Celebrating Tu B’Shevat with Israel’s Seven Species

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Starrett

By Jennifer Starrett | Contributing Writer

Celebrating Tu B’Shevat — the new year for trees — with dishes made up of the seven species of Israel is a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday.

During this special time of year we can taste nature’s delicious bounty of first fruits and nuts. While we get outside and plant trees, we can pack a picnic basket filled with natural offerings.

One tradition surrounding this special — though under-rated — holiday, is to use and enjoy the seven species of Israel. This is a biblical reference to the first fruits of the season which were the only acceptable offerings in the Temple.

Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives (oil) and dates (honey) hold a special significance because of their connection to the Land of Israel, and because they provide the necessary combined nutrients for life.

The following two recipes combine the seven species in unique ways making them perfect additions to any Tu B’Shevat celebration.

Seven Species Salad

You might see the word “salad” and think the recipe will be boring, but it is anything but. Each bite is full of sweet fruit with the crunchy texture of nuts, seeds and cucumbers. It’s packed to the brim with goodness.

The homemade fig dressing ties all of the flavors together perfectly, so you have something colorful on your table that’s also delicious and healthy.

½ cup pearled barley
½ cup wheat quinoa
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dates, depitted
4 ounces. freshly, washed arugula
1 cucumber
¼ cup pistachios
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

1½ tablespoons fig jam
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Cook and cool the barley and quinoa as directed on the package, or use precooked grains.

While grains are cooking, make the dressing by adding together the fig jam, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Wash, peel and chop the cucumber and set aside.

Chop the depitted dates and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked barley, quinoa and arugula. Gently mix to combine. Add the chopped cucumber, chopped dates, raisins, pistachios and pomegranate seeds and gently toss to combine.

Once the salad is evenly tossed, add the dressing (to taste — you probably won’t need all of it) 1 tablespoon at a time. Gently toss and enjoy.

Seven Species Muffins
Combining sweet fruit and honey with two flours make these muffins a great breakfast option or an afternoon snack. They are light, easy to make and full of unique flavors.

You might want to make a double batch — these go quickly in my house.

½ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup extra-light olive oil
2 eggs
100 grams (3.5 ounces) dates – depitted
80 grams (2.8 ounces) dried figs
80 grams (2.8 ounces) raisins
80 grams (2.8 ounces) pomegranate seeds
¾ cup barley flour
¾ cup whole wheat all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 F and lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

Roughly chop the dates and figs — about ¼-inch pieces.

Mix the honey, vanilla, applesauce, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the chopped dates, chopped figs and raisins.

Mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well to combine. Gently fold in the pomegranate seeds.

Pour the batter evenly into the greased muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Jennifer Starrett is an events and marketing consultant in Phoenix, Arizona. For more of her recipes for Tu B’Shevat, visit jewphx.com.


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