Mar 112012


Readers who have followed this blog know I have a thing about garlic. Some of my favorite, garlic-fragrant recipes are aioli saucegarlicky crisp-skinned potatoes, and spicy eggplant in garlic sauce.

The garlic I bought last year has gone all sprouty. The new crop will be in the shuk any day now, but meantime the sprouted stuff is still good to eat. It just takes a little more patience and knife work.

You have to peel away the tough yellowish membrane that encloses the sprouted germ.


Pare away anything that looks rotten. Chop it up and use it. It tastes like…garlic, the same as ever.


Aug 212011



August is peak season for so much fruit, it’s hard to choose which to preserve. I used to go hog-wild at the shuk and shlep home kilos of that juicy, perfumed, vividly-colored produce. Fruit wines, liqueurs, jams and chutneys. Mason jars and bottles and carboys all over the kitchen – all over the house. But eventually the family group dwindled, and I found that life demanded downsizing my shopping and cooking.

It’s still a big satisfaction, putting little dishes of pickles or chutney on the Shabbat table, or bringing them out to make an ordinary meal special for guests. But I’ve reduced the number of annual ferments and preserves. Significantly. Let’s see. What did I really put up, since spring this year?

Continue reading »

Aug 042011

red mullet tajine

Anyone tired of cheese yet? The Nine Days before the fast of Tisha B’Av are still in force. No meat or poultry, no wine. True, Shabbat approaches and then we can indulge in both, but come Sunday, observant Jews are still going to need meatless recipes.

The solution is fish. Like the Moroccan Shabbat Fish or the Salmon in Orange Glaze, this tajine is colorful and full of flavor. It satisfies the kind of hunger that demands that food be substantial but light – summer hunger.

Small red mullet fillets make an attractive presentation, but you can use slices of any firm white fish. Lacking the clay tajine pot, you can use a heavy-bottomed saucepan. An equally good method is to bake the dish in a casserole. It’s best served right away, but can be made in the morning, refrigerated in its original casserole or saucepan, and gently re- heated to serve for lunch or dinner.

Two typical Middle Eastern ingredients feature in this recipe: spicy chermoulah marinade and roasted bell peppers, both made in minutes. (recipes below).

Tajine of Mullet Fillets In Chermoulah Marinade

Serves 6

Printable version here.


chermoulah marinade according to recipe below
2 lbs- 1 kg. red mullet fillets, cut into large chunks
12 small new potatoes or 6 medium-sized potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
12 cherry tomatoes
2 bell peppers of different colors, grilled and sliced into sixths
Salt and pepper to taste
12 green or black olives
1 lemon, cut into quarters

Chermoulah marinade:
Blend the following ingredients on low speed till a thin, grainy sauce is formed:
2 peeled, chopped garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ – or 1 fresh red chili
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

Reserve ¼ cup of the chermoulah. Place the fish in a deep dish and cover it on all sides with the rest of the chermoulah. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate for 2 hours.

Wash, but don’t peel, the potatoes. Cook them for 5 minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain, place in cold water, then peel them. Cut into halves if using new potatoes, or quarters if using medium-sized ones.

Gently sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. This only takes a minute or two over low heat. Raise the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, grilled peppers, and reserved chermoulah. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grilled bell peppers:

Grill whole bell peppers under your oven broiler, or place them on a metal grill over an open flame. Turn them from side to side as their thin skins char and their flesh softens. They should not become completely blackened but will retain their plumpness and color.

Allow the grilled peppers to cool down enough to be handled, then pop them into a plastic bag to cool down. Their skins will then slip off easily. You will need to wet your hands occasionally while peeling.

Slit them open and remove the seeds. Cut them into 4-6 long strips.

(If you like fiery food, try grilling some green or red chilis this way. Be very careful with chilis however – wear latex gloves while peeling if possible, and don’t touch your eyes or any part of your face if your fingers have come into contact with them.)

Place the potatoes on the bottom of a large casserole (or tajine if you have one).

Spread half the tomato/pepper mixture over them. Put the marinated fish on top, and cover it with the remaining half of tomato/pepper mixture.
Scatter the olives around the fish and vegetables.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of olive oil over all.

If baking, cover the casserole and cook for 30 minutes at 350° F – (180° C) or until fish is cooked through.

If cooking in a tajine, put the lid on and cook over medium heat 15-20 minutes. If using a saucepan, add ¼ cup water and cook over medium heat 15-20 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the hot dish.

May 262011


Every so often, I feel that I have to eat curry. It must have something to do with needing micro-nutrients. I mean, curry spices are packed with them.That’s why curries figure so prominently in vegetarian cuisine.

That’s my theory, anyway.

Most often, dal fixes me up, that thick lentil stew made aromatic with turmeric and cinnamon and cloves, and smoothed into submission with ghee (my post about ghee is here). Dal is high in protein, satisfying, and inexpensive. You can make it mild or add heat with chilis. Myself, I like some heat, but the recipe below is flexible; you choose how much, if any, chili or cayenne goes in.

Dal and plain rice, like the one I cook to serve with majadra, and salad on the side, make a good, home-made lunch that only takes about half an hour. But then again, and especially if there are guests, I might make a whole Indian menu for dinner. Herbed fish patties, coconut rice, dal, and yogurt raita. (Raita is sauce eaten as a relish and a cool foil to spicy or chili-hot food). Just exotic enough to pique the appetite but not so much so as to freak the people out.

I prefer dal made with the tiny, pale-yellow moong lentils that only Indian stores seem to carry.These seem to melt away into a thick, smooth, savory mass that absorbs all the spices perfectly. But yellow split peas work very well too. Just cook them till they’re very, very soft.

dal ingredients

The recipes have been given in logical sequence to make best use of your time. Altogether, the whole meal should take 1 hour to prepare.

Cucumber Raita (Yogurt  Sauce)

Serves 6 – may be halved or doubled

2 large, fresh cucumbers

1 medium onion

2 teaspoons salt

Optional: 1/8 – ¼ teaspoon cayenne flakes

3 cups thick, cold yogurt

1. Peel the cucumbers. Grate them, and grate the onion – or process the vegetables in the food processor.

2. Stir salt into the grated vegetables and put them in a sieve or colander placed over a bowl to catch the juices. Allow to marinate and drain for 1-2 hours.

While the vegetables are draining, prepare the dal.

3. After vegetables have drained 1-2 hours, rinse them and mix with yogurt and optional cayenne. The sauce is ready to serve.

Dal:  Split-Pea Stew

Serves 6

1 – ½ cups moong dal or yellow split peas

4 cups water

1 – ½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons ghee or  butter

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne flakes, or more if liked

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon mustard seeds – do not substitute prepared mustard for these seeds.

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Put water to boil with salt. Boil the lentils in it for 20 minutes or until very soft. Stir occasionally while cooking.

While dal is cooking, start preparing the fish patties.

2. Melt the ghee or butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add all the spices. Heat them through for 2 or 3 minutes.

3. Add the spiced butter to the boiled lentils and stir thoroughly. Simmer over low heat till the stew is thick – about 5 minutes.

Indian Herbed Fish Patties

Adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden

Serves 4

1 cup cilantro  leaves

¾ cup scallions

1 teaspoon hot curry powder or regular curry powder plus 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes (to taste)

3 tablespoons flour

1 lb. – 500 grams raw ground fish

½ teaspoon salt


1. Chop the cilantro and scallions finely. You may pulse them in a food processor, but don’t process them to a paste. Those bits of green herbs give the patties a certain home-made attraction.

2. Add the curry powder, flour, and fish. Mix very well.

3. Make patties in the palm of your hand, pushing the edges together so they don’t crack in frying. Press a shallow dimple in the center of each patty with your forefinger: this helps the patty stay together (do this with hamburgers too).  Fry the patties in shallow oil till brown on both sides. 

Coconut Rice

Serves 6

1 can coconut milk

2 cups water

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 ½ cups rice

3 coriander pods, crushed, husks removed, and black seeds crushed again.

1. Boil coconut milk, water, salt, turmeric and coriander in a medium pan, covered.

2. Add the rinsed, drained rice. Bring to a boil again.

3. Cook, covered, over low heat until all the liquid is absorbed – about 15 minutes.

Serve this meal with cold cider, beer, or lemonade.

Mar 102011

Looking at the price of almond butter in the health food store, I put the jar back on the shelf and thought, I can make it myself. So I strolled out and headed for the shuk, where almonds are plentiful and affordable.

I could have bought American almonds, but sampling all of them, I found the local ones best. Probably they’re fresher, not having been sitting in the hold of a ship for who knows how long. And while I was at it, I indulged in cashews. Some sunflower seeds went into my cloth shopping bag too.

At home, I pulled out my trusty food processor (of mayonnaise fame) and got to work. It took almost no time to produce three individual nut and seed spreads. It’s worth making small batches, because they really taste best fresh. And while these spreadable butters usually wind up on bread as a snack, you can do a lot of different things with them – as you’ll find out.

Almond Butter

Yield: 2/3 cup

Choose either blanched (white) whole nuts, or almonds with the papery brown skin still on them. Either way, the almond butter is delicious.

2  cups raw almonds


2 tablespoons almond oil or other neutral-flavored oil

Heat the oven to 300 degrees F, 150 degrees C.

Spread almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Roast for 7 minutes, then turn nuts over and roast another 5-7 minutes. There should be a light, nutty aroma when you open the oven door.

While the almonds are still warm, transfer them to the food processor. Add the oil.

Process for 5-12 minutes. Processing time varies according to the age of the nuts and how dry or moist they were when you bought them. There will be a dry flour at first, but persist, stopping the food processor once in a while and scraping the sides down. Process till you have a smooth paste. Store in a clean, dry, covered jar for up to 1 month.

Things to do with your Almond Butter:

Substitute it for peanut butter in cookies and Oriental sauces.

Stir a tablespoon into hot cereal. It will add protein and fat.

Milk substitute: blend 2 tablespoons almond butter or cashew butter with 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon honey till foamy; strain and drink, or use in cooking or baking. Cashew butter doesn’t need straining.

Sweet variation: add a handful of good chocolate to almonds when processing. Or 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or 1 tablespoon brown sugar.

Kid’s favorites: the classic “ants on a log –“ celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter and dotted with raisins – tastes new when you substitute almond butter and cranberries. Or spread almond butter on toast and top with sliced bananas or jam.

Cashew Butter

Use the same procedure as for almond butter, above. It will be firm, but moist. A delicious thing to do with cashew butter is mix finely chopped chives with grated sharp cheese like cheddar or Parmesan and roll little balls of cashew butter in the mix.

Sunflower Seed Butter

Sunflower seeds pick up the taste of salt strongly, so start by adding only a pinch, then add more to taste – up to ¼ teaspoon salt.

1 cup shelled, roasted sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon oil

Pinch of salt

Sunflower seed “techinah”

½ cup sunflower seed butter

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup water

1 small, mashed garlic clove

Salt to taste

Blend all.

Spread toasted slices of challah or French bread with sunflower seed butter and top with one of the following:

A slice of tomato

Slices of hard-boiled egg

Thinly sliced leftover roast chicken

Garnish the open sandwich with olives, pickles, and sprigs of fresh herbs like parsley, aragula, and basil.


Sep 292010

image-aioli sauce
There are times when I love Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times, known as The Minimalist. A column of Bittman’s on food-processor mayonnaise changed how I make mayo forever (here’s a link to the NY Times column.)

I’ve read a lot about making mayonnaise by hand. Old-fashioned cookbooks tell you that pushing the egg and oil around a mortar, with the pestle, is the one genuine way to make mayonnaise. Oy vey.

One of my friends takes a fork and puts it to eggs and oil, producing mounds of shining mayonnaise with a little elbow grease and patience. I’ve tried it; it doesn’t work for me.

I’ve put eggs and seasonings in the blender jar, nervously adding precious olive oil drop by drop and praying for the stuff to emulsify. More often than not, I just got a thin soup. Whisking by hand in a stainless steel bowl works better, but it’s a lot of work.

Then I read Bittman’s article. He points out that food processors come equipped to help you make mayonnaise – easily. That’s something I haven’t thought of since buying my machine, about 10 years ago. (Goes to show you, it’s worth reading manuals.)

Let me introduce you to my beat-up old food processor top. See the tiny hole in the food pusher? Right there, a little off-center to the left.


That hole is there to allow oil to dribble from above, drop by tiny drop, while below the egg and seasonings whirl around in dervish ecstasy,  emulsifying towards their destiny as you hover over them. How cool is that? In five minutes, mayonnaise to your order.

Season it as you will. Last night, for guests in the succah, I made aioli, a very garlicky mayonnaise.  Last time I made aioli I’d spent half an hour whisking frantically away, getting olive oil all over everything, and working myself into a hissy fit. This time, I let the food processor do the work and in five minutes, I serenely scooped out a beautiful, perfect, and very garlicky mayonnaise. Ah…life is good sometimes. Thank you, Mark Bittman!

Aioli Sauce – And Mayonnaise

printable version here

yield: 1 cup


1 whole egg

2 large or 3 medium garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon good prepared mustard

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

white pepper to taste

1  cup olive oil


1. Put everything except the olive oil in the bowl of the food processor (use the steel blade).

2. Process at high speed for 2 minutes.

3. While the machine is running, pour the olive oil into the pierced food pusher – do it in parts if it’s too small too accept the entire cup of oil at once.

4. Just let it drip in. In about 2 minutes more, open the food processor and behold your aioli.

How to eat aioli?

  • Prepare all kinds of raw and cooked vegetables; spoon aioli over them or dip them into the sauce.
  • Try aioli over grilled salmon or any fried fish.
  • Or chicken.
  • Spread it on bread and top with your favorite sandwich filling.
  • Use aioli instead of plain mayo next time you make egg or tuna salad.

You just have to love garlic.

For regular plain mayo, leave out the garlic and proceed as above.

Sep 202010

use up your leftover wine

The wine was good, but dinner’s over and there’s just a little left in the bottle.  What can you do with it?

Keep it. Even a little wine does magic things to your cooking.

1. Make your own wine vinegar. It’s easy. You’ll need a clean glass jar and a bottle of commercial vinegar with the “mother of vinegar” – wisps of original vinegar-making material in it. Organic vinegars work best.

  • Pour the bottle of vinegar into your jar. Add any leftover wine to it. You can mix wines if you want, but the vinegar does taste better if you keep separate jars for white and red.
  • Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a paper towel. Secure it with a rubber band.
  • Store at room temperature, away from any open bottles of wine. You don’t want vinegar bacteria getting into your drink.
  • Stir once daily and start tasting after a week. Some vinegar will evaporate, so keep adding leftover wine.
    Don’t be startled if a new “mother” starts forming at the bottom of the jar. This is a sign of good health. Once it’s firm, you can pick it out of the jar with tongs and give it away, compost it, or use it to start a fresh supply of vinegar.
  • Start using the vinegar when it’s gotten sour enough to suit you.

2. Blend up a wine vinaigrette. Leftover white wine makes an elegant, fresh-tasting salad dressing or sauce for fish, chicken, or vegetables.  You’ll need:

1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
1 teaspoon honey – if the wine is dry. If using a sweet wine, omit the honey.
1/4 teaspoon  salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

  • Blend the wine, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Still blending (either with a fork, whisk, or the blender), add the oil, slowly.
  • Mix again just before serving.

That’s it. The vinaigrette will keep up to a week refrigerated.

3. Poach pears in wine. This dessert makes a welcome light ending to a rich meal. Use red or rosé wine. Follow this link for the recipe.

4. Marinate beef, chicken, fish, or tofu in wine. Use your judgment; red wine for red meat, white or rosé for chicken, white for fish or tofu. Keep in mind how the color of the wine will affect the look of the finished dish: will you mind if your chicken looks purple?

A simple marinade:

1 cup leftover wine, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 thinly-sliced onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon ground or freshly-grated ginger, a strip of orange peel as long as your forefinger, 1 bay leaf.

  • Lay the raw meat (or fish, or tofu) in the marinade. Refrigerate immediately till you’re ready to cook the dish. Note: Meat, chicken, and tofu may be marinated ½-hour to overnight in the fridge. Fish will “cook” and fall apart if left longer than ½-hour in the marinade.
  • Turn the ingredients over half-way into the marinating time so that they will absorb the flavors evenly.
  • Remove the marinaded ingredient from the liquid. Now grill, sauté, or roast your dish.
  • Don’t throw the marinade liquid out either.  You can cook it down in a saucepan till it’s thick and spoon it over the finished dish for yet more flavor.

5. Use leftover wine as part of the liquid in tomato sauce or gravy. The perceptible “winey” flavor will cook out, but the sauce will take on a richness and depth that wasn’t there before. On the other hand, if you stir the wine in just a few minutes before you intend to serve, the the sauce will have a delicious winey top note to harmonize with the deeper, rich notes of cooked vegetables.

6. Freeze your leftover wine.Use sealable bags to store your leftover wine, even quarter-cupfuls, in the freezer. You can then break off however much you think you’ll need, as you need it.

Use up or freeze your leftover wine within a day if it’s been left out, or a week if it’s been re-corked and kept in the fridge. Wine that’s old and tastes unpleasant is only fit to be poured down the drain.

I love the taste of roast-lamb gravy enriched with a last-minute dollop of red wine. My grandmother, who studied the art of sauces at the Cordon Bleu (back in the 1950s), used to make roast lamb with wine gravy – and when I cook it like she did, vivid memories of summertime dinners at Grandma and Grandpa’s house come back to me.

Mar 072010

Late winter is a fine time for mushrooms in Israel. In fact, Israelis are showing a big new interest in cooking with all kinds of mushrooms, so good ones are available most of the year. But even hot house food tastes best when it’s grown in its natural season. Soon the weather will become hot and dry again, so this is the time to snatch up the best of those succulent fungi.

I saw these attractive champignon mushrooms in the shuk last week.

Selecting the firmest, one by one, I half-filled a bag. Clutching it to me and dreaming out the window on the bus home, I thought of  mushroom soup and a leek/mushroom quiche. Possibly gnocchi with mushroom sauce. But I knew I’d still have mushrooms left over. Well, there’s duxelles, a way of preserving mushrooms as an essence so you have that unique flavor at hand any time.

It’s an ancient method. The only hi-tech improvement is using a food processor to chop the raw mushrooms if you don’t feel like hand chopping.



500 grams – 1/2 lb. mushrooms, champignon or portobellos (white or brown). Rinse and wipe them dry. Make sure there’s no dirt on them.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 tsp. dried thyme, sage, or crushed rosemary

1/4 cup dry white wine


1. Chop the mushrooms into fine dice. Or use your food processor.

2. Place mushrooms into a clean kitchen towel, one you don’t mind getting stained. Fold the towel to contain the mushrooms.

3. Wring out the mushrooms over a bowl. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Refrigerate and save the juice for soup or gravy.

4. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter gently.

5. Add mushrooms, shallots, salt, pepper, and thyme.6. Sauté until mushrooms are dry and the aroma is intense. This should take no more than 5 minutes.

7. Stir in and melt the second tablespoon of butter.

8. Add the wine. Stir until it has evaporated.

10. Remove duxelles from heat and cool.

The duxelles are ready to use right away. To store for future use, pat the paste into a strip of tin foil, roll it closed, and freeze. Just cut off tablespoon-sized portions when you need them.

So how do you use duxelles?

  • Spread a thin layer of duxelles on toast that’s been lightly rubbed with a garlic clove. Now you have bruschetta.
  • Flavor any soup with a tablespoon or two.
  • Start an omelet by melting some duxelles in your frying pan, then pouring the eggs over them.
  • Spoon some over steamed vegetables or baked potatoes.
  • Stir some into your next polenta. Or use duxelles as the topping for polenta (or pasta) instead of sauce.
  • Make a mushroom butter: beat butter till its soft; add duxelles and taste to adjust salt & pepper. Delicious with grilled fish.
  • Add to any sauce, including tomato sauce.
  • Steam sweet potatoes; drain well; melt duxelles in a frying pan and roll the cooked sweet potatoes in them till they’re slightly glazed.

You see? Duxelles add body and mushroom flavor to any food.

Feb 142010

Chef Moshe Basson, a quiet-spoken middle-aged man with skinny braid falling over his shoulder, took up a bunch of silver-grey leaves leaves and put them in a food processor. I was watching, along with about thirty others, at a Biblical cooking class in Eucalyptus, Basson’s Jerusalem restaurant.

Za’atar pesto. Why not?

Dried za’atar as the main ingredient in an oily dip, yes. Crumbled and sprinkled over pizza or roast chicken  – all the time. But now I know I can make pesto from the fresh leaves with the juice still in them.

This is really a seasonal pesto, because fresh za’atar is available only for a few weeks. That’s now, towards the end of winter in the Middle East.

The next time I was in the shuk, I went from stand to stand looking for za’atar. No vendor had the familiar small round, light-green herb, but one picked a bunch of dark, spiky leaves out of a heap and  bruised a few to release the odor. It smelled strongly of za’atar.

Consulting with chef Basson by phone, I learned that it’s winter savory – in Hebrew, tsatrah. He says that it’s part of the thyme family, as is za’atar. I decided to make the pesto as I’d seen him make it. I didn’t know what else to do with the leaves except hang them up to dry.

My notes from the cooking event weren’t exact, so I improvised the recipe out of the basic procedure I’d scribbled down. It took about 5 minutes to make, including toasting almonds, washing and drying the za’atar leaves, and peeling  garlic. This pesto has the unmistakable taste of the Middle East in it.

Za’atar Pesto


1 cup blanched almonds

2 cups fresh za’atar or winter savory leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sumac powder

3 garlic cloves

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice


1. Quickly toast the almonds in a dry frying pan. This should take only two minutes. Shake the pan a few times to distribute the almonds. Take it off the flame when they release a nutty, toasted aroma.

2. Rinse the za’atar leaves. Path them dry.

3. Into the food processor, put the almonds. Whizz them for half a minute.

4. Add the za’atar leaves. Process again for a minute.

5. Add the remaining ingredients and process till you have a rough sauce.

Recommended: spread some of this chunky, pungent pesto on slices of toasted baguette; top with feta cheese and put the slices into the oven so that the cheese melts.