Forget unplugging for Shabbat. We just spent a week as time travelers, leaping backward into life without smartphones, or the ability to control our children’s behavior by threatening to ban screen time. The zombies that live inside our kids vanished, as we spent seven days in the glory that is family camp.
At Camp Mather, hiking to see the wildflowers left behind by the ravaging rim fire near Yosemite and picnicking by Hetch Hetchy, we relaxed into a land of no cell reception.
The camp dining hall prepared three squares a day, complete with a Kidz Korner and unlimited chocolate milk. My children inhaled so many carbs, when we got home they asked only for broccoli, cucumbers and carrots. I attacked the preparation of those vegetables with enthusiasm and culinary energy that I hadn’t experienced in months. Turns out I needed a vacation from feeding my family — a break from planning weekly shopping lists and figuring out the sweet spot where healthy dinners meet minimum kvetching.
Plus there was something to dining all together, sharing conversation and child supervision with the two other families we traveled with. The kibbutzniks know it, as did the ancient Israeli tribes before them. There is beauty and peace in the world of communal living, in watching children run off united by independence and exploration.
Back in the world of my own kitchen, I couldn’t help but admit that it was kind of nice chopping my own vegetables and checking the spelling of Sriracha on my smartphone. I’m sure with a little effort and creativity, I’ll figure out a way to combine the best of both worlds.
Ginger Shiitake and Asparagus Stir-Fry
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp. garlic, minced
8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut in 1⁄4-inch slices
11⁄2 lbs. asparagus, tough stems removed, tender parts cut in 2-inch pieces
1⁄2 cup sliced green onions
1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. sugar
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic and mushrooms. Stir-fry 1 minute. Add asparagus and green onions and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in Sriracha sauce, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Sauté until asparagus is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt, sugar and pepper. Serve.
Sesame Slaw with Tahini Vinaigrette
8 cups green cabbage, sliced thin
2 cups red bell pepper, sliced thin (seeded, deveined)
1 cup fennel, sliced thin (core and fronds discarded)
1⁄4 cup grated carrots
1 bunch scallion, trimmed and chopped
1⁄4 cup lemon juice
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1⁄4 cup soy sauce
1⁄4 cup tahini
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. + 2 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce
1 tsp. finely grated ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. salt
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (optional)
1⁄2 cup cilantro leaves plus extra for garnish
1 cup cashews, toasted
Toss cabbage, bell pepper, fennel, carrots and scallions together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, vegetable oil, soy sauce, tahini, rice vinegar, brown sugar, Sriracha, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and salt. Pour dressing over cabbage. Toss well to coat cabbage. Add chicken if using and 1⁄2 cup cilantro and toss again. Garnish with cashews and more cilantro.
Josie A.G. Shapiro, who won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff, is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Her website is www.thechickencontests.com.