Sunday, November 23, 2014

On Tolerance

One of my favorite books as a child was Molly's Pilgrim. Molly's Pilgrim is the story a young Jewish immigrant from Russia in turn of the century America. Molly is relentlessly teased by her classmates- for talking funny, for dressing funny, for not knowing the right words for things. As Thanksgiving approaches, her teacher assigns the students the task of making Pilgrim clothespin dolls for their Thanksgiving diorama. Molly's mother, who does not have an historical context for Pilgrims, makes her a doll dressed as a Russian immigrant. For as her mother explains, Molly told her that Pilgrims were people who came to America seeking religious freedom- their family came to America seeking religious freedom, hence they are Pilgrims. Molly anticipates that the teasing will get worse when she brings the doll to school the next day. But to her surprise, the teacher likes her doll best, using it to teach the class a gentle lesson about freedom, difference, and tolerance.

Obviously, as Jewish girl living in America, the story spoke to me deeply and informed the way I grew to think about America and the values that I admired, etched into one of the country's seminal origin stories.

Of course, most origin stories, hagiographies that they are, are problematic and ahistoric. The story America's foundation sets no benchmark for tolerance, freedom or a celebration of differences. Even today, centuries later, the issues of race, class, freedom of religion, personal freedom and the rights of the strangers in our midst are among the most fraught issues in American society. And yet, my mind often strays to the words of George Washington in his letter of reply to the Jewish congregation in Newport. He writes: 
  "All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of the inherent natural rights. For happily the government of the United States, which give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens...."

Washington's words have stayed with me since I first read them in college. It is due to them that I remain uncomfortable with the word tolerance and use it only for lack of a better term. We do not tolerate those who are different than us, for toleration implies that it is within our purview to "indulge" them, as Washington said, in what is their natural right. But that indulgence is not our to give. "All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship."
It is for this reason that I continue to celebrate Thanksgiving though I have not lived in the United States for over a decade. I am thankful to have lived in a country where these values, despite the failures and the fault lines and the racism and intolerance and bigotry that are woven, like dark threads, into American history, could be expressed and advocated as a truth by the first President of the United States. That truth and those values inform my ideals here, in my second home, where even tolerance has been hard to come by lately- in so many ways and in so many places. And that is why I celebrate and am thankful. 

   "May the Father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us  all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way, everlastingly happy." 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Marcus Samuelsson knows a thing or two about diversity and immigration. He was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and now lives in the United States. His Thanksgiving menu, published in November's Food and Wine reflects that. It is eclectic and unique, and diverse in its inspirations. I wanted to try every single recipe, and maybe I will, but for now, I limited myself to one.

 For years, I've been missing kale and other deep leafy greens. Until recently is has been almost impossible to find anything other than mangold (beet greens) and spinach here in Israel- no kale, no collards, no mustard greens (which is ridiculous, since wild mustard grows in abundance here). But to my great joy over the past few years, kale has begun to appear in Israeli supermarket. It's still on the expensive side, so I only buy it on occasion.However, I do believe that a Marcus Samuelsson recipe qualifies as an occasion. His kale salad with root vegetables and apple is a revelation. It will make a kale-hater love kale, and I know this because that is exactly what happened when I served the salad a few weeks ago. My guests and I, kale-hater and all, decimated it. It was that good. I made a few changes, but those were due to necessity, not choice (I have yet to find a rutabaga in Israel, and two pounds of kale can be expensive,) so I am posting the original recipe with options. 

Kale Salad with Root Vegetables and Apple

Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson in Food and Wine November, 2014

2 pounds kale, washed stemmed and sliced, or 1 pound kale and 1 pound beet greens, washed, stemmed and sliced.
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 carrot, julienned
1 apple, peeled and julienned
1 cup rutabaga or kohlrabi peeled and julienned
2 scallions sliced thin

1. In a big bowl, massage the kale with vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Set aside at room temperature for half an hour. 

2. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, zest, syrup or honey, soy sauce, the 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. 

3. Add the carrot, apple, rutabaga or kholrabi and scallions to the kale. Toss. Add the dressing and mix again. Serve. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A World on Its Own

There is a lot of food to talk about. A lot of food that was made and consumed over the holidays. There is a lot of food being planned. Thanksgiving is coming up. I've just received a subscription to Food and Wine (thanks, Tobes) which has filled me with ideas and thoughts and just plain, I want to make that. I am sorry for my extended silence especially when I have so much to say.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that life seldom goes the way you planned, for yourself or for the people you love best. Over the course of two weeks I received spectacular news from a friend, and then on one joyous, terrible day I received very very good news from another friend while yet another friend shared news that was absolutely devastating. I think each of these friends would say that this was not the way that they expected their lives to be. This was not the story we told ourselves-this makes the joy all the more joyous and pain all the more painful.

There is a Jewish custom of bringing round foods to a house of mourning (hence the bagels) as a symbol of the circle of life and the ever turning world. I've always sort of hated this custom because at that moment, in that house of mourning, the world does not continue to spin. A world on its own is gone and destroyed in the lack and the absence. And if anything, life is not a circle, but a series of concentric ones, an extended Venn diagram, where you and your loved ones meet and overlap, laugh and cry in conjunction, but separate. Or maybe it is this, we  are each our own boat, in the same river, holding out a hand to steady each other against the current. People come into our lives, husbands, wives, friends, babies and people, new and old, leave our lives. We travel together, we travel apart.

It's an emotional buffeting to be both so very happy and so very sad.

For the reasons mentioned above lentils are also often brought to a house of mourning. I did not make these lentils in mourning, in fact, I was in a pretty good mood when I made these on Sukkot- happy to be sharing the holiday with my friends. They are sweet and sour, these lentils and I was surprised by them, because generally, sweet and sour disagrees with me. But I've been thinking about them a lot since I made, and not just because they were delicious and easy and filling, but because my life has seemed so sweet and sour as of late.

Emily's Sweet and Sour Lentils

Adapted from Becky Haendel (I do not know who Emily is, but whoever and wherever you are, Emily, thank you.)

I've made a few changes to the recipe- mostly I've halved it, because 3 cups of lentils is an insane amount of lentils, and cut the sweetness a bit. If you want to go with the original proportions- it was 3/4 cup of honey to 3 cups of brown lentils).

1/8 cup soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/8 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils

1. The recipe is as simple as this: Mix all the ingredients in a small-medium pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer, covered for 40-45 minutes until the lentils are soft and most of the liquid has been dissolved. Serve hot or at room temperature, over rice or with  warm pita.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Into the Wild

I've been avoiding writing this post for a while now. It feels premature. I'm not ready to write about my year- to sum up, to take stock. We had no summer. Where did the summer go? How is it September already? What is this turning of the seasons?

In some ways, this has been a very good year. I moved into a beautiful new apartment. I have a lovely new roommate. And as I keep telling anybody who will listen- I have a garden which gives me an inordinate amount of joy. In other ways it's been a very difficult year. The job that I thought would be steady and stable turned out to be neither steady nor stable, so I left and am now, once again, job searching. My cat spent a good few months being terribly sick and even now I am continually surprised that she is still alive And then, of course, there was the war and the growing feeling of disillusionment  and dread that accompanied it.

But lo, the new year is upon us, for better or for worse. That is the way time works, evidently.  This year is into the wild. It's a shmitta year. Shmitta is the Biblical injunction to let your land lie fallow every seven years (among other things) It is a sabbath for the land, which is a lovely concept. The truth is,though, shmitta is kind of a pain on so many levels. I've just planted my garden and am now faced with the prospect of just letting it be- no fertilizing, no pruning, no weeding- just watering and the bare minimum that needs to be done to keep it alive. It's hard. Every morning, I go outside. I check on my succulent with the pink-red flowers first, then the aphid-ravished jasmine, then the newly planted purple basil, the strawberry plant, the blackberry, the rosemary, the zaatar, the oregano and the thyme. I deadhead the plant with the white flowers, the multi-colored petunias and move back to the succulent to deadhead it too. I watch the natural drama unfolding. The little black cat, who's still half a kitten, has climbed up into the pear tree, and all the birds- the sparrows, the chickadees, the bright-stomached hummingbirds, the jays and four spectacular green wild parrots- come out in furious concert to yell at the intruder. I know that the flowering plants and some of the herbs probably won't survive the winter, but there's nothing I can do about it, and I won't be able to replace them until next September. What will this garden look like come spring, I wonder. I'm giving it over to the wild. It's out of my hands.

I don't know how to say things, to wish things, about the coming year. It's come too early. The war's cold fingers are still digging themselves into my ribs and it's hard to shake them off, to see clearly, to have a plan. I'm going into this one with my eyes shut tight. I'm laying down seeds and hoping.

Two recipes for the new year:

Roast Chicken and Potatoes with Silan (Date Honey)

Adapted from Lisa Rubin

1 whole chicken
4 tablespoons of silan
about half an inch of fresh ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
a good bunch of thyme
3-4 potatoes, peeled, sliced and parboiled

1. If you have time, season the chicken with salt and pepper and let sit overnight. If not, preheat the oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, mix together the silan, ginger, garlic and olive oil. Toss the potatoes with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and then place them at the bottom of a crock or dutch oven (enameled cast iron is best for this). Take a handful of thyme and place over the potatoes. Place the chicken over the thyme breast-side down. Pour the silan mixture over the chicken, rubbing it under the skin and into the cavity. Stuff the cavity with the rest of the thyme. Roast uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the internal of the chicken temperature reaches 160 F.

Apple-Celery Salad with Pomegranate-Mustard Vinaigrette

This is not so much a recipe as it is a list of instructions. Do as you like

Roast a handful of almonds, allow to cool and chop. Dice an apple (or two) and a fewish stalks of celery. Slice some red onion thin, thin thin. Wash some lettuce, if you'd like, or leave it out if you don't.  Pour some vinegar into a small bowl, add a good pinch of salt and wait for it to dissolve. Add a grind of pepper, a few good glugs of pomegranate molasses, more if you like things tart, a nice teaspoon or more of Dijon mustard and some olive oil. Whisk to combine. In a large bowl, mix together the apples, celery, red onion, almonds and lettuce, if using. If you'd like add some nice, mild cheese, but it's totally optional. Dress with the vinaigrette. Eat.

Monday, August 18, 2014


This has been a hard war. All wars are hard, obviously, but everything in all ways nowadays seems hard, hard, hard and too painful to face. Every time I open the news I am hit with a wave of sorrow that seems to swallow my body, so I've stopped reading the news. But it's hard to escape. There are very few degrees of separation in this country.

In the midst of all this, people are coming and people are going. I'm leaving jobs and starting new ones. The hardest one, I think, is my friend Hannah. Hannah is one of my oldest friends here in Israel. She claims we met on a bus. I have zero memory of that interaction. I remember that we met when we were paired together as study partners on a program we both attended. Somehow, we started talking about books and that was that. We were in. We remained study partners for three years. But more than that, we became friends. Hannah and her family sort of adopted me. I was with them for holidays, on the weekends, on family outings, and when things got tough for me, as they often did, those first few years after I moved, I shut myself in their guest room for a few days until I was ready to face the world again. Hannah and I spent years talking about books and boys and movies and life and now she's moved across the ocean. It's a good thing, her move. Her husband is going to educate young minds. Hannah is going to be writing a brilliant dissertation on Conrad and Dickens. But still, I'm going to miss her. I already miss her.

Hannah and I often call each other for cooking tips. One day, we were chatting on the phone about life type of things, when I mentioned that I had an unholy amount of cilantro sitting in my fridge, needing to get used. "Oh," she said, "I've got a recipe for you." The recipe was simple-just eggs, onion, tomato, chili pepper and a lot of cilantro- but great. It's the type of thing you make when you are starving, busy and desperately in need of something warm and delicious to eat. Something about the tomatoes keeps the eggs creamy and soft and the cilantro and pepper give it a burst of flavor and heat.  I've made a few small adjustments over the ten million times I've made it, but mostly it remains just the way Hannah gave it to me. And now I'm giving it to you.

Come home soon, Hannah.

Scrambled Eggs with Onion, Tomato and lots of Cilantro

Adapted from Hannah Landes

1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 green chili pepper, (or to taste) diced
a huge bunch of cilantro
a pinch of cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. When melted and bubbly add the onion. Saute until soft. Add the tomato and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes have started to release liquid and have made a sauce of sort. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and give it a toss and then, almost immediately add the eggs. Scramble as you would scramble eggs (everyone has their own method, yes I know), the eggs will remain soft and creamy. Eat with bread and butter, or stuffed in a pita.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The word for world is forest

These are days to try your soul. You went from worry, to sorrow, to fear, to rage mixed with sorrow and then you went numb, until the fear came again.

You keep everything charged- your cellphone, your computer- just in case. There's bottled water in the hallway, cat food too. You keep as many of the doors as you can closed, keeping the windows out of sight, as if a plank of wood would do much help would they shatter inward- who knows- maybe it would. Sleep in pants, not shorts, just in case. Take short, perfunctory showers. Be prepared.

Your first instinct is to deny, deny, deny. But you know it is true. You know it can happen. People are people. Hate is hate. You open Facebook and all you see are the us and them, the propaganda, the provocation. It feels like a toxic cesspool, to be honest. Nothing can grow here. Despite our geographical proximity, we have so few opportunities to stand face to face and look each other in the eye.

"You don't have to call me every time there's a siren in Tel Aviv," your sister says. "I've checked in on Whatsapp." "I know," you say, and you do, but you want to hear her voice, exasperated as it is. You go about your day as normally as you can: job searches, work, cooking with friends. Others are much braver than you. They go out, they socialize, the travel far distances. Not you. You prefer to stay close to home if you can, to be in a place where at least you have plan of action. You can't always though. "Listen," you tell the cat as you're leaving the house, "if there's a siren, go into the hallway, stay away from the windows." She just flicks her ear at you and goes back to watching the birds. She can be so stupid sometimes.

Your heart-rate speeds up every time you hear the high whine of a motorcycle passing by. It's a strange way of going about your life. You water the plants. You show your neighbor where the public shelter is. One minute you are crouched in the hallway, waiting to hear the tell-tale boom that means a rocket has landed or been intercepted, the next you are sitting in your living room, finishing Americanah.

You are one of the lucky ones. The very, very lucky ones.

You've been thinking a lot about an interpretation of Deuteronomy 13: 18 that you once read (though you cannot, for the life of you, remember where): "And He will grant you mercy, and have compassion on you": In the face of great cruelty and violence it takes an extra measure of grace to remain compassionate and merciful. So much so, that compassion and mercy are considered gifts from God. Those words feel apt these days. May we all, in Jerusalem and Hebron, Tel Aviv and Gaza, be granted that extra measure of compassion in these days and all the days to come.

I'm a stress-baker. It's a thing, for-reals. And when I stress-bake, I don't want anything elegant or delicate. I want chocolate and brown butter, butterscotch and salt. I want comfort food in the form of what is essentially a big-ass chocolate chip cookie. This is what my roommate and I were confronted with when Deb's (of Smitten Kitchen) Blondies came out of the oven. We ate almost half of them right there and then. I put the rest in the freezer, because otherwise I knew I would just pick and pick at them until they were finished. To be honest, that strategy has been only semi-successful, since I now find myself making excuses to open the freezer. Make these, take a bit of comfort.

Brown Butter Blondies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

8 tablespoons (113 grams) butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
3.5 oz (100 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
a handful of walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 f.  Brown the butter. Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often until the butter turns a lovely golden-brown color and begins to smell amazing and nutty. Remove from heat.

2. Combine the butter and brown sugar, and mix until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Then stir in the flour, salt, chocolate and walnuts.

3. Spread batter into a buttered 8x8 pan. Bake for 20-25,  until set. Cool and cut into small squares. Eat in peace and quiet.

Monday, June 30, 2014

If you can't stand the heat...

Quite a few summers ago, my sister and I took a trip to Spain. We spent a few days in Madrid and then wound our way down to Cordoba, where we also intended to spend a few days.   It is safe to say that I did not understand the phrase, "a wall of heat" until I arrived in Cordoba. We stepped off the train and into what could only be described as "a wall of dry heat". It was 40 degrees Celsius and just past midday. The hostel we were staying at was beautiful, but it had no air-conditioning, only an slow-moving ineffectual fan, that moved the hot air around our small room. The only bearable time of day was between 3 and 6 am. We did not like Cordoba. Something about the heat turned everything flat and dull and almost oppressive. Maimonides was everywhere, but there were no Jews. The Meziquita, the Roman bridge, the great city that was once a shining star for the three monotheistic faiths, felt like nothing but a tourist trap. The next day we fled to Seville where we learned how the locals deal with the heat and the reason for the preponderance of public fountains in the city. There is nothing quite like sticking your bare feet into a cold fountain on hot day.

I mention Cordoba because the weather in Jerusalem the past few days has been positively Cordobian. Walking outside is like moving through a furnace. The heat is its own entity.There is no fighting it. You just have to give in. On Friday, I walked out of my apartment with every intention of shopping at the wonderful, cheap green-grocer just a 12 minute walk away. But then, I took one step and said, nope, not happening. I went to the expensive green-grocer around the corner. I did not buy a melon, or anything other than the bare essentials. I walked home as quickly as possible, which is to say not very. The melon is important. The melon is important because without it I could not make Mark Bittman's Tomato-Melon Gazpacho, which is my go-to summer soup. But I needed cold soup. In fact, still now, all I want to eat, forever and ever, until the heat breaks, is cold soup. I had no melon, nor did I have cucumbers or peppers with which to make regular gazpacho. What I did have though was carrots- in abundance- because I had been meaning to write about Kim Boyce's Carrot Muffins from Good to the Grain, which are spectacular, but really, asking anybody to turn on their oven in this weather is just cruel, so I did not write about about them. Chilled carrot soup it was. After a bit of research, I decided I wanted something just a little gingery and sweet, but nothing that would overwhelm the carrot flavor, so I went with a recipe from Food and Wine Magazine, that was pretty much nothing more than onion, carrot, ginger, water and a little sweetener and acid.  It was perfect. Just what I wanted. Just what I want, until the heat is gone.

Chilled Carrot Ginger Soup

Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 pounds of carrots, sliced
2 1/2 cups water or stock
2 inch long knobs of ginger, peeled
2-3 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. In a medium sized pot, warm the coconut oil until melted. Add the onion and cook about 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add the carrots, water (or stock) and ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer about 25 minutes until the carrots are tender. Remove from heat.

2. When the soup has cooled a bit, remove the ginger and add the lemon juice, honey salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth (a hand blender is useful for this). If the soup is too thick, you can add a bit of water to thin it down. Chill. Serve cold.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Two Years

It's been two years.

Bay, I still think of you when I drink coffee cold, when I put on lipstick and eye-shadow, when I'm in that cafe we sat in- you'd be disappointed, the quality has gone down and the prices have gone up- just like everything these days- and I kind of wish we were sitting together now, and we could sigh, yes, the world has gone to trash, just like the old ladies we should be together. Bay, I think of you in the middle of the day sometimes, for no reason at all- just a thought of you fleeting and there.

I guess this is a thing one must learn, how absence can take up so much space. Time is only a buffer in the sense that it makes things less immediate, but loss never becomes anything other than loss.

The recipe I'm posting today has very little do with what I've written today, but it is about nostalgia.It's about learning to bake bread with my grandmother, her strong forearms and sturdy hands, learning to tell when dough is done by touch and sight. I've never really been successful when trying to replicate my grandmother's challah, which is a thing of beauty, let me tell you, but I have had more success with her whole wheat bread. My grandmother's whole wheat bread is made of 100% whole wheat and yet somehow still manages to remain light and fluffy and slight sweet. It's bread you want to slather in almond butter for your afternoon snack, or just eat plain, straight from the oven. It's whole wheat bread the way you remember it from years back, from your childhood in your grandmother's kitchen.

My Grandmother's Whole Wheat Bread

Adapted from Mindie Mermelstein

2 tablespoons dry yeast
4 tablespoons warm water
pinch of sugar

2 2/3 cups warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
7 1/2 cups whole wheat  flour
3 tsp salt

1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of yeast in 4 tablespoons of water add a pinch of sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. The yeast mixture should start to bubble and froth. If it does not, the yeast is dead. Throw out and start over with new yeast.

2.  Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the water, oil honey and yeast slurry. Combine until a shaggy ball of dough begins to come together and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cover your hands in flour as well (though dough will be sticky), knead until it is supple and smooth and is no longer taking in flour. My grandmother says this should take 6-8 minutes. Most people, however, haven't spent a lifetime kneading dough. It took me closer to 15 minutes. Form a nice ball, and  put the dough back into a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

3. When the dough has finished it's first rise, punch down and remove from bowl. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then knead briefly. Divide the dough in half. Press half of the dough into a rough rectangle, starting from the width closest to you fold the dough over itself in thirds, much like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Place the loaf  into a loaf pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover the two loaf pans and leave to rise until doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

4. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 350 f.  When the loaves have finished rising, brush the tops with a little bit of water. Bake for about 40 minutes. Tap the bottom of each loaf, if you hear a hollow sound, the loaves are done baking. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Note

My wonderful Aunt Jaimie has started a blog about a sundry of things including (but not limited to) fashion, books, advice and life in Israel. Jaimie is the best the thrifter I know and more importantly, my mentor, friend and the person to teach me that being an introvert is not a weakness, but a strength.

So dear readers, please do pay a visit to Jaimie's blog- Take It/or/Leave It and tell her I say hi.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New beginnings (Super Natural Every-day)

It is a fact well known that you do not truly live in a place until you have cooked in the kitchen. I spent the first few days in my new apartment eating sandwiches and junk food and the occasional egg. The kitchen was the first thing to be unpacked, but for the most part I was still living out of suitcases and boxes. And really, when I say unpacked, what I mean is that my friend and I removed my pots and pans and dishes and things I need but don't really need (i.e. my pasta maker) and shoved them into the nearest available space in any given cabinet. It's going to take a while before I really get the hang of where I want things and how to best make the kitchen flow. But still, my kitchen needed inaugurating.

So we inaugurated it.

My new apartment has high ceilings, big windows and low light because it is on the first floor and tree-shaded. I wake up in the morning to dappled sunlight. It has built-in bookcases in the living room, a small room for a study, a long kitchen and a garden that is mostly my own. Right now, the garden  is still a big of a mess, but I've got a few flowers on the stoop, rose bushes I am trying to coax back to life and a little slip of a blackberry bramble my future roommate bought, waiting to be planted. As I was moving in, one of the movers turned to me and said, "this place is so much better than your old place. So much better." Well, the quality of an apartment has a lot to do with the memories you make in it, but so far I think I"m going to want to stay here for a very long time. Sometimes, if I have a few minutes to spare, I sit on the stoop with my morning cup of coffee and think, how did I get to be so very lucky, living in this apartment on a beautiful quiet street, with a beautiful quiet garden? I have a bad habit of waiting for the bottom to fall out from under me. I'm trying to work on it.

We inaugurated the kitchen with a new cookbook. Before Passover, Naomi and I decided that we were done with Jerusalem. We'd been cooking from it for more than a year and had made most of the recipes that were a) kosher and b) didn't include eggplant (as I am allergic to eggplant). Surprisingly enough, more recipes were invalidated due to eggplant than were invalidated due to kosher concerns. We loved Jerusalem, but the time had come to move on. We chose Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every-day (but not Supernatural Every-day, because that would be something entirely different, probably involving my friend Debbie, pie and a cult TV show with hot guys and an unfortunate penchant for killing off female characters. Um. My geek is showing. Sorry.). We wanted something a little bit different than what we had been doing before- to move away from the middle eastern flavors we had come to love and know and to try something a little bit different. I follow Heidi's great blog, 101 Cookbooks, and have long admired her recipes and her approach to food. We also liked the fact that Super Natural Every-day is a vegetarian cookbook with a focus on natural foods. Naomi is the first to admit that she's a little bit of a hippie (and hence has an obsession with chia seeds that I can't really fathom) and I am happy to avoid the issues with kashrut that a non-vegetarian cookbook would bring (we almost settled on the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, but then decided that kosher concerns would leave us with too many recipes we wouldn't be able to make). So Heidi's cookbook it was.

It's been two weeks of Super Natural Every-day. We made Spinach Chop and Yogurt Biscuits with spelt flour, Chickpea Stew with saffron and Tinto de Verano. Everything has been great. Heidi's recipes have this wonderful simplicity to them that is so very different from Ottolenghi. We keep on reaching for the spice drawer-for the cumin, the allspice, the za'atar, the lemon, only to find that Heidi does without. Where Ottolenghi shined with these great punches of flavor, Ms. Swanson's food is clean and subtle and graceful. It is a nice change of pace, a nice way to start in a new kitchen. (It also doesn't hurt that the cookbook is absolutely gorgeous).

The Spinach Chop made a great brunch and the Chickpea Stew was lovely, but I think in all honesty the recipe I liked most so far is Tinto de Verano, mostly because both Naomi and I were so very dubious about it in the beginning. Tinto de Verano is kind of like chilled out version of sangria. It's not much more than cheap red wine mixed with sparkling lemonade, which makes it cheap and easy. And I know, right now you're wrinkling your nose at the prospect of red wine and lemonade, trust me, we did too, but we were saying goodbye to Naomi's roommate and I had a bottle of cheap red wine so we figured, there's no harm in trusting the cookbook and just going for it. I'm glad we did. It was kind of perfect for a summer evening, light and fruity and cooling and it was clear that we chose the right cookbook. Tinto de Verano, ladies and gentlemen. L'chaim.

Tinto de Verano

From Super Natural Every-day by Heidi Swanson

1 (750ml) bottle of cheap red wine (preferably Spanish)
Sparkling lemonade, chilled (we used Schweppes Bitter Lemon, whatever you use make sure it is not too sweet)
Lemon slices

1. Pour half a cup (120 ml) red wine into a glass. Add half a cup (120 ml) sparkling lemonade. Mix. Add ice cubes, if so desired. Garnish with slices of lemon. Repeat with remaining glasses (recipe will serve 4-6 people). Serve. Pretend you are much fancier than you actually are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Here are two things I hate: moving and jet-lag. When I first started writing this post, almost a month ago. I was faced with both of them.

After months of a soul-destroying apartment search, I finally signed a lease on a new place about a month ago-a week before I left to the United States for two weeks to spend Passover with my family. I arrived back in Jerusalem about three week ago, with exactly two weeks to pack up my apartment and move. Needless to say, I haven't been using my kitchen much in the last two to three months. And even when I have been using my kitchen, I haven't been doing much inspired cooking. I'm sorry to say that I've been eating a lot of cereal, pasta and takeout lately- not that those are bad things- but it's been nothing to write home about, so to speak. It's hard to feel inspired when you are so totally in between- in between homes, in between packed and unpacked, in between time zones, in between selves. It's hard to cook and it's hard to write. My kitchen pretty bare for a while right now- waiting to be packed and then unpacked. I kind of feel the same way, slightly empty, dusty and just waiting for a big change.

I did, however, do quite a bit of cooking in my mom's kitchen in Chicago. I always do.I made the usuals- carrot-fennel soup, almond cookies, meringues, braised chicken with garlic and white wine, etc. That's what Passover is for, long stretches in the kitchen, followed by long stretches of eating. I like cooking in my mom's kitchen. I like the silence as I watch the sun come up through the French doors at the back, awake and restless with jetlag during the first days after I land. I like the noise and chaos of three adults and five children, bustling and helping and cooking.  The kitchen in my new apartment actually reminds me a lot of my mom's kitchen. It's quite a bit smaller, but like my mom's kitchen it is long and narrow, with black marble counters and a view of a garden. I hope my garden will one day be as nice as hers. I think it is the kitchen that made me say, yes. This place. I can live here.

Somehow I am the dessert maker hence, the almond cookies, meringues and some spectacular macarons from the New York Times. It's just a thing that happened. I do the desserts. I always want to make ice cream, but my mother doesn't have an ice cream maker and more often than not, we have one or more family members who don't want to be eating semi-raw eggs. This year though, this year I had cream and limes and tequila all staring me in the face. God bless, Nigella Lawson then, for providing me with this pretty glorious recipe. No Churn Margarita Ice Cream, doesn't that just sound spectacular? When I read the recipe, I though maybe the lack of a custard would make the ice cream feel anemic, and that if I didn't churn it it would crystallize and turn horrid and awful when I froze it, but neither of these things happened. The ice cream was smooth and rich and tangy. It all seemed so magical.  So go my friends, get yourself some tequila and limes and cream- or go wild and play around. I bet this recipe can be used as a template for any number of excellent ice cream flavors. The lazy days of summer are about to be upon us. Settle in.

No Churn Margarita Ice Cream

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

1/2 cup lime juice
2.5 tablespoons tequila
2.5 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream

1.  Pour the lime juice, tequila and juice into a bowl. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the cream and whip with a hand mixer (or in a stand mixer) until thick, but not stiff.

2. Transfer into an airtight container and freeze overnight. Serve in glasses if you're feeling classy like that.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Of My Own

To say that I am an introvert is a gross understatement. I am so far on the introvert scale, I fall off the edge. In order to face the world, I need a lot of quiet, alone time. These past weeks have been a haze of running around this very unpublic transportation friendly city looking at one apartment after another (spoiler alert: I have not yet found a new apartment). Needless to say, I have been a little bit low on energy lately. I'm pretty prone to finding things overstimulating on a relatively quiet day, and these have not been quiet days. So I treasure my alone time. I am greedy for it. I take pleasure in cancelling plans (I have cancelled plans with one specific friend so many times in the past weeks, I am surprised she still likes me). This is not to say that I don't love my friends and want to spend time with them. I have spectacular friends and I love spending time with them. I love the joy and comfort and laughter they bring to my life. They are my emotional bulwark. This is also not to say that I have become a hermit and disavowed any form of social interaction. I go out. I see people. I go to work and make small talk with my equally awkward and intoverted co-workers. I do things. I attend satirical academic conferences on the importance of cake. (And cake is very important as we all know.) But life is so much right now and feels so pressing that I find myself clawing and fighting to carve out some time just to sit, just to be, just to find myself again.

Usually, weekends are for friends- for sharing food and conversation. Meals are eaten in a group- dinner parties or potlucks. Sometimes I host, sometimes I am a guest, but Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch are almost always spent in the happy company of other people. A few weeks ago, though, faced with the prospect of having no plans for Saturday lunch, I realized that I didn't want plans. Even if plans had materialized, I would have said no to those plans. I needed some "me" time. So instead of eating with friends, I made myself a lovely citrus-fennel salad (even better the next day) and a variation on a chicken recipe my mother used to make when I was a kid.  I sat in the quiet and ate my delicious food. I read, I slept, and thought thinky thoughts. I was still until nightfall when I stood up, shook myself off and went out into the world again.

My mom's corn flake crumb chicken- exactly what it sounds like, baked chicken coated in corn flakes- was a delicious staple growing up. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods. However, me being who I am, I couldn't help but tinker with the recipe. A while ago, a friend of mine, or rather, a woman who served as a surrogate mother figure of sorts all these years I have been far away from my own mother, gave me a recipe for breaded chicken with mustard. It's a good, quick recipe and I used it a lot. Eventually, it too, evolved. Mustard became a mix of mustard and tehina and as of a few weeks ago, bread crumbs became corn flake crumbs. This is how new recipes are born. The chicken is moist and flavorful, the coating is crispy and wonderful. It's a good recipe to have alone or with friends.

Corn-Flake Crumb Chicken with Mustard and Tehina

Adapted from Ricky Krakowski, Carol Toff and many others

This is not a precise recipe- think of it more of a list of suggestions and ratios. Want to add more mustard? Go for it. Don't have corn-flake crumbs? fine- use panko or plain old bread crumbs. Don't have time to marinate the chicken overnight? Also, fine. This chicken will be great if you leave it let it sit for an hour, or even just 20 minutes. It's all good and delicious.

1 chicken, in 8 pieces
1/3 cup tehina paste
1/4 cup mustard (Dijon is preferable, but plain is fine too)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregana
a good pinch coarse salt
a grind of black pepper
corn flake crumbs.

1. The day before you bake the chicken. Mix together the tehina, mustard, marjoram salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. (If you don't have time, just coat the chicken with the mustard-tehina mixture and leave it for as long as you can.

2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pour some corn flake crumbs on a large plate and coat the pieces of chicken entirely, pressing down to make sure the coating sticks. Place in a baking pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken thigh reads 165 (you know the drill).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jerusalem in Jerusalem: Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake with Chocolate Icing

Many a person has asked me for this recipe after seeing the picture Naomi posted on Facebook about two weeks ago. And why wouldn't they? This is one lovely, sexy looking cake. It was also one of our standouts-rich, buttery and bright and everything that is best about citrus and chocolate. Now, I love citrus and chocolate which means I loved this cake (A note to anyone who might want to send me a Valentine's Day gift, or just a gift- chocolate covered citrus peels. That is all.) and thank Ottolenghi for bringing it into my life.

Happy Valentine's Day. Have some cake.

Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake with Chocolate Icing
Note: Yes, Passover is not yet here, but it doesn't hurt to think ahead- I reckon that this cake could easily be made Passover friendly (and gluten-free) by swapping the flour for potato starch or quinoa flour (for those who use quinoa on Passover)

Adapted from Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi

For the Cake:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (200 grams)
2 cups sugar, divided
4 clementines, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 1/2 cups ground almonds
5 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour, sifted
pinch of salt

For the Icing:
6 tablespoons (90 grams) butter
5 oz (150 grams) dark chocolate
2 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons Cognac or whisky

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9 1/2 inch cake pan- a springform is best- and line with parchment paper.

2. Put the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and zests into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low until just combined. Add half of the almonds. When combined, gradually add the eggs. Add the remaining ground almonds, flour and salt and beat until smooth.

3. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes back slightly moist.

4. When the cake is almost ready to come out, place the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the juices into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. As soon as the cake is out of the oven. brush it with the citrus syrup. Cool. (The cake can be stored like this, wrapped, for 3 days).

5. To make the icing, melt together the butter, chocolate and honey over a double boiler (or in the microwave on low in short bursts). Mix in the Cognac or whiskey. Pour the icing over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Eat. Fall in love.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Slow it Down

Sometimes you have to complicate things to make them simple. My life feels very complicated right now, which is what happens with the apartment you've lived in for the past four and half years has been sold and you need to find a new place to live, and you're not sure what exactly you're looking for or what you can afford and sometimes it looks like your cat has pulled through and other times she spends 12 hours- all through the night- puking and you think, cat, you are six years old, you are too young for me to be worrying about you like this and your kitchen cabinets stink vilely because the sink had been leaking underneath them and you don't want to open them for fear of stinking up your kitchen but you need to open them to get to your pots and pans and everything feels like just too much in between phone calls with your landlord trying to work details re: your exit date and phone calls to the fix-it man and checking on the cat.

So you slow it down. You go into the kitchen- your stinky/not stinky kitchen- and even though you are feeding only a few people that night and you should take the opportunity to do something simple, you go complicated. You go complicated because right now you need to narrow your world down to the knife in your hand, the rhythmic sound of it hitting the cutting board, the smooth skin of a pepper under your hands, the way a tomato yields to a serrated knife, these are the only things that are important at this moment.  You need to fill your world with just this. Only this.

Everything is manageable in the sunlight in your kitchen. Noise falls away.

To go complicated I went with Deborah Madison, which is ironic, since Deborah Madison is about as uncomplicated as it gets. And to be honest, her potato and chickpea stew from Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone is not that complicated, it's just that there are a lot of components. The stew is, as Madison says, delicious and comforting and perfect for a winter night when you want something warm and filling, but not heavy. The real star of the evening, though, was one of the added components to the stew- the romseco sauce that Madison suggests you serve with the stew. All my dinner guests loved it and I ate the leftovers all week- with leftover stew, in sandwiches, by the spoonful. I gave some to my friend who brought me my new computer from Chicago. I gave some to my sister who brought me perfume from Paris. I would give it to everyone, if I could. (And in a way, I guess I am). The romesco sauce is garlicky and sweet, slightly smokey and rich with almonds, hazelnuts and fried bread. It is not an uncomplicated sauce to put together- the bread needs frying, and the pepper needs roasting- but it is so entirely and simply, good.

Romesco Sauce

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison

1 slice of white bread
olive oil
1/4 cup roasted almonds
1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder (to taste)
4 tomatoes
1 tablespoon parsley leaves removed from stems
1 teaspoon paprika
1 red pepper, roasted
1/4 red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Prep: fry the bread in a little bit of olive oil until golden and crisp. Try to refrain from eating it straight from the frying pan. Roast your nuts if they are not already roasted. Roast the pepper, too.

2. Put all the ingredients, save the vinegar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend. Slowly add the vinegar and then the oil until you receive a sooth, thick sauce. Taste for seasoning. Serve with everything. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for two weeks.