‘Birthright Stew’ Reading and Recipe: Parashah Tol’dot

When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp. Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favored Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished”—which is why he was named Edom. Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he rose and went away. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright. (Genesis 25: 27-34)

“The Lentil Stew”, Matthias Storm, 17th c.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tol’dot (Genesis 25:19-28:9), we encounter the famous “birthright stew.” In honor of the Parashah, we might partake of some lentil soup and bread and reflect on this moment that begins years of estrangement between the brothers.

Below I am sharing one of Shana’s winter lentil soup recipes to warm up our reading.

Simple Hearty Lentil Soup
(8-12 servings)

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups diced onion
6 large garlic cloves
6 tablespoons tomato paste
Approx. 3/4 cup finely chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper
Approx. 3/4 cup finely diced carrots
Salt & freshly ground pepper
3-4 bay leaves
1 cup chopped parsley, cilantro is also really nice as a garnish.
3 cups French brown or green lentils (check and rinse)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar (each adds a slightly different flavor)

* Depending upon what type of flavor you like you can to add some different types of spices.
Leave out the tomato paste, mustard, and vinegar if you do these alternative versions below. Also reduce bay leaf amount. You can play around with the ingredients depending on what is in the pantry.

For more Moroccan or Indian flavors: 1 1/2 tsp coriander, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and some finely grated ginger; 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice. Garnish with cilantro. If you are having a diary meal, you can also enjoy some labneh and lavash or pita. Use cayenne pepper instead of or in addition to black pepper.

For more Italian flavors: 2 tsp. oregano, sage, and 1-2 lbs tomatoes (or 16-24 oz of diced tomatoes); 3/4 cup of dry sherry. Be sure to cook down the sherry. Garnish with chopped fresh mint.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Sauté onion until it gets a nice golden hue (approx 4-7 minutes). Mash garlic cloves into a paste and add in 1 tsp. salt. Add tomato paste to onions, add peppers, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and parsley. Cook for 2-4 minutes. Add lentils, 4 quarts (16 cups) of water. and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer, partially covered until tender. 25-35 minutes.

Stir in mustard and vinegar. Taste and add more mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper as needed. Remove bay leaves.

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