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 Food52.com

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!)