Celebrate the New Year of Trees by partaking of these parve desserts based on the Tu B’Shevat tradition of eating the Seven Species, agricultural products of ancient Israel mentioned in the Torah. The holiday is on Feb. 10, the 15th of Shevat.
Four Species Barley Pudding makes a not-too-sweet vegan Tu B’Shevat dessert that’s also good as a breakfast or brunch entrée. It features barley, raisins (grapes), pomegranates and dates. The Fig and Olive Bars include wheat, olive oil (olives) and figs. Flavored with rosemary and lemon, these sturdy bars appeal more to adult tastes.
Four Species Barley Pudding
1 cup uncooked pearl (pearled) barley, rinsed (see notes)
½ cup sugar
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped, pitted dates
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups water
½ cup silan OR pomegranate molasses, divided (see notes)
½ cup plus 2 Tbs. fresh pomegranate seeds
2-3 Tbs. slivered or chopped almonds
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon or orange zest, optional
Place barley, sugar, raisins, dates, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and salt in medium sauce pan. Mix. Add water. Stir. Bring to boil over medium heat. Stir. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until barley is tender but not mushy (about 25-40 minutes, timing will vary). Add water as necessary if the barley dries out while cooking. Stir in half of the silan. (Pudding can be refrigerated at this point. Bring to room temperature or gently reheat, adding a bit of water if necessary before continuing.)
While the pudding is warm or once it is at room temperature, transfer to serving dish and stir in ½ cup pomegranate seeds, top with a swirl of remaining silan and garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds, almonds and zest.
NOTES: Barley cooking times can vary greatly (I have had batches take much longer). Regular (“hulled”) barley works but doubles cooking time. Silan is also known as date honey, date syrup or date molasses and is available in kosher, Middle Eastern and specialty stores.
Fig and Olive Oil Bars
Makes 16 bars
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract or ½ tsp. lemon oil
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried, crumbled rosemary (see notes)
2 cups (8 oz.) chopped dried figs
½ cup chopped walnuts
Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper, then grease and lightly flour paper. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine sugar and olive oil in large bowl. Add eggs and water. Beat until combined. Mix in vanilla, lemon and zest.
In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary. Slowly add a third of the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring to combine. Repeat until the wet and dry are fully combined. Stir in figs and walnuts. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake about 35 minutes or until firm and lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Turn out of pan. Remove paper. Flip so flat side is down. Let cool on rack. Slice into 16 bars. Once thoroughly cool, wrap well and store at room temperature.
NOTES: These taste best made a day ahead. I used dried black mission figs. Use ½ tsp. rosemary for a stronger rosemary flavor.