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May 18, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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May 18, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 18, 2012 PAGE 11A By Dasee Berkowitz NEW YORK (JTA)--Ob- serving my kids playing, I notice how the same toy, no matter how many times they play with it, can reveal the most remarkable things. My daughter, with the vocabu- lary befitting a 11/2-year-old, will bring her ball over to me and point to a mark on it with a delighted grunt. "How remarkable!" I will say with (feigned) enthusi- asm. But to her it is remark- able; she had never noticed it before. When I hear the phrase from Pirkei Avot (the Teach- ings of our Fathers), "Turn it around and around, for everything is in it" (5:21), the image of a toy jumps to my mind. The rabbis of the Mishnah, however, were writing at the beginning of the Common By Norene Gilletz 5steps to st00'Mying, learning from Torah Era in the Land of Israel and not in 21st century playrooms of North America, so I'm not sure they share the same as- sociation. Surely they were referring to the Torah and the revered text's limitless insights and wisdom. There is, however, some- thing playful about the phrase. If we studied the Torah the way a child plays with a toy--repeatedly and open to the possibility of discovering something re- markable-then perhaps we would discover something remarkable. Why should we make this ancient scroll our own? For starters, the Torah tells us we should. In recounting the story when the Torah was revealed to Moses, the text begins by describing the journey of the Israelites to Mount Sinai. "In the third month after the children of Israel went out of the land of Egypt, the same day ['bayom hazeh'] they came into the wilderness of Sinai," it says in Exodus 19:1. If the Torah were retelling something that already took place, it should say "on that day" not on "this day." Rashi, the 12th century French commentator, says we should look to the Torah as if it is being given on this day. The Torah is being given, and revelation has the potential to happen anew each day. Nice words, but how might we really experience this? While Shavuot offers us amo- ment to focus our attention on Torah study--all-night learning tikkun style awaits at many area synagogues and JCCs--the esoteric musings of a Talmud scholar at 3 a.m. may not be the kind of revela- tion we seek. Try this activity (which I learned from dear friends Rabbi David Ingber and Ariel Rosen.) It's called "Find your (Uni) Verse." Here's what you do: Step 1: Open the Torah (the scroll, book or even an online version). Step 2: Randomly point to a verse (this may be easier with a book version). Step 3: Read the verse a couple of times. The first time is to understand the plain meaning. The second and third times are to play with different interpretations of what the verse might be saying. Consult commentary on the verse if you like. Step 4: Consider the lesson that you might learn from this verse. What wisdom might it impart? Step 5: Try to apply the lesson to your life in the coming weeks. Some Torah verses may have immediate relevance to you than others. "Honor your father and mother" and "Love your Neighbor as Yourself" may be clear at face value and easy to apply. Other verses from Leviticus, like ones that speak about people stricken with tzara'at, may take a bit more parsing. (Luckily, commentators understood tzara'at as "motzi shem ra," one who does not speak truth- fully about another person, an aspect of gossip to which we may relate more readily.) Even (or especially) if you don't think the verse relates to you on face value, sit with it for a while. I promise, you will find some meaning. My husband and I did this activity last year with our community. We just had a disagreement about some household matter and were a little tense going into the holiday. The verse he selected Shavuou Say ch,00,00se (cake) please! Shavuot, which begins at sundown on Saturday, May 26, commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai and is also the Festival of the First Fruits. Dairy foods such as cheesecakes, kugels and blintzes are traditionally served for Shavuot. Cheesecake is always a hit and you can make various versions from just one basic recipe. Smaller individual mini cheesecakes baked in cupcake pans take even less time to bake than a large cheesecake. You can also vary the fillings--e.g., chocolate, vanilla. Substitute different liqueurs (e.g., orange, coffee, hazelnut or almond) instead of vanilla extract. You can swirl melted semi-sweet chocolate into the batter for a marbled effect. Fresh berries make terrific toppings. For praline cheesecakes, use brown sugar instead of white and garnish with pecan halves. Hot cheesecake makes an excellent brunch or lunch dish for Shavuot. Once you've tried this, it will probably become a family favorite that you'll make all year round. Dairy delicious[ Norene's Easy Cheesecake Adapted from: The New Food Processor Bible (Whitecap) I've been making this recipe for years, with rave reviews! You can substitute chocolate or vanilla wafers in the crust. Ingredients: Crust: 18 single graham wafers (about 1 1/2 cups crumbs) 6 tablespoons soft margarine or butter, cut in small chunks 2 tablespoons sugar (granulated or brown) 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon Filling: 4 cups (2 pounds) cream cheese, cut in chunks (light or regular) 1 1/2 cups sugar 4 eggs (or 2 eggs plus 4 egg whites) I tablespoon vanilla extract (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice) Topping of your choice Preparation: 1. Preheat oven to 350F. 2. For crust: Break wafers into chunks. Process on steel blade until coarse crumbs are formed. Add remaining crust ingredients and process until blended, 5 or 6 seconds. Press into sprayed 10-inch springform pan. Wipe bowl and blade with paper towels. 3. For filling: Process cheese with sugar until blended, about 15 seconds. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Process until smooth and creamy, 20 to 30 seconds longer. Pour over crust. 4. Place a pie plate half-filled with water on lowest rack of oven. Place cheesecake on middle rack. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. When done, edges will be set but center will jiggle slightly. Turn off heat and let cheesecake cool in oven with door partly open for about one hour. It will firm up during this time. 5. Refrigerate. Add desired topping and chill for 3 to 4 hours before serving. (Can be made a day or two ahead.) Makes 12 servings 279 calories per serving (without topping), 30.4 g carbo- hydrate, 0.3 g fiber, 7 g protein, 14.4 g fat (6.6 g saturated), 80 mg cholesterol, 364 mg sodium, 2.9 mg potassium, 1 mg iron, 187 mg calcium, 30 mg phosphorus. Lighter Variation: Use granular Splenda instead of sugar. Use half cream cheese and half dry cottage cheese, 2 eggs and 4 egg whites. One serving contains 171 calories, 12.5 g carbohydrate and 9.8 g fat. Cheesecake Toppings Fresh Strawberry Topping: Cut off stem ends from 4 cups of strawberries; cut strawberries in half lengthwise. Arrange cut-side down in an attractive design over cooled cheesecake. Microwave 1/2 cup apricot preserves on High for 45 seconds, until melted. Gently brush glaze over fruit. Mandarin Orange Topping: Drain three 10 ounce cans dash salt mandarin oranges. Pat dry. Arrange in an attractive de- 2 Tbsp cornstarch sign over cooled cheesecake. Microwave 1/2 cup apricot 1/2 cup milk preserves on High for 45 seconds, until melted. Gently Preparation: was "Together with your households, you shall feast there before the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 12:7). The lesson was clear: Don't let the everyday stresses of your life cloud the experience of these precious holidays. Safeguard them, honor them. You can get back to your stress when the holiday is over, but for now, let it go and rejoice[ How a verse selected at random can be personally relevant speaks to the power of the Torah and the potential for its wisdom to be revealed to us. "Your Testimonies are my delight/play thing, they are my counselors," it says in Psalms 119:24. On Shavuot, turn your selected phrases of the Torah around and around in your mind. The words will become for you a beloved toy. brush glaze over fruit. Canned Pie Filling: Spoon a 19 ounce can of cherry, blueberry or pineapple pie filling evenly over cheesecake. Praline Cheesecakes: Use firmly packed brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. Use 1 tsp. vanilla instead of lemon juice. When cool, garnish with toasted pecan halves. Mini Cheesecakes Prepare filling for Easy Cheesecake as directed. Omit crust. Line muffin pans with 24 paper cupcake liners. Place a vanilla wafer in each liner. Top with cheesecake mixture. Bake in preheated 350F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until set. When cooled, top each cheesecake with a large strawberry or a spoonful of thick jam. One mini contains 154 calories, 18.9 g carbohydrate and 6.8 g fat. Hot Cheesecake Source: The NEW Food Processor Bible (Whitecap) This longtime favorite comes from my longtime friend, Roz Brown of Montreal. It makes a fabulous main dish for a buffet or brunch for Shavuot or anytime. Serve it with sour cream and fresh fruit salad or berries. Ingredients: Topping 1 cup corn flakes (or 1/4 cup crumbs) 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 Tbsp brown sugar Base 1/4 cup butter or margarine 2 Tbsp granulated sugar 1 egg 1 cup flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon Filling 2 cups dry cottage cheese (fat-free or regular, see Note below) 2 eggs 1/2 cup granulated sugar Use the steel blade to process all ingredients. For topping: Process corn flakes with cinnamon and brown sugar until fine. Transfer to a small bowl. For base: Process butter or margarine with sugar and egg for about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Process just until dough begins to form a ball around the blades, about 10 seconds. Pat into sprayed 8-inch square glass baking dish or 9-inch pie plate. For filling: Process cheese for 15 seconds. Add eggs, sugar and salt. Process 15 seconds longer. Dissolve cornstarch in milk and pour in through feed tube while machine is running. Process 10 seconds longer, until well mixed. Pour over base and sprinkle with reserved topping. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot. Yield: 8 servings. Keeps 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and/or freezes well. Recipe may be doubled and baked in sprayed 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Baking time will be about the same. 258 calories per serving, 38.0 g carbohydrate, 0.8 g fiber, 9 g protein, 8.2 g fat (4.4. g saturated fat), 98 mg cholesterol, 275 mg sodium, 123 mg potassium, 2 mg iron, 85 mg calcium, 143 mg phosphorus Note: Dry/Pressed Cottage Cheese: If you aren't able to find dry or pressed cottage cheese in your supermarket, substitute small curd cottage cheese (low-fat or fat-free). Place in a colander and press out excess liquid. You'll probably have to add extra cottage cheese to make up for the drained liquid and processing time will be slightly longer. Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She divides her time between work as a food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instruc- tor, lecturer and editor. Norene lives in Toronto, and her motto is "Food that's good for you should taste good!" 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