The best time for making granola in Israel is during the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, also known as the New Year for trees, when it is a custom to eat dried fruits and nuts. True, granola isn’t a seasonal food item like strawberry pavlova or stuffed cardoons but during this time the markets are flooded with every imaginable variety of dried fruits and nuts including those indigenous to the area-almonds, carobs, figs and dates.
Some families, such as Miriam Kresh, incorporate them in a holiday meal called Tu Bishvat seder which originated as a kabbalistic custom (mystical Judaism). One small ethnic group in Israel, called Nash Didan, who come from the area of Lake Urmia of Western Iran prepare gift baskets to give to family and friends, much like it is done during the festival of Purim.
And of course the almond trees bloom…… for just a short while before the winds scatter the petals like butterflies. Like Arbor day, tree planting and outdoor activities are organized and conservation issues gain traction before the public quickly loses interest in it. For those who observe Jewish law, only fruits grown on trees at least four years old can be eaten and Tu Bishvat is considered the cut of date to determine their age.
Toilet bowl in full bloom, imaginative recycling
This is a wonderful recipe for granola because it is so versatile and easy to make. Just use your imagination to come up with fantastic variations such as tropical (brazil nuts and pineapple), New England classic (pecan, maple syrup and cranberries) and Middle Eastern (date syrup, apricots and almonds). What combination can you come up with?
4 cups oats (not instant)
2 cups nuts, not roasted (such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, brazil nut, macademia, pinenuts)
1 cup mix of seeds (such as sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax)
100 grams butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/4 cup honey, maple, date or carob syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or cinnamon)
1 1/2 cups dried fruits (raisons, blueberries, dates, cherries, bananas, kiwi), if the fruit is large, chop into smaller pieces
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Combine the oats with the nuts and seeds.
In a small pot, melt the butter and add the sugar, salt and honey and mix until everything is dissolved, do not let caramelize. Remove from heat and add the vanilla or cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the oats and mix until everything is well coated. Spread a thin mixture on a parchment paper lined baking tray (I used two trays) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until it becomes golden. Mix the granola once or twice during baking to insure they are evenly baked.
Let cool completely and break large clumps up. Add the dried fruits and mix well. Store the granola in an airtight jar at room temperature.
Serve on yogurt, ice cream and fruit salad