Jun 252014
 

falafel recipe

Long ago, before I came to live in Israel, I dated a guy who turned out not to be the right one. We took a walk one night, sauntering along in the friendly dark and enjoying the fresh breeze that brought a scent of jasmine and faintly, tobacco – a neighbor’s cigar. Someone nearby was doodling around on the guitar, eventually breaking into a soft Spanish ballad. It was all so romantic. My boyfriend gazed up at the sky and remarked, “What a lovely moon.”

Yes, the moon was like a silver coin, only a coin broken in half. “You like half moons?” I said.

“It’s just that it looks like a falafel in the sky…a half falafel like the ones you get in Israel, you know…”

Continue reading »

Jun 222014
 

Israeli food Menza Ramat Gan

A customer came out of the restaurant as my son, Eliezer and I, stood at the door, wondering if we should go in.

“It’s the best food in the Bourse,” the man said, holding the door open and waving us in. “Don’t go anywhere else.”

I wasn’t vaguely tempted to try anywhere else.

Workers at the Bourse, also known as the Diamond District,  can choose between a few dozen cheap eateries serving tasteless versions of falafel, shwarma, pizza and burgers. Some more pretentious places set tables out on the sidewalk and you can order Asian-style or Italian-style or Something-style food. Of course you can always fill yourself up on greasy bourekas too. Beware the cheap burgers anyhow – Eliezer got food poisoning from one such place. (Sigh. If he’d just waited till he got home, where there was mushroom-broccoli soup and biscuits with basil and cheese in them…)

There are another two or three places that serve real food in the area, but for Israeli down-home cooking with meat, Menza is the place to go.

Meet Ro’i Shadur, owner and manager.

roy shadur menza restaurant

“I don’t consider myself a chef,” he told me. “I manage the place.” And very well managed it is, too.  “I like to serve good, fresh food, and I’m open to new recipes.” He jumped up to fetch a food magazine and opened it at a photograph of a spinach and chickpea dish. “One of my workers showed me this, and I’m going to try it out.”

Later he revealed that he’s a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia.

You can see how clean the place is. I like the homey feeling, the open pantry that’s not ashamed to display kitchen staples, the little coffee corner and the soda fountain where you can refill your glass as often as you like for five shekels.

roy shadur owner menza restaurant

This is Ro’i’s famous chicken kadrah – a stew that varies from day to day. The chicken might cook slowly for hours with root vegetables, or  black beer sauce, or curry, or simmer with dried fruit from 7:00 a.m. until noon. Today, it was chicken with apricots. Ro’i dipped a spoon in the stock to give me a taste. Just that little spoonful told me how good it was.

stew chicken with apricot

It’s hard, and dangerous too, to shlep that immense pot off its flame and onto the hotplate for serving.

moving the stew

Oof!

Safely in place, right next to the meatballs. That’s the kind of food you can expect at Menza: the kind of food your mother and grandmother make (if you’re Israeli, from  parents who have accepted the big North African influence in Israeli cooking). Eliezer also recommends the chili con carne, served over spaghetti, and the beef with mushrooms. There are always at least two cooked vegetables too, like cabbage cooked with tomatoes, and salmon in green curry. Grilled chicken breasts are treated to a cover of sauce. It’s not an extensive menu, but there are new or different items every day and everything is fresh, tasty, and clean.

setting the stew down

There must alwyas be at least one salad on offer. This lovely mixed one incorporates all those fresh vegetables that Israelis love so well.

DSC_0063

At exactly noon, the office workers start lining up. You point to the foods you want on your plate and pay up front, cafeteria style. Six kitchen workers stand and serve behind the counter, so that the line moves fast.

lining up for lunch Menza

Some customers ask for packaged food to take away. Ro’i says that working mothers show up at around 2:o0 and buy food to take home.

serving lunch at Menza

“After I came back from Australia, I worked in the diamond industry for a while,” Ro’i said. “I’d go out and look for lunch, but there was nowhere to eat. I can’t stand food that’s been fried in yesterday’s fat, food that depends on soup powder for flavor. Onions, parsley, tomatoes, celery – they’re so cheap and abundant, why don’t people cook with them instead of instant soup powder that makes your throat burn?

“So I decided to establish a place where people could go for popular fresh food, at an affordable price.”

salad at Menza

I could have chosen brown rice as a foil to the apricot chicken, but thought that white would photograph better.

apricot chicken at Menza

The potato wedges are first seasoned, doused with a little of the fat from the chicken, and baked. Then they grill for a few minutes on the same grill that cooks the chicken breasts. Divine.

grilled potato wedges

This sign amused me. It says: “Please don’t save a seat for yourself before getting your food. It disorganizes traffic.” Then I realized it’s just one more sign of good management. People eat communally at Menza, sharing tables with whoever else needs a seat. Reserving a seat before you have your tray results in explanations, apologies, moving away to find somewhere else – traffic snarls. People used to eating there understand the reason for the sign and accept it.

don't hog the tables

The meatballs are rich in onions, tomato sauce and parsley, with a minimum of breadcrumbs to keep them light.

Menza meatball

Slices off a standard white loaf. This is the bread for which Israelis have rioted in the past; the bread that school children’s sandwiches are made of and that everyone has grown up with. In the background, grilled chicken breast in curry sauce and those delicious potatoes.

israeli sliced white bread

You just can’t get more Israeli than this huge pot full of meatballs in simmering tomato sauce.

pot of meatballs

Menza

Open Sun-Friday

R. Tubal 28

Ramat Gan

Kosher

https://www.facebook.com/roy.shadur

May 302014
 

 

tian zucchini potatoes recipe

Many readers have complained that I’ve been neglecting this blog. I can’t defend myself, because it’s true.

I’ve been thinking, and I hope, growing in different directions.  I’ve been writing for other publications. These writings, not all of them food-related, leave my mind sort of empty after hours of research, writing and revising. Not much brain power is left for my personal reflections. Cooking and even eating, have been hasty, seat-of-my-pants operations for the past long while.

But food and the urge to cook are still on my mind. They always will be. So I’m returning, maybe a little changed, a little freer. And Reader, I’m always aware that you’re there, and that some are wishing I were back here already. This summer it’ll be nine years since I opened a blog, named it Israeli Kitchen, and started to post. I write this with a feeling of returning home, somehow, like a child who left her parents’ home to travel and returns different, but still loving.

So here’s a French variation of Italian frittata and Persian eggah, the tian. You can also call it a gratin.  The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Elizabeth David, and I found it in her “Is There A Nutmeg In The House?” It’s a simple combination of eggs and vegetables, often flavored with cheese or garlic, then baked. You can substitute chard or spinach for the zukes, use the same measure of cooked rice instead of potatoes. Season as you like. It’s a rustic dish that you can adapt to the ingredients you have on hand. I like to serve this tian as the main dish at dinner, adding a leafy salad and a small cheese platter to round out the meal.

And if you’re looking for something interesting for Shavuot, something that emphasizes vegetables rather than cheese, tian is the ticket.

Continue reading »

Mar 092014
 

image onion roll

This is on of the goodies we’re going to pack into our Mishlochei Manot (Purim packages).  I recycle the junky snacks we receive into other packages, feeling a bit guilty. Not guilty because we’re not going to eat what our friends and neighbor planned, and spent money on, and took the trouble to deliver. No, guilty because all those little candies and snacks are going to contribute to Israel’s massive post-Purim sucrose hangover. I should just throw it all out. But I rationalize that someone should enjoy the junk…because in the end, our friends and neighbors did go to the trouble.

I love best the Mishlochei Manot that feature a few home-cooked things. Foods that were made by hand – cakes and cookies and specialties of the donors – I keep. Some go into the freezer right away to stay fresh for next Shabbat. Some we serve at our Purim feast. For our own Mishloche Manot, we’re thinking – and by we, I mean my son Eliezer, the Little One and I – of Hamentaschen,  filled with cherry jam.  And  small potato kugels.  Probably the chocolate fruit/nut clusters, because they’re excellent, and easy to make. And instead of the usual small challah, which looks good in the package but which I suspect never gets eaten, onion rolls.

Continue reading »

Feb 162014
 

carrot cake cream cheese frosting

I’m ready to admit it. Carrot cake is really homely-looking.

But looks aren’t everything.

Flavor counts. So does nostalgia. When I asked Husband which cake he’d like for his birthday,  his eyes went soft and he sighed, “Carrot cake.”There seemed to be a heavy element of childhood memories in that sigh.

I said, “With cream cheese frosting?” And Husband gave me a brilliant smile. Yes.

Continue reading »

Feb 092014
 

whole roasted cauliflower recipe

I’ve always loved cauliflower steamed until just tender, salted, and served with a little melted butter, or olive oil. But lately I’ve become curious about other ways to serve it, especially now when the vegetable is at peak season, so snowy and tender.  Something a little piquant seems called for, to offset the vegetables’ slight sweetness – something acid, something herbal, something cheesy.

Here’s a recipe that does all of that.  And the great thing is, it’s easy. Wait – another great thing. When you serve an entire head of cauliflower, all you need is good bread, butter, and salad to make a fine vegetarian meal. Continue reading »

Jan 252014
 

Sommelier 2014

The Sommelier Expo is an industry exposition held in Tel Aviv annually, where professionals in the food and beverage industry gather to taste and appreciate the fine products of Israel’s wineries. That is, it’s not open to the general public, as the Israel Wine Festival at the Israel Museum, or the new Kosher Wine Festival at the Binyanei Ha’Uma, also in Jerusalem. Bloggers are invited, circulating among critics, importers, exporters, restaurant and bar owners, waiters, and the rest of the commercial crowd.
sommelier 2014 israel

sommelier 2014 israel

I was only interested in Israeli wines, and of those, only the kosher ones. But there imported wines, grappa, eau de vie, chocolate,

chocolate at sommelier 2014

cider,

cider at sommelier 2014

and the most amazingly delicate passionflower liqueur.

passiflora liqueur

Not to mention the very necessary stand of  Yacoby’s Farm cheeses, where a platter of excellent artisan cheeses and a fresh roll helps to balance the onslaught of alcohol.
yaacoby cheese stand

Even if you’re a spitter, not a swallower, you do feel pleasantly affected after tasting 20 wines or so …

The major-name Israeli wines are familiar to kosher wine lovers: Carmel, Golan Heights, Barkan, Teperberg and the fast-growing Dalton. I think you can’t go wrong with any Dalton wine; that’s a feeling I picked up when I lived in Tsfat and could drive up to the winery with a girlfriend or five for tastings, every once in a while. But I have a weakness for the smaller wineries that prove how quality-conscious Israeli winemakers are today. The public is reacting with a new appreciation for our native wines.

The kosher boutique wineries that left a lasting impression on me were:

Saslove, located on Kibbutz Eyal near Kfar Saba. From their site: Saslove produces 3 series of red wine “Aviv”, “Adom” and “Reserved”, a dessert wine and also a small quantity of white wine. Saslove was not represented at the Sommelier, but I mention the winery because I’m a fan of their wines.

I love the fact that Saslove has a woman vinter. The owner’s daughter, Roni, makes some of the wines herself. Maybe I’m biased, but I feel that her wines are different – almost more spiritual. UPDATE: Thanks to commenter David Perlmutter, I heard that Saslove is now owned by someone else, and that Roni is on vacation. I’m glad I saved a couple of bottles!

G’vaot – site in Hebrew, but here’s information in English. I was especially taken with their Herodian series.

Gat Shomron. The wine that everybody was fainting over is their 24K Iced Wine. Aromatic, floral, delicate, ethereal. Another thing I like about the winery is that they successfully make fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Petit Verdot using only wild yeast. Their own site is under construction at present.

Tulip Winery. I visited Tulip on a press tour recently, and fell in love. Their flagship Black Tulip is a splendid blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, with minority touches of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. But for a light, affordable wine to drink with pasta and fish, there’s the White Franc, with its unusual bronze color and and fruity taste.

Tulip is also special in that the winery is set in a village for special-needs people, and has employed residents from the village since its inception.

Let’s see now, what am I going to uncork this Shabbat…

israeli wine on ice

Jan 052014
 

jar of tahini

Before I moved to Israel, I didn’t know much about techinah. That is, tahini.

In Israel, if you say “tahini” people will look at you funny. It’s “techinah” or “tekhinah” – with that gutteral ch (or kh).

But I’d heard plenty about the fabulous Israeli street food, falafel. Almost as soon as my plane landed, I headed for a falafel stand and ordered a pita full of those hot, spicy chickpea balls and chopped salad. My more experienced friends encouraged me to drizzle the beige, bland-looking sauce all over the falafel. It didn’t look tempting, but I was willing to try it. I picked up a plastic bottle full of it and gave a good squeeze.

Open sesame! I discovered that  techina’s moist texture complemented the fried falafel and the flavor, between nutty and lemony, perked up the juicy vegetables.

Here’s a techinah bottle like the one I squeezed for that very first falafel. It’s standing next to one of amba, a pungent mango curry. Techinah’s far more popular than amba, as you see. And here’s my post about neighborhood falafel stands.

techina and amba squeeze bottles

Continue reading »

Dec 082013
 

barley risotto w spoon

Barley is such a winterish grain. It’s hearty and comfortingly chewy/soft, good in soup and cholent. But barley sometimes shows in a surprisingly versatile light. Who ever thought of making risotto from barley?

More than possible, it’s delicious, and right for eating when you come in from a cold, grey day, and you’ve been fighting gusts of wind that turn your umbrella inside out, and your darned boots let puddles seep in, and grouchy people on the bus make you dislike humanity, and you just want to be home and dry.

And full.

Whew! Will barley take care of all those woes? Actually, yes, if you will it so. Neither stock nor toasted nuts take much work, so it’s worth making them the day before to have at the ready.

Being bland, barley begs for some buttressing. Or did I mean, butter? Or sharper tastes, like wine, onion, lemon, cheese?

Yes, to all of the above. Welcome to barley risotto.

Continue reading »

Nov 052013
 

image olive harvest galilee

The Israel Olive Branch Festival occurs in October-November each year and extends from the Negev to the Galilee. I joined a tour to one of the Druze festival sites in the Upper Galilee, hoping to bring some olives home to pickle, and remembering how long I ago I picked olives on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu.

… I was very new in Israel then. In fact, I got off the plane and went straight to the kibbutz to join the Ulpan program, where I worked in the fields in the mornings, and studied Hebrew in the afternoons. I learned enough Hebrew to get by. Picked up all kinds of other information too, like on the first day we students went olive harvesting.

At the ghastly hour of 6:30 a.m., we climbed onto the back of a rusty old truck and bumped over dusty fields in the growing light, stopping at the olive orchards.  I stood and looked at the trees laden with green and purple fruit. How do you pick the fruit, I asked the dour kibbutznik in charge. I meant, one by one, with your fingers, or how?

He said impatiently, “It’s just like milking a cow.”He made a gesture of pulling his fist downwards.

Oh, er, right. I’d just come from urban Caracas and Rio de Janeiro, and had no idea how to milk a cow. Or a sheep. Or a nanny goat, for that matter.

But I learned. That is, I learned to pick olives. And the feeling of plump olives against the palm of my hand, and the scrape of the wood as the olives come away from the twig, stays with me. So partly from nostalgia, and partly because I love everything about olive trees, I jumped at the chance to travel north and stand in the soft blue light between olive trees again. Continue reading »

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