Jonah / Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

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This week’s recipe: Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

The story of Jonah is well-known. God commands Jonah to go to the city of Niniveh, where the people are sinning, and warn them that their city will be destroyed unless they repent. Jonah instead attempts to run away, boarding a ship to another city. When God sends a storm to toss the ship, Jonah reveals to his crewmates that the storm is punishment meant for him, and insists that they toss him overboard. God then sends a whale (technically, a large unspecified sea creature, but commonly translated as whale) to swallow Jonah. Jonah prays and repents for three days and three nights, at which point the whale spits Jonah out onto dry land and he goes to Niniveh to fulfill God’s commands. The people repent and everyone is saved. Yay!

Except the story doesn’t end there. There’s a lesser-known coda in which Jonah, angry that God forgave the people of Niniveh despite their many sins, is resting and waiting to see what will happen to the city. God causes a plant to grow over Jonah, giving him shelter and shade. When Jonah wakes up the next morning, he finds that God has sent a worm to kill the plant, leaving Jonah in the hot sun. Jonah is furious that God would allow the plant to die, and God essentially responds, “Look at how upset you are about the destruction of a plant that you didn’t tend or water, that only existed for one day. But you would ask me to destroy a city full of tens of thousands of people and animals, all of which I created?”

Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, is a holiday about reflection, repentance, and forgiveness. We are supposed to apologize for our sins against God and our sins against each other, and contemplate how we can do better in the next year. It’s always a powerful and meaningful day, but especially now, especially this year. There are so many people who are full of hate. There are so many people who are purposefully, even gleefully, hurting other people. There are so many people who want to deny the rights and the humanity of others. It’s hard to forgive that kind of behavior. But it’s especially hard when they’re so convinced that they’re right that it would never occur to them to ask for forgiveness. We live in a country where you can commit treason and start a bloody war over your right to own human beings, and 150 years later, people will (sometimes violently) argue that you deserve to be honored in perpetuity. There are plenty of Jonahs warning us about our sins, but too many people refuse to listen.

But then there’s the story of the plant. The sins of Nineveh aren’t specified, but clearly they were significant enough that God was willing to destroy an entire city. This was their last chance, and they took it—a rare instance of redemption in an Old Testament filled with ancient blood feuds, stiff-necked peoples, and implacable enemies. Every year, we get the same chance at redemption, even though there will be those, like Jonah, who feel we don’t deserve it. It’s easy to get carried away with your own righteousness when you’re sure you’re right, but it’s hard to know what’s actually in people’s minds and hearts, the circumstances of their lives that brought them to where they are, and whether or not they’re capable of change. Only God can know that, but people—including me—can try to be like God, instead of like Jonah, who couldn’t forgive. We can try to speak out against and, if necessary, punish evil and injustice wherever they exist, and also recognize that change and repentance are always a possibility. Chatimah tovah.

So anyway, here’s a cocktail. We’re now officially a week into fall but it’s still warm out, so if you want to celebrate the last of the summer weather, this cocktail is for you. It’s very easy to make and very tasty to drink. You can substitute vodka for the gin or, if you’d rather make it non-alcoholic, just use water instead.

Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

Adapted from Delish Knowledge

Ingredients

  • 4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, (plus more for garnish, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemonade juice
  • 3 tablespoons gin

Instructions

  1. Cube the watermelon and place in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze, at least 2 hours. Keep frozen until ready to use.
  2. Place the sugar, water and mint in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until reduced and sugar is completely absorbed. Let sit for at least 15 more minutes off heat so that mint can be infused into the syrup. Before using, remove the mint leaves.
  3. Place all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender (if you use a regular blender, you may need to add the frozen watermelon cubes in batches): frozen watermelon cubes, mint syrup (with mint leaves removed) and lemon juice. Puree until thick, then slowly add in gin until a thick and creamy texture develops. Depending on the strength of your blender, you may need less or more water.
  4. Divide into 4 glasses and serve!
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Unetaneh Tokef / Honey Cake

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This week’s recipe: Honey Cake

2017 Unetaneh Tokef, aka the anxieties that keep me awake at night:

On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

How many will live and how many will die

Who by nuclear attack and who by conventional weapons

Who by rising sea levels and who by wildfires

Who by hurricanes and who by earthquakes

Who by being deprived of healthcare and who by corporate neglect

Who by lead-tainted water and who by pollution

Who by terrorist bombs and who by mass shooters

Who by gang killings and who by police brutality

But wisdom, leadership, and sheer dumb luck can avert the harshness of the decree.

Hopefully.

So anyway, here’s a honey cake. It is traditional to eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in the hopes that the coming year will be sweet. This cake is definitely sweet (don’t look at how much sugar and honey are in it!) and also a little spicy, with a nice gingerbread-type flavor. It has a dense crumb but tastes relatively light, and while the original recipe calls for it to be served with grilled peaches, it would also go very nicely with a bit of whipped cream, if you’re in the mood.

Honey Cake

From The Community Table

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups boiling water
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • ¾ cup raisins (optional)
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Instructions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil three 9- by 5-inch loaf pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the boiling water with the baking soda (to eliminate any bitterness). In the bowl of a standing mixer or with hand beaters and a large bowl, combine the sugar, honey and oil and beat at medium speed until completely combined, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternately, mix by hand in a large bowl.) Add the eggs, 1 at a time and beating after each addition. Add the dissolved baking soda and beat until combined. Add the raisins if using, and stir to incorporate.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt and zest and blend with a fork. With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture. When combined, slowly add the remaining 2 cups boiling water. The batter will seem quite thin and a bit runny; this is normal.

Divide the batter among the pans. Bake the cakes on the center rack until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Ted Cruz / Whipped Goat Cheese Spread

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This week’s recipe: Whipped Goat Cheese and Honey Spread

Ted Cruz sucks.

This is not an original observation. I just finished Al Franken’s new book, and his chapter on how much he hates Ted Cruz alone is worth the price of admission. And I don’t think you need to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal like Al Franken or me to believe that Ted Cruz is a mendacious, demagogic, showboating, power-hungry, cynical, smug, heartless, antisocial piece of shit. He is the dictionary definition of “unpleasant.” He is ugly inside and out. He is like the photo-negative of a good person. He’s kissed the ass of a man who publicly insulted his father and wife. He called the Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage “among the darkest hours of our nation” (take a hike, Pearl Harbor and 9/11!) He thinks that federal disaster relief is a boondoggle when New York is hit by a hurricane but necessary and proper when Texas is hit by a hurricane. He said, with no evidence, that the majority of violent criminals are Democrats. Almost all of his political positions are built on a foundation of lies.

So I am really relishing this moment when, if you look Cruz up on Google, all of top News stories and six of the 11 links that show up on the main search page are related to his Twitter account “heart”-ing a porn video. From what I’ve read about the video, it’s very standard-issue, vanilla stuff, just what you’d expect a respectable Republican to be into. But we all know that deep down, Ted Cruz is so much more twisted and perverse than your average Republican. Here is just some of the freaky shit I think you would find if you were able to find his porn history (and thanks to Cruz’s sponsorship of the bill that allows ISPs to sell individuals’ information, we may be able to do just that one day):

-The middle class getting fucked by high-income tax cuts

-Cancer patients getting fucked by Obamacare repeal

-Schoolchildren getting fucked by insanely permissive gun laws

-The earth getting fucked by oil pipelines and climate change (that one’s a gangbang, alas)

-Merrick Garland getting fucked by Senate Republicans

-American democracy getting fucked by limitless campaign spending

-American taxpayers getting fucked by unnecessary government shutdowns

-The memory of Dr. Seuss getting fucked by Ted Cruz attempting to wield Green Eggs and Ham as a political weapon

Keep on keepin’ on, Ted, and hopefully the only thing that will get fucked is your political career.

So anyway, here’s some cheese. Specifically, it’s a tasty, savory-sweet goat cheese spread with honey on top. I made this for friends of ours when they came over for a game night, and I am only mentioning this because we played Settlers of Catan and I managed to come from behind and WIN despite not being able to build any roads. It was my first time winning Catan other than when I played my nine-year-old nephew and my mom (who really wanted the game to end and so would give me whatever cards I wanted if it would make things go faster). My wonderful aunt and uncle gave Mark and me a cheese board for our engagement, so we decided to make it a cheese-and-whiskey-and-game night, making this recipe the perfect thing to serve. Heads up that this makes a LOT of cheese so unless you are feeding a large crowd (or Mark, who can eat unlimited amounts of cheese), you will probably want to halve or quarter the recipe. I halved it and it still was still too much for the four of us, even with Mark’s aforementioned Olympic-level cheese-eating abilities.

Whipped Goat Cheese and Honey Spread

Ingredients
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cups goat cheese, softened
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted sourdough or crusty French bread, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic and thyme. Cook slowly over low heat, being careful not to brown or fry the garlic, until the garlic becomes very soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the oil from the garlic, reserving the oil and placing the garlic in the bowl of a stand mixer; discard the thyme.
  3. Using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the garlic until it starts to mash. Add the goat cheese and cream cheese and whip for about 15 minutes to reach a perfectly smooth texture.
  4. Slowly add the heavy cream, and then add 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil (reserve the remaining garlic oil for another use) and whip for another 2 minutes to incorporate.
  5. To serve, fill a glass jar or serving bowl with the whipped cheese and drizzle the honey over the top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve the toasted bread on the side at room temperature.
  7. Any leftover whipped cheese may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Hitler / Pan Fried Gnocchi

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This week’s recipe: Pan Fried Gnocchi

I’m reading Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent, which covers Hitler’s life from his birth until the start of World War II. It was the subject of that famous Michiko Kakutani review before the election that none-too-subtly drew parallels between Hitler and Trump, though without ever using the latter’s name. it’s extremely good so far, and because it’s 2017 and God forbid Trump not occupy our minds for more than 90 seconds at a time, I am constantly thinking about the similarities and differences between the early years of the Third Reich and America today.

Fortunately, there are many more differences than similarities. For one thing, we are seven months into the Trump administration and he has yet to impose a totalitarian dictatorship or set the Capitol building on fire as a pretext for jailing his political enemies. It’s truly amazing how fast Hitler was able to consolidate absolute power—five months. Everyone in his way got bamboozled, co-opted, or forced out. As with Trump, there were plenty of politicians and power brokers who showed great distaste for Hitler, but who thought they could ride the wave and ultimately exploit this useful idiot for their own ends. As with Trump, they learned their lesson, though getting sent to Dachau is significantly worse than being humiliated on Twitter.

Another difference is the level at which street violence was considered an accepted part of life. I was pleasantly surprised at how Charlottesville dominated the headlines for days, considering that our news media typically has the attention span of me in third grade math class. But in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, that sort of violence was considered just another Tuesday. These things are definitely becoming more frequent in America but it’s good to know that we still find them shocking. (An obligatory note about Antifa: I’m no expert on it, but I can certainly see the danger of a bunch of masked vigilantes whom no one elected and who are accountable to no one, deciding—often on sight—who qualifies as a fascist and therefore deserves a violent beat down. A totalitarian worldview that disdains democracy and the democratic compact; using force to impose your version of acceptable speech and politics; declaring that people who don’t conform to your vision don’t have the right to, say, non-violently protest in a public space—all sounds pretty fascist to me.)

But the biggest difference is simply that Trump lacks Hitler’s canniness, discipline, and will to power. I know it’s been said a million times before, but it’s our nation’s one great fortune in these dark times that he is stupid and lazy, because if he had even one-tenth of Hitler’s ruthless vision and drive, we’d all be in even deeper doodoo than we are. The closest thing that his administration had to a Hitler-level strategic thinker/ideologue was Bannon, and I can’t overstate my relief that he’s gone. That doesn’t mean that Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, Kris Kobach, and other ideologues in high places can’t do some serious damage—indeed, they already have—but reading this biography has been oddly reassuring. For now, we have government institutions, a free press, and a population all willing to push back, none of which existed in Nazi Germany. Whatever catastrophes the Trump presidency brings on us, at least they’ll be met with a fight.

So anyway, here’s some gnocchi. This was seriously one of the fastest, easiest dinners I’ve ever made, and so delicious too! I can’t believe I didn’t know about the wonder of pan-frying gnocchi until this recipe. The original recipe calls for mushrooms, which I of course left out—NEVER will you see a recipe calling for mushrooms on this blog—but if you feel like eating fungus, knock yourself out and add it back in. This is a great dinner to make for a crowd, because you can make multiple batches very quickly. I doubled the recipe, which was lucky because it was so yummy that everyone had two servings!

One Pan Gnocchi with White Beans, Sundried Tomato, and Spinach

Adapted from Sweet Peas and Saffron 

Ingredients
  • 500g/18 oz packaged gnocchi
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 540mL/19 oz white beans, drained and rinsed
  • Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the gnocchi and separate them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and slightly crispy.
  3. Add the sundried tomatoes, spinach and white beans. Stir until spinach is wilted and everything is heated through.
  4. Add additional salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
  5. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.