Posted by Rob Eshman
I’ve never been a sit-still meditator. I tried it once when I was 23 and living in San Francisco and trying things. One week I read Ram Dass and that weekend I decided, as generations of my ancestors did before me, to try Buddhism. I signed up for a meditation weekend at Tassajara in Green Gulch, just north of the city.
I hated everything about that weekend but the food. I had the Tassajara cook book, full of brown rice and sea weed and stir fries and tempeh—things that are time consuming to shop for and prepare—so I appreciated that the kitchen staff would be making those recipes for me. Buit in between meals I had to sit on the floor in a long airy conference room and meditate. Stay still. Cross my legs until they inevitably cramped or fell asleep.
A monk walked back and forth like a colonel in Stalag 17 and used a single strong finger to poke the place on my back that he wanted me to straighten. I spent every session trying to gauge by the sound of his barefoot steps how close he was to me and when the next finger poke would come. I decided that except for the food, I’m a lousy Buddhist.
And I still can’t meditate, not like that anyway.
I’m envious that my wife incorporates meditation into her daily routine. She holes up in her study, sits on the floor, and just…sits on the floor. I peak in sometimes and watch her, which seems pretty romantic to me. She wears sunglasses and a hoodie. I call it Unabomber Meditation. It clearly works for her.
My own meditation is this: I watch the goat and chickens.
This past July I rescued a pygmy goat from the same Huntington Park butcher store cum pet shop I rescued our chickens from. It’s a longer story, which I’ll get to, but one thing I’ve found is that a goat can be…entrancing.
Evidently I’m not alone. There’s a whole book, “The Year of the Goat,” that chronicles the adventures of a couple who left their home and set out on a year-long journey to document goat-raising in America. It is not sappy or farm-y or simply nostalgic: Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz are photo-journalists who clearly see a link between the health of “goat culture” in America and the health of the family farm, the environment and the food supply. (Schatz himself is a Time magazine photog who also authored, “A Culture Rekindled: Jewish Traditions Return To Russia.” In 1994 he traveled to Poland to document the creation of Warsaw’s first Jewish day school in 45 years.). Even if you haven’t fallen under the goat spell, you’ll like this book.
Anyway, last evening I got home from work as the sun was setting, went to the backyard, and just stared at the goat. This morning I took my cup of hot yerba mate out and sippd it while I, yes, stared at the goat. She crunches dry brown ficus leaves and berries. Nibbles the weeds. Tastes the bamboo. And I just watch her, like Walt Whitman lost in his cows, “I think I could turn and live with Animals...”
When darkness fell, I returned the goat—her name is Goldie Horn- to her fenced in yard and walked back inside. I was calm. I was centered. I had meditated.
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October 19, 2009 | 4:42 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Last weekend I noticed that the pomegranates that I had been waiting all year to ripen were now overripe. Many had burst open, and birds and bugs were having their way with the bright red seeds. Two months ago I looked at the then-green fruit and thought, What’s taking you so long? They listened, my attention turned elsewhere, and now I’d missed the peak.
I grabbed our ladder, went out to the tree and began picking. When it was over, I had filled a bright red 19 gallon bucket with some 30-40 pounds of fruit. Another 20 pounds was split, infested, bird-eaten—lost and left to rot on the tree.
The plan was to make a pomegranate cordial as I had last year. I had just read a story about the Slow Food movement, and realized that while we all support the movement, we support it in hopes that we will be able to buy the products of Slow Food makers in our local stores. In other words, we want to buy Slow Food as fast and conveniently as we buy everything else. Do we actually want to make Slow Food? That’s a different story. That’s the difference between praying ourselves, and having our rabbi or minister pray for us. It’s the difference between doing penance and buying an indulgence.
But there’s another category of Slow Food that is of a different order than the fastidiously made, laboriously produced meats and cheeses and vinegars you find in high end stores. That’s the DIY Slow Food: made from produce or animals you raise yourself, then wrested into product by your own hands, on your own time. It’s Slow Food money can’t buy, and it delivers a hard, eternal truth about Slow Food. It takes time. It takes patience. It’s really slow,
Rob’s Pomegranate Cordial
Wash ripe pomegranates. Submerge in a large bowl or tub of water. Cut open and with your fingers pry out the seeds. They will fall to the bottom of the bucket while the pith will rise to the top.
Scoop off and discard pith, drain all the water, then re-rinse seeds, drain well..
Using your hands, squeeze the seeds to extract the juice. Strain through damp cheesecloth, squeezing well.
Make a simple syrup by boiling water and sugar 1:1. Let cool.
Fill a clean bottle half way with juice. Add 1/8-1/4 syrup and the rest vodka. Shake and taste. Add more juice, syrup or vodka to balance flavor. It should be sweet, tart and juicy with a slight alcohol kick.
Seal and refrigerate a few days to mellow the flavors. Serve in cordial glasses, well chilled, or mix with Prosecco, champagne or white wine.
By the time I had finished, it was dark and cold and I woke up the next day with a fever. I suffered for my craft.
Was it worth it? Served cold and straight up in small glasses, this cordial has a sweet, juicy tang, and delivers a warm and welcome buzz. My wife, who rarely drinks, threw down two glasses like a saloon cowboy. For all that effort, I made three bottles.
But it was worth it.
October 5, 2009 | 12:18 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
In her sermon on Friday night, Naomi talked about Sukkot. She said the rabbis called the holiday, “The time of our happiness,” and command us to be “only happy” during the seven days of the Festival.
“What does it mean to be ‘only happy’?” she asked. “How can one command happiness?”
The answer, of course, is eating in the sukkah. It’s pretty hard to be miserable when you’re sitting in a play house dining and drinking with friends.
We’ve had two dinners in ours so far, Saturday and Sunday night, and the novelty hasn’t worn off. Except for the fact that the weather in Venice plunged below 70 degrees and we had to fend off the bitter mid-60s chill, our sukkah meals proved that religion, like armies, march on their stomachs.
Saturday Night Sukkah Menu for 15
Prosecco and Pomegranate
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata and Arugula
Wild Coho Salmon with Salsa Verde
Broccoli Sauteed with Garlic, Anchovy and Hot Pepper
Roasted New Potatoes
Pumpkin Chalah and Pumpkin Pie
Fresh Lemon Verbena Tea
Now, Sunday night was going to be a whole different menu, but I had a side of fish I hadn’t cooked, more tomatoes, more burrata and more pie. So:
Sunday Night Sukkah Menu for 18
Prosecco and Pomegranate
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Avocado and Basil
Wild Coho Salmon with Fig Vin Cotto
Rapini Sauteed with Garlic and Melted Burrata
Olive Oil and Potato Puree
Fig and Apple Crostata made and brought by a friend
Fresh Lemon Verbena Tea
At the end of the meals Naomi offered everyone a chance to shake the lulav an etrog. The lulav is a set of three branches—myrtle, willow and palm—bound together ina kind of woven palm sheath. The etrog is a kind of citrus fruit, an oblong lemon-looking thing with a pronounced stem and blossom bud at either end. The idea is you stand holding the two items together, say a blessing, then shake the branches until they make a rain-like sound, side to side, up down and behind you. It looks like a Jewish rain dance—and it just might have its origins in that kind of ritual. No one really knows how it developed, and it’s not as widely observed a ritual as, say, circumcision or eating lox or reading the Sunday New York Times. The kids liked doing it last night—I got a sense the adults were a bit self-conscious—or maybe I’m just speaking about this adult.
Naomi can do these things with meaning and abandon—ancient ancient acts that make me feel as if I might as well be shaking blowing a conch horn and howling at the moon. But I suppose that why we’re a good balance—she handles the arcane mysteries of our faith, and I serve it up hot and steamy and real.
It makes for a complete experience, I suppose. It makes us all want to linger a little longer in the sukkah, and even start talking about clearing out the table and spending the night inside it.
“Go for it,” a friend suggested. “What happens in the sukkah stays in the sukkah.”
Rapini Sauteed with Garlic and Melted Burrata
I copied this dish from a menu item at Luna Park on La Brea and Wilshire. If you want to get your kids to love dark, bitter green vegetables, this is the way.
1 pound rapini
2 balls burrata
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
½ c. good olive oil
¼ t. red chili flakes
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the rapini until they are tender and still bight green, but softer than al dente. Remove and drain.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until the slices are sweet and translucent. Add the red pepper flakes, then the rapini, and tos until well coated and heated through. Cut the burrata in quarters and place over the rapini. Let melt into the greens on their own, or place in a hot oven until just beginning to melt. Serve warm.
Tomorrow: “The Heresy of Pot Luck”
October 2, 2009 | 9:25 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Last year at this time we were sitting in our Sukkah with a few friends when one of them said, “Why isn’t Sukkot everyone’s holiday?”
I remember what we were eating (with commentary):
Venison Lasagne with Wild Mushrooms
(No cheese. Just layers of braised shredded venison and mushrooms and wine layered between thin sheets of pasta I made. I’d bought the venison from a kosher organic supplier in upstate New York. 10 pounds of meet came in freezer pack by Fed Ex. We could have gone to Luques for what that cost, but I have the terrible habit of blowing budgets when it comes to food. Like the poor who still donat to build cathedrals, I believe that what I give to the gods of food will somehow come back to me).
Cinderella Pumpkin Filled with Kale, Canellini, roasted garlic and Roasted Leeks
[beautiful and soupy.]
Roasted Chicken with Meyer Lemon, Garlic and Bay
[The lemon, garlic and bay from our garden].
Salad with Fennel and Pomegranates
[ditto the fennel and pomegranates—from the garden. It was a good year].
Great chunks of fine bittersweet chocolate, figs and fruit and nuts for dessert.
[As I get older, this is the dessert that makes me happiest. Straight chocolate. Seasonal fruit. Cashews and almonds. Hit the imported chocolate section at Gelsons and go for variety: it’s a dessert and a conversation piece. ]
“Why isn’t Sukkot for everyone?” GREAT question. It’s the ideal holiday. You eat outside. You don’t have to go to synagogue, or follow long liturgy. You eat and drink in ahut outside, like 11 year old boys playing secret clubhouse.
The first time my wife and I celebrated Sukkot together as a couple was also the first time I built my own sukkah. That was simply bad planning.
I believe that in the same way Victorian brides were taken aside and offered private instruction on conjugal relations prior to marriage, certain Jewish men should receive a few lessons on the varieties of concrete footing and the purpose of corner bracing.
I grew up in Encino in the Mad Men era—there were many two-car garages, but few sukkahs. Living in Israel, I began to enjoy the holiday for the first time. Jews are commanded to mark the Biblical wandering in the desert by building huts and spending quality time in them. A holiday that involved eating great food and wine outside with friends quickly became my favorite holiday. As for the hut itself, I assumed my Israeli friends did what we in Encino would have done—called a Latino contractor to raise the thing.
I tried to go simple and cheap for my first sukkah. I bought 2-inch PVC pipes and connectors, clipped some banana leaves from a house I drove by on Brooktree, and built what looked like a giant, hairy tinker toy. The weight of the leaves collapsed the whole contraption before I stepped foot in it.
I stepped up to two-by-fours and molded concrete footings, something I either remembered reading in an old copy of The Jewish Catalog, or saw on an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Either way, it was sturdy and sat six and a half people and a pot of homemade green corn tamales comfortably—until someone accidentally backed his chair into a post, and the whole structure slowly, inexorably collapsed to the ground.
Eventually I found a Lebanese Muslim man who sold booths to vendors at the local farmers market. I asked how much something like that would cost for home use.
“For Sukkot?” he asked.
We’ve had that sukkah for a decade now, and I can put it up in less than an hour, provided I control the stopwatch and define what “an hour” means.
The sukkah is swathed in white muslin on four sides and, as per Jewish law, has a roof through which you can see the stars and feel the raindrops.
And that sukkah has become a symbol, a microcosm, of everything I believe Judaism can be: open, appealing, joyous, inclusive.
And an endless parade of great meals.
All Sukkot I’ll post various Sukkot meals I’ve made, along with some recipes.
First, below is the Pumpkin Challah I created that first sukkot, and that I still make today.
Have a great holiday….
Meanwhile, what Burning man and Sukkot have in common: read here.
ROB’S PUMPKIN CHALLAH
2 packages active dry yeast (2 tablespoons)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 c. canned or fresh pumpkin puree
1 pinch saffron (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast, saffron and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. Whisk the oil, 2 eggs, 1 c. mashed pumpkin, saffron, sugar and salt into yeast/water.
3. Gradually add flour, stirring with spoon or mixer paddle. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 7-10 minutes. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. Divide dough in two pieces Roll each into a 3” thick rope. Twist into a snail shape. Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Let rise another hour.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using.
7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden.
September 25, 2009 | 6:32 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Now that it’s almost Yom Kippur, the kapparot stands along Pico Robertson are in full bloom. Here’s a sign I saw for one of them, set up in the parking lot of a building at Pico and Shenandoah.
Kapparot is a ceremony that takes place in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur during which Jews swing live chickens above their heads while reciting a chant that symbolically transfers their sin onto the bird: ““This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement. This rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace.”
It is a custom now confined largely to the Orthodox or Hasidic community. Other Jews who observe kapparot do so symbolically by transferring money to charitable causes.
But around LA and other big cities, you can still find plenty of places to swing a chicken. And you’ll recognize them by the stench, the shrieks of the birds, the stealthy, guilt-clouded atmosphere at which these men (mostly it’s men) carry out a duty they know most people find cruel, and which indeed inflicts a measure of absolutely superfluous cruelty on animals destined to die. A kaparot area resembles nothing so much as the seediest strip club, where men slink in and out, compelled by a force they can scarcely understand.
This week we published on line a terrific piece by Dr. Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns that took issue with the practice from the point of view of animal welfare. Read it, then let’s discuss how by 5771, Los Angeles can be the first Jewish community to find a meaningful ethical replacement for live chickens at kapparot:
Kapparot is a ceremony preceding Yom Kippur in which many Orthodox Jews, especially in the Hasidic world, swing chickens around their heads while reciting a chant about transferring their sins symbolically onto the bird:
The chickens are then slaughtered and may be given to the poor. The idea is that when practitioners swing chickens slated for slaughter, they’re supposed to regard the slaughter of the bird as a substitute for the punishment that God in “strict justice” would mete out to them instead of mercy. Rather than the sinner, the innocent chicken suffers “strict justice.” This idea of the role of the chicken contradicts assertions that chickens used in Kapparot ceremonies are treated with compassion.
Documentation of Kapparot ceremonies shows that the birds are seldom if ever treated humanely. On the contrary, prior to the ceremony, the chickens are packed in crates, often for days without food, water or shelter. Birds not used have been found abandoned in their crates when the ceremony was over. Practitioners often stand around chatting with fellow observers while holding a chicken with the wings pulled painfully backward and the legs dangling, as if the bird were an inanimate object instead of living, feeling being.
This way of holding chickens is painful and potentially injurious to them. It is particularly painful given that the main types of chickens used in Kapparot ceremonies are young “broiler” chickens about six weeks old. These birds have been bred to grow many times faster and larger than normal chickens. As a result, they are susceptible to painful joint degeneration, crippling lameness, and heart attacks reflecting genetic infirmities incurred in the quest for meat production. In his paper “Pain in Birds,” Dr. Michael Gentle cites the “widespread nature of chronic orthopaedic disease in domestic poultry,” and Dr. John Webster, professor of animal husbandry in the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science, points out that these birds “have grown too heavy for their limbs and/or become so distorted in shape as to impose unnatural stresses on their joints.”
Shown pictures of chickens being held with their wings pulled back by Kapparot practitioners, Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Poultry Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, wrote that “holding a domestic fowl with the wings pinned back as shown will be painful. It will be extremely painful if the bird is held in this position for some minutes.” Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, observed that “the manner in which the man is holding the chicken, with the wings pulled back, puts the chicken at risk for ligament and tendon injury, possibly even bone fracture.”
Opponents of the use of chickens in Kapparot ceremonies point out that their use is not required by the Torah or the Talmud. Most Kapparot observers swing money for charity as a gesture of atonement, repentance, and goodwill. Swinging money in a handkerchief, which maintains the tradition of giving charity to the poor, has been endorsed by many rabbis and is mentioned in prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur, which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.
In the 16th century, a Code was devised to offer practical guidance in the application of Written and Oral Laws. This Code, known as the Shulchan Aruch, is considered authoritative within Orthodox circles. In it, the concept of tzaar baalei chaim - the mandate not to cause unnecessary pain to any living creature - is affirmed: “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non-Jew.” In other words, the concept of tzaar baalei chaim includes a need not only to avoid causing pain to animals, but also to show them compassion.
For these reasons, we urge Jews and others who care about animals to disperse the kindness message in Jewish teachings that encourage compassion for animals. We urge that Kapparot observers use money instead of chickens, and that rabbis incorporate the cruel facts about the use of chickens in Kapparot ceremonies, and how to have a compassionate ceremony, into their Rosh Hashanah sermons. While reducing the suffering of the chickens is possible, genuinely compassionate treatment of the birds is not compatible with their use in these rituals, which do not require them. Even in communities where religious traditions are strong, customs can evolve to a higher standard of justice and compassion for all of God’s creatures, and this is what opponents of using chickens in Kapparot ceremonies are asking for.
Karen Davis, PhD is president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For more information, visit www.upc-online.org.
September 24, 2009 | 7:59 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I bought my first chickens more than 16 years ago, when we lived in Santa Monica. We moved to Venice, I went chickenless for years, then about five years ago discovered the Omlet, a clean and cool way to coop them up, and started again.
Now Susan Orleans in The New Yorker has brought the Omlet and chicken raising to the level of sophistication and acceptance only an article in The New Yorker by Susan Orleans can confer. That just may create an orgy of chicken buying that parallels the Great Beagle Run of the early 60s, when the Snoopy character in the Peanuts comic strip unleashed beagle-mania on America. That had to end badly, as a former beagle owner like myself would know. (What’s the difference between a beagle and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.)
But… before you buy your chickens from a pet store, hatchery or farm supply store, consider the fourth option: rescue.
Pidyon ha’ben is Hebrew for “redemption of the first born,” an arcane Jewish ritual that involves a symbolic buying back of the first born son from Temple service. A simple and obvious pun turns it into a redemption of hens from certain slaughter, the fate of many a bird in ethnic markets around big cities.
I get my chickens from John’s Feed Store, which is, in actuality,a Latino butcher shop in the all-Latino area south of downtown LA. Chickens spend their lives in stacks of cages, awaiting the time when a customer will come in and order a pollo vivo. A worker will pull out a big healthy bird, hold its neck to a rotating razor blade, and bleed it, gut it, and defeather it while you wait. None of this is hidden—you pick your bird, then watch it killed in a window area as if you’re watching a candy maker on the boardwalk.
The idea is that fresh birds taste better. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never bought a dead bird from one of these places, but I do buy my live birds there. I ask for a pollo vivo, and then I quickly specify “no muerte”—not dead. They’ll give you a hen unless you specify a rooster—roosters cost more, because they’re considered to be part supper, part Viagra. Again, I wouldn’t know.
The helper always gives me a funny look—I think she thinks I want to bring it home and kill it myself. She calls to a worker, who stuffs my bird into a filthy cardboard box, and I pay my 6 bucks and take it home.
Since these are mature hens, I end up with eggs within weeks, not the months it takes if you buy chicks or young birds. And every time I look at the birds, I get the satisfaction of telling them how I saved their lives, how they don’t know how lucky they are. And is there any more pure religious feeling than feeling supremely self-righteous? I don’t think so. Even better, mine is a good deed that gives back in fresh eggs.
If you live in the LA area, you can find a rescue bird from John’s, or from one of the several places in Chinatown that sell live hens. In San Francisco, Boston and New York’s Chinatown, you’ll also find live bird sellers.
Next week: my rescue goat.
Click here to find Johns.
September 23, 2009 | 2:52 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
I know, it sounds like the opening line of Penthouse Letters, but it’s true. During the High Holy Days, when Naomi leads Nashuva services, she has the band over to run through the music for the special Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur liturgy. Sounds great, two guitars, a bass, two singers, a pianist and a violin all amped up in our living room, all night. I love the music, but I also like to get away from it. Hearing the Yom Kippur melodies five days before the actual holiday spoils the misery for me. It’s a liturgy that means a lot to me on one day every year, but its impact dwindles when I hear it rehearsed over Johnnie’s pizza, wine, beer, and Coke on the other side of my bedroom door.
So I stayed away for a while.
I took a book and dropped into Cole P.E. on 6th street downtown, where I had just finished a meeting. It was 5 pm. I ordered an Anchor Steam. I was already feeling melancholy—Naomi had the band do one Yom Kippur prayer to the tune of “I Will Remember You,” a song I played endlessly when my cousin Lloyd dies. And the Anchor Steam—shit, after I ordered it I remembered Lloyd and I actually visited the brewery.
But I drank it slowly and looked down the bar, at all the other men, shoulders hunched, slightly stubbly beards, thinking, drinking. Do women ever find as much comfort in a bar as men do? And I realized: they all, basically, look just like me. Middle age-ish. Trying to gather their souls back to them after a long day. Letting the alcohol transport their thoughts beyound their immediate worries. They wore their shirts out. They spoke—I overheard—of commercials to film, a song score to write for a Disney movie featuring a pair of 11 year old girls, baseball scores. The bartenders, men a decade younger, but they’ll get there, served us beers and Cole’s retro cocktails. Somewhere 13 miles west my wife was lost in ancient melodies, but could this scene, this need, be any less ancient?
After the Anchor Steam I was tempted by the menu’s description of the Rickey: fresh lime juice, Millers gin, simple syrup, soda. Love those. And I was tempted by the bottles of once-rare Italian apertifs and digestifs behind the bar: Punt e Mes, Fernet, Aperol. But I had to drive home. I nodded good bye to the bartender, and took leave of my pew-mates with the ritual grunt. Yom Kippur was waiting.
September 21, 2009 | 8:05 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
My resolution for the New Year is to make more cholent.
Cholent is the traditional Sabbath stew, assembled and put in the oven (or on the stove, or in a crock pot) on Friday before the Sabbath, then cooked at a low temperature until Sabbath lunch.
I made one for Rosh Hashana, and remembered what a difference a good cholent can make in your life.
Having a big pot of stew cooking all night and day perfumes your house, whets your appetite for hours., Cholent is gastronomic foreplay. It demands that you take time on Saturday for a big meal. No errands. No Home Depot. No running off to a movie. It demands you invite friends over: try making a cholent for two, or even four. And it demands you slow down and relax the rest of the afternoon—cholent demands a post-meal nap. It is healthy eating, but it is not light eating.
These are all good things as far as I’m concerned—good smells, good food, long meals, a good nap—and cholent is the Way.
I prefer a Moroccan style cholent, called a dafina, or the more general Sephardic style, called Hamin. Both have more intricate spicing than Ashkenazic. Keep in mind: whichever you choose, this is as easy as cooking gets. If you can throw clothes in a suitcase, you can throw ingredients in a pot, and that’s cholent.
Here’s my recipe:
1 pound white beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 heads garlic, peeled
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in 2 ” chunks
2 yams, peeled and cut in 2 ” chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 2 ” chunks
1 t. cumin
1 t. tumeric
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. paprika
1 T. salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper
2 pounds brisket
2 pounds lamb or beef bone (or shortribs)
1 c. rice, wrapped loosely in cheesecloth
3 T. olive oil
1 pound ground turkey,lamb, beef and or chicken
2 t. ras el-hanout (Moroccan spice mixture)
Mix ground meat with two eggs and ras-el hanout and 1 t. salt. Roll in log, wrap in foil or cheesecloth and seal tightly. Drizzle olive oil over rice.
In a very large oven and stove proof pot, heat 3 T. olive oil until hot. Add the brisket and sear on all sides until a crust develops. Remove, pour off excess fat, and deglaze with some water. Place half the beans in the pot. Add half the garlic. Lay in the brisket, the ground meat loaf, the rest of the beans, the rice, the vegetables, the eggs and the spices. Add water to go 3/4 up to the top. Bring to boil then simmer one hour. Cover with tight-fitting lid. Place in oven preheated to 250 degrees.
Cook overnight, at least 8 hours. Check twice or so to make sure water is still at 3/4 level. Serve hot, offering each guest a little of everything. Great with some harissa on the side.
Serves 15 very hungry people
For a vegetarian version, leave out the meat. No one will starve.