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The Shabbat Table: Eating the Bible

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Midnight brownies RENA ROSSNER PHOTO
Midnight brownies RENA ROSSNER PHOTO

The Shabbat Table is the latest CJN column from noted chef and food blogger Norene Gilletz. Click here for last week’s recipes.


Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! Are you looking for some ‘food for thought’ as well as food for your Shabbat Table? You’ll be inspired by: Eating the Bible: Over 50 Delicious Recipes to Feed Your Body and Nourish Your Soul by Rena Rossner.

Eating the Bible is a visual feast for the eyes, palate, mind, and soul that will inspire those gathered around your table to reflect on the beauty of simple ingredients combined in creative, innovative ways. Mouthwatering recipes and magnificent photographs are intricately interwoven with biblical text and quotations into a tantalizing culinary tapestry.

One weekend, a decade ago, Rena Rossner was served a bowl of lentil soup at a Shabbat dinner. The weekly portion of the Bible that had been read that week in synagogue was the chapter in which Esau sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of red lentil soup. Rossner was struck by the ability to bring the Bible alive each week in such a tactile way and decided on the spot to see whether she could incorporate the Bible into a meal each week. And so she has. The result, Eating the Bible, is an innovative cookbook with original, easy-to-prepare recipes that will ignite table conversation while pleasing the stomach. Every meal will become both a tactile and intellectual experience as the recipes enrich both the soul of the cook and the palates of those at the table.

Every cook must glance at a recipe countless times before completing a dish. Often recipes involve five- to ten-minute periods during which one must wait for the water to boil, the soup to simmer, or the onions to sauté. It is Rena Rossner’s goal to help enrich those moments with biblical verse and commentary, to enable cooks to feed their souls as they work to feed the members of the household and guests. From elegant “Vineyard Chicken” to zesty “Garden of Eden Salad” to delectable “Hidden Treasure Midnight Brownies,” each recipe will delight the palate and spark the mind. 

This week’s parsha is Kedoshim: which includes the mitzvah of charity.

Rena writes: “The command to leave a corner of your corner of your field for the poor along with the remnants of the field and the lone grapes is there to teach the giver something. When you leave a portion of your field for the poor, you do not know who will come and gather your crop. You do not know who you are giving to, and there will be no thank-you note. You gain no personal benefit from this donation. It is the ultimate form of charity. G-d works in the same way – he does not expect any return on his charity to us.”

She continues: “Other commentators suggest that another important aspect of this charitable act is allowing the poor to help themselves. You are not giving the poor person a prescribed amount – you are allowing him to come and harvest for himself. G-d’s commandment here preserves the poor man’s dignity.”


VINEYARD CHICKEN (Meat)

Vineyard chicken PINTEREST PHOTO

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, do not completely reap one corner of your field, and the fallen stalks of your harvest do not gather. And your vineyard do not glean, nor gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord, your G-d.” Leviticus 19:9-10

6 skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 2 lb or 1 kg)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried tarragon

1/4 tsp paprika

Pepper to taste

2 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup (120 g) mushrooms, sliced thin

1/2 cup (120 ml) chicken broth

1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine

1/2 cup (120 ml) soy milk or non-dairy cream

1 tsp lemon juice

2 cups (480 g) seedless grapes, halved

1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Grape clusters for decoration

  1. Cut each chicken breast in half, lengthwise, or flatten with a meat mallet.
  2. Blend together salt, basil, tarragon, paprika, pepper, and flour.
  3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Dip chicken pieces in flour mixture and brown in pan. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  4. Add garlic and mushrooms to pan and let cook 1-2 minutes on low flame.
  5. Add leftover flour, chicken broth, white wine, soy milk, and lemon juice. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes until sauce has thickened.
  6. Return chicken to the pan and let cook another 5 minutes. Add grapes and parsley, and let cook 2-3 minutes.
  7. Serve garnished with small grape clusters.

Serves 6 to 8.

Alternatives:

  • Serve an abundance of grapes – take all the grapes off their stems except for one cluster. Serve raisins or grapes on a square plate and leave one corner empty. You can really do this for effect with everything you serve – leave one corner of the brownie tray ‘unharvested,’ don’t eat the last slice of meatloaf, etc.

Questions:

  • Why is giving ‘leftovers’ to the poor a charitable deed?
  • Why are we not commanded to give the best of our crops and food to the poor?
  • And isn’t it obvious that we must be charitable to those less fortunate than us?
  • Why must G-d tell us this?
  • And why isn’t it enough to just tell us to be charitable and not to tell us exactly how to do it?

GARDEN OF EDEN SALAD (Pareve)

“And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and it was a desire for the eyes, and that the tree could pleasantly make one wise, and she took of its fruit, and she ate, and she gave to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6

1 cup (240 g) bulgur or wheat kernels

1 onion, chopped

1 cup (240 g) fresh mushrooms, chopped

1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup (120 g) pecans, chopped

1/2 cup (120 g) raisins

1/2 cup (120 g) dried figs, chopped

1 tsp lemon or citron zest

Juice of half a lemon

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Place 1 cup of bulgur or wheat kernels in a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until grain is soft. Drain or add more water accordingly.
  2. Sauté onions in a separate pan until translucent, add mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes more. Add thyme and cinnamon.
  3. Mix onion and mushroom mixture together with bulgur or wheat, add pecans, raisins, figs, and citron/lemon zest.
  4. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Serves 4 to 6.

Rena writes: “There is something very intriguing about the fact that a tree was chosen as the life-form that would serve as an example for all mankind. One of the first things G-d does in the Garden of Eden is to plant trees. So perhaps it really doesn’t matter what kind of tree it was that G-d planted; perhaps G-d wants to keep us guessing. Perhaps G-d wants us simply to follow in his footsteps and plant trees too; perhaps the more trees we plant, the more we learn to take care of the trees, and the more we learn to emulate G-d, no matter what type of tree it is we plant.”


HIDDEN TREASURE MIDNIGHT BROWNIES (Dairy or Pareve)

Rena suggests placing these scrumptious brownies on a square tray and leaving one corner of the brownie tray empty: “Leave a corner of your field for the poor along with the remnants of the field…”

3/4 cup (180 g) dark chocolate

1/2 cup (113 g) butter or margarine

1 1/2 cups (190 g) powdered sugar

1/2 cup (65 g) flour

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup (120 g) silver/gold sprinkles

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Grease a 12-muffin tin.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter or margarine together until smooth (either in a microwave or on stovetop).
  3. Add powdered sugar and flour.
  4. Beat eggs and egg yolks, and add to chocolate mixture.
  5. Fill muffin cups halfway, top with silver/gold sprinkles, then spoon on remaining brownie mixture.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Centers will be soft.
  7. Cool 2 minutes. Loosen each cupcake with a knife and turn out onto a plate or cookie sheet.

Makes 12 brownies.


Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of eleven cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, and cookbook editor.

Norene lives in Toronto, Canada and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website or email her at [email protected].

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Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, cookbook editor and now a podcaster. Norene lives in Toronto and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website at gourmania.com..