◊ The Grain of My Ancestors

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Dear mom,

You sent your veggie chili recipe just in time.  We’ve experienced a blizzard over here in the Middle East. The roads are ice and yesterday’s white Jerusalem is melting gray. School has been cancelled since Thursday and my toes have been freezing-thawing-freezing-thawing since.

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And I’m getting antsy. You and dad see my life as exciting. It is. But my schpilkas syndrome isn’t always a positive thing. Right now I’m walled in by snow and slush and I’m about to freak out. The stillness. I can’t.

So I move.

I hop around to fill my life with beautiful views, weird produce, scraps of new languages and cultural mishaps at which I retrospectively laugh. My life is full and I’m glad that you appreciate its pieces. But sometimes I don’t know what I’ve really shared with you because I still feel a big old hole of empty. I think I’ll need to slow down if I want to figure out how to fill it.

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Once in 3rd grade I was walking from class to the carpool line and my teacher called me a turtle over the intercom. I left the building in tears and the name stuck. I was turtle… slow, slow, slow in all ways until one day I started to move fast. I don’t know when it happened… if it’s bad or good or neutral. But I think the compulsion that drives me to move fast stems from the same apprehension that held me in slowness. Careful and careless might be twins.

I risk losing me while I’m moving fast. Why do I write to you here? Because when I’m whipping across the globe at this pace it’s important that I stop to tell you what happened.

I don’t buy that you and dad’s lives would be boring without me. Between the two of you, you’ve built (from scratch) a farm with cows, a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and aquariums with tropical fish throughout Alabama; you’ve managed a 501C3, psychiatric wards, 70 person + dinner parties and god knows what else; you’ve sat in your very own office chairs, tractor seats and piano benches.

The things I’ve introduced you to  – like la hoja de coca and indigo fermentation – are superficially weird (exciting, eclectic, whatever). But you two are the real thing.

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You’re the ones.. the real weirdos… who inspire me to fill up.

xo

Shaina

My people’s grain:

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Israel’s recipes are infused with Mediterranean ingredients and Middle Eastern spices, but there’s still plenty of flavors that link me back to my Ashkenaz roots. As I think about my sense of self while hopping around at lighting speed, I am reminded that there’s no other food that speaks to my soul more than kasha. I can still smell the sticky fried onions and mushrooms that Bubbe made en mass to mix with kasha and farfel (like this recipe). It brings me back to me in an instant. Buckwheat: the grain of my ancestors.

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Below are three buckwheat-based recipes inspired by my current place and purpose.

Sweet Buckwheat Porridge, Raw:

Adapted from my new favorite recipe blog, GreenKitchenStories.com

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  • A portable post-swim snack

    A portable post-swim snack

    1 C raw buckwheat groats + water for soaking

  • 1 C raw almond + water for soaking
  • 4 dates + water for soaking
  • 1pear
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • chopped apricots
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla

Soak RAW (much of the buckwheat you find in stores is Kasha, which is roasted) groats, almonds and dates in water seperately for 4 – 7 hours or overnight.

In the morning, add all ingredients to a food processor (I used a stick blender) and blend until smooth.

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Topping treats! I garnished my first serving with pomegranate seeds, chopped apples and persimmons, pumpkin seeds and drizzles of tahini and date syrup. It was luxurious. I also recommend any fresh fruit you have on hand, raisins, cocoa powder, date syrup, coconut flakes, honey, almond butter or your own favorite indulgences.

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It’s also perfect for a breakfast-to-go or in-between class snack.

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Israeli Buckwheat Salad:

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  • 2 cups roasted buckwheat groats (Kasha)IMG_0795
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 orange, red and/or yellow bell peppers, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced into slivered chunks
  • red onion, thinly diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbs crude tahini
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs ground sumac (or lemon zest)
  • 1 large bunch of parsley
  • 2 ripe avocados

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Bring water and salt to boil and add buckwheat. Simmer for 10 – 12 minutes until tender and fluffy. Remove from heat and allow buckwheat to cool for an additional 5 minutes. Then drain any extra water and spread onto baking sheet or large surface to prevent clumps.

Dice all of the vegetables very thinly. If you have other veggies in the fridge you need to get rid of, this is your moment.

In a saucpan, heat olive oil and add turmeric, cumin and coriander. Stir for 1 – 2 minutes until fragrant. Pour mixture into bowl and add tahini, vinegar and sumac. Stir well.

Toss buckwheat, veggies and dressing right before serving. Top with chopped parsley and avocado. Serve cool or room temperature.

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Orange Glazed Tempeh over Soba Noodles with Avocado:

Tempeh preparation is adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Yes, Soba Noodles are made from buckwheat!

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  • 1 package (12 oz) dried soba noodles (I like to use 100% buckwheat, but they can be hard to find and expensive. More common is a buckwheat + spelt or wheat combination.)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, date syrup or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 ounces of tempeh (or tofu)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • cilantro to garnish

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Cook the soba noodles in well salted water, drain, rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Mix orange juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic in a bowl and set aside.

Cut tempeh into thin slices. Heat olive oil in pan. Once hot, add tempeh and pan-fry for 5 – 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Pour the orange juice, etc mixture over the tempeh and simmer for 10-15 minutes (flip tempeh piece 3 or 4 times during this time to allow all sides to absorb sauce) until sauce becomes thick and sticky.

Place tempeh over soba noodles and top with remaining sauce, black sesame seeds, squeeze of lime, cilantro and avocado.

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♦ Schuster Shealy

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Dear Shaina,

I laughed out loud, while shedding a few tears, when I read your response to Dad’s guest post. As if I didn’t know that the predominant gene pool stamped on your DNA had SHEALY all over it…

The minute you were born, after they slapped you to make you cry (Schusters don’t have to be prompted to wail loudly), they laid you down next to me for the first time.  I looked into your eyes as you quietly eyeballed me…and there you lay…clearly a mini Allen Shealy replica!  As you got older, the comments veered more toward, “We never knew Allen was so pretty.” I was grateful that at least you got my eyebrows!

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The Shealy genes penetrated far beyond appearance. By the time you were two, I understood that the die was cast and that I should give up any attempts at trying to mold you in my image, or any other…you were hard-wired. So much for nature versus nurture!

You were quietly cautious and  took your time…with everything.  You were shy with strangers, easily manipulated by your more Schusterly cousins and adored by everyone! Even as a small child you emitted a sense of calm, loving acceptance and tolerance.

Lest anyone think that you were simply a sweet, adorable child, easily malleable by the prevailing players in your life, that was not the case. The strength of your core, the individuality of your spirit and the stubbornness of your will were apparent and readily available to you when needed.

Your pre-school teachers would place your cubby next to the most out-of-control boy… every year.  They knew you would ignore the bad behavior while promoting a sense of calm around you. When you decided that ballet classes and soccer games involved too much public performance for your comfort, you simply stopped, literally in your tracks. I had no choice but to take you home and hope the next activity might be a better fit. Even at the age of three, you would modify the teacher’s model of an art project, creating your own version from some vision in your head…and then other children would copy yours. You were/are a leader, quiet and non-dogmatic, but clearly present.

You are so like your father! Your signature, Shaina Shealy, speaks to your comfort in your genes. However, the impact of nurture has not been totally undercover. I would like to think that some of your creative skills have come from the hands of your Schuster relatives…along with the importance of family, friends and tradition, your love of food and cooking for large hoards of people and, of course, your keen bargaining skills. Perhaps, someday, the Schuster may find its way back into your given name, Shaina Schuster Shealy, no hyphens necessary.

Maybe the biggest challenge for an only child overdosed with love and attention and privilege from two doting parents is to find her own voice.  You took that on from an early age. I know you often feel that your path eludes you, yet the thing I am most proud of for you, is that you have the courage to pursue that search. You have learned to trust and follow your voice…wherever it may lead you. Your voice…and your path…may change over time, but you have mastered the process of paying attention to who you are.  Despite all the Shealy and Schuster chatter, the Shaina murmurs ring strong.

I sit here in the living room  wearing the soft cotton housedress, a gift direct from India from you (it’s what all the Indian mothers wear around the house). You putter around your room identifying the things you will need as you set out for a year of study and exploration amidst the Schuster family ambiance in Israel.
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I sit with my own meld of mother worry and pride, an all too familiar feeling.  It has been a lightning quick summer filled with kitchen mess, stuffed refrigerators, endless trips to multiple grocery stores…and friends and family…sharing old traditions, trying on new ones…tashlich (casting away of sins) at the farm, new tastes at the holiday table, escaping from temple during Yiskor…the Schusters and the Shealys, together.
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Rosh Hashana was an extravaganza of tastes and blessings. You requested Pomegranate Tabouli, a sweet and savory salad that has become a new Rosh Hashanah tradition.  As you leave Birmingham for the land of milk and honey…and pomegranates…I hope this dish is a reminder to you of how two seemingly disparate flavors can produce something beautiful, sweet and uniquely flavorful and captivating.  This is your dish!

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We cooked together, we prayed together and we gave thanks. We looked to the new year with hope and promise. You bring so much that is fresh and honest and spiritual into our lives…making us better than we ever thought we could be. I will miss this time with you…even as I reclaim my kitchen.

I wish you safe travels, new friends, enlightening adventures…and an ever stronger voice!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

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Pomegranate Tabouli
With apples, walnuts and Pomegranates

  • 2 cups flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup crisp sweet apples, diced unpeeled
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons ground smoked paprika or chipotle chile pepper
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice and zest from one lemon
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Honey (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts

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Mix first six ingredients together in a bowl. Stir in pepper, lemon juice and zest and oil. Season to taste with salt and a little honey if you like a little more sweetness. At this point, the mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days.

In a dry skillet, over medium heat, stir walnuts until toasted, about three minutes.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Crush with the side of a knife or in a mortar with pestle until they are in coarse pieces.

Stir crushed walnuts into pomegranate mixture. If mixture has been refrigerated, set it out at room temperature for about an hour before adding walnuts.

6-8 servings

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