The Incredible Israeli Breakfast

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Before I visited Israel for the first time in 2011, I asked an ex-pat Israeli friend what she missed most about her native country. “The breakfasts. Definitely the breakfasts!” was her answer. Was she kidding me or just plain crazy?

Israelis take the most important meal of the day incredibly seriously. If you’ve ever been to Israel (and not stayed at a hostel or pilgrim house), you will know what I mean. I’ll never forget that first morning in Jerusalem’s Dan Panorama Hotel. The breakfast spread was simply overwhelming. Different from anything I’d expected. Delicious!!!! I fell madly in love at first sight, smell and taste. It was so different than anything I’d ever seen. So, what makes this meal so wonderful?

There are several different staple courses. First of all, because of the Kashrut rules (most Jewish people keep Kosher to some degree), the meal is dairy. No meat to be found anywhere at all. No bacon. No ham. No sausage. No meat. Fuhgeddaboudit!

We’ll start with the salad course. There are salads of every kind… not the typical American tossed salad, but chopped fresh vegetables, sprouts, nuts, grains, olives, and eggplant. The national food of this country, found at just about every meal is the Israeli salad: cucumbers and tomatoes diced finely and topped with olive oil, lemon juice, or tehine. There can be cherry tomatoes (did you know they were developed here first?) with cheeses and balsamic vinegar; sprouts with green onions, mushrooms, radishes,  arugula and nuts dressed with olive oil;

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quinoa salad with pomegranate arils, juice, green onions and feta cheese;

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lentil salads; cold eggplant cubes in picante tomato sauce; smoked eggplant with garlic, pureed; carrots in vinaigrette; all types of cabbage salads; anything fresh, colorful and in season cut up and dressed is fair game. Avocado and hard boiled egg with sprouts and walnuts is popular here as are tabbouleh and fattoush. And the beet salads! Don’t get me started-

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An Israeli breakfast is not complete without the dairy, namely wide variety of cheeses: cow, sheep, and especially goat-milk cheeses, both hard and soft. We have whole pieces of gouda, kashkaval, manchego, grana padana at our tables. There are the soft cheeses, like tsahoba (yellow cheese), emmental, and buttery emek cheese. Add to this feta: Tsarfatit and Bulgarit, which is a very salty feta. Cream cheeses; labaneh is a mainstay here – a thick cross between a sour cream and a yogurt, spread on bread, dolloped on salads, on eggs, on veggies and everything in between. A reason I gained so much weight in my first three years here. And yogurt – with fruit, with honey, with nuts, with granola, usually fresh goat yogurt. I eat this every morning. The darned delicious cheeses!

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Fish!!!!! Lots of fish!!!!! Thank the Russians and Eastern Europeans for this course. There is always tuna fish – whipped into a mousse, plain, tuna salad (dark tuna is used – white unavailable here, so if you visit me, bring the Albacore!). Also included are assorted smoked fishes and pickled fishes – whitefish, sable, herring, salmon (lox), to name a few. Pickled herring with onions, herring in cream sauce. Fish. Fish. Fish (It’s not considered meat, so breakfast usually is the time to eat it).

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I certainly hope you’re not full yet, because we are only getting started! Olives of all types (stuffed with almonds, lemon, chiles, garlic) and all colors. Of course humus. Lots and lots of humus and pita. Mix it into your salads (I have humus, cucumber and hard boiled egg chopped small every morning). Humus with a soft egg on top. Humus with gargarim (whole chickpeas), with olive oil and zata’ar spice, hot humus. It’s ubiquitous in Israel. And of course, there’s bread. Wholegrain. Pita. Dark flour breads. Flatbreads. Crackers. Sorry, but you won’t find Wonderbread here no matter how hard you try. There are lakhmaniot (little hand-held buns and breads) of all varieties. Just recently the American-Jewish bagel started making an appearance. The Yememites introduced Jachnoon, a tight roll of filo dough that is deep-fried and soaked in a sugar syrup, usually orange blossom flavored.

You won’t find pancakes or French toast here. Unhuhh. Nope. We have bourekas, another national breakfast food that is also a snack food. The boureka is found on every breakfast buffet, in every grocery store, and in bakeries. There are stores everywhere that sell only bourekas (I have my favorite place. If you come, we’ll go. It was one of the places my daughter, Liz, requested from her last visit, they are just that good!!!). They’re sold by the kilo. So the boureka came to us from Turkey. They are thin, fluffy paper-like filo dough pockets filled with savories like mushroom and onion, cheese, spinach and feta, potato. They come in bite-size and hand-held size. Some fillings are sweet with jams and fruit butters, some have nutella or chocolate centers. A popular variety is the pizza boureka, and they are all best eaten piping hot.

Would you believe, that the rabbinate (board of Chief Rabbis) ruled in 2013 that each type of boureka has to have a pre-determined shaped based on the filling (the triangular are dairy; the square are potato; semi-circles are mushroom; pizza spirals; fruit filled have open patchwork on top)? That way, people would not get confused? Oy va voy! I’m so confused…..

Are you ready for the eggs? Another national dish is shakshuka. There are several different takes on this, but basically it’s a mildly spiced tomato sauce with eggs cracked on top and cooked by the heat of the sauce. Sop it up with that hearty bread. Put a spoonful of white labaneh cheese on top.

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I love chavita (khah vee tah), our version of an omelette. I’ll include the recipe at the end. For those who want breakfast to go, try sabikh. It’s a warm, thick (think eating a cloud) pita stuffed with pieces of boiled potato, grilled eggplant, hard-boiled egg and tehine on top. And pickles. And Israeli salad. Sometimes fries. Serious food for starting the morning. Street food. Great breakfast.

Yes, there are fruits. All seasonal. Melons, fresh dates, figs, stone fruits, pomegranate, mango in the summer. In the winter dried fruits, stewed fruit compotes, citrus and apples. Sweets. Pastries and quick breads and cakes and rugelach. DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT EATING THE HALVAH!!!!!! One of my favorites since I was a kid. Halvah is made of sesame seed paste and honey compressed to form a brick shaped bar of awesomeness. Flavors that are traditional are plain, chocolate, marble, pistachio, and espresso. Now you can get many different flavors (Halvah King, Mechane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem) like chile, passionfruit, whiskey, cherry….there are over 100 varieties!

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I’m sure by now you’re thirsty. Very, very thirsty with all that salty cheese and fish, the humus and the halvah. Every Israeli breakfast comes with freshly squeezed juices. Max likes apple carrot. I prefer the lemon with fresh ground mint over ice or the orange pomegranate. John, well he sticks to plain old orange, which if you’ve ever tasted the Jaffa Orange isn’t so plain, nor is it old. Add tea or coffee. No Starbucks here. The coffee is usually a strong Turkish blend with cardamom. Or have it aufrukh, upside down, a cross between a cappuccino and a latte with lots of foam on top.

From the grand hotels to the small cafes, to the kibbutz or bed and breakfast, this meal is usually a big deal. The kibbutzniks used to work very long, hard days in factories or in the fields, and needed hearty fare to keep them going until the afternoon. Most all of the food was locally sourced, seasonal, and abundant. The Israeli breakfast has become this country’s gift to the culinary world. When people come visit, I serve a big breakfast. It’s how we roll now. Lunch here is a medium sized meal, or is grabbed on-the-go like falafel or shawarma. Many people have their breakfast early and lunch around 1:00-3:00. Shops, clinics, government offices close during the hottest part of the day so people can pick up kids from school, run errands and eat lunch. Dinner is usually a smaller, large snack affair… unless of course, it’s a special occasion.

But if you visit Israel, and I hope you do, make sure you sample Israeli breakfast at several different places. You’ll fall in love and never want to leave. That’s a promise!

 

                             GALILEE CHAVITA (serves 1)

  • 1 large egg, cracked into a bowl and scrambled
  • 2 TBSP raw red/purple onion minced very finely
  • 2 Tbsp assorted fresh herbs, chopped very finely – Parsley, chives, and either thyme, oregano or basil are good.
  • 1 tsp butter or PAM
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a small skillet sprayed with PAM or coated in melted butter. Pour the scrambled egg in and let sizzle. Do not mix!!!! you can tilt the pan a little bit, or move the edge a wee bit with a fork so extra runny egg will cover the pan, but just leave it to bubble and sizzle. Add the chopped onion and herbs all over the top. Turn off the heat and let the herbs and onion sit a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Can be folded in half and served as a sandwich between pita or bread. I like mine plain with a chopped Israeli salad and a ramekin of goat yogurt on the side. (The onions should keep their crunch)

SHAKSHUKA (my favorite recipe is Yotam Ottolenghi’s, serves 4)

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  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 190 ml olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 red & 2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves plucked
  • 2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper
  • 8 eggs

In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for two minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and two tablespoons of the coriander/cilantro, and cook on high heat to get a nice color. Add the tomatoes, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat 15 minutes, adding enough water to keep it the consistency of pasta sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorsome. Break the eggs into the pan (can split into four individual little skillets and crack 2 eggs onto each). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook gently on low for `10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with chunky bread.

 

When I have guests, I usually make this Broccoli Egg Cake, my version of Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower cake (not a cake at all). It keeps well in the fridge and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

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Broccoli Egg Bake  (serves 6-8)

  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 red/purple onion
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 7 eggs
  • 120 g/1 cup flour
  • 1/3 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150 g/ 1 1/2 cups grated gouda cheese
  • 100 g 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 75ml / 5 Tbsp  olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp nigella seeds
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 180*/400*F.

Cook the broccoli in florets in a large pot of salted boiling water. Simmer for 506 minutes until the broccoli has softened a bit. Strain and run the florets under cold water. Drain well.

Cut 4 round slices off one end of the red onion. Set aside. Chop the rest. Place in a small pan with the rosemary and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the chopped basil ribbons, flour, turmeric, salt and pepper. Mix until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the onion and cheeses carefully. Do not overmix! Add the cooled broccoli and fold in thoroughly. Do not break up the florets.

Line the base and sides of a springform pan (9 1/2 inch/ 24 cm) with parchment paper/ baking paper. brush the sides with melted butter. Sprinkle the nigella and sesame seeds on the bottom and sides so they stick to butter. Pour in the broccoli egg batter, spreading evenly. Arrange the onion rings in concentric circles over the top. Place in the center oven rack and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown, puffy, and set. Remove from oven and let cool before releasing from pan.

 

 

 

 

An Early Summer Feast

 

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The last of the Spring holidays is rapidly approaching here in Israel. It has been two months of non-stop festivities beginning with Passover for the Jews, Easter for the the Christians and Ramadan for the Muslims. The Jewish people have been counting the days of the Omer (for the late spring harvest) and working on improving their inner spirituality.

We had an interesting holiday of Lag B’Omer a couple weeks ago, celebrating the Light of the World, and also the life of beloved first century sage, Rabbi Akiva. This festival is usually celebrated with joyous bonfires, singing and dancing. Tragically, for Israel, it was marked by arsonist terrorists setting fire to several communities. The moshav of Mevo Modi’in was utterly destroyed. We know four families who lived there, including the Solomons and Swirskys. Their sons form one of our favorite LA bands, Moshav. Hamas and other terrorist factions in Gaza have been sending over incendiary devices attached to balloons, burning up thousands of acres of forest and farmland.

This week, we are looking forward to the last holiday of the season, Shavuot, where we celebrate the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai; the wheat harvest that has just come in…. as we travel on Route 6 every day, we have seen the gathering and bundling of the golden fields of wheat. It is spectacular!!!!…. the fruits and vegetables coming into season; the summer flowers; the Land of Milk and Honey; the sincere milk of the Word; and the love story of Ruth and Boaz.  And the Christian communities here will be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit fell upon the talmidim of Jesus and upon the congregation of people gathered in Yerushalayim for the Shavuot holiday. Wow! That’s a mouthful!!!

Some religious Jews stay up all night studying Scripture. The seculars (khiloneem) celebrate the agricultural aspects of the holiday with parades and floats and lots of flowers. And EVERYONE enjoys eating dairy products!!! Lots of dairy!!! Cheese platters; cheesecake; noodle puddings; cheese blintzes; and interesting regional specialties. So, without further ado, here are some amazingly delicious and culturally different recipes I’d like to share with you:

LAYALI LAVAN

This recipe comes from Lebanon. the Jewish refugees that escaped persecution from the Arabs in the 1940s-1950s brought this exotic and romantically delicious recipe with them.  On a warm summer evening, eating it is like flying on a magic carpet with your lover into the sunset. It’s just that awesome!!!     8-12 servings depending on how big you slice it-

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3/4 cup cream of coconut/coconut cream – 2 cans
  • 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup solet (semolina)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup ground pistachios
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons rose water (available in MiddleEastern/Indian stores or Trader Joe’s in the U.S.)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons orange blossom water (available in Middle Eastern/Indian stores or Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 1/2 cups milk (can go vegan by using unsweetened almond, rice or coconut milk)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Chill the cans of coconut cream in the fridge for several hours or overnight. You need the cream to be cold enough to completely separate from the liquid below. DONOT SHAKE can!!! Open and remove the solidified cream to a large mixing bowl. Discard the liquid or reserve for other use. Using a hand mixer, whip up the coconut cream just as you would make dairy whipping cream. When thick and fluffy, set in fridge to keep chilled.
  2. On a medium-high heat stove, whisk together the milk, semolina and salt in a large pot. Bring mixture to a rapid boil, stirring constantly. Make sure it does not burn!! As soon as the mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and stir in the dried cranberries, rose water, orange blossom water, and orange zest.  With a rubber spatula, turn the mixture into a 9X13 inch baking dish. Smooth the surface so all is even. Allow it to cool to room temperature 25-45 minutes. Once it has cooled enough, take the whipped coconut cream from the fridge and spread an even layer overtop the semolina milk surface. Cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
  3. For the super delicious syrup: Make this right before serving. It will be poured, warm and fragrant over the dessert just prior to serving. In a small saucepan, put the sugar and gently pour the water overtop, adding the freshly squeezed orange juice. Cook on medium high heat without stirring. As soon as the syrup reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to simmer as you swirl the pan to just mix the ingredients. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of orange blossom and rose waters. Let come to room temperature…but still slightly warm, and put into a lovely small pitcher.
  4. To serve: Slice up squares of this rich custardy dessert and carefully transfer to individual plates. Decorate with chopped pistachios. I like to add a small amount of dried rose petals (unsprayed!!!) from the garden for that pop of color and romance. Drizzle with (pour it on, baby!) the fragrant syrup and enjoy!

 

The next recipe comes from the Persian Jews. It is very different to the Western palate, but I just adore this one!! Besides being a tasty coffee latte drink you’ll probably never see at Starbucks, it’s beautiful to present with slices of poundcake or a few plain cookies or macarons. A delicious summer drink! Serves 2.

             PERSIAN PINK SPICED ROSE & CARDAMOM LATTE

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 shots espresso coffee or turkish coffee powder
  • 8 cardamom pods or 3/4 teaspoons dried cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water
  • 1/2 teaspoon beet juice or red food coloring
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons dried unsprayed pink or red rose petals, crushed
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium saucepan, pour the milk, rosewaterand cardamom along with the beet juice (which I use) or food coloring and honey. Stir until well combined and warmed. Do not allow it to boil! Remove from heat, and if you are using cardamom pods, remove the pods with a spoon. Whisk with a hand-held frother or immersion blender for a few seconds to froth up.
  2. Pour an espresso shot into each cup or glass. Spoon the warm pink froth over the top and sprinkle with rose petals. Place a small sprig of thyme on top.

 

On Shavuot, the Russians eat cheese blintzes with cherry sauce on top. These are thin crepe-like pancakes filled with sweetened ricotta cheese or fruits. Both varieties are available in the frozen foods section. I love to make pre-packaged sweet potato ravioli with a sage-infused cream sauce or a cheese tortellini with a basil-pesto infused cream sauce. Both are equally delicious.

My Christian friends living on the shores of Lake Kinneret, or the Sea of Galilee celebrate the Pentecost by eating freshly caught lake fish (Dennis, Amnon or St. Peter’s Fish) covered with a red tomato sauce to remember the tongues of fire that alit atop the disciples’ heads. I believe a sole, halibut, flounder or tilapia (any white fish) will be a tasty substitute.

 SPICED WHITE FISH IN TOMATO SAUCE  serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 fillets of firm, white fish
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon caraway or fennel seeds, roasted in a pan for 1-2 minutes
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • small green chile pepper, seeded and chopped(remove the seeds & don’t touch your face! Wash hands well!!)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour or semolina, which is traditionally used
  • 150 ml/ 5 oz. water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons silan (date syrup) or honey
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • lemon wedges
  • handful/bunch chopped fresh coriander/cilantro/cuzbara leaves
  • salt 7 pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil with chopped garlic, spices, and chili and blend to a paste by spoon or in a food processor. In medium-large pan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil. In small bowl combine the flour or semolina (preferred) with salt and pepper and dredge the fish in this mixture. Sear the fillets on both sides in a hot pan until golden brown in color. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.

Heat the rest of the oil in the pan. Add spice paste mixture and stir for about 30 seconds. Stir in the water and tomato paste. Add the silvan or honey and lemon juice and let simmer. Salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.

Add the fish fillets to pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and let cook through about 15 additional minutes.Remove fish to plates, pouring the red sauce over top. Garnish with lemon wedges and chopped herbs. A traditional accompaniment to this is ptitptitim, or a very fine grain couscous. Of course, no Middle Eastern feast is complete without a bazillion different varieties of fresh olives; eggplant salads a million ways to Sunday; pickled carrots, turnips and cabbages; humus and pita and steaming hot Turkish coffee spiced with cardamom!

As the Jews say, “Khag sameakh!” and as the Christians say, “Happy Feast!”

 

 

The Ubiquitous Cholent

For observant Jews, Shabbat is a day of complete rest. No work at all can be done. No physical work, no driving, no shopping, no writing or computer use, not even turning on or off electricity and NO COOKING! All work must be completed sundown Friday (through nightfall Saturday). Shabbat is a day for prayer, family, visiting neighboring friends, and relaxation. It’s a necessary unplugging from the frenetic pace of the week.

There is a traditional Sabbath dish in the Jewish culture. A mainstay. It’s ubiquitous here in Israel. Called cholent ( pronounced CHO lent, SHOW lent, or shoont), it is a hearty thick cross between stew and chili that is prepared on Friday and cooks in a crock pot or on a hot plate through Saturday. Especially great on a cold winter day, it has as many different variations as there are cooks. It was birthed from necessity over hundreds of years and encompasses all the different Jewish cultures of the world – made with different ingredients: meats, veggies ,spices, beans, grains – based on the tastes and availability of products in that part of the world. I’ve had the “typical” Ashkenaz cholent as well as the Sephardic, Yemenite, and North African versions, called chamin (kha MEEN), which translates to “hot” in Hebrew.

The basic ingredients for cholent are cubed stew meat, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, spices, whole eggs (really!!!), vegetables and sometimes grains like barley or cosemet (bulgar or buckwheat groats). The meat is seared first, the rest of the ingredients are added, brought to a boil, and then set on a slow simmer (crock pots are great for this) for the duration of Shabbat.

The hard boiled eggs can be fished out and eaten at breakfast; the stew makes a stick-to-the-ribs midday meal, and any leftovers are scooped up with bread; stuffed into pita; and served with accompanying cold salads, olives, pickles and other mezze.

The “guys” love cholent with the addition of a can of beer or a cup of whiskey, which cooks out leaving flavor. It can be dressed up with a dry red wine, but mostly it’s made alcohol free.

This is a very creative dish. Basically it uses the meat and red kidney beans or brown beans. The Spanish and Mexican style uses black beans. Middle Eastern versions use chickpeas and turkey or chicken thighs for the meat. For the Eastern European, white potato chunks are added. The Yemenite and South African style uses sweet potatoes. Always, lots of onion chunks and garlic cloves are thrown in. Some people put in cut up carrots, celery, turnips, tomatoes, even peas. And…. it can be made vegan without the meat.

So, without further ado here are some basic recipes:

Basic Ashkenazi Cholent. Serves 6

Ingredients:

1kg/2.2lbs Beef short ribs or stew meat. 1 onion cut into large chunks. 8 pieces garlic. 1/3 cup northern white beans. 1/3 cup red kidney beans. 1/2 kg/1lb. large chunks unpeeled red potatoes 3/4 cup pearl barley. 3/4 cups beef broth. 6 whole eggs. 2Tbsp honey. 2 tsp paprika. 1 tsp each salt & pepper

Sear meat on high heat in skillet. Add to bottom of crockpot and dump all the additional ingredients on top. Cover and bring to a boil on high setting 1-2 hours. Then set dial to low. Keep covered 12-18 hours. Can add more liquid ( can of chopped tomatoes with liquid) if it looks too thick or dry. Also, when in the US I added a frozen vegetarian kishke chub which, for us, puts the dish over the top! It’s something I can only find at Mehane Yehuda in Yerushalayim here in Israel.

Yemenite Chamin

Ingredients:

1 kg/2.2 lb chicken things, skin on. 1 red/purple onion cut in chunks. 6 cloves garlic. 3 large sweet potatoes, cut into large pieces. 3 carrots, cut up. 2 dates, pitted. 1/2 cup apricots. 1/4 cup raisins. 3 cups chickpeas. 6-12 eggs, whole. 2 tsp turmeric (curcum). 1/2 tsp allspice. 1/2 tsp cumin. 1/2 tsp cinnamon. 1 tsp salt. 1 quart/1liter chicken broth

Brown the salted and peppered chicken thighs in a skillet until golden. Transfer to crockpot and add all other ingredients. Stir well and cover. Heat on high 1-3 hours then set to low 12-18 hours.

MexiCholent

1/2 kg/1 lb ground meat, browned. 1 onion, chopped large. 6 garlic cloves. *optional 1-4 jalapeño, chopped 1 cup black beans or frijoles. 1 cup rice. 2 cans (425 ml) chopped tomatoes with sauce. 1 can corn with liquid. 1cup water. 6 whole eggs. 1 bunch chopped cilantro (cuzbara). 1 1/2 tsp cumin. 4 drops Tabasco. 1/2 tsp chili powder. 1 tsp each salt & pepper. 1/2 tsp. Sugar

Add all ingredients to crock pot. Set to high 2 hours, then turn to lowest setting for 12-18 hours. Can add water if needed, but try to keep covered

Veggiecholent

Ingredients:

2yellow onions, cubed. 1 red/purple onion, cubed. 6 garlic cloves. 3 large zucchini cut in very large chunks. 6 carrots cut in large pieces. 1 pack brown mushroom, sliced thickly. 3 stalks celery, cut large. 2 cans chopped tomatoes with juice. 2 cans white cannellini beans, Lima beans or northern whites. 1/2 kg/ 1 lb red potatoes, cubed. 1 cup grain (barley, couscous, brown rice) 6 eggs(omit if vegan). 2 tsp dried thyme. 1 large bay leaf. 1 bunch parsley, chopped. 1tsp each salt & pepper 1 1/2 cups water

Add all to large crockpot. Allow to come to boil on high heat 15 minutes, stirring well. Switch to lowest simmer 12-18 hours.

As stated previously, there are many variations. Start with the basics, then be creative. But most of all enjoy! B’tayamim!!

Food, Fall & Feasts

When I lived in California, I always had a big, beautiful and very productive garden in which I grew organic, heirloom vegetables. Our fruit trees provided us with plums, peaches, citrus, cherries and figs. It seemed sensible with five children and one steady income to supplement our grocery bill with healthy, garden-fresh produce. With super abundant yields, I learned home canning and preserving, making sauces, pickles, chutneys and jams to last us into winter. Living in earthquake country, it also seemed wise to have a store of food on hand in the event of emergency. And when I needed holiday or hostess gifts, I used what I had made to create some pretty fabulous gift baskets. There was always enough at hand to give to a new neighbor or friend in need.

Coming to Israel, not only was continuing an organic garden important to me, but making my (award winning in California) lines of preserves, chutneys, relishes and pickles would become my business – Tamar Gourmet. We were so blessed to rent a home with huge concrete planter boxes outside every window and surrounding our upstairs balcony. The first thing I did when we moved here was to plant.

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Herbs grow outside my kitchen window

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Red, Choggia & Golden Beets

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Peach Blow Tomatoes

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Brandywines on the balcony

From the beginning of our Israeli adventure, the realization that there was more to Jewishness than the narrow Ashkenaz (European Jewish) culture than that which I was brought up in. This place is diverse in its mix of Jews from all over the world: the Spanish Sephardim, the Middle Eastern Mizrachi; the Ethiopian, Ugandan and Indian. They have all come here with their own palates creating a taste explosion of spices and food preparation styles, each with their own contribution to this remarkable land. What fun it’s been to get a sampling and learn from the different cultures!!! And for me, experimenting to create a fusion of the different flavors has been challenging, and many times yielding amazing results.

This time of year, late summer, is especially wonderful here, as everyone seems to be preparing for the great Fall Feasts!! From Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Mercy & Forgiveness – to Sukkot, the Feast of the Harvest where we dwell for a week in tabernacles – to Simchat Torah, the rejoicing over the Five Books of Moses given to the Jewish people by G-d. And each holiday comes with its traditional foods (yes, even Yom Kippur, a fasting day, starts with a heavy meal before and ends in a sumptuous break fast).

I’d like to share with you some recipes incorporating these different cultures and traditions.

                     SWEET PEAR PICKLES                    

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I guess home preserving runs deep in my blood, because I remember my parents making pickled pears every year before Rosh HaShannah. Last year, I was going through some boxes and came across my dad’s recipe! So, I’m glad to be able to continue the family tradition. Totally Ashkenaz!

As my parents did, I use the tiny, brown Sekel pears. They are hard and sweet and stand up well to pickling, retaining their firmness without any mushiness. They keep really well for a year, and are delicious as a side dish or sliced up in a salad with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts. I’ve also used them on top of a cake with my Tamar Gourmet Vanilla Pear Conserves as a filling for the middle layers. Absolute heaven!

 

Ingredients: (makes 8 pints/4 quarts)

5 pounds Sekel Pears (2 1/2 kg)                             2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice                 3 cups spring water                                                  1 cup apple cider vinegar                                     2 cups sugar                                                               4 sticks cinnamon (broken in half for pint jars)                                                                               whole cloves                                                              24 whole peppercorns

Thoroughly wash the jars and lids. Submerge  them in a large pot filled with water so that they are completely covered. I use a wire rack underneath to insure water circulation. (If using Mason, Kerr, or Ball jars, sterilize lids only, not screw bands). Bring to boiling and let boil for 20 minutes while you prepare the pears and syrup.

Wash the pears and cut in half. No need to peel them. Core out the seeds. Place in large bowl of ice water with lemon juice to prevent browning.

For liquid –  Add vinegar, sugar and 3 cups spring water to a pot and heat on stove until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Remove jars from water bath. Add 1/2 stick cinnamon, 8 cloves & 4 peppercorns to each PINT jar. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 16 cloves, 8 peppercorns to the QUART size.  Firmly pack in the halved pears. Ladle syrup over the top until there is 1/4 inch headspace. Place lids on top. Screw on the bands.

Place filled jars back into hot water bath and process (bring to boil) for 10 minutes to insure any germs are gone. Take out of bath and let cool on clean towel. The lids will make a slight popping sound as they seal, and should not feel springy when pressed on with finger. This could take up to half an hour. Store when room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.

                              CHUTNEYS

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Chutneys give limitless opportunity for experimentation. I make several varieties and use them on sandwiches, as part of an hors-d’oeuvre board with crackers and cheese, and even mixed into cooked rice as an accompaniment to meats. Especially yummy on burgers or with spices Indian food! I’ve  developed my own basic recipe, but really enjoy playing around with different veggie, fruit and spice combos to create the ultimate, perfectly balanced pickle.

The British set seem raving mad about their chutneys, each having their own opinion on the perfect combo. I’ve learned a few new twists from my Indian friends from B’nei Menashe. But ultimately, I rely on what I have at hand and my family’s taste preferences.

I start with a kilo (about 2 pounds) of vegetable – my last endeavor used up the beets in my garden. Sooo yummy! You can try cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, peppers… Into a very large pot, cut peeled veg into bite sized pieces. I always add 1 whole, peeled purple onion, cut up. Then add your fresh fruit: 2 cups cut up pears or apples, apricots, peaches, mangos, pineapple. Mix in a cup of dried fruit such as dates, raisins, cranberries, cherries, Add 1 cup apple cider vinegar to the mixture in the pot. Next stir in your sweetener, if you need it (to your taste. Often I leave out the sweetener as the fruits make it rich enough). You can add honey, brown sugar, silan – date syrup- or maple syrup. The spices can be as conventional or exotic as you wish. Powdered cloves, ginger, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, curries, allspice, turmeric, chili, even espresso powder in small amounts or horseradish are interesting additions. Use the spices that best suit your flavor palate. Add a little at first and increase very, very gradually. The chutney flavors tend to intensify during cooking and in the week after. After bringing up the heat on the stove to a near-boil, I let the mixture simmer for a few hours, until the fruits and veggies are soft, and the fragrance in the house becomes irresistible. (Works great in a crock pot too!) Then I ladle the hot chutney mixture into sterilized jars, sealing the lids, and processing for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath. The chutney keeps for a year unopened, but can be stored in fridge for up to a month after opening.

PICKLED BEETS

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My Choggia Beet harvest was pretty sweet last fall, so I made the most delicious – and easy pickled beets. They are soooo beautiful!! If Choggias aren’t available, golden or red beets will work as well. They’re pretty tempting straight from the jar, but my favorite is to place them on a bed of mixed greens with my pickled onions and feta cheese. I use a little of the juice as a dressing. Pretty amazing!!

Ingredients:   (3-4 pint jars)                                                         2 pounds (1 kilo) beets, peeled & sliced into circles                                                                           1/2 cup white (or champagne!!!!) vinegar         1  cup spring water                                            1/4 cup sugar                                                           1 /2 cinnamon stick per jar                                   8 whole cloves per jar                                             4 peppercorns per jar

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water bath 20 minutes. In large bowl, mix the vinegar, water & sugar, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cloves and whole peppercorns to each jar. Pack in beet slices. Pour liquid over top. Add the cinnamon stick. Seal with lid and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Keeps for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

This summer, my basil has been out-of-control outrageous! I’ve trimmed it up numerous times for Caprese Salad (sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, drizzled olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper & basil leaves). It’s a tremendous add to my spaghetti sauces, pizzas and panzanella (stale bread cubes, tomato pieces, red onion cubes, and basil with an Italian dressing poured overtop).Lately, I’ve been making pesto, canning much, freezing some in ice cube trays, and stirring it into a 15% cream sauce with some grated Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano to serve atop pasta. Really delicious! So – here’s an easy Pesto Recipe that’s sure to delight! Pour it over roasted chicken for an awesome change of pace.

  PESTO

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3 cups fresh, washed basil leaves                       1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil                                    4 nice big pieces garlic                                          1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Place all of the ingredients in food processor or cup of an immersion blender and process until a thick paste forms. Can be used immediately; refrigerated; frozen in ice cube trays (stored in freezer baggies); or processed in glass canning jars.

Pickles are all very popular here in Israel – the Yemenite and Mizrachi Middle Eastern Variety. Pickled eggplants done up many ways, pickled cauliflower, turnips, olives, cucumbers, green tomato, carrots. Most are very vinegary and most are harif – very, very spicy for my family’s tastes. You will not find the usual Kosher, half, sour garlic dills here (although I have an old New York deli recipe that I’ve played around with). These assorted pickles can be found at any falafel stand and are often served at table before a meal.

Here, I will present 4 versions of pickled carrots, each representing the different cultures.

          SHABTAI’S CARROTS (HARIF!!!!!)

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These are sure to knock your socks off!! Please adjust to your own taste-

Ingredients:

2 pounds very fresh, hard carrots, peeled & sliced into rounds (1 kilo)                                     5-10 small, green chilis, sliced into rounds (please don’t rub your eyes – and wear gloves. I did this with him, and it burned my skin for hours!!!!)                                                                  1 white or yellow onion, sliced and quartered                                                                1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds                                             1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds                                     1 tsp carraway seeds                                                  3 cups white vinegar                                                 1 cup water                                                             3/4 cup sugar                                                          1/4 cup salt

Shabtai didn’t bottle to sterilize his jars (I would). He recycled old mayo jars (I wouldn’t). I guess the peppers will kill almost anything…

In large bowl combine the veggies.

Toast the seeds over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to release fragrance. The seeds should just start popping, but not turn brown.

In another bowl add vinegar, water, sugar & salt. Mix well for sugar & salt to dissolve as much as possible. Pour over veggie mix and let sit for an hour. Ladle into jars. Put in fridge.

     ROLA’S EEMAH’S CARROT PICKLES

This is a Mizrachi family recipe. It’s more than possible that it came from the Persian Jews who immigrated to Israel to escape persecution and genocide in the 1970s, as did Rola and her parents.

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh, hard carrots, scrubbed & sliced into strips                                                        1 small head cauliflower, washed, cut into bite sized pieces                                                     1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into thin strips                                                                1 Tbsp mustard seeds                                                1 Tbsp coriander seeds                                            1 Tbsp cumin seeds                                                 1 Tbsp whole cloves                                               1 Tbsp whole peppercorns                                   1 large bay leaf, crumbled                                   1/2 tsp curcuma (tumeric powder)                     10 cloves garlic, peeled, whole                                600 ml (2 1/2  cups) white wine vinegar              100 grams (1/2 cup) white sugar                         1 tsp salt for each jar made.

Cook the carrots and cauliflower in very salted boiling water 5 minutes to soften. Drain.  Toast seeds and bay leaf in large pot until it releases it’s fragrance, about 1-2 minutes on medium heat. To this, add vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.

Arrange veggies and divided garlic cloves to each clean (sterilized) jar. Pour pickling liquid over top to cover the veggies completely. Add 1 tsp salt to each jar before sealing. I would place this in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for safety reasons, but Rosa didn’t seem concerned. Let it sit for 2 weeks before serving at room temp.

               URI’S PICKLED CARROTS                          I really like Uri’s carrots. I  stayed with Uri during my pilot trip, and after a long day, I would come back and devour a bowl of these light and tasty carrots! He was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors of Eastern Europe. Uri fought in the 1967 War, and is an amazing vegan chef who still practices yoga and goes for long bike rides. This is his own recipe ( I added the sugar just to balance the tartness).

1 kilo (2 pounds) peeled carrots, sliced into rounds                                                                       3 green onions, cut into bits                                 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder                                 1/2 cup white vinegar                                               1/4 cup sugar                                                           1/2 tsp salt                                                              2-3 fresh dill sprigs

Cook the carrots in boiling, salted water for a few minutes to soften. Drain. Combine rest of the ingredients, minus green onions and mix well to dissolve. Pour over carrots. Stir in green onion. Place dill sprigs on top. Cover and refrigerate.

MY MOM’S  “COPPER PENNIES”IMG_4353-525x700

OK, so this was a staple in my house when I was growing up. My mother would give them out to friends and neighbors at holidays. Today, they remain a favorite item. John & the kids use the sauce to spoon over backed chicken or roast beef. They’re a  Shabbat table regular at our house. Years ago I “stole” her original clip out recipe… if she were alive today, I hope she’d feel honored…thanks, Mom!

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(Note: here in Israel, I haven’t been able to find canned soups, so I’ve learned to make and store jars of my own – even tomato!!!!)

Next week’s post will have recipes using the Seven Species of produce grown here in Israel and their significance, both spiritually and culinary…. stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes for a Shavuot Dairy Meal

It is traditional to eat dairy products and sweet foods on the Jewish holiday of Shavout. So – I’m really excited to be posting my first recipes here! I am a true foodie, and have a passion for finding and preparing new, healthy, and delicious meals. One great unifier of people is breaking bread together and the sharing of recipes. Since, I’ve been in Israel, I’ve become friends with a few chefs, who are all to pleased to share their passion. I’ve also talked with women of varying backgrounds from Jewish to Christian to Arab – from European to Ethiopian to Middle Eastern. This place is a true salad bowl of people, which makes it even more fun for me.

Today I’m sharing three recipes, which, taken together, form a delightful meal – and is a sidestep away from the traditional cheese blintzes and cheesecake served on this day. Now is your opportunity to try something different: something to make people say: Wow!!! Where did you get this one? The first is an appetizer, from my friend, a Yemenite chef, Zuzu. I can’t begin to pronounce the name of it, so I’ll just call it sautéed greens on a yogurt bed.

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Yemenite  Sauteed Greens & Yogurt

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4  Cups Wild Chicory (Substitute Swiss Chard), cut into strips

1 Extra large yellow onion

1 Cup Goat Milk Yogurt

1 1/2 Tsp ground Sumac

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Slice 1/2 of the onion and sauté in 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil. Reserve for later use. Dice one half of yellow onion and sauté with cut up chicory leaves (or chard) in 1 1/2 Tbsp  olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste with 1 Tsp ground sumac. In a serving bowl, spoon the goat milk yogurt to cover the bottom. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining sumac. In the center of the yogurt, spoon the hot greens and top with carmelized onion.  This was served with a tumeric and sesame infused Yemenite bun made  with flour and water, but you can serve it with a piece of pita bread cut into 6 triangles on the side. Healthy and tasty!!!

Gluten-Free Broccoli Quiche

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Ingredients:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3 large red potatoes, thinly sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced thinly

5 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup lightly steamed or sautéed broccoli

1/2 small fresh ovolini (Mozzarella cheese balls in Olive Oil & Italian herbs from Trader Joe’s)

salt, pepper to taste

1 tsp oregano

Lightly grease the inside of a deep dish pie plate or quiche dish with the olive oil. Alternate layers of the potatoes and onions to form the crust.

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In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the cream and 1/2 tsp oregano, some salt and pepper to taste, and blend well. Scatter the cooked broccoli atop the potato-lined dish.

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Gently pour the egg mixture over the top of the broccoli. Dot the top with the Mozzarella balls, being sure to include some of those yummy herbs and spices! Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 oregano on top. Bake for 50 min. in 350* oven, or until top is nicely golden brown. Serve hot or cold!

        Middle Eastern Dessert: Mahlahbi

They sell Mahlabi everywhere here – from pre-packaged in the stores and from street vendors and coffee shops to freshly made in the finest (dairy) restaurants. The first time I tried this, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s become my favorite food, and is my secret daily indulgence!!! I’ve since developed my own recipe for this heavenly dessert, a type of milky panna cotta with a rose syrup sauce topped with coconut and peanuts (you can substitute almonds or pecans).

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Ingredients for Milk Layer:

1/3 cup 1% milk

1 (0.25 oz) packet unflavored Kosher gelatin

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour milk into a small bowl and mix in the gelatin sachet. Set aside for later use.  In a medium saucepan, stir the cream and sugar together. Put over medium heat and bring to a rapid boil. Watch carefully and stir continually so the cream will not overboil, spill over, or burn. Pour in the milk/gelatin mixture, rapidly stirring until dissolved. Cook for one minute – do NOT stop stirring!!!! Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla, and pour into lightly greased baking pan (canola oil) or silicon ramekin dishes. Let cool, uncovered at room temp, then cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

Sauce:

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

2 teaspoons Rose Water (available at Middle Eastern Markets or Valley Produce, if living in Los Angeles area)

1 to 2 teaspoons beet juice (I make a freshly roasted beet salad with feta crumbles, pecans, and raspberry dressing, and use the reserved juice from the roasted beets….) for coloring. You can substitute a drop of red food coloring, if desired.

Add all ingredients to medium saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Put the pot on medium heat and bring to boil, stirring rapidly and continually so there is no burning or overboil.Remove from heat and let cool to room temp. Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge 4 hours or overnight.

Assembly:

Slice the milk ‘Jello’ into rectangles. In individual serving bowls, pour the rose syrup to cover. Gently lift and place the milk gel atop the syrup and spoon a bit over the top. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and chopped nuts.

It’s the smell and taste of the rose syrup that makes this dish so amazing. It’s a pleasure to present as well as to smell. You can even garnish with a rosebud or fresh red or pink rose petals (washed & pesticide-free, please).

B’Tayavon!!! To Your Appetite! Enjoy….