Pascale's Kitchen: Tu Bishvat delicacies

The festive meal, involves lots of sweet and savory dishes, including dried fruits, halvah, special holiday cookies and candies shaped as children and animals. After, a festive meat meal is served.

Pascale's Kitchen: Tu Bishvat delicacies (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Pascale's Kitchen: Tu Bishvat delicacies
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, is just around the corner, and so I’ve put together a number of recipes involving dried fruits that are perfect for serving on the holiday. On Tu Bishvat, which falls exactly 60 days before Seder night, we celebrate the Jewish people’s connection with the Land of Israel. Even in Jewish communities outside of Israel, Jews make blessings over, and are supposed to eat samples of, the Seven Species of the Land of Israel.
Seudat Yitro is a Tunisian custom that takes place on the Thursday before Parashat Yitro is read in the synagogue. This Torah portion includes a recitation of the Ten Commandments. The festive meal, which is supposed to be the time of year the young boys should be able to read the Ten Commandments on their own, involves lots of sweet and savory dishes, including dried fruits, halvah, special holiday cookies and candies shaped as children and animals. After, a festive meat meal is served.
Tipascale
Dried fruits can be stored for long periods of time in glass containers in the fridge.
Do not store dried fruits in moist locations, since they will easily become moldy.
I recommend covering bowls of dried fruit with special netting that keeps mosquitoes and other insects away from them.

Tipascale

Most dried fruits are smoked with sulfur, which protects them from spoiling and intensifies their natural colors. As a result, it’s extremely important to wash dried fruits before eating them. It’s possible to buy dried fruits that were not prepared with sulfur and other additives. The color of these are usually blander.
APRICOTS AND PRUNES STUFFED WITH BEEF AND QUINOA

This recipe can also be prepared without the beef for a vegetarian version.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Meatballs:
300 g. ground beef
½ cup parsley, chopped
2 large onions, chopped finely and drained well
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of cooked quinoa or rice
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baharat
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. spicy paprika
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. water
25 prunes, pitted
25 dried apricots
Sauce:
4 Tbsp. oil
4 large onions, sliced thinly
1 cup of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato puree
2 celery stalks, chopped
Juice from ½ large lemon
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup water
Topping:
½ cup chopped parsley
Add the beef, parsley, onion, garlic, quinoa or rice, spices, oil and water to a large bowl. Mix well and form balls with a diameter of 1-2 cm. Place on a tray with space between each one.
Fill the apricots and prunes generously with the meatballs (the rice or quinoa are already cooked, so they will not expand more). Arrange the stuffed fruits in a shallow, wide pot.
In a separate pot, heat the oil and fry the onion until it turns golden brown. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree and celery. Mix and then add the lemon juice, sugar and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Pour over the stuffed prunes and apricots. Shake the pot gently so the sauce covers all of the fruits. You can add up to ½ cup of water if necessary.
Cover the pot with aluminum foil and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180°C for 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve with white rice.
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 90 minutes.
Status: Meat.

MROUZIA (RAISIN AND NUT JAM)

This jam is traditionally prepared for the Mimouna holiday.
Makes two 500-gram jars.
½ kg. seedless raisins
1 cup sweet wine
¼ cup cherry or orange liqueur or brandy
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
Juice from ½ lemon
1 Tbsp. oil
150 g. roasted walnuts or pecans
100 g. roasted almond halves
Rinse and clean the raisins. Remove seeds if necessary. Add the raisins to a bowl and add the wine and liqueur and let them soak for 30 minutes. Add the sugar and spices. Stir.
Pour raisins into a pot and cook for 35 minutes over a medium-low flame, stirring often. Add the lemon juice and oil. Stir and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off flame and add the nuts. Stir and let cool.
Level of difficulty: Easy.
Time: 90 minutes.
Status: Pareve.
PANFORTE (ITALIAN CAKE)

This traditional chewy and dense Italian cake is made with dried fruits and nuts. I like to add spicy pepper to give it more flavor.
Makes one 22-cm. diameter cake.
1½ cups dried fruits of all sorts, cut into small pieces
2 cups roasted and crushed nuts of all sorts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and cashews
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. black pepper
¾ cup flour, sifted
1 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
½ cup honey
¾ cup sugar
100 g. bittersweet chocolate
Topping:
Powdered sugar
Add the dried fruit pieces and nuts to a large bowl. Add the spices, flour and cocoa powder and mix well.
In a small pot, bring the honey and sugar to a boil over a low flame. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes. At the same time, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl by heating for a few seconds at a time in the microwave. Pour the melted sugar over the dried fruits. Add the melted chocolate and mix well.
Cover a baking tray with baking paper and spoon on the mixture. Flatten and even out mixture on tray.
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 160°C for 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack. When the cake has completely cooled, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
Slice with a sharp, serrated knife. You can keep this cake for a few weeks in an airtight container. Serve thin slices.
Level of difficulty: Medium.
Time: 30 minutes.
Status: Pareve.
 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here.