Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Happy New Year to the Trees - Celebrate Tu B'Shevat with Fruit, Nuts and These Recipes

Cherry and Carob Cookies
Many Jews have become more aware of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for trees, as the practice of celebrating the holiday with Seders and special meals has become more widespread.

Tu B’Shevat begins at sunset on February 7th and continues until nightfall the next day. The holiday was used to set the age of fruit trees for taxes and other purposes. There are several food customs associated with it. One is to eat a new fruit of the season. Another focuses on consuming the “Seven Species,” foods mentioned in the Torah as being special products of Israel – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Some also include other fruits and nuts mentioned elsewhere in the Torah or associated with Israel.

The Seder was created in the 16th century and includes fruits that have several distinct characteristics: an inedible covering (such as citrus, pomegranates and pineapples), fruits with edible coverings but large pits (such as cherries, olives and carob), and completely edible fruits or ones that only have very small seeds (such as grapes).

Some of these Tu B’Shevat traditions are reflected in the following recipes.

Chicken with Olives and Tangerines
Serves 6

Fennel, squash, olives and tangerines combine to create a great dish for company or every day.  The idea came from having made some Moroccan orange and olive salads and really liking that flavor combo but only having Satsumas in the house when I created this.

1 1/2 cups seedless tangerine sections (such as Satsuma)
2 Tbs. grape seed or olive oil
2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs cut in 1 1/2” strips
2 cups of chopped onion
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel bulb
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups of 1” cubes of butternut squash
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 Tbs. finely chopped fennel fronds, optional

Remove any excess white pith or strings from the tangerine sections. Set aside. Heat oil in large fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken strips, remove. Add onion and garlic, sauté until golden. Add fennel, red bell pepper and squash. Sauté 2 minutes. Add water, stir well, cover. Lower heat to medium and let steam, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed (do not let the pan go dry), until squash is almost cooked through. Remove lid, raise heat to medium high. Add cinnamon, pepper, salt and browned chicken and sauté until chicken is almost cooked through. Add olives and tangerines. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until chicken is done. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds if desired. Serve on top of cooked bulgur, couscous or barley.

Cherry and Carob Cookies
Makes about 24-30 cookies

These delicious, cake-like cookies are vegan. The carob adds a fruity note, but you could substitute chocolate chips if you'd prefer. Dried cranberries can also be substituted for the dried tart cherries. The cookies are very fragile when warm, plus they taste better when cool, so be sure to let them cool completely before eating.

1 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup apple juice
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup carob chips
1/2 cup dried tart, pitted cherries (or dried cranberries)
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Oil spray

Using an electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Stir in applesauce, vanilla and juice. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on medium speed, pour a third of the flour mixture into the shortening one and mix until well combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture. Stir in carob, cherries, coconut and walnuts. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie pans with oil spray. Roll batter into 1 1/2" balls. Place on greased baking sheets leaving about 2” space between cookies. Bake until cookies are golden with lightly browned edges, 15-17 minutes. Let cool on baking pans for 3 minutes and then move to cooling rack. Let cool completely before eating.

Pomegranate Juice Squares with Pineapple Chunks
Serves 4

Don't skip serving with the pineapple chunks, they are what makes the dish "come together." Canned pineapple chunks work fine for this recipe.

1 cup white grape juice
1 cup fresh pomegranate juice, cold
2 envelopes Kolatin brand unflavored kosher gelatin (see note below)
8 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained, OR 2/3 cup of 1/2” chunks of fresh pineapple
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, optional

Heat white grape juice to a boil and keep at a simmer. Place cold pomegranate juice in bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top, let stand 1 minute. Add hot juice and mix thoroughly until gelatin has dissolved. Pour into 8” x 8” pan. Cover and put in refrigerator until firm (4 hours). Cut into 1” squares. Combine the juice squares with the pineapple in individual dishes just before serving. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds if using. (Note: If using a different brand of gelatin, follow package directions on how to mix with liquids.)
A version of this first appeared as an article the j. weekly.
Other posts on the holiday feature information on pomegranates and recipes for barley-olive tabbouleh salad, pomengranate fish and carob fruit nut bars.

1 comment:

FJKramer said...

Dear Amelia,
Thanks for your recent comment which I've since deleted since it had a gratitious link promoting a business in it. If you are sincerely interested in your question (using fresh strawberries instead of dried fruit in the recipe), my answer is I'm sorry, I have not tested the recipe that way and can not advise. Thanks for your compliments on my recipe. You are welcome to repost your comment without the link to the produce packaging company you seem to represent.