch round biscuit cutter or large glass. Place the doughnuts on a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 45 minutes, or until puffy.
8. When the doughnuts are finished their second rise, place about 2 inches of oil into a high-sided pan (or use a deep fryer) and heat over a low flame, until it reaches 350 degrees (or until a small piece of dough dropped in the oil bubbles and rises to the surface).
9. Fry the doughnuts a few at a time (don’t crowd the pan) for about 1 minute each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
10. Drain on paper towels and toss in the ½ cup sugar.
11. To fill the doughnuts, I use a flavor injector, like you would use for a turkey. I find this the easiest way to get the cream in. Alternatively, you can place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch nozzle. Press the piping bag into the side of each doughnut and squeeze until you can feel the weight of the doughnut increase slightly.
There are two stories associated with Hanukkah: One tells how the vial of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight, and the other is the story of Judith and how she saved her town from annihilation at the hands of General Holefernes by getting him drunk on salty cheese and wine until he passed out and was killed. The latter story is not often told in Hebrew school (for good reason!), but the holiday’s culinary tradition of eating foods prepared with cheese is widespread throughout Mediterranean Jewish communities.
Doughnuts, or sufganiot as they are called in Israel, are a Sephardi treat. Ponchiki, however, are traditionally made in Poland and Eastern Europe, the area where Ashkenazi Jews came from. So this recipe not only combines two culinary traditions and two cultural areas of Judaism, it also fulfills the holiday traditions of consuming fried foods and cheese.
1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a one-quart bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk the egg in a two-quart bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, continuing to whisk until foamy and well combined.
3. Add the cheese and whisk vigorously to break it down into small particles, thoroughly combining it with the egg mixture.
4. Add the flour mixture and stir with the whisk or a spatula until no particles of flour are visible.
5. Heat the oil in a small, deep fryer or in a two-quart saucepan to a temperature of 375ºF. If necessary, add enough oil to come to a depth of about two inches. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you’ll know the oil is ready when a little bit of dough rolls in the oil and begins to brown.
6. Using a small spring ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon and rubber spatula, scoop up some dough and drop it into the hot oil. Don’t fry more than six balls at a time so the oil temperature remains constant. Turn doughnut holes over, if necessary, to brown on all sides. Doughnuts will be done after about three minutes. If holes are browning too fast, lower the heat slightly.
7. Crumple paper towels on a plate to drain the holes of excess oil. While still warm, toss them in confectioner’s sugar or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
They are best eaten warm but will stay crisp for a few hours.
Homemade Farmer’s Cheese
Makes about two to three cups.
½ gallon whole or 2 percent milk
1 quart buttermilk
½ tsp. salt
1. Bring milk and buttermilk to a simmer. Add the salt and continue to cook until the ingredients separate into curds and whey.
2. Scoop up the cheese with a skimmer or small strainer and place in a large double-mesh strainer or colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Let the cheese sit so any excess moisture can drip out, then bring the edges of the cloth together and twist them to force out any leftover moisture.
3. Refrigerate the cheese until ready to use in a recipe, or eat with jam on toast.
Ahhhh, summer. The days are long and hot and Shabbat is even longer and hotter. When it comes to prepping for Shabbat in the summer, it’s always nice to have more hours in the day on Fridays. I love having those extra hours to work on a special main course or to enjoy a refreshing homemade margarita (compliments of my sous chef, who also happens to be my husband). But the toss up, of course, is that havdalah doesn’t come in until as late as 9 pm and with a preschooler who wants snacks every 20 minutes and a husband who eats everything in sight, I’ve gotta be prepared with tons of food options on Shabbat. Since I try to curb too much sugar eating, I’ve started having these homemade popsicles on hand for a late afternoon Shabbat treat. They are a BIG hit with the little and big members of my family. They are not overly sweet but lean more to the cool and refreshing genre of popsicles.
Feel free to add a little bit of maple syrup in with your honey if you’re wanting them a bit sweeter. Either way, you’ll feel a lot better for giving your family a tasty, cool treat that is free of refined sugar and food coloring and packed full of healthy goodness. Enjoy!
1 1/2 cups mixture of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. plus 2 Tbsp. honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1. In a small sauce pot, combine berries, water and 3 tablespoons honey. Bring to a boil until liquid is syrupy and thick. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Do not mash the blueberries, keep them as is (it’s prettier).
2. In a small bowl, whisk in 2 tablespoons of honey, the vanilla, coconut and almond milk.
3. Fill popsicle molds a little over half full of coconut-almond milk. Spoon in berry mixture to fill the popsicle mold.
4. Place mold in freezer for 1 hour. Remove molds and insert wooden sticks into each popsicle cavity. Place mold back in the freezer for at least another 4 hours until ice pops are solid.
Shavuot. The “Festival of Weeks.” If ever there was a confusing holiday (Shmini Atzeret aside), Shavuot is it. The definition of “Shavuot” alone is confusing enough. Festival of Weeks? Who wants to celebrate a festival of weeks!? That said, if ever there was an example of why one should never judge anything by its name alone, Shavuot is such an example.
So what are we celebrating, exactly? First, there is the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai (kind of a big deal). Then there is the completion of the counting of the Omer (the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, thus, “Festival of WEEKS”). The counting of the Omer reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed the Jews spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. But I always wonder, have we really been “freed” from our bondage to idolatry? I’m gonna go with a hard, “NO” on that one.
In my role as a high school counselor, I am often meeting and talking with students about their personal expectations. Too often, adolescents (and their parents, for that matter) have expectations for themselves that are not remotely attainable. Whether it’s trying to fit their body or personal image to that of a celebrity or the pursuit of academic perfection, I would argue that we are still very much bound to worshiping of idols. As a society, we have given so much power to fame and perfection, it is worshiped as truth. Adolescents “follow” celebrities and try in vain to emulate their lifestyle in such a way that they are willing to risk their financial status and physical, mental and emotional health. If that’s not worshiping of an idol, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of worship, Shavuot has recently become of my most favorite holidays due to the foods that are traditionally eaten on this day: dairy foods and spring/summer veggies and fruit. I’m talking foods such as cheesecakes and fresh green salads and gorgeous, ripe fruit. It’s a time of newness and of a re-commitment to learning and spirituality. I dream of hosting a huge picnic in a kibbutz sometime, the sun shining down upon my family and friends and eating salads and cakes until we feel we’re about to burst! One of the cakes I’ll be offering up during a meal this Shavuot is this gorgeous Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake. Not only does it lend itself to a beautiful presentation, it just so happens to taste good as well. A double threat, if you will.
Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake
Candied Orange Peel with Syrup Topping:
3/4cuporange blossom honey
3 Tbsp. green cardamom pods, crushed
1 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring sugar, honey, cardamom and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add orange slices.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, turning orange slices occasionally until tender and syrup is reduced to 3 1/4 cups, about 40 minutes.
3. Arrange orange slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; remove cardamom pods and seeds. Strain syrup.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover syrup and orange slices separately; chill. Return orange slices to room temperature and rewarm syrup slightly before using.
Ingredients for Cake
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt, which was completely fine and delicious)
1 cup fine semolina PLUS 1 cup coarse semolina (or 2 cups coarse semolina)
⅓ cup milk or almond milk
1 tsp. baking powder
Directions for Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Place the butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine together the sugar and yogurt. Now add in the semolina, baking powder and milk. Finally stir in the melted butter and let the mixture sit briefly so that the butter is absorbed.
4. Transfer the semolina mixture into a lightly greased 9″-round cake pan or baking dish. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
5. Pierce the hot cake all over with a metal skewer. Slowly drizzle 3/4 cup warm syrup all over. When syrup is absorbed, slowly pour 3/4 cup more syrup over the top. Reserve remaining syrup for serving. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake. Remove pan sides. Arrange candied orange slices over top.
Hello InterfaithFamily readers! My name is Whitney Fisch and I am beyond honored to be able to create recipes and write for this wonderful website. So here’s a bit about me:
I was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia. I’m the daughter of a Jewish mama and a Christian dad. My mom raised me within the Reform Jewish community. Throughout my childhood, my mom was incredibly active within our temple community, at one point as the founding member of what is now one of the larger Reform temples in metropolitan Atlanta (can you tell I’m proud of my mom!?).
In 2008, after living all over the map and working for various Jewish organizations, I decided to sell all my stuff, drop my dog off at mom’s house and head to Israel for the year to learn at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. While there (and immersed in an incredible multi-cultural learning environment), I met the man I would later marry. We got hitched in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2010 (we were the very first kosher wedding to hit the town—we even made the local paper! Huzzah! Take that, Kardashians! Who’s the celebrity now!?).
We now live in Los Angeles, where I work as the Director of Counseling at a private Jewish school and my husband is finishing his Ph.D. in Marine Biology. We have two beloved daughters, one finicky lemon tree and a lot of love . . . and babka. We love babka. We also LOVE to eat. It’s with this love of eating that brings me to food writing on my personal blog, Jewhungry and is what brings me to InterfaithFamily. I look forward to getting to know you, dear reader!
I developed the following recipe a few years ago during the ‘grain-free’ craze of 2013. It wasn’t until I hosted my first seder later that year that I realized this recipe is THE PERFECT recipe for a seder dessert. It doesn’t require any grains and is so incredibly easy to make as it requires no baking. In addition, it celebrates the fruits of the season and what is Passover but a celebration of the harvest! I hope you enjoy!
I used regular-sized muffin tins to shape the crusts, but a ramekin will work just as well.
1. Cut pieces of parchment paper into squares about 8 in. by 8 in. or large enough that when placed into the muffin tins there is an excess of paper sticking out.
2. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until well combined—to about the count of 30 or until the ingredients have a dough-like consistency. If you feel like it’s a bit dry due to too many walnuts or almond meal, just add a bit of water, about 1 Tbsp. at a time, until you get that doughy consistency.
3. Once you’ve attained your desired consistency, scoop out enough “dough” to form a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Gently press the dough ball into the parchment paper-lined muffin tin and shape to the entirety of the tin so that a “crust” forms. Your crust should be thick enough to hold the filling but thin enough so that it doesn’t take over the pie flavor. Do this until you run out of dough. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 minutes.
Coconut Milk Whipped Cream
1. If you haven’t already, open the coconut milk can and pour out the water in a separate bowl. (Save it and use for smoothies, soups, etc.) If you’ve been chilling your coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours in prep for this recipe, the watery part of the coconut milk will be at the bottom of the can so pour slowly and make sure to omit the watery part at the end.
2. Pour the thicker coconut milk into your chilled mixer and begin to whip starting on low and gradually moving to medium-high setting. As soon as it begins to thicken, add powdered sugar and continue to beat. Check every so often for desired consistency.
Place all your chopped fruit into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and sugar and mix until well combined.
Once your crusts have refrigerated, scoop fruit filling into each pie; enough so that the is a mound of fruit filling. Top with a dollop or two (or three) of whipped cream. Enjoy!
I’m in the throes of what I’ve dubbed the “Summer of Love.” I’ve hit the age where my Facebook feed is dominated by photos of engagements and newborns, and the only snail mail I get is wedding invitations and baby announcements. In the next three months, I’m slated to go to six weddings—and that’s after I found a way to weasel my way out of three. Oy!
But I’m not complaining! Quite the opposite. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting these new baby-friends and attending these open bars—um, I mean, celebrations of love. In fact, one wedding I’m especially excited for is in just a few weeks, when my dear friend Rachel marries Pascal, a guy she met and fell for while the two were in grad school together at Brandeis. But it’s not quite your typical Brandeis love story: Rachel is American Jewish, and Pascal is Haitian Catholic.
Their wedding will celebrate both of their cultures. They’re going to have some of the Jewish prayers also recited in French. We’re going to dance the hora, then get down to some Carimi (Pascal’s favorite Haitian band). And then there’s my favorite culture clash: the food. In addition to chopped liver, knishes and a latke bar (!), they’ll be offering fried plantains, mango chicken and du riz a pois (rice and beans). And for a familial touch, Rachel’s asked some of her food-minded friends—myself included—to bring a small plate of sweets to add to the dessert table.
The timing is perfect to be thinking about weddings: Judaism’s very own holiday of love, Tu B’av, begins at sundown on July 21. Historically, Tu B’av was a matchmaking day on which unmarried women were paired with spouses. But it’s morphed into a more general day of love. Kind of like a less acknowledged, summertime Valentine’s Day—minus the Hallmark domination. And, like the more popular day in February, Tu B’av is considered a lucky date on which to get engaged and married. Rachel and Pascal’s wedding is only a couple weeks later, so I’m thinking some of that luck will carry over (not that they need it).
While thinking about Tu B’av, I was struck with an idea for my dessert recipe’s base: halvah, the dense, nutty confection popular among Jews all over the world. I love its mellow sweetness and chewy tackiness, which feels a bit like astronaut food (in a good way!). Halvah is great eaten straight from supermarket shelves, but I plan to give it a little flair by dipping it in chocolate and topping it with nuts and sesame seeds. I think I’ve found a cross-cultural recipe that everyone can enjoy.
Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts
Makes about 16 pieces
1 pound halvah (flavor of your choice)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (I used shelled and blanched)
¼ cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1. Line a plate with parchment paper. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice halvah in half height-wise, making two planks. Cut each plank into 8 equal pieces.
2. Heat small, dry pan over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast until slightly darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.
3. Heat now-empty pan over medium heat and add almonds. Toast until slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl with sesame seeds. Add pistachios and salt to bowl and stir until well-mixed.
4. Using microwave or double-boiler method, melt half of chocolate. Working piece by piece, dip half of halvah pieces in chocolate until fully coated, allow excess to drain off, and transfer to parchment-lined dish.
5. While chocolate is still warm, generously sprinkle nut mixture over tops of chocolate-coated halvah. Repeat chocolate dipping and sprinkling steps with remaining halvah pieces.
6. Transfer plate to refrigerator until chocolate has firmed up. Chocolate-coated halvah can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.
Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.
I’ve run the gamut of Valentine’s Day experiences. And while I’m rather indifferent to the general idea of the holiday, no celebration I’ve had as an adult has ever matched the ones from when I was a kid. I remember the excitement of picking out the perfect cards (in my case, always Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed), choosing which type of candy to attach to them, and then matching the message on the card to each of my classmates’ personalities.
This year, I was thinking about the adult equivalent of those childhood valentines. Now, instead of a classroom, most of us spend our days in an office. Instead of classmates, we have coworkers. And while I’m all for injecting a bit of youthful fun into the workplace, I draw the line at giving my colleagues cartoon cards that call them “dudette” and asking them to be my “mondo Valentine.” (That’s Ninja Turtle speak for “I like you.”) I wanted to bring back the Valentine’s Day tradition of bringing in treats for everyone, but this year I didn’t have time to make any quintessential adult sweets, such as homemade truffles or caramels.
Enter chocolate bark. This sweet can get pigeonholed as a December treat, but it’s easy to make (only four ingredients!), attractive to wrap and appealing to eat all year round. My coworkers will be noshing on this version, with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and coconut, but the toppings are easy to change based on your recipients’ tastes.
Chocolate Bark with Pepitas and Coconut
Makes eight 1-ounce portions
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Maldon sea salt
1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Stirring frequently, toast coconut in small skillet over medium heat. Once coconut turns the color of straw, transfer to small bowl to cool.
3. Add chocolate to medium, heatproof bowl and set over pot of simmering water. (Do not let water touch bottom of bowl.) Stirring frequently, heat chocolate until fully melted. Quickly pour onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet and tilt pan until distributed evenly, but not covering entire pan. (Otherwise your bark will be too thin.)
4. Sprinkle coconut, pepitas and salt, to taste, evenly over chocolate. Transfer to refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and break into 1-ounce portions.
Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.