Holiday Food

Where did the summer go? It’s still pretty warm here in the MidEast upper 30*sC/90*sF and now the humidity from the Mediterranean has kicked in making for balmy (sounds more romantic than miserably sticky) nights. We’re headed off to the UK for cooler climes and my daughter’s wedding to the most wonderful English gentleman! Then it’s off to the States to meet our new grandbaby and visit family for a little bit… so I’ve prewritten and scheduled some posts for when I’m gone. In the meantime-

Last week I had to drive my son up to his old base in the Golan Heights because he had reserve duty. Men and women are called up twice a year for a week or two to retrain and fill in spots as needed. This happens until they are in their 40s, depending on the unit. It’s a necessary part of defense here: one needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice in case of emergency.

Anyway, I love the drive into the Golan. It’s so wild and pristine and gorgeous up there. Free roaming Angus cattle. Fruit orchards. Horses and cowboys. Tanks and soldiers in training. Mountains. Open space. Military bases. Crusader fortresses and Biblical ruins. Druze men roadside selling carob and date honey, apples, olives, and other local delicacies. I could tell it was the end of summer and only a few weeks until the Jewish New Year and fall festivals because…. Pomegranates!! Apples!! The trees were heavy with fruit and the orchards open to pickers. So I just HAD to. Pick. Waaaay too much, but the prices were so cheap! Like $0.60/pound or 4NIS/kg.

Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year is celebrated both religiously and culturally. To represent the sweetness of the year, we eat apples dipped in honey. We eat apple cakes, apple fritters, apple noodle casseroles (kugels), apple salads. You get the idea.

So I came home with my boxes and boxes and immediately set to work. I wanted to do things I could preserve or freeze for when we get back from our trip. So, here are two of my creations: Apple Butter and Apple Lukshen Kugel. Enjoy!

SPICED APPLE BUTTER

The apple butter works great with cream cheese and peanut butter on bread. Or just plain bread. Or stirred into oatmeal on a cold winter day.

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds (2.5 kg) apples, unpeeled, washed and cut into chunks
  • 4 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, whiskey or brandy (optional)

Place all the above ingredients into a large pot and cook uncovered over medium heat. Stir occasionally. In about an hour the apples will have become very soft. Blend thoroughly using an immersion blender. Reduce the apple butter to lowest flame. In a separate pot, boil Mason jars (I use 1/2 pint jars) and lids (not screw-top bands) for 20 minutes to sterilize. Ladle the hot apple butter into the hot empty jars. Place lid on top. Then screw on the sealing ring band. You should get 7-8 jars per batch. Submerge filled jars in a hot water bath (not boiling- just a simmer) for 20 minutes. Remove jars and let cool. Keeps up to 1 year in dark pantry. Refrigerate after opening.

SWEET NOODLE PUDDING WITH APPLES: LUKSHEN KUGEL

This is THE quintessential dairy comfort food for Ashkenazi Jews. You can eat it hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. It’s a main dish. it’s a side dish. It’s a dessert. But ask 5 Jewish mommas how they make it and what you’ll get is a headache: raisins or no raisins? Apples, pineapple, dried fruit or plain? Streusel crust, cornflake crust or plain? And then there’s the spices….oy vey! Is it a crime to use ginger and nutmeg or do we just tick to cinnamon? Full fat or low-fat. Everyone has their own opinion….and of course, mine is the best (wink wink). The best thing about it is that if you make a big batch, it freezes and defrosts incredibly well, so I do 3-4 at a time (and have a kugel to send back with the university kid).

This recipe makes 1 9X12 inch (23X30cm) baking dish which cuts to 12 generous pieces.

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 ounce package extra wide egg noodles
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 4 ounces (114 grams) cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I prefer coconut sugar)
  • 6 TBSP butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 small apples, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cornflakes

Boil noodles in salted, boiling water for no longer than six minutes. They should be al dente, not mushy. Drain noodles and rinse well. Return the noodles to the pot along with 3 TBSP of the butter. keep heat on low flame just to melt the butter. Stir noodles until coated. Preheat oven to 350*F/170*C. Grease the Pyrex baking dish. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add in eggs, sour cream or yogurt, cottage cheese, spices and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Fold in noodles, then raisins and apple slices. Pour into prepared baking dish. In separate bowl, lightly crush the cornflakes. Add 3 TBSP melted butter, 1/4 cup (coconut) sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix well and spoon over noodle pudding. Bake for about an hour or until the kugel is firm and crispy on the top. A cake tester should come out clean- Delicious!

I’d now like to introduce you to a very special young lady. Batya Deltoff is 16 years old. We became friends with the Deltoff family because we moved to Israel around the same time and the Deltoff kids played Little League baseball on my husband’s team. That was over 7 years ago. Batya is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This straight-A student hopes to be a anesthesiologist one day, but until then she’s happy to hang with her girlfriends. And cook. Cooking is her creative outlet. She has this intuitive sense of what goes with what and is both experimental and fearless. Ethnic foods from Asian to Middle Eastern specialties are the most exciting for Batya to prepare. And she doesn’t use a recipe! It’s all done from memory of what she’s eaten and enjoyed and from taste. She cooks regularly for her parents and 3 siblings – “but they pay the fee of cleaning up after me,” she jokes. I had the good fortune of watching her and cleaning up after her last week.

This recipe has Iraqi origins and is called Kubbe. It’s a hearty soup or stew and can be eaten by itself as an appetizer or meal or served over couscous. The kubbe makes a huge pot and it freezes well. Man, is this delicious. perfect for the holidays, especially the cooler nights of Sukkot.

To me Batya’s Kubbe tasted like a hybrid Jewish-Mexican style borscht. It has lovely vegetable chunks in a tomato-beet broth. Then there are these dumplings that look just like matzah balls. One bite into the balls gives a meaty taste explosion because they are stuffed with a magnificent ground meat mixture. It’s delish and healthy and oh-so-satisfying. I was worried that it would be too spicy for me, but the range of spices complement the soup. And you can always add sriracha or Tabasco for added heat.

BATYA DELTOFF’S AMAZING KUBBE

Ingredients:
SOUP-

  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 3 large carrots, peeled
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 large cabbage or 1 small cabbage
  • 4 medium roasted, peeled beets or 1 large prepackaged cooked beets
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for oiling hands
  • 200 grams canned chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tsp cumin
  • 2 squeezed lemons, pips removed
  • 1 TBSP slat
  • 1 TBSP sugar

MEATBALL DUMPLINGS-

  • 1.5 lb ground beef (3/4 kg)
  • 2 TBSP sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 onion, minced fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ginger

DOUGH FOR THE KUBBE BALLS-

  • 3 cups white semolina
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups very warm water

Instructions:
Peel and cut carrot and potatoes into bite sized chunks. Slice cabbage. Peel onion. Reserve 1/4 onion, and cut the rest into bite sized pieces. In a large stock pot, heat up the olive oil and when shimmery add the above veggies. Cook over medium heat to soften. Add in the cooked beets, also cut into bite size cubes. Pour in the canned tomatoes with the juice. Add enough water to completely cover the veggies (about 6 cups). Stir in the spices. Let come to a boil, then after 3 minutes, turn the flame down to medium low. Begin the dough: in a large mixing bowl, add the semolina and salt. Mix to incorporate. Add in 1 1/2 cups of very warm water, stirring as you go. Let sit for about 10 minutes. It will set up to be a granular gooey paste. To make the meatballs: in another large bowl add the ground beef, onion, garlic and spices. Mix well.

To make the Kubbe balls, oil your hands and a ladle well with olive oil. Pinch a golf-ball sized piece of dough and flatten in the palm of your hand, making special care to flatten out the edges. Place a nice ball of the ground meat mixture in the center of the dough (in your hand). Pull the ends of the dough up to cover, and pinch off the ball at the top, completely surrounding the meat. Make sure there are no holes. Place kubbe in a greased ladle and lower it down into the hot soup. Continue for the rest of the balls. You can also put in plain meatballs without the dumpling coat. See photos-

Let the soup come back to a slow boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Let cook about an hour on low. This is best eaten the next day, and makes a great Shabbat lunch.

If you are keeping Kosher, serve it with a generous dollop of Tofutti imitation sour cream. If you are not worried about Kosher status, sour cream is a great add for the top.

A Quintessential Israeli Dish- 5 Ways!

I thought I’d take us all away from the constantly dismal news cycles and do a fun food blogpost this time. I was first introduced to chicken schnitzel by my California/Israeli girlfriend, Bilha. Every Friday afternoon, my son Max and I and Bilha would go to the local retirement home and do a Shabbat liturgy for the elderly Jewish residents. We’d light the Shabbat candles, sing wonderful songs, read a part of the Torah passage for the week, tell a story and say the blessings over the wine and challah bread. It really was a highpoint of our week, something we always looked forward to and something I still miss terribly. We made beautiful friendships with Holocaust survivors and other residents. And I really miss Bilha. As we’d leave to go back to our homes each week, we’d discuss what we were making for Shabbat dinner. For me, it was invariably salmon: for Bilha, who grew up in Israel, it was usually schnitzel. She gave me her recipe. I tried it, and was hooked! It was delicious…. and really easy to prepare. And the leftovers!!!

Fast forward to our lives here in Israel. I quickly discovered the ubiquitous schnitzel. First brought over by German and Austrian immigrants, it is a staple food here. It’s very economical and easy to prepare. In the stores here, you can buy ”chicken schnitzel,” boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been pounded thin into cutlets. Or there are plenty of pre-made frozen varieties that all you have to do is pop theEm in the oven or frying pan. When my husband and I volunteered to serve in the army (warehouses) each week, we were usually served chicken schnitzel for lunch. It was at the army that I first discovered corn schnitzel patties, because 32% of the soldiers were vegetarian. And there are many fast food schnitzel and chips shops including Schnitzelina, which specializes in the tasty cutlets stuffed into a baguette sandwich.

I will begin with Bilha’s recipe, the basic schnitzel (it’s ALWAYS chicken for the meat) and then go into some easy and tasty variations. The recipe calls for a kilo (about 2 pounds) of chicken cutlets. I don’t know if they sell pounded breasts in the markets where you are, but if you buy the boneless, skinless breasts or tenders, they can be pounded to flatten to about 1/2 inch thick between two sheets of waxed paper. A kilo is about 6 half breasts for me. O.K. Let’s start

Bilha’s Chicken Schnitzel, Israeli Style

I serve this with wedges of lemon to squeeze on top (a must!!!), an Israeli salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, salt, olive oil and lemon juice. Roasted or mashed potatoes are also delicious with this, but most Israelis eat this with chips or French fries. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do- oh!!!! if there are any leftovers – I ALWAYS make enough to have leftovers- they make the BEST sandwiches, cold with lettuce and tomato, mayo and Thousand Island or for me, just humus.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo (2.2 lbs or 6 half breasts) chicken cutlets
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups dried breadcrumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3 lemons
  • lemon zest
  • salt and pepper, about 1/2 tsp each)
  • 1 tsp paprika, optional
  • 1 TBSP sesame seeds, optional
  • vegetable oil

In a flat pan, beat the eggs and add in the dijon and mayo. In another flat dish or pan, pour on the flour. In a third flat dish, the bread crumbs, grated lemon zest from one lemon, salt and pepper. (Many people here add 1 tsp paprika and 1 TBSP sesame seeds which I find adds to the deliciousness).

Rinse off the cutlets and towel dry. First dredge in the flour. Using a long tongs, coazt the floured chicken cutlet in the egg mixture. Then place in the pan of bread crumbs to cover each side. Heat the oil (canola, safflower, sunflower) in a large skillet until shimmery. I use about 4 TBSP, then add more. I don’t like the cutlets swimming in oil, but do want to have a nice crunchy outcome. Place the breadcrumb coated chicken pieces in the hot oil and let fry until they are nice and golden brown on each side. Transfer the cutlets to a wire rack with paper towels underneath the rack, but not touching the schnitzel. Serve hot with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.

Shevvy’s Trader Joe’s Falafel Schnitzel

This is a fun recipe that I got from my friend in the States. She raves about it. The kids love it, her Israeli husband is addicted to it, and I had to bring back two boxes of falafel mix to Israel so we could enjoy it as well. It does not disappoint. Seved with a side of chips (fries), a salad or chopped Israeli salad, fluffy pita bread and humus and/ or techineh. Oh my goodness! For those of you who don’t live near a Trader Joe’s market, see if you can find a standard dry falafel mix-

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo chicken cutlets (see notes above)
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese style bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s falafel mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup humus or techine
  • vegetable oil
  • humus or techine for dipping

In flat bowl or dish, beat the eggs. In another flat bowl, combine the panko and falafel mix. Dredge rinsed and dried chicken cutlets first in egg to coat, then in the panko falafel mix. Heat about 4 TBSP oil in a skillet until hot and shimmery. Add the cutlets, frying on each side until browned and crispy. Add more oil as needed. Transfer the cooked schnitzel pieces to a wire rack to drain and keep crunchy. Drizzle with techine or put a dollop of humus on top. We do both. Oy va voy, is is amazing!


Crunchy Seeded Schnitzel, Yotam Ottolenghi Style

I love Chef Ottolenghi’s recipes. I have all of his cookbooks and was first introduced to him here in Israel. A friend of mine who lived in Jerusalem had a cookbook club. We would pick a certIn chef each month, prepare their recipe as was written, then do a riff on the original recipe. This is my slightly modified version of his schnitzel.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilogram schnitzel chicken cutlets
  • 6 TBSP sunflower seeds
  • 3 TBSP toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 TBSP black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBSP mayonnaise or humus
  • 1 cup flour
  • extra virgin olive oil

Start by combining the seeds and spices in a large flat-bottomed pan. In a second flat pan, beat the eggs and mix in the mayo or humus. This helps the coating to stick to the cutlets. In a third pan, place the flour. Rinse and pat dry the pounded chicken cutlets (they may be already flat, or you can flatten the breasts between two sheets of waxed paper). Dredge the cutlets, one at a time, in the flour. Then using a tongs, transfer to the egg wash, coating both sides. Next, place each cutlet into the seed mixture. Both sides should be covered. Heat the olive oil, about 4-6 TBSP in a large skillet. When very hot, place the cutlets in the oil, frying on each side until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to drain.

Tamar’s Asian-Inspired Schnitzel Curry

I looked all over, but could not find a photo of this one. So sorry. This is a must-try, and frankly, is our favorite twist to the standard schnitzel recipe. I marinate the cutlets overnight to infuse the flavor and tenderize. Because many recipes for chicken include a milk bath, and that is not within the Kosher guidelines, I decided to try coconut milk. Infused with the curry and lemongrass, it’s heavenly! Also pretty funny, in Israel canned coconut milk must be labeled ’coconut liquid’ so people don’t get confused and think it’s a dairy product. Only in Israel! I always bring at least 6 bags of Angel-Flake coconut back from the States. We don’t have it here, and it’s just so moist and delicious. If you don’t have Angel-Flake, use the dried coconut shavings. I serve this with chutney on top and rice as the side. Add in roasted broccoli with a bit of teriyaki or soy sauce and some roasted carrots and you have a feast.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo chicken cutlets (see note above)
  • 1 can coconut milk (liquid)
  • 1 TBSP yellow curry powder
  • 1 4-5 inch piece of lemongrass cut in thirds
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup baker’s Angel Flake coconut (or desiccated coconut)
  • coconut oil
  • apricot or fruit Indian Chutney to top

In a freezer bag, or a glass baking dish, shake up and pour the can of coconut milk/liquid. Add the curry powder and the sticks of lemongrass. Add the chicken cutlets to coat. Let marinate overnight or at least six hours. (I put several bags of this in the freezer along with the coating mix in a separate freezer bag. Defrost in the fridge and assemble for a quick dinner)

In a flat pan, add the panko and the shredded coconut flakes. Mix well. Remove the marinated chicken to the breading pan and coat on both sides. Heat up about 1/4 cup coconut oil until shimmering. Add the cutlets to the hot oil and cook until golden on each side. Transfer to a wire rack for draining. This is my favorite. Please try it!

Jessica Halfin’s Vegetarian Corn Schnitzel

I’d never leave out the vegetarians! We first had these when doing our army service and they were quite tasty. Here in Israel, they are a staple on the kiddie menu. My friend, Jessica Halfin, who did Haifa Street-food Tours and who also writes for Hadassah Magazine, developed this healthy version of corn schnitzel. The recipe makes about 10 patties.

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups canned and drained or frozen corn
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP white sesame seeds
  • vegetable oil

Process 4 cups of corn kernels in the food processor until smooth. In a large bowl, add the processed corn along with the 1 cup whole corn kernels. Mix in the egg, the flour, the spices and 1 cup of the breadcrumbs. In a flat pan, mix together the additional cup of breadcrumbs and the sesame seeds.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the wet mixture into the bread crumb pan and flatten, coating the patty with breadcrumbs on both sides. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil until hot and shimmery. Using a spatula, transfer the corn cutlet to the skillet and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on wire rack.

Serve with ketchup and Israeli tomato-cucumber salad, pita and humus on the side.

It’s All About the ”Red Stuff!”

Middle Eastern Red Lentil Stew (vegan!)

Yaakov (Jacob) simmered a stew, and Esav (Esau) came in from the field, and he was exhausted. Esav said to Yaakov, ‘Pour into me now some of that very red stuff for I am exhausted.’(From then on they called him Edom) Yaakov said, ’Sell me today your birthright.’ And Esav said, ’ ’Look, I am going to die, so of what use to me is a birthright?’ Yaakov said, ’ Swear to me this day;’ he swore to him and sold his entire inheritance to Yaakov. Yaakov gave Esav bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and got up and left; thus, Esav spurned the birthright.

Each year we read through the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. I have always loved the story of the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, on so many levels. It’s so descriptive. And I’m a real foodie, so I appreciate that it centers around food – but to sell off my entire inheritance (Esav, the oldest brother was a son of Yitzhak (Isaac), and grandson of Father Abraham, the Patriarch: two incredibly wealthy men). He had to be mighty hangry!!! And that must have been some mighty delish stew!! Each year I try to test a new recipe for that ’red stuff,’ so now I’m going to share three of my favorites. So glad I had this blogpost in reserve to pull out for you all. This year’s trio is decidedly MiddleEastern, as I’m trying to be more authentic and historical. Next year, I’ll actually be up and able to make them… in the meantime, somebody bring some of that mejaddra!!

– Genesis 25:29-33

The first recipe is true Middle Eastern comfort food. I think my tastes are changing a bit from strictly Western to other things. I first had this on my pilot trip to Israel in 2014. I hadn’t really eaten much in a couple of days because I was so on the go, and I was starving. Like Esau. In the ancient city of Tsfat in the Upper Galilee, I met a native Israeli family who invited me in to their home for lunch. They served the most delicious dish: simple home cooking. The perfect, satisfying, filling, comfort food, and so easy to make. It’s not red stew, but a combination of rice, lentils and fried onions. We feasted on freshly-made cheeses, mejaddra, and yogurt. And afterwards the father brought out a carafe of strong Turkish coffee infused with cardamom, which we sipped from tiny demitasse cups while eating a little piece of halvah. It was the best, just an unforgettable moment of Israeli hospitality. So glad I snapped photos of it back then. What I wouldn’t give for this plate of mejaddra now…. I hope you enjoy!

Mejaddra

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 large brown onions (the onions are the star of the show here)
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils (or 1 can lentils, liquid reserved)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp powdered cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cups of water or vegetable stock, or if you are using dried lentils, the boiled lentil water)

In separate bowls, soak the rice and the lentils for a couple hours, straining out and changing the water twice. Next, drain off the lentil water and place the lentils in a medium sized pot. Cover the lentils completely with water with a good inch more over the top of the lentils. Add about a tsp salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook about 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender. NOT MUSHY! Drain off the lentils SAVING THE LENTIL WATER! (If you are opting for the quicker, canned lentils, drain, reserving the liquid.)

Thinly slice the onion. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and flour. Toss to coat the onion in the flour. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or medium sized pot. When glistening, add the onion slices and fry up for 10-12 minutes until the onions are a crispy brown. DO NOT BURN!! Transfer out the crispy onions to a paper-towel lined plate. In the same heavy saucepan in which the onions were cooked, add the cumin and coriander seeds. It should become quite fragrant after heating for about a minute. Now add in the drained rice and the remaining powdered spices. Stir to coat the rice in the oil and spice. Add in the lentils and reserved lentil water. The liquid should measure 3 cups. If necessary, add in more water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff rice. season with salt to taste.

Spoon the rice-lentil mixture onto a large plate or bowl and top with the crispy fried onions. If you’d like, you can top it off with a small handful of chopped parsley or cilantro.

This next soup is more of an accurately Biblical lentil dish. the spices and the red lentils really bring out that glorious color:

Red Lentil Soup vegan

Now this red lentil soup is the real deal. The Red Stuff. Esav’s Bane. True flavors of the Levant. Israeli cooking, whatever that is. It’s fragrant, filling, flavorsome, fantastic. I think once Esav got a whiff of this soup, he was justified in saying, “Just pour it right down my throat, Bro!” Not only a lovely soup, but the lentils are just full of protein, so it is quite life-sustaining.

Jacob’s Big Boilin’ Pot of Red Stuff, aka Red Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 5 cups vegetable broth (or water or a combo of both)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • 1 lemon, cut up
  • optional garnishes: chopped parsley or cilantro; yogurt; crumbled feta cheese bits (we’re keeping it Israeli)

In a large bowl, soak the lentils for about two hours, straining out and replacing the water at least once. Heat olive oil in a medium/large pot. When glistening, add in the garlic, onion, and bay leaf until the onion is soft and fragrant. Add in carrot slices and cook, stirring about 2-3 minutes. Mix in all the spices with about 1/4 cup of the veggie broth or water. It will be very rich in color and very fragrant. Add in drained lentils and 5 cups of veggie broth or water. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer and let gently cook on low heat for 20 minutes. The lentils should be tender/ slightly chewy, but not mushy.

I keep the soup chunky. It’s more rustic and has more of a Biblical feel to it that way, but feel free to puree it with an immersion blender. Add salt to taste, and garnish with the chopped herbs. Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side, which can be squeezed into the soup at table. You can also add crumbled (goat) on top. This is great served with light, fluffy Israeli pita and humus (NOT the American cardboard that passes as pita!!) or pieces of crusty, wholegrain bread.

But I like the idea of a red stew. A stick to your ribs kind of meal. Hearty and healthy.

Hearty Red Lentil Stew with Chickpeas and Pumpkin vegan

This is the one! The lentil stew to sell a birthright for …. almost … not quite. But still, this is the one I was making all last winter that is, quite frankly, one of my favorites. It can be made in a crockpot for a Shabbat lunch (perfect for this weekend!). Great lefovers. Freezes well.

We have lots of pumpkin here. Big, huge, light brown monsters that are cut into wedges and sold fresh at the market. Our dlaat is a staple food here. As is the lentil. As is the humus. Not the paste, but the bean. The Hebrew and Arabic word for chickpea is actually humus, pronounced KHOO- moose. I’ve tried to keep this stew as authentically Biblical, using foods indigenous to this region. If you are a geeky homeschool mom (ME!!), then this is a perfect food to cook with the kids as a historical re-creation. Enjoy!!

HEARTY RED LENTIL STEW WITH CHICKPEAS AND PUMPKIN


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/5 cups red lentils
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained (15 ounce/ 425 g)
  • 1 kg/ 2 pounds of peeled, chopped pumpkin cubes or butternut squash cubes
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 28 ounce/794 g can chopped tomatoes, with the liquid
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprrika
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • salt, to taste
  • garnishes: lemon wedges; chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, zaatar), grated nutmeg, (goat) yogurt

In a medium bowl, soak lentils in water for about two hours, changing the water at least once in the process. Heat olive oil on medium high heat until shimmering, then add the garlic and onion, sautéing until soft. Add in the spices and 1/2 cup of the broth to form a red, fragrant paste with the onions. Cook about 2 minutes. Now add the rest of the broth. Mix in uncooked squash or pumpkin cubes, the undrained canned tomatoes, and the drained lentils. Pour the chickpeas into a strainer, drain, and rinse under cold water. Let drain and add to pot. Stir until well mixed. Bring to a slight boil, then turn down heat to low and let simmer at least an hour. Add salt to taste. Cook low and slow, the longer the better, stirring the bottom and sides every half hour to prevent sticking.

Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped herbs, yogurt, or sour cream. Serve with soft, fluffy pita, or a hearty whole grain sourdough. Makes great leftovers. Freezes well. This is also a fantastic crockpot meal for Shabbat.

Four Entrepreneurial Women Who Have Immigrated to Israel: Spoiler Alert – Recipes!!!

 What is the secret to becoming a success in the business world? How did four separate women, immigrate to a new country with a new language and an entirely different culture and make it in light of the many challenges they faced? What advice can they offer to new olot (Hebrew for immigrant women) who are planning on making Aliyah to Israel? I have had the tremendous privilege of getting to know these four enterprising women – all part of the food industry in different ways. They are my friends well as my inspiration. And they have agreed to share their stories (and some great recipes) with you.

Jazzie Morgan hails from Daufuskie, South Carolina, a small island off of the coastal mainland, only accessible by ferryboat.  In 2016, during her junior year of college in Charleston, SC, she attended a study abroad program in Israel, “The Nachshon Project”.  After returning to the US and completing her undergrad degrees in Psychology and Jewish Studies, she decided to make the big leap – leaving all her family and friends behind to immigrate to Israel. Jazzie was already fluent in Hebrew, a decided advantage for her, and she enrolled in Machon Schechter in 2018 to get her Masters in Talmud and Communal Leadership. While in school, she worked many hours for a non-profit organization. 

Jazzie Morgan, Social Media Maven on all things Gluten-free

 Upon graduation, this bubbly, young redhead plunged headfirst into the Jerusalem business world, starting JLM Social, a full-service agency helping small businesses build their social media presence as a manager, consultant and coach. But this is only one of her “jobs.” You see, Jazzie also has a strong internet presence with her blog and her Instagram site, ‘The Israel Bites.’ She had been blogging and Instagramming her way through college with Charleston Bites, which grew to an impressive following; so this new endeavor came naturally to her. Her presence can also be found on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

Jazzie has Celiac Disease, a chronic immunological disorder that is triggered when gluten is eaten. For some, like Jazzie, eating even the tiniest bit of gluten can become life-threatening. She must be impeccably careful – not only to avoid those foods, but to avoid anything that even comes in contact with a product containing the substance (found in almost everything). Cross-contamination is a real issue for people with celiac. So she set out to find not only food, but good food that was gluten-free. That meant scouring supermarkets for available options: restaurants, cafes, bakeries throughout Jerusalem and all of Israel. 

It was here that Jazzie Morgan found her niche. When she first arrived in Israel in 2016, there was absolutely nothing available in English that could help people suffering from celiac navigate the food world here. She saw a need, and immediately strove to develop this niche market through engagement with social media. She regularly posts her adventures in this new country… from finding and trying new foods and beverages (the iconic Aroma Coffee, cafe and restaurant here, uses gluten powder in their ice coffee drink); taking exciting day trips throughout the country; apartment hunting; her adopted pet rabbits; and of course the gluten-free world in Israel. All are accompanied by mouth-watering photographs from the restaurants, shuks, coffee houses, wineries, and even street food stands she visits. She also includes what foods and establishments cater to the strictly Kosher market. Because of this, she has quickly rocketed to success.

If you read or watch nothing else of Jazzie’s, you absolutely must go to her Instagram site. In the little bubble under her bio, find “Bubby in IL.” It’s poignant – and UPROARIOUS!!!! I can watch this account of her grandparents’ visit millions of times and still laugh my tuchus off. Her stories take you along with her and you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll learn a lot about Israel, the culture, the places, as well as the food. And this was how I, too, first fell in love with Jazzie Morgan.

I asked Jazzie the secrets to her success, and she replied with several things. First of all, she found a niche that did not previously exist, offering something that no-one else had done. She gives everything she does in life her all, and never gives up or takes no for an answer. “You have to be your own advocate here,” she says. “A lot of people just give up when they are not successful at first, but you have to learn from any mistakes and just keep going.” It takes both consistency and commitment. To keep her presence on social media authentic, Jazzie  does not take any paid sponsorships. It’s all based on her own research and opinions.

Her favorite foods? “Definitely the Green Shakshuka at Cafe Naadi in Jerusalem!! It’s the perfect blend of crunchy kale, salty feta cheese and runny egg in this amazing cream sauce. And of course, it’s all gluten-free” With all of the work she puts into maintaining both JLM Social and her Israel Bites, she still finds time to volunteer, putting on cooking programs and workshops for people with special needs. Even though she’s only in her twenties, Jazzie has no regrets. Israel Bites is way beyond its goals. “When I have parents writing me from outside the country thanking me for what I do because their child is coming to do army or studies or special service in Israel and can’t be around gluten, I know I’ve succeeded. I have everything I ever wanted.” 

   Here are two of our family’s favorite recipes. They are quick and easy (which is how I found Jazzie: I was looking for a very quick cookie recipe for Shabbat that I could make with limited ingredients in under 15 minutes).

FOUR INGREDIENT GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (pareve)

These cookies have become a Shabbat staple in our house. They never make it past Saturday afternoon, because they are that addictive and can be eaten with either a dairy or meat-based meal, if keeping Kashrut!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (I use chunky for more crunch)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • (optional 1 tsp vanilla)
  • Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Drop on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 170*C/350*F for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. 

SWEET POTATO MACARONI & CHEESE   serves 4

This can be made either gluten free or not, using your favorite pasta. Another simple family-friendly dish the is quick and easy to assemble, using pantry staples. I garnish mine with a generous dollop of pesto for the perfect dinner. Just add a salad, and you’re good to go. There is also a non-dairy option that uses coconut milk.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove fresh garlic
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions:

Prepare your favorite pasta according to the instructions. In the meantime, microwave, roast or boil the sweet potato (peeled) until soft. In a blender combine the potato, cream, and spices. Blend until creamy. Pour over the pasta and enjoy!

Caterer Rita Ackert

     Rita Ackert’s story is heart-wrenching and inspirational at the same time. Rita moved to Israel from Philadelphia relatively later in life. She and her husband, Bob, first visited Israel in 2000 with the Eretz Israel Tour. The seeds were planted during that trip and that little spark of love for the Land and its People fanned into flames. They knew this was their people and their homeland. After much prayer and thought, they returned for their pilot trip, looking for a quiet place to settle, a growing community to continue Bob’s chiropractic practice, and a close-knit community that would be welcoming to them. 

In 2011 they made Aliyah with their oldest daughter and her family and youngest daughter (who was 4 years old at the time) to the small, picturesque town of Maalot (like an Alpine village) in the North of the country. Their son was learning in Beit Shemesh, but had not yet made Aliyah. Last year, he was married in New York, and has since immigrated with his new wife to Israel as well.

In America, Rita homeschooled her children (now do you see a connection?) and enjoyed crafting, especially jewelry making. She has always loved to cook, and has treated every Shabbat as a dinner party. Every Shabbat, Rita enjoyed preparing and presenting her family and guests with different cuisines from around the world prompting them to ask which country they would be “visiting.” Helping in the kitchen in her Philly synagogue, and working among friends, was a huge source of joy for Rita. The women of the synagogue would host blow-out kiddush lunches after services. Several of the ladies were Persian, and terrific cooks. After one service, a local restaurant owner approached Rita with the idea of catering for his establishment, but Rita turned him down thinking she had little to offer. She cooked and baked for fun: to enter the business professionally was another ballgame.

 “One of the interesting things about moving to another country is the opportunity to completely reinvent yourself,” explained Rita. “I first started making jewelry to sell, working and displaying in a gallery for women’s art in Tsfat, but was floundering as to what to do after an injury. I started thinking out of the box.” Four years ago, another friend from Philadelphia moved to Israel and called Rita asking if she knew where to buy tasty kugels for the Passover holiday. One thing led to another. Rita wound up making the kugels as well as offering a full Kosher for Passover holiday menu. 

Things were going well with her nascent catering business until the unexpected hit hard. In February of 2019, Bob had a small stroke. Then in May of the same year, after a surgical procedure, he had a major stroke, leaving him in a vegetative state. Rita suddenly became the sole breadwinner for their family. With lots of support from the local community, she decided to keep moving forward. Always she asks the question, “What would Bob do in this situation?”

 Because of her passion for cooking, Rita took on a handful of steady clients – working women who were too tired to cook when they came home; people hosting a dinner party; families desiring an elegant Kosher meal with little time to travel to a restaurant (the availability of fine Kosher dining is quite limited in the North). And many Anglos, especially those who move to the periphery of the country from large cities, really miss the options of different kinds of ethnic foods – Mexican, Asian, Indian, Southwestern. Filling the void is part of Rita’s newfound success. She will do all the shopping and then come to her clients’ homes, doing the cooking there, having it beautifully presented… and she cleans up afterwards!

     Drawing on her passion for preparing sumptuous ethnic foods, Rita’s business, Rivanacooks, is in high demand. “I’m a good boss to myself,” states this incredibly outgoing and enthusiastic woman. Working hard, but pacing herself, she has built up her daily clients as well as adding meals for people who would like something for special occasions. She has also progressed to teaching food workshops and cooking classes, mostly in English. She recently overcame the huge challenge of teaching a cooking workshop in Hebrew to a group of Sherut Leumit girls (girls doing a gap year program after high school). She especially enjoys teaching holiday classes. One look at her Instagram and Facebook pages, Rivanacooks, is enough to make a foodie swoon!!!! 

   The COVID lockdowns here in Israel have been another unexpected opportunity for Rita. She is now making prepared dishes able to be frozen and defrosted for later baking or reheating. Order from her menu and pick up the food- enough to fill your freezer for a few weeks – and there will be tasty family meals with the utmost convenience. 

   Rita Ackert reminds me so much of Ina Garten. Her outgoing personality is infectious; her attention to detail and presentation impeccable; and her desire to share her knowledge with the public is such a gift to this country. She loves the Persian cuisine due to the flavor profile and the colors with its combination of spice and dried fruits. The toasted, layered spices of her Indian dishes are as authentic as one can find here. Yet nothing is off limits to her: tofu-based Asian dishes, Mid-East cuisine, vegetarian, special needs diets food, Tex-Mex barbecues, and hearty, rustic home cooking. All are created with the utmost of love and culinary skill. Not only that, but her baked goods are also a strong suit. Here are three amazing recipes from her collection. I know that you will enjoy making and eating them!!

   PERSIAN SAFFRON RICE (pareve, serves 4-6)

This recipe is now a holiday hit at our house. Served with a roast or with chicken (see following recipe), it’s not only gorgeous, but a flavor explosion!

For the parboiled rice:

  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 3 liters/3 quarts water

Rinse rice until water runs clear and soak for 15 minutes. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and rice and bring back to a boil. Cook 3-5 minutes until rice is still firm, but can be broken easily. Usually this takes about 3 minutes. Drain and let sit for 5 minutes. 

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries/if you can get barberries that is traditional. You can even use dried cherries
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 leeks, trimmed, sliced thinly and cleaned well
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 TBSP orange zest
  • drizzle of silan (date syrup) or honey
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add leeks and lower heat to medium-low. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté leeks until soft and a bit caramelized. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. , then add shredded carrot and cook until soft. Stir in the dried cranberries for abut a minute until they are plumped up. Remove from heating add orange zest and a drizzle of the silan or honey. Stir and set mixture aside.

For the saffron rice:

  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 2 TBSP warm water
  • 1 cup soy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly oil a deep, round glass baking dish. Add warm water to saffron threads and steep for 10 minutes. Place yogurt, egg yolks, saffron, salt and oil in a bowl and mix well. Add parboiled rice, stirring gently, but well. Pour 1/2 rice mixture into the deep, round baking dish and smooth out. Top with 1/2 fruit mixture and then the rest of the rice. Smooth top an add the remaining fruit mixture. Press mixture down firmly into the rice.Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour – 1 hour 20 minutes. The bottom should be a deep, golden-brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before removing foil. Place serving platter over dish and flip rice carefully onto plate. Rice will remove easily and should be intact. Top with fresh pomegranate arils and chopped pistachios.

         BALSAMIC, FIG & ROSEMARY GLAZED CHICKEN 

For the fig preserves:

  • About 30 dried figs, cut into quarters (*see note)
  • Enough water to cover figs about 3/4
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Bring figs and water to a boil. Reduce heat and add cinnamon stick. Simmer about 45 minutes or until figs are soft enough to process with an immersion blender. More water may be added as necessary. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.remove cinnamon stick and process with an immersion blender to a smooth consistency.

*Note: I check figs to make sure they are free and clean of any bugs or other such specimens.

*Note: if you can find fig preserves, you can skip this step and fast-forward to the glaze.

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 TBSP dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (or more as desired) fig preserves

Heat olive oil in pan until shimmering over medium heat. Add diced red onions, season lightly with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low and cook until onions are caramelized. Add minced garlic and stir until fragrant. Stir in fig preserves then balsamic vinegar and red wine. Stir until incorporated. Next add brown sugar, cinnamon, additional salt and pepper to taste, and rosemary. Stir and simmer until nice and bubbly and sauce has thickened. 

For the chicken:

  • 8 chicken legs(I cut mine in half)
  • 1 whole head garlic, top cut off and outer papery skin removed(keep head together)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Clean and trim any excess fat off thee chicken and arrange in a shallow baking pan. Season chicken with freshly ground pepper. Spoon fig mixture all over the chicken, coating well. Wrap head of garlic in a piece of foil, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and place in the middle of the chicken pieces. Roast in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally with pan juices. Unwrap garlic and spoon a little of the pan juices onto it. Serve the garlic on a platter in the middle of the chicken pieces. Simply pop the garlic out of its skin and shmear on chicken, It just melts right in! Enjoy!!

 APPLE STRUDEL (dairy or parve)  Adapted from everyday dishes.com

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 6 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cardamon
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • Sugar to sprinkle on top of strudel.

In a bowl, toss peeled and cut apples with lemon juice. Melt butter or margarine in a large pan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, salt, and spices and stir until sugar dissolves. Add apples to pan and stir coating apples with sugar mixture. When mixture becomes bubbly, simmer 8-10 minutes until apples are tender, but not mushy. Stir often. Sprinkle flour over apples and mix in. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until sauce thickens. Let apples cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200c/400F. Lightly flour surface and roll out a piece of puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper and spread cream cheese(if using) in center of dough. Long side should be facing you.

Leave a 1/2 inch border on left and right. Place apples in center length of dough.

Fold the top over filling, then brush surface with beaten egg. Next fold bottom over top and press right and left edges together, then fold under. transfer strudel and parchment paper onto a baking sheet and brush entire top and sides with egg ash. Cut slits on top of dough and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 30 minutes or until pastry is a lovely golden brown. Remove pan from oven and let cool in pan. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or as is with a slice of cheddar cheese or a nice cup of tea or coffee. Enjoy in your sukkah for breakfast/brunch or as a dessert.

Food writer Jessica Halfin

Another one of my inspirations is Jessica Halfin. Originally from Newton, New Hampshire, this young woman did a study abroad program in Jerusalem during high school. She had such a great experience here, that she decided to attend college at Ben Gurion University in BeerSheva. She finally made Aliyah in August, 2006 – during the Second Lebanon War, transitioning to life in Tel Aviv. Jessica worked teaching English as a Second Language, as she thought that was her only option as an Anglo immigrant. Totally no passion for this!!! Her life needed a change – and change she did – to follow her foodie passion!

Because Jessica has always loved to cook, she first enrolled in some gourmet cooking classes in Israel. After that, she honed her skills by taking a ten-month pastry course, where she learned the different methods of making typical Israeli baked goods. To supplement her income, she sold her confections on the side, but in the days before strong social media outlets, it was hard to find an audience.

While at BGU, Jessica met Eli through mutual aquaintances. They became friends, but didn’t start dating until years later. Eventually, they would marry and Eli would start medical school. Moving to a small dorm apartment in Haifa in 2008, made cooking elaborate gourmet meals and baking anything at all more than difficult. As an outlet and to earn some extra money, Jessica started teaching creative cooking workshops for students at the Technion. In addition, she started blogging and doing freelance articles on food and the local cuisine of Haifa. Her articles have been featured in The Nosher, Hadassah Magazine, Jerusalem Post, JNF-B’yachad Magazine, Times of Israel, Israel 21c, and Time Out Israel Magazine.

 An offshoot of these articles happened when Jessica started taking tourists to Israel on street food excursions. And that’s how I first met Jessica four years ago. We had been following her articles and salivating over the amazing photos she was posting from her Haifa Street Food Tours. Not only did Jessica know the best falafel and shawarma, the best humus and shakshuka, bourekas and breads, but she really got to know each vendor. Jessica was able to teach the history of each food, where it originated, and the fascinating history of Arabs and Jews living side by side peacefully and adding to the rich culinary diversity of this city. Family-run restaurants that had been in existence for generations and hard-to-find hidden gems were all included in her amazing tours. She did this for three years, until Eli was assigned a residency at a hospital in Afula.

The Halfins were able to find an amazing villa in Afula with a wonderful, large yard with fruit trees and a large kitchen so Jessica can really get creative. Now, a mother to three young children, she still manages to make everything from scratch. Because Afula is a rather rural city, there are not a lot of restaurant options. With the demanding schedules of her husband’s residency, and a limited budget, dining out is not something they are able to do. Still, Jessica plans romantic dinners for the two of them, with themes like Sushi and Asian night or Italian Adventure with her incredible homemade pastas – complete with candles and music after the children are in bed). 

Jessica loves baking and the doughier side of life. Fresh pasta and accompanying sauces are a staple in the Halfin home, as well as creating family-friendly and vegetarian options (for Eli). She has a passion for sharing food with people and loves to entertain. Her dream is to one day own a bed and breakfast where she can serve guests fresh bread and homemade spreads as well as big Israeli style breakfasts, her favorite meal. She makes her own yogurt and labaneh, a soft and tangy white cheese spread that is ubiquitous here in Israel. 

She is currently working on a cookbook, The Israeli Pastry Kitchen, which will not only provide recipes for baked goods, but whole sections on the Israeli cafe culture. This includes drink recipes as well as items offered at the Israeli breakfast. She hopes to find a publisher and have it available for purchase next year.

Because Jessica Halfin absolutely refused to do anything else (take a job at a supermarket or bakery for minimum wage, which is ridiculously low here), and because she has been really stubborn and persistent about putting herself “out there into the universe,” Jessica has been received with high marks in travel guides and through her foodie articles. “You have to keep at it, keep going, even if you get rejections at first. Persistence pays off.” And following your passions….

Here in Israel it is khavoosh season. The khavoosh is a quince: a hard, ugly yellow fruit, a bit similar to a deformed pear in appearance with a strong, sweet smell. It is native to the Levant area. I had only heard of it in the children’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, and have never known what to do with it until now. Jessica shares one of her favorite recipes with us – Spiced Quince in Syrup. It can be preserved or served immediately after cooking. The quince slices make a lovely dessert and can even be used for breakfast served over yogurt. Top a sponge cake with it and let those delicious juices soak in! Jessica’s family loves it served with homemade pistachio ice cream- I will be making these for hostess and Chanukah gifts this year. The rosy pink color is just gorgeous!!

                   QUINCE IN SPICED SYRUP  (Makes about 3, 8 oz. glass jars)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large quince (1.5 lbs/680grams)
  • 5 cups water, or more to cover the fruit
  • 3 cups (600g) sugar
  • 1. 3-inch (7.5cm) cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 4 strips lemon peel

Instructions:

Prepare the fruit: Peel quince using a paring knife, and make slices of medium thickness using a very sharp chef’s knife. Make sure not to include the inner, woody core in your slices. This is a bit of a painstaking process, as quince is a wonky shaped, very thick and difficult fruit to cut, but the effort is more than well worth it!

Using a peeler, cut strips of lemon peel. Take care not to cut too deeply, as you want little or no pith in the strips.

Cook the fruit in the syrup: Add the prepared quince to a medium pot with the water, sugar, whole spices, and lemon peel. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the fruit and syrup turn a lovely rosy shade, about 1.5-2 hours.

Jar and Store: Add the fruit and syrup to 8-ounce (227g) glass jars that have been sterilized in a hot water bath 20 minutes. Seal with a sterilized vacuum lid. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes and store in a dark, cool place for over a year, or simply keep unprocessed in the fridge for up to 3 months. These taste better and better as they sit, and the fruit continues to soak up the syrup.

       HOMEMADE GREEK YOGURT WITHOUT A STARTER

Ingredients:

  • (3 liters/quarts whole milk not ultra pasteurized)
  • 2-3 TBSP plain, full-fat store-bought yogurt

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the milk over a medium flame until steaming (`162F). Take off the heat and let cool to 110F. Skin off any skin from the surface of the milk and stir in the store- bought yogurt. 
  2. Immediately cover the pot, drape with a clean towel for insulation. Place in the oven with JUST the light on. Let sit for `12 hours (This is best done overnight).
  3. After 12 hours, remove from the oven and transfer the now yogurt to a fine mesh strainer that’s been lined with cheesecloth and placed over a large bowl. You can also use a muslin swaddle blanket or a very light dishtowel.
  4. Tie up the ends and let strain in the fridge for about 8 hours.
  5. remove the strained yogurt from the fridge, and open up the cheesecloth. Transfer the yogurt to a serving bowl or storage container. Mix with your favorite addition, such as homemade jam, or frozen berries and honey to taste, or keep plain.

Yogurt will keep for two weeks in the fridge, and can be used as a starter in your next couple of batches. 

*For homemade labaneh:  Follow the same procedure for the yogurt, but just use 1 liter of milk and 1 TBSP of store-bought yogurt. Stir in the salt before transferring to the cheesecloth, then strain the yogurt for 24 hours. Can be stored in a container or shaped into balls.

(The custom here is to serve labaneh with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zataar spice. serve it on bread or pita. If making balls, thy can be rolled in zataar or paprika or stored in olive oil in a jar.)

  MAPLE-SILAN PECAN GRANOLA

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups (500g) whole rolled oats
  • 3 cups (250g) quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup thinly sliced almonds
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • Heaping TBSP ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup Sunflower (or olive) oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup Silan (date syrup)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I make my own from ing sugar mixed with 1/3 cup silan
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 1 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.  Combine all ingredients in a very large bowl except for the pecan halves. Spread out in an even layer on a parchment paper-lined baking tray (A thin layer is best, so even if your oven is small you may want to do this on two trays).

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir the granola. Place back in the oven for an additional 7-10 minutes, until deep brown. Let cool completely, then break up into chunks, and keep in an airtight container. Granola lasts about 1 month at room temperature, or indefinitely if frozen.Any pieces that feel slightly soft as opposed to crunchy upon cooking, can be placed back on a tray and rebaked for 10-15 minutes to crisp up.

Jessica Halfin is a professional foodie, recipe developer, and freelance food and culture writer. You can find her online at jessicahalfin.com. Her Instagram account is #jessicahalfinfoodwriter.

Chef Elisheva Levy

I had the extreme good fortune of meeting Elisheva Levy exactly five years ago. We had recently made Aliyah and were apartment-sitting in Jerusalem over the Sukkot holidays. A new program had just been launched pairing up olim khadashim (new immigrants) with host families who had lived in Israel for a while and we were invited by Elisheva to come have a Sukkot dinner with her family. Many times we are invited out and I remember only certain things about the evening or the meal. This was one of the rare cases where I remember much about that night in full detail. At her apartment in Jerusalem we were served amazing appetizers – the most delicious pastilles (film dough rolled ‘cigars’ stuffed with chicken and savories), which I had never had before -spoiler alert: she gives the recipe below! There were meatballs in a sweet, yet tangy tomato sauce; orange soup (made with pumpkins, carrots and other orange veggies). When we thought we could eat no more, out came the chicken, the brisket, the roasted veg, a rice pilaf – And then the most glorious pastries! Homemade rugelach and assorted cookies and baklauwa. Oh my word!!! The food she served!!! And her three children were delightful as well. Adi, Elisheva’s daughter, would be drafting into the IDF the same time as Max, and her oldest son, who was still serving, answered tons of questions for us.

Elisheva Levy came to Israel from England in 1987 to volunteer at Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. The volunteer nursing stint turned into a full-fledged Aliyah. She met her further husband two years later. Because he worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have lived in India, Miami and Brussels as well as Jerusalem. It was the perfect gig for this energetic, outgoing woman! She was able to work in the Israeli Embassies hosting events for the Jewish people living in the area. These included Shabbat dinners and gatherings, holiday parties, and many other social events. Elisheva, who absolutely loves entertaining and meeting people, was in her perfect element.

She has always had a passion for the culinary arts. Shortly after I met her, Elisheva invited me to the first meeting of the Jerusalem Cookbook Club. The dozen or so women and men meet every month for a feast – and to share recipes of a favorite chef or theme of the month. And it is still going strong, albeit in these days of COVID, by Zoom. They usually meet in each of the members’ apartments, sharing their love of food as well as life events.

Elisheva is the most beautiful woman, inside as well as out. Warm, funny, hospitable, with a keen eye for design and detail and a powerhouse in the kitchen are only a few words I have to describe this dear friend (Her strong British accent certainly doesn’t hurt either). There is a Yiddish word for a woman like Elisheva: a word that is (for me) the highest compliment and thus, rarely used. It’s bollibustah – a woman who excels at absolutely everything! 

Elisheva, who is incredibly well-connected opened her own small catering business, Byelisheva, a little over a year ago. It has enjoyed rapid and amazing success. I asked her what her secrets were, and she confided, “I’m passionate about what I do. Besides the food tasting great, it’s the attention to detail, the aesthetics. The packaging. The service I offer to each client.” People in the Jerusalem area can order one dish or a five course meal for Shabbat, holidays, special occasions, and everyday meals. Her menu is incredible down to the most minute detail. During COVID, because so many families with small (bored) children have been locked down for weeks, Elisheva offers pre-made gorgeous cookie kits complete with tubes of royal icing. All items are delivered to your doorstep, so it doesn’t’t get any easier than that.

Baking is her forte. Nothing is off limits. She has taken professional courses and honed her skills. Breads, beautifully decorated cakes, cookies, are  in her repertoire, but those macarons!!!! Filled with ganache flavors like hazelnut and mint and fruits and Bailey’s Irish Cream!!! And the colors!!! As if this wasn’t enough, her chocolate babka is to die for!!! Elisheva has a social presence on Facebook (Elisheva); Instagram (Byelisheva) and Yummi (elisheva@yummi.co.il).

She has shared a couple of my favorite recipes, so we can all enjoy her delicious pastilla and chocolate babka, my two favorites. 

                                        PASTILLAS  (meat/basari  Makes 15)

 These are an amazing finger food. Serve them as an appetizer or for party snacks. They are great with drinks. Or make them larger and serve them as a main course with a side of couscous and roasted veg. They are a Sephardic- North African fusion cuisine. As the Jewish people were exiled from Israel by the Romans in 70 AD, they spread all over the world. This recipe comes to us from Morocco by way of Spain and Portugal, I’m thankful for Elisheva for sharing it, and will be making them for the Shabbat/holiday weekend.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack fill pastry
  • 3 skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 bunch finely chopped parsley
  • 1 bunch finely chopped cilantro       
  • 3 finely chopped onions
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 TBSP ground ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon

Method:

In a pot over medium flame, cook together the chicken, water, onion, parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper – about 40 minutes until tender. Remove chicken from pot. Keep pot on stove and continue to cook until liquid has evaporated. Remove chicken meat from bone, slicing finely. Add sliced chicken back to saucepan. Add ginger, 1 TBSP sugar, salt & pepper (to taste). Add eggs. Mix well for a few minutes. Let cool down completely.  

Preheat oven to 400F/200C. In medium bowl, mix together almonds, sugar, cinnamon. Open up a fiilo sheet, cut in half. Place some of the chicken filling on the bottom of the pastry sheet, 1 tsp of the almonds and cinnamon sugar mix and roll up like a blintze or a burrito.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush all the pastilles with beaten egg and bake til golden brown and crispy. Lightly dust with icing sugar (powdered sugar) before serving.

  NO-FAIL BABKA RECIPE ( dairy Makes 3 babkas)

Babka is traditional Shabbat morning breakfast food here in Israel, since we don’t cook on that day, and want to serve something extra-special and sweet. Pair it with a cup of coffee and a side of yogurt and fruit or cottage cheese, and you have the perfect no-cook meal. Believe me, it won’t last until lunchtime!!!! You can also substitute poppy seeds or cinnamon for the chocolate in the filling. They freeze nicely too –

Ingredients:

  • 1.1 pound of flour (1/2 kilo)
  • 1 TBSP dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup warm water

Sugar Syrup:

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients for the dough together. THE DOUGH WILL BE REALLY SOFT…it’s meant to be so. Leave rise covered with a towel for about an hour. Divide into three balls. Roll out a rectangle. Spread filling of choice. Roll up. Cut in two down the middle. Twist the two halves together into a babka shape. Put into loaf tin. Let rise again for about 15 minutes. Brush with an egg wash. Bake 170C/350F for about a half an hour. Brush with sugar syrup.

Sugar syrup: Place sugar and water in a saucepan. Let simmer very gently until sugar is dissolved entirely. Spoon over babka as soon as it comes out of the oven. 

Chocolate filling:

  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 100 g butter
  • 60 g powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP cocoa

Add cocoa powder and powdered sugar in microwave. Add cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Let sit to thicken.

What’s next for Elisheva Levy? She has set her sights high. Hopefully in the near future she will travel to Dubai to be a Kosher pastry chef for special holidays and Shabbat. Get ready UAE!!! 

              

Recipes & Ideas for the Fall Feasts

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It’s a few days after the observance of Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – and I’m finally beginning to catch my breath. John & I had just returned from two weeks in Europe, and I was having five extra guests plus my son (on army leave) over for dinner. I wanted a really pretty table and menu with a minimum amount of hardship. Plus, we would be celebrating a traditional New Year Seder here in Israel.

For the centerpiece, I used my Rosh HaShannah seder plate which I got at Shalom House in Tarzana, California. Underneath I laid (silk) fall leaves with grapes and chestnuts (I picked off the ground in Geneva & will cook later) surrounding the plate. I decided to use my autumn colors tablecloth so I didn’t have to iron my good white damask one. Gold trimmed placemats, my autumn (meat dishes) china, and we were almost good to go. Hollowing out a few tiny acorn squash and inserting a tea light in each one was inexpensive, easy, and really lovely.  I put a hostess sized Tamar Gourmet Preserves or Chutney at each of the guests’ plates.

Now for the traditional foods and their meanings: the Seder Plate contains nine symbolic items, each associated with a blessing. The first is a pomegranate. I discussed the symbolism of the pomegranate in my last blog post. May the 613 arils remind us of the commandments in the Torah, so we  can have a holy year. Scallions or leeks are used to remind us of the whips of taskmasters and oppressors. May we never come under the rule of oppressive dictators and Pharaohs again. Amen! A gourd: may our good deeds in the coming year be as numerous as seeds of the pumpkin. The head of a fish (I use a paper one) so that we may always be the head and not the tail in the year ahead. A beet or carrot. Some of the words in Hebrew form the meanings or word play for the symbolism. They just don’t translate into English well. Also, each community has their own tradition – go with me on these. The beet (or carrot). May G-d in His mercy keep our enemies far away from us. A double Amen as we live in a very uncertain world these days. Black eyed peas: a few traditions on this food. One is that our enemies will be turned back; another is that the eyes of G-d, the angels and holy ones watch over us to guard us and guide us throughout the year. Dates. I discussed the significance of the date palm (tamar) last post, but may we bend under troubles and not break, as other less supple trees during storms.

I really love these sticky, sweet fruits for so many reasons. As an object lesson, think on the date palm. They bend: they give when pressure is applied. When an intense wind storm hits, they drop their fruits. I like to think of myself as being especially fruitful during a hard situation. Yes, sometimes I lash out and can be pretty miserable; but like the date palm, that’s when I want to be spreading the most help, the most cheer, the most optimism to others. Going with the flow, accepting what I have no control over, and being as positive as possible.

The next food, perhaps the most famous combo associated with Rosh HaShannah is apples and honey. May we have a sweet year. A year of health!!! A year of joy!!! A holy year. A year of prosperity. A year of peace!!! And lastly, the wine and the challah. From Rosh HaShannah through Simchat Torah we use a round bread, not the traditional braided one. The roundness is to remind us of many things – the cycle of the year and the cycle of life. The fact that G-d has no beginning or end. He was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Also, the rounded loaf looks like a crown. During this season we crown Him King of our Lives.

I love the new round challah cover I just bought for the holidays in Budapest last week. It was made by a 93 year old woman who somehow survived during the Holocaust and now works at the Dohany St. Synagogue. She’s a lively, chatty old soul – but has had to slow down over the years due to her failing eyesight. She now uses a machine instead of sewing by hand, but either way, this is a beautiful piece I’ll treasure always. It says in Hebrew “Sabbath Peace and Holiday Happiness.”

During, the holidays, I try to keep to a healthy diet, using as many of the fall fruits and veggies – Israel’s Seven Species, and incorporating as many of the symbolic foods as possible. Because there is so much cooking this time of year, I also try to make things as simple as possible. Hope you can try a few of these as well during your fall feasts.

BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD, ITALIAN STYLE                      parve, serves 8

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked black-eyed peas or 1 large package frozen peas
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 large stalk celery (or 6 tiny Israeli stalks)
  • 6 large scallions (green onions)
  • 1 small bunch flat, Italian parsley, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  •  Italian dressing (I make my own using 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1/4; 4 cloves smashed garlic; 1 tsp oregano; 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper; 1 tsp sea salt)

Soak the dried peas overnight, covering with boiling water. Drain, rinse, then cook in salted boiling water 15 minutes. Let simmer for 1-2 hours or until softened. Drain & rinse well. Drain again.                                        You can save yourself all the extra trouble by using defrosted frozen or drained & rinsed canned black eyed peas, if available.  Place peas in a large bowl. Cut up veggies into a small dice. Add to bowl. Pour the Italian dressing over top. Before serving, mix in the minced parsley leaves. Garnish with parsley leaf and the top of a pepper. Refrigerates and keeps well for leftovers. Can be served as a hearty salad lunch or as a side with either meat or dairy. Protein packed!!!

HARVEST QUINOA SALAD                                         parve   serves 6-8

I love quinoa. It’s gluten free and great for special needs diets; so versatile and easy to prepare!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked, fluffed quinoa (cook according to package directions)
  • 1/3 cup dried sweet pitted cherries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1’4 cup sliced almond pieces
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or pumpkin cubes
  • 1/2 cup dressing (if in US, Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette is amazing!!!!! If not, recipe follows…

Cook the quinoa according to package directions to yield 2 cups. Fluff and set aside to cool in large bowl. Halve and de-seed a butternut squash or small pumpkin. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. In  220*C/450 *F oven, roast the gourd for about 15-20 minutes until tender. Let cool. Add dried fruits, sliced scallions and almonds to quinoa. Mix gently to incorporate. Cube the flesh of the squash/pumpkin into small bite sized chunks and add to quinoa bowl. Mix gently. Pour dressing over top, and mix in. Can be served room temp or refrigerated. This makes tasty leftovers – if there are any!!!

Dressing: Blend well-

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup blush or rose wine
  • 2 Tbsp red onion juice (I use my garlic squeezer to juice my onion) and remaining pulp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger juice (squeeze fresh) – optional
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg -optional

 

              ROASTED FIGS ON BABY GREENS                    parve      serves 6

Another easy one, that is raving delicious! I cook the figs with all the other items I’m roasting that day, running the oven only once….

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, halve washed figs. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil, salt & pepper. You can also add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, but only if it’s sweet (3-5 coins on packaging). Roast at 220*C/450*F oven for 10 minutes.  In large bowl, put pre-washed mesclun or baby green salad mix. Lay the roasted figs on top SAVE THE JUICE!!!!!! Add a few thinly sliced purple onions to the top, and sprinkle on some candied pecans.

Dressing: pour the reserved fig juice into a small bowl. Add a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. Squeeze in 2 Tbsp onion juice (I use my garlic press) and pulp. Blend well & pour over salad just prior to serving.

SHOESTRING VEGGIES SALAD

This is also quick and easy. It’s very colorful and oh so good for you. Can be served at any meal. The veggies can be bought pre-prepared and mixed or you can run the fresh veggies through a food processor. I use my mandoline slicer –

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  • 3 medium red beets, peeled, raw, and julienned
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, raw, julienned
  • 1 large kohlrabi or jicama, peeled, raw, juilienned
  • 1/3 cup Brianna’s Blush Wine Salad Dressing if in the US. If not see recipe for the dressing above in the Quinoa Salad.

Enjoy, my friends. I hope your Fall Feasts are sweet – filled with family, friends, good food & good music. And in this holy season of introspection before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atoning:

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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!

copperpenny

(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!