This Bible code can predict a full stomach

When I signed up for a workshop called “The Culinary Bible Code,” taught by Donny Inbar, I never expected the elegant buffet of Middle Eastern foods that greeted me at the classroom door. Donny, the director of culture and events at the Israel Center in San Francisco, is also a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and this tasty spread not only reflected his talents but also the foods that would be covered in this lecture.

Appetites properly whetted, our teacher/chef gave us insight into the dramatic role food plays in the Bible. Starting with the sin in the Garden of Eden and up to the poetry of the Song of Songs, different foods are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in relation to family rivalries, fratricide, even incest.

The Hebrew Bible gives us accounts of numerous feasts and meals and specific Jewish holiday specialties. Matzah, citron, lentils, lamb, manna, cheese, milk and honey, quail and leeks are just a few mentioned throughout the Torah. Donny created a mouthwatering menu inspired by the richness of biblical flavors, fragrances and colors.

Minted Lamb Balls | Makes 32 meatballs

1/3 cup minced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried mint, crumbled
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
pinch cinnamon
1 lb. ground lamb
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 Tbs. dried currants
1/2 cup white sesame seeds, toasted lightly
Because the Jews were constantly on the move, lamb is cited in the Bible as the meat of choice because it was small enough to prepare and consume quickly.
In a small non-stick skillet cook onion and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in mint, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Add lamb, bread crumbs, egg and currants and combine well. Form level tablespoons of lamb mixture into 11/4-inch meatballs, arranging on a tray as formed.
In a small bowl roll half of meatballs, 1 at a time, in sesame seeds until coated, transferring to a rack set in a shallow baking pan. Meatballs may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered loosely.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake meatballs in upper third of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and just cooked through.

Moujadara (Lentil Salad) | Serves 8-10

1 cup dry green lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water
1 cup bulgur wheat
3/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
pinch grated nutmeg
pinch allspice
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentils similar to this salad. Manna supposedly resembled cumin seed.
In a medium pot, combine the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer until still firm and almost done, 15 to 18 minutes. Add the bulgur wheat and 1/2 tsp. salt, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit until bulgur is tender and water is absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes, adding more water if the wheat seems dry.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring, until very soft, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, black pepper, nutmeg and allspice, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the lentil and bulgur wheat mixture and stir well to combine. Remove from heat.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized to a very dark brown color, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer the lentil and bulgur wheat mixture to a platter and top with the caramelized onions. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to taste. Serve either hot or at room temperature with pita bread.