Friday, April 22, 2011

In My Mother's Kitchen (Passover Interlude)

I grew up cooking in a kitchen the size of a shoebox. I am being only slightly hyperbolic. My mother's kitchen was a small, square room with dark laminate cabinets, a squeaky oven and two small windows. We fed a lot of people out of that kitchen. About 8 years ago my mother renovated and expanded her kitchen. It is now long and bright and a pleasure to cook in. It has dark marble counter tops and big bay window doors looking out into the yard.  She still feeds a lot of people out of her kitchen.

Every Passover, I leave Jerusalem and come back to my mother's kitchen. This year has been no exception. I expected things to feel different- for the kitchen to seem smaller and the prospect of feeding the many family members and guests that join us for the holiday less daunting. After all, I've spent the last 3 months learning how to feed 200 people on a regular basis. But the kitchen still seems long and bright and big, and  the sheer amount of food that needs cooking is still overwhelming. Somehow, though, I don't mind much. What would Passover be without the menu planning sessions, the endless runs to the grocery store and those moments when you realize that you haven't left the kitchen once all day?

This year one of our guests had a severe nut and egg allergy, leaving us in a real bind regarding dessert. The two main components of Passover baking are nuts and eggs. Thankfully though, my sister-in-law had already introduced us to the wonders of homemade sorbet last Passover. It was a no-brainer.  Chocolate sorbet, strawberry granita and almond granita- who needs sponge cake?

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need an ice-cream maker to make sorbet. You don't even need a food processor (though having one is quite helpful). All you need is some time and a method for breaking up the ice crystals that form as the sorbet starts to freeze. If you don't break up the crystals your sorbet will turn into a block of flavored ice.  My sister-in-law's method involves removing the sorbet from the freezer just as it is beginning to set and giving it a whirl in the food processor. But if you don't have a food processor, or just don't feel like getting it dirty you can also get good results by checking on  the sorbet  every half an hour or so until it freezes completely and giving it a good stir by hand.

There are endless flavors of sorbet. These are the three I made:

Chocolate Sorbet
Adapted from David Lebovitz

2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz. semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp instant coffee

1. In a saucepan, bring water, sugar, cocoa and salt to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 seconds, whisking all the while

2. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate, vanilla and coffee

3. Dump into the food processor and give a whirl.

4. Freeze. After about 45 minutes, when the sorbet is just starting to set, remove and give it another whirl in the food processor.

5. Freeze again

Almond Granita
From The Man Who Ate Everything  by Jeffery Steingarten

1/2 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup + 4 tbl hot water
3 cups water

1. Combine almond extract, almonds and sugar in food processor and grind to a fine powder. Slowly add the four tablespoons hot water, one tablespoon at a time until a smooth cream is formed. Add  1 cup hot water to dilute the cream.

2. Pour into a bowl and add 3 cups water.

3. Follow freezing instructions as in the Chocolate Sorbet, above.

Strawberry Granita
The amounts in this recipe are vague. Adjust according to taste.

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
a knob of fresh ginger, peeled
a slice or two of a jalapeno
16 oz strawberries, hulled

1. In a saucepan, bring water, sugar cinnamon ginger and pepper to boil. Reduce to simmer and whisk until syrupy. Remove from heat. Cover and allow to seep for 15- 30 minutes

2. In the meantime, blend the strawberries in the food processor and pass through a fine-mesh strainer to remove seeds and any chunks the food processor may have missed.

3. Remove ginger, cinnamon and hot pepper from the syrup and discard. Combine strawberry with the syrup and give it a whirl in the food processor

4. Follow freezing instructions as in the Chocolate Sorbet, above

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I am Tiki. I like food and feeding people;words and old things. I am a refugee from academia, finding my place in the wider world. I live in Jerusalem with my sister and a fat, asthmatic cat.

About the Project:

נשים מבשלות עסק (Women Cook Up a Business) is a program run by the feminist organization קול האשה (Kol Ha'Ishah). The goal of the project is to help women start their own culinary businesses. The project includes a course in small business management, but is centered around work in a community kitchen. Once a week the members of the project are expected to put out 200 plates to feed members of a day care center for people with special needs. The goal of the kitchen work is to familiarize participants with the industrial kitchen as well as to give them experience feeding large numbers of people.

About the Blog:

This blog will be a chronicle of the my year in the community kitchen.

The Recipes:

The food featured in this blog will not be the food we cook in the kitchen. I seriously doubt most people need to know how to make rice for 200 people (hint: it involves a lot of rice), nor do I want to describe how to make rice for 200 people. Instead, this blog will be tangential to the work I do in the kitchen. A lot of times the prep work I do, or the food I cook will remind me of things I cook at home. This blog will feature those recipes.


My first day in the kitchen was a three hour trial run. I arrived with a stomach full of jitters. I didn't know what to expect and I had doubts- many, many doubts. When I walked in, I was greeted with a warm smile by the head of the kitchen. She gave me a quick walk around. I was surprised at how quiet the kitchen was. No one was rushing or screaming. The three women on shift that day were just cooking. Calmly. Competently. I took a deep breath- sure the counters were gleaming metal, and the pots were big enough to hide in, but other than that (and the strange looking machine in the corner, which I was soon to find out is an industrial food processor) it was just a kitchen. I can do kitchens.
"So," C said, "you want to work?"
"Sure," I answered, though I was decisively not sure.
And that's how I found myself staring at a sink full of dirty fennel waiting to be washed, trimmed and prepped. It was more fennel than I had ever been confronted with before in my life. All the fears and doubts that I had tamped down rose up into my throat. I picked up a bulb of fennel. It was almost too large to fit into my palm, but it felt familiar. I thought of my friend and former roommate who taught me to eat fennel sliced thin and doused in fresh lemon juice. I thought of my friend Sweet Amandine's roasted carrot and fennel soup. The bulb smelled slightly sweet and green. I took another deep breath. I got to work.

I used to be one of those people who hated fennel. In general, I'm not so fond of licorice and fennel always tasted like licorice to me. But then my roommate, who pretty much ate only raw vegetables, (not on principle, mind you, she just liked raw vegetables) somehow convinced me to taste her fennel salad. Fennel with lemon juice, salt and pepper- a slight sweetness under a wave of lemon.  That's all it was. I was converted. I ate fennel that way for years and never considered doing anything else with it. Well, then came the soup- the soup that has converted many a fennel-hater. The soup that has convinced me that the only right thing to do with carrots is to roast them (excepting carrot cake with cream cream cheese frosting, of course). I adore that soup. But this is not a post about that soup. This is a post about braised fennel.

I don't remember why I went looking for a recipe for braised fennel. I think, perhaps, I was looking for something to do with a lot of fennel- too much for salad or soup, and I'm pretty much obsessed with braising. It's my default mode. This recipe has five ingredients and three steps, but the results are so elegant one would think it had many more. The fennel mellows as it cooks and just sort of melts into the white wine and tomatoes. I served it with fish. You can serve it with whatever you'd like.

Braised Fennel and Tomatoes

 From the lovely Sunday Suppers

The  recipe calls for 4 bulbs of fennel. I had 6, so I upped the recipe appropriately. It came out just fine.

4 fennel bulbs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 1/2 cups white wine
salt and pepper
olive oil

Quarter the fennel, leaving the cores intact. Saute the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, fennel, white wine and salt and pepper. Stir and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until the fennel is soft and can be pierced with a knife. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.