We went to a lovely memorial service for my cousin who died on Tu Bishvat and in his blessed (z”l) memory his synagogue planted a almond tree in their garden. I can’t wait to see the beautiful almond blooms next spring. I really miss my cousin Michael: his wonderful laugh, his boundless knowledge, and his dry sense of humor. He was there for me when I needed him and I feel a deep void when the holidays come around.
I have written about the origins of Tu Bishvat before and I always try to make a dish with dried fruits and nuts in observance of this minor holiday. I decided to make very simple, but delicious fruit and nut bars from the seemingly endless supply of dried fruits and nuts that are sold daily in every shuk and supermarket around the country. The recipe looks a bit strange because you will think that there can’t possibly be enough batter to bake into bars, but it works, and the brown sugar does not make the bars sickeningly sweet.
1/3 cup of flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup cranberries
3/4 cup dates, pitted and cut into quarters
3/4 cup prunes, pitted and cut into quarters
1 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and mix with a fork. Stir in the brown sugar, walnuts, pecans and dried fruit. Mix with your hands making sure that the fruit and nuts are coated with the flour mixture.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg and the vanilla with a whisk or stick blender until pale and thick. Add the egg mixture to the fruit and nut mixture and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter. Spread into the prepared pan, pressing to even it out.
Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool the bars on a wire rack and use a sharp knife to cut into squares.