Food of Love

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 August 2011 07:48 Written by Flax Thursday, 11 August 2011 07:48

Tisha B’av has come and gone and now happier occasions are on our agenda.  The approaching Tu B’av is the Jewish day for love and romance.  To celebrate Tu B’av, the single women of Jerusalem would dress in white and dance in the vineyards so as to attract the man of their dreams.  Marriage does not mean the end of romance and, while dancing might be more fun, cooking does not have to be a chore.  Making your husband a delicious meal on Tu B’av can be a great way to remind him of just how much you love him.

Food of love, or aphrodisiacs, have been noted in folk remedies since ancient times.  They include foods that increase the blood circulation as well as foods that improve hormonal function.  Besides chocolate, aphrodisiacs can include green leafy vegetables, garlic, asparagus, fruits such as figs and bananas, and many seeds and nuts.  The most effective of the seeds and nuts are pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and walnuts.  Almond, rose, and jasmine, three well known aphrodisiacs, are valued both as edible oils, as well as for external use in body lotions and perfumes. 

When I think of food and love however, my thoughts go beyond the actual food itself and include the preparation of the food.  In order to truly declare a dish to be “food of love” it also needs to be prepared with love.  True love begins and ends with G-d.  To truly bring love into the food, kitchen, and home, it must begin with connecting to G-d and understanding that eating, and loving as well, are meant for a higher purpose.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe recommended giving zdakah before beginning to cook a meal.  This act of giving helps separate us from the materialistic connotations of food preparation and elevates it to a higher, more spiritual plane.  Before I begin to cook, I first take a moment to reflect.  I remind myself of why I, once again, find myself  in the kitchen.  I let go of any resentment that I might have about preparing yet another meal, and I focus on what my goals are.  I remember that I am cooking to nourish my family and to help them achieve good health and happiness.  I ask that the love that I put into preparing the meal transform, turning into nourishment, that will sustain them and provide them with energy.  I watch as the steam rises from the pots and enters the walls of my home, permeating my home with the same love with which I cooked the meal.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I think that food cooked with positive intent tastes a whole lot better.

Below is a recipe for asparagus.  Asparagus, phallic in shape, helps to reduce swelling in the prostate.  It is also considered to be beneficial for female fertility.  Nineteenth century French bridegrooms were served a meal which contained three courses of asparagus.  The recipe below is one that I love because it is quick, easy to prepare, and still looks and tastes impressive.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard

Trim the bottom of the asparagus, removing the tough bit at the end. Lie the asparagus flat on an oven proof serving platter. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Grill on high for 3-5  minutes or until the asparagus turn bright green. Remove from the oven immediately.

Whisk together the ingredients for the  dressing. Gently pour the dressing over the asparagus in a swirling “S” shaped pattern.

Enjoy!

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Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 August 2011 09:25 Written by Flax Wednesday, 3 August 2011 02:17

“Drink Milk. It’s Good For You.”

I heard it, I believed it and I drank it, every single day. Ten years ago I stopped drinking milk, I felt absolutely amazing!  All of my minor health complaints, digestive or otherwise, basically disappeared. People constantly ask me, “but what about calcium?”  Kudo’s to the dairy industry and their PR/lobbyists who have us all believing that we need to drink milk in order to get our RDA of calcium.  I’ve got news for you, all fruits and vegetables have calcium.  Figs have double the amount of calcium than milk, while seaweed, my favorite source of nutrients, can have up to ten times more calcium than milk.  Countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rate of osteoporosis, a disease directly related to calcium intake.  This statistic leads me to question the idea that dairy is a good source of calcium for humans.  An even more worrying statistic is that countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rate of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.

But, as my brothers like to say: “73% of all statistics are incorrect”.  So, let’s look at dairy from a purely ecological point of view.  Cows produce an enormous amount of methane, a major contributor to global warming.  They also excrete a huge amount of biological waste.  A normal sized dairy of two hundred cows produces the same amount of waste as 10,000 people.  The aspect however that worries me the most, is the enormous water consumption involved in producing dairy in Israel.  The natural diet of a cow is grass, they are meant to live in countries with large rainfalls where grass grows in abundance.  Israel, an arid land, doesn’t naturally produce grass. Raising cows in Israel means that we have to first grow everything that the cows eat and then hand-feed it to them.  Cows eat about 40 kilo of produce a day (they produce on average 60 liters of milk a day).  Growing 40 kilo of food a day for each and every cow uses enormous amounts of water.  We use more than 2,000 liters of water in order to produce 1 liter of milk. Shocking, isn’t it.  If the government wasn’t behind the cottage-cheese protestors than they should have been.  Yes, I think dairy products should be imported.  Israel should not and can-not sustain a large dairy industry.    Personally, I say, eliminate the dairy industry and build more pools.  Every time you buy a bag of milk, think to yourself, I could have a pool instead.

So, why am I giving a cheese recipe?   It’s the nine days, people who generally eat meat on a daily basis are hungry and are looking for alternatives. Many might try eating more dairy to replace their usual  meat meal.  I recommend that if you are planning on eating a dairy meal, than go for the goat.  Goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk, it also contains less steroids and antibiotics.  Goats are indigenous to Israel as well and are suited to the environment.  Goats are environmentally friendly as they like to eat the weeds that grow here in abundance. By munching on our abundant weeds, goats also reduce the risk of forest fires.  True, goat milk does taste different to cow milk  Like cow milk, goat milk is also an acquired taste.  If you haven’t yet adjusted to the flavor of goat milk you can try doing what your Mother might have done when you didn’t like milk as a kid, try mixing it with Cocoa Pebbles until you adjust to the flavor.

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 bag of mixed greens (about 4 cups)
  • 6 figs, quartered
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 150 gr. mild goat cheese, crumbled

Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

Place the salad ingredients in a wide bowl.

Mix together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy!

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