Around the world Jews are preparing for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins next Wednesday at sundown. First and foremost, we’re preparing spiritually. But sometimes we don’t realize that we’re in the midst of deep spiritual opportunities.
Monday was a crazy-making day with one obstacle after another, including a near-miss with a shopping cart. When I told husband that I would have preferred to focus on the spiritual preparations and that all these annoyances were distracting me (boo hoo), he laughed. “These so-called annoyances are part of your spiritual work for Elul.”
Oh. I knew that. (I just forgot.)
“How are you responding to these small problems,” he asked? “Are you recognizing that they are from Hashem? That the people involved are messengers, here to give you an opportunity to grow? What are the messages in these problems? Can you find a mida keneged mida (quid pro quo) in these problems?”
The points were all well-taken. There is always more spiritual work to do.
On an emotional level, we should try to depersonalize problematic encounters, delays, obstacles, and even more serious problems, but on an intellectual-spiritual level, we must take every thing that happens to us very personally. Step back with the emotions, step up to the plate with our spiritual (and intellectual) response.
Anyway, like many other Jewish women, I’m also very busy preparing materially for the month of holy days that begin with Rosh Hashana and end with Simchas Torah. First, I stocked up on pantry supplies and produce. Then, I “put up” cultured vegetables and fruit (I’ll tell you about that in another post).
Next, I got started on stocking the freezer. I made an enormous batch of round Challahs, several of which husband will take to Uman, Ukraine with him. My recipe involves quite a few steps, though each step is fairly easy (and include prayer and meditation).
While the Challahs were baking, I made soup.
Vegetarian soups will form the basis of meals leading up to Rosh Hashana and I’ll rely on them again during the ten days of repentance. (We might serve some on Rosh Hashana, too). We host a weekly “shiur and soup” so I always have a giant batch of soup on hand. It’s the one leftover that gets better with age.
HJC’s Grown-up Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds for Everyday or Rosh Hashana
I never understood why people would take perfectly good squash or pumpkin and make sweet soup out of it. If left unsweetened and bright, hot flavors like fresh chilies, ginger and lemon or lime juice or smoky, dark flavors like chipotle and cumin (or a judicious measure of both) are added, the flavor is so much richer. We used organic vegetables for this soup—even skeptics will find that the flavor will be superior.
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1 very large leek, washed, cleaned and trimmed (Use white part; you can use the light green part if you are very careful to check for bugs) and chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 inch lump of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 small or one large butternut squash (approximately 4 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
2 teaspoons each, ground cumin, pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1-3 teaspoons chipotle chili powder (optional, or you could use another type of chili powder such as cayenne)
Unrefined sea salt, to taste
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, lemon or lime wedges, minced habanero or serrano chili, optional
In a large pot, sauté onions and leeks in coconut oil over very low heat until limp and just beginning to turn golden. Add ginger, squash and water to cover and bring to boil; turn down heat and cook on low simmer for 30 minutes, then add spices. Cook for another 30 minutes or until squash is very tender. Correct seasoning. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth, adding water if necessary to make the consistency you prefer.
Toast pumpkin seeds in frying pan over medium hit until they begin to crack and pop. (Alternately, soak and dehydrate pumpkin seeds for a livelier taste). Sprinkle on each serving of soup. Squeeze a lemon or lime over soup if you like and top with fresh, minced chilies.
You can freeze up to one month. Serves 10-12.
For a Rosh Hashana version of this soup, with a nod to tradition, omit the chili powder, the pumpkin seeds and the fresh chili topping. Use the juice of one orange instead of lemon or lime juice. Before you remove soup from the heat, stir in 1 to 3 teaspoons Tupelo or Orange Flower honey and sprinkle each serving with pomegranate seeds.
(How to remove the seeds from a pomegranate: I usually do this, though I hold it directly over a deep bowl while hitting it and not over my hand. Or you can try this elegant approach, complete with exotic music.)
HJC’s Lima Bean Soup
16 oz. (1 lb) small or medium dried lima beans, sorted, rinsed, and soaked for 8-12 hours
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, peeled and finely diced
4 stalks celery, washed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, and cut in half lengthwise, then sliced into semi-circles
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
8 -12 0z. baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, cut into half, and sliced
2 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, washed and chopped or 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste, optional
2 cups cleaned, roughly chopped kale or 2 cups frozen spinach
1 small bunch fresh dill or parsley or combination, washed and finely chopped, use stems
2 teaspoons paprika
Unrefined sea salt, pepper
In large pot, over medium heat, sauté onion, celery and carrots until onions are translucent in one half the olive oil. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more until garlic is tender. Do not brown.
Add lima beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, and tomato paste if using, and cook for at least one hour, until beans are tender. Add kale or spinach, herbs, and paprika, salt and pepper, cooking for an additional 10 minutes until greens are cooked. Correct seasoning. Freeze for up to one month. Makes 10 -12 servings.
HJC’s Politically Incorrect Indian Summer Soup
A raw soup for a warm, fall day.
1 large, ripe Haas avocado, remove stone and peel
1 cucumber, should be organic, washed and diced (seed if you must), divided in two
Approximately 2 cups chilled water or coconut water
1/2 cup fresh, roughly chopped herbs (good combinations: parsley, cilantro and mint or parsley and basil)
2 scallions, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Juice of one lemon or lime
Kernels from 1 ear of corn (scrape off with knife into deep bowl)
1 ripe, end of summer tomato, diced (optional)
Unrefined sea salt, pepper
In blender or food processor blend avocado, 1/2 of the cucumber and water until smooth. Add herbs, scallions, garlic and citrus juice and pulse until desired consistency (you can leave it chunky or make it smooth). Season with salt and pepper and top with corn and tomato if using. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator for up to 2 hours. Serves two.