Nov 292010

The nation struggles to keep water flowing from my faucets whenever I want it. Other countries in the Middle East are already rationing their water. It’s drying up, folks, drying up.

Is it absurd to feel guilty every time I wash dishes, put a load in the washing machine, brush my teeth? But I do. Feeling guilty doesn’t stop me from doing those things, but it’s a constructive guilt, because it makes me work consciously and waste less precious water as I soap and rinse.

Sometimes I imagine where that careless flow is going. Down the plumbing, mixing with other “black” waters, rushing along the great sewage pipes, eventually pouring out to sea. Our recycling efforts started late; we’re still wasting so much water.

I’ve taught myself, and my family, to turn the faucets off frequently while doing the washing-up; to choose short washing cycles – all that well-publicized bag of tricks. It takes a little getting used to.

Will these tiny efforts help? I believe they will. And the more talk about water conservation with everyone, even with my hairdresser, (even my blog readers), hopefully the more awareness at large. That’s what I, the individual, can physically do.

Today, though, I’m working on a different level. The Sephardic and Ashekenazic chief rabbis asked Jews in Israel to fast and pray for rain today, Monday. I feel compelled to join those who do. Maybe my tiny strength, the ounce of energy in my voice, bound to the strength and energy of all the others, will make a difference as the prayers rise toward Heaven. It’s a 12-hour fast; basically I’ll skip breakfast and lunch. It can feel difficult towards evening, but I’m sure I’ll manage.

Outside, it’s pleasantly cool, but the heavens are a beautiful, a catastrophic blue, faintly streaked with white cotton candy. I have the childish desire to step out onto my balcony and scan the skies – is it working yet? Are those wisps and tatters of clouds gathering, growing heavy with rain?

Not yet – not yet.

Not yet.

Blue sky over Kotel

Photo of faucet and water by ScienceHeath via Flickr.

 Posted by at 2:14 PM
Nov 242010

fritters in boat closeup

Looking for a side dish to go with the Thanksgiving turkey? These little apple fritters provide a lightly sweet note to offset savory dishes. The recipe below includes butter, but use margarine to keep the fritters pareve.

They came about because I was thinking of a latkeh alternative for Hannukah.  Have a look at my 5 Hannukah recipes, including one for Moroccan sfrenj fritters. While I was thinking of fried foods, apple fritters occurred to me. Then, naturally apple fritters occurred in my kitchen.

For a meat meal, drizzle just a little dark honey over them before serving. For  a dairy  or vegetarian meal, serve them with cream and honey sauce (recipe below) – delicious. Alternatively, drizzle a little dark honey over cubes of firm white cheese and eat the fritters with that – also very good.

Apple Fritters in Beer Batter

Recipe adapted from Al-HaShulchan magazine, Sept. 2010

about 20 2-inch fritters

Ingredients for beer batter:

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup white beer
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

oil for frying

Ingredients for apples:

  • 3 peeled apples, chopped into large dice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Ingredients for Cream and Honey Sauce:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey


1. Make the batter:

Whip the egg yolks with the beer till light. Add the salt, flour, and melted margarine or butter. Mix well and set aside, covered, for 30 minutes. (In hot weather, let the batter rest in the fridge.) Later, you’ll add the whites, so don’t throw them away.

2. Prepare the apples:

Mix the chopped apples, raisins, vanilla and honey in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Prepare the cream and honey sauce:

Mix all the ingredients well and put it away in the fridge till time to serve the fritters.

4. Assemble and fry:

Mix the whites with the tablespoon of sugar until stiff. Mix this gently into the yolk batter. Add the fruit and mix again, gently.

Fry the fritters in hot, shallow oil, turning them over to brown each side.

Drain, turning them over to allow the oil to drain from the lumpier side.

These fritters can be made ahead, frozen, and popped into a hot oven straight out of the freezer. Let them heat through for about 10 minutes.
apple fritters

Nov 182010


What’s the difference between mandelbroit and biscotti? Well, apart from one being Yiddish and the other Italian, of course. The only difference I can see is that biscotti are crunchier – baked longer. The recipes are almost identical.

Traditionally, you drink a little glass of sweet wine with either. But a glass of coffee or a shot of slivovitz work with these not-too-sweet biscuits, too.

Honey-Orange Biscotti

Yield: 20-25


2- 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons orange zest (1 large orange does it)


Preheat oven to 350° F – 180° C

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl.

2. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together till the mixture is light and lemon-colored.

3. Add the honey, vanilla, and orange zest; mix well.

4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, gently mixing. Stop as soon as the dough is combined. It will be sticky.

5. Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and oil the paper lightly. Spoon out half the dough onto it, making a rough loaf. Now oil your hands and smooth the loaf, stretching it slightly to make a shape about 13″ by 2″ (33. x 5 cm). Do the same with the second half of the dough, making sure to keep a space of at least 3″ – 7.5 cm. between them. They do rise and spread out some.

6. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning the pan around after the first 15 minutes. The loaves should be a warm brown and their surface beginning to crack.


7. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool down for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F – 160° C. in the meantime.

8. Cut each loaf with a serrated knife into diagonal slices about half and inch (1.3 cm.) wide. Place the slices on the pan, cut side up, and return the pan to the oven. Bake 15 minutes, turning the biscotti over 7 minutes into the baking.

9. Place the biscotti on a wire rack to cool down. They will keep up to 1 month in an airtight container, and the flavor improves with time.


Nov 142010


I walked down the  narrow, sunlit, cobblestone streets of the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv. Running parallel to the noisy, crowded Carmel market, it’s a time-warp of a neighborhood where old-fashioned traditions still hold sway. Traditions like the everyday foods that grandparents brought from Yemen; like strong community ties.


I was looking for a tiny eatery where fresh lachuch flatbread is made every few minutes. The owner had said I could come to take photographs.  Although different from each other in texture and taste, everyday Yemenite breads are flat and flexible.They serve as a base for patut, which is  shredded seasoned bread scrambled with an egg, or as wraps for a fried egg or  salad. See my post about the Rosh Ha’ayin shuk, where I photographed several of these breads.

I found the place and slid the door open. Inside there were small tables and plastic chairs and a well-worn sofa where some tired-looking men were lounging.


At the tables , customers were eating patut. Others tore off chunks and dipped them into little dishes of olive oil or fiery s’chug relish, or pureed fresh tomatoes, before popping the pieces into their mouths. Dishes of hilbeh, a goopy paste of fenugreek seeds, garlic, and coriander leaves, were on the tables too, next to cigarette boxes and ashtrays. Nobody seemed to mind that people were smoking. They all seemed to know each other well.

At the rear stood Nechama, a thin dark woman in a pink blouse and jeans skirt hemmed at mid-calf. A close-fitting fabric hat modestly covered her hair.  Her glance was sharp and her manner reticent, but she welcomed me, and her smile, when it came, suddenly revealed a mature woman of considerable beauty.  She was ladling batter out of a plastic bucket and pouring it into shallow black Teflon frying pans.


The pans full of batter sat for several minutes on the flames while the lachuch baked. When the disks were well pockmarked with open bubbles and their bottom sides baked a golden brown, Nechama shook them out onto a table covered with a clean, thick towel. There they could cool off without sticking to each other or drying out. The whole process took about three  minutes.


Nechama cooled each frying pan down by running a little tap water over it, then dried it and used another pan to make the next lachuch. She explained that if you use a fresh pan each time, the bottom of the lachuch will stay smooth.

I’ve never seen such a fiercely clean kitchen.

image-frying pans

On one wall was a shelf with a charity box and an old-fashioned instant coffee can next to a can of instant chocolate.

One man with a white T-shirt stretched over a big paunch talked to me in jovial English. My accent had given me away immediately. All the men, once they took me in, talked to me in a natural, friendly way – just to exchange, as they say in Hebrew, a good word.

Even the kashrut inspector, dropping in to look over the place and say hello, made a point of greeting me.

“Shalom, madame,” he said loudly.

I turned around and saw a tiny old man with a white beard. He was wearing a rabbinical-looking black hat and jacket. His dark eyes, set in the deep wrinkles of old age, were young, and twinkled curiously at the sight of this tall Ashkenazic stranger in the little shop.

“Shalom aleichem,” I answered respectfully. Then I had to explain, for maybe the third time, what I was doing there and what a blog is.

“Nechama, give me some olive oil,” said the fat man from his table.

“I’m out of olive oil,” said Nechama dryly.

“I’ll go and get some.”

“Well, all right, but only if you let me pay you.” She turned away to poke at something behind her.

“Pay me, pay me – why are you always worrying about money?”  he grunted, heaving himself to his feet and exiting towards the grocery store.

Nechama sat down with me as the customers finished eating and went their ways. She told me that her husband, a neighborhood character and a great player of backgammon, had died suddenly of heart failure. They never had much money, but depended on no one. Now his friends gather for lunch at her place every day.

“They eat here to support me,” she said, her fine black eyes flicking to the opposite wall.

A large photograph of a stout, handsome man hung  there over the sofa: Nechama’s husband. He had been loved, but had never worked very hard. Nechama was now counting on her community’s appetite for fresh traditional breads to keep her little place going. I silently wondered how she would manage when the first wave of sympathy was spent, but she said that her breads are becoming known and that on Fridays,  she sells as much as she can make.

She wouldn’t allow me to photograph her. I didn’t even try asking for her recipe,  the source of  her income, but showed her the one below and she approved it.

I hope, for this brave and lonely woman, that her business succeeds greatly. And I hope that when the right time comes, she’ll know joy again.


about 20 lachuch flatbreads

recipe from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur


3 1/2 cups flour

1 oz – 25 grams fresh yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon sugar

3 cups warm water

3 slices white bread



In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in all the water. Add the flour, salt, and sugar and mix to make a loose batter.

Soak the bread slices in warm water for 5 minutes. Squeeze the water out of them and put them in a blender to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the batter; mix.

Cover the bowl and allow the batter to rise till doubled – about 2 hours.

Stir the batter down and oil a frying pan lightly. Wipe away any excess oil. Place it over a medium flame.

Fill a ladle with batter and pour it onto the frying pan. When the top of the pancake-like bread is pocked with bubbles and the bottom is a dark-golden brown, ease the lachuch out onto a clean, dry towel.  Don’t fry the other side.

Keep the lachuch covered. Eat warm – I favor the rip-pieces-off method myself.


 Posted by at 11:50 PM
Nov 092010


Last night, four food-blogging ladies hit Israel’s major wine exhibit, Sommelier. Set in the enormous rooms of Heichal HaTarbut, Tel Aviv, the exhibit offered food and wine professionals tastings of over 200 wines.

I can’t say I tasted all of them. Noooo…some weren’t kosher.

Like this grappa. But the bottles looked so beautiful, I photographed them anyway.


My three friends Sarah Melamed, Yaelian, and Liz Steinberg,  and I did our very best to explore the possibilities. As group elder, I advised eating against all reasonable standards – lots of fat and starches – in order to taste and yet stay sober. Which we did. Eat, I mean. Sobriety, we’ll talk about later.

There was a stand displaying a gourmet brand of olive oil, which we would have been wise to taste first.

Only later did I remember a piece of folk wisdom from Jerusalem’s Bucharian community:  to manage a couple or three shots of vodka on Shabbat morning, line your stomach with a quarter-cup or so of melted fat – sheep’s tail fat – from the cholent.

With all due respect – euw. But the principle is sound. Line your stomach with fat. Olive oil works fine; forget the sheep’s tail fat.

Instead of being wise, we were carefree. Platters of fine kosher cheeses, and crackers, stood on low tables everywhere. We picked at the plates but eventually ordered a platter, gathered around, and noshed. It was great that the platter and forks were made of biodegradable paper.


I bought some wonderful, sharp goat’s cheese once I located the dairy (Jacob’s farm). It was almost as delicious this morning at breakfast as it was last night. But then, everything delicious tastes more so with wine.


We circulated, accepting sips of this organic Merlot, that mellow Chardonnay, the other well-blended combination of Cab, Merlot, and Syrah.


As always, my heart went to the Dalton winery, and my taste buds rejoiced in their Merlot D.
We all fell in love with a pomegranate wine from the Granada boutique winery. It’s free of the sweet-sour taste common to other pomegranate wines, very good and light.


Yael is the white wine lady. For every sip of my Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, she sipped a Viognier or Chardonnay. Being Scandinavian, she soon felt the heat as the rooms started to fill.

Liz and Sarah were open-minded and tried white and red equally.

We all loved the new Tabor 562 red and white Brut wines, which are dry and bubbly. They’re fermented under pressure in closed containers to retain the C02 – a new, and effective method. This isn’t fine champagne, but it’s a fun wine. Sarah commented, ” This is a wine for the outdoors,” and I agree. Having 11% alcohol, it’s lighter than many other Israeli wines; great to take on a picnic.


Our friend, wine steward Irene, told us that Israeli wines are usually higher in alcohol than most American and European wines. Many have as much as 15% alcohol by volume. Here Irene is showing us the Golan Heights organic Merlot from the Odem vineyard.


In general, there seems to be a trend moving towards more natural and even organic wines. Several winery managers, notably Reuven Rubin of the Golan Heights winery, gave us examples of green consciousness: recycling production water to irrigate crops; spreading the used-up grape skins on the vineyard soil as mulch; getting part of their energy needs from windmills; recycling all plastic bags and cardboard boxes.

There were few totally organic wines, but they were very good. Golan Height’s organic Odem vineyard produces a light, fruity Merlot that was a delight.

Another growing wine trend is kosher wines. The religious community has acquired a palate. The industry has woken up to that fact. New numbers of kashrut-observant Jews want to fine wines, and we’re getting them.


The owner of one boutique winery confessed,

“It’s good business to go kosher, and as of next vintage, all my wines will be. But as a non-observant Jew, I’ll have to stand to one side with my arms folded while everyone else will be doing the work. That’ll be hard.”

I can understand that. But I’m sure he’ll like the revenues.

It was fun to circulate, sipping a new wine every few feet – and picking at great cheese when tempted. The most fun was being “in a pack,” as Liz said. Much more fun with girlfriends than going alone. It also gave us the freedom to just start conversations with strangers with friends observing from a distance and ready to join if it looked really interesting. Here Yael and Liz photograph a cheese platter in one of the resting nooks.


The Tishbi winery offered a display of delicious jams made from wine.

I hate to tell you how many hours we were at the exhibit. But I will anyway. We spent five hours walking around, tasting, resting once in a while in one of the many nooks created just for tired visitors-

– chatting with each other and with friends (and total strangers) that we found there. All of us, I am sorry to say, felt somewhat…altered, after a while.

But the atmosphere was pleasant and we were comfortable till the hall became too crowded, towards night.

It’s amusing how by the last hour or so at these events,  everyone – visitors and staff and managers – is walking around with a big, mellow smile on their face. We broke up at about 7:00 and went home to dinner.

It had been, as Sarah said, “awesome fun.”


Nov 062010


My neighbors and I cook at around the same time of day, and our cooking smells waft around the building. I stick my head out the kitchen window and sniff judgementally. One neighbor’s food smells great, with sharp notes of onions, turmeric, cumin. Another’s cooking is so bland it depresses me. (Boiling potatoes again, are we? Don’t you get tired of boiled potatoes?)

Yesterday, Friday, every woman was cooking for Shabbat. Naturally, she needs to put something nutritious, filling, and cheap on the table. Potatoes suit the menu every time. I looked at my potato bin. This Friday, I was bored with them. I needed some potato inspiration.

Flipping through my cookbooks, I found an interesting recipe in Joyce Goldstein’s Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean. Actually, it’s two recipes in one, because first you must prepare spiced olives, then add them to potatoes and cook them together.

Goldstein’s recipe calls for crushing whole olives with the flat of a cleaver or a mallet, then soaking them overnight. I didn’t have time for that and figured that canned, pitted olives  would release plenty of their salt with a few good rinses. So they did. And the dish was very good. It has the advantage of being vegetarian and pareve, for everyday meals as well as for Shabbat. And the olives, you can serve serve and eat as an appetizer all by themselves.

spiced olives for blog to watermark

Spiced Olives

Yield: 2 cups


2 cups of pitted olives

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

A large pinch of cayenne pepper and/or ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Juice of ½ lemon


Rinse the olives thoroughly, three times in cold, running water. Drain them.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow pot, over a low flame.

Cook the bay leaf, garlic, paprika and cayenne or pepper for 3 minutes.

Add the olives to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, turning them over occasionally.

Remove from the fire and let cool. Put the olives, with the bits of garlic clinging to them, in a clean dish.

Add the lemon juice; mix.

You may store the spiced olives in the refrigerator for a week if kept in a clean, dry jar.

Potatoes Stewed with Olives

Serves 6


The olive oil left from cooking spiced olives, or 3 tablespoons fresh olive oil

1 large onion

2 ½ lb. – 1 kg. potatoes, unpeeled but scrubbed and sliced 1 inch (2 centimeters) wide.

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups spiced olives

¼ cup finely chopped parsley or celery leaves


Chop the onion finely. Sauté it for 5 minutes in the skillet where the spiced olives cooked, with their oil returned to it. If using fresh oil, sauté the onions in 3 tablespoons of oil.

Add the potatoes and the spices. Don’t add salt – the olives will add enough.

Add water to halfway up the potatoes, and bring to a boil.

Cover the skillet, lower the flame, and cook the potatoes 15 minutes.

Add the olives and cook another 10 minutes, turning everything over once or twice.

Check to make sure the potatoes are tender; give them a few more minutes if necessary, but don’t let them get mushy.

Sprinkle the dish with the chopped parsley. Serve hot.

Potatoes with olives closeup2 for hamodia

Nov 042010

Full loaf

Even Husband  liked this sourdough loaf. (I have hopes for that man.) A little baking soda in the dough cut some of the sourdough tang, that was the secret. The starter I used was based on whole wheat flour, so although I used ordinary white flour, the bread came out a warm beige color. I should have slashed the top to keep the sides from breaking away, but the pan kept it together and I cut sandwiches from the loaf till it was gone.

The Little One  spread pesto on slices of this bread and sandwiched slices of feta cheese in between. I liked it with chicken salad and lettuce. Husband opened a jar of peanut butter and spread it on, bless him… there’s no accounting for tastes.

Plain White Sourdough Bread


1/2 cup water

1/2 cup newly-refreshed sourdough starter

3 cups white flour

3 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon sugar

for the following day:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda


Put the water, starter, 3 cups flour, oil and sugar in a large bowl. Mix well.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave to ferment in a cool place overnight.

Next morning, deflate the sponge and to it add 2 cups flour, the salt, and the baking soda. If the dough seems too loose to handle, add the last 1/2 cup of flour, cautiously. For a loaf that’s lighter than the usual sourdough, keep the dough sticky.Oil your hands to knead (or stretch and fold, which is the method I favor).

If kneading, knead 10 minutes. If stretching and folding, do it 6 or 7 times, or until you’re sure that everything is well incorporated. Cover the dough again and leave it in a warm place to rise. This will take 2-3 hours.

Deflate the dough and shape your loaf. Cover the loaf and let it rise somewhere warm till it’s light. It may not rise to double in size, but you should be able to see gas blisters under the surface skin of the dough. This third rising takes anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours, depending on how warm a place the dough’s in.

Slash the top of the loaf to avoid “flying crown.” This is especially important if the loaf is to be free-form, not baked in a pan. Give it about 5 minutes to recover, then bake in a preheated 350°F -180° C oven for 1/2 hour.

When the top has a firm, golden crust, gently remove the loaf from its pan and turn it upside to finish baking – another 15 minutes. It’s always best to test the loaf with a toothpick before assuming its done baking. If it seems underdone, give it another 5 minutes, or turn the oven off and come back in 15 minutes.

cut loaf sideways