Oct 292009
 

Another Israeli Kitchen – Baroness Tapuzina Food Adventure!

An email from Denny Nielson appeared in my Inbox. “We’re going to press apples for cider. Want to come?”

Did we ever. The Tapuzinas (if I may call the Baroness and her good hubby that) had come over for dinner and we were all feeling kind of full and expansive.  The Baroness thought it would be an adventure. Mr. B.T. was excited at the thought of home-brewed “scrumpy,” which seems to be the same as “hard cider,” only in British. Me, I was overcome by a wave of nostalgia for juice pressed out of real, live apples, like I used to drink in my Michigan childhood.

So we joined up last Friday and sped through the central plains on to the hills outside of Jerusalem, in search of cider. Denny’s home and homebrew supply store are located in Mevasseret Tzion, where nights are cool and a home-owner might grow a grapevine to twist over a garden wall. We opened the gate and climbed up stone steps to a sunny patio where people were standing around watching the apples getting crushed.

It was like crushing grapes. Throw the apples into the hopper, and press the button.

The lathe inside the crusher bumps and grinds, spitting apple particles all over you if you stand too close, and the pulp drops into a bucket underneath.

Take the bucketful to the press,

and get a nice strong volunteer to twist the rachet around till the pulp yields no more juice.

Strain the juice and measure it out. Add some sulfite to avoid spoilage.

That was all. The rest of the work is done at home. You throw some wine yeast into the juice, which already wants to start fermenting, and close the bucket (in my case a carboy) with an airlock. Airlocks are the plastic widgies that, filled with sanitized water or a mixture of water and vodka, allow the gases produced by fermentation to escape, while forbidding insects, dust, or bad mojo to enter.

But there was more to it than that. There was a garden with herbs.

Gorgeous basil, eh? Or as Mr. B.T. said, “Nice pesto plant.”

Views of the Judean Hills and the back side of Jerusalem. Yad VaShem stands in the far distance, a somber reminder of how lucky we were to be making cider in the sunshine, in the Israel of today.

There were people hauling apple crates together, managing the crusher, lifting the bucket full of juice, and suddenly finding it easy to talk to each other. Here is our host and homebrewing master, Denny.

An unfamiliar voice called my name, and when I turned around, it was a Twitter friend who had recognized me from my avatar. He is of Lebanese extraction, and this interested the Baroness. In a second he and she were talking about Lebanese cuisine and swapping recipes.

It was also neat to get more homebrewing supplies at Denny’s shop downstairs. I brought home 10 liters of juice and six bottles of beer.

I’m happy to see interest in good beer expanding in Israel. The appearance of several serious local microbreweries is making a difference to folks who (like me) enjoy a glass of suds and would rather support an Israeli small business. But only Denny does things like the apple crush for cider. So far; I’m sure the idea will catch on.

Next thing is to convince him to crush pears for perry, which is pear cider. Or pear wine!

So what does the cider look like?…Well, when I brought the juice home, it looked like this:

It ain’t done yet. Takes about 2 months for the cider to drop all its sediment (bits of apple pulp, a layer of used-up yeast), become clear, and be ready to drink. I expect it’ll have between 7-8% alcohol by volume. When it’s ready, I’ll show you.

We bloggers moved on to lunch at a Kurdish eatery in Or Yehudah. It’s called “Hapundak shel Moshe,” a crowded, working-man’s place that’s famous for its kubeh soup. I’ve never been all that fond of kubeh, but that day, I had to change my mind. There was bulgur kubeh, semolina kubeh, kubeh fried and kubeh in soup. I had pumpkin soup with kubeh dumplings ladled over rice made yellow with turmeric. The owner also put a few inches of Kurdish kishkeh on top.

It was spicy and savory/sweet and filling and so nutritious, I looked 10 years younger when I got up from the table than when I’d sat down.

And here are just a few of the pots full of mighty Kurdish food.

The Baroness was writing up her own blog post about our cider and kubeh adventures just a little while ago.  Make sure to skip over to her blog and see how the day looked to her.

Oct 272009
 

Kosher Cooking Carnival #46

Israeli Kitchen is hosting this month’s KCC, a creation of Batya at Me-Ander.

Recipes, restaurant reviews, and the food thoughts burning tracks through the Jewish blogosphere. The Kosher Cooking Carnival leads you to all of that and introduces you to blogs with which you were, mayhap, unfamiliar. Open up some links and see for yourself.

Vegetables

Abbi at Confessions of A Start-Up Wife improvised a noodle-cabbage dish that turned out a hit for Shabbat…with her husband.

Leah at Ingathered guest-posted a tempting recipe on Cooking Manager’s blog: grilled eggplant and bell pepper dip.

Restaurants

Jet-lagged Batya at Me-Ander found comfort in a NY resto.

Soup

Leah at Ingathered shows us a cross-cultural chicken soup, with an added recipe for the Yemenite hawaij spice blend.

Sweet Things

Frum Cuisine calls it cherry crumb kugel, but it sure looks like a good cobbler recipe to me.

Pesky Settler offers a cinnamon chocolate-chip cake that wowed her family on Shabbat.

A pareve strawberry-cashew pudding features on Leora’s Here in HP.

Shimshonit offers a naughty recollection. And a jam tart recipe that made me want to get up and bake it, right now.

In Mol Araan says a mouthful about chocolate honey cake in her erudite, entertaining English/Yiddish blog.

Jamie on the Kosher.Com blog writes about a huge apple harvest,  puff-pastry apple purses, and candy-coated apples.

Annette at Craft Stew gives us the world’s easiest lemon pie.

Meat Dishes

Mrs. S. at Our Shiputzim re-created her grandmother’s recipe for sweet and sour meatballs made with cranberry sauce. (Thanks for the hat tip, Mrs. S!)

Hannah at Cooking Manager cooked up the most savory stuffed cabbage.

The Russian/English food blog Cooking with Yiddishe Mama / offers elegant recipes with a Russian flair. This recipe for home-made kishke is far healthier than any you can buy.

Zahava of Kosher Camembert went overboard with her brisket. Find out what she did with 10 pounds of meat!

Baroness Tapuzina did a gorgeous Georgian chicken in garlic/walnut sauce a while back.

Speaking of chicken, Israeli Kitchen bought some poussins (baby chickens) and stuffed with them rice and pine nuts.

What Kosher Folks Are Saying

Batya of Me-Ander is shocked to discover that meals on El Al flights have gone ‘way, ‘way down.

Soccer Dad laments the demise of his  favorite kugel-maker.

Baking

Ilana-Davita’s easy recipe for lighter pastry dough is meant for savory fillings, but I think it would work for sweet, too.

My  sweet, light challah recipe is an easy pleaser for Shabbat.

I hope you enjoyed KCC #46. For me, it was a pleasure to put together. Huge thanks to Batya and to each blogger who submitted a post.

…………………………………………………

Liked it?

* Why not submit your own recipe for next month’s carnival? Just chose one of your own blog posts and go to the carnival submission form. It’s easy to fill out.

* And since part of the idea is to help publicize each other’s blogs, please link to this post on your own blog. Spread the good word!

* Batya’s always looking for someone to host a KCC. Email her with your hosting offer here: shilohmuse at yahoo dot com.

* Next month’s KCC will be hosted by Pesky Settler.

* So much good food! Browse through the archives of the KCC here:

Oct 202009
 

Aardvark Alice seems to be settling in nicely here in the Israeli Kitchen. She trots around behind me as I do housework or cook, asking questions and commenting on everything. Husband has a soft spot for all animals, but the Little One has dark suspicions about Alice. She thinks Alice takes up too much of my time and eats too much. I point out that Alice doesn’t depend on me for food – she goes out to the park at night and licks up all the insects she needs.

Although she does complain that Israeli ants taste different than those of her native savannah, and I notice that she’s joining us at dinner more and more often. Well, she has very discriminating taste – for an aardvark.  Maybe the Little One feels just a bit jealous.

I mean, Alice is  only little, herself.

My daughter was scornful. “She’s greedy,” she said.  “She knows how to get around you. And she’s ugly.”

“She’s no oil painting,” I agreed. “But look, isn’t she sweet, really? Look at her eating her mushroom soup.” I gazed at Alice fondly; she was slurping up a bowlful in the kitchen.

“Mushroom soup,” said the Little One in disgust. “What next? Chocolate-covered matzahs, maybe? And by the way, how much is she supposed to grow?”

I looked it up online and got a shock. Alice, all  pink-skinned and wrinkly and only about 4 kg. right now, is actually still a baby. When she’s all grown up, she’ll weigh as much as 65 kg. (143 lb.) and measure 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length – without her tail!

Give one pause for thought, eh? I mean…our apartment isn’t all that big.

Alice trotted in, licking her face all over with her long, sticky tongue.

“Delicious,” she said approvingly. “Would’ve been even better with some chives sprinkled over the top, though.”

The Little One shot me a meaningful look. “Anything else?” she asked.

Alice cocked her head and looked up at the Little One. “A little shot of white wine, maybe,” she said sweetly.

Mushroom Soup of the Aardvark

serves 4 humans

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

450 grams – 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, clean and sliced thinly. Put 4 aside for later.

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small potato, peeled and diced

1 bay leaf

1 cup water

3 cups of milk

2 Tablespoons white wine

1 Tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, or a sprig of fresh

salt and white pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped chives or chopped parsley

Method:

1. In your soup pot, sauté the onions till they’re wilted.

2. Add the sliced mushrooms and the diced potatoes. Stir and cook till the mushrooms have released their juice and the potatoes are starting to get soft.

3. Add the garlic and the bay leaf.

4. Add the water. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over low heat till they are all soft.

5. Take the pot off the heat. Either transfer the soup base to a blender or food processor, or use a stick blender, but process it till the vegetables are blended.

6. Return the blended vegetables to the pot (I just take my stick blender to the whole thing – off the heat, of course).

7. Add the milk, bring it up to a simmer, and cook for another 15 minutes. Don’t let the milk boil over.

8. Swirl the butter in. Add the wine and the thyme and the 4 sliced mushrooms you put aside, and simmer the soup another minute or so.

Spoon out some of the mushroom slices into each bowl and sprinkle chopped chives or parsley over them. Serve.

 Posted by at 5:59 PM
Oct 182009
 

An aardvark appeared in the Israeli Kitchen last night.  Robin (Around the Island) summoned him, at the Israeli Blogger’s Evening. These things happen when people of a certain ilk get together. People with wild imaginations, who like to write, that is. Like me, and Robin, and Hannah (A Mother in Israel) and Baroness Tapuzina and, actually, the eleven or so other bloggers who came to meet, network, nosh, and exchange URLs. (See Hannah’s post on everyone who came, which contains links to everyone’s blogs, which describe the evening.)

But how did this aardvark show up in my living room, speaking good English and swinging his long, hairless snout?

The bloggers were sitting around discussing how if one’s blog starts with the letter A, it’s going to be among the first on any blogroll. And more likely to get hits from the reading public. What could be better than naming a blog Aardvark something, then? We all laughed merrily.

I had just put my drink down and was heading towards the potato chips when we all heard a clacking sound, like nails tapping the tiled floor. Strange. And then, a moist, sniffing, snuffling sound, like a vacuum cleaner with a head cold. The hair on our arms stood up as a round, pinkish, piglike apparition lumbered in and said,

“Got any termites?”

We stared, speechless. Risa, who’s a warm, motherly person, was the first to say, “Oh! An aardvark! How cute!”

Actually he was kind of cute. In a strange, alien-like way. I was so sorry to disappoint him – I don’t keep termites. Nor ants.

The aardvark sighed. “Well. If you’ll just put together a couple of crackers with egg-and-olive dip, I guess I could make do with that. ”

No problem! About five ladies jumped up and started pasting crackers together.  We kept warming up to the little guy; he looked kind of lost and hungry.  Sarah Peguin of OhSoArty already had her sketch pad out and was rapidly pencilling a  drawing in.

David and Jonathan, being guys and a little more cynical, stood a bit aloof. “Is this some new and obscure terror technique?” mused David.

“Don’t know about that, but an aardvark would sure make an expensive pet,” replied Jonathan.

“Oh, please,” said Chasida, “obviously the poor little guy just made aliyah and needs friends.”

“Yeah, have a heart, ” chimed in Kate. “He needs a friend. Just like every new immigrant.”

“You like choumous, er, Aardvark?” Abbi asked, dipping the spoon into the chickpea spread.

“I have a name,” came the dignified answer, “and actually, I’d like to snuff some of that coffee liqueur up my snout if you’d pour it into a bowl.”

I smiled. No one else had touched the coffee liqueur. Now there was an animal with taste.

“Your name…?” I asked delicately. “Arthur? Stuart? Bruce? Wellington?”

The answer took us by surprise .

“I am a lady,” sniffed our new pink friend. “An aardvarkess. My name is Alice.”

Baila, who had almost jumped out of her skin when she first perceived the creature, said, “Awesome! My kids will never believe this!”

DevoK, who doesn’t mince words, said, “Are you kidding, I don’t believe this!”

Alice looked around. “I didn’t come here to be a pet,” she said with a certain trembly defiance. “You bloggers called me forth. It was a long, strange trip, materializing out of the ether to join you here in the Israeli Kitchen – but here I am. So let’s network.”

I recovered myself.  “Welcome to the Israeli Kitchen, Alice.”

Sarah Melamed leaned over and scratched her behind the ears. “C’mon,” she said, “tell us what they’re cooking back where you come from. I’ll bet it’s exotic and fun.”

Alice smiled around her snout. “Thanks,” she said, “but I really like to talk about politics and the economy.”

Oy, I thought to myself. A know-it-all. Do I really need this aardvark in my Israeli Kitchen?

Stay tuned….

 Posted by at 5:01 PM
Oct 092009
 

A poussin is nothing more than a baby chicken, under a month old and hardly bigger than a man’s fist. Each one makes a serving. They’re very good grilled or stuffed and roasted quickly.

This Shabbat is also Shmini Atzeret, the last day of the Sukkot week. The Little One is spending the weekend with her married sister so my husband and I are going to be a twosome, all on our lonesome. For our romantic dinner I decided to stuff and roast a couple of little birds surrounded with sweet potato chunks, and drink a lot of red wine. So this is what I cooked.

Poussins StuffedWith Rice and Pine Nuts

2 individual chickens, each 1 serving

Ingredients:

2 poussins

olive oil

salt and pepper

Juice of 1 small orange

1 cup of cooked rice (I used red rice)

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 large handful of pine nuts

1 large sweet potato, cut up into chunks

Method:

1. Leave a spoonful of basil aside. In a bowl, mix the rice, onion, the rest of the basil, pine nuts, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.

2. Douse the rice mixture with 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix again. Put aside.

3. Rub the chickens with the orange juice, a shake of paprika for color, salt, pepper, and the spoonful basil you set aside.

4. Stuff the poussins, forcing the stuffing in as much as possible.

5. Surround the birds with the sweet potato chunks.  Drizzle a little olive oil over everything.

6. Roast at 350° F – 180° C for 45 minutes, basting once. Check for done-ness and roast a further 15 minutes if necessary.

That’s it! Easy and soooo good.

Oct 042009
 

I’ve been reading up on safety issues and etrogim…it does seem like they’re so heavily sprayed with pesticides as not to be safe eating. Apparently this is legally OK as they’re not grown for food. Boo hoo. I’d found recipes for etrog liqueur, etrog jam, and in a vintage cookbook, etrog soufflé!

I’m so tempted to find some organic etrogim for cooking.

 Posted by at 11:48 AM
Oct 012009
 

Bloggers: check out the Israeli English-Speaking Bloggers Evening this month!

This vegetarian casserole was adapted from a recipe on The New York Times online. The original calls for dairy-based corn biscuits and sausage in the filling – nisht koosher. So I substituted walnuts and mozzarella for the sausage.  The robust flavors of eggplant and tomatoes marry well with the mild cheese, walnuts provide meatiness and crunch, and crisp cornbread over all makes the dish perfect for the cooler autumn weather. I’m keeping this recipe for one of the Sukkot meals.

In spite of the long list of ingredients, it really only takes about 1/2 hour to assemble and pop in the oven. The secret is to put all your chopped vegetables into separate bowls. Then you can just throw everything together as needed.

Ratatouille Covered with Cornbread

serves 6

printable version here

Ingredients for Roasted Vegetables:

1 medium eggplant or 1/2 large one

2 medium zucchinis

1 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. black pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for Cooked Vegetables:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

3 large tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp. salt

black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley (basil’s better!)

1 cup walnut halves

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Ingredients for the cornbread biscuits:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fine cornmeal

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon  salt

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt – not low-fat (I use kefir)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450°F -230° C

1. Peel the zukes. Chop them, and the eggplant, into pieces of about 1″.

2. Toss the vegetable chunks with the olive oil, salt, and a little pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet, taking care not to crowd them. Roast for 20 minutes or until they are golden.

3. Meantime, peel and chop the onions. Chop the bell pepper into 1″ pieces. Chop the tomatoes. Crush or finely chop the garlic.

4. In a medium pan, fry the onions till they’re wilted. Add the bell pepper; stir and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and garlic. Stir and cook till the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir the basil or parsley in.

Cover the pan and turn the flame off. Now make the biscuits.

1. Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. Cut the butter in until the mixture is crumby. You can use your your hands for this, rubbing the butter in through the dry ingredients, or cut it in with a pastry knife, or fork.

3. Stir the sour cream in . Gently knead mixture until it comes together in a ball, adding a drop or two of milk if necessary.

Note: you can do the whole operation in a food processor, blending the dry ingredients with the knife blade, then adding butter chunks and finally adding the cream. Don’t over-process, just let it whiz till you have a ball of dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it till you need it.

Assembling:

1. Spoon a thick layer of the ratatouille on the bottom of a medium casserole or 2-quart baking pan.

2. Coarsely crumble the walnuts in your hand; spread the pieces over the vegetables.

3. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over all.

4. Repeat the previous three steps. Spread the ingredients around the casserole, smoothing them down to make a level surface.

5. Take the biscuit dough and separate it into 6 pieces. With your hands, press each piece into a biscuit; lay the biscuits on top of the whole.

6. Brush the biscuits with milk.

Bake the ensemble 20-25 minutes, or till the biscuits are golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

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