Tu b’Shvat – the trees’ new year on the Jewish calendar – begins at sundown on January 15. The holiday celebrates the beginning of the season when trees will begin to blossom with beautiful flowers and flavorful fruits, following the cold and long winter months.
In Israel and in Jewish communities across the globe, Tu b’Shvat is celebrated as the Jewish environmental awareness day. The day honors the seven species -shivat haminim – mentioned in the Torah as particularly associated with the land of Israel. They are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Sometimes Tu b’Shvat is celebrated by having a seder, similar to a Passover seder, where families, friends, and community members join to ceremonially taste the seven species in various forms, enjoy some foods of Israel, and discuss the Jewish value of environmental conservation.
One model for a Tu b’Shvat seder celebration is to design a fruit and nut platter, serve some of Israel’s treats, make a dairy appetizer, and open a new bottle of wine. Fruits and nuts can be paired with cheeses, including Tnuva’s Labaneh soft cheese, goat cheese, Kashkaval cheese, or feta cheese, which make great additions to fresh salads. Tnuva products are in the dairy aisle at local kosher specialty stores or gourmet supermarkets.
Suggested Israeli wines include the Yarden T2, a port-style wine with an aromatic mix of ripe cherry and spice combined with deep chocolate and a hint of smokiness. The rich and concentrated wine is fortified with brandy and aged for 26 months in French oak barrels. Mount Hermon White, a lighter table wine, is suggested to accompany the stuffed figs (recipe below). The wine has hints of citrus, melon, peach, green apple, and tropical fruits. Serve it lightly chilled with a few frozen grapes in a glass for a Tu b’Shvat treat.
Try this recipe to bring the Tu b’Shvat festivities and the tastes of Israel into your home.
Cream cheese stuffed figs with nuts and date honey
30 large figs
For the cream cheese filling:
16 ounces Tnuva original cheese spread
8.5 ounces heavy whipping cream
3.5 ounces sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 bags of vanilla sugar
zest of 1 orange or lemon
3.5 ounces toasted pine nuts
For the topping:
3 tablespoons date honey
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1.75 ounces roasted almonds, chopped
Slice open each fig with a cross shape so that it opens like a flower.
To prepare the stuffing, first beat the cheese spread with heavy whipping cream. Add sugar, honey, vanilla sugar, and orange/lemon zest into the mixture until it forms into a stiff cream. Fold in the toasted pine nuts and place the entire mixture into a pastry bag.
To prepare the sauce, mix the date honey with balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.
Place a dollop of cream into the center of each fig, drizzle a little sauce on top, and sprinkle with toasted almonds.