Love is in the air—flowers are blooming, birds are singing and Tu b’Av is right around the corner (beginning the evening of July 26). You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to celebrate the ones you love. This Jewish day of love has ancient roots dating all the way back to the Second Temple period, making it much older than that holiday in February.
In ancient days, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av was seen as a matchmaking day for unmarried women. Vineyards filled with women in white dresses dancing for men to watch and pick their bride. Today, matchmaking takes the form of phone apps, but you can still celebrate some of the ancient traditions of Tu b’Av by incorporating wine and grapes into a romantic dinner followed by a night of dancing.
In addition to finding a good bottle or two to enjoy with your meal, wine is a great ingredient for many dishes. Italians know a thing or two about wine, and this Boozy Sicilian Orange Salad highlights two of Sicily’s best things: wine and citrus. Do be warned, since the wine does not cook off, it packs quite a punch. Pair this salad with another wine-infused main dish: brisket. The alcohol does cook off in this, but the sweetness and sugar in the wine is what makes the brisket so tender. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, make Dolmas (Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves); the effort counts as an extra dose of love.
Of course, a day of love is full of sweets, and what better way to treat your loved ones than with a homemade dessert? The vineyard theme carries through in this Sweet Cheese Fig Strudel. Strudel is a classic Jewish pastry, but here it’s filled with wine-poached figs, resulting in a unique alternative to the standard apple or poppy seed. If you want to have your grapes and eat them, too, then this Roasted Grape Almond Tart is just the treat for you. Grapes get nestled into an almond filling only to be bruléed in a hot oven, turning into a tender, caramelized dessert. We won’t say a thing if you decide to enjoy it with a glass of champagne.
If love to you is a box of chocolates, these next few treats will cure any broken heart you may have on Tu b’Av. Chocolate cake is a classic dessert, and this One-Bowl Devil’s Food Layer Cake is a simple recipe that looks complex, but is actually really easy. Each layer gets baked individually, stacked high and frosted with a rich milk chocolate frosting.
Love comes in many sizes and varieties, including the allergic ones. If you or your loved one needs something free of refined sugar, nuts, grains, dairy or gluten, these Chocolate Bean Brownies are your answer. Beans are a magical ingredient and can be transformed into smooth hummus, herby falafel fritters and even brownies! Nobody will guess your secret ingredient, which not only packs a protein punch, but also results in an incredibly fudgy texture.
Wine and champagne are great drink options for your Tu b’Av dinner, but if you want to get crafty, there are fun cocktails to keep the ancient spirit alive. Summer cherries star and add tartness in the I Cannot Tell a Lie whiskey drink; if you insist on having the Last Word, seal it with a kiss at least!
Treat yourself and your loved ones to a night in for Tu b’Av. Love is something to share, and what says sharing better than a homemade meal and drinks? Even in our modern age of swiping and texting, ancient Jewish practices can still be leave their mark on romance. May your love and wine grow better with age!