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Friday, June 24, 2016

Acceptance and Feeling welcome in one's workplace

Cantor Sharon Grainer and me, doing a selfie at Philly Gay Pride 2016
 I've worked for Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel for over 12 years now, well, technically, I'll reach my 12th year anniversary at the end of July, and I'll be entering my 13th season at that time.  In all my years here, I have always felt so incredibly accepted and welcome, as a non-Jewish person and as an openly lesbian woman with a wife and child.

June is Gay Pride Month - Philadelphia celebrated their pride march a few weeks ago, and I marched in the parade as a representative of BZBI.  It was my first official participation in the parade, save for the time 20 years ago when I rode my big red beach cruiser, decorated with tassels, streamers and a rainbow flag, and I inserted myself at the head of the parade and rode through the route as an unofficial "dyke on bike"! I sure do know how to have a good time!

In the years I've worked at BZBI, we've been privileged to participate or witness a number of special weddings.  One year, Phyllis and I got to hold up a Chuppah for a wedding couple being married in our chapel by Rabbi Ira Stone.  Now there's something I can put on my resume!

This past May 20th, BZBI held a special Friday night Shabbat service, called Pride Shabbat.  The Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus sang a pre-shabbat concert service, and the entire service was open to our LGTBQ community.  It was a beautiful evening, made so because it was inclusive of everyone in the community.  At work that following Monday, we received an email from members who now live in Mexico, who were so touched to learn that BZBI held a Pride Shabbat.  From their beautiful note to us, I realized that I wanted to know more about these men, Richard Sinovoi and Elliot Gould, two members of BZBI for over 30 years.  I sent them an email requesting an interview of sorts, with a story about myself and my limited knowledge of them.

What follows is their story and mine, as it appears on the BZBI Shofar Blog.  I'v excerpted some of the post here, and the link to the rest of their story, as it appears on BZBI's website can be reached here:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Carrot Ceci & Feta Salad

Updated: June 22, 2016.  As relevant and fresh today as it was back in 2009. This is perfect for those no-cook days and nights we all are having in our lazy days of summer.  It also works with the many new veggies we are finding in the farmers' market.  You can add in fresh zucchini, string beans or snap peas, all will work well,  I'd shred or julienne the veggies for best taste and texture.

I'd forgotten about this salad dish, idea "borrowed" from the original Sabrina's Cafe on 9th and Catherine in the Italian Market. We used to frequent Sabrina's years ago, in our Pre-Weight Watcher's Days and before the line to get into Sabrina's snaked into the Italian Market and up 9th Street. Back then I ate a full portion of the stuffed french toast with loads of butter and syrup, sides of scrapple and bites of whatever Liz was having. If I went for the lunch entrees, the sides would be those addictive sweet potato fries and a version of carrot, ceci and feta salad. I never knew the exact recipe, I'm not sure anyone did, it seemed to vary from day to day, the cooks tossed in whatever looked good at the moment.

This recipe is a no-cook easy to pull together salad. To tame the bite of red onions, or any onion that will be eaten "raw", cook/cure it with an acidic bath. By that I mean, slice, dice or chop the onions and then sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of lemon or lime juice or red, white or cider vinegar. Allow the onions to soak for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse under cold water and drain. Add the now "cooked" onions to your salad. The sulfuric and onion bite will be diminished greatly. 

You only need a handful of ingredients, this will grow before your eyes, as with most cold salads, once you start to add ingredients, you wind up with more than the sum of the individual parts. Usually I use Fat Free Feta cheese, but lately I have not had good luck with either finding in in the grocery store, or when I do find it, it's gone bad. Since feta cheese is not a high fat cheese, I splurged and used the real stuff. This recipe calls for such a small amount that at 70 calories a tablespoon, it was hardly worth the effort to look for fat free. I'm including a dressing recipe for the salad, however, if you have a good bottled vinaigrette, use it. I once posted a recipe on my other blog for a salad I made when I was in Italy in 2007, which used fava beans and feta - you can check out this version here.

Carrot Ceci and Feta Salad Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion - sliced into thin half moon slices & "cooked" (see note above)
  • 4 Medium Carrots - peeled, washed & coarsely grated
  • 2 Large Celery Stalks - washed & cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 or 5 Radishes - sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 14 to 16 ounce can Ceci Beans (Garbanzo or Chick Peas) - Drained and Rinsed
  • 1/4 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley - loosely packed & minced
For the Dressing:
  • 1 Tablespoon Dry Italian Seasoning Herbs (Thyme, Parsley, Basil, Oregano/Marjoram)
  • 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Dry Ground Mustard Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  1. Prepare the red onion before prepping the other vegetables. Slice half of a medium red onion into thin half moon slices. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and two tablespoons of cider vinegar. Set aside to soak for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. Add the cured/cooked onions to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make the salad dressing by whisking together all of the dry ingredients and the cider vinegar. Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding a pinch more salt, pepper, sugar or herbs if needed. If the dressing is too tart/acidic, drizzle and whisk in more olive oil. Set dressing aside while you prepare the vegetables.
  3. Peel and wash the carrots then grate them on the large holes of a box grater. If using a food processor, use the shredding blade, not a julienne blade. Dice or cut on a bias the celery, about a 1/4 inch thick by a 1/4 inch wide. Add the grated carrots and diced celery to the cured red onions and set aside.
  4. Slice the radishes into thin rounds and add them to the onion/carrot mixture. Add in the 1/2 of the minced parsley, the drained and rinsed ceci beans and crumbled feta. Pour the salad dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to combine. Garnish the salad with the remaining minced parsley. Refrigerate and serve cold. Makes about 6 cups of salad - or will serve 8 as a side salad.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Philly Gay Pride Parade 2016

While too many people were grappling with the senseless murder of our LGTBQ families in Orlando,  this past Sunday, June 12, 2016, folks in Philadelphia were out in full force at the Philly Gay Pride Parade.

It feels weird to post this video, sharing out fun and fabulousness and yet we do live on and live proudly. It sickens me to see where our country is going politically, having the flames of hatred and oppression fanned by bigots and fear-mongers.  I am disgusted with what's happening with so much hatred in the world.  We have too little gun control or practically no sensible gun laws.  Where's the ban on semi-automatic weapons? Why do we even need such a gun outside of a war zone? Our schools, clubs, and religious institutions are not war zones - they should be and MUST BE SAFE ZONES.

I mourn the loss of lives in Orlando. I mourn, yet again, another mass killing of innocent people.  Our LGTBQ Community and I shall stay committed to living life with as much love and spirit as we can muster. #LoveAlwaysWins #LoveWins

Friday, June 10, 2016

Food Finds: Garlic Scapes

Updated: June 10, 2016 

From June 2009: We purchased a farm share this summer in a local CSA. Our crops started coming in the first week of June, as we missed the earlier start in May. Not much of a difference in the months - what with all of the rain, cool weather and decidedly Seattle Spring-like atmosphere. The farm shares thus far have been lettuces, cool crop greens and a few root vegetables such as turnips and some beets. One of the more interesting vegetables received in the past three weeks were garlic scapes. The scapes are the shoot that comes up out of the ground as the garlic bulb grows, matures and turns into the multi-cloved bulb we know and love. Eventually the green shoot will turn white and hard, almost woody. However before this process happens, you can enjoy the scapes as you would scallions or chives albeit with a far greater impact and taste kick. As I am fond of saying when I'm teaching a cooking class or on a culinary food tour - nature's giving us a 2-for-1 gift. Eventually we can enjoy the punch of aromatic garlic but first we can partake in the pugnacious scape.

Scapes can be used in a variety of ways much like garlic or onions; sauted, frizzle fried, chopped and use raw (ouch! and whew!) or as I discovered, turned into either a pesto or garlic scape oil for later use. I've sauted the scapes in the past instead of using garlic and have had success. This time however, I wanted the scapes to last a bit longer so I pureed them in some good extra virgin olive oil along with 2 or 3 extra garlic clovers for good measure. You don't need to use the best olive oil, extra virgin or olive oil at all - but it's what I had on hand (having purchased a good deal on a case of imported Italian Olive Oil direct from the manufacturer.) Light olive oil, canola oil or grape seed oil would all work well, allowing the garlic scapes' flavor to dominate. The recipe, as it were, is more of a how-to, not really an ingredient and direction list.

There are three ingredients, one piece of equipment and one step to process. To turn the scape oil into a pesto, add some grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and either pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds.  To make it vegan, use a tablespoon of dry mustard powder, such as Coleman's, instead of the cheese.

Garlic Scape Oil Ingredients:
  • 1 Bunch Garlic Scapes - washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Cup (or up to 2 cups) of Olive oil (or neutral oil of choice; canola, light olive or grape seed oil)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - blanched or roasted (optional, but it'll taste better!)
  • Blender or Food Processor

  1. Wash scapes and cut into 1 inch pieces, discarding the tip and bulb that has formed. Dry and add to the blender jar or food processor bowl.
  2. Pulse a few times. With the blender or processor on, drizzle in the oil until a uniform light green puree is achieved - about 2 minutes. If you want a thicker scape oil, use up to 1 cup of oil. For a thinner oil, use up to 2 cups of oil.
  3. Pour the oil with the solids into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid - such as a clean Mason/Bell jelly jar. Allow the oil and solids to settle and the flavors to marry. You can strain off the solids through a fine mesh strainer, using the garlic oil as you would any flavored oil - for cooking or salad dressings. The solids can be used like minced garlic in a saute.
  4. The oil and solids, either together or separated can also be frozen in small batches and tossed into soups, gravies or tomato sauce too. Frozen, it will hold for up to 3-4 months.
  5. Refrigerate the oil and use within 2 weeks.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Roasted Strawberry and Chia Seed Jam

From Farmers' Market to jar in several easy steps - making roasted strawberry chia seed jam is an easy way to savor the best of the spring fruit well into the winter months.  With only 4 ingredients and NO ADDED sugar, this strawberry jam recipe is one you can feel good about making, eating and sharing.  I suggest that you use only the freshest, most local strawberries you can find, these are the only one's worth preserving and are probably a safer eating choice. Given that the strawberry has topped the list of the "Dirty Thirty" foods/vegetables/fruits I cannot recommend using frozen strawberries or strawberries from the supermarket where they've been trucked in from hundreds of miles away.
Get 'em while you can! These gems will only be available for a short time.
We hit up the Collingswood Farmers' Market, by biking down early on Saturday, the morning of The Collingswood May Fair, but not early enough apparently as several vendors were already sold out of their ruby gems.  I found some from A.T. Buzby Farms and Fruitwood Farms.  One of the vendors told me they had sold out by 9 am and had another van-load of strawberry flats brought in for the rest of the morning.  Glad I was able to purchase a few quarts.  When the weather in these parts goes from a rainy, chilly, 60 degrees one week to blazing hot high 80's, you just don't know how long you'll be able to get these luscious spring fruits.  Buy what you can now.  Next week they might not be here!

Nate couldn't wait to bite into a berry - he ate one as soon as I bought them.
I've been wanting to make this jam ever since the winter when I swapped for a jar of it at one of my food swaps with the South Jersey Swappers in Hammonton, NJ.  My friend, Amy, made it and told me it was super low in sugar.  I asked her for the recipe and was astonished to discover that it has NO ADDED sugar, only the natural sugars in the strawberries.  

No filter - that's how pretty these strawberries were!
To make this into a jam, the natural pectin in the strawberries add to the thickener but with the addition of chia seeds, a serious super food, the gelling qualities in chia seeds thicken the jam up to a perfect consistency.  You can jar it into clean containers and keep it for a few weeks in the refrigerator, freeze it for a few months, or can it in a water-bath method.  It's up to you and how much you make and how much time you have for processing.  Since my batch only yielded about 16 ounces (put up into three containers), I decided not to can the jam.  I kept one jar in the refrigerator and froze the other two containers.  If I'm lucky enough to be able to buy a flat of strawberries at one of our local farms, then I can do some serious canning.

Roasting the strawberries in the oven was an idea I had based on talking with some friends who had made a roasted strawberry ice-cream.  That's another recipe idea I'm working on - making it vegan no less - stay tuned for that one soon.  
In the meantime I thought that roasted the strawberries with balsamic vinegar, a good, thick aged balsamic, would bring out a sweetness and nuance that wouldn't be in the original recipe that my friend, Amy, shared with me from the blog,  I always have to make a recipe my own in some small way if I can!  Other than using the oven and a tablespoon or two of a good quality balsamic vinegar, you won't need any special tools or techniques.   
A tablespoon is all you need!
Chia seeds can be found a lot of supermarkets these days.  My favorite place to buy them is from Aldi.  A bag costs less than $3.  Best prices I've found anywhere.  Use chia seeds in smoothies, oatmeal, over-night oats, in baked goods, in your yogurt, or as a chia seed pudding made with whatever milk you can drink.  For the lemon juice, I used a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice.  You can use fresh squeezed if you have the lemons.  For canning, I prefer to use bottled - it's pasteurized so I know it's safe to use.
Three containers, yeilding about 16 ounces.
Enough to get me through the summer at least!
Hoping to put up jars for the season this week.
Roasted Strawberry and Chia Seed Jam Ingredients:
  • 2 Quarts Strawberries - rinsed and hulled and cut in half
  • 2 Tablespoons Thick Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice (Fresh or Bottled, either is fine)
Enjoy the video montage of how I made the jam, with an apropos music choice to go along with it!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Clean the strawberries, rinsing under cold running water, then hull and slice in half.  Place strawberries onto a sheet tray lined with either parchment paper or a Silpat.  Sprinkle two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the strawberries and toss to combine.  Roast the strawberries for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the juices released are thick and syrupy, and the strawberries have reduced in size and look caramelized.
  3. Remove strawberries from the oven and put them into a 3 quart sauce pot, scraping all the juices into the pot.  Cook the strawberries over medium heat until they break down further.  To accelerate the process, smash the strawberries with a potato masher, the back of a wooden spoon, or if your adventurous, puree them with an immersion blender or in a food processor/blender/chopper.
  4. Once the strawberries have been mashed to a uniform consistency, add in the tablespoon of chia seeds and the teaspoon of lemon juice and stir to combine. 
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil for five minutes, then remove from heat and pour into your clean prepared jars.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace in each jar or container if freezing or canning.
  6. For refrigerator storage, the jam will keep for up to two weeks. 
  7. For freezing, leave 1/2 inch headspace, cool thorougly before placing freezer-safe containers not the freezer.  Keep frozen until use, for up to 3 months.
  8. **To can the jars, follow the directions for a water-based canning method - boiling jam for five minutes then simmering it for another 10 minutes.  Pour hot jam into hot, cleaned/sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace in each jar.  To keep the acidity levels high enough to keep these safe, I usually add in a 1/4 teaspoon of bottled lemon juice to each jar that I'm about to can for each 4-8 ounce jar.  If canning in larger jars, such as pints, use a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice on top of each jar before sealing. 
  9. Release air bubbles in jars by sliding a knife into the side of each jar.  Wipe jar mouth clean then place lid and screw band onto the jars, tightening until it is finger-tip tight.  Place jars into the water-bath and process for 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and leave jars in water-bath for 5 minutes, then remove and place jars onto a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool for 12 hours.  If any jars did not seal, place that jar into the refrigerator and use the jam within one week.  The sealed processed jars can be kept in a cool, dark place for up to one year.