Tomato Dip and Ethics

TOMATOES: Summer saturates the senses with so many luscious clichés, it’s hard to maintain the pretense of urbanity. My heart lurches towards the tacky appeal of boardwalks, carnivals, and cotton candy. Thankfully, it also lurches towards farmers’ markets.

The NY City Greenmarket, with locations all over the five boroughs has been a much-loved tradition since 1976. Right now at the Greenmarket farmers’ markets, peaches, tomatoes, cukes, zucchinis and yellow squash, onions, scallions, garlic and new potatoes are among the seasonal fruits and vegetables for sale.

The produce has the added appeal of being local, and fresh, in some cases picked hours before being brought to market. In most cases when a fruit or vegetable is removed from its food-source, be it tree, stem or earth, its nutrients begin to diminish. Sometimes flavor is a key to nutrient content, which is why a just-picked tree-ripened peach tastes utterly different than an unripe peach shipped cross-country, gassed to hasten ripening, and then displayed in your typical produce-morgue supermarket.

With last week’s seasonal purchases I made some additions to our Shabbos menu: a garlicky tomato-mint dip great for dipping Challah into and a naturally sweet blueberry-peach pie with a sprouted macaroon crust.* The tomato dip is at once fiery and cooling, sweet and acidic.

Garlicky Tomato-mint Dip

1 1/2 pounds ripe or over-ripe tomatoes

2-4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon each ground coriander, ground cumin

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, optional

1 soft, pitted medjool date, chopped finely, optional (add if your tomatoes are more acidic than sweet)

1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped (I always use the stems, too)

6 -8 large fresh mint leaves, roughly torn into a couple pieces, or 1-2 teaspoons dried mint

unrefined sea salt, to taste

Blend using stick blender or in food processor until chunky or smooth as you prefer. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve as dip for Challah, pita bread, or crackers.

ETHICS: During the summer months, Jews learn and relearn a Talmudic text, the oft-quoted Pirkei Avos or Ethics of the Fathers. Taken from Moses and other sages oral teachings, it was committed to writing in the early Common Era. The sayings have been quoted or paraphrased by numerous notables from Shakespeare to Ronald Reagan to Bob Dylan.

Right when the desire to spend all our non-working hours in outdoor activities is at its peak, we’re encouraged, some say required, to work on perfecting our characters by studying an ancient, heavy-duty course in ethics and morals. Why?

The argument goes that during the summer the lure of the sensual can distract us from our obligations. What better time to review (and apply) such pithy directives as:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.

Be amongst the students of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace.

Do not be quick to anger. Judge every person favorably. 

Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.

Say little and do much.

A person who is [too] shy ([to ask questions] will never learn, and a teacher who is too strict cannot teach. 

It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.

Who is wise? He who learns from every man…. Who is a hero? He who controls his passions.

By three things is the world preserved: by truth, by judgment and by peace.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

Who is rich? He who is happy with what he has.

And one of my favorites:

Be cautious regarding the ruling power. Because they only befriend a person when it serves themselves. They appear as friends when it suits them, but they do not stand by a man in his time of need.

Some kind of beach reading! See for yourself here and here.


*I was rushed so I thought I’d take photos of the leftovers after Shabbos. There were no leftovers.

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