◊ Bird by bird


DSCF1094

Dear mom,

Thanks for the votes of confidence (over and over and over again). But yeah, stone by stone, bird by bird, person by person is much more reasonable than change the freakin world.

It doesn’t feel like I’m doing much of anything these days except trying to finish my homework on time. Last night I fell asleep with my laptop. Today is Sunday and I woke up at 6 am to do work! My lower right eyelid has developed a chronic twitch.

Repeat: stone by stone, bird by bird. It will get done.

storyboarding brunch with my multimedia group

storyboarding brunch with my multimedia team

While the days of your youth were filled with bra burning, marches and protests, the days of my youth are filled with screen time, social media and internet trolling. It’s sort of the same (except my generation will come into more severe eye, back and neck strain issues). People gravitate toward platforms on which they believe their voices will be heard.

Listening to those voices without judgment or assumption is an aspiration that I inherited from you and dad. Both of your careers were built on the premise that at their cores, people are good; that human flaws are a build-up of societal plaque and genetic misfortune; that no matter how strange their actions may be, people are people are people. You built your lives on trust in human goodness. It’s a powerful legacy.

That’s all I can say for now. I budgeted only 45 minutes today for this letter to you. It’s time to go back to work quickly quickly. I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to do work that excites me, but I sure wish I could shake this eye twitch. The recipe I’m sending today, coconut milk braised cabbage, is my go-to dish when I want to make something quick, healthy, cost-efficient, filling and bulky.

Xo,

Shaina

DSCF1117

Cabbage is the most efficient food out there, and this recipe transforms it into something luxurious, rich and flavorful. And it’s gluten-free, vegan, paleo and cleanse friendly!

Coconut Milk Braised Cabbage

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 c carrots, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1 tbs yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs cinnamon powder
  • dash of cayenne powder or red chili flakes to taste
  • 1 head green cabbage, chopped into thin shreds (4-5 C)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • juice of half lemon
  • 1/2 cup yellow raisins
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh chopped cilantro and/or sliced almonds for garnish

DSCF1098

Heat oil in large pan. Add onions, carrots and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add coconut milk and spices and bring to boil. Add cabbage and salt and bring heat to simmer. Cover pan and cook over low heat for 15 – 25 minutes, until cabbage is desired consistency. Stir in raisins and lemon juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or sliced almonds. Serve warm or room temperature over a bowl of rice for a hearty meal, top with an egg, or enjoy as is.

DSCF1103

◊ Telling stories

IMG_6217

Dear mom,

My grown-up person is strange to me too. In my first hours back from Israel and Palestine, I went straight to laundry, grocery shopping and my life (my life = finding space for the 4 liters of tahini I schlepped across the ocean, scheduling meetings with professors, filing recipes, going to a spin class). These endeavors were far from my usual homecoming routine — my luggage dump onto the hallway floor, my jet-lagged memory-mumble and slow crawl into bed, my early-rise to a full fridge and piles of neatly folded, clean clothes.

My grown-up person embraces the laundry/grocery life with ease and excitement; it is puzzled at how readily I snap back to childhood when I’m home.

Contrary to your verdict, I will always be a child at home regardless of how much junk I clean from my room. I have no doubt that you’ll have plenty more chances to wash my dirty clothes and make me breakfast on demand. Consider yourself lucky to be spared from my late-night, half-formed reflection-thoughts on Jewish-Arab relations, snow in a Mediterranean climate, Palestinian traditions, the transcontinental strength of our family’s genetic traits.

The story I was reporting in Israel and Palestine is about best friends and business partners –  a Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli – who collect and sell embroidery together. They requested I not use their names because of potential backlash.

IMG_5594

I completed my reporting goals – 10 interviews, 5 photo shoots, lots of meetings – and now I have to write it all up. I also spent plenty of time catching up with family, hanging out with friends and taking long walks alone. I had a great time, but I won’t be able to call my trip successful until I’ve written the article. It will take some time to develop so many different experiences into memories and meaningful stories. Shwai shwai, liat liat, slowly slowly.

dried sage leaves in the kitchen

dried sage leaves in the kitchen

IMG_5647

I spent two nights with the Palestinian business partner and learned a lot about her life in Bethlehem. She reminds me of you – her hands never stop cooking, sewing, embroidering, cleaning, preparing. Everything in her house, from olive oil soap to sheep’s milk cheese to embroidered cushion-covers and table clothes, she cultivated with her own hands. For breakfast, we ate olives that she picked and cured herself, green leaves she collected from the Jewish Israeli’s front yard and sautéed with onion and garlic, and kaak ma’amoul that she made late at night.

DSCF1915

Kaak ma’amoul are traditional Palestinian date-filled, sweet cookies. I had eaten them before, but the way that this woman made them without sugar in the dough was different and oddly nostalgic.

Her kaak ma’amoul are simple: dough – white flour, oil, water and fennel seeds – wrapped around spiced date puree. The mild dough against sticky dates reminded me of Bubbe’s oily strudel stuffed with spiced raisins. While I was reporting, I noticed many such parallels among Jewish and Palestinian traditions and daily life. Also, the ways in which many of the Jewish Israelis and Palestinians that I spoke with described their feelings toward one another were strikingly similar.

“When you don’t know people, you get afraid,” the Jewish Israeli friend said. “But when you see them you get unafraid.”

“I wanted them to meet Israelis to see that they are human like us and we are all like each other,” the Palestinian friend said.

People are afraid of the unknown. When they are separated, they do not interact and fear persists. Fear dominates.

Bethlehem

Bethlehem

This is why I went back to Israel and Palestine over my winter break. This is why I study journalism. Sometimes I feel that the only way to introduce humans to one another – to cross borders, create groundwork for dialogue, dilute fear in a small way – is to tell stories. Thus, I can’t call my trip a success until I write the story! I can’t call my trip a success until I highlight, in a small way, humanity on both sides of the wall.

xo,

Shaina

IMG_6209

I recreated the Kaak Ma’amoul I ate in Bethlehem as soon as I got back to my kitchen. Inspired by Bubbe cookies, I added plenty of orange zest and juice. I also substituted whole-wheat flour for white flour. As you can see from the picture, they didn’t come out pretty… I think pretty kaak ma’amoul is one of those things that takes practice.

*note: Most kaak ma’amoul is made with sweet, yeasted dough (sometimes with semolina in addition to wheat flour). This is not the traditional recipe.

Kaak Ma’amoul

Prep time: 1 hour

Makes 20 – 30 cookies

IMG_6207

Dough:

  • 2 ½ C whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tbs orange zest
  • 2 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Filling:

  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • ½ tsp cardmom, ground
  • ½ tsp cloves, ground
  • ½ tsp cinnamon, ground
  • juice of one medium orange

Mix the flour, oil, water, orange zest, fennel seeds and salt with a stand mixer or knead with your hands until dough is smooth and stretchy. Put dates, spices and orange juice in food processor and blend into a smooth paste

Heat oven to 375. Divide dough into 25 – 30 balls (1 ½ in each). Divide paste into the same number of balls, but keep each ball half the size of the each dough ball.

Roll each dough ball into a 4 x 1 inch rectangle. Wet hands, and roll paste ball into thin log. Place date log into dough and fold dough around it (like a tube). Roll the log/tube in your hands until smooth. Fold the dough log into a circle and seal it into a closed ring by pinching the ends together (you may have to use some water to get it to stick). Place circles on baking sheet and cook until golden, around 25 minutes.

IMG_6229

◊ Again

IMG_4589

Dear mom,

I finished my first semester of graduate school. Again.

I came home to a family, food and mahjong marathon. Again.

I threw my stuff into bags and now I’m in a strange yoga pose on the floor of the airport waiting to board my flight while people look at me funny. Again.

DSCF1228

Education, luxury/gluttony and world travel… what a routine!

The first time I traveled internationally, I bought currency in advance. I had the money belt, several copies of my passport with emergency phone numbers scribbled on the back, iodine tablets for dirty water, a travel purse with two kinds of emergency antibiotics.

Now I carry clothes, sneakers, lotions and snacks. This whole process of unloading and loading has become so familiar that I didn’t even double-check my bags after I zipped them. I left my wallet at home. My wallet! What else am I forgetting? What other mistakes will I make?

Oy. There is so much more I could have done to prepare for this trip.

On one hand I feel calm. I know that Hanoch will be waiting for me at baggage claim and that Edna will prepare Israeli salad with eggs, cottage and tahini for breakfast. I know how to take the bus from their house to Jessica’s apartment and the colors I’ll hijack from her crazy nail polish collection (Parka Perfect, Nice is Nice). I know the stall owners at the shuk that will let me nosh from their bastas and the ones that will yell loudly if they see my hand reach into their bins of dates and dried figs. I know most of the beds I’ll be sleeping in and I know who to call if I get lost. I know because I’ve done it all before.

On the other hand I’m totally freaking out. I don’t know anything. I have a new mission that’s complicated and tricky. There are so many unknowns that I don’t even know what I don’t know. The stakes feel high. I’ve invested huge amounts of time into learning new skills that are supposed to prepare me for this, but I can’t keep track of what skills I’m supposed to be using. I left my wallet at home! This trip could be a complete fail.

I could have stayed home with you and dad, gorging on your latkes, apple cakes, etc, etc, etc and sleeping all break long. That would have been nice. Instead, I’m on my way to the known and the unknown. Again.

Xoxo,

Shaina

IMG_4599

In our family, we use the word struggle a lot. We struggle with discomfort and comfort and how to find a balance.

We struggle with finding appropriate dishes to serve to make all of our guests comfortable. Yep, I’m talking about parve desserts. The recipe below is a parve one that’s worthy of the dessert table. These truffles will please guests who are vegan and who keep kosher. They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free and have no added sugar. And they’re green!

Matcha Truffles 

Serves: 12-20

prep time: 40 minutes

IMG_4598

  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 2 tablespoons agave (or honey if not vegan)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • ½ cup toasted coconut for dusting

Add the nuts to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor, and process until a sticky paste forms. If more liquid is needed, add 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water or nut milk, like almond milk.

IMG_4592

With coconut oil on your hands, roll about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a ball. Roll each truffle in toasted coconut before serving. Store in fridge and serve cold—they will begin to melt if you leave them out at warm temperatures for too long.

◊ Perspective

DSCF1083

Dear mom,

Glad to see you’re learning internet lingo (ps. LLOL is not a thing).

Sweating the small stuff surely is a luxury. What’s more luxurious is the ability to recognize the small stuff as small, which can be hard until after the fact. Or until I’m outside of it. Puma sneakers were no small thing in that factory store in Manhattan – you can attest to that.

Obsessing over the small things… is it called tunnel vision?

Since my sneaker meltdown in 6th grade, I’ve had so many opportunities to step outside the tunnel that my ability to shift perspectives has grown markedly nimble.  This skill is one of the many gifts I’ve gotten from moving so far so much so fast. It is the most luxurious of all luxuries.

I’ve implemented it in the way I see big things (we don’t have to talk about Israel/Palestine again), and I can zoom-in:

Let’s talk about coming home for Thanksgiving.

IMG_6660

the farm

In grad school, my assignments can create a strong vacuum at the bottom of the tunnel. Reporting is time and emotion consuming; deadlines = anxiety dreams. Should I cut graf one? Which quote is more quotey? I agonize.

I have to physically switch it up to remind myself of the bigger world and make these things small again. I usually go to the kitchen. Once I’m behind a chopping board, my attachment to my homework loosens (still can’t figure out if this is a good or bad thing). I chop veggies into a salad and munch away for too much time than I should spare. Big salads are (more) important.

Physically removing myself from the North Side of campus for a solid 5 days last week sharpened this notion. Being home made me realize how silly it is to make anything more important than health, family and old friends. I didn’t do a lick of schoolwork when I was home and I was not worried.

IMG_0146

IMG_0139

Women’s holiday sliv shots

Instead, I chatted with my cousins over popcorn and M&Ms til 2AM, went to the farm with the boys, picked radishes, ran my favorite nature trails, lost at mah jong, massaged a shit ton of kale, sat in the kitchen, dined and snacked and gorged with fam, and took long sits in your steam shower.

IMG_6683

IMG_0007

FullSizeRender

I still get sucked into the tunnel – I worry about the insignificant and obsess over the small. Making a salad can pull me out. Physical movement – a change of scenery – melts the petty-worry-grip.

xo,

Shaina

DSCF1079

When I went to the farm, I snuck away from the boys and their antics to pick radishes (pronounced raydish in the country). I came home with two full grocery bags of spicy, dirty raydish. The Berkeley grocery store radishes weren’t nearly as spicy as the homegrown, so I compensated by garnishing the dish below with spicy arugula.


IMG_6661

FullSizeRender copy

Spicy Radish Egg Salad with Almonds

This is a classic Bubbe recipe (she used big black radishes and skipped the almonds). Her house consistently smelled of fried onions (pronounced hun-ions in Bubbe land). She used the same hunions in her knishes, brown potatoes, kreplach, chicken burgers and more.

  • 3 eggs, hardboiled
  • 1 tsp olive oil OR 1 tsp butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • One bunch radishes (5-7 medium radishes)
  • toasted almonds, chopped or slivered
  • salt
  • pepper
  • arugula for serving

DSCF1069

Dice onion. Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with olive oil, butter or a mix of both. Turn heat to medium, and add onions once oil is hot.  Stir to coat onions in oil and spread them evenly over the pan. Turn heat to low, cover pan and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about ten minutes, add salt and fresh black pepper. Continue to cook until onions are deeply browned.

*Side note: I learned from you who learned from Bubbe to go big or go home when it comes to fried onions. It’s just as easy to fry three as it is one, so just do em all! Put what you don’t use into a jar and store in the fridge – they will stay good for over a week and are a luxurious addition to omelets, veggies, sandwiches, salads, yogurt, etc.

In the meantime, use a large hole grater to grater radishes into wide shreds.

IMG_6664

Toast crushed or slivered almonds in a toaster or over a skillet until brown and fragrant. Peel the hardboiled eggs and mash them with the back of a fork. Combine radishes, almonds and eggs.

When onions have cooled to room tempurature, stir them into the egg mixture. Add plenty of salt and fresh black pepper. Serve over spicy arugula with a slice of good bread.

DSCF1062

◊ One hundred percent

IMG_4499
Dear mom,

You abandon the blog for over a month. You call your Mahjong game an obligation. You amount your bathroom renovation to chaos.

Please.

It’s not hard to send me a recipe. Playing games with your friends isn’t a thing. Having a messy bedroom and beautiful bath does not = disaster. Why are these things consuming you?

I’m annoyed because what do you do?

(Laundry isn’t a thing.)

I’m annoyed because I get it and it worries me.

I think I was in 6th grade when I decided that I wanted Puma sneakers. We took a trip to New York to visit family, and you and I spent the first three days fiending for shoes. We mapped out every store in the city that carried Pumas and walked all of Manhattan. At the end of the three days, we found THE Puma factory store, which housed every model in every color. I cried there. The search commenced with a dark-grey suede pair of shoes with red stripes (not cute). They are still sitting in my closet… I maybe wore them twice.

It’s a good thing dad is tolerant of high levels of crazy.

You give 100% every time. It’s a trait that I admire, and a trait that, in my own life, I try to keep in check. It’s too easy to get sucked in – to be totally consumed — by the small things.

IMG_6435

classic family portrait

Pumas in New York, beads in Vancouver, hair-wraps in New Orleans, sweatshirts in San Fransisco, antiques in DC, textiles in India, hermit crabs at the beach. Our family vacations were driven by searches for things that we couldn’t find in Birmingham. My memories make me nervous that we … I… do not know how to enjoy time without something driving me towards an end goal (which has usually amounted to nothing).

Our search for Pumas was torture, but it was fun. The shoes were a catalyst of exploration and togetherness. We walked all of Manhattan and saw so many new things … together.

IMG_6396

Now that you’re retired, your vacation is permanent. Laundry is a thing; Majong is a thing; bathroom renovations are a thing. I ask for help making desserts for Cari’s wedding and you bake, decorate, wrap and deliver 100 individual cakes. It doesn’t surprise me. Even Bubbe, without child-rearing obligations or a proper job, found reasons to wake up at 4 AM. She had to bake hundreds of knishes for … you know …  people.

You enter the most confusing stage of motherhood and ask questions that, in my opinion, are not worth thinking about. All I can say is that the situation is not so confusing. You have time to dwell, so you dwell. How much space defines a close mother-daughter relationship? Ain’t no one got time to decipher that. Except for you.

xo,

Shaina

IMG_4572

I just moved to a house closer to campus. In shifting pantries, I found one milllllion baggies of different seeds and nuts. Instead of re-organizing all the bits and pieces in my new house, I dumped them all into these biscotti and started fresh.

IMG_4586

Honey Orange Whole Wheat Biscotti with Dates and Almonds/Pumpkin seeds/Pistachios

Prep time: 1.5 hours

Makes 3 dozen cookies

IMG_4508

  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of two full oranges
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c dates, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 c shelled, raw (unsalted) pistachios (optional)

IMG_6502

 
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the honey, eggs, oil, zest, orange juice and vanilla until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts (you do not have to use every variety of nut listed here – I suggest choosing one). Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

 

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 

IMG_4500

Buckwheat and Rye Biscotti with Fig, Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chunks

Prep time: 1.5 hours

makes 3 dozen cookies

IMG_4554

  • 1 c  dark rye flour
  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 1/2 c dired figs, finely chopped (8-10 figs)
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces (small!)
  • 1/3 c good dark chocolate chunks/chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the sugar, eggs and oil until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts, figs and chocolate. Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 

IMG_4546

◊ Cleanse 5775

IMG_6276

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!

IMG_6284

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

 

IMG_6302

 

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.

 

 

IMG_6279

IMG_6264

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.

IMG_6305

IMG_6265

 

 

 

◊ Filling space

IMG_4182

Dear mom,

I don’t want you to feel responsible for me feeling responsible for your worry. I’m not blaming you for it either. I’m just telling you how I feel. Isn’t that what you want? Such mixed messages! …  And more mother-induced trauma.

Just kidding. I’m over it. Glad that you and your chaise finally found homes.

Home. Some people seem to slide in easily. They appear comfortable in their space no matter what surrounds them. I am not one of those people. I’ve re-made home enough to know that I must put deliberate effort into feeling oriented and grounded. The process is always slow and harrowing.IMG_6234

I try to expedite it by walking around aimlessly (usually in the direction of a grocery store) to learn the grounds. I mark new territory with familiar scents  – I burn candles, incense, cookies. I fill new space with things that mark my permanence – glass containers of grains and spices, tubs of tea, jars of oils and lotions, bottles of nail polish.  Also rituals. Tea in the morning; Shabbat dinner; roasting vegetables Sunday afternoon; long runs on the weekend.

One of my favorite time and space-marking rituals is our annual Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur Cleanse. It helps me understand the passage of time, connect with my body and reflect. This year’s cleanse seems particularly important.

As is, the cleanse dietary rituals are easy for me. I want an additional mind-body challenge.

Rebecca inspired me to consider meditation as a daily practice. I do not have patience for stillness. Thus, I will be incorporating 10 minutes of daily meditation in my 10 day cleanse. I’m already annoyed by the time commitment, but I need to be forced to take a pause. For the past year, I have been moving at lightening speed, and I need processing time in order to feel oriented.

IMG_4181

In the spirit of the cleanse, below are two cleanse appropriate, Rosh Hashana inspired recipes. You will be here in three days to see my home firsthand! I’m really looking forward to shlepping you to Berkeley Bowl and making Rosh Hashana meals together.

Xo,

Shaina

FullSizeRender (6)

For most people, the high holidays smell like warm chunks of meet and heavy kugels. My High Holiday food memories are decorated with colorful salads. Our post-service lunches always contain a large variety of salads – big bowls of kale with avocado, pomegranate studded tabouleh, etc – for starving guests to nosh when they first arrive from after never-ending morning services. My new salad idea is just sweet enough to be Rosh Hashana appropriate: chopped apples, arugula and celery in a creamy honey- tahini dressing.

IMG_4182

Chopped Apples, Arugula and Celery with Creamy Honey-Tahini Dressing

Serves: 5 – 10 depending on portion size

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Dressing:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbs honey (nix it for the cleanse)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vingegar
  • 1/3 cup crude tahini
  • plenty of fresh black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 celery stalks, sliced thinly
  • 3 – 4 good, sweet, crunchy apples, sliced thinly
  • 3 cups arugula, chopped
  • 2 medium stalks of spring onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts

First, make the dressing. Make sure your garlic is crushed well and herbs are finely chopped. Add all ingredients to a jar or bowl. Stir well, until all ingredients are combined and smooth. Add black pepper as desired. Let sit for at least one hour before use.

IMG_4178

No more than one hour before serving, chop celery, apples, arugula and spring onions. Toast and crush walnuts and allow to cool. Pile all ingredients in a bowl, add 1/3 c dressing and toss until apples, arugula and celery pieces are coated. Serve immediately.

 

Green Goddess Tahini Dressing

Serves: many, many salads

Prep time: 15 minutes

FullSizeRender (7)

This dressing livens up any salad. It’s grain mixed into grain bowls, slathered over roasted veggies or tossed into simple lettuce salads.

  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 bunch fresh scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

FullSizeRender (8)

 

Simply place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth liquid consistency is formed. Add salt and pepper too taste. If too pungent, add additional yogurt.

In the salad pictured, I topped a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, roasted beets and chopped arugula with swirls of Green Goddess dressing, tahini, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh ground black pepper.

◊ Slowly Slowly

IMG_0536

Dear mom,

I get it. Mothers worry. I want to be less annoyed.

Were you always like this?

I don’t remember feeling the weight of your worry as a kid – you definitely were not one of those moms concerned with what I watched on TV, food regulations, where and with whom I played, bed-times, homework, germs …

Dealing with your all-consuming worry feels new to me. Maybe the difference is that now my own plate of worries is full. It’s hard to move when I’m balancing your stack on top of my own. Unless you hanker after a messy spill, get it under control or keep it to yourself.

photo

I worry that I’m not in the right place even though people keep telling me that Berkeley is so me. I miss Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. I miss people who speak with aggression and move with intensity and smile only when it’s real. I’m in shock from all the health food, health centers and health activities. I want Bamba. Why is no one blowing smoke in my face or coughing on me or cursing at me because of how I’m dressed? What is a co-op, exactly? Why are people out and about 7 days a week? Strangers here don’t ask about what I’m doing or push me out of the way or try to set me up with their neighbor’s son’s friend… but it feels like they’re always staring if I use the trash bin instead of compost.  Why are bus drivers nice to me? Does it mean that I have to be nice back?

View of the bay from my new home

view from my new home

I worry that I won’t get it, but I know that it takes time to feel comfortable in any new place. So I’ll carry on, integrating pieces of Berkeley into my life slowly, slowly (shwai shwai ). I’ll wait patiently for things to feel right. This recipe is part of the effort: vegetarian, organic, spicy, probiotic, omega fatty acids — so Berkeley.

Xo,

Shaina

Ps. Thanks for washing and folding my loads and loads of very dirty clothes. I don’t think I had so many pieces of underwear to choose from since high school.

Pps. This recipe is also prep for our third Esrei Yamim Cleanse, starting September 26th! I can’t wait.

IMG_0623

Roasted Moroccan Spiced Carrots

IMG_0574

  • 7 medium carrots, cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs Moroccan spice blend*
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbs sesame seeds
  • ½ c golden raisins

Coat carrot slices in olive oil, Moroccan spices and salt. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 40-minutes, stirring them halfway through the cooking time to distribute the heat.

After 40 minutes, add the golden raisins and and sesame seeds. Mix in and leave in the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, stir again and let cool.

*See below for Moroccan spice recipe

IMG_0597

Moroccan Carrot, Yogurt and Avocado Bowl

  • Generous scoop of greek or plain yogurt
  • ½ cup roasted Moroccan spiced carrots
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • handful of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc for garnish
  • Salt and black pepper as desired

Pile carrots on top of  of yogurt in a bowl. Top with ½ cup of roasted carrots, avocado and pumpkin/sunflower seeds. Add salt and fresh black pepper as desired.

Moroccan Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

◊ Get a Grip

IMG_5650

Dear mom,

Get a grip. Seriously. If you’re going through life desperately worrying about the invasion of inexplicable life altering tragedies, then maybe you have… like… a problem.

I worry too, but, as I explained in my previous letter, I’m tryna stick with things that are productive. I worried about getting to the airport with enough time to go on a fancy lotion sampling tour at Duty Free after security. It was a productive worry – it made me wake up to my alarm (and every hour for 3 hours before it). Now I’m sitting on the floor, charging my computer and waiting to board my flight out of Israel. My skin is all greased up with an estimated $50 of moisturizer (does anyone actually buy such expensive lotions foreal?).

I’m about to board the plane, but it doesn’t feel like I’m leaving.  I’m at ease. Maybe it’s because I’m in denial, or maybe it’s because I know I’ll be back. Maybe I’m actually a little ready for a break from constantly untangling my brain from the mess it absorbs from media, friends, family, cab drivers, vegetable-sellers, professors, twitter.

I know this mess won’t go away once I’m out of Israel… that it will become more intense as I’m expected to answer questions about rockets, airstrikes, tunnels, Bibi, #IsraelUnderFire, #GazaUnderAttack, Palestinian identity, Jewish identity, Jerusalem clashes, UNRWA, Shujaiyya, Sderot, soldiers, sirens. I’m happy to share my reflections, but please know that I don’t know anything. My opinions are few and my certainty is limited.

My certainty is limited to my favorite hummus places (Blue Bus and the place off Agripas with bright colored plastic boxes for seats), where to buy the freshest nuts in the shuk (the guy after halva king and before the cheap herbs on the left if you’re walking towards Yaffo  in the covered side), the best jogs (Tel Aviv’s Tayelet, Jerusalem’s Tachanat Rishon and Har Eitan), the tastiest salads (Orna v’ Ella in Tel Aviv, Nodir near Bezalel), most beautiful hikes (haaj from Jerusalem to Jericho),  and which professors to avoid at Hebrew U (will remain unnamed).

A walk from Jerusalem to Jericho

A walk from Jerusalem to Jericho

photo (2)

My nut guy

Blue Bus hummus, Pardes Hana

Blue Bus hummus, Pardes Hana

They make it in a blue bus

They make it in a blue bus

View from my favorite jogging site, Tel Aviv's Tayelet

View from my favorite jogging site, Tel Aviv’s Tayelet

Orna V Ella, Tel Aviv

Orna V Ella, Tel Aviv

I’m certain that my gratitude for family who allowed me to really be family will be forever; that roommates can be family too; that my classmates provided more education than my professors; that Jerusalem attracts straight-up weirdos (I like them anyways); that friends are important; that feeling Shabbat is a special thing; that Jerusalem, for better or worse, is much more than a city and place.

IMG_3732

1689622_10152398854998188_1814556557600298675_n

IMG_5522 2

10378161_10154495197035531_2932375774456952619_n

It’s been quite a year. Thanks in advance for preparing for my return with my favorite foods and clean sheets… In that sense, I guess your worrying is productive (or it at least works out in my favor). Can’t wait for a haircut, massage, hot bath and all the things that will help me restore energy to dive into another intense year of unknowns. I’m just four take-offs and landings away! Til then, hold yourself together. 

xo,

Shaina

IMG_3864

Today I will post two recipes – one dedicated to family: Nurit’s Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart, the other dedicated to friends: Zesty Sorrel Pesto.

As you know, the last month or so was a bit stressful and weekend getaways to family saved me. For the past two months, Nurit and the rest of the Pardes Hana family has nourished my soul, beached my body and washed and folded my laundry almost every weekend.  Several Shabbats ago, Nurit made an incredible goat cheese tart. Eggs, cheese and carbs – the perfect comfort food.  I re-made it with rye flour for a Shabbat that I hosted before I moved out of my Nachlaot apartment. It was a much needed indulgence.

1939620_10203614576977409_6387136778368763665_n

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart with a Rye Crust

Prep time: one hour

Makes two pies: serves 7 – 8

IMG_3867 2

Crust:

  • 1 /12 c all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 c rye flour
  • 1 cup butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 tbs ice water

Filling:IMG_3865 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium bell peppers (mix of yellow, red and orange), sliced vertically
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 medium eggs
  • tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until it crumblies to teeny balls. Add 4-5 tablespoons cold water and use your hands to mix it into a dough. Wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. With the dough, line a standard pie dish.  Press the pastry into the corners of the dish. Leave the excess overhanging the edge. Poke holes in the base with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with rice or beans to weigh down. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. 

-OR BUY A PRE-MADE PIE CRUST-

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté onions on low heat until fragrant. Add peppers and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.   Set aside to cool.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and basil in a separate bowl. Spread cheese along bottom of pastry crust and layer with onions and peppers. Pour egg and cream mixture on top. Scatter with remaining peppers and onions, and bake for thirty minutes until top is golden. Allow to cool before serving.

Zesty Sorrel Pesto

IMG_5488 2

Last week, some of my friends and I organized a food party to learn how to make Chinese dumplings.  I learned how to prepare them, but didn’t want to eat the meat… It was one of the few times I’ve hated my vegetarianism. The other time involved Bubbe’s kreplach, which is basically the same food as Chinese dumplings minus the added ginger. I guess I have a thing for dumplings. 

IMG_5885

10536763_1482561241982339_1425938116_n

10614096_1482561248649005_266756526_n

My lame contribution to our cross-cultural food exchange was toasted pita with sorrel pesto, parmesean and almond/cashew pieces. My original idea was to do buckwheat blinis with sorrel pesto, ricotta and crushed hazelnuts but I didn’t get it together in time. I still can’t stop thinking about it though, so it will definitely happen in the future.

I made a big batch of  sorrel pesto about two months ago and kept it in the freezer (removing small lbatches into jars that lved in the fridge about twice a week or so). I found a huge (HUGE!) box of what I thought was spinach for just ten shekels at Machane Yehuda, so I took it home. Turns out it was sorrel! Instead of hitting my books, I went straight to the kitchen to prepare a big tub of pesto. In additoin to my master blini plan, this pesto is the perfect quick fix to add zest and rich flavor to simple salad of chopped veggies. Really, it’s a game-changer… especially when in a time and resource crunch (story of my life).

Zesty Sorrel Pesto

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: A lot

  • 10 ounces of fresh sorrel
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbs tahini or almond butter
  • 1 tbs good olive oil
  • juice and zest of 2 medium lemons
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • generous dash of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Wash sorrel and chop or tear into small pieces. Chop garlic roughly. Add spinach, garlic and remaining ingredients (except for walnuts) to food processor. Pulse until a thick, green puree forms. Once you have a paste, add walnuts and pulse until desired consistency. I like to leave the walnuts a little crunchy for added texture.

◊ From the Bottom

IMG_5762

Dear mom,

I’m sure what you are experiencing on the news must be very scary for you, but the worrying is annoying and needs to stop. My day-to-day reality is not scary … it’s just exhausting. 

I have lived on five continents. I have been exposed to a variety of worldviews, political clusterfucks and human rights tragedies. I became used to being an outsider looking in, which made it fairly easy for me to swing across conflicting realities. I adjusted quickly from Mumbai to New York to Mountain Brook. 

Here, I am not an outsider. I do not have the privilege of casual opinions, quiet observations or weightless sympathy. I am a Jew living in Israel. My actions and words are part of the stage. 

Several times a day, I am tossed across worlds that host separate realities and contradicting narratives. As the truths shift, so does my heart. Listening to everyone is exhausting; cross-checking my reactions to it all before I open my mouth drains me empty. Sometimes it hurts.  

IMG_5534

I want the violence to stop. I turn inward. I ask myself what I can do to ease the chaos around me. Right now, living in Jerusalem feels like living in a pressure cooker and, from what I see, the heat is not fueled by extremists or political leaders. It is fueled by people like me — laypeople who neglect personal responsibility by refusing or forgetting to build unity into their agendas of day-to-day tasks.  The heat is fueled by people who are set on defining and defending rights and wrongs.

IMG_3268

I know what you’re thinking and yes, there very well may be universal rights and wrongs … but the fact that they exist has no bearing on the situation here. Anyone can argue a black and a white. I want the violence to stop and I don’t see a purpose in sustaining this argument. 

I want the violence to stop, so I will focus my energy on efforts that are productive.  I will take time to listen, engage, acknowledge the suffering and pain of others, tell stories, smile and humanize.  I will speak as an individual, avoid blame and propaganda and veer from divisiveness. It is all that I can do. 

IMG_5781

I am a Jew living in Israel … and — deep breath –I refuse to be enemies with my neighbors … and — another deep breath —  I refuse to mitigate my empathy for human-life (regardless of my political views). I am not naive to think that my efforts are always (or often) mutual, nor do I think they can create peace at-large. But I do believe that I can lower the heat on the pressure cooker in which I live. I can say hello and listen to, tell and re-tell stories. Peace can come from the bottom. From the streets. From people like me. 

Stop worrying.

xo,

Shaina

See... people are still dancing in the street. They aren't scared, you shouldn't be either.

See… people are still dancing in the street. They aren’t scared- there’s no reason for you to be.

Ps. I know you’re not happy with my decisions right now, but I hope my letter sheds some light unto my reasoning. And really, stop worrying.

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 5.27.13 PM

Pps. Here’s a Jewish bit that I found consoling: In a recent d’var Torah, Rabbi Les Bronstein of  T’ruah explained that the Torah tells us that we must to do what is necessary to save ourselves …  but that even when we are protecting ourselves, we must allow ourselves to weep for the other.  He said, “If we stop protecting ourselves, we will cease to be. But if we stop caring about the consequences of our self-preservation, we will cease to be the Jewish people, which may be tantamount to ceasing to exist altogether.” 

IMG_5765

Musakhan

Last week, I helped the family downstairs prepare the Iftar meal with which they break their Ramadan fast. They showed me how to make Musakhan, which, I was told, is the Palestinian dish to know. I’ve tried a lot of foods from this region so I was shocked (and upset) that I wasn’t familiar with most famous Palestinian dish! But now I know. Even though I ate around the chicken, it was an incredible meal. 

IMG_5760

Along with Musakhan, we made “Arab Salad,” which is the salad that I (and many Israelis) eat almost every day – finely chopped vegetables mixed with tahini, lemon juice and parsley. 

IMG_5771

Also, look at this amazing oven that works like a taboon – can we get one?

IMG_5757

Serves 5 – 7 

Prep time – 1 – 2 hours

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp cloves, ground
  • 3 cardamom seeds, crushed
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbs olive oilIMG_5732
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 tbs sumac

  • 1 pound white or yellow onions
  • 1 pound red onions 
  • 2 tsp salt  
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken (or vegetarian) stock
  • 4 Tbs. ground sumac 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  •  1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper  
  • 4 pieces lavash, taboon, shrak, or pita bread
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews, almond slices, pine nuts
  • handful of parsley for garnish

IMG_5720

Combine garlic, cloves cardamom seeds , salt and black pepper. set aside one tablespoon of mixture and rub remainder into chicken. Let marinate. 

Meanwhile, chop onions into small pieces. Place in large skillet with olive oil and half of your chicken stock and salt. Cover and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes or until onions are translucent. Then, add remaining spices and continue cooking over low heat for another 20 minutes. 

IMG_5739

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Roast chicken in oven on 400 degrees on a baking sheet. Mix reserved tablespoon of spices with lemon juice and 4 tbs sumac. Once chicken is roasted, cover chicken with remaining spices.

IMG_5743

Once onions are cooked and fragrant, brush pan with olive oil. Place bread on pan and sprinkle with 3 – 4 tbs of chicken (or veg) stock. Then, cover with onions and place in oven.

IMG_5740

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until onions are browned and bread is crispy. Place chicken on top of bread and garnish with parsley and cashews, almonds or pine nuts. To eat, rip pieces of bread and chicken with your hands, or cut it up like a pizza. For a vegetarian version, replace chicken with baked zatar tofu, or top with labneh or greek yogurt.