April 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The warm weather has arrived and we are seeing some early summer fruits in the shuk as well as the beloved shesek. Young grape leaves are growing all over the neighborhood and the air smells like orange blossoms. Jerusalem, while not my favorite place during the winter months, more than redeems itself come spring. Very warm days, give way to soft, breezy evenings, and the nights are still cool enough to enjoy our down comforter, but not so cold that I can see my breath in our bedroom (yes, that happened in February).
We’ve been picnicking and having campfires like crazy, to make up for all the dark evenings spent indoors and the park near our house is filled with other families doing the same.
The warmer weather brings cravings for things like melon (the honeydew are juicy, sweet and delicious right now), iced hibiscus tea, and fresh salads. The recipes that follows is my own, and was published over Passover in The Forward, as part of a piece I did on green foods for Pesach. Enjoy!
Mixed Greens Salad with Figs, Roasted Pepper and Balsamic-glazed mushrooms
1 container of mixed baby greens, ~4 cups
6-7 dried figs, chopped
1 cup lightly steamed green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 sweet red bell pepper, roasted (as demonstrated here), peeled, seeded and cut into strips
small box of baby bella or white button mushrooms, quartered
⅓ cup mild soft white cheese, crumbled/cut into small pieces (ricotta salata or goat cheese work well here)
½ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
½-¾ cup olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey
salt & pepper
Put baby greens in a large mixing bowl. Add green beans, roasted pepper and figs, set aside.
Pour enough balsamic into a medium saute pan to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly reduced, then add the quartered mushrooms. Toss mushrooms in the balsamic until evenly coated. Drain excess liquid from mushrooms and when cool, add to salad. Crumble cheese over the salad.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup balsamic vinegar with the honey, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil while whisking well until emulsified. Toss salad with the dressing and serve immediately.
*If you are making the salad ahead, wait until just before serving to add the cheese and dressing.
March 31, 2012 § 5 Comments
The unripe fruits appearing on our shesek (loquat) tree off the balcony are telling me that it’s been one full year since we moved into our Jerusalem apartment. A friend once told me that it takes at least that long for a new residence to feel like home and I agree. Having experienced each season here feels comforting, and gives the impression (illusion?) that I know what to expect.
So here it is, the cusp of April 2012 and things could not really be more different than they were not too long ago. Although there are things I miss very much about our Boston life, the life that has taken shape here is so wildly apart from that time, that trying to compare and contrast is… irrelevant. One of the only constants is my food writing and this blog, which I’ve struggled to maintain and to stay in touch with. My Israeli food-blogger friends have been extremely supportive and are an amazing professional network. Through them I’ve gotten jobs, writing gigs, emotional support and inspiration beyond what I could have possibly anticipated, especially so quickly after arriving.
This past month I was thrilled to write my first piece for the Forward’s Shabbat Meals section (thank you Liz!), which includes a couple of our favorite mezze dishes. You can click here to read that piece.
I also want to take some space to announce food-writer Katherine Martinelli’s new e-cookbook! Katherine wrote, photographed, and developed & tested recipes for all of this 54-page brunch cookbook herself, in cooperation with hangtime press!! You can check it out here.
Also, I am announcing a new category on my blog: Gluten Free. Long after a very lame attempt at trying out some GF recipes back in 2009 when we thought Jeff might have a gluten intolerance, I have been quite serious about trying a gluten free diet myself for the past six weeks due to some health issues. Although it is still unclear whether or not my body is actually intolerant of gluten, I have had a lot of fun discovering the world of GF baking and cooking and all the flours I had no idea existed.
Lastly I want to share with you all that I am no longer working full time at the cafe, and have opened my own seamstress shop next to and in cooperation with a Vintage Clothing Store here in Jerusalem. I would like to thank the owners of the shop, Shira and Judy, for all their help and also Emunah, who was running the seamstress shop before I was, for the loan of her sewing machine and all her great advice.
Hope you have a happy April and a chag sameach, and keep a lookout for a new Forward piece on my favorite spring dishes for Passover, coming out later this week.
March 17, 2012 § 4 Comments
Nothing like opening up my blog and realizing that somehow it’s been a month since I last posted. It was a long winter of shivering in our little house, and turning on space heaters, the oven, the hot plate, and boiling pots of water to set out in our freezing bedroom. There were beautiful red flowers and holidays that promised spring’s arrival was near, and then another stretch of cold rain and wind. There were crazy busy days at the cafe, as people shuffled in for soup and warm coffee drinks. We catered a lovely party for a new bride and groom, and baked sheet after sheet of hamantaschen for Purim.
Then in the midst of a rare Jerusalem snowstorm, my friend Anna arrived, her hair all golden from the california sun, and bringing a fresh, warm energy to our home. Her visit coincides with a big transition in our lives, my leaving my full-time cooking job at the cafe to pursue something new and exciting that I will be posting about soon. There are few friends that I would feel comfortable sharing my space with as I navigate the stress, and feelings of uncertainty during this time, but Anna is an amazing and supportive person who is helping me laugh my way into a new reality this month. More on that to come….
In the meantime I’d like to share these gluten-free recipes with you, as I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free eating this month. The following are new favorites (they all work, I promise!), enjoy!
Ari’s Qunioa Salad:
Rinse two cups of quinoa and cook in 2 cups of boiling water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil. Bring to a boil and then simmer until done.
Toss quinoa with 2 peeled and diced carrots, a handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped mint, 1/2 cup raisins and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.
Toss with this dressing:
juice of 1/2 an orange
juice of 1 lemon
salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne, pinch of cinnamon
1/3 cup good quality olive oil, drizzled in, while whisking vigorously
February 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
After a week of rain and cold, were were lucky to have a truly gorgeous Saturday here in Jerusalem. Families were out in the Emek (Valley of the Cross), enjoying the almond blossoms, cyclamen and the bright red anemones that look incredibly vibrant against the greenest grass we will see this year. Auralee, Jeff and I wandered the valley for hours, until the sun began to set, enjoying the colors and the glimpse of spring-weather.
After wearing ourselves out, we went home to enjoy apricot sage scones, roasted tomato salad with white beans, butternut squash stew, and an apple crisp. Not bad for a short weekend.
Apricot Sage Scones, adapted from Martha Stewart Living, 2005
I’ve had this recipe in my binder of clippings ever since I first made it in 2005. When my friend Caitlin, a personal chef here in Jerusalem, asked if I had ever made savory-sweet scones, I immediately began singing the praises of these, which reminded me that it had been too long since we’d had them ourselves. You can put the leftover sage leaves on a sheet pan, covered with a paper towel, and allow them to dry for a week or so at room temp. Then crumble them up and keep them on hand with the rest of your dried herbs and spices.
2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
1//4 cup sugar
1 Tbs baking power
3/4 tsp salt
5 Tbs cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 Tbs + 1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1 cup cold cream or milk (I used soy milk)
standing sugar and milk/cream for brushing and sprinkling
Put the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until mixed. Add the sage and apricots and pulse again. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Then add the cream slowly (you may not need it all). The batter should be tacky, not so wet that you can’t handle it. If your scone batter gets too wet, you can add a little extra flour. Turn the batter onto a lightly floured surface and quickly shape into a flat-ish circle (handling the dough as little as possible), about 8 inches around. Cut it into triangles (first in half, then quarters and so forth) and place the scone on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush each scone with a bit of milk/cream/soy milk and sprinkle with standing sugar.
Bake at 350°F/175°C until done ~ 18 to 20 minutes. These will make your house smell divine and are best eaten slightly warm.
January 28, 2012 § 3 Comments
Although the cafe may not be the hippest hang-out in town , I have to hand it to my boss, Linda. Fifteen years in business and we do a slamming lunch rush almost every single day. Holidays are completely crazy (I’m already getting nervous about Shavuot), and we make almost every single thing from scratch. When you work with the same folks every day, cranking out orders and baked goods, it is inevitable that everyone will get to know each other pretty well, and fairly quickly.
The chef, Mali, whom I work alongside each day, is a fast-working, savvy veteran of the hotel-kitchen industry who has been running the cafe’s kitchen for 7 years. She is a trained pastry chef (our main commonality) as well as a savory chef, with surprising patience for her staff, and little for anyone else. She is also Moroccan, an identity which she carries like a flag, making more than a few comments about Ashkenazim and their tiresome palates, customs and social skills. Like a lone crusader of truths, she dispenses Moroccan folk-wisdom (and a great deal of Mali-isms) throughout her day, both amusing and confusing the staff (mainly me). Although I take her worldview with a grain of salt, her recipes are no joke. This family recipe for semolina cake is just one example of the kind of wisdom I am glad to take from her, and am excited to share with others.
Mali’s Moroccan Basbusa Cake
This cake is also called one-one-one cake because most of the ingredients are in 1-cup quantities, which makes this recipe very easy to cut in half. Basically, this cake is a separated sponge, with a simple syrup poured over it right after it is removed from the oven. Because its ingredients are so straightforward, I think you could play around with flavors if you wanted to. Perhaps add some citrus zest to the batter, or almond/orange blossom water.
For the cake:
6 eggs, separated
1 cup oil (Mali uses canola, I used half canola, half olive oil)
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided (I used less, see below)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup semolina
1 cup flour (I used half whole wheat)
pinch of salt (my addition)
for the syrup:
the syrup is essential!
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Make the cake:
In a large bowl, mix the 6 yolks with the oil, juice and one cup of sugar (I used about 1/2 a cup, instead). Add the flour, coconut, semolina and a pinch of salt and mix until just combined.
In a separate bowl, whip the whites until foamy, then add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup) SLOWLY, whipping as you add, until the whites have reached soft peaks.
Fold the whites into the batter (careful not to over-mix, or you will deflate your whites) and pour the batter into a wide, shallow, greased pan (I used a glass 9 x 13 inch pan, coated with Pam spray).
Bake at 170°C/350°F until golden brown and firm/springy to the touch ~ 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the sugar and water in a small pot for a few minutes.
When the cake comes out of the oven it may be very puffy, and almost higher than the pan. Very slowly and carefully pour the syrup over the entire cake, making sure it is getting distributed evenly.
Allow the cake to cool for a bit and the syrup to fully absorb before serving.
January 14, 2012 § 5 Comments
It has taken a while, but I finally managed to get the electricity adapter I need to convert my US appliances for use in our apartment here in Jerusalem. I was beside myself with joy to turn on my mixer again for the first time, and was talking to my food processor, like a batty old lady, apologizing for keeping him in the cupboard for so long…
I had two immediate thoughts when I heard those little motors purr to life: devil’s food cake with strawberries & frosting, and walnut basil pesto.
I used my favorite devil’s food cake recipe for the cake’s base, and a fantastic “marshmallow” frosting recipe that is dairy-free, smooth, silky deliciousness. For the pesto, I simply made my favorite dairy-free, free-form version which includes walnuts, lots of basil and some fruity, organic olive oil, delivered by our egg and honey man, Amnon.
Super-spreadable Fluffy White Icing, adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri
You need a little patience to make this swiss meringue recipe, but I promise it will pay off. The most important thing to remember is to whisk continuously, both while the meringue is over the bain-marie (simmering water) and once you pull it off the heat, until it has reached the desired texture.
4 large egg whites
large pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar (I use organic/natural sugar)
1/2 cup light corn syrup (do NOT grease your cup to help the corm syrup slide out! Your egg whites will not firm up if mixed with even a tiny drop of oil)
Half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Combine the whites, salt, sugar, and corn syrup in the bowl of an electric mixer (or any bowl, if you are using a hand-mixer — just make sure the bowl sits over the water, not in the water). Whisk ingredients by hand, just to combine.
Regulate the heat under the pan so that it boils gently and place the bowl on the pan. Whisk gently, just to keep the mixture moving, until it is hot (~130°F/55°C) and the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl on the mixer and whip with the whisk attachment until the icing has cooled and becomes white and fluffy. It will look silky and will hold medium-firm peaks.