When my now-husband Bryan and I began talking about spending our lives together, we enrolled in introduction to Judaism classes at a local a reform synagogue in San Francisco. Bryan’s Jewish education had ended at 13 and I was not Jewish, so we both learned so much from those classes.
While I am grateful for the wonderfully welcoming community at our very reform temple, there were also some Jewish rituals I had only heard about and longed to participate in. I found Havdalah for example, the beautiful ritual that utilizes all five senses to mark the end of Shabbat, particularly enchanting.
Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to participate in a meaningful Havdalah ceremony in Jerusalem on a trip with Honeymoon Israel. When we returned, I decided to host a Shabbat walk and Havdalah ceremony at our home with our new Honeymoon Israel community. I found this 18Doors guide to Havdalah very useful! Since it was early in the evening, I decided to do a spread of small bites.
One new thing I loved learning about in Israel was the Seven Species, seven agricultural products listed in the Torah as being special products to the Land of Israel. Everywhere we went, we saw them featured on everything from challah covers to watercolor paintings. Inspired by this, I decided to create a 7 Species Cheese Spread for our gathering. It works perfectly for Tu Bishvat as well, when we eat the seven species. You can play with the ingredients however you wish. Here are the ingredients and one easy recipe I created using store-bought hummus to create a gourmet platter even if you’re limited on time.
Aged manchego: You can use any mild hard cheese.
Triple creme goats milk brie: You can use any mild soft cheese.
Humboldt fog: You can use any flavorful, unconventional cheese like Gorgonzola.
Arrange cheeses on a cheeseboard or use cake stands for more height and drama. Place pita in a pretty basket or bowl lined with a napkin. Place smaller items like figs, dates and olives into small bowls on or around the cheese board. If your dates and olives are not pitted, be sure to add a small bowl on the side for pits.
Right before guests arrive, drizzle a small amount of honey on the mild soft cheese (I recommend a brie). Be careful to only add a small drizzle so it doesn’t drip off the platter! I used honeycomb here instead.
1. Heat oven to 300°F and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and place tomatoes, cut side up onto the baking sheets. Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil and a sprinkle a bit of salt on them.
2. Place them in the oven for 90 minutes, then set them aside to cool. I recommend doing this one to two days in advance.
2. Boil one-and-a-half cups of salted water. When the water comes to a boil, pour in the barley and turn the heat down to a simmer for 30 minutes. Check the barley at this time–it should have some chew to it but be springy and not too hard. It took me about 45 minutes. When the barley is done, rinse with cool water and set it aside to cool. I recommend doing this one to two days in advance.
3. Spread hummus with the back of a large spoon onto a large serving platter. Sprinkle the sumac over the hummus evenly, then barley, then tomatoes, then olives, then chives. Drizzle with olive oil, then sea salt and serve with fresh pita.
All photos by Laurel Street Kitchen