Chicken with Figs

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 January 2011 05:35 Written by Flax Tuesday, 18 January 2011 05:05

Lemon slices with figs

While I do try to keep my site vegan and health oriented, every so often I do post a special holiday recipe that has nothing to do with health but is instead holiday oriented.  While this dish is for carnivores, for those who are interested in eating only vegan, it makes a fantastic fig chutney.

 This dish was fist made for me by an old friend of mine, Adeena Sussman.  One evening, many years ago,  Adeena dropped by to visit.  She then proceeded to cook dinner for myself and my newly married husband. Her recipe has become a family favorite, one that I especially like to make it for Tu b’shvat as it has figs, one of the seven species.  

While Adeena’s recipe calls for baking the dish in a fruity white wine, I prefer to cook mine slowly on the stove top, this allows the figs to turn into a jam that just melts in your mouth.  Both ways are good, Adeena’s is perhaps more American in flavor while my dish is perhaps more Moroccan in style.


  • 1 chicken, quartered and skin removed
  • olive oil
  • 20 dried figs, sliced into 4
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • turmeric
  • chili pepper
  • salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a tight lid.  Brown the chicken on both sides.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Cover with the lid, bring to a boil and allow to cook over a low flame for one hour, being careful that the bottom doesn’t burn.  If it looks like the bottom will burn than you can add a little more water to the pot. 

Remove the lid, if there is any extra water, boil it out.

Serve hot on a bed of rice.


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Tu Be’shvat Pilaf

Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 12:41 Written by Flax Thursday, 13 January 2011 01:27

quinoa with dried fruit and nuts

I ate this dish at  Rakel Berenbaum’s house last tu beshvat. Rakel Berenbaum is the author of Portion on the Portion, for Torah Tidbits and a highly acclaimed cook and torah scholar.   The platter that she served was gorgeous, delicious, and a conversation piece as well.

While I based my platter on her idea, I decided to do it a little bit differently. Rakel made her dish with white rice, reflecting upon the whiteness of the manna.  I chose to make my dish with quinoa instead.  If we were to follow the theme in Rakel’s dvar torah, we can say that the quinoa reflects the nutritional aspect of the manna.  Just as the manna supplied the Jewish people with all their nutritional needs in the desert, so quinoa can supply us with almost all of our nutritional needs today.  Quinoa was referred to as the “mother grain” by the Incas due to the fact that it is so high in nutrients.  Quinoa has the highest protein content of all the grains, it has more calcium than milk and it a  is a good source of iron, phosphorous, B vitamins and vitamin E.

Rice is sticky and is known for holding it’s shape.  In order for the quinoa to do this I needed to use ground  flax seed.  Flax seed works similarly to egg in that it can bind foods together and it really does work almost as well as the egg does.  It is also a much healthier alternative, cleansing the intestines and  lowering the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

Additionally, I cooked the quinoa together with spices.  Some people tell me that they do not like quinoa, often it is because they are not preparing it properly.  Here are a few tips to help improve the flavor of the quinoa.

  • Always rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove the bitter coating on the outside.
  • Remove the pot from the flame before the water is completely absorbed–if you wait until the water is all absorbed you will burn your pot.  Shut the flame when you see the holes made by the steam but there is still a drop of water at the bottom.
  • Quinoa doesn’t absorb flavor or liquid after it has been cooked.  If you want your quinoa to taste like something other than plain quinoa then add the desired flavors to the cooking water.

The recipe below contains a variety of flavors and spices.  The reason why I use such of large variety of spices in this dish is to help offset all the dried fruits and nuts.  Fruits are sweet in flavor and nuts are oily.  Sweet and oily foods cause expansion and dampness (mucus) and prevent our bodies from functioning at their maximum.  Oily foods cause our  energy levels to drop (slowing down and relaxing) and sweet foods induce weight gain.  In order to balance the fruits and nuts, and to help our bodies to better digest these foods, I use a combination of warming,  pungent, and bitter spices. These spices not only add another dimension to the flavor of the food, they also help our digestive systems to work better.


Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1″ ginger, minced
1 fennel, chopped
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp pistachio seeds
5 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
salt and pepper
Variety of dried fruit, including: pineapple, apricots, prunes, craisins, figs, dates, etc.
pumpkin seeds

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Sweat the onion, fennel and spices for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Rinse the quinoa in a colander and add to the pot along with the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, lower the flame and cook until the water is almost completely absorbed.  Remove from the flame and allow it to stand for 5 more minutes, until the water is completely absorbed.

Choose a bowl that will be completely filled by the quinoa. Brush the sides of the bowl with olive oil.

Place a dried pineapple at the bottom of the bowl and press down. Stick dried apricots in a circle around the pineapple. Put the quinoa in the bowl up to the level of the apricots and press down.

Stick a row of prunes and craisins around the bowl, cover with quinoa and press down.

Repeat the process. layering different colored fruits, (figs, dates, etc.) and pressing down on the quinoa, until the bowl is full.

Boil a cup of water in a pot. Carefully insert the bowl into the pot. Cover the pot and steam for 45 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot and invert it onto a platter. The fruit should stick to the quinoa and you should have a beautifully decorated dome. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a Nutritional Healer and teaches Healthy Cooking Classes.

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Dead Sea Soup

Last Updated on Wednesday, 5 January 2011 12:03 Written by Flax Wednesday, 5 January 2011 12:00

Being that it is now winter, people are cold. Additionally, since I have everyone eating seaweed, they are colder than usual. While the cooling effects of seaweed are wonderful for the summer they add an extra layer to the regular winter chill. The best way to counter-act the cooling effects of seaweed is to eat it together with ginger.

Therapeutically, ginger is warming, invigorating, and decongesting. Ginger helps to strengthen the kidney-yang energy and to tonify the kidneys. This means that it gives us fuel for our own internal fire and also enables the inner heat to then circulate. This makes it the ideal spice for someone suffering from cold hands and feet.

While the original title for this soup was a Mushroom-Ginger Soup, a trip to the dead sea provided me with a much more memorable title. As I was floating in the healing waters I realized that the dead sea is the ultimate expression of Kidney energy. The dead sea is the lowest point on earth, the earth’s foundation if you will. The waters cleanse your skin and bodies of toxins and helps with water metabolism. Likewise the kidneys are the lowest of the bodies yin organs. They help the body to remove toxins and they help with water metabolism.

The title of this soup is intended to express that the soup functions in the same way as the dead sea. It’s purpose is to tonify the kidneys, strengthen the kidney-yang energy and to help remove toxins from the body. And, like the dead sea, it is meant to be enjoyed.


olive oil
1-2″ ginger, grated
1 onion, cut on an angle into small pieces
1 clove garlic, diced
1 package shitake mushrooms, chopped small
1 package button mushrooms, chopped small
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 tbsp wakame, soaked for 10 minutes
3 liters boiling water
2 tbsp miso (or to taste)

Saute the onion, ginger and garlic for two minutes. Add the mushrooms and cabbage and saute until the mushrooms are soft. Squeze the excess water from the wakame and add to the pot. Add the water, bring to a boil and remove from the flame. Remove a cup of liquid from the soup, mix in the miso and then return the soup-miso mixture to the pot.

Serve immediately accompanied with soy sauce.


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