April 1, 2020

The Bounty of Tu B’Shevat

Although there are no specific dishes that have traditionally been prepared for Tu B’Shevat, the custom of serving dishes that contain fruits and nuts has emerged. With a great assortment to choose from, there are endless possibilities — if you add a dash of creativity.

One of my favorite foods during this holiday is baked apples filled with nuts, cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar and honey. They were almost always served after a family lunch that included several salads and a vegetable soup.

Another perfect dessert to make for Tu B’Shevat are Homemade Fig Newtons. This recipe is so authentic that they look just like the package at your local grocery store but taste better. They are buttery and feature homemade fig preserves inside an orange-scented cookie. After the filling has been prepared, the Fig Newtons are not time-consuming to make.

Honey Baked Apples
6 large Rome Beauty apples
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Using an apple corer or sharp paring knife, core apples to just 1 inch above the bottom of each apple. Spoon equal amounts of lemon juice into each well.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, raisins, pecans and lemon zest and spoon equal amount into each cavity of the apples. Arrange apples in baking dish.

Drizzle honey over each apple and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour apple juice around apples.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven until apples are tender when pierced with a toothpick, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Homemade Fig Newtons
2 cups dried figs, stems removed
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (8 ounces) unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place figs in large bowl and pour boiling water over them until covered, let rest 10 minutes. Drain all but 2 tablespoons water and stir in corn syrup and cinnamon.

Puree figs in food processor until thick paste forms (if too thick or thin to spread evenly, add a little water or flour until spreadable consistency is reached).

In medium-size bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, orange juice and mix well.

Add flour mixture and mix until dough forms.

Roll out dough on floured surface or wax paper into 8-by-4-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.

Cut rectangle in half lengthwise. Spread fig paste onto half of each rectangle, lengthwise. Fold dough in half lengthwise to cover fig paste and pinch edges to seal.

Cut each log in half and transfer onto greased baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes until crust begins to brown.

Slice into cookie-sized segments and cool.

Makes about 3 dozen Fig Newtons.

Judy Zeidler is a cooking teacher and cookbook author.