Tu B’Shvat, the 15th day of the month of Shvat, is the birthday of the trees. Fruit trees were awarded special status in the Torah because of their importance in sustaining life and as a symbol of God’s divine favor. Today we celebrate by making dishes that include fruits, nuts and grains that grow from nature, including dates, figs, pomegranates, olives, honey and grains.

Moroccan Chicken with Honey, Dates and Olives

 

Credit: John Autry; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

Serves 4

No need to like International flavors to fall in love with this chicken. It’s a great combination of sweet and savory and can be made a day ahead of time. Maybe even better with a little time for the flavors to blend. Rewarm before serving.

  • 1 large orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 chicken cut in ⅛’s
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 20 whole pitted dates
  • 10 large pitted green olives

Arrange orange slices in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place chicken on top in an even layer. Mix 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped garlic and 1 ¼ teaspoons cumin in a bowl. Rub mixture all over chicken. Whisk red wine, oil, vinegar and honey in a small bowl. Pour over chicken. Tuck dates and olives between chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight, turning once.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cook for about 40 minute, basting occasionally. Transfer chicken, dates and olives to platter and pour pan juices into a heavy small saucepan. Add remaining ¼ tsp. cumin and boil until reduced to ½ cup, whisking frequently, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon some sauce over chicken. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Serve, with sauce on side.

Spinach Salad with Dates, Grapes and Jicama

 

Serves 6

Fresh, colorful, and great with any added Tu B’shevat fruit of your choice.

  • 8 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • ½ jicama, cut into thin strips
  • ½ cup pitted dates, quartered
  • ½ cup grapes, halved
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅓ cup honey glazed pecans

Toss together spinach, pepper, jicama, dates and grapes.

For the dressing: Whisk balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, and garlic. Add oil and whisk until slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper. Add nuts and toss salad to coat.

Couscous with Pine Nuts and CurrAnts

 

Serves 5

I make this all year round. This is an Ina Garten recipe that I adapted a bit. It is great on a Shabbos night or even a weeknight. It's simple and a nice side dish at room temperature too.

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) margarine
  • ¾ cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 3 cups chicken stock or pareve chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups couscous
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup golden raisins, or currants
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, optional

Melt the margarine in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and cook them over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and soften for 1 minute, then add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Stir in the couscous, cover the pan, and set aside for 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts, raisins, and parsley (if using) and fluff with a fork to combine. Serve hot or at room temperature

Glazed Eggplant with Savory Spices and Sprinkled with Pomegranate Seeds

 

Photo by Misha Gravenor

Serves 5

  • 5 tablespoon (or more) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • ⅔ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine oil, cumin, pepper, salt and garlic. Stir well. Add eggplant slices and coat evenly so that all pieces have some oil and spices on them. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheets. Drizzle with maple syrup and a little more olive oil.

Roast until golden and cooked through, 25- 30 minutes.

Arrange eggplant on a platter. In a small bowl mix lemon juice and tahini. Drizzle over eggplant, season with more salt and pepper. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and cilantro over. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sweet Cream and Pomegranate Tart

 

Photo by A Spicy Perspective

Serves 10

I make this for the other new year, Rosh Hashanah too. It’s sweet and stunning and great for a crowd.

Crust:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup margarine, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pulse flour, margarine, and sugar in a food processor. Add vinegar and blend until incorporated. Press into a 10” tart pan.

Bake until golden. (Alternatively, use 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, ½ cup melted margarine, ½ cup sugar. Mix together and press into a tart pan.)

Sour cream custard layer:

  • 1½ cups tofutti sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt until smooth. Pour into the cooled pie shell and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until it doesn’t jiggle. Cool to room temperature.

Pomegranate Topping:

  • 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored kosher gelatin
  • ½ cup hot water

Gently place the pomegranate seeds on top of the sweet custard cream. Dissolve gelatin in hot water and brush the gelatin over the pomegranate seeds. Refrigerate and serve (Alternatively, melt ½ cup apricot preserves in the microwave and brush the melted preserves over the pomegranate seeds. Refrigerate and serve.)

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