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Celebrate Tu b’Shevat with recipes featuring nuts, dates and figs

Tu b’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat, which begins at sunset Jan. 30, is called the holiday of the trees and the holiday of the fruit. It is also called Chamisha asar b’Shevat.the 15 of Shevat. The Tu comes from the Hebrew letters, tet vav, which adds up to 15.

Where in the Torah is this holiday mentioned? This is a trick question. It is not mentioned in the Torah but in the Mishnah, the written combination of texts of Jewish oral traditions compiled in the third century CE. It is also mentioned in the Talmud, which is both the Mishnah and the Gemara, which is the elucidation of the Mishnah.

Beginning at the end of the 17th century, eating fruit became a custom associated with Tu b’Shevat, frequently the sheva minim, the seven fruits mentioned in Deuteronomy (Devarim 8:8) grown in Eretz Yisrael — wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

Here are some recipes from my kosher kitchen to help you celebrate.

Easy Almond Cake

Servings: 8

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup soft margarine or

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

¼ cup buttermilk, yogurt or non-dairy creamer

2 tablespoons finely sliced almonds

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan. 

2. Stir together flour and baking soda.

3. In a mixer, beat margarine or oil, sugar, almond extract and eggs. Stir in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, yogurt or nondairy creamer and blend.

4. Pour into greased bake pan. Sprinkle top with almonds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Date Nut Carob Torte

Servings: 9

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup ground nuts

¼ cup carob powder

4 eggs, separated

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Heat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, toss dates and nuts with carob powder.

3. Separate eggs, adding yolks to mixing bowl. Place whites in a separate bowl and beat with cream of tartar until they hold stiff peaks. Add to mixture of dates, nuts, carob powder and egg yolks and blend together.

4. Spoon into greased cake pan. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, testing every 5 minutes with toothpick inserted into center until it comes out clean.

Baked Figs

Servings: 8

24 dried figs with a horizontal slit part of the way in each fig

Peel of 2 oranges, cut in strips.

1 cup almonds

1 cup sweet wine

1. Heat oven to 375 F.

2. Stuff each fig with 1 piece orange zest and 1 almond. Pack into a small baking dish that will hold them tightly in one layer.

3. Pour wine over figs. Place another glass baking dish on top to weight them down and to get the figs flat and covered in wine. Place first baking dish into a second dish in preheated 375 degree F. oven. Bake 20 minutes.