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Tu B’Shvat: Cooking with the 7 Species

February 2, 2017 | by Emuna Braverman

Delicious recipes from pomegranate cheesecake to split pea and barley soup.

On Tu B’Shvat, we celebrate the 7 species of fruit for which the Torah praises the land of Israel – wheat, barley, olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. We can eat them raw – and taste them in their purest (and sometimes best) form or we can cook them (a definite necessity with wheat!) and turn them into something delicious in a whole new way. Either option is a wonderful celebration of the blessings of the day. Here are some great recipes for those who prefer the second strategy.

Let’s start with dessert!

Pareve Pomegranate Cheesecake

Pareve Pomegranate Cheesecake

  • ½ cup (1 stick) margarine, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages tofutti cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups tofutti sour cream
  • 1-1/2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For sauce:

  • 1 (approximately 15-ounce) bottle pomegranate juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together melted margarine, graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar and press into bottom of 10-inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixer bowl, beat together tofutti cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in ½ cup tofutti sour cream and fold in ¾ cup pomegranate seeds. Pour over crust. Place pan on baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour. Mix together remaining 1-1/2 cups tofutti sour cream with the ¼ cup sugar and the teaspoon vanilla. Spread over cake and return to oven for 10 more minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before loosening sides. Cool completely and remove sides. Place in refrigerator to chill. To make sauce bring the pomegranate juice to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, gently for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cornstarch. Whisk into pomegranate juice and cook for about 2 minutes. Cool and chill until ready to serve. To serve sprinkle pomegranate seeds and drizzle sauce over cheesecake.

This can be made without the sauce or it can be made dairy with regular dairy cream cheese and sour cream. It’s an even substitution.

For a heartier dessert:

Date Nut Bread

Date Nut Bread

This quick bread is elevated to a more elegant presentation by baking it in a Bundt pan.

  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3/4 cup flour
  • ¾ cup soy milk or nondairy creamer
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stir together dates, boiling water and baking soda; set aside. Cream together brown sugar and margarine until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla and date mixture. On low speed add remaining ingredients and beat until just combined. Pour into greased 10-cup Bundt pan. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Can also be baked in two loaf pans.

And now down to “real” food:

Split Pea and Barley Soup

Split Pea and Barley Soup This can be made with a base of leftover chicken soup or with the parve Imagine chicken soup.

  • 4 quarts chicken soup
  • 2 cups split peas
  • 2 cups barley
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dill

Combine everything in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 – 3 hours. Serve alone or with a fresh loaf of bread. For a richer soup, add some flanken. If you omit the flanken, you can make your cheesecake dairy!!

A nice side/snack:

Marinated Olives

Marinated Olives

Marinated olives are very popular these days and many people are making their own. Here is an easy recipe if you are feel so inclined.

  • 1 pound Kalamata (or other black) olives
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Rinse olives with cold water; drain. Place olives in a 1-quart jar with tight-fitting lid. In a small bowl, mix together, oil, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, red pepper and garlic. Pour over olives. Cover tightly and refrigerate at 48 hours. Serve at room temperature.

Despite my earlier words, I prefer my grapes and figs in their simplest form – grapes of all colors brighten up a dessert plate and dried figs can be a juicy treat. If you want to cook with your figs (I really don’t like cooking with grapes so I’m letting my prejudice dictate the results), here is a nice muffin that fits with the theme of the day:

Pear Fig Muffins

Pear Fig Muffins

  • ¾ cup soy milk or nondairy creamer
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped dried figs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together creamer or soy milk, oil and egg. Stir in flour, sugar and baking powder until just moistened. Gently fold in pear and figs. Pour batter into 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Bake for about 18 minutes. Immediately remove from pan to wire rack to cool.

Click here for more Tu B’Shvat recipes.

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