Korach: From rebellious to sacred


This article originally appeared on Neesh Noosh.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about rebellious Israelites, led by Korach. While his complaints about the status of Moses and Aaron might seem like the words of an early democratic activist, his intentions were actually self-serving. He is “the arch-demagogue, lusting for power to inflate his own prominence, not to serve the people” (Etz Hayim, p. 860). He led a group of Israelites in opposition to not only Moses and Aaron but “that of Torah, and ultimately, God.” (Etz Hayim, p. 860). Rabbi Samuel Barth notes, “The sin of Korah was in thinking of himself as “outside the community”; he betook himself and his followers from being part of the People of Israel, and they became a faction, catalysts for further factionalization.”

Rabbi Moshe Bryski, on Chabad.org writes that Korach lived his life yearning for a different one, jealous of others. He comments that “A person who sees the essence of life as serving the will of His Creator does not expend useless energy craving places where the grass is greener. He finds meaning, purpose, joy and fulfillment in the place where the grass is greenest of all: his own.”

It does not end well for Korach and his followers who are subsumed into a gaping hole in the Earth. Afterwards, God commands that their fire pans be made “into flattened out plates as an overlay for the altar, for they brought them before the Lord, and have [therefore] become sanctified, and they shall be as a reminder for the children of Israel” (17:3). In writing about the transformation of the fire pans from tools that were used to rebel against Moses to sacred altar pieces, Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz writes, “the potential for the blemish to become sacred in our lives. If the blemish can be used as a teaching tool, then each of us will succeed in building a more hopeful future.”

The dish I made this week–vegan pancakes with strawberry compote–is inspired by the Korach’s fire pans and the sweetness of Torah. Pancakes are a thin and humble dish, unlike Korach’s inflated sense of self  (if I was making a dish representative of Korach, the person, I imagine it would be a souffle!). The strawberry compote on top represent the sweetness of Torah that withstood the challenges of Korach and his followers.

While pancakes are generally thought of as breakfast food, I think that these are so delicious and can easily be served as dessert! They are vegan and made with spelt flour, an ancient grain that has a delicious nutty flavor. It’s also strawberry season and they are so delicious right now-I can’t stop eating them! If you can’t find fresh organic strawberries, try other berries that are in season now. I find strawberries naturally sweet but if they’re too tart add a chopped Medjool date or two, to the compote.

Korach: Vegan spelt pancakes with no-sugar added strawberry compote

Ingredients

Pancakes: This is a modified recipe that was originally published on the Alkaline Sisters

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plant-based milk (I used a combination of plain almond and soy)
  • 2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • coconut oil or other high heat oil for pan

 

Strawberry compote

  • 1 1/2 cups organic strawberries
  • 1-3 tbsp water
  • 1-2 finely chopped Medjool dates (optional)

 

Preparation

Strawberry compote:

1. Thoroughly wash strawberries.

2. Add strawberries, water, and optional dates to a small pot.

3. Cook over low heat, about 10-15 minutes. Mash strawberries with a fork or spoon as they cook and stir periodically to prevent burning.  When finished, remove from heat.

Pancakes

1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Then, pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients bowl and lightly mix. Let sit for about 5 minutes.

2. Place a skillet on low-medium heat and add a dollop of high heat oil (I used coconut oil). Place a spoonful of batter and allow to cook on first side until it bubbles and is lightly browned. Then, flip over and cook on second side.

4. Place finished pancakes on wire rack to prevent them from getting soggy.

5. Serve with a scoop of strawberry compote on top.

B’tayavon!

Cheese Blintzes for Shavuot


Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and brings with it centuries of food traditions. It is the time when dairy foods are traditionally served, and cheese blintzes are one of the most popular dishes of the holiday.

I may not serve blintzes during the year, but my family can count on having them on Shavuot, and always filled with hoop cheese.

This year I am preparing cheese blintzes two different ways. One is the classic European recipe, made with thin pancakes filled with hoop cheese, rolled up like an envelope, fried, topped with sour cream or fruit preserves, and served as the main course.

The other is crespelle, a contemporary Italian dish. Crepes are filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, rolled and baked. I always marvel at how easy and versatile crepes are. This recipe is delicious. When finished, the filled crespelle are served on tomato sauce and garnished with basil. Think of it as blintzes with an Italian accent.

At a recent cooking class, one of my students commented that Shavuot was her favorite Jewish holiday. When I asked why, she said she loves the concept of serving only dairy dishes for family and friends when they come to dinner. She also enjoys decorating her home with the spring flowers that are in bloom during this period.

For dessert you will want to serve an easy-to-make ricotta soufflé. This cheese soufflé-like dessert makes a wonderful finale for your holiday dinner. I mix the cheese, egg yolks and lemon zest several hours before the guests arrive. Then after dinner I fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, fill the soufflé molds, and bake. No one minds the wait, especially when they taste this warm, light and flavorful dessert.

Classic Cheese Blintzes

Cheese Filling (recipe follows)

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Unsalted butter or nondairy margarine

1 tablespoon brandy or sweet wine

Prepare the cheese filling, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Blend eggs and milk in small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg mixture gradually and blend until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine and brandy and blend well. Pour through coarse strainer to remove lumps of flour that do not dissolve. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Butter and preheat a 6-inch skillet. Pour 1/4 cup batter into pan to form a thin pancake, tilting pan and swirling batter to patch up holes. Quickly pour off excess batter into unused batter. When lightly brown, turn out of pan onto plate or cloth. Stack with waxed paper between pancakes. Cool. Makes about 18 pancakes.

Fill the browned side of each prepared pancake with the cheese mixture and fold, tucking ends in. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Cook the blintzes on both sides, two or three minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining blintzes, adding more butter as needed. With a metal spatula, carefully transfer the blintzes to a serving platter. Serve with bowls of preserves, sour cream, yogurt and sugar.

Cheese Filling

2 pounds hoop, farmer or pot cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

In a large bowl, mix together the hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs until blended. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to assemble the blintzes.

Crespelle With Ricotta and Spinach

Pureed Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Classic Blintz (see recipe)

1 pound ricotta cheese

8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry, and finely chopped

Freshly grated nutmeg

Salt to taste

Prepare the tomato sauce and set aside.

Prepare the classic blintzes; cook as directed until the underside is lightly browned around the edges, two to three minutes. Turn and cook on the other side one to two minutes.

Place the ricotta in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes to drain. Mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Makes about 3 cups.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta-spinach filling over the entire surface of each crepe. Fold 1/2 inch of each side over the filling and roll up tight. Cut each roll into four pieces and place on the baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about five minutes.

To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center of each plate. Arrange four or five rolled crepes, cut side up, on top of the sauce. Serves 12.

Pureed Tomato Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 small white onion, finely diced

1 can (16 ounces) whole plum tomatoes, with liquid

2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes

4 whole basil leaves, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and brown. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about five minutes. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes and basil and simmer until soft, about five minutes. Using a wire whisk or fork, mash the tomatoes. Simmer over low heat until the mixture thickens into a sauce, about 45 minutes to one hour. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool. May cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for two to three days and freezer for up to one month. Makes about 4 cups.

Piccoli Soufflé di Ricotta

(Individual Ricotta Soufflés)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter for molds

14 ounces fresh, unsalted ricotta cheese

6 large eggs, separated

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon Sambuca or other anise-flavored liqueur

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush eight 6-ounce soufflé molds with butter and place in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, strain the ricotta (for a creamy consistency), by pressing it through a fine sieve or strainer. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, until well blended. Mix in the lemon zest and Sambuca. (At this point you can cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to four hours.)

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the ricotta mixture. Dust the prepared molds evenly with the remaining sugar. Line an ovenproof pan that is large enough to hold the cups with a cloth. Place the prepared molds in the pan and carefully spoon the ricotta mixture into the molds. Fill one-third of the pan with hot water and bake for 20 minutes, or until soufflés are puffy and golden brown. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately. Makes 8 soufflés.

From “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” By Judy Zeidler.