Nov 032014

image cauliflower soup

Let there be white.

White soup, that is. I’m a fool for white soups: potato soup, vichyssoise, cauliflower soup – bring them on, I’ll eat ‘em. With cauliflowers so firm and white in the shuk now, and winter rains bringing on hungers for good hot soup, there’s only one way to go. It’s cauliflower soup, subtly spiced, quickly cooked, satisfying and comforting. Serve with toast that’s  topped with a poached egg.

fresh cauliflower israel

No cheese in this soup. You can sprinkle some grated Parmesan over each serving if you want to, but I like it t when the vegetables  dominate, with no distracting help from cheese. A couple of  the spices so well-loved in the Middle East add depth. A dollop of cream promises a rich, soothing soup. It will help you accept the onset of winter, and even rejoice in it.

Ah – that was thunder. The light is fading and the wind tosses the branches of sidewalk trees around. On the balcony, my wooden wind chimes are bumping each other and make musical klok noises – it’ll rain any minute. I’m glad to be home with this soup for dinner.

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Dec 022012

pureed spinach soup with croutons

Ah, it’s good to be back.

It’s time for a confession. This past month, I’ve hardly been cooking or thinking of food. Surgery does that to you – mixes your systems. My ever-reliable appetite failed, and my kitchen didn’t look friendly anymore. I’d go to bed thinking, When am I going to love food again? And why did I ever love it so much?

Then, sometime last week, I opened the cabinet where I store my baking pans and clay pots. Hm, there was my bean pot. It looked round-bellied and cheerful and somehow inviting. It’s been a while since I’ve made black beans, I thought.

So I made some.  And then I made rice, the way my Mom taught me, with olive oil and plenty of garlic. Fried myself an egg. And tucked in. Food tasted good again, flavors amazingly sharp and satisfying.

Then I ran off to the shuk, because I couldn’t wait to fill the kitchen up with vegetables.  With recovered mobility and pain gone, my zest for food and cooking has returned. Proof of that is the spinach soup below.

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Oct 222012

flu soup recipe

I’ll be recovering from knee surgery for the next little while. Fridge is stacked with easy foods for the Little One to cook while I’m lounging around. Laptop is charged so I can trawl the Net while balancing an ice pack on my knee. New stack of books next to my bed. Rescue remedy for balance, homeopathic arnica for pain. What’s missing?

Oh yes, telling you about it.

So now you know. I’m in the hands of a great surgeon, at a great hospital, and it’s not even considered such a big deal anymore. It’ll be an arthroscopy, not a knee replacement. Wish me good luck – it’s tomorrow.

Now I’m going to have a big bowl of mineral-rich bone broth reinforced with lots of fresh vegetables. Good for any wambly condition you might find yourself in. Really excellent for recovering fast from the flu, if you add grated ginger and turmeric.

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 Posted by at 11:16 PM  Tagged with:
Aug 182012


In the shuk, fresh corn stood in piles, half-husked to display the succulent golden kernels inside. How could I resist, knowing how delicious a milky corn chowder tastes on a warm summer evening? It’s a comfortable vegetarian summer dish, filling enough, yet light. So I pondered, so I put the coins in the vendor’s outstretched hand, so I filled a bag with corn and set it out on the kitchen counter to husk.

About an hour later, I set the table. Some slices of sourdough toast spread with a film of butter, corn chowder garnished with another summer specialty, purslane, and a glass of white wine. For dessert, fresh figs drizzled with honey and broiled. Dinner was fine that night.

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Jan 052012


It’s soup weather, no doubt about it. Even if Israeli skies are blue, it’s cold out there. And what I want to eat when it’s cold out, is soup. A flexible recipe, please, a soup that accepts lots of variations but always tastes good. And, while I’m at it, one with chicken and plenty of green herbs and vegetables.

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Oct 122011


Recently I had the pleasure of dining at chef Moshe Basson’s Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem – twice. One of the things I liked best on the tasting menu was this trio of soups served in espresso cups. Just enough for a hearty taste , not so much as to dull the appetite. They are all vegetarian and pareve.

With Sukkot just about on top of us, and the weather finally turning cooler, it seems a good idea to keep soup recipes on the top of the printout pile. (Mine is an untidy, toppling pile whose papers are already stained and crumpled. I keep promising myself I’m going to organize the recipes alphabetically into a nice, neat folder…someday.)

So here are three soups for your holiday, the same soups I sipped at Eucalyptus. I wish you a chag Sukkot sameach!

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Jan 062011


Meatballs with chickpea flour. They were sitting demurely in a rich chicken broth, on a homely stovetop, in a tiny eatery in the Yemenite Quarter of Tel Aviv.

It looks like a typical home of that part of town. The only thing to indicate that there’s food for sale is a modest sign over the door: Shabbat Takeaway. You walk in and you’re standing in an apartment, in the living room of an apartment, where two women are cooking and serving the foods that their neighbors love. There’s a stove with four burners on your right as you enter, and a table loaded with covered pots off to one side.

Dorit and Nava are good friends who run this tiny eatery. (Dorit allowed me to take photos, but Nava was shy).


There are three makeshift tables.


I sat down to eat at one of them, but it’s really a local take-out place. That means that the food has to be kosher, authentic, and tasty, and inexpensive. (There is no kosher certificate, but I saw for myself that the foods are prepared in a kosher way, with grains checked and all raw ingredients from kosher sources).

Like mafroum (see my recipe for mafroum) . And the fiery chreime – fish poached in a chili-ful tomato sauce.


Stuffed grape leaves and stuffed peppers (recipe for stuffed grape leaves and artichoke hearts here).

image-stuffed peppersDelicate and savory lamb patties.

image-yemenite lamb patties

And the soup that made me float about three feet off the ground – gondi soup.


I lifted the pot lid, peered in and sniffed, and asked Dorit, “How come you’re selling matzah balls to your Sephardic neighbors?”

“Not matzah balls. Gondi. Made of chicken and chickpeas,” she said mysteriously. Hm. I’d never eaten gondi. The aroma was so tempting that although I had only intended to spend two minutes photographing the little eatery, I ordered the soup and sat down to eat. Dorit joined me for a moment and told me that gondi was an invention of Iranian Jews. In Israel of course, even Ashkenazim like myself get to enjoy them.

Oh, Mama. It was more than delicious, it was sublime. The meatballs had cooked in a broth rich with carrots and onions and whole chicken pieces. The combination of ground chicken and freshly-ground roasted chickpeas made a light, flavorful dumpling. I don’t normally get obsessed with a particular dish, but the taste of that gondi soup stayed on my mind for a long time after I finished eating.

I culled recipes from books and made it at home for your viewing pleasure. Dorit said that she goes to the Carmel shuk for her chickpea flour – ground from whole roasted chickpeas as she stands there – but  chickpea flour from the health food store also works.

Gondi Soup

Serves 6


1-1/2 kg (2 lbs) fresh chicken thighs and drumsticks

3 medium onions, peeled but left whole

2 zucchini, peeled and cut into two pieces each

3 carrots, cut into two pieces each

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons salt

1 bay leaf (not traditional, but good)

1- 1/2 liters water

Put all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour with the lid partly off. Remove the whole chicken pieces for another use (chicken salad, chicken pot pie). Keep the soup simmering because the gondi will cook in it.

Gondi meatballs

2 large onions, chopped finely or grated

500 grams (1 lb.) ground dark-meat chicken

1 cup chickpea flour

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cardamum

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro

2 teaspoons salt

pepper to taste

1/4 cup oil

1/3 cup water

Combine all the ingredients, mixing vigorously.

Wet your hands to form dumplings about the size of walnuts and add them, one by one, to the simmering soup.

Place the lid over the pot halfway off and simmer the meatballs for 1 hour.

Serve – again and again.

Dona Restaurant

Rechov Rabbi Meir 36

Yemenite Quarter, Tel Aviv

Kosher (without a certificate)

Open 10 AM to 4:00 PM, Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Fridays open till 2:00 PM.

Tel: 052-234-0100

 Posted by at 5:47 PM
Oct 112010

Come autumn, a housewife’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of soup. Like me.  I’m all in favor of soup, especially easy soups that make the best of seasonal vegetables.  …Like this one. It’s worth making extra and freezing it for winter days and nights ahead, when a little nutritious comfort food is what you’ll be craving.

Sweet Potato and Celery Soup

printable version here

4 servings


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled

3 celery stalks

2 medium fresh tomatoes or 4 halves of slow-roasted tomatoes

1 large onion

1 bay leaf

a pinch of thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Leaves from one celery stalk


1. Slice the onion thinly. Chop the celery and tomatoes.

2. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the vegetables, including the sweet potatoes, in it.

3. Add salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the bay leaf.

4. Add water and cook for 30 minutes. When all the vegetables are very tender, taste the soup and add salt if needed. Add the thyme. Cook another 5 minutes.

6. Remove about 12  whole sweet potato slices and pieces of tomato from the soup and put aside. Cool the soup and blend it in the blender or food processor. If you have a stick blender, you can just turn off the flame and blend the soup right there in the pot.

7. Chop the celery leaves for garnish. Before serving, add 2 or 3 of the reserved sweet potato slices and a little of the tomato to each bowl. Scatter the chopped celery leaves over all and sit down to savor your soup.


 Posted by at 7:35 PM
Apr 072010

artichoke and mushroom soup

Truth is, this recipe works fine for Passover too. But while I’m telling the truth – I’m frankly relieved to have done with the endless shopping, cooking, serving, and washing up that was this year’s Passover. The last stray fork is back in its box, we’ve repacked all the dishes and cookware – everything is safely stored away till next year. Now I can put the word “chometz” out of my mind for another 11 months.

And it’s springtime. Spring in central Israel lasts a couple of weeks at the most, but we’re enjoying fresh winds and a prolonged cooler-than-usual feeling.  Evenings are chilly. Soup is still a good choice.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I made this soup with frozen artichoke hearts. Fresh artichokes have been in season for many weeks, and we have been eating them – but I had this bag of frozens…and a little basketful of mushrooms…and a craving for a simple soup. So I cooked. And it’s good – very good. The faint taste of lemon and a final swirl of butter complement the artichokes perfectly.

Artichoke and Mushroom Soup

Serves 6


8-12 frozen artichoke hearts (a 400-gram bag)

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup of chopped fresh mushrooms, setting two handsome ones aside for decoration later

3 tablespoons oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled

a pinch of thyme

2 teaspoons lemon juice – or just a hearty squeeze from a cut lemon

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper

2 cups of milk

3 scallion sprigs, chopped

6 teaspoons of butter


1. Put the oil, the onions, and the salt in a soup pan. Sauté the onions till they’re just wilted.

2. Add the mushrooms, minus the two set aside for later.

3. Add the artichoke hearts. They can go in whole – they’re rock-hard when frozen.

4. Season with salt and pepper; add the bay leaf and garlic.

5. Cook everything over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring.

6. Add water to cover the vegetables, and the lemon juice.

7. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the flame, and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.

8. Test the artichoke hearts for done-ness by piercing one with a knife. If it’s not entirely cooked, give it another 5 minutes.

9. Remove the bay leaf. Add the thyme. Remove one whole artichoke heart and chop it into coarse dice, reserving it for later.

10. Blend the soup. The longer you blend it, the thicker it will become. But it won’t become very thick.

11. Stir the milk in. Cook for 10 minutes and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

12. Put the chopped, reserved artichoke heart back into the soup. Slice the reserved mushrooms and add them.

13. Cook another 2 or 3 minutes – just long enough to cook the mushrooms through.

14. Swirl a teaspoon of butter into each bowl as you serve. Scatter chopped scallions over each serving.

Close your eyes, inhale that artichokey aroma, and eat the first spoonful. Delicious.

two mushrooms and an artichoke heart

artichoke and mushroom soup cooking

Mar 312010

chicken soup with matzah balls

Shmaltz  was the fat of choice for my Russian Ashkenazi ancestors.  In the freezing winters of the Ukraine, they needed a layer of fat to keep warm. On the other hand, people were far more active physically than most of us today. They worked the calories off chopping wood for the stove, drawing well water, making and repairing everything by hand, and walking everywhere.

Every scrap of fat was precious, and not just for eating. My father told me his great-grandmother would skim all cooking fat off, keep it frozen outside all winter, and make soap from it come spring.

Goose or chicken  shmaltz was also a home remedy for pneumonia. Rendered down with plenty of onions and allowed to cool, it was  massaged into the chest and back of the sick one, who was then well wrapped up and kept warm. Sounds disgusting? But the onions draw out fluid and phlegm, relieving the racking cough, while the heat generated by the fat and the wrappings made the patient sweat – bringing down high fever. It was what people had, in those days before penicillin. Better to spend a few days in a fug of oniony shmaltz and hopefully survive.

And people loved the taste of shmaltz – a shmear on bread or matzah, a tablespoon in the pan to start the cooking. We, who monitor our weight and heart health, have almost forgotten what it is. But I have a throwback nostalgia for it. I’m convinced that no other fat gives matzah balls that old-fashioned taste. Plus, nowadays, people no longer regard animal fat with suspicion. A little shmaltz is better for you than margarine, they say, and so I serve it with an easy conscience.

At Passover and Rosh HaShanah, I take the fat off two chickens and render it down with onions. The yield is usually just enough for one batch of matzah balls. The rest of the year, if I get a yearning for matzah balls, I use olive oil – but the taste isn’t the same.

There’s hardly a recipe. Take the raw fat and fatty skin off two or three chickens, or shnorr some off your butcher. Put it in a pan and cover it with cold water. Cook it over a medium flame till all the water has evaporated, and the skin is golden. Then chop an onion and add it to the pot. When you hear crackling and the skin and onion are dark brown, the shmaltz is ready.


Strain it, setting the chicken cracklings aside – the Yiddish name for them is gribbenis. (You can stuff matzah balls with them or add them to a kugel. Or just salt them and eat them as a guilty treat.)

Now, make your matzah balls.

Here’s the typewritten matzah ball recipe my Dad gave me, lo these many years ago: I think he took it from Jewish Cookery, adding his banana bread recipe at the bottom (the bread is obviously not kosher for Passover). It has his characteristic humorous tone. I depart a little from the recipe by adding 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger.

matzah ball recipe from Jewish Cookery

Old-Fashioned Matzah Balls


2 eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons shmaltz or other fat

1 scant cup matzah meal

1/4 – 1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)


1. Combine the beaten eggs, shmaltz, and matzah meal.

2. Add 1/4 cup water, salt, and ginger.If the mix seems stiff enough to roll into a hard ball, add more water by tablespoons till it’s a stiff batter, not a firm dough.

3. Cover the batter and put it in the fridge for 2 hours. This step is important if you want light matzah balls. The batter can rest in the fridge even longer – even overnight. It will become a dough firm enough to shape, but still a little loose in the hand.

4. Have a medium pot with plenty of boiling, lightly salted water ready. With wet hands, form walnut-sized balls of dough, and drop them in.

5. Cover and cook the matzah balls over a medium flame for 30 minutes. Lower the heat so that the water simmers after the initial boil – you don’t want the boil to destroy your little treasures.

6. Remove the matzah balls from the water and either set them aside for later or put them in your soup right away.

Tip: As  Dad noted, they can be cooked directly in the soup, but don’t come out as light that way. Another tip: Use a scant cup, as Dad directed, for light matzah balls. The cannon-ball variety, and some folks like it, comes from a greater proportion of matzah meal and then packing the dough in tightly.

Nice to cook something exactly the way our ancestors did it two centuries ago. Who knows, maybe even longer?

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