Tu B’shvat was here

February 9, 2012 - 10:17 PM by

The Levinski market in TLV (photo credit: FreeIsraelPhotos.com)

Tu B’shvat, Israel’s Arbor Day, is finally behind us, and I say finally because I just have to separate myself from dried-fruit-feasting. There comes a point when you cannot look at another dried fig or date, and I’m glad that the moment has arrived.

Seriously, though, a one-day, minor holiday became a four-day celebration in our life and my kids’ gan, beginning Tuesday, into the actual day on Wednesday, and then bringing home the ‘fruits’ of creation today, including ‘potted’ trees made of styrofoam peanuts and the de rigeur plastic cup full of dates, figs and raisins. To complete the season, tomorrow is the gan trip to a citrus fruit orchard at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, where they will sum up a month-long lesson plan on trees, fruits and how things grow.

In truth, unless you’re invited to a Tu B’shvat seder or have a child bringing home the signs and symbols of the day — sometimes the only connection you have to Tu B’shvat is seeing and buying mounds of dried fruit (Ynet reported NIS 200 million in sales of dried fruit over the holiday) from the store. Unless you actually went out and planted a tree, as many do, really. But despite my gentle cynicism, it’s been interesting to note its comings and goings and see how people relate to it.

I noted on Facebook that some of my more religious friends were discussing the issue of eating dried fruit as opposed to fresh fruit on Tu B’shvat. This blogger comments that we eat dried fruit because our ancestors did, given the lack of fresh fruit during the winter, when Tu B’shvat is celebrated. Makes sense, and as I passed a carob tree on the way home, I picked a piece off — it’s not really the season now — and munched on it.

And, in the spirit of the day, I took myself out to our backyard, where I haven’t spent much time lately, and wandered around, appreciating the fresh pink blossoms on the peach tree and the various winter bulbs that are starting to peek out of the ground. The shkedia, the almond tree, that is sung about during Tu B’shvat is in full bloom right now, and there are pink-blossomed trees all over the place.

Finally, I am thinking about making this chicken recipe, or a version of it, for dinner on Friday night, even though it’s days after the actual ‘chag’, it’s still good to celebrate. As the Israelites like to say, ‘siba l’mesiba’, a reason for a party.

From Cookkosher.com via Ha’aretz:

Tu Bishvat dried fruit chicken rollup
Prep time: 20 minutes
Level: Medium
Serving/Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:
4 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (double)
¾ cup diced assorted dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisins, figs)
4 tbsp pine nuts
2 eggs
½ tsp paprika
1 cup flavored cornflake crumbs
Oil, for frying

Preparation:
1. Pound each double chicken breast thin, and set them aside.
2. Combine diced dried fruit with the pine nuts and set aside.
3. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Mix in, adding paprika, and set aside.
4. To assemble: Place a pounded chicken cutlet in front of you; position it lengthwise. Place two Tablespoons of dried fruit filling across the middle of the chicken. Roll up the chicken breast tightly and carefully; beginning from the narrower end. Make sure all the filling stays inside.
5. Using both hands, transfer the roll into the beaten egg mixture and then into the cornflake crumbs. Coat it well. Place the roll on a clean surface. You can now secure any ends with 1 or 2 toothpicks if necessary.
6. Repeat with the remaining cutlets.
7. Heat the oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, place the rolls seam side down into the pan. Fry them until they are golden brown, turning the rolls so all sides are done. If necessary you can leave the toothpicks in place.
8. Make sure the flame isn’t too high; you want to be sure that the filling is cooked without burning the outside. When the rollups are ready, remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towel.
9. Let them cool slightly, cut them on a diagonal into round slices, and serve.

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