Tu b’Shevat probably isn’t your favorite Jewish holiday to cook for, but I’m here to convince you otherwise. Also known as the New Year for the Trees, Tu b’Shevat marks the beginning of spring in Israel and celebrates all the bounty we receive from the earth—the fruits and vegetables that grace our farms and fields.
In the spirit of Tu b’Shevat, which falls on the evening of February 10 this year (it’s Shabbat, too!), throw a meatless dinner party and pay tribute to the seven species. What are those, you ask? Mentioned in the Torah as the staple foods of the Jewish people during biblical times, the seven species—wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates—represent the variety and fertility of Israel.
This year invite your friends and family over and indulge in a meal that’s not only better for you, but also better for the environment. Since Tu b’Shevat is about celebrating the Earth, it’s a good time to stay away from meat, one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, eating more fruits and vegetables increases your health and wellbeing.
Decorate your dinner table with dried fruits, nuts and flowers to get into the Tu b’Shevat holiday spirit. Ask your friends to contribute some wine, perhaps from Israel. Now that you have the grapes portion of the seven species covered, on to the dates and pomegranates.
For an elegant appetizer that will disappear in front of your eyes, make dates stuffed with goat cheese. Even better, you can make them a couple of days in advance and just pull them out of the fridge before your guests arrive.
For the main course, bring out dramatic eggplant boats topped with Mediterranean barley salad, spiced chickpeas and feta. Incorporating the barley and olives, this is a vegetarian showstopper. No one will miss the chicken, I promise.
Make sure that your guests save some room for crisp fig, cherry and walnut biscotti. Featuring figs and wheat, they conclude the seven species feast and are great dipped in coffee or tea. Feel free to bring out a platter of fruits and nuts as well. Don’t forget to garnish with pomegranate seeds!