On the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, we celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. This year Tu B’Shevat falls on Shabbat, February 3rd. It is customary to eat fruits and nuts, particularly those associated with Israel. One should try to eat at least one fruit which they have not eaten that entire season.
I have several friends who make a Tu B’Shevat seder, although I’ve never attended one. As a result of researching this article, I’ve been invited to participate in one, much to my delight! So next year, I will have my own flavorful memories to share with you!
A Tu B’Shevat seder is somewhat similar to a Passover seder and involves enjoying the following foods:
- The seven species for which the land of Israel is praised
- Grapes or raisins
- Wheat and barley (in the form of bread, cake or cereal).
- Various nuts with inedible shells (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, coconut) and fruits with inedible peels (oranges, pomegranates, avocado)
- Fruits with inedible pits (dates, olives, peaches, plums, cherries)
- Fruits with edible seeds (blueberries or strawberries)
- Wine or grape juice, both white and red
- A tzedakah box is also part of the seder
Since Tu B’Shevat falls on Shabbat this year, it would be appropriate to incorporate the seder into one of the Shabbat meals, using challah as the bread. The suggested order of eating the fruits is: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates.
It is traditional to drink four cups of wine:
- First cup – pure white
- Second cup – pale pink (white with a drop of red wine)
- Third cup – (darker pink)
- Fourth cup – almost totally red (with only a drop of white)
I wrote an email to my “pan-pal” Ruth Baks, who lives in Israel, asking her to share one of her favorite recipes. Although we’ve never met in person, you’d think we’ve known each other for years, thanks to the internet! Originally from San Diego, Ruth came to Israel when she was a student and never left. She is an amazing cook, knowledgeable and extremely articulate.
Ruth Baks is currently working hard writing a Shabbat cookbook and I have no doubts that it will be absolutely amazing. She was generous enough to share this recipe for Carob Fudge Balls that will be in her upcoming book, along with the following comments. She used to include this recipe when she was teaching courses in Natural Foods. Here’s a tiny taste of what’s to come!
Ruth Baks writes: “Carob, native to the Mediterranean area, has long earned a reputation as a survival food. It is said of the Tanna Hanina Ben Dosa “a kav of carobs sufficed him from one Erev Shabbos to another” (Gemora Ta’anit 24b). Further, the famous aggadah (Gemora Shabbat 33b) relates that carobs sustained Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son for twelve years while they were hiding in a cave from the Roman authorities. It was during this period that they compiled the Zohar (the Jewish mystical tradition) – high on carob!
Abundantly rich in minerals, carob contains only one-third the calories of chocolate, is virtually fat free and is loaded with fiber. With a fruity, chocolaty taste, carob is not only good for you, it’s really good!
These delicious fudge balls take only minutes to prepare and require no cooking. They may be made in advance and frozen, but they’ll probably disappear before they ever reach the freezer! One of my students related that she prepared the carob fudge and left it in a bowl in the refrigerator, planning to roll the balls later, but this never happened. Throughout the day, both she and her husband kept pinching off pieces to nibble on, until somehow, mysteriously, it all disappeared!
Carob is not one of the “sheva minim” (seven species). However, dried carob fruit is traditionally eaten on Tu B’Shvat, and these yummy balls are guaranteed to delight! It’s much better than breaking one’s teeth gnawing on the raw material!”
Ruth Baks’ Carob Fudge Balls
Makes about 30 balls.
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup carob powder
Add and mix well:
- ½ cup honey (fluid consistency)
- 1 cup extra-chunky peanut butter
- 2 Tablespoons water, orange juice or your favorite liqueur (increase liquid if texture is too dry)
(Variation: May substitute tahina sesame paste for the peanut butter, in which case add 100 grams/3.5 ounces hulled sunflower seeds or chopped nuts for a chunky texture)
- Wet palms and roll into 1-inch balls.
Place in a small, deep bowl:
- ½ cup finely chopped almonds
(Variation: Instead of almonds, experiment with different coatings, such as shredded coconut, different chopped nuts, ground granola, ground dried banana chips, wheat germ, sesame seeds, etc. The balls are also delicious served plain, without a coating.)
Roll and shake each ball until well coated, then chill. Serve in crimped paper liners.
My “pan-pal” Judy Rin writes: “Here are some ideas for recipes that I have seen at Tu B’Shevat seders: fruit salad, fruit compote, nut bread, date nut bread, apple cake, pasta with olive oil, chicken with fruit, fruit strudel, stuffed dates, fig cookies, applesauce, etc.
I have been to several, and after the first Tu B’Shevat seder we went to, I did a few with my kids at home. We did short readings from a book between eats and drinks so the kids would stay interested. It has been primarily a Hebrew school holiday, with the children getting little boxes of raisins and a stick of carob, along with the blank form to plant a Jewish National Fund tree in Israel. When I was little, we put dimes into slots in a folder that stayed at school. When it was full, we “planted” a tree. Now the trees are not $2 but $12 and I am actually the contact person for our local Hadassah chapter for almost 15 years.”
When I called Rose Heilbronn of Toronto to ask her to share her thoughts about Tu B’Shevat, she told me that she was invited to a seder that will be held at the home of her friends, David and Naomi Tal, and then invited me to join them! (Oy, such are the benefits of being a food writer!)
The Tals lived in Israel for 7 years, from 1992 to 1999. Their two children live in Israel, a married son, and their daughter, who is studying there for the year. They will be having 20 adults at their seder, as well as 10 younger children. Naomi plans to have the children do artwork, making pictures of trees.
Naomi loves the idea of celebrating springtime in Israel, especially when the weather is wintery in Toronto. The seder will start with a Dvar Torah. Everyone has been instructed to bring one of the seven species (sheva minim). They will have finger foods of each of the species and talk about them. Naomi is planning on having a platter with the sheva minim. She will serve a fish dinner, including mango tuna, as well as squash and black bean soup. For dessert, she will make Jeff Nathan’s recipe for Chocolate Mousse Flowerpots, sprinkled with chocolate and a tiny dried rose in each one.
Naomi told me: “It’s so wonderful to have a spring celebration in the middle of winter. It’s a great excuse to get together, and also to eat!”
Here is the recipe for the muffins that Rose and Michael Heilbronn will be bringing to the Tu B’Shevat seder, made with dates, one of the foods linked with Israel. Enjoy!
Rose Heilbronn’s Date and Orange Muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 orange, cut up and processed in the processor
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Combine flour, sugar, orange, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl
- Beat egg, dates, milk and oil in the food processor
- Add mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until moistened
- Spoon into a muffin pan that has been lined with paper liners
- Topping: Mix sugar and orange zest. Sprinkle one teaspoon over each muffin.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.
These freeze very well. The recipe multiplies easily.
Chocolate Mousse Flowerpots
This is the signature dessert at Abigail’s, where it’s served in small terra-cotta pots and topped with “dirt” made from cookie crumbs. Dig into the dessert, and you will find chocolate mousse. Sure, they’re cute, but don’t let that fool you. The chocolate mousse is deeply, darkly, and intensely chocolatey.
- 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon dark rum
- 10 chocolate “sandwich” cookies with vanilla filling, such as Oreos
- 6 (3-inch) terra-cotta flowerpots, washed in soapy water, rinsed, and air dried
- 6 stemmed silk flowers
- Melt the chocolate, oil, and cocoa together in the top part of a double boiler or stainless-steel bowl over hot, not simmering, water. Remove from the heat and let stand until cool but still pourable.
- Whip the cream, vanilla, and rum in a chilled large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer. Stir a large spoonful of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate mixture to loosen it, then fold this mixture into the remaining cream until evenly colored. Spoon mousse mixture into the flower pots, smoothing the tops.
- With the machine running, drop the cookies through the feed tube of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process to form crumbs. Apply a thick layer of the crumbs on top of each chocolate mousse to resemble dirt. Cover each pot loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mousse is chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
- To serve, stick a flower into each mousse. Let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then serve.
Pareve Variation: Substitute 2½ cups nondairy whipped topping for the heavy cream and vanilla. Use Paskesz or other chocolate, dairy-free cookies.
Source: Adventures in Jewish Cooking by Jeffrey Nathan (Published by Potter)
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.