Thursday, December 27, 2012

Old friends

Last month, when I was in Chicago, my oldest friend gave birth to her third child.  It was nice to be able to be around for such a joyous occasion and to be able to meet the little munchkin (see below) who I'm fairly certain will grow up to be just as fat-cheeked, precocious and funny as her two older siblings. It was nice to feel, if only for a few days, like I could contribute to this community of old friends in a real, tangible way (as opposed to my usual virtual contributions).

Nick is literally my oldest friend. We've known each other since infanthood and from the time we entered pre-nursery to the time we graduated high school, we were pretty much inseparable. We did everything together. We were in the same class in elementary school, we went to summer camp and summer school together. Our parents attend the same synagogue, and on Saturday afternoons, either she was at my house, or I was at hers. She has an older brother my brother's age and a younger brother my sister's age. Our families just sort of fit together. We just sort of fit together. We read the same books. We played vividly imaginative games in the stands of trees in the park we called "the woods". We did strange art projects. At summer camp we protected each other- from the mean girls, from the burden of having to fit in. We both grew into smart, bookish, slightly introverted teen-agers with a core group of friends in high-school- women we still count as friends. It was good for both of us, I think, to find that we had a group; that there were like-minded people in the world. And it was good, certainly for me, that even in our group there was one person who knew me forever and ever. And while after high-school our paths diverged some, they never diverged totally. Because even though I live in Israel and she lives in Chicago, and even though I am a single woman, a refugee from academia, doing my words and food thing, with nothing to tie me down but my cat and my own unwillingness to move, and she is a mother of three, with a husband and house and a dog and degree in special education, she's still one of my best friends.

So maybe it was more than nice to have been there when her baby was born, maybe it was moving. And maybe it was moving to walk through her very adult house, with her adult kitchen and her adult furniture and her kids running under-foot and find little remnants of my childhood scattered about. A painting I painted for her hangs in her children's room. The mantel in the stairway is home to a little, odd misshapen candle- a souvenir from summer camp. And it's odd sort of thing to see your own history displayed like that in a house that isn't yours. It's an ache and a joy all and rush of care and love all at once. It's old, old friends. The oldest. And there I am, holding her baby, who's only a few days old and warm and light against my shoulder and her son and her daughter are running through the house, saying, Mommy, Mommy. Who would have thought we'd be here, in this moment? Really, who would've thought it could happen?

I made Nick and her family fried fish, glazed carrots, green beans, and scones. I make scones often-  usually Alice Water's recipe- because they're easy and they're good and they make me feel British. But a few weeks prior to my trip to Chicago I saw Deb's recipe for roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones over on Smitten Kitchen, and I couldn't not make them. Feeding Nick's family seemed like all the excuse I needed. Afterwards, Nick asked for the recipe. I told her I'd blog it. So here I am blogging it. Nick, give those kiddos kisses from me and then go make some scones. xo.

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
From Smitten Kitchen

3 medium pears, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon for the topping
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate (I used 65%), cut into chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Arrange the pears on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Roast until they are browning a bit and have lost a bit of moisture- about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together, the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in the butter, cream, pear chunks and 1 egg. Mix on low using the paddle attachment, until a wet dough forms. This will only take about a minute- maybe less. Add the chocolate. Mix for 5 more seconds until just encorperated.

3. Pour the dough out on to a well-floured surface and pat into a 6-inch round. It will be sticky. Fear not. Cut into 6 even wedges. Place the wedges, well spaced on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining egg, a drop of water and a good pinch of salt. Brush the wedges with the egg wash and then sprinkle them with remaining the tablespoon of sugar. Bake until golden, 25-30 minutes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

When I think about

I first encountered churros on a trip to Spain. So when I think about churros, I think about Spain.  And when I think Spain I think about wandering in a foreign country, not speaking the language, not being able to eat the food and getting lost in the dark somewhere in the maze of the old city of Cordoba. But I also think about Granada and the magnificence of the Alhambra and sticking my bare feet into a public fountain to cool off- because evidently that's the way they roll in Seville- and that time my sister got stuck in the doors of a train in Madrid. So I liked Spain and I didn't like Spain and I kept on thinking that ironically enough, if I maybe knew a little less about the history of the country I would like Spain more.

Here is another association I have with churros: It is New Year's Eve, 2008 (maybe). My friend Chana and I, have just finished studying. Neither of us have plans. Neither of us have significant others. So we wander into one of the only Latin American restaurant in the city. We order churros and champagne and sit and talk and laugh that is how we ring in the new year. It was a good year, and it's a good memory to have. And so now I associate churros with friends and private little celebrations and the marking of time (and Spain). 

The obvious thing to fry on Chanukah is latkes, and fry potato pancakes I will. But this year I wanted to try something different as well- something that wasn't made of potatoes. I went for churros. I decided on churros (as opposed to say, sufganiyot) because I wanted to mark time and to think about friendship and wanderings and history. Chanukah does that to me, gets me thinking thinky thoughts. It's the end of the year. It's almost my birthday. The nights are long. It's time to light a few candles. Face them outwards, towards a window. I wanted to start a tradition with a food that had meaning to me. So I invited a friend over (Hi Naoms!) and together we tested the recipe. It wasn't perfect- the recipe, that is- but it felt like a start; like something I could build on for years to come.

Happy Chanukah to all those who celebrate.

Spiced Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate
So here's the thing: as I mentioned above, the recipe wasn't perfect. For spiced churros, they were just a little bland. So the next time I make them, I'm thinking to up the sugar and the spices and maybe add some chilli powder

Adapted from Poiresauchocolat on Food52 and SavvyJuly, also on Food52

1/2 cup flour
a pinch cloves
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 ounces butter
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
canola (or any other neutral frying) oil
sugar, (for tossing)

1.  Combine the flour, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl.

2. Cube the butter and put in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the water, salt and sugar. Bring to a simmer.

3. Add the flour mixture all at once, and beat with wooden spoon until the batter comes together in a smooth shiny ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

4. Remove from heat. Let cool a minute or so. Add the egg and beat to incorporate. This may take a bit of elbow grease. Add the vanilla and beat in.

5. Fill a pastry bag with a medium star-tip with the batter.

6. Pour about 2-3 inches of oil into a large saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and wait until it is hot, but not smoking (alternatively, stick a candy thermometer in there and wait till it stabilizes at 375. This is the best way to do it). Have handy- a wad a paper towels and a plate of sugar.

7. When the oil is hot, pipe in 4-5 inch lengths of dough, using a knife to cut. Fry for 2-2 1/2 minutes, turning with a slotted spoon half way through. Remove from oil and let cool for a minute on the paper towels. Toss in the sugar to coat. Repeat with the remaining batter. Eat while warm.

Mexican Hot Chocolate For Two

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch chilli powder (or to taste)

1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, stir together the chocolate, cocoa, spices and half the milk. Mix until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk, sugar and salt. Stir. Heat until steaming. Drink.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The things you cannot have

For me, being an ex-pat means having two selves. I have two passports. I have two homes. I board an airplane and I slip from one self to the other. In both places nothing has changed and everything is different. The streets of Chicago are still straight lines. East toward the lake. The wooden floors in my parents house still creak comfortingly under bare feet. My friends are still my friends. In this Chicago self, I navigate the city by instinct, like its set in my bones and it is. I have a role and a personhood there among people who have known me and loved me since I was a child; where love is effortless and just there. But my friends have children now, and the skyline is a little bit fuller, a little different, every I see it.  My brother lives in another part of the country now; his Chicago bungalow traded for a stately old house in New Jersey. So the shape and rhythm of things are different. Everyone has lives without me as I have a life without them. 

Jerusalem is the same also when I return. The light is still bright. The road up from the airport is still familiar: I feel the twists in the road as I doze and I know where we are. My apartment is still my apartment. The cat still wheezes her way into my bed at night. My friends are still my friends. And yet, somehow in the two weeks I was away, there was a war, or a skirmish, or a something that was pretty horrible, but could have been worse. Something is born. I don't know what it is. A terrible beauty, perhaps, or just something terrible. It's too early to tell how these politics will play out. In the meantime, there is my Israeli self- the walk to the supermarket; the wet winter smell of rain; dinner with friends; sunlight in my kitchen; that job to apply to. Everything is the same here, but very different.

It's like this: My life is like a comic strip. There's the weekday strip, in black and white and the Sunday strip in full color. The characters are different, the storylines are different and they don't converge. One would think that with the years, this feeling of a double life would fade, but no, the weekday strip gets longer and more convoluted. The Sunday strip gets brighter and more complicated. They remain apart and divergent and real. The paradox remains.

There is here and there is there and I can't have them both.

Here is another thing I cannot have in Israel- brussels sprouts. They just don't grow here. So as much as I would like to make my Mom's brussels sprouts with chestnuts, I cannot. She made them for our (second) Thanksgiving dinner (our first proper one was held the home of old friends and was awesome. This second one was on Friday night at home. Why do one Thanksgiving dinner when you can do two?) I never really liked brussels sprouts when I was kid. I suspect most kids don't. Too often they are boiled into submission and emerge watery, squishy and pungently cloying. My mom goes a different route entirely. Instead of boiling the sprouts, she shaves them thin and browns them in a hot wok, where they become sweet and slick and caramelized. At the very end, she adds a handful of roasted chestnuts, which play off and highlight the nutty sweetness of the vegetables. I'd like to say that this dish is the adult version of boiled brussels sprouts, but really it is a different creature entirely. What I can say is that this dish makes my Israeli-self mourn her lack of brussels sprouts, which is something I have never thought I would find myself saying, ever.

But brussels sprouts are there and I am here and I can't have them both.

My Mother's Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Chestnuts

Adapted from Ricky Krakowski

As with most good home cooks, my mother doesn't really measure when she cooks. I've estimated her amounts and times.

 2 medium (or 1 large) onion, diced
1.5 pounds brussels sprouts (more-or-less), thinly shaved
one 3.5 oz bag of peeled, vacuum-packed chestnuts
a few good glugs of olive oil

1. Place a large, heavy wok over a med heat. When hot, pour in enough olive oil to coat. Add the onion. Saute, stirring often, until translucent. Turn the heat up to med-high. Add the brussels sprouts and salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally, but mostly let them sit and soften and caramelize. They are done when they are soft and a beautiful caramel brown. Turn off the heat. Crumble the chestnuts and toss them into the wok. Stir to incorporate. Serve.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The best laid plans

This was the plan: Tel-Aviv-Madrid, Madrid-London, London-New York. It wasn’t a great plan, as travel plans go, but when you buy a ticket on miles you gotta take what you’re given. There was general chaos at Ben Gurion when I arrived at 3 am. Well, Ben Gurion is generally chaotic. When I reached the Iberia counter to check in, I began to hear the word strike being thrown around by my fellow passengers. The lady at the counter, who managed to be both aggressive and apathetic all at the same time, vehemently insisted that I wouldn’t be affected. She also refused to give me any details. This was the first I’d heard of any strike, and I had no idea if it was upcoming, ongoing or past. The last thing I wanted to do was to get stuck in Spain. London, sure- I wouldn’t mind some time in London. I know people there. I speak the language. I could easily figure out where to procure Kosher food. Madrid, on the other hand, was not so enticing. My Spanish is pretty minimal- I learned it from Sesame Street after all.  I know nobody in Spain and the Spanish, having expelled the Jews and Muslims in 1492, have proceeded to make pig their national dish, which makes finding Kosher food in Spain phenomenally difficult. There at the check-in counter in Ben Gurion I was having nightmarish visions of days stuck in an airport with nothing to eat but the food I had packed, Snickers bars and Coke.
I made it to Madrid. My flight to London was indeed canceled, but the very sweet and competent woman at the counter found me a seat on the Madrid-New York flight later that afternoon, leaving me with five hours to wander around the airport. And this how I have come to be writing this blog post, sitting on the floor of the U terminal in the Madrid airport, slightly delirious (2 hours of sleep in the past 32 hours. Yeah, not so much with the functioning) and very, very glad for my 3 sandwiches, 2 chocolate bars, 1 apple, 1 clementine, bag of granola, and bag of homemade trail-mix. Because while the very nice lady told me that she would try to get me Kosher food, I have high doubts about that actually happening (she also told me that my luggage would get on to the flight. I can count on my hand the number of times I have arrived at my destination at the same time as my luggage. The luggage gods hate me. Not holding my breath for that one either.) And while that amount of food is not enough to last me days of being stranded, it is quite enough to last me a 5 hour stopover + an 8 hour flight. My aunt will feed me when I arrive in New York, of that I am sure. (And then I am going straight to bed.)
Edit: I had Kosher food! And my luggage arrived! It's a Thanksgiving miracle. I am now in NY, doing New Yorky things. Soon I will be in Chicago.
I travel internationally quite a bit because I like seeing my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law and my five neicettes and my grandmother and my aunts and my cousins and my friends and because I like to see the world. Travel, when you keep Kosher, is not always straight forward. I have learned to carry a lot of food with me. I have also discovered that it’s best to pretend you are going on a hike. International travel is a long, bleary disgusting marathon of canned air and uncomfortable seats. It requires energy and non-perishable foods. And that’s why homemade trail-mix is a god send. For my trail-mix I use, raisins, Cheerios, dark chocolate and the clincher, David Lebovitz’s candied nuts. In his recipe, David uses peanuts, but because I am terrified of accidentally killing someone and because I like them, I use almonds. Almonds are cool.
So if you're traveling for Thanksgiving, I hope your travels go smoothly and safely. Happy trails. 


Adapted from David Lebovitz

2 cups raw almonds
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
a sprinkle of salt
dark chocolate, chopped

1. In  a wide, heavy skillet, mix together the nuts, sugar and water. Cook on medium, stirring frequently, until the liquid begins to seize up. It will take a bit of time. The nuts will start to become dry and sandy. Don't worry. Turn the heat to low and keep stirring. The "sand" will slowly begin to melt into a syrup. Keep turning and stirring the nuts until they are coated in the syrup. Be patient. When the nuts are fully coated and deeply roasted, remove from heat. Pour out onto a cookie to cool. Once cool break into small pieces.

2. Combine the almonds, Cheerios, raisins and chocolate. Travel.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

And a Bottle of Rum

In general, I am not a very spontaneous person. Occasionally I will go and do something entirely on a whim (like for instance,  join NaNoWriMo, which I instantly regretted, because 50,000 words. I have work, and deadlines and travel and 50,000 is a hella lota words). But for the most part, I am the type of person who needs to sit with an idea, to let it settle and incubate until I am saturated with it. I like letting things sort of luxuriate in my head. I like letting them evolve and become themselves before they take their final form- which is fine. I'm thinky thoughts sort of person.

All of this, was a very long (and slightly lyrical) way of saying that I have been thinking about this recipe for a while. And when I say recipe- what I mean is a conglomeration of two recipes. The first recipe, Coconut Panna Cotta with Lime Curd, has been a dessert staple for over a year. Except sometimes, I don't use lime curd. Sometime I use lemon curd, or rhubarb curd. Whatever I use it's a good dessert. The type of dessert that makes me wonder why this sort of thing doesn't happen in restaurants more often. And by this sort of thing, I mean panna cotta made of coconut milk. It seems obvious and yet it is so rare.

The second recipe, Rum-Spiked Roasted Caramelized Mango, is new to my repertoire. I came across it this summer, also on Food52, and was instantly smitten. Mango, caramel, cardamom, vanilla and rum? How could I not be smitten? How could anyone not be smitten?  The first time I made it, I was taken aback. I had expected, given the ingredients, for it to be the intense sort of dish that just sort of wallops you with flavor. But when I tasted it, I was surprised to find that somehow the combination of rum, vanilla, cardamom and caramel turned the mango into something delicate and floral, like turning a piece of velvet into lace. I loved it. And though the comments on the original recipe called for vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment, all I could think of was coconut panna cotta.

And so a dessert was born.

And yes, it took a while. I spent a long time with it sitting in my head, playing around, but when I did finally make it, it was wonderful. It was flavorful and light and one last sunny day before the rain begins.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Rum-Spike Roasted Caramelized Mango
 Adapted from Couldn't Be Parve and EmilyC

For the Panna Cotta:
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
1/2 cup of water, divided

1. Combine the gelatin with 1/4 cup of the water. Set aside and let sit for 5 minutes.

2. In a small saucepan, mix together the coconut milk, sugar and the remaining water. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add a quarter cup of the coconut mixture to the gelatin to temper it, then pour the gelatin mixture into the rest of the coconut milk.

3. Divide evenly between 6 individual serving dishes (I uses glasses). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours until set.

For the Rum-Spiked Roasted Caramelized Mango:
2 ripe mangoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
8-10 green cardamom pods
1/3 cup rum
sea salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Peel the mangoes and chop into 1/2 inch chunks or slices.

2.  In an oven proof skillet, or a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, vanilla and cardamom pods. Place over a high heat. Be patient. Stir often. The water will begin to boil away and leave you with a golden, syrupy substance that we like to call caramel. This can take up to 10 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Add the rum. Lower the heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the rum and caramel are smoothly combined, about 5 minutes. You want the caramel to thin and light. Add the mango. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Give the pan a shake to evenly coat the mango with the rum-caramel sauce.

4. Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for 5-7 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Add salt and remove cardamom pods. Let cool.

Spoon the mango over the panna cotta. Serve.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

In honor of my graduation this past summer, my uncle sent me a lovely window box full of herbs. It is a testament to the nursery's love of Simon and Garfunkel that the box contains 4 types of herbs. Yup. I got parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. It is also a testament to my uncle's faith in me that he sent me a box of herbs in the first place. After all, I don't have the best track record. In the past four years I have killed at least three basil plants, two thyme plants and a sage plant. The only herbs of mine that seem to thrive are my mint (impossible to kill) and lavender (also impossible to kill?).
Every year, I think, this is the year. This is the year I'm going to be self-sufficient and cool and pretend I have a garden and plant all sorts of cool things in buckets and window boxes. Sometimes I even do. I've planted tomatoes and carrots and even rocket. And I've killed 'em all.
So it is with great joy that I say this. It has been almost half a year.  The rosemary is still alive. The parsley is hanging in there. The thyme, well, not so much. And the sage? The sage is absolutely thriving- which is putting me in a bit of a bind. Because really, how much sage can you use? Don't get me wrong. I love sage. I love it in chicken; fried crispy over pasta; in ginger-ale. It is one of my favorite herbs. But it also not the type of thing that I use in abundance. Too much sage is too much.

Unless, of course, you make cookies.

What, you say. Sage in your cookies? And I say, Yes. Sage in your cookies. And  by cookies I mean shortbread and it is the easiest thing in the world and delicious. Even my sister, who is a notorious hater of sage, loved this shortbread. It is rich and buttery and herby and sweet. And even if you cannot stand the notion of sage. That's ok. You can use something else. Make these. You will inspire spontaneous singing- possibly of Simon and Garfunkel. You will impress your friends and family. (And laugh up your sleeve because really. Two minutes. That's all the work these babies need). You will eat cookies.

Simon and Garfunkel Shortbread
Adapted, (only a little bit) from Merrill on

Notes: I have a feeling these would do well gussied up with some added citrus zest (lemon? orange?) and even a drizzle of dark chocolate. Haven't tried it yet, but if any of y'all want to, go ahead and let me about the results.

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped hearty herbs (I used sage and a bit of lavender, but rosemary and thyme are good too)
1 stick (113 g) butter, at room temp.

1) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2) In a bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Gently rub the herbs into the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Add the mixture to the bowl with the flour.

3) Add the butter to the bowl in small chunks. Using a fork, incorporate the butter until you get a soft dough. Pat the dough into a 9-inch baking dish. Prick all over with a fork and sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar.

4) Bake for 20-30 minutes, until it is golden. Cut into squares while still warm. Let cool. Eat daintily.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The coolest

If you have been following this you will know that the majority of the past month has been taken up by Jewish holidays. This means that the majority of my days have looked like this-pray, eat, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat (the exception being Yom Kippur which looked like this-pray, pray, sleep, pray, pray, try not to faint, pray). By the time the last day of Sukkot came around this past Sunday, I was pretty done with the whole holiday thing.
And yet, there I was Sunday night, hosting a group of good friends for dinner, all of whom, I suspect were also pretty done with the whole holiday thing. Normally, the last day of Sukkot (technically it is its own separate holiday, but we'll leave that discussion for another time) is reserved for my mother's stuffed cabbage [a favorite memory from my high school years-leaving synagogue in the middle of the evening's festivities with my two closest friends at my side to steal bundles of stuffed cabbage, hastily eaten, from the large pot simmering on my mother's stove] but this year, much as I love the dish, I had neither the time, nor energy to roll stuffed cabbage. Luckily, I was also hosting a vegetarian, which gave me an excuse. I went as simple as I could muster: my favorite soup, this corn bread, both from Jess; green salad, a cabbage salad, brought by guests. And while I defrosted cookie dough for dessert, my sister threw together what we so lovingly call Erga's Chickpea Stuff.
 Erga is the older sister of one of my oldest friends and a friend in her own right. I don't see her nearly as often as I should, but I do think of her often, especially when I am making this dish. Erga was one of the first vegetarians I met. I was a teenager at the time, and for some reason her vegetarianism made her seem like the coolest person I knew.  Well, she's still a vegetarian and she's still cool (she designs jewelry!) and I'm forever grateful to her for giving me her recipe for chickpea stuff. It is one of the easiest, best recipes I know.
To clarify, Erga's chickpea stuff is really a chickpea stew. Why I decided to give it the ungraceful title, stuff, I have no idea. But the name seems to have stuck. It really is a pretty remarkable dish. It can be thrown together in under 10 minutes and is amazingly cheap to make. It's a vegetarian dish (duh) that's hearty enough to satisfy even the carnivores among us. Also, it's pretty gosh darn delicious. This is how it goes: onion and garlic, sauteed. Two cans of chickpeas. A can of tomatoes. Some dried spices. Some fresh cilantro. And that's it. It all gets simmer and thickened and then eaten. Make it on a weekday. Make it on a weekend. Make it when you can't possibly think you will ever want to cook or eat again. Serve it to guests. Drink many bottles of wine. Discover you're not so holiday fatigued after all.

Erga's Chickpea Stuff
Adapted from Erga Dershowitz Herzog

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans of chickpeas, drained
1 14 oz can tomatoes +liquid
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, depending on how hot you like your food
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bunch cilantro, divided and roughly chopped.
1/2 teaspoon cumin
plain yogurt or sour cream for garnish

1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, salt, pepper basil, chilli powder, oregano and cumin. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the cilantro and then add the rest to the pot. Bring to boil. Cover and lower the heat. Simmer for 25 minutes, or more until it slightly thickened. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve with reserved cilantro and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream over rice, polenta or corn bread.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Finally, Granola

Once upon a time, I worked in an office. It wasn't in an office building, mind you. It was on the top floor of a library, but it was still an office. It had three desks, no working printer anad no windows. Mostly I worked there alone. But occasionally, I would be joined by my colleague, with whom I would discuss geeky matters (the everlasting argument- 10 or 11? I'm an eleven girl myself),  or my boss, the only native Israeli I know who is obsessed with American football.  It was a friend of my boss,  popping his head in to say hi on a day when we were both there, who gave me the moniker. "Hey," he said "it's Tiki, the granola girl". It was then that I realized that at that moment I was indeed pouring granola into a cup of yogurt and that indeed, for the past week I had eaten granola and yogurt every single day. I lived up to my name.
But somewhere along the road, I stopped eating granola. I started working from home. I could eat any number of things for breakfast: toast with butter and honey; a fried egg; oatmeal. I needn't limit myself to things that were small and easily transportable. Plus, bought granola was getting expensive. And I was bored. So yogurt and granola fell on the wayside.  Then, about a month ago, a friend of mine messaged me on Facebook. She said, "let's make granola". Thinking of my nickname, I said, "ok".
I started perusing the great wide interwebs for ideas. One recipe in particular caught my eye. It was from one of my favorite food blogs, Not Derby Pie. There were two things that specifically grabbed my attention in Rivka's recipe. One was the tahini (or techina as we call it around here), the other was the candied ginger- two foods I unequivocally love. I figured it was a good place to start my forays into homemade granola.
Rivka says the granola will stay in an airtight container for a month. My first half-batch lasted two days. I ate it for breakfast-straight, without yogurt- and then again for snack and then again for lunch. I drew the line at dinner. So yes, the granola theoretically could stay for a month, but I dare you to try. You will not stop eating it.

Granola with Tahini and Honey
Adapted from Not Derby Pie
I made some changes to the recipe, of course, because I seem to be incapable of not tinkering. First off, Rivka's recipe calls for maple syrup. I used honey. Honey and tehini, if you have not tried the combination before is one of the world's most perfect things.  It is also quintessentially Israeli and given that I live in Israel I felt that I couldn't not use it in my granola.  In another change, I left out the seeds. Because, seeds.  Also, this: I don't really measure the nuts and dried fruit, nor do I stick to the ones listed when I make the granola. I add whatever I have about-raisins, dried cherries, apricots, dates, almonds, walnuts, etc- in whatever quantities look right to me. The batch pictured above had walnut, apricot, candied citrus peel and of course, candied ginger. Other batches have had other things. I'll give Rivka's amounts, but feel free to riff.

2 1/2 cups whole oats
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon neutral oil (optional)
1 1/3 cups sliced of your nut (or nuts) of choice (almonds, walnuts, pecans etc)
2/3 cups dried fruit (dried cherries go quite nicely)
2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

1.Put on some Florence and the Machine. You cannot make granola without Florence. Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Go into the bathroom to check on the state of your clogged sink. It is still clogged. Sigh in despair.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the tahini, honey, oil, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Manage to get honey all over the counter. Sigh. In a large bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Pour the honey-tehini mixture over the oats and mix with a fork until the oats start clumping and are slightly damp.

3. Spread in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Your house will begin to smell fantastic. So much so, that you will be eating a browned-butter chocolate chip cookie and think, I wish I was eating granola. Remove from oven, give it stir and bake for 10 minutes more. When it is cool and crisp transfer to an airtight container.

The granola will last, tightly sealed, for a month. (Ha!)