¼ cup dried cherries (unsweetened, or apple juice sweetened)
½ cup dried apricots (unsweetened, or apple juice sweetened)
½ to ¾ cup dried unsweetened pitted prunes
½ cup raisins, golden and regular
6-8 pitted dates
¼ cup shelled pistachios
½ cup shelled walnuts
¼ cup shelled hazelnuts
¼ cup shelled almonds or pecans
¼ cup rosewater
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dried shredded coconut, unsweetened
This recipe is hard on the hands and very sticky. The first step is to soak the raisins, or the cherries, or the dates, or the prunes, or the apricots in the rose water for at least fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter which dried fruit you soak. I usually pick the fruit that seems the driest. Start chopping up all the dried fruit into very, very small pieces. Do not attempt this in a food processor, you will break your food processor, most likely. This is a job done best by hand with a good strong heavy knife. Chop, Chop, Chop! Put all the chopped fruit into a large wooden bowl or a glass one. Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg and add the leftover rosewater from the soaked fruit.
In a food processor chop up all the nuts until they are pretty finely ground. I am allergic to almonds, so I don’t actually use almonds in mine. You can use pecans, or any combination of nuts that you like. The pistachios and hazelnuts are particularly yummy though in this recipe. Once the nuts are finely ground, put them in the bowl with the fruit and mix with your hands for the best result. You will have very sticky fingers.
On a large plate put the shredded coconut in a layer covering the plate. If you want to lightly toast the coconut prior to this step, that is also a good idea. Or, you can just use it as is. Have a clean plate handy. Make round balls about a teaspoon or so of mixture to make one ball. Roll in your hands until the mixture is round then put the ball on the coconut plate and roll around until it is all coated, then place the finished ball on your clean plate. Repeat until you’ve used up all the mixture. These will keep for a very long time in the fridge. If your mixture feels too dry, add some rosewater or a drop of balsamic vinegar. Keep these balls in the fridge in a covered container. They actually taste best at room temperature, so take them out before serving them.
Added benefits of these are they are a great dessert with no sugar, other than the natural sugars from the dried fruit and they help with constipation due to the high content of prunes.
I am no longer eating gluten, but one of my favorite things is Chilis Rellenos. I found a recipe from the 1970s that was a for a casserole that didn’t involve the time consuming deep frying and the flour. Although their original recipe had flour in the egg mixture. I adapted their recipe to make these. I did use about 1/2 cup masa/corn flour, but you could eliminate that if you want. I find it gives the casserole just a tad of texture that I like.
The hardest part of all Relleno recipes is that you have to roast them to get their skins off. This is something you can do a day before, but it takes time and it stinks up your kitchen and messes up your stove top or broiler. If you don’t have a gas burning stove, I don’t know how to tell you to do these. I’ve never tried broiling or roasting them without an open flame. So, you can set the Poblano or Anaheim peppers, one or two at a time, over your gas flame and let them cook directly on the flame and get blackened and turn them frequently to get as much of the skin cooked/browned/black. Immediately after getting the pepper cooked put it in a glass bowl with a cover, you can use a plate if you don’t have a glass bowl cover. The point is to seal the heat in the glass which helps steam the pepper.
So, you repeat this process ten or more times for each pepper. It’s okay for the heat and steam to escape each time you add another pepper. Eventually all the peppers will be finished and you will keep the plate or lid on your bowl for a 1/2 hour or so. You can do this overnight as well. If you are using the broiler, less messy, not as flavorful, you have to pay attention and turn the peppers (and you can do them all at once) every few minutes. I have cooks’ fingers, which means I can turn these peppers with my bare hands, if you don’t have toughened fingers, wear a clean cloth mitt or use tongs to turn the peppers.
You cannot cook this recipe if you are in a hurry or distracted.
This is a labor of love.
Once you have steamed the rellenos, you will start to peel off their skins. This is a messy job. I recommend having a small bowl of warm water to rinse your hands off with. Put the whole peppers in the bottom of a large glass casserole dish that has been liberally dosed with olive oil. You can leave the stems on or cut them off as you wish. If you cut them off, your cheese will run out more into the casserole, leaving them on is a nice visual. For this batch I cut them off, but I’ve done it both ways.
Cut up as many long thin strips or wedges of either Monteray Jack cheese or Pepper Jack cheese or a vegan equivalent. Make a cut in the peppers vertically, they may have natural tears in them from the roasting, and insert the long wedges of cheese. It’s like a pepper burrito, you are stuffing the peppers with the cheese.
Separate the yolks from the whites of twelve eggs. Whisk the egg whites so they are fluffy. Mix the egg yolks with some milk, or half & half, just a 1/2 cup, and a 1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika as you like. You can omit the cayenne if you don’t want spicy. I always want spicy! Add 1/2 cup of corn meal/masa or whatever flour you want to use that works for your diet. I don’t recommend a nutty flour, you could use rice flour or cassava flour. Add the egg whites and fold so you have a light mixture. Add a cup of grated cheddar cheese.
Pour this whole mixture over your chilis and bake in the oven at 365 for 45 minutes to an hour. The egg mixture will puff up and become a beautiful golden brown.
Eggless Version: Do everything the same for the chilis, but instead of mixing up the egg batter, make a fresh red salsa or use a good one from the store and coat the Rellenos with it. Bake in the oven for 1/2 hour. It won’t need as much time.
This casserole is best served with a warm fresh marinara sauce. I make mine from scratch and the recipe is from my daughter’s Israeli grand mother. I’ve never found a better one: Sapta Rachel’s Best Tomato Sauce. If you are using the fire-roasted tomatoes, instead of fresh tomatoes, which is what I do in the winter, I just adapt her recipe and use the defrosted tomatoes I’ve had waiting in my freezer for just this moment. I also omit the basil from this marinara as the flavors are more Mexican than Italian.
Fresh Fire-Roasted Salsa: Combine in a blender two or three Serrano or Jalapeño peppers with a quart of fire-roasted tomatoes (which have garlic, salt and pepper already in them if you are using ones you made from my recipe). If you are using canned ones, add four or five fresh garlic bulbs, salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon or more of oregano and a handful of fresh cilantro. Blend until smooth. Grind with a mortar and pestle or in a molcajete two tablespoons of fresh cumin seeds, heat up in a small skillet or cast iron pot the ground cumin seeds and let them toast gently, stirring constantly. After about one minute, add the liquid and cook for 1/2 hour or so, stirring frequently and don’t let it boil, but get it hot and keep stirring. Add more salt or black pepper to taste and serve it warm on the table. Or pour it over your eggless rellenos and bake.
I also make pico de gallo, click on the words to get taken to that recipe, for a compliment as an added bit of crunch. Then you can make guacamole while the casserole is cooking. Serve with a fresh salad, corn chips, sour-cream and black beans (also made best from scratch).
I know this seems like a lot of work, it is, but it is way less work than making the actual Chili Rellenos the regular way, trust me on this!
Here’s the list of ingredients and amounts:
Ten to twelve Poblano or Anaheim peppers (don’t bother making this in a small size, you can always freeze portions of this and have a treat at a later date)
a dozen eggs (or vegan alternative)
two large blocks of cheese or vegan alternative (one Pepper Jack or Monterey and one Cheddar)
Fire-Roasted Tomatoes a large amount
garlic bulbs -6-10 for salsas
fresh cumin seeds 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup corn masa/corn flour/ or flour of your choice
1/4 sour cream or vegan alternative
1/2 cup milk or cream
cayenne powder, paprika, salt and pepper to taste
Pico de gallo ingredients are in the recipe you can link to
I learned this easy simple recipe from my beloved Mother in Love Maren Frank. She and I don’t like the terms “mother-in-law, daughter-in-law.” They often have negative connotations and the relationship the two of us have is one of loving kindness, shared values and supporting each other in our differences. Much like a good bean salad, the different ingredients make a great combination of flavors. I’m a spicy pepper and she’s a good tomato, or perhaps she’s a nice sharp white onion and I’m the ripe tomato. I’ll let you decide!
Ingredients: Combine all of the ingredients below in a nice glass bowl and mix gently with a spoon and then refrigerate until you are ready to eat. This dish is better served at room temperature, in my opinion, so you can always take it out 1/2 hour before your meal or make it before you are about to eat.
One large 16 oz can of good organic garbanzo beans, my brand preference is Westbrae. If you have time and want to make garbanzo beans from scratch, that’s always better, but this salad is good with canned beans and much quicker to make this way
Three to four good tomatoes, this time of year, I’m getting mine from Neukom Family Farms and they are incredible. Slice up the tomatoes into small squarish pieces
One white onion, chopped very fine
Three to five garlic cloves, pressed or chopped very fine. Remember to always take out the center part of each clove
Sliced black olives, 1/2 a can or more depending on how much you are making
Fresh oregano and flat leaf parsley (you can use dried oregano if you don’t have fresh, but don’t use dried parsley). Chop up finely
Salt and Pepper to taste. Maren prefers white pepper, so when she is here I use white pepper, but when she isn’t visiting I use black pepper. This salad will taste different depending on which pepper you use.
1/4 cup good organic red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar or some combination of these.
1/2 cup or less of good organic virgin olive oil, don’t use cheap stuff for this, the salad needs a really good olive oil.
1/4 cup or so of pickled sliced banana peppers (these are not spicy, similar to pepperoncinis, but less piquant). My husband doesn’t like this ingredient so sometimes I leave it out, but otherwise, I think it is essential and love the little tang it gives this summer salad.
You can eat this plain or throw it over a green salad. It’s a great dish to bring to a potluck, although nobody is having those right now with Covid-19. This recipe is probably the quickest recipe in my repertoire. It takes fifteen minutes to make and if you let it sit for a half hour before serving the flavors are perfectly blended, but you can eat it right away too. It’s wonderful and keeps for two or three days in the fridge.
A large bunch of really excellent carrots, not pre-peeled “bunny love” in a bag. Good, large or fresh carrots, only!
five to ten cloves of peeled garlic with the centers taken out as per my previous instructions about proper garlic preparation.
juice of one to two fresh lemons
1/4 or more of olive oil, depending on how many carrots you are making
fresh chopped parsley
1-3 teaspoons fresh cumin seeds ground in a mortar and pestle, do not use this much if you are using already ground cumin, perhaps 1/2 the fresh amount, but I warn you, it will not be as tasty with the already ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons good salt, See previous posting about salt:
1-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon or more of hot cayenne powder
(These carrots will be yummy without the spice for folks with a milder palette, but the spiciness is truly part of their charm. You can try substituting a milder cayenne or paprika.)
You need to clean your carrots well, if you aren’t peeling them. Have a large saucepan/soup pot of boiling water on the stove and put in some salt. You need to chop the carrots into long slivers for this dish, so it take a little bit of time to do so. More carrots is better. You will love this dish two days out and it’s unlikely it will make it that long as most folks just can’t stop eating these. Once you’ve got the carrots ready add them to the boiling water and blanch them for five to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrot slabs you cut. You need to have a bowl or large pan with ice water or cold water handy and you will remove the hot carrots immediately into the cold water with tongs or a strainer or whatever implement you have handy. Keep the boiling water handy and once it’s cooled you can use it for making rice or soup stock. It’s full of yummy carrot goodness.
Put the carrots aside and start working on the fresh cumin grinding. Once you’ve ground the cumin well, not to a powder, but you’ve broken down the seeds a fair amount, add your salt, and the garlic cloves directly into the Suribachi (bowl of your mortar and pestle) and mush, mash, pound that garlic into the salt and cumin seeds, it will start to break down fairly quickly because of the salt.
Once you’ve got it pretty mushed so folks aren’t eating giant cloves of garlic, add the cayenne, red pepper flakes, lemon and olive oil and mix it all up and then pour onto your carrots. Stir all of that up and add the chopped parsley.
These carrots are best served at room temperature, but you can refrigerate them for days. Just take them out an hour or so before your meal.
Enjoy and Lots of Love to you in your food making and food sharing!
I’ve been weepy the last two days and I just figured out why. My body and heart are always ahead of my mind and brain. In Hebrew the word Lev means Heart and also Mind. So, my heart/mind was knowing something that my brain hadn’t figured out yet. I woke up with pain behind my eyes and a headache, yesterday. It was pretty early in the morning, but my husband woke up to hold me. I know when I have that kind of pain it is because I need to cry. I didn’t know why, but the why wasn’t important. So, he held me and I sobbed and released, still not sure what my tears were for or about.
Before falling asleep last night I thought, I need to check about the Jewish date for my father’s Yahrzeit. This is the day we mark once a year on the anniversary of a person’s death. The calendar for us is a combination Lunar and Solar calendar, so it is different than the Gregorian one used by most folks in this country. I knew that we stop saying Kaddish in the eleventh month from the death and since it was May 9th and my father died June 18/19th of 2018, I figured I better check. The Orthodox website run by Chabad.org is where I go when I need to calculate Hebrew birthdays or deathdays. They have a very easy interface and give you the dates for ten years out if you want.
So, I went to their site and plugged in my dad’s information and here’s what I got:
The date of passing for this person was on:
Monday, June 18, 2018 – Tammuz 6, 5778
Observe the upcoming Yahrtzeit on:
Tuesday, July 9, 2019 – 6 Tammuz, 5779
Yahrtzeit observances begin on Monday evening.
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Kaddish is recited until mincha on the afternoon of:
Friday, May 10, 2019 – Iyar 5 5779
About the kaddish end date:
>Kaddish is recited for eleven months from the date of passing. Even if the interment took place a number of days after death, the 11 months are still counted from the date of passing. However, if the burial was postponed for two or more weeks after death, kaddish should be recited until the end of 11 months counting from the date of the burial.
I burst into tears upon seeing the Friday, May 10, 2019 date as the last time to say Kaddish for my father on a daily basis. I haven’t been saying Kaddish everyday for him for the last eleven months, but that didn’t matter. I have been thinking about him and saying the Kaddish whenever I was in a Jewish setting with a Minyan (ten Jewish folks or any ten loving folks will work for me).
I wasn’t, I am not ready to stop grieving my father. And, of course I don’t need to stop grieving him, but this marker hit me hard and I realized again with waves of tears that I am still very, very sad and missing my father every day. Grief is just not a one time thing you feel and are done with. I have been living it and reeling from it for the last eleven months very intensely. So, in the morning, this morning I again asked my husband for his loving arms and I cried some more and shared stories with him about my father.
I had big plans for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. I was going to cook Iranian Eggplant and make Raita and create a sort of pre-30th Anniversary vegetarian feast for my husband. Instead, after my energy/chiropractic/sound treatment with Sarah Griffith and my healing MAT (Muscle Activation Training) with Jazz and then shopping to get groceries, I found myself in a puddle of tears once I got home, barely able to get the groceries up the steps, for emotional, not physical reasons.
No fancy dinner tonight. I finished setting up the altar for my father, pictured above and I’ll make a simple salad and asparagus for dinner. I’ll cook tomorrow, if I feel up to it. Today is about grieving and being sad and surrendering to my sadness, honoring that eleven lunar months have passed since my father was in a body. I don’t have to recite the mourner’s prayer for him everyday any more. Instead, I move into the wisdom of the Jewish practices of saying this prayer for him on the anniversary of his death, and three times more a year during the Yiskor service. So, four times a year, I’ll say this prayer for him, until I’m no longer able for the rest of my life.
Standing up when the Rabbi asks: “Is there anyone observing a Yahrzeit or in the first year of mourning, please stand,” has been a very powerful thing for me. I’ve cried every time I was asked for the name of who I am remembering, not expecting to each time. But, the tears, the body/mind/heart knowing cannot be denied or stopped. I have no desire to change that.
At Passover this year, I was in San Diego at my mother and beau-père’s home. When we got to the teaching and questions about why is this night different from all other nights, something strong came through for me. We ask “why on all other nights do we not even dip our greens/vegetables once, but on this night we dip twice?” This refers to dipping parsley in salt water and charoset into horseradish, so two dippings, double dipping that is encouraged. I was inspired to get honest with my parents about something very hard and sad for me, and so I gave them access to my feelings by introducing the subject through this idea of double dipping.
I shared that usually we all avoid our feelings and on Pesach/Passover, we are being asked very clearly NOT to do that. If we think of the salt water as our tears and ourselves as the thing that needs to dip into them, we can see that our first dip is just a small foray into the emotional realm. Oh, there’s my feeling, yes, I know you’re there, that’s enough. We have that choice, most of the time, to stop ourselves from actually deeply feeling the sadness, grief, joy, fear or whatever emotion we are just lightly touching/dipping into. But, if we have the time or are able and have the support to immerse completely into our emotions, to really double dip, then something transformational and intense happens and we are no longer on the outside looking in, we are fully immersed.
So, this is the territory of emotional work, of grieving. It’s a place, where if we are healthy, we can have some agency and choice. I can’t live in this immersed in pain place all the time. Nothing would get done. It’s also not fair to my friends, family and community because I’m really not able to be present for others when I’m fully immersed in my emotional territory. My husband likes to say that I’m due and can take all the time I want. This is just one of the many things I adore about him. My middle son Issac, upon hearing about some of my sadness a few months back, said: “Mom, you’ve done so much for us, for so many people, if you take the next thirty years off to do whatever you want, that won’t even come close to covering it.” Both these men in my life are deep wells of grounding and tenderness in my life. I’m so very blessed by there understanding of my emotional double dipping.
To be fair, neither one of them likes it when I’m sad, but they don’t push me or aren’t upset by my sadness. I don’t feel as if they’ll topple or be hurt by my pain and grief. I trust their own steady grounding.
The thing about family is that it’s not perfect or fair. Some members are better able to be around and take care of each other than others. Some parts of my family can hold my emotional double dipping better than others. This doesn’t mean the folks who aren’t able to do that don’t have gifts for me and aren’t available in other extremely helpful and important ways. My family is a messy, complex, messed-up and deeply caring for each other family. I think probably, this is true of most families.
As, I let myself be sad today and grieve the passing and end of day to day interactions and laughter and shared toast in the morning over coffee moments with my father, I’m so grateful for all the members of my family still here for me to cherish and honor and love and be loved by.
If I were to put up all the pictures of my sisters, my many G!dchildren, my bonus brothers and sisters and all my friends and community who actually are also behind what makes me smile, this blog post would never be finished. So, to all of you, not pictured here, please know, deep in your bones that you are in my heart/mind/Lev always and enable me to double dip, to triple dip and to just be all around drippy as well as silly and whole.