Tu Bishvat is an ancient Jewish holiday that, in biblical times, determined whether a tree was old enough for its fruit to be tithed or eaten. Every Tu Bishvat, all the trees aged one year, which is why the holiday is often referred to as “The New Year for the Trees” or the “Birthday of the Trees.” Today many Jews observe Tu Bishvat by donating money to have trees planted in Israel, and some Jews have even begun hosting Tu Bishvat “seders” to celebrate the holiday.

Another way to celebrate Tu Bishvat is by eating the seven species. In the Bible,  Israel is described as a land blessed with seven fruits and grains. The seven species are: figs, dates, pomegranates, olives, grapes, wheat and barley. The recipes below are easy and delicious ways to serve all seven species at your table.

If you serve the sandwiches and dates with grape juice (or wine for the adults) you’ll be up to all of the Seven Species. Children will love helping you stuff the dates and since only a small amount of pomegranate syrup is used, you can save the rest for later. Pomegranate syrup is delightful on vanilla ice cream and can also be used to make tequila sunrises after the kids go to sleep!

Below, find recipes for pomegranate syrup, stuffed dates, and fig and goat cheese sandwiches.

Pomegranate Syrup

pomegranateStored properly, pomegranate syrup will keep in your refrigerator for up to six months. While juicing your own pomegranates is an option, we recommend using one of the many commercially bottled varieties available. If you cannot find 100% pomegranate juice, using a "from concentrate" brand will still yield tasty results.

Ingredients:

·    2 cups pomegranate juice
·    1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
·    1/4 cup granulated sugar

Makes about ¾ cup

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat to medium-low and keep the liquid at a gentle simmer for 30-60 minutes (time will vary depending on the heat of your stove). Stirring is not required but keep an eye on the mixture to make sure it doesn’t boil. Once it has reduced down to about ¾ of a cup, turn the heat off, then transfer it to an airtight storage container to cool completely before putting it in the refrigerator.

Stuffed Dates

 

Ingredients:

·    5 medjool dates
·    2 ounces soft goat cheese (not crumbled)
·    pomegranate syrup (see above)

Makes 10 bites

Cut the dates in half and take out the pits. Scoop out a small amount of flesh from each side to make a slightly larger cavity. Stuff each half with goat cheese; about 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons per date half. Arrange on a serving platter, cheese side up, and drizzle with pomegranate syrup (a little goes a long way) immediately before serving. Or you can put the syrup on the side for dipping. Serve at room temperature.

Fig and Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

 

Ingredients:

·    8 slices of wheat & barley bread
·    1 large yellow onion, sliced
·    10 ounces soft goat cheese (not crumbled)
·    14 large fresh figs, ends removed and thinly sliced
·    1 tablespoon olive oil
·    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
·    Salt to taste

Makes 4 sandwiches

Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and pinch of salt. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions have softened and turned light brown in color. Remove from heat and set aside (or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two days).

To assemble the sandwiches: layer slices of goat cheese, caramelized onions and fig slices, making sure that goat cheese is the first and last layer for each sandwich (it should be touching the bread).

To grill sandwiches: In a large sauté pan or on a griddle, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Place the assembled sandwich in the butter and grill for 2-3 minutes per side, until the bread turns golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.

Ariela Pelaia

Ariela Pelaia is a professional Jewish educator with a passion for food and culinary history. She writes the Judaism website for About.com and also maintains a blog with recipes and toddler activities called Sweet Happy Life .

Peter Pelaia

Peter Pelaia is a freelance writer and self-trained chef with a passion for Jewish cuisine, who also happens to be the Executive Director of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, Vermont. For the past six years he has taught Jewish cooking and culture classes to students ranging in age from 6th graders through adults in his spare time.