I had not even heard of Tu Bishvat until college when I attended a seder celebrating the holiday. And while it may sound a bit crunchy to celebrate a holiday for the trees, nuts and fruit, it comes at a time in our lives as modern Jews when appreciating our natural resources and the environment is more important than ever.
You can host a full-on seder, or also just take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge our relationship to the land. You can even make a batch of fruit-filled sangria, though my daughter and I decided to try our hand this year at chewy granola bars packed with dried fruit and almonds in honor of Tu Bishvat. We chose to use a combination of dried cherries, blueberries and raisins, though you could use any combo of dried fruit that you like.
This recipe was inspired by this version from Alton Brown.
2 cups oats
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup ground flax seed
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mixed dried fruit such as apricots, raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 square pan.
Spread the oats and sunflower seeds out on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring 1-2 times.
Meanwhile heat butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat until brown sugar has completely melted.
Once the oats and sunflower seeds are done toasting, remove from oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Place oats, sunflower seeds, flax seed, cinnamon, salt, almonds and dried fruit into a large bowl. Add melted butter-sugar mixture and combine until completely coated.
Pour mixture into the prepared pan and spread out evenly using an offset spatula. This step is important to ensuring even granola bars.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.
Every year when I work on a new recipe in preparation for Superbowl Sunday, I write and reflect on the same fact: I have zero interest in football, but I just love Superbowl snacks. Potato skins. Nachos. Chicken wings. Brisket sliders. All the most delicious and unhealthy bites you can imagine.
I love breaking out my deep fryer for a batch of wings, but it can be time consuming and even a bit messy. Sometimes, you just don’t want a layer of oil all over your kitchen, ya know?
One of the reasons I love this recipe so much, aside from how delicious and fun it is, is that you can improvise to make it any way you like: make a super spicy coleslaw, or your family’s favorite recipe for coleslaw, add corned beef and pastrami, or swap out the regular fries for some sweet potato fries or even tater tots.
You can also make it easy on yourself and just buy a bag of frozen fries. Prepare them as directed and top with chopped corned beef, coleslaw and Russian dressing. No one will be the wiser, and maybe your kitchen will remain that much cleaner. You can also buy Russian dressing, or make your own. I like using this recipe, I just omit the onion.
5 large Idaho potatoes
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb chopped, sliced corned beef
1 bag prepared shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp horseradish (optional)
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
1 batch prepared Russian dressing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes into wedges and toss with olive oil, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on two baking sheets.
Bake until crisp, around 40 minutes, or to your liking.
While potatoes are cooking, prepare the coleslaw. Whisk together mayo, white vinegar, sugar, horseradish (if desired), salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add cabbage and toss until completely coated.
Heat up corned beef in oven or microwave briefly.
Pile fries on a platter and add warm corned beef, about half the coleslaw and prepared Russian dressing. Serve while warm.
Cuban cuisine is inspired by many different regions, but in my family, there is a clear Spanish influence. This should come as no surprise, as my mother is second generation Cuban-born, by way of Spain. Her grandparents made the trek from the motherland to Cuba, and brought with them their distinguished culinary traditions. Over time, our family recipes have morphed, depending on the ingredients available, as well as personal preferences. No matter how authentically Cuban our dishes may be, I can almost always find a nod to our Spanish origins in each bite.
Recently, while recreating one of my most coveted treats from the acclaimed Cuban bakery Portos (Guava and Cheese Pastry), I developed a new love for all things frozen puff pastry dough. After taking a bite of my sweet creation, and realizing how easy it was to work with store-bought puff pastry, I couldn’t help but imagine how the dough would taste with a savory filling. My mind quickly went to work envisioning different pairings, and finally, I settled on a Spanish-inspired combination. For the first time in the history of my kitchen, I turned the tables, and made a Spanish dish inspired by the flavors of Cuba.
My savory Manchego and Quince Turnovers seem like second cousins to the guava and cheese pastries I made before. The nutty flavor of Manchego cheese melts together with the slightly sweet quince filling, and the chopped Marcona almonds on top create a pleasant crunchy texture in each bite. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try the Cuban originals, but if you favor savory flavors, these turnovers will not disappoint.
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 oz Manchego cheese
8+ Tbsp quince paste
1 Tbsp water
1/8 cup Marcona almonds, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out puff pastry on floured surface, and cut into 8 even squares.
Fill each square with ½ oz of Manchego cheese and a heaping Tbs. of quince paste.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water to create an egg wash.
Brush the egg wash over the perimeter of the puff pastry squares, and fold one corner over, creating a triangle. Press edges to seal (*note: you can also crimp with the prongs of a fork).
Score tops of triangles to create a small opening for steam to escape during baking.
Brush tops generously with egg wash, and sprinkle with chopped almonds, coarse salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
Remove from oven, and after 10 minutes, place pastries on a cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Burekas are one of my favorite Israeli treats, and they are the perfect way to use up leftover mashed potatoes from your Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe is as easy and delicious as it gets – the best kind of recipe when you need a pick-me-up from all that Black Friday shopping. These are also fantastic during Shabbat dinner to serve with a salad course. You can even serve them with leftover gravy for a delicious dipping sauce.
I used a pareve (nondairy) phyllo dough in this recipe for ease, but you are welcome to make your favorite bureka dough if you prefer. You can also switch up the fillings with whatever leftovers you have on hand: turkey and cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and even stuffing all make fantastic fillings.
1 package phyllo dough, defrosted
leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg + 1 Tbsp water
freshly ground black pepper
leftover gravy for dipping
Preheat oven to 350°.
Beat the egg with 1 Tbsp of water. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick cooking pad.
Roll out phyllo dough carefully to prevent splitting. I like to divide the layers of the phyllo in half so I can get four sheets instead of two. If the layers seem too brittle and dry, brush with vegetable oil. Working quickly, cut each sheet horizontally into 4 strips.
Lightly brush a strip with the egg wash. Place a scant teaspoon of mashed potatoes at the right end of the strip and fold the right bottom corner up and to the left to create a triangle shape. Continue wrapping the triangle into the remaining strip, being careful to preserve the triangle shape. Seal the end with egg wash if necessary and place end down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat this process with the remaining strips.
Lightly brush the tops of the burekas with egg wash and sprinkle with dried thyme and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with warmed leftover gravy.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I discovered the wonder of kale chips. I was craving leafy greens, and making kale chips was a fun way to satisfy my urge. I would roast up 2 or 3 bags of kale at a time, and then stand shoveling it into my happy, pregnant mouth.
Fast forward, and I haven’t lost my taste for kale chips. And much to my delight, they are one of my daughter’s favorite snacks.
I want to be honest about the kale chip making endeavor: it can actually be a bit complicated. And whenever I mention kale chips among friends and family members, they always ask “how do you make yours? Mine always turn out soggy/burnt…”
So here are my tips:
- Make sure you spread kale out in a single layer. If the leaves overlap, they won’t crisp and cook properly.
- Evenly coat the kale with olive oil. You can do this either by using a salad dressing mister, or simply massaging the kale before you bake it to make sure it is coated.
- Start the kale at a lower temperature, and then raise it only at the end to get a good crisp – but don’t let them burn.
- Watch the kale chips carefully at the end, and remove as they become done.
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1 large head fresh kale
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Break kale into even pieces and spread out in a single layer on lightly greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Using your hands, massage kale to ensure olive oil coats leaves as evenly as possibly.
Bake for 25 minutes and turn leaves over on baking sheet. Bake for another 5-7 minutes, watching carefully and removing pieces of kale as they look done.
Serve as a snack.