Oct 302014

three stuffed mushrooms

In my parent’s home, I knew it by the homely Yiddish name “farfel.” In Israel, it’s called “p’titim.” Since having become famous in the foodie world, this pearly short-cut pasta is called Israeli couscous. That’s alright by me. As long as I have a bag of it in my pantry, I’m sure of having a quick-cooking backup to heft out a meal that would otherwise look skimpy.

But that’s not all Israeli couscous does. It’s pleasantly bland, so it soaks up any flavorings you add to it or cook it with. You can dress it up or dress it down, like any other pasta. Kids love it, naturally. But here it is in an entirely grown-up guise: stuffing for Portobello mushrooms.  It’s still a quick trick. Takes about 10 minutes to cook the couscous, including the time it takes to chop up an onion and the cheese. Two minutes to  mix the stuffing up. And about 15 minutes in a hot oven.

One mushroom makes a hefty first course, and two make a light main dish, served with a big salad.

Have plenty of olive oil at hand when you make these: it’s amazing how much oil mushrooms can soak up. 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 »

Jul 302013

fresh corn fritters recipe

I’d overbought at the shuk, which I always do when some seasonal delicacy beckons me over to the stall and whispers, “Buy me, buy me, cook me!”

Oh, the stacks of ridged heirloom eggplants, the fat tomatoes at their scarlet peak, the excitingly fragrant, yellow mangoes. White peaches dripping with juice. But what drew me strongest were piled-up ears of yellow corn still modestly dressed in their pale green husks.

Israeli corn has become far more tender and sweet than it used to be. Twenty years ago, a visiting relative took a bite out of a boiled ear of corn and said, “Horse corn!” She put it down in disgust. To those who are used to corn that spurts milk when you put the knife to it, it was tough, dry, and flavorless.

But that’s changed, and local corn now tastes like that of my childhood summers and backyard barbeques in Michigan. I’d roll a hot ear of corn on a paper plate smeared with butter and salt, then bite into the steaming flesh and taste the salt and butter over corn sweetness.  And more good news about Israeli corn: organic farmers assure me that it isn’t genetically modified.

It simply remains for me to modify my appetite for sweet fresh corn.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:28 PM
Jun 072013

image cherry tomato dip

Is it too early too talk about tomatoes?

They’re already so good and abundant in the markets. I still had quite a few left over from the kilo I bought in the shuk a few days before.  I was thinking of a dip or spread for basil bread that I was going to take to a little get-together later on. Like, a tomato pesto.

And there were all these sweet, plum cherry tomatoes on my counter. It was easy to imagine roasting, then blending them. Adding almonds to thicken the puree. Herbs, too, and naturally, olive oil. Yes.

Continue reading »

Mar 092013

image eggplant stuffed with lamb

Succulent lamb on a bed of tender eggplant, generously spiced and sprinkled with pine nuts.

I served this aromatic, meaty dish with white rice on the side, just something rather plain, so as not to clash with the big, Middle Eastern flavors. With a leafy salad of mixed greens, we had a feast. And I’m thinking it would work really well on Passover week, when guests come from out of town and I’ll want to make something special.

It is a dish apart. I felt lucky to have discovered it in a new cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s  Jerusalem, A Cookbook. I hadn’t tried any of the recipes yet, just flipped through the pages, admiring the gorgeous photographs.

Then I remembered. In the fridge was lurking this enormous eggplant.

Continue reading »

Oct 092012


Summer is loosening its grip here in central Israel, although we’re still walking around in short sleeves and sandals. But it’s a kindlier sun than the scorching tyrant that dried everyone out earlier in the year, and it gives way early to cool nights. My thoughts turn to new baking projects, as they always do at this time of year.

Now that I’m counting up all the ways that early October feels different, I remember my latest walk through the shuk. Vegetables that earlier shrank and got buggy seem relieved by the slightly cooler weather. Celery stalks are getting fat and juicy again. Broccoli and cauliflower heads, which weren’t worth a glance a little while ago, are clean, full and firm. And the mellow colors of squashes on display speak to me of dinners based on baked and roasted vegetables, glasses of red wine traded for summer’s Chardonnays, and full-flavored hard cheeses.


While I love the butternut squash stuffed with quinoa, I had a longing for butternut squash paired with a tangy hard cheese. This recipe satisfied that longing perfectly. The sweetness of the butternut combines deliciously with herbs, and while its baking, a thin, savory, cheese crust forms over all of it. Just right.

Continue reading »

Sep 072012


Almost every Israeli restaurant has some version of this vegetarian dish.  Upscale restaurants call it eggplant carpaccio. Plain folks call it eggplant and tahini salad. Some versions, like this one, are rich with cheese and tomatoes and olive oil, and some are plainer, with just charred eggplant a good dollop of tahini on the side. Myself, I lay that eggplant on its back and pile everything on top of it. The hot eggplant drizzled with garlicky tahini, lemon juice, silan date syrup and olive oil creates a most subtle sauce right there in the plate. And the tomatoes and feta shine through the eggplant and sauce like – like a rich pearl in an Ethiope’s ear. You get layers of flavors in every bite.

So I started with a baladi eggplant from the shuk. Baladi connotes higher quality because the fruit is wild or unsprayed or raised on a small farm according to old-fashioned methods. When you’re trawling through the shuk and come upon a stand with these dark purple, ridged eggplants, you’ve met the baladi. Other eggplant varieties work fine for this dish too, of course. I favor baladi because they look a lot funkier, and they tend to be big.

Continue reading »

May 242012


Tnuva, one of the big Israeli dairy companies, offered free Shavuot workshops around the country. So I climbed on the bus to and rode away to the mall, where a cookware shop had lent its kitchen for the event. Sailing down the escalator, I wondered if I was wasting my time.  The Little One, giving me a serious look at breakfast, had said, ” Mami, you can teach that workshop.” I was feeling rather snobbish (always a mistake). But the workshop was kosher, and free.

I presented my ID at the door and looked around: it was a good-sized kitchen, the backstage of the shop. The participants were grouped in threes around a stainless steel counter. They were a mixture of religious and secular, couples and singles. All were looking expectantly at the chef, Irma Kazar.

Continue reading »

May 222012


The way I see it, Shavuot menus are an opportunity to showcase vegetables.

Like the rest of Israel, I willingly succumb to cheesecake on Shavuot. Here’s apricot swirl cheesecake, cheesecake with dulce de leche, and New York cheesecake. Plenty to conquer that craving for cheesecake that creeps over us at this time of year.  I love cheese, more than what’s good for me. But I know that the entire country is going to suffer the day after Shavuot, because we’ve all been hypnotized by ads showing gorgeous closeups of cheese blintzes, lasagna, ice cream, rich kugels, quiches – and obediently fix them all for one dairy-overloaded, artery-clogging meal.

There’s plenty of dairy on my table over the year. Just not all those delicious cheesy dishes at once. To keep things in balance over Shavuot, I plan menus around vegetables and whole grains with cheese or butter as an accent. Spinach is a natural for me because it’s Husband’s  favorite vegetable.

Continue reading »

May 162012

image-caramelized-cauliflowerSlow-cooked in tons of (let me whisper it) butter, this way of cooking elevates the humble cauliflower to surprising heights of deliciousness.

I couldn’t believe this recipe when I first saw it in Al Ha Shulchan magazine. Dead easy, but so much butter. According to them, it originates in Denmark, where butter reigns. Well, Israel has a thriving dairy industry too, and our butter is excellent. Normally I wouldn’t think of cooking a vegetable with a whole cup of butter - a whole cup of butter – but after I made it, I understood the wisdom.

Continue reading »

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