Mar 092014

image onion roll

This is on of the goodies we’re going to pack into our Mishlochei Manot (Purim packages).  I recycle the junky snacks we receive into other packages, feeling a bit guilty. Not guilty because we’re not going to eat what our friends and neighbor planned, and spent money on, and took the trouble to deliver. No, guilty because all those little candies and snacks are going to contribute to Israel’s massive post-Purim sucrose hangover. I should just throw it all out. But I rationalize that someone should enjoy the junk…because in the end, our friends and neighbors did go to the trouble.

I love best the Mishlochei Manot that feature a few home-cooked things. Foods that were made by hand – cakes and cookies and specialties of the donors – I keep. Some go into the freezer right away to stay fresh for next Shabbat. Some we serve at our Purim feast. For our own Mishloche Manot, we’re thinking – and by we, I mean my son Eliezer, the Little One and I – of Hamentaschen,  filled with cherry jam.  And  small potato kugels.  Probably the chocolate fruit/nut clusters, because they’re excellent, and easy to make. And instead of the usual small challah, which looks good in the package but which I suspect never gets eaten, onion rolls.

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Feb 202013


It’s going to be really close to Purim by the time I bake my old-fashioned hamentaschen. Time will run out on me before I photograph them – but in any case, I bake the same recipe every year, only varying the fillings as the fancy takes me.

So this year’s Purim recipe post invites you to choose one of many good ones that other Jewish bloggers have written up. Here’s a roundup of the Best of the Web’s three-cornered Purim morsels.

Joan Nathan’s Ultimate Hamentaschen (includes a cool video)

Guava and Cheese Hamentaschen from the Cuban Reuben

Guava and Cheese Hamentaschen

Apricot Hamentaschen from the Montreal Gazette

montreal gazette

Pear and Goat Cheese Hamentaschen from The Joy of Kosher

Classic, uncomplicated Hamentaschen from me-ander

6 Hamentaschen and Filling Recipes from Norene Gilletz

And finally, the recipe I use year after year: cookie dough Hamentaschen.

I really love how you can shlep good Jewish recipes from the cosmos these days, posted by an international cast of bloggers. Well, what’s the Internet for? Purim Sameach! And enjoy!






Mar 072012


Do you love hamentaschen? I’m betting you do.

I sure do, but I’m not at all fond of the over-sweet, stodgy hamentaschen flooding grocery stores and supermarkets right now. It’s so worthwhile making my own, that I’m going to interrupt my pre-Purim baking marathon to post this recipe. It’s a real, old-fashioned hamentasch with a delicate cookie crust. The filling is up to you. I’ve kept it pareve to accommodate those eating meat meals on Purim day. But I must say that these hamentaschen are fabulous filled with dulce de leche.

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Apr 172011


How we do love anything grilled. That smoky, slightly charred flavor  just wakes appetite up. And how smart we are not to confine our grilling to meat – even peaches taste special cooked over an open flame. With the Passover week coming up, we expect to smell a lot of al ha-esh barbeques around. Ours will have vegetables too.

I brought marinated vegetable kebabs to the family Purim party. While the rest of us sat at the rooftop table drinking wine and sangria, my son-in-law’s brother-in-law – well, extended family tends to grow close here – anyway, one of the young men stood and kindly grilled.

He turned out grilled chicken fillets and wings and livers (and hearts, those dark, crunchy little nuggets).  Grilled, thinly sliced beef fillets. Spicy little hamburgers. And there was a big potato salad colorful with chopped red onions, cilantro, and celery and tart with a lemony mayonnaise. Dishes of humus and Turkish salad (follow links to recipes).  A bowl of Israeli chopped tomato/cucumber salad. French fries. A feast – but the surprise was the grilled vegetable kebabs. Everyone loved them.

My mechutenet (daughter’s mother-in-law) asked me for the recipe. She herself is an excellent cook in the Sephardic tradition, owning no other kitchen appliance than a hand-held grater and making every single thing fresh.  I was honored.

Now it occurs to me that except for the pile of fresh pitas, this menu would be wonderful on a Passover get-together. Many like to grill on the holiday. And at the conclusion of Passover, half the country goes to the parks for the Mimuna festival. Everyone sets up portable grills and boom boxes and lounges around on the grass, eating grilled meat and grooving to loud music sung by people with nasal obstructions. Vegetable kebabs would make a welcome light note there.

Grilled Vegetable Kebabs

6-8 servings

Choose from any mix of eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, bell peppers of any color, white or red onions, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.


1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons freshly-ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh, chopped za’atar or oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon thyme

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary leaves or 1/2 tablespoon dried

Cut tomatoes in quarters or use cherry tomatoes.  Chop peppers and onions into chunks convenient for skewering. If using button mushrooms, there’s no need to cut them; if using larger ones, slice into halves.

If using eggplant and/or zucchini, slice them thickly, place them in a colander, and cover with a light layer of salt. Set the colander over a bowl to catch the juices, and let the vegetables drain for half an hour. Rinse them and either put them back into the (rinsed) colander to dry or pat them dry.

If using sweet potatoes, slice them thickly and drop them into boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes, covered. Remove from the water and drain.

There should be about 8 cups of vegetables, not tightly packed, when you’re done chopping. Combine all the vegetables and pour the marinade over them. Cover and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Have plenty of wooden skewers at hand. Soak them in cold water for half an hour before spearing them into the food – this will help prevent them from burning while the vegetables cook.

Arrange the vegetables on the soaked skewers and grill 5-10 minutes on each side, till all are tender. Have fun sliding the fragrant grilled chunks off the skewers and onto your plate.



Mar 182011


Often I’ll survey the Purim baskets and feel like something’s missing. They’re not full enough, not pretty enough. What could be missing among all the cookies, candies, home-made liqueurs and preserves, fresh yeast rolls? Who knows, a Jewish woman goes meshuggah on Purim. At least, this one does.

So, to help cooks needing an eleventh-hour recipe to fill up baskets, here are links to all kinds of foods that make Purim gifts to friends and neighbors special.

How about hamine eggs?I’m making a whole bunch for Shabbat, and extras will go into Purim baskets.

Chocolate Fruit/Nut Clusters are divine, and so easy to make.

Got a sourdough starter? Make some sourdough apple muffins.

And here’s a savory cheese and tomato muffin recipe.

Honey-Orange Biscotti are good in baskets, being a fairly non-crumbly cookie.

Prune-Chocolate Bread: so, so delicious and rich.

Ma’amoul – cookies filled with dates or nuts.

Chickpea Sambusak – savory chickpea pastry

Orange Rolls are incredibly delicious. The recipe makes a lot, and you just pull them apart to pack into the baskets.

Then there are nut butters. A small jar of home-made nut butter is an original gift – and yum.

Ba’aba beh Tamur – Iraqi pastries stuffed with dates. Light and crisp.

These are just some ideas I culled from the archives. Go ahead and try one or two, or scroll through the site to get others.

I wish all of Clal Israel a Purim Sameach!



Mar 152011


I turned to my kitchen, took up my measuring cups, and got to work on something delicious.  Rich pastries stuffed with cheese, nuts, or dates.  They’re meant to be eaten on Purim, I guess, because each one hides a sweet or savory filling in the dough (symbolizing how Queen Esther hid her Jewish origins from Ahasuerosh until the time came to plead against the  genocide Haman had plotted).

I must say – this reminds me of the wry joke that goes around the Internet every so often: How do you define a Jewish holiday?

Like this: 1. They wanted to kill us. 2. We beat them. 3. Let’s eat!

Not true for all holidays of course, but close enough, close enough.

So here is what I baked today, adapted from the original recipe.

Ba’aba Beh Tamur – Iraqi Stuffed Pastries for Purim

About 30 pastries

Notes: the original recipe calls for butter. Pareve margarine works fine too. Likewise, it assumes that you’ll be mixing the dough in a mixer. I just beat everything up by hand.

Here in Israel, you can get concentrated essences of rose and orange water. They’re much stronger than the “waters” and I prefer to use them.

I substituted 1 teaspoon freshly-smashed cardamom seeds for the fennel in the recipe because I dislike fennel. Lacking either of those, use 2 teaspoons cinnamon or the zest of 1 lemon. The dough must have something aromatic or it will be too bland.

My filling was almond/pecan, the nuts ground up quickly in the food processor. I’ll include the recipe for date filling as well. Finally, the buttery dough does seem to call for cheese. I’ll suggest alternative cheeses to the original version’s.


For Dough:

1 cube fresh yeast

1 cup warm water

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground fennel seed

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons melted butter (or marg)

1 beaten egg for glazing

For Almond Filling:

1 cup ground almonds

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon each rose water and orange water or 1/4 teaspoon edible rose and orange essences.


1. Dissolve yeast in water. Add flour, baking powder, fennel or other spice, and melted butter. Mix until you have a soft dough that forms a ball.

2. Cover with plastic bag or damp cloth; allow to rise 1 hour or until doubled.

3. Preheat oven to 425°F – 200°C.

4. Work with a quarter of the dough at the time for convenience. Roll it out 1/4″ thin. Use a large biscuit cutter or glass to cut into 3″ rounds. Brush the rounds with a little water.

5. Mix filling ingredients in a small bowl. Put 1 teaspoon filling in the center of each round and fold it over. Press your fingers down all around the edges to seal, or use the tines of a fork. Brush beaten egg on pastries.

Bake 25 minutes.

Date Filling for about 30 pastries:

8 oz. – 250 grams pitted, finely chopped dates. Here you can get date paste in blocks and that’s better.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon milk

1 egg white

sesame seeds

Combine ingredients in top of a double boiler and cook 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Allow the mixture to cool and roll it into balls for stuffing the pastry. When forming the pastry, place a small ball at the center of each pastry round and pinch the sides upwards to make a closed bundle. Flip over and flatten slightly with the rolling pin. Pierce with a fork in several places. Paint the pastries with an egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake as directed above.

Cheese Filling:

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup mild yellow cheese, grated

1 teaspoon dried, crumbled za’atar, oregano or rosemary

1 finely chopped scallion

1 egg

Combine cheeses, herbs, and egg. Bake pastries as half-circles as in the almond filling.

Too good.


Mar 082011


Ah…so refreshing. Originally from the south of Italy, limoncello is becoming better known in the world as a digestif and something to toast “l’chaim” with. The lemon-based drink is also very good in cooking or baking when you want to add intense lemon flavor without the bitterness of fresh lemons.

You can buy limoncello at the liquor store. But I like things made from scratch. And come Purim time, my friends love getting it in their Purim baskets. The trick is finding unsprayed lemons because to make limoncello, you must use only the peels. Not a great idea to put pesticide-sprayed peels into vodka. But if you really, really want something, sometimes your wish is granted.

Across from the shuk, there’s a corner where several elderly people sit and sell little bunches of their garden produce for a few shekels. Once I scored a load of fresh grape leaves from an old lady there and cooked a dish I was longing for – mushrooms in grape leaves (here’s the recipe). Last week I was hurrying home from the shuk, loaded down as usual and a little impatient, when lo and behold – two bags of beautiful, home-garden lemons, on a folding chair.

The vendor was a small, thin man with big eyes under the brim of a sporty cap. I came to a halt in front of him.

“Are these lemons sprayed?”

“Nooo,” he said indignantly. “They’re from my own trees. It’s a different taste. Try them. Here – take both bags.” He stuffed the bags into the top of my shopping cart. If he hadn’t been so elderly and earnest, I would have taken only one, but as it was…those lemons looked good. All of 10 shekels for about 2 1/2 kilos of lemons picked that morning.

Now I had my unsprayed lemons. Cutting one open, the divine aroma of new citrus arose. My vendor friend was right – their sweetness and fresh flavor was beyond compare. I started my limoncello right away, to preserve the best of those essential oils in vodka, and juiced the peeled fruit for freezing.

Here’s the recipe. When you see how easy it is to make, you’ll want to go on a hike for some fresh lemons yourself.



1 bottle of vodka, 750 ml.
7 or 8 large lemons
5 cups water
3 cups sugar


1. Wash the lemons well. Peel them thinly, avoiding the white pith as much as possible. A vegetable peeler works best.

2. Pour the vodka into a wide-mouth jar and add the peels. Cover tightly and label the jar with the date.

3. Shake the jar once a day. This redistributes the essential oils in the liquid. The peels will become pale and become hard. One week of this maceration will make good limoncello, but longer – up to a month is even better. When the peels have given their all, they’ll be crisp and dry.

4. Strain the vodka into a clean jar.

5. Make a simple syrup by boiling the water and sugar together for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool and add it to the vodka.

6. Allow the limoncello to develop for 1 week. Then bottle. Store in the freezer and serve it cold. It will pour out thick and syrupy if frozen.

Smack yer lips.

Enjoy! limoncello