♦ Counting the Days

Dear Shaina,

I have shared your thoughts, so eloquently written, with many of my friends. They, too, are worried…and proud. They call and email and ask about you and then about me. They ask if you can come home early. I tell them you don’t want to; that you are OK, that you are feeling it all and questioning it all, that you are vigilant and careful, and going about your life, still. I tell them you are safe and I pray that it is true.

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I was in the temple gift shop and bought a red thread bracelet with a charm that has Sh’ma Yisroel in Hebrew on it; the Sh’ma to keep G-D near, the red threads to keep the evil eye far away. I lose at Mahjong and willingly offer up my losses to the mahjong gods in exchange for your safe return.

I pray for an end to all wars. I pray for an end to senseless hatred and violence. I pray for an uprising of the best that humanity has to offer; care and respect for all living beings, peace and opportunity for all, a world that is free of people-induced tragedies. I am cynical and naive. I pray anyway.

I haven’t been doing much cooking lately. My cooking marathons have come to a near halt and efficiency and expediency are driving my food preparations. I haven’t been sleeping much either. The only thing I seem to be doing a lot of is watching the news and worrying. The whole world is a mess…and that doesn’t even begin to identify my concern over the situation in Israel…and my anxiety about you. I can’t help it. Someday, you will understand, when your own child lives in a world where dangers and threats exist at every turn, where no amount of reason, love, prayer or force can nullify evil intent or random insanity. I am scared…for you…and for the world. Needless to say, I am counting the days until you get home.

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These days, I find myself reaching for Israeli foods and spices. The Israeli olive oil I lugged back from Israel finally got opened. The basmati rice got an extra dose of Israeli spices. Gail made shakshuka for Shabbat dinner and Rebecca baked Nurit’s coffee cake recipe that you and Naomi love.

Bok Choy Salad with Avocado, Raisins and Cashews

Bok Choy Salad with Avocado, Raisins and Cashews

I made a revised version of my Bok Choy Asian Salad (from my last letter) adding avocado, thai basil from the garden, raisins and cashews and, although not Israeli fare, it added a little spice and international flavor that everyone appreciated. I guess food continues to be another way to stay connected and feel a little closer to you and our family so far away.

I did throw together an eggplant parmesan casserole this week in an attempt to use some Japanese eggplant that was waiting for my attention. In fact the whole dish was designed around cleaning out the refrigerator. I used the remains from a large tub of cottage cheese that I could never seem to get to the bottom of and store-bought jars of tomato sauce that had been sitting in the pantry for too long to remember. It actually turned into a very easy, satisfying meal that enabled me to avoid cooking dinner for several days.

I am counting the days until your return. I ask only that you call or text everyday to let me know that you are safe. I just feel better when I hear your voice.

Love, Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxooxoxxxoxooxox

 

Easy Eggplant Parmesan

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Japanese Eggplant

  • 2 -3 pounds Japanese eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, garlic
  • 2-3 cups cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 quart jar of your favorite tomato sauce
  • 1 cup (or more) grated mozzarella cheese

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Slice eggplant in 1/2 inch thick rounds.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Toss together to lightly cover eggplant.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake on the convection bake setting at 350° or 375° on a regular bake setting for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. Flip eggplant over half way through cooking.  Japanese eggplant is always tender and not bitter so there is no need to pre-salt and let sit as you do with traditional eggplant.

Mix cottage cheese, eggs and basil with a stick blender until somewhat smooth.

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Spray cooking spray on bottom and sides of a deep casserole dish.

Open jar of sauce and put a small amount on the bottom of the casserole baking dish.

Place an overlapping layer of eggplant to cover the bottom of the casserole and cover with a layer of tomato sauce.

Pour cottage cheese mixture over the eggplant.

 

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Top with remaining layers of eggplant and cover with remaining tomato sauce.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top.

Bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is lightly browned at the edges.

This dish may be frozen before or after baking for future meals.

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