what do you do the night before your trip?

Why, write about food, of course!

So now I realize why I was drawn to these polenta latkes–I’m traveling through Rome to get to Israel, and polenta is Italian, so that make sense now! I was also on the phone (thanks to gethuman.com, because the number provided by Alitalia was unproductive at best) on hold with Alitalia to figure out my code. It turns out I have to wait one hour to actually book my ticket for tomorrow night. I’m a bit antsy, I guess.

Anyway, these were really really tasty, albeit as messy as any frying, and for those of you who want to limit your egg consumption, but don’t care about the amount of oil, these are perfect. Or should I say “perfetto!”

And they also mask any other smells in the house beautifully.

Always looking for the silver lining.

Polenta latkes from the LA Times

Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
Freshly ground pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add polenta slowly, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until polenta comes away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While still hot, spread polenta about 1-inch thick onto an oiled baking pan. Cool, cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, several hours or overnight. Using a (2-inch) round scalloped cookie cutter, cut polenta into rounds and transfer to a large platter.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in nonstick skillet and brown polenta rounds, turning occasionally, until brown and crispy on both sides, 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining polenta rounds, adding additional oil as needed. Serve immediately or reheat just before serving.





Hanukkah’s lesson about outside vs. inside

I’m not talking about where to light your Hanukkiyah. But in a way, I am.

I heard a dvar Torah the other day about the seeming conflict of the two ways that Hanukkah is described in the sources. One reason, from the Gemara  Shabbat 21 describes the well-known miracle of the little flask of oil that was found after the cleaning out of the Holy Temple from the bad guys’ defilement. And then there is the prayer that we add into daily services, Al HaNisim, that focuses on the miracle of the few and weak winning over the bad tough guys, but that doesn’t mention the miracle of the oil at all.

They’re both called miraculous, but they don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. We can use the typical reason that the early rabbis didn’t want to focus on the  war, but the later ones didn’t want to focus on the Maccabees/Hashmonaim, who were not the best role models, confusing their service in the Holy Temple with leadership. So we can leave it as a conflict of values of the ages. The person saying over the dvar Torah wanted to prove that the miracle of the oil led people to believe in miracles so they could attribute the winning of the war to a miracle.

I’m not so convinced.

Or we can say that the miracle of the Holy Temple was so inside, was so hidden, only seen by a few of the Kohanim of the day, that it wasn’t the main event. The main take-away is the defeat of the foreigners and the taking back the responsibility and the destiny of the Jewish people. That both agree on. And what is the important is the gratitude, knowing it was not by our own power that we were able to accomplish this. It could only happen with Divine help. And that gets reflected back onto the miracle of the oil, that we can repeat ourselves in these days, at these times, in a symbolic way to remember the gift that we were given.

We went to a brit milah this morning and we just returned from a wedding this evening. These are both inside events that are celebrated outside. Here in the Northeast, I don’t mean that they are outside per se, but the public shares the elements that will be henceforth only shown in private. The huppah stands in for the new home of the couple, so we’re getting a glimpse of their private space. It also teaches us the appropriate show of intimacy; the hint, the symbol.

And that’s enough.

So here in America we tend to light our Hanukkiyot by a window, but not outside. In Israel, where things are much more open, it’s outside.

Can you imagine feeling that confident about what belongs shown in public? Outside?

it’s a miracle, right here in river city!

Well, we could have named our basement that when it flooded back in the spring…

I know, you’re waiting to see if it’s a big deal or not.  I know you’re thinking it couldn’t be a really big deal, or else I would have named it the Hanukkah miracle.

I was thinking about it, but it wasn’t about Hanukkah; it was about timing, though, so maybe it was.  Because Hanukkah was also about timing–when to fight against the Syrian-Greeks; when to say enough was enough with Hellenism; when to clean up the Beit HaMikdash and when to find the oil; when to say we need pure oil and not settle for any olive oil until more could be made, and then the thing with the oil lasting, and the subsequent symbolism with the holiday of Sukkot.

Okay, here it is:

I had done a big shopping today, Costco and then the supermarket to follow up, and I had already split the bags up between what gets stored upstairs and what downstairs, and I had put the bags to go downstairs next to the steps.  I was already on my second trip downstairs when I was happy to hear ISHI clumping down with the remainder of the bags.

No, that wasn’t a miracle–he’s genuinely helpful when he’s around.  But since I was tired, I appreciated the help even more than usual.  As he was putting down his bags, he said, “What’s that gleaming on the floor?”

I, of course, thought it was probably a nail or even some sand mixed with baking soda, with the afternoon light catching  just so.

He then proceeded to bend down and observe.  “It looks like some jewelry.”

Nah, that’s not possible.

Is it?

“It’s an earring.”

It’s an earring!  I had lost it months ago already!  I don’t even remember.  How in the world did it fall out of my ear and stay there, unnoticed, for how many months?

I don’t care.  I’m so happy to have my earrings back together as a pair.  It was one of my favorite ones from Israel that I wore all the time.

נס גדול היה פה

or maybe קטן.

But it shows how timing and luck are quite amazing, and I’m very grateful for even this little thing.