Lag B’Omer Hot Dog Bar

Lag B’Omer marks the end of the 49-day period of counting the days between Passover and Shavuot. Historically, the counting begins on the day an omer (unit of measure) of barley was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem and ends on the day before an omer of wheat was brought to the Temple. In Israel, it is celebrated with picnics, bonfires, and barbecues. How can you combine the ancient Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer with an all American twist? Throw a hot dog bar party!

Whether you are lighting a bonfire or cooking on your grill, here is your game plan. Set up a buffet, and let your guests express their creativity. Mix and match rolls, sausages, condiments, and crunchy chips.

Sausages:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Venison
  • Fish
  • Vegetarian

Bread:

  • Rolls
  • An assortment of sliced breads
  • Pitas
  • Tortillas

Fixings:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Potato chips
  • Corn chips
  • Chili
  • Guacamole
  • Pickles
  • Hot peppers
  • Sweet peppers
  • Diced onions
  • Coleslaw
  • Hummus

Lag B’Omer Carob Treats

— by Abby Contract

Today’s carob treats are a long way from those carob-covered pretzels that my health-nut aunt served us in the 1970s. They are much more sophisticated — carob fudge, candy brittle, fancy cakes — probably because of the growth of the health conscious food movement, specifically the vegan community. Carob can satisfy your sweet tooth and it is low in fat, high in fiber and unlike chocolate, has no caffeine.

In Lag B’Omer, Jews get a reprieve from forbidden acts and celebrate with bonfires, food and dancing. Most Jews, cavorting round the fire, eating Israeli food of hummus & shish kebabs, and drinking beers, are not thinking about whose death they are commemorating: Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the second-century author of the Zohar (which contains mystical interpretations of the Torah), and chief source of the Kabbalah.

After witnessing the torture and death of his great teacher Rabbi Akiva by the Romans, the infamous persecutors of Jews who ruled Israel, Rabbi Shimon bad-mouthed the Romans.One of Rabbi Shimon’s students betrayed him to the Romans.

Rabbi Shimon and his son fled and eventually settled down in a cave in northern Israel, where they, according to the tale, lived for thirteen years buried naked (so that their clothes lasted longer) to their necks in the sand and studying Torah. Miraculously, a carob tree grew at the foot of the cave and provided nourishment for the father and son. They survived until the Emperor died and it was safe to leave the cave.

This tale is the reason that many modern-day party goers eat carob at their Lag B’Omer celebrations. Hopefully by eating this treat my kids will miraculously be nutritionally and spiritually fortified.

Maple and Carob Chip Granola Bars, courtesy of Whole Foods Market

Photo by Sarah R

Photo by Sarah R.

  • four cups quick cook oats
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegan carob chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I substituted freshly shredded coconut from a whole coconut.)

(Note: I added a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/3 cup of carob chips. The latter was added after the mixture cooled a bit. When you initially blend the warm oats and the syrup/oil mixture, the carob chips melt. I wanted to have some whole carob chips to increase the crunch of the bars.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread oats onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix together oil, syrup, vanilla, carob chips and walnuts in a large bowl. Add warm oats and stir well.
  4. Spread oat mixture into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish, pressing down hard to compact it. Bake for between 25 and 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Cool completely, then cut into bars.

Abby Contract is the creator of Phoodistory.

Campfire Soup for Lag b’Omer

Spring is here, and the weather is nice enough for the family to go on a camping trip.

In Israel, it is also time to celebrate Lag b’Omer (or Lag Baomer): a celebration of the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Romans between 132 and 136 CE, which occurred on the 33rd day of the Omer period of counting the days between Passover and Shavuot. In Hebrew, lag (ל”ג) has a numerical value of 33.

Every year, I pack my cast iron Dutch cauldron so I can cook dinner over the campfire. After my family and I pitch our tents, we carefully build our campfire. It is time to prepare my famous beef and lentil soup.

Beef and Lentil SoupIMG-20150410-WA0089

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch parsley, minced
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 lb. black lentils
  • Soup bones
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in the pot.
  2. Add the chopped onions, and cook until translucent.
  3. Add the ground beef.
  4. Cook until the beef is browned.
  5. Add the soup bones, and season to taste.
  6. Pour in the black lentils.
  7. Cover the mixture with water so it reaches four inches below the rim of the pot.
  8. Add the parsley and thyme and bring to a boil.

The soup is ready when the lentils are soft.

More Lag b’Omer recipes:

4 Creative Foods to Roast on a Stick for Lag BaOmer

— by Ronit Treatman

Lag BaOmer is a celebration of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 132-136 CE. The Roman troops used bonfires as military signals on hilltops, and so the Jews were not allowed to light them. In Israel it is traditional to light the once-forbidden bonfires and to roast delicious snacks over them.

(Don’t know how to light a bonfire? Find out at Survivaltek.)

Four bonfire ideas after the jump.
1) Halloumi Cheese

This Cypriot cheese is made from sheep’s milk. It has a high melting point, which makes it perfect for roasting. The fire gives this cheese a delicious, crackly crust. It maintains its firm texture when it’s grilled. Its charred, salty flavor is very satisfying.

2) Bread

Prepackaged dough makes roasting bread on a stick effortless. Just place the raw dough on a stick, and cook over the heat of the flames. The fire gives it a distinctive smoky flavor.

3) Kosher “Chorizo”

Chorizo is a type of sausage from the Iberian Peninsula. Smoked red peppers are mixed with raw meat and then placed in a casing. This is what  gives chorizo its special flavor.

4) Apples

Apples roasted over a fire are called “singing apples.” This is because they make whistling noises while they cook. The heat caramelizes the sugar in the peel, giving them a beautiful bronze color. These apples taste like apple pie on a stick.

Lag B’Omer: Dinner From The Embers

— by Ronit Treatman

How are Passover and Shavuot linked?  Passover is when we remember the Exodus, and Shavuot is when we remember the giving of the Torah.  We build up our anticipation for receiving the Torah by counting down the days from Passover to Shavuot.  This period is called the counting of the Omer.  What is an Omer?

Four campfire-made recipes after the jump.
The Omer was a unit of measure of barley that was offered in the Temple on the second day of Passover. The counting of the Omer is a somber time, when Rabbi Akiva is commemorated.  Rabbi Akiva took part in Bar Kokba revolt.  He defied the Roman emperor Hadrian’s edicts not to practice or teach Judaism.  Rabbi Akiva taught thousands of students.  A plague arrived in Israel.  Twenty four thousand of his students succumbed to it and died.  Weddings, parties, dancing, and haircuts are traditionally not conducted during the counting of the Omer.

On the thirty-third day of the counting of the Omer, there was a break in the plague. We celebrate this miracle by lifting the mourning practices that are observed during the rest of the counting. “Lag” is the number thirty-three in Hebrew letters. “Lag B’Omer” means the thirty-third day of the counting of the Omer.

Lag B’Omer is a joyful time when people light bonfires. Dinner is cooked in the embers and is eaten outside under the stars. Celebrants sing Israeli folk songs, and dance horas around the fire.  

I like to prepare Lag B’Omer treats in aluminum foil packets. They can be assembled in advance, and then buried in the embers. Dinner cooks itself while everyone has fun. Here are some suggestions:

Campfire Stew

  • Ground beef
  • Potatoes, sliced
  • Onion, sliced
  • Garlic, sliced
  • Bell peppers, sliced
  • Carrots, sliced
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Place all the ingredients in a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold the foil over the food, so it forms a pocket.
  2. Cover your foil pocket with another piece of foil, so it doesn’t leak.
  3. Bury your foil packet in the embers. Allow it to rest there for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Carefully unwrap, and enjoy!

Foil-Grilled Corn

  1. Place an ear of corn that has been peeled on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  2. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the corn. Wrap with the foil.
  3. Wrap your packet with another piece of foil.
  4. Bury the corn packet in the hot coals for about ten minutes.
  5. Remove the corn packet from the coals, and allow it to rest on the side. The steam will continue cooking the corn.
  6. Open the foil packet carefully, allowing the steam to escape.  

Banana-Chocolate Melt

  • Ripe banana
  • Parve chocolate chips
  1. Peel one section of the banana.
  2. Cut an incision on the side of the banana.
  3. Fill with chocolate chips.
  4. Fold the peel back into place.
  5. Wrap well with aluminum foil.  
  6. Wrap again with a second layer of aluminum foil.
  7. Place in the fire for ten minutes.
  8. Enjoy your warm banana-gooey melted chocolate dessert!


Bonfire Apple Cobbler

  • Sliced apples
  • Granola
  • Chopped walnuts or pecans
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  1. Place all the ingredients in a foil pocket.
  2. Wrap with another piece of aluminum foil.  
  3. Bury in the hot coals for around 30 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!

Dry Bones: Election, Lag b’Omer

Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.

— by Yaakov Kirschen
Today’s Golden Oldie is from the Lag Ba’Omer holiday back in 1999. I’m running it today because tonight we’ll be celebrating the bon-fire holiday.

Back then we were having an election and Mr. Shuldig had saved all the campaign literature for burning. This year we’re also having an election but it hasn’t quite started and it’s too early to have a stock of campaign leaflets to burn yet.

Israeli Lag Ba’Omer Bar-B-Que

— by Ronit Treatman
Every year, on the thirty-third day between Passover and Shavuot, my cousins and I would forage for dry wood.  We needed this wood to build a bonfire for our Lag Ba’Omer “kumzitz” or gathering.  While the origins of this holiday are not entirely clear, for me the most meaningful part of Lag Ba’Omer is commemorating the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire.  Lag Ba’Omer traditions include the lighting of bonfires, picnics, and Israeli folk music and dancing.

More after the jump.  
The Bar Kokhba revolt took place from 132 CE to 136 CE.  Jews of the Judaea Province, led by Shimon bar Kosiba (also called Simon Bar Kokhba), rebelled against Emperor Hadrian.  Bar Kokhba occupied Jerusalem and was responsible for many casualties among the Roman troops. The result of this uprising was the creation of an independent State of Israel.  Simon Bar Kokhba ruled it for three years.  He took the title of “Nasi Israel”, or “President of Israel.”  He announced the “Era of the redemption of Israel” and minted coins with this inscription.  In 135 CE, six legions of the Roman army led by general Sextus Julius Severus crushed Bar Kokhba’s revolt.  This was the last time that Israel was a sovereign state until 1948.

In the days of Bar Kochba, Roman troops lit bonfires on hilltops and towers to be used as signals.  Jews were forbidden to light bonfires, lest it become a military tactic.  In Israel, people celebrate Lag Ba’Omer by lighting the once prohibited bonfires.  Children reenact the guerilla warfare between Bar Kokhba’s forces and the Roman Legio X Fretensis with bows and arrows made from sticks.  

All that gathering of wood and reenacting of the Bar Kokhba revolt creates a healthy appetite!  Enjoying an outdoor meal around the bonfire is one of the nicest customs of this holiday.  The traditional Israeli Lag Ba’Omer picnic is very simple.  Cold, peeled, hard-boiled eggs are brought from home.  They are eaten with potatoes that are roasted in the bonfire.  Here is a recipe.

Bonfire Roasted Potatoes With Biblical Herbs

  • Large Russet Potatoes
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Minced fresh garlic
  • Minced fresh chervil

Wash the potatoes well.  Cut each potato almost in half.  Rub with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt, pepper, and the spices of your choice in the potato.  Wrap well with aluminum foil.  Bury the potato in the embers of the bonfire for 30 minutes.  Remove the potato from the fire, and unwrap carefully.

When you open the aluminum foil, the aromas of the hot potato will caress your nose and tempt your palate.  This method of cooking produces a potato with a very unique flavor.  It will be tender, salty, and a little smoky.  Enjoy every bite of it, including the skin!

Preparing dessert in a bonfire is a lot of fun.  What better way is there to conclude the Lag Ba’Omer feast than with that wonderful invention of the American Girl Scouts, the s’more?!

Classic Girl Scout S’more

  • 1 graham cracker
  • 1 large kosher marshmallow
  • 1.5 oz. piece of chocolate

Snap the graham cracker in half.  Place the chocolate on one piece of graham cracker.  Impale the marshmallow on a stick, and roast in the bonfire until it becomes golden-brown and begins to melt.  Place the hot marshmallow over the piece of chocolate.  Use the other piece of graham cracker to hold it in place as you pull the stick out.  Press the sandwich together and enjoy the gooey, crunchy treat.

Here is a s’more recipe with an Israeli twist.

Israeli Halva S’mores

  • 1 graham cracker
  • 1 large kosher marshmallow
  • 1 slice of sesame halva

Please proceed as in the recipe for Classic Girl Scout S’mores, replacing the chocolate with a slice of sesame halva.  This sweet and nutty treat is reminiscent of a fluffer nutter.

It is traditional to bring along a guitar or accordion for an Israeli folk song sing-along.  Alternatively, you can bring some recorded music with you.  The high point of the Lag Ba’Omer celebration is dancing a lively Hora around the fire.  As I retell Bar Kokhba’s story and celebrate, I know that Shimon bar Kosiba,  “son of the star,” would feel that he had not fought in vain if he could see us now.

Michael Solomonov and A Sustainable Lag B’Omer on the “Beach”

By Hannah Lee

Medford, New Jersey is the home of the largest Jewish day camp in North America (according to the Wikipedia) and that was the venue for Hazon‘s “Beach, Beer and BBQ” celebration of the holiday of Lag B’Omer on Sunday, May 22nd.  Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day — lag being the gematria for (numeric equivalent) of 33 — of the counting of the barley offerings (the quantity being an omer, about two quarts)  in the ancient Temple, commencing with the second day of Pesach (Passover) and culminating with the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.  Traditionally, it is celebrated in Israel with bonfires.  As observed by the Chassidim, the bonfires commemorate

“the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings. This was especially true on the day of his passing, Lag B’Omer, when he revealed to his disciples secrets of the Torah whose profundity and intensity the world had yet to experience. The Zohar relates that the house was filled with fire and intense light, to the point that the assembled could not approach or even look at Rabbi Shimon.”

For everyone else, it is a joy simply to be outdoors.  For Hazon, it was an opportunity to link a ancient holiday to a celebration of the trendy– and important!-goals of a sustainable future.
I was eager to attend because Michael Solomonov, the chef and owner of the Philly restaurant Zahav was scheduled to serve as chef for the event.  Earlier this month, he’d won the prestigious James Beard Award as Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic region (and one of three Jewish chefs to be so honored this year).  Last Wednesday, the Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan invited Michael to his Live Chat feature.

LaBan chatted with Michael Solomonov  and I got to post my comments to him: “I’m looking forward to the Hazon event that you’ll be “cheffing” for this Sunday.  One reason is that your restaurant, Zahav, is not kosher!  I want to be able to eat your food too!  Was your nuclear family (parents, siblings) ever kosher?”  Michael wrote back: “I grew up in a kosher-esque household so we didn’t eat pork or shellfish in the house.  We did, however, turn into bacon zombies the moment we stepped OUT of the house.  Seriously, if “kashruting” our restaurant wasn’t such a “balagan” in the States, we might have considered it more.  But my mission is to expose and celebrate Israeli food, in its entirety, and we would seriously limit our reach if we were kosher.  We don’t serve shellfish or pork or mix dairy and meat on any plate, so we call it “kosher style”.”  My 22-year-old daughter who is usually critical of “kosher-style” catering later commended Michael for his response.  Upon meeting the Chef that evening and identifying myself, he said that I was much nicer than some of the other posters who did not pass censure or decency for their comments.  So, I was all agog to go and I’d signed up my husband as driver and our teen daughter.

The JCC Camp in Medford has plenty of sand for the “Beach” as advertised.  It occupies 120 acres in Burlington County in southern New Jersey and it boasts of a lake too.  A small fair of vendors offering organic and sustainably sourced products kept us engaged until supper time.  I greeted Toni Price, whom I’d seen earlier in the day at Headhouse Square, the largest farmers’ market in Philadelphia.  Toni is a retired English teacher whose husband, Steve, is the chief beekeeper for their Busy Bee Farm located in the nearby Pine Barrens in Tabernacle, N.J.  Last year, their farm was awarded a Pollinator Habitat Grant from the New Jersey National Resource Conservation Service and the USDA.  As a Master Gardener of Burlington County, Toni handles the care and use of the farm’s lavender and other herbs, as well as her flock of free-range pet chickens.   She invited my family to visit on lavender harvesting days.

Negev Nectars was also on hand to offer taste tests of their gourmet products from small-scale Israeli farmers.   Their olive oil comes from trees nourished from an underground aquifer of brackish (salty) water- sparing the scarce “sweet” water from Lake Kinneret for human consumption.  I bought several jars of their kosher confitures, spreads, and honey for use as hostess gifts, in particular the items from Kibbutz Neot Smadar, since my husband’s sister is named Smadar.

Jack Treatman, Coffee Buyer and Vice President of Old City Coffee was on hand to explain how their coffee was harvested and culled by hand, with colorful photographs to illustrate his point.  The coffee beans, really the seeds of the plants’ “cherries”, are then raked into fields that resemble sand for drying.  The kosher certification comes at the point of roasting and Jack says that the only reason Old City Coffee is not certified is that its store in the Reading Terminal Market is open on Saturdays.

So, the BBQ dinner!  Michael’s food was a celebration of the flavors of Israel, executed with a modern flair and a gourmet spin.  I loved everything, especially the roasted cauliflower (even my non-crucifer-loving hubby enjoyed it!) and the grilled eggplant.  I cannot report on the meat– chicken shislik and chicken cooked al ha’esh from Grow and Behold Foods — which I didn’t eat because I’m a vegan-wannabe.   Dessert was s’mores made with marshmallows toasted on sticks over a real honest-to-goodness bonfire and chocolate from Holy Cacao,  which is made in small batches by observant Jews on the hills of Hebron “at the edge of the Judean Desert” in Israel.  Electric Simcha’s http://www.facebook.com/Electr… Hasidic rock music and Israeli dancing added to the ruach (lively atmosphere).  I was so inspired by the whole celebration that I volunteered to work on the next Hazon event in Philly, especially if it involved Michael Solomonov.  And I’m happily married!