Tu BiShvat (Hebrew for the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) is the new year of the trees.
What better way is there to relax on a hot summer’s night than with a cheese board, wine jelly (a wonderfully sweet counterfoil to strong and earthy blue-veined or chevre cheeses), and a good bottle of wine (preferably from the wine country in northern Israel)?
This recipe was created in 2005 in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Jews in America – inspired by gardening techniques practiced in Plymouth, MA.
Almond cultivation was among the primary occupations of Mediterranean Jews, and it was the Spanish Jews who first replaced flour with ground almonds in baking their tortas.
On Tu BiSh'vat it is customary to eat foods from these seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.
This recipe is more nutritious than typical risotto and has that same risotto consistency, plus the natural starch in the barley grain adds creaminess to the dish. The use of saffron mimics the classic Risotto Milanese, which some connect to the Venetian Jewish community.
It is life we want, no more and no less than that, our own life feeding on our own vital sources, in the fields and under the skies of our homeland, a life based on our own physical and mental labors; we want vital energy and spiritual richness from this living source.
By Joshua Weinberg
“And when you come into the Land, and have planted all manner of food bearing trees… (Lev. 19:23) The Holy one Blessed be he said to the people Israel: Even though you have found [the land] full of plenty, you shall not say: We shall sit and not plant, rather proceed with caution in your planting… For as you have entered and found the fruits of others’ labor, you so shall plant for your children. (Midrash Tanhuma)
If you’re like me, then you may remember that pivotal moment of Jewish education when you received your very own Jewish National Fund (JNF) certificate for a tree planted in Israel. Whether it was for a birth, birthday, bar/bat mitzvah, or in memory of a loved one, a tree was planted in Israel to mark the occasion. The message was clear: with every passing milestone we want to connect Jews to the Land of Israel and to the Zionist enterprise. All of us who were the fortunate recipients of such trees knew in the recesses of our mind that somewhere in that strip of land, in some forest, was our tree, our little piece of Israel. As the certificates read, the JNF wished us the following: “We wish you the fortune of seeing it grow with much pleasure and ease.”