Fruits are in order

It is time to celebrate Tu Bishvat.

Apple kugel with rum raisins (photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
Apple kugel with rum raisins
(photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
Based on the style of Passover Seder, the Tu Bishvat Seder started as a kabbalistic way to celebrate the holiday.
But in recent years, for most of us it is simply an opportunity to enjoy a festive meal with friends and family and serve symbolic and other fruits.
Dried fruit and nuts make for a wonderfully healthful snack – but many cooks know that they go extremely well with savory dishes as well as desserts. So even if you are not having a real Tu Bishvat Seder, take advantage of the abundance of dried fruit offered these days at the supermarkets and have a great holiday.
This recipe of whole basmati rice with oats and dried fruit is colorful and festive, but it takes not much more than 10 minutes to prepare and it is chock-full of goodness.
✔ 1 package Sugat “10 minutes basmati rice with oats and lentils”
✔ 1 large onion, chopped
✔ 1 Tbsp. oil, use olive oil or canola
✔ 3 cups water
✔ 1 cinnamon stick or ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
✔ 1½ tsp. salt
✔ ½ tsp. turmeric
✔ 5 cloves
✔ ½ cup chopped parsley or cilantro
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or butter)
✔ 1 heaping cup dried fruit strips (apricots, prunes, pineapple, figs, raisins)
✔ 1 Tbsp. sugared ginger, chopped (or ½ tsp. powdered ginger)
✔ ¼ cup shelled walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans (or mixed)
Make rice: Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a pot and fry the onions. Add the contents of the package and mix until coated with oil. Add 3 cups water, cinnamon stick, turmeric, cloves and salt. Bring to a boil, cover partially and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat,and if there is excess water strain.
Add half of the chopped parsley and mix.
While rice is cooking, prepare the fruit mix: In a skillet heat oil and add the sliced fruit and nuts over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add half the parsley and cook for another minute.
When rice is ready add the fruit mixture to the rice and toss. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 24 cm. baking dish Using small pasta for the kugel gives it a different texture. Ptitim are a household ingredient in most Israeli homes and is commonly used instead of rice. Here Tom Franz, winner of TV’s MasterChef, uses ring-shaped ptitim in a special Tu Bishvat apple kugel.
✔ 2 cups ptitim pasta (use the ring shapes)
✔ 50 gr. butter
✔ 3 green apples, cored, peeled and cubed
✔ ⅓ cup raisins
✔ 2 Tbsp. rum (or 2 tsp. rum extract)
✔ 3 eggs
✔ ½ cup sugar
✔ 1 container sour cream
✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
✔ ½ tsp. cinnamon
✔ Pinch salt
✔ Canola oil
In a small bowl, mix rum with 2 Tbsp. water and soak the raisins for 30 minutes. If using rum extract add 4 Tbsp. water.
Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large pot.
Add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook until almost cooked (al dente), and drain.
Heat oven to 180°.
In a large pan, heat half the butter, add apple cubes and sauté until softened a little, about 10 minutes. Add the warm pasta and sprinkle with the remaining butter. Toss gently. Add the raisins with the soaking liquid and mix. In a separate bowl beat eggs, add sugar, sour cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Pour the egg mixture into the pasta and apple mixture and fold together.
Transfer the mixture to a greased baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the kugel is golden-brown.
Serve warm.
Beware – this is addictive. Make sure your guests finish it so you are not tempted to do so.
Recipe courtesy of Smadar Vaknin (Smadi Bomba), from the TV show MasterChef.
✔ 10 dried figs
✔ 10 dried apricots
✔ 10 pitted prunes
✔ 150 gr. shelled walnuts
✔ 100 gr. raisins
✔ 2 onions
✔ 1 Tbsp. silan
✔ ½ tsp. cinnamon
✔ ½ tsp. black pepper Slice all the fruit into 2-3 cm. strips.
Peel the onions and slice into very thin strips.
In a large non-stick deep pan or pot, fry the onion in a little olive oil over mediumlow heat until golden. Add fruit, silan, pepper and cinnamon and mix. Add ¼ cup water, lower heat to minimum and cook until sauce is reduced.
Meanwhile, roast the walnuts on a dry skillet. When sauce is reduced, remove from heat and add the walnuts.
Note: Just before serving you can add peeled pistachio and almonds.
Makes 6 A traditional Indian festive dessert, usually prepared for special occasions, kheer is really a rice pudding with dried fruit. Tom Franz adapted the recipe, making it with pasta (ptitim), rather than rice. This sweet dessert is a real treat served either hot or chilled.
✔ 2 cups Sugat ptitim (stars or other shape)
✔ 50 gr. butter
✔ 6 cups 3% milk
✔ 4 pods cardamom
✔ 1 stick cinnamon or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
✔ 1 clove
✔ 2 anise stars
✔ ½ tsp. nutmeg
✔ ¼ tsp. chili
✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
✔ Pinch salt
✔ ½ cup sugar
✔ ½ cup light raisins
✔ ½ cup sliced almonds, roasted on dry skillet until lightly browned
✔ Rose water (optional) For garnish: choose from crushed pistachio, roasted almonds, rose petals or coconut flakes.
Melt butter in a pot. Add the pasta and mix for 5 minutes. Add 4 cups milk, spices, vanilla, sugar and raisins, and mix well.
Bring to a boil over low heat while mixing.
Add the almonds and rose water, and continue cooking until the pasta is done and mixture thickens. Gradually add the remaining milk until you reach the desired consistency. Taste and add sugar if needed.
Using a teaspoon, remove the cardamom pods, cinnamon stock, anise stars and clove. Divide between the serving dishes and garnish. Serve hot or chill in the refrigerator.
Recipes and photos courtesy of Sugat.