Noshin': A Taste of Tu B’Shevat

This week’s Noshin’ column is a guest post by Amy Gavel, Esq., Teen and Young Adult Activities Director/Chai School Director at Mount Zion Temple.
On Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for trees, it has become customary to eat and bless the seven species.

wheat (chitah)
barley (se’orah)
grapes (gefen)
fig (te’enah)
pomegranate (rimon)
olive (zayit)
date (tamar)

While the almond (shaked) is not one of the seven species, it is the most visible sign of the arrival of Tu B’Shvat in Israel. With the arrival of the midwinter festival of Tu B’Shvat, the pink-white flowers of the almond trees can be seen around Israel’s hillsides. Therefore, many people include almonds in their seder meals.

Meals made from the seven species are great for a Tu B’Shevat seder, or you can just creatively make something up using a variety of fruits or vegetables.
Here are some of the recipes I’ll be using to celebrate Tu B’Shevat this year!

The tree of life has five hundred thousand kinds of fruit, each differing in taste. The appearance of the one fruit is not like the appearance of the other, and the fragrance of the one fruit, is not like the fragrance of the other. Clouds of glory hover above the tree, and from the four directions winds blow on it, so that its fragrance is wafted from the world’s end to world’s end.
Yalkut Beresheet 2.

What a marvelous invitation to create fresh and interesting salads of unusual combinations of flavors and fragrances – like these!
Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon angelica powder
1 long seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
Seeds of 2 pomegranates
1 fresh lime, peeled and sliced
Serves 6

7 Species Salad (Salat Shivat HaMinim)
1 ripe pomegranate – seeds
6 to 8 figs
handful of seedless grapes
2 to 4 dates, sliced
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Barley and wheat croutons
Goat cheese
Bee or date honey
To make the croutons, get bread that has both wheat and barley flour and cut in to bite-sized pieces, place on a baking tray.
In a bowl, combine olive oil and some favorite spices, oregano, basil, and/or thyme. Brush the oil and herb mixture over the bread pieces and bake at 200°C to 225°C (400°F to 450°F) until the bread feels like croutons.
Serves several
Grapefruit and Fennel Salad
2 medium pink grapefruit
2 medium white grapefruit
2 medium ruby grapefruit
6 medium fennel bulbs
(tough outer leaves discarded—save the top feathery leaves)
6 Tablespoons virgin olive oil
Peel the grapefruits, with a serrated knife, slice into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the slices on a plate or platter. Remove the root ends of the fennel bulbs, cut bulbs in half lengthwise. Cut out the core, make slender match stick strips. Scatter fennel strips on top of fruit. Spoon olive oil over all. Chop feathery fennel leaves and sprinkle on top of all. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.
Serves 8
The first fruit we eat at our seders is one with a non-edible shell. We must break the exterior to enjoy what is inside. It is symbolic of the lowest world, and of the kind of work it can take to reach the core of our humanity. A soup of coconut- one of the most delicious foods with an inedible shell – curry, fenugreek seeds, and more is also a reminder of the richness and flavor that make the work of reaching that core more than worthwhile.
Vegan Red-Lentil Coconut Soup
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
2 clove garlic, chopped
2 pinch fenugreek seeds
2 cup dry red lentils
2 cup butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and cubed
2/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
4 cups water
1 (28 ounce) can coconut milk
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoon curry powder
2 pinch cayenne pepper
2 pinch ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and cook the onion, ginger, garlic, and fenugreek until onion is tender. Mix the lentils, squash, and cilantro into the pot. Stir in the water, coconut milk, and tomato paste. Season with curry powder, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, or until lentils and squash are tender.
Serves 6
All life, including our own, is improbable, but somehow the lives of plants, dependent on pollen’s traffic, are particularly so. And yet, they find each other again and again, as they have since the days before the dinosaurs, when giant dragonflies cruised the air, yellow dust no doubt stuck in their prehistoric hair. Ecologist Rob Dunn. In honor of the tireless pollinating work of bees and other insects, I suggest something with a touch of honey!
Maple Syrup or Honey Fried Tofu Over Rice
2 packages tofu – cubed
Maple syrup or honey to taste
Rice – cooked
Spinach – cooked in coconut milk
Cube or slice the tofu and fry it in the butter, when it has begun to brown add the maple syrup or honey and sauté for several minutes.
Cook the rice and the spinach (separately)
Serves 6
(based on a recipe found at
There is a midrash that when God created the world, everything was made a little bit incomplete. Instead of making bread grow from the earth, God made wheat so people might make it into bread. Instead of bricks, God made clay. Why? So that we would become partners in completing the work of creation.
Butternut Squash Pasta (Amy’s recipe)
2 butternut squash
8 cloves garlic
Lots of olive oil to cover everything
2 tsp chili flakes
2 tsp dried sage
Pine nuts or cashews
Pasta – any shape, gnocchi, fusili, Israeli couscous
Salt and pepper.
Cut the squash into cubes, chop the garlic, stir in spices and nuts. Bake at 200F for 40 min. Mix in pasta and serve.
Serves 6
What about dessert? I recommend not saving it for last, and instead enjoying it throughout. Chocolate fondue pots are lovely on a Tu B’Shevat seder table, and fruits, nuts, and chunks of challah are made all the more delightful when dipped in yet one more fruit of a tree!
Chag Sameach Tu B’Shevat!