Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remember that time in Madrid....

All I wanted was to use a clean bathroom.

The day I got stuck in the elevator was the same day I squeezed a good 7 kilo of oranges by hand (ok, more like 3 kilo- I had help.) Why was I squeezing more oranges than the world by hand, you ask? Well, the kitchen is pretty well equipped- we've got an industrial food processor and mixer, two nicely sized ovens and a range that shoots out a scary amount of flame when you turn it on. We've got stainless steel counters and two very large sinks. But, we don't have a juicer. Nope-all we've got is small, plastic lemon squeezer. Mostly we make do since we don't really juice much other than the odd lemon here and there. But on that particular day we had received a 7 kilo shipment of small, late-season oranges- the type of oranges that are meant to be juiced, not eaten. There was nothing to be done. The oranges had to be juiced or they would go to waste. So myself and two of the other women I work with rolled up our proverbial sleeves and went to work. We worked in shifts. We gave each other pointers on how to more efficiently juice the fruit. We encouraged one another. By the end of the day the kitchen was littered with the empty half shells of oranges. I was tired and sticky. My hand had a nasty cramp. I needed to pee.
Going to the bathroom while working in the kitchen is a tricky prospect. The bathrooms on the floor main floor (where the kitchen is located) serve a good number of people. Sometimes there's no toilet paper. Sometimes, there's no soap. Luckily, there's also a super secret bathroom up on the top floor reserved for the administration.  It's a clean bathroom with soap and toilet paper. Preferable in every way.
Because I was so tired, I opted to take the elevator up the two flights. Well, the elevator chugged it's way up the two flights and then settled. The doors opened a crack and then, didn't...I pressed on the door-open button. Nothing. I banged on the doors. Nothing. I yelled. Nothing. I pressed the alarm. Repeatedly. From downstairs I heard somebody yell-"hey, stop playing with the elevator." Luckily, I'm not claustrophobic. Luckily, also, I had cell phone reception. I called C, the head of the kitchen.
"Listen," I said, "I think I'm stuck in the elevator." I could hear her yell from all the way down the hall and up two flights of stairs.
"Abed, Tiki's stuck in the elevator!" Within minutes the elevator doors closed and it jerked to life. On the ground floor I was unceremoniously yanked into C's arms the minute the doors opened. She lifted me up and started to carry me into the kitchen.  Over her shoulder, I could see Abed, the maintenance guy, laughing. I started to laugh as well.
"C," I said, "put me down." She put me down. Through my laughter, still sticky and smelling of oranges I managed to say, "I still need to go to the bathroom."
I took the stairs.  

Citrus Semolina Cake
Adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur 

If you don't like semolina cake, this cake is not going to convert you. If you do like semolina cake (and really, why wouldn't you?) this cake is lovely and nice and bright. It's worth the squeezed oranges.

6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 cup (100 grams) ground coconut
1 cup (140 grams) sifted  flour
2 1/2 cups (270 grams) semolina
1 1/2 tbl (25 grams) ground almonds
4 tsp (20 grams) baking powder
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1 cup (240 ml) orange or lemon marmalade.

The Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.
1. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until they hold stiff peaks.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
3. In yet another bowl, beat the egg yolks, gradually adding the oil, juice, zest and marmalade
4. Stir in the dry ingredients until well combined. Gently fold in the egg whites.
5. Pour the batter into a well-greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 30 minutes, until the cake turns golden and a toothpick comes out dry.
6. While the cake is in the oven prepare the syrup: bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
7. Pour the syrup evenly over the cake. Cool completely before serving.


  1. Wow, that whole day sounds harrowing: the endless bags of oranges, the elevator, the needed bathroom. Happy to know you finally made it to the top floor.

  2. Actually,strangely enough, I don't really remember that day as being harrowing. Just funny. I think C was much more distressed than I was. It's funny the way we remember things.