Holiday in: Nature's Bounty

This Tu Bishvat, prepare dishes with wholesome nuts and dried fruit.

Green salad with walnuts 390 (photo credit: Courtesy of 'Gat' ( Damiel Layla))
Green salad with walnuts 390
(photo credit: Courtesy of 'Gat' ( Damiel Layla))
On Tu Bishvat we celebrate the new year of the trees, rejoicing in the fruit of the tree and the vine, celebrating the gifts of nature. Tu Bishvat – February 8 this year – also marks the beginning of spring in Israel and the time to plant trees.
At the Tu Bishvat seder, it is customary to serve no fewer than 15 different types of fruits and nuts, as well as both white and red wine. Most Israelis have come to associate the holiday as a time to eat nuts and dried fruit, which, unfortunately, are high in calories.
Carmit Safra, a dietitian at Weight Watchers Israel, suggests choosing fresh fruit over dried ones. “Fruit is healthy and tasty. But dried fruit should be consumed with caution,” she says. “Choose fruit in season – they will be at their peak, tasty, healthful and less expensive than ones that are not in season.” She adds that one small dried date has the same calories as an apple; and one-third of a cup of currants has double the calories of an orange. But, she says, don’t refrain from eating dried fruit – just do so with care. Dried fruit can replace eating candy or cake and can be incorporated in salads and cooking, as well as healthy and energizing snacks when out and about.
Gat, Israel’s leading nut and dried fruit distributor, offers a few ideas for incorporating nuts and dried fruit in cooking.
The following recipes were compiled by Moran Layla, courtesy of Gat.
All nuts and dried fruit will upgrade a green salad, making it worthy of a holiday dinner. Experiment with different nuts, fruit and dressings until you find the combination your family likes best.
✔ 1 lettuce ✔ 1 orange, peeled (use mango in season) ✔ 1 carrot ✔ 8 cherry tomatoes ✔ 100 gr. walnuts ✔ 100 gr. dried apricots
Dressing: ✔ 1 Tbsp. silan (date honey) ✔ 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard✔ 2 Tbsp, mayonnaise ✔ 1⁄4 cup olive oil ✔ Juice of 1⁄2 lemon ✔ Salt and pepper Peel orange and remove the membranes.
Peel carrots and, using a peeler, cut thin slices. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Wash lettuce, dry and tear leaves by hand into bite-size pieces. Place all vegetables in a salad bowl.
Whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss.
✔ 1 package of whole-wheat easy couscous by Mishpaha Hama ✔ 1⁄2 bunch dill ✔ 1⁄2 bunch parsley ✔ 1⁄2 bunch basil ✔ 2 red peppers (roasted) ✔ 100 gr. almonds ✔ 50 gr. dried cranberries ✔ Olive oil and lemon for seasoning ✔ Salt and pepper
Prepare couscous according to the instructions on the box. Roast peppers, peel and chop. Chop herbs. Mix all the ingredients, season to taste. Let stand for at least half an hour before serving.TOFFEE AND PECAN PUDDING
Really a cake but a perfect pudding for the Tu Bishvat dinner.
✔ 1 cup prunes, pitted ✔ 1 tsp. baking soda ✔ 85 gr. butter ✔ 170 gr. sugar ✔ 2 eggs ✔ 170 gr. self-rising flour ✔ 2 Tbsp. sour cream ✔ 2 Tbsp. silan ✔ 100 gr. ground pecan nuts ✔ Halved sugared pecans for garnish Toffee sauce: ✔ 115 gr. butter, softened ✔ 115 gr. brown sugar ✔ 140 ml. cream
Boil 1 cup water. Remove from heat, mix in the baking soda and soak the prunes in the mixture for 10 minutes.
Strain and place pitted prunes in a blender and puree. Using the kneading handle of a mixer, whip butter and sugar until fluffy; add eggs and silan and continue mixing. Add prune paste.
Add a few tablespoons of flour and sour cream at a time, alternating the two. Add ground pecans, mix and pour into two small greased baking pans.
Bake at 170º for 30 minutes.
Prepare toffee: In a deep pot, heat butter, brown sugar and cream. Simmer until liquid becomes smooth and color is right. Be very careful, as the toffee is extremely hot. Remove from heat and keep warm. When cakes are ready, pour the toffee over them. Save some of the sauce for serving. Garnish with sugared pecans.
The Roladin chain of bakeries prepares special cakes for the holiday. The chef, Gilli Deker, offers his winning recipe for a dried fruit cake.
✔ 1⁄3 cup oil ✔ 1⁄2 cup sugar ✔ 1 egg ✔ 2⁄3 Tbsp. flour ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder✔ 1⁄2 tsp. ginger ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon ✔ Pinch salt ✔ 1⁄4 cup raisins ✔ 1⁄4 cup ground walnuts ✔ 3⁄4 cup Granny Smith apples, peeled and cubed ✔ 1⁄2 cup roasted peanuts ✔ 1⁄4 cup prunes, pitted ✔ 1⁄4 cup dried apricots ✔ 1 Tbsp. dried papaya, cubed ✔ 1⁄2 banana, sliced Beat egg with sugar until light. Add oil in a thin stream. Add apples. Mix together dry ingredients, dried fruit and nuts except walnuts. Add dry mixture to egg and mix only until blended. Pour into an oiled 27.5 cm x 8 cm bread pan.
Sprinkle ground walnuts on top. Bake at 165º for 40-45 minutes. When cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.