It’s time to celebrate Israel’s Arbor Day.
Tu B’Shevat falls on the 15th day of Shevat. The word Tu means 15, Shevat is the month on the Hebrew calendar and ‘B’ translates to ‘of’. Now that we have the translation out of the way, let’s paint a picture…
With the magnificent almond trees beginning to bloom in Israel, and the cold rainy season coming to an end, the first signs of spring reveal themselves. We know, it’s hard to imagine warm breezes and the smell of spring in the air since Mother Nature has just dumped a whole bunch of snow on us, but that is what’s happening half way around the world.
Tu B’Shevat customs include planting a new tree and making dishes with one or more of the Seven Species (Sheva Minim) native to the land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, figs, dates, and olives. We share with you a delicious side dish that includes 5 of the Seven Species and almonds to represent the first blossoming tree.
Let’s enjoy Tu B’Shevat together and dream of springtime!
Wheat Berry Salad with Dried Fruit & Almonds
1 1/2 cups wheat berries
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped finely
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped finely
1/2 medium red onion, diced finely
3 large stalks celery, diced finely
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 2 lemons
1 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
Handful fresh parsley or mint, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Put the wheat berries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and partially cover the pot. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the wheat berries are soft yet still chewy.
While the wheat berries are cooking, whisk the rice vinegar, orange juice, and honey together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the raisins, chopped figs, and chopped dates. Turn off the heat and let the fruit steep in the juice and vinegar mixture.
Finely dice the red onion; you will end up with between 1 and 1 1/2 cups. Finely dice the celery as well; you will have between 1 1/2 and 2 cups. Mix them in a large bowl.
When the wheat berries are tender enough to be chewed easily, drain them, then pour them into the large bowl with the red onion and celery. Toss with the olive oil and lemon zest. Add the vinegar and juice mixture, and all the fruit, and mix. Toss with the almonds, chopped parsley or mint, and with the salt. Add pepper to taste.
Let the salad stand at room temperature for at least one hour before serving, to allow the flavors mix and soak into the grain. Serve warm or at room temperature.