♦ On the Table

Dear Shaina,

I had no idea how long it’s been since the last time I wrote to you. Extended vacations have a way of transporting you to an alternate universe. I have no excuses… I simply have been out to lunch…and dinner and happy hour and airplanes and VRBOs and vintage shops and mahjong marathons and Pacific coasts and Gulf coasts and eastern mountains and…well, I’m just worn out!

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I have been trying to figure out why it is so hard for me to write these letters. I make excuses…I haven’t cooked anything (This is a cooking blog, isn’t it?)…I just saw you…I have nothing new to say and no clever way to say it…I’m on vacation. I promise to write. I procrastinate.

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Getting back into a routine is no easy feat for a retired person who operates on an as-desired basis with no demands and few obligations. The post-renovation mess and chaos that I left the house in over a month ago hasn’t budged a bit and is screaming loudly for my undivided attention while my body is wondering if it will ever see a downward dog again, let alone find the all consuming present in shavasana. I have yet to cook a real meal and the only consistent activity in my life is Monday Mahjong (one of my few obligations).

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So I set my alarm and declared today the day of return…I made my pre-dawn cup of coffee, went to minyan, walked three miles, came home, showered and got to work. I made the bed, put a dent in finding new homes for the accumulation of stuff stored in your bedroom and the basement, made a few phone calls and pulled out the computer to rewrite my earlier futile attempts to respond to your letter. The first part was easy, but the writing/communicating part is a little more challenging.

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I think being the mother of an almost-grown woman-child is the most confusing stage to date. How much space defines a close mother-daughter relationship? How much closeness creates the need for distance? Can a close mother and daughter ever be free of the restraints engendered by loving too much, protecting too much and worrying too much? Are we close? Are we too close? Do I want too much from you? Do I want to much for you, for me?

In the past month, I saw you easing into the beginnings of a new path in your life; a new school, new city, new home, new friends and new jars to be filled with the tastes and flavors that surround you . A few weeks later I watched you reminisce with your high school friends sharing the heretofore untold-to-me stories of your adolescent escapades. Sometimes I think I missed whole chunks of your life.

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I don’t worry about you. I mostly worry about me; about how to be a mother of an almost-grown daughter without being intrusive or clueless. I want to be close to you in a way that is enriching to both of us and not burdensome to either. I don’t even know what that means except that I didn’t have it with my mother. Maybe it’s an impossible ideal, but I’d like to leave it on the table anyway.

Your first semester has flown by. Thanksgiving is around the corner and the kitchen frenzy will soon begin. Aside from the Big Bird and the other Thanksgiving standards, there’s no telling what may end up on the table this year! I can’t wait!!

Love, Mom
xooxoxoxoxoxox

It’s that Soup time of year again…

Fresh Butternut Squash and Corn Soup

IMG_4940Our neighbor brought over some home-grown organic Butternut squash. We had a day at home between trips and I decided to make soup. I looked around my food-depleted home and tried to use up any remaining edibles before we left again. This sweet and savory soup turned out to be very tasty and satisfying. Feel free to add or subtract or substitute any part of this recipe to suit you own tastes.

  • 2 medium sized butternut squash
  • 1 -2 medium sized purple or yellow onion
  • 1 small garlic bulb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 2-3 carrots, cut in chunks
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, cut in chunks
  • 3-5 dried figs cut-up
  • 2-4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
  • black and red pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar or to taste
  • 12 ounce bag of frozen corn or kernels from 3-5 ears of fresh or frozen corn

Preheat oven to 375°

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray

Rub the outside of the butternut squash with a little olive oil and salt.
Peel the onions and cut in quarters. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt.
Removes the thin paper-like skin of the garlic bulb and slice off the tip of the pointed edge of the bulb. Rub the outside of the garlic bulb with a little olive oil and salt and set it upright on the baking sheet with the cut edge up.

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Place squash and onions on the baking sheet with the garlic and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the edges of the garlic and onion are browned and the squash is slightly tender.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to be able to handle.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff and discard. Scoop out the remaining squash down to the outer skin and place in a large pot with the water.

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Squeeze the insides of the roasted garlic into the pot with the squash and add the roasted onions. Add the carrots, celery, figs and spices. Cook over a low flame, adding water as needed, until all vegetables are tender and cooked through (about 20 minutes).

Remove the pot from the heat and blend all the ingredients with an immersion blender until your desired consistency.

Return the pot to the stove and continue cooking over a low flame. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired. Add more water if the soup is too thick. For added sweetness, add another fig or two or a little honey.

Add the corn kernels and cook until heated through and tender.

This soup tastes better the next day…and the next as the flavors blend together.

A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt make a great garnish.

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◊ Cleanse 5775

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Dear mom,

I am writing out of turn to share my cleanse experience and recipes while they’re fresh … I know you won’t have a chance to write before you get back from Portland next week.

Many of our readers know about the annual Cleanse, where a group of us adhere to special dietary restrictions during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to deepen mind/body/spirit connection.

I broke my Yom Kippur fast and cleanse last night on bagels and chocolate chip cookies. I have been noshing refined sugary gluten all morning and I miss the cleanse.

The diet itself isn’t so remarkable to me. I basically eat according cleanse rules always. But the cleanse was particularly meaningful this year because of all of the people who contributed their thoughts and recipes. It’s fun to share this experience and to be part of a group aiming toward introspection and healing. Three friends (two of whom live on separate continents) wrote personal letters to me re their cleanses. I was moved by their thoughts and realized how grateful I am A.) for the internet B.) for the friendships that remain across far distance and C.) for having an idea that was taken seriously (it’s been awhile).

The cleanse Shabbat that we were able to prepare together during your visit was also special. It was nice to introduce you to my life and friends here!

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I added a ten-minute daily meditation to my cleanse this year. I did it but couldn’t really do it. I followed the rules of the meditation app I downloaded, but couldn’t quiet my mind from thoughts of almond butter, school assignments and dinner party planning. I don’t get the point of a blank mind for a whole ten minutes every day. Meditation did not change my life – it just annoyed me.

I am thinking about doing a cleanse each month for a week around Rosh Chodesh (the start of new moon cycles and Jewish months). It’s a nice way to start new periods of time – to re-set my body and mind.

I know your cleanse was a little different this year since you were traveling, but I’m still looking forward to hearing about it. Below are my star recipes from Cleanse 5775.

xo,

Shaina

 

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Roasted tahini-miso tzimmes over creamy Kamut berries

Serves: 7-10

Prep time: 50 minutes

Roasted tahini-miso tzimmes:

  • 3 tbs miso
  • 3 tbs tahini
  • 2 tbs honey (optional)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • zest and juice of 2 navel oranges
  • 1/3 c sesame seeds
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 c acorn squash, chopped into 2 in pieces
  • 2 c butternut squash, chopped into 2 in pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced in half and quartered
  • 2 c fresh figs, sliced in half
  • 1 red onion, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine miso, tahini, olive oil, orange juice, sesame seeds and spices into a thick paste. Then, toss with squash, carrots, onions and figs. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake for 25 – 40 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Stick a fork in the squash to make sure it’s all the way cooked through. Squash should be tender on the inside and golden on the outside.

 

Creamy Kamut Berries

  • 5 c prepared Kamut Berries
  • 1/3 c golden raisins
  • 1/3 c toasted pistachios
  • 1/3 c toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbs tahini
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh basil (reserve some for garnish)

 

Toss all ingredients together – the tahini will make the Kamut berries nutty and creamy!

Serve the tzimmes over warm Kamut and garnish with chopped basil.

 

 

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Pink Bean Dip
  • 3 c white beans
  • 3 roasted beets, peeled
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/ 2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 c very toasted walnut pieces
  • drizzle of olive oil for garnish
Put all ingredients except for walnut pieces into food processor and pulse for a minute. Add walnut pieces and pulse for another 1/2 minute. All ingredients should be incorporated into a rough, chunky puree – some nuts pieces should remain. Add salt and pepper as needed and drizzle with olive oil before serving. Can be served with apple slices, celery sticks, carrots, etc.

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