Chocolate Hazelnut Date Balls
At its longest, you will need to walk 20 steps to get from the beginning to the end of my living room. At its widest, a skip and a hop will do. I don’t have a coffee table because the sofa feels obtrusive enough. The whole apartment is a far cry from light, bright and airy but it’s been home for almost three years and I have to say there’s a cozy and convenient factor I’ve discovered. Like how I can be sitting on the sofa and get a wide-eyed view of the dining room, kitchen and play area. The route from dryer to folding station (the sofa!) to closets is shorter than most people’s staircases. Also, wherever I stand, I can hear every conversation and cry going on in the bedrooms. I’m connected to the pulse of the home by default. Sometimes it’s too cozy. We aren’t stumbling on each other but we are together, all the time.
When we first moved to Israel three Augusts ago, most people I met imagined a fairytale “riches to rags” story. They thought I left the comforts of America, the lap of luxury, to lead a simpler life here. I couldn’t help be amused at the wonderment in their eyes because for many America connotes wealth. Except we came from LA where the cost of living is high enough, I wasn’t frolicking on the beach in oversized sunglasses and leisurely sipping La Croix every day, or week, or ever. But still, America is convenient. Life in Israel is difficult. I could see where their wonderment came from. My life in my little neighborhood in Jerusalem is indeed much simpler. Some days I love it and some days I hate it, but I grow from it. I love that I walk to get my provisions and eating in season is a reality, not a trend. There are weeks soy sauce disappears from the shelves and you just have to make do with what you have. You’re forced to adapt to circumstances rather than stomp your feet in entitlement. And then there are days I feel depleted and all I need is a few clicks to get groceries in the home (prime now!) and tasks checked off faster, efficiently. I also need larger closets so I can find a pair of shoes (I have a handful) without toppling a few over every time. But then I’d need bigger bedrooms, and then a bigger home and bigger and better and more and more of everything and anything.
“(...) for its rewards they make their bellies their god, their clothing their religion, improvement of their dwellings their ideal.” (Duties of the Heart)
I read this passage and was struck by what it stirred in me. I love beautiful things. I appreciate aesthetics and creativity. But has food become less about sustenance and more about gluttony, or clothing become less about attire and more about self-worth, or has anything become more than its intended purpose? I always believed that things are here to be enjoyed in good measure and elevated for a higher purpose. The tricky part is juggling that ideal. It’s Passover tonight! It’s a holiday that celebrates simplicity. We eat matzah which is bread that hasn’t risen because in essence all we need is flour and water. The superfluous gets stripped so we can focus more clearly on our true self, to look within. We all get sidetracked by the glittery and sometimes we need a reminder to take inventory. To truly and honestly assess where we are and what we do for whom and why. Maybe we’re still enslaved to a mortal king instead of serving our King. Only we can tell. Only we know when what we want is what we need. We have a whole week to contemplate while munching on matzah. Or these date balls. I chose to share them because they are the essence of simplicity. All three ingredients are in the title and a few pulses is all you need to make them. The vanilla is optional and the salt is as well but you can use salted roasted hazelnuts and you’ve checked two in one. So I stand by it, three ingredients to something delicious. Not a trace of gluttony there. Chag Pesach Lasher vSameach!
Chocolate Hazelnut Date Balls
yields about 14 balls
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, skins mostly removed
14 dates, pitted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
pinch sea salt (optional)
In a food processor, blend the chocolate chips and hazelnuts until mostly ground. Add the dates, vanilla and salt. Process until a smooth paste forms. With wet hands, roll into balls. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Tastes best at room temperature, though.