The Jew And The Carrot

A Farm to Sukkah Supper with Star Chef Michael Solomonov

By Nancy Davidson

  • Print
  • Share Share

I have always thought that there could be no better farm-to-table experience than a dinner hosted by Outstanding in the Field, an organization that brings chefs and farmers around the country together to experience the connection to the land via local and sustainable produce and artisan food-makers. The image of the long rectangular table stretched out across an open field has always represented to me the most fitting way to celebrate the fruit of the earth.

That is, until I attended Chef Michael Solomonov’s Sukkot Harvest Supper: A Celebration of Nature’s Bounty in support of Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in the world, this past Sunday. In the middle of a field at Judy and Mark Dornstreich’s Branch Creek Farm in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, under a giant herb- and flower-filled sukkah, approximately 150 folks gathered to bless wine and challah. They were of course also there to enjoy the bounty of the farm’s harvest in a five-course meal designed to highlight the best local produce, Hazon’s local CSAs, and organic sustainable gourmet products from the Negev desert.

The delectable dinner, which focused around the Shivat Ha’Minim, the seven species of fruits and grains detailed in the Torah as native to Israel — barley, wheat, olives (and olive oil), grapes, figs, and dates – was prepared by Philadelphia Chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav. Born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh he is renowned for his modern interpretations of Israeli flavors.

Within the very intriguing parameters of local, seasonal, sustainable, traceable, organic, and a non-meat menu, combined with the seven Israeli ingredients, he created a feast that reflected the spirit of Sukkot and Hazon on myriad levels with surprising flavors and textures.

While the volunteer staff passed crostini topped with sesame-scented babaganoush or a smooth sheep’s milk cheese sprinkled with sumac, Judy and Mark Dornstreich offered tours of the organic farm they started 32 years ago, “before it was cool,” they said.

Long tables were set with translucent green chargers and a sprig of basil tucked into each cloth napkin, with the open side of the sukkah facing the field with an view of the exquisite array of green organic lettuces, purple basil, red and yellow tomatoes, lavender eggplant, and yellow squash and sunflowers, just some of the types of produce Branch Creek Farm provides to Zahav and other top notch restaurants in Bucks County and Philadelphia.

The menu included grape leaves stuffed with spiced barley steamed in pomegranate juice and garnished with pomegranate molasses, yellow zucchini and grapes; fresh sweet figs garnished ka’taifi, a shredded wheat phyllo dough, wrapped around washed-rind sheep and goat’s milk cheese from Israel, sous-vide poached striped bass in olive oil; and a date torte flavored with sesame-date paste from Negev Nectars, which imports sustainable organic foods from Israel.

Executive Director and Hazon founder Nigel Savage said, “There’s something very lovely about being connected to the land of Israel and being connected to the land here at the same time with this one meal. Reconnecting to food through a Jewish lens is really enlightening.”

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Pomegranate

Chef Solomonov shared his unique take on this traditional dish, which can also be served as a finger food. Using savory, spiced barley instead of rice also makes it richer in protein — and very satisfying.

1 cup of barley, soaked in cold water, overnight
16 brined grape leaves, rinsed with cold water
1 tbsp of ground fenugreek
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1 tsp of ground turmeric
2 tbsp of kosher salt
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro
1 cup of pomegranate juice, fresh

1) Drain and mix barley with spices, cilantro and salt.

2) Place 1 heaping tbsp of filling in the center of each grape leaf, and roll up, making sure to tuck in the ends to seal.

3) Place completed leaves in a tight fitting sauté pan and pour pomegranate juice on top.

4) Cover with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil, then cook in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for around three hours or until the grape leaves have absorbed all of the liquid.

5) Chill to room temperature and serve.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zahav, Solomonov, Hazon, Farm, CSA

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.