by Tina D. Wasserman
Photograph by Rose
grape harvest in mid-summer was cause for celebration in ancient Israel,
promising an abundance of fruit to make wine, raisins, and syrup for the coming
year as well as vine leaves to be brined and stuffed with meat, vegetables, and
Because the harvest began on the 15th of Av (the fifth month in the Jewish
lunar calendar), the celebratory holiday was named Tu B’Av (Tu means 15).
In time the festival also came to celebrate love and its pursuit. The Talmud
describes how unmarried girls, rich and poor alike, would dress in plain white
clothing and sing and dance under the full moon in the vineyards surrounding
Jerusalem (Ta’anit 30b–31a). Many betrothals ensued.
Today the grape harvest is still celebrated in Israel, and many Israeli
couples choose to get married on Tu B’Av for the “luck” it may bestow.
I hope you spend this Tu B’Av (Aug. 14) with someone you love and enjoy these
recipes that give thanks for the fruit of the vine.
Chicken Salad Veronique with Avocados
This cold salad, featuring Israel’s summer bounty, is perfect for a hot
summer’s day. French recipes titled Veronique signify the inclusion of grapes.
This one is a snap if you ask the deli person to cut the meat into half-inch
thick slices (number 35 on some slicers).
8 ounces cooked deli chicken or smoked turkey, slices cut 1⁄2-inch
11⁄2 avocados, ripe but firm
Juice of 11⁄2 limes
seedless red grapes, sliced in half
1 cup mayonnaise
1 good pinch of dried summer savory or thyme
sweet vermouth or red wine
Toasted sliced almonds, for garnish
- Cut the chicken into half-inch cubes and transfer to a bowl.
- Slice whole, peeled avocado into half-inch cubes and place in a small bowl.
Add the juice of 1 lime to the cubes and toss.
- Mix in the halved grapes with the chicken.
- Combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, summer savory or thyme, and sweet
vermouth in a 1-quart bowl. Mix well.
- Drain the lime juice from the avocado cubes. Using a rubber spatula,
gently toss the avocados with the chicken and grapes. Place in a serving bowl or
on a plate.
- Carefully fold the mayonnaise mixture into the chicken and grapes.
- Thinly slice the remaining avocado half and place in a small bowl. Add the
remaining lime juice and gently turn the slices to coat well.
- Arrange the avocado slices over the top of the prepared salad and sprinkle
with toasted almond slices. Serve within a half hour after garnishing. Serves
• Whenever you’re mixing ingredients that include soft fruits or vegetables,
use a rubber spatula; it will prevent the food from being nicked or mashed.
• To slow down the discoloration of an opened avocado, lightly coat it with
an acidic food such as citrus juice or vinegar. This will keep the avocado
surface green for at least an hour.
Wine Jelly & Frosted Grapes
What better way is there to relax on a hot summer’s night than with a cheese
board, wine jelly (a wonderfully sweet counterfoil to strong and earthy
blue-veined or chevre cheeses), and a good bottle of wine (preferably from the
wine country in northern Israel)?
2 cups of red wine (preferably Shiraz or Zinfandel)
4 whole allspice
1 3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 cups of sugar
1 3-ounce pouch
of liquid fruit pectin
- Combine the wine and spices in a 2-quart saucepan. Heat the wine on high for
about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the spiced wine to steep for 30
- Add the sugar, then heat to a rolling boil. Stir constantly for about a
minute, until the sugar totally dissolves.
- Add the pectin. As soon as the mixture returns to a rolling boil, stir for
exactly 1 minute, until the mixture starts to thicken. Pour the jelly into
8-ounce jelly jars, a decorative mold, or a pie plate (if serving today).
- Allow the jelly to cool at room temperature for about 1–11⁄2 hours before
covering with the jar lids. Refrigerate until it’s cold and very firm. (This
mixture will refrigerate for weeks without spoiling; it can also be frozen. Do
not store in your pantry.)
- Decorate the jelly with frosted grapes by tossing the grapes in slightly
beaten egg whites or rinsing them under water, rolling them in a few Tablespoons
of sugar, and then air drying them until
dry and crisp.
• Frosting grapes with egg white helps the sugar adhere better and longer,
but if you are uncomfortable using raw egg whites, water will work almost as
well. Serves 20–30 as part of an appetizer plate.
Tina D. Wasserman, a member of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, is the
author of the URJ Press book, Entrée to Judaism. She also teaches at her own cooking
school, writes a kosher cooking newsletter on the Internet, and serves as a
culinary scholar-in-residence throughout the U.S. and
For answers to your cooking questions, email AskTina@urj,org