Dish for a Cold Winter Evening

Rena's Basch's Veggie Barley Bake

Rena’s Basch’s Veggie Barley Bake

Veggie Barley Bake: A Rena Basch Recipe

Once upon a time, my friend Beth–a charming book club hostess–served this dish for dinner on a cold winter evening, and I went nuts for it.  I think of barley as a wonderful hearty and healthy grain, but it’s rarely served except as part of a beef barley soup. Barley has a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency. It’s quite versatile; you can use it as a breakfast cereal, as a substitute for rice in pilafs and risottos, in cold salads, and in hot soups and stews. Or in this casserole-like dish.

Beth said she loves serving this dish which she found in a very old, dog-eared cookbook; the kids eat it, it’s healthy with barley and lots of veggies, but it tastes like lasagna. What’s not to love about that? You can use whatever combination of veggies suits your fancy or your leftovers. You just need approximately 10 cups of chopped vegetables in all. If you have bits of different vegetables leftover in the refrigerator or freezer, this recipe is perfect for cleaning them up.

As I mentioned I went a little nuts for this dish, and have made many variations. Here are some versions:

  • The Book Club Selection: green beans and sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed, no need to pre-cook)
  • Locavorious This & That: As many of you know, I own and operate a locally grown frozen produce CSA, so I’m always trying to help folks use the frozen vegetables that come as part of their share. Some recipes call for a cup of this, or a cup of that. This recipe can use up all those leftover cups of this and that. For example: 16 oz frozen summer squash, (or ~ 4 cups fresh), ½ bag of frozen broccoli florets, ½ bag frozen green beans, a handful of red peppers and some leftover snap peas or shelled peas.
  • Another favorite: 16 oz frozen cauliflower florets (or ~ 4 cups fresh), 2 cups blanched greens such as kale or chard, and sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed) or more carrots

The Veggie Barley Bake Formula

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 average carrots, sliced
  • 9 – 10 cups chopped frozen or fresh vegetables
  • 3/4 cup barley
  • 15 oz frozen stewed tomatoes, thawed + ½ cup water *or* 1 1/2 cups tomato broth *or* 15 oz can of diced tomatoes plus a little water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in large heavy skillet and sauté garlic and onion until softened, 3 -5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and sauté, stirring a few times, for 5 minutes. If using all fresh vegetables, may want to add a little cooking time here, maybe 3 extra minutes. Add barley, tomatoes/tomato broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of the skillet to a shallow 4 quart casserole; stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Veggies and barley should be tender. If not, cover and cook longer. Top casserole with remaining cup of shredded cheese if desired and return to oven uncovered for about 10 minutes.

More reasons to love barley: It’s good for you! It’s tasty! It’s full of fiber and nutrients! It can be used to make beer! Nice place to read up on barley’s health benefits is here.

Rena’s February Recipe: It’s Hot and Sweet

side-gochujang-sesame-butternut-squash-940x560Gochujang-and-Sesame-Roasted Butternut Squash

by Rena Basch

When the latest, miraculously delicious, trendy ingredients are promoted by for-profit cooking magazines, I ususally try to ignore them. Or just smirk smugly, as in “I’m not getting sucked into searching for the impossible-to-find, often expensive, use-it-once-and-never again latest-n-greatest ingredient.” But, there are exceptions. Gochujang. I love this stuff. Gochujang is a Korean hot pepper paste; a savory, spicy, sweet, and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It’s got this sweet & spicy thing going on. If you’ve had bi bim bap at a Korean restaurant, the flavor will be familiar, as it is an ingredient in the sauce typically served with bi bim bap. It’s not that difficult to find in the Asian sections of local grocery stores or any of the Asian grocery stores around town, such as the Galleria Market on Packard in Ann Arbor, or Hua Xing Asia Market on Washtenaw in Ypsilanti. Look for it in square-shaped red tubs.Gochujang container

On to the recipe. Gochujang & sesame roasted butternut squash from bon appetit magazine. According to bon appetit, “This would work with any other winter squash—acorn and delicata don’t even have to be peeled.” However I love it with the butternut, which roasts well, and is easy to find at this time of the year, unlike delicata which does not keep as well as the hard winter squashes. These days, I’ll say this is my favorite preparation of butternut squash.  Hope you enjoy it!

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, sliced ¼” thick
Scallions, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425°. Whisk sesame seeds, oil, gochujang, and soy sauce in a large bowl. Add squash and toss to coat. Divide squash between 2 rimmed baking sheets, arranging in a single layer. Roast, rotating sheets once, until tender and browned on some edges, 25–30 minutes. Serve topped with scallions and salt.

Here’s the link to the recipe in bon appetit

A New Monthly Recipe Column by Rena Basch


kale saladMassaged Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Feta

Want to get more kale into your (or some family members’) diet?  Here’s a technique to win over the doubters, kale-o-phobes and greens-resisters.  Sprinkle the kale with a little salt and then give it a massage.  Seriously.  Hang with me here.

I learned about “massaged kale” salad from Living Zen Organics, the café and organic food nonprofit associated with The Detroit Zen Center.  For a while Living Zen was coming to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market selling raw foods such as dried kale chips and delicious, tender kale salads.  I could not understand how the kale was so tender without being blanched or cooked first, so I asked, and learned you just need to gently massage the kale.

The other secret to crowd-friendly kale salads is really no secret: pair the bitter green with sweet things, fresh or dried fruit and/or a sweet salad dressing.  This recipe below is one of my 3 favorite massaged kale salads (it’s so hard to choose just one), but I’m sharing this one because it’s easy, can be made with local ingredients, and I’ve seen kids actually enjoy eating it.

1 big bunch kale, Lacinato is nice, or a big box of baby kale leaves works too

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries

3/4 cup small-diced apple

1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese


If using Lacinato/dinosaur kale: wash leaves and pat it dry. Slice off the stiff stems below the leaves and continue slicing the stem away from the leaf until you have cut a thin v-shape into the kale leaf and removed the tough stem all the way up. Stack the kale leaves two or three at a time, roll them up, and slice the leaves into thin ribbons. If using curly kale, remove the stems and slice it into bite sized pieces.

Place the sliced kale in a large mixing bowl.  (If using baby kale leaves, just toss them into the bowl without de-stemming or slicing.)  Sprinkle the kale with ~ ½ t salt and massage it into the kale with your hands for two minutes.  Set a timer!  Grab big handfuls of kale, squeeze, release, toss, grab big handfuls, squeeze, release, toss, etc, you get the picture.  You’ll notice the kale start to turn a darker green and the texture of the kale will begin to soften a bit. If using baby kale, you’ll need only about 45 seconds. Sometimes if using baby kale leaves, I don’t even bother to massage it at all.

Toss in the red onions, dried fruit, apples, and sunflower seeds.  Combine everything.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar. Pour over the salad and toss. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top and serve.  A few grinds of black pepper over the top are nice too.

Adapted from recipe found on blog.

Planting Parsley in a Leap Year!

parselyThe days are just beginning to lengthen, and though the cold is just settling in, the extra light signals the tree sap that spring will come. And so begins the Jewish cycle of springtime, full moon holidays: Tu b’Shevat, Purim, and Passover.

In addition to the Tu b’shevat Shabbaton on Friday and Saturday January 22/23, Rabbi Strassfeld will help our Beit Sefer students on Sunday January 24 to do some Tu b’shevat planting. Though the holiday is the “New Year of the Trees,” in our cold climate it is a custom to do some indoor planting of parsley in anticipation of Passover. I’ve done this many times and noticed that sometimes the parsley is ready to harvest by Passover, and sometimes not. I consulted with Erica Kempter of Nature and Nuture Seeds about how to better ensure our parsley seeds will grow by Passover (keep them in a warm and lighted place). But the Jewish calendar gives a very strong reason for why some years are better than others for growing indoor parsley for Passover. In each 19 year cycle there are seven leap years during which an extra month is added between the holidays of Tu b’shevat and Passover. Some years there are ~60 days between the holidays, and some years (like this year!) there are ~90 days! A good year for planting parsley on Tu b’shevat to be harvested for the Passover seder plate!

This year, the Beit Sefer students will be planting not only parsley, but arugula and lettuce, too. Here are some instructions if you want to try this at home. This is the year!

Dina’s Cranberry Relish Recipe

latkes and relish

Cranberry Relish on latkes? Yes! Thank you Dina Kurz for this delicious addition to the Hanukkah Party.

2 whole seedless oranges, zested then peeled and separated into about 6 parts
1 teaspoon orange zest
12 oz fresh cranberries, preferably organic
3/4 cup (6 oz) sugar
(Optional) 2 tbsp Grand Marnier (or more to taste)

Put the orange slices in a small food processor or blender and make into puree. Place in a small pot with the orange zest and sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the cranberries and cook, continuing to stir occasionally, over medium heat, for about 10 minutes. The cranberries will break and pop, and eventually look like cranberry sauce. Optionally, stir in the Grand Marnier liqueur and remove from heat. Serve hot or cold.

At Farm Education Day and Sustainable Food Fest

Despite periodic torrential rain, Matthaei Botanical Gardens was a beautiful place to be on June 14 for the Farm Education and Sustainable Food Fest. Marcy Epstein, Carol Lessure and Idelle Hammond-Sass talked to many people at the AARC table.

Despite periodic torrential rain, Matthaei Botanical Gardens was a beautiful place to be on June 14 for the Farm Education and Sustainable Food Fest. Marcy Epstein, Carol Lessure and Idelle Hammond-Sass talked to many people at the AARC table.


Blair Nosan from Hazon Detroit taught 40 people how to make sauerkraut.

Blair Nosan from Hazon Detroit taught 40 people how to make sauerkraut.

Massaging the salt into the cabbage

Massage salt into the cabbage

Add flavors

Add flavors

Pack into jar.

Pack into jar.


There you have it.

There you have it. “Food Fest Sauerkraut June 14 2015”


Learning where the food comes from.


Challah Rising irresistible samples!


Oh the flavors of local food!

Local food, in so many flavors!






This Sunday, what an opportunity!

This Sunday, June 14, Matthaei Botanical Gardens is the place to be for the Farm Education Day and Sustainable Food Fest. There is really terrific programing and incredible food planned. Two of the things I am most excited about are the connections the planners have made with young Jewish social justice activists who are living in Detroit.

Blair Nosan (right) and Chava Knox at work at Eden Gardens.

Blair Nosan (right) and Chava Knox at work at Eden Gardens.

Did you know that Hazon, one of the most creative, inspirational Jewish social justice organizations, is opening its Detroit branch this month? You can meet Detroit Hazon’s lead organizer, Blair Nosan,this Sunday at 11:15 for the workshop “Bread from the Earth: Jewish Practice and Sustainability.” The workshop will be co-led by Sue Salinger, the sister of AARC member Carole Kaplan. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

In addition, Detroit Jews for Justice is leading a workshop at 10:15, Mayim Hayyim: A Jewish Perspective on the Detroit Water Shut-offs with AJ Aaron. AJ was a Repair the World fellow last year.

AJ Aaron

AJ Aaron

If you need any inspiration over the next few days, read those links about the work Blair and AJ are involved in. And see you Sunday, let’s get inspired together!

Is there a new Jewish back to the land movement?

green-things-logo-1Is there a new Jewish back to the land movement? Let’s talk about it together on June 14th when we gather at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for the Farm Education and Sustainability Food Fest and take a tour of Green Things Farm. Certainly Nate Lada, who with his wife Jill Sweetman are the owners and operators of Green Things Farm, sees a connection between his Hebrew Day School education and his commitment to sustainable agriculture. When he was a guest speaker at a UM Hillel Tu B’Shvat seder in 2012, Nate talked about the importance of agriculture and respecting the Earth as central to the Jewish tradition. Twentysomething graduates of the UM where they both studied Environmental Science, Nate and Jill have taken advantage of several opportunities created by longtime Ann Arbor environmental activists such as the Ann Arbor greenbelt program, a thirty year investment voted on in 2003. With the goal of starting a family farm, Nate and Jill spent two years (2011-2012) as part of the first cohort at Jeff McCabe and colleagues’ Tilian Farm Incubator Program. There Nate and Jill learned many of the basics of the business of farming while taking advantage of the program’s land, equipment, farming mentors, and community support. The land they bought to start their own farm, on Nixon near Warren about 5 miles north of downtown, was also part of the greenbelt program, in which the city of Ann Arbor bought development rights on the properties, making the land affordable for farming. [Read more…]

Patti ‘n Clare’s Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage (Prakkes)

images (6)This is a greatly adapted recipe from Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet’s Approach to Jewish Cooking by Robert Sternberg. Sternberg writes: Jews from all over parts of Poland, the Baltic states and the Ukraine make prakkes with a sweet and sour tomato sauce and raisins. (In Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania, the prakkes are made with a savory tomato sauce.) In Yiddish stuffed cabbages are also called holishkes and golubtzes. What did your family call them?


  • 3 tbl oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 carrots sliced in rounds
  • 2 or 3 stalks of chopped celery
  • 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup craisins soaked in a cup of red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Six cups of your favorite tomato sauce or pasta sauce.

Saute the onions and then add everything else and simmer while you prepare the cabbage and filling. Before you make the filling, set one large head of green cabbage in a large pot, cover with salted water, bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Let it soak in cold water until you are ready to fill the leaves.

For the filling:
  • 2 lbs of ground beef substitute (for Passover we used gluten-free).
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup grated cheese

To fill the prakkes, separate the cabbage leaves place, about 1/3 cup of filling in the center of a leaf, fold up the bottom (stem end), fold the sides in and roll, like a burrito.

When all are filled, and the sauce is done, cover the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking pan or roaster with sauce, tightly pack a single layer of prakkes and cover with the remaining sauce, cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake at 325 for 2 hours.

Before serving, remove the ginger and bay leaves.

If you eat meat, you can replace the ground beef substitute with ground beef.



Behind the Kitchen Door

611taCpxXoLOn  Sunday April 12 you can join a group of Jewish social justice activists who will visit the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) in Detroit to learn about the often invisible problems of restaurant workers. Many of those workers—often with children—qualify for food stamps and live a paycheck away from homelessness. Discrimination, wage theft, and abusive working conditions are common. The deadline to register for this event is April 6, see the bottom of this post for more details.

Founded in 2008, ROC-Michigan is dedicated to winning improved working conditions and opportunities for advancement for Southeast Michigan’s 134,000 restaurant workers. ROC-Michigan is an independent affiliate of ROC United, a national organization of over 10,000 restaurant workers.  ROC was originally founded in New York City by a group of restaurant workers who had formerly worked at the World Trade Center and were displaced by the 9-11 tragedy.

In her 2013 book Behind the Kitchen Door, ROC co-founder Saru Jayaraman writes, “Sustainability is about contributing to a society that everybody benefits from, not just going organic because you don’t want to die from cancer or have a difficult pregnancy. What is a sustainable restaurant? It’s one in which as the restaurant grows, the people grow with it.”

This program will feature a vegetarian, kosher-style Cajun/ Soul fusion lunch at ROC’s COLORS Restaurant. Following the meal we will learn about issues faced by restaurant workers from a panel including COLORS staff. Cost of the meal is $18 per person. Any additional donations are tax-deductible and go to support ROC. To reserve a spot, make a check out to “ROC-MI,” indicate # of attendees, and mail to the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, 1457 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226. Deadline is April 6th. Reconstructionist Congregation is co-sponsoring this joint social justice program along with six other area Jewish groups. Carpooling is encouraged! For questions or more information contact Steve Merritt at