Sep 222014

image fish tomato cilantro

“May it be God’s will that we be like the head, and not like the tail!” And so saying, we unveil the cooked head of a fish at the holiday table. It’s one of the Rosh HaShanah simanim, traditional foods whose names play on words representing new year blessings. (For more detail on simanim, and some recipes, read this post.) The fish head has to be veiled with a napkin because it makes The Little One turn green. So we snatch the napkin off, ask for the blessing quickly, and then take the fish head away. Anything for the teenager.

Luckily, she doesn’t have a problem eating fish.

I like to serve this festive recipe on Rosh HaShanah. The fish is first fried, then gently baked in a sauce rich with tomatoes, cilantro and pine nuts. The sauce reduces until thick, and it’s so good, so herby and pungent, you want to lick the plate. The recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s Book Of Middle Eastern Food. You just can’t go wrong with Ms. Roden for inspiration.

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Sep 152014

image kosher roast beef

When I cook beef, I want it very tender indeed, and very savory.

I like it slow-cooked, so a knife cuts through richly and smoothly. Thinking of something festive for Rosh HaShanah, something different from the usual chicken and turkey, my mother’s pot roasts came to mind. Abita cooked pot roast in traditional American style:  the beef, in a little broth, with onions, carrots, and a couple of bay leaves. But I’ve lived in Israel so long, I can’t keep Mediterranean herbs out of my pots, and beef always seems to call for wine.

The beef I bought is called fileh medumeh in Hebrew. My son, Eliezer, assures me that the cut was London tip.

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Aug 212013

image sinyeh druze kebabs

The Middle-Eastern way in cooking is to use simple, natural ingredients grown (or raised) close to where the cook lives. And in the village communities of the Galilee, traditional recipes – the ones passed down intact from mother to daughter, from one neighbor to another, over centuries – are cooked the same way each time.

You won’t see fusion cooking or dishes jazzed up to suit modern trends in Arab, Druze, or Circassian village homes. The families would simply refuse to eat them. That’s not how they remember their mother’s food. Memories preserve culture, so we’re grateful for those stubborn husbands and kids that resist innovative cooking. Original recipes would get lost otherwise.

With Rosh HaShanah approaching, you might consider cooking Sinyeh for one of the festive meals. It’s rich but not cloying, and almost a complete meal by itself. Just make a simple rice, mix up a leafy salad, and there, you’re done. A traditional dish borrowed from the Druze might become a welcome innovation on your yom tov menu.

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Sep 132012

Braised short ribs is what we’re eating on Rosh HaShanah night.

And the great thing is, you cook them ahead and it reheats even better than the day before. Also, any excess fat hardens while the meat is stored in the fridge, so you can spoon it off before reheating. The ribs keep in the fridge for several days with no harm done.

After all the simanim – and the Little One’s favorite favorite is the leak tart in that post – we hardly have room for a major meal. But the old saying declares, “No celebration without meat,” so I fix something special and beefy. With the challah (recipe here)  and the simanim as salads, that’s plenty for us.

I seasoned this meat with a Middle-Eastern mix of crushed spices. If you lack a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, just scatter the spices around the meat, whole, and stir them around a few times while the dish cooks.

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Sep 112012


The autumn holiday are fast approaching, and the Wise Housewife has her Rosh HaShanah menus all planned out.

But I’m not always very wise. I’m still leafing through cookbooks, jotting down notes and making shopping lists. As usual, I think, How can you put away 4 or 5 meat meals over two days? Especially when Rosh HaShanah closely follows Shabbat.

And as always, the solution is at least one dairy or fish meal over the holiday, usually at dinner of the second night. What we like is fish, like the luscious Moroocan Shabbat fish,  followed by a light dairy dessert, like malabi or traditional Spanish flan.

When I was lingering in front of the fishmonger’s shop in the shuk this week, some handsome grey mullets caught my eye. The next stand over had juicy-looking tomatoes, and the one after that, fresh green herbs temptingly displayed in tight bunches. It came together with saffron in my mind. So here’s what I cooked. It’ll make a great alternative Rosh HaShanah meal.

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Apr 062011


Yes, of course I took the recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book, in two volumes, was a gift from my journalist sister Dina when I visited her in Calgary. The sales lady had to search the store for the complete set because there’s been a run on Volume I since the Julia and Julia movie was released. Well, I wanted both books, to work my way slowly through the kashrut-adaptable recipes. Which might take years.

Meantime, I’m with boeuf. It’s a handsome dish for Shabbat or a major holiday like Rosh HaShanah, and I’m thinking that substituting fine (cake) matzah meal for the flour, it will be an excellent dish to serve on Passover.

Julia Child would have OK’d the changes I made to her recipe, I think. Reading her autobiographical My Life in France, a sense of her warmth and humanity rises from the pages like the scent of good cooking. I’m sure she understood about kosher dietary restrictions. And after all, that’s how Jewish cuisine evolves, by adapting local recipes to kosher standards.

If you want to be historically accurate, boeuf bourguignon must be cooked with bacon. That’s no option for kosher cooks, but there is an umami-contributing alternative: shmaltz. (Here’s how to make that wonderful, fragrant, old-world shmaltz.)

Other flavorful ingredients in this potchkeyed recipe include soy sauce and dried mushrooms. More garlic than Julia called for, but then, I must have a constant high level of garlic in my bloodstream or I start feeling…pale. Or something.


  • Use beef with some fat running through the flesh. I buy shoulder. Here in Israel it’s the no. 5 cut.
  • While Julia’s recipe instructs you to drain the bacon fat, I find that you should keep the shmaltz to brown the vegetables. The dish is not at all greasy, although you can certainly draw a couple of paper towels over the surface when it’s done to get rid of  fat.
  • I use an entire bottle of  dry red wine as the cooking liquid. The classic recipe calls for veal stock but since I cook so little beef, I don’t keep it around. Sometime, I might try chicken or turkey stock, but meantime, wine makes a rich, flavorful sauce. Only dry red wine, please, and while it shouldn’t be plonk, it shouldn’t be an expensive bottle either.  (Israelis -most  Segel brand wines are inexpensive yet drinkable  – I usually use one of those  or another in a comparable price range.)
  • I don’t strain the sauce, although maybe I should. Nobody’s complained yet.
  • If you leave the soy sauce out and substitute fine (cake)  matzah flour, this is an impressive and easy dish to serve on Passover.
  • Alright, so I usually leave out the classic fresh sautéed mushrooms and cooked whole small onions that go into the pan almost just before serving. But if you want to, cook 18-24 pearl onions in stock and sauté 500 grams – 1 lb. fresh, thickly sliced mushrooms in olive oil. Add them to the pan after step 7.

What I can say is that everyone who eats this dish likes it. And after you’ve made it once, you’ll see how easy it is. Putting it together takes maybe half an hour, then the oven does all the work. It’s delicious re-heated too.

Kosher Bœuf Bourguignon

printable version here

Serves 4


1 kg. – 2.2 lbs. beef, cut into large cubes

2 tablespoons shmaltz

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

1 large onion, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

2 tablespoons flour or fine matzah meal

1 750-ml. bottle of dry red wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup dried, sliced Porcini or other mushrooms

1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce

2 bay leaves

1 large sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 cloves garlic, minced


Preheat oven to 450° F – 220° C.

1. Pat the beef chunks with paper towels to dry surface moisture.

2. In a large, heavy pan, melt the shmaltz. Add the olive oil. Let the fats get quite hot.

3. Sauté the beef chunks in the hot fat, a few at a time. Turn them over so that all sides brown.Remove the browned beef from the pan to a platter. I use tongs for this.

4. Sauté the onion and carrot in the same pan for about 5 minutes. Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle salt and pepper over everything. Mix with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the flour over all and mix again.

5. Put the uncovered pan in the oven for 5 minutes. Mix the meat and brown it again for another 5 minutes. Place the pan on the  stovetop, over medium heat, and turn the oven down to 325° F – 160°C.

6. Pour the wine into the beef and vegetables. Add tomato paste, garlic,  soy sauce, and dried mushrooms. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste. Simmer the stew for 5 minutes. Place the bay leaves and thyme on top of the beef and push them in a little with a spoon so that they flavor the cooking liquid.

7. Cover the beef and put it in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, then check to see if it’s fork-tender. Let it cook 1/2 hour longer if needed.  When you judge it’s ready, take the stew out of the oven and skim the fat off if liked. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Add optional onions and fresh mushrooms now.

Garnish the stew with a little parsley and serve with plain boiled potatoes, rice, or noodles. Mighty good.


Sep 082010

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Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous year תשע”א – from my Israeli Kitchen to yours.

Sep 072010

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Light and honeysome, spicy and not too sweet. A good Rosh HaShanah cake.

But don’t try baking it in a tube pan, like I did. It needs to spread out and rise. I’d forgotten that. So my first try looked like the work of a nervous bride:  it overflowed and managed to burn while staying raw at the bottom. I was disgusted. Sad. To console myself, I sang the How Long Blues around the house till all the neighborhood dogs howled in sympathetic chorus.

Never mind. Today, I closed all the windows and turned the air conditioning on so I could sing in peace while I baked the cake again.  And it looks and smells so good, now my problem is hiding it from Husband and the Little One till Yom Tov.

We all should only have such tsuris.

Honey Chiffon Cake


4 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey

1 cup oil

3 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup strong tea


Preheat the oven to 300° F, 150° C.

1. Have ready 3 bowls: one deep, and two medium-sized.

2. In one of the medium bowls, beat the egg whites till stiff. Gradually add the sugar, beating constantly, till all the sugar is incorporated.

3. In the deep bowl, beat the egg yolks till light.  Beat in the honey, then the oil. It will be a thick emulsion.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and soda, the spices and salt together into the second medium bowl.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the egg/honey mix, alternating with the tea. Start and end with the flour mixture.

6. Mix the egg white mixture into the batter, folding it in gently but making sure that it’s well incorporated.

7. Pour into a greased and floured 9″ x 13″ cake pan.

Bake for 1 hour.
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Sep 042010

image-sweet-potato-lentil salad

We call them sweet potatoes. That is, I always have. On my recent visit to the States, I found that they’re called yams. Either way, it’s a recipe that fits in well with the upcoming three-day Rosh HaShanah/Shabbat holiday because you can cook it ahead of time. Kept in a tightly-closed container, it keeps well for two days in the fridge. No mayo, eggs, or other fragile ingredients, and the combination of sweet potatoes (or yams) with lentils and onions is tasty, satisfying and colorful.

If you have vegetarians at the table, this is a good way to show you care.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Salad


3 cups of washed, but not peeled, sweet potatoes sliced in bite-sized circles

1/4 cup black or green lentils

1/2 cup of salted water for cooking the lentils

1 medium onion

Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more if liked

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons of maple or silan date syrup

salt and pepper

3 large scallions, green parts only


1. In a small pot, cook the lentils, covered, in the salted 1/2 cup of water. Cook over a small flame and taste to make sure the lentils are tender. If they look like they’re drying out but still not tender, add a tablespoon or two of water.

2. Meantime, cook the sweet potato slices in plenty of lightly salted water till tender; about 10 minutes. Keep a sharp eye on them because they should not cook till mushy. Once mushy, they won’t serve for salad.

3. Slice the onion thinly.

4. In a small bowl, make a dressing of the lemon juice, olive oil, syrup, and a little salt and pepper.

5. While the vegetables are still hot, put them in a bowl with the sliced onions and pour the dressing over all. Stir gently, with a wooden spoon.

6. Allow the salad to cool, covered. Taste it and add more of the dressing ingredients if wished. Slice up the scallions and scatter them over the salad, mixing gently once more.

7. Chill the salad, covered, and serve cold or at room temperature.

The Little One gave this salad the Teen Food Seal of Approval and is noshing on the leftovers  as I type.  A palpable hit!

Aug 302010


Okay, light eaters – here’s another easy dish for the Rosh HaShanah table.This features the juicier dark meat of chicken, covered in a nutty, herby, almond crust to protect it while baking. I fixed it for Shabbat so I could photograph it for you (before Shabbat) – but never said so to the Little One, who ate two.

It takes 10 minutes to prepare and about half an hour in the oven. Figure on 1-2 pieces per serving, depending on people’s appetites. The adults ate one each and were satisfied, but hungry growing young people in your house may want more.

The first thing is to get deboned chicken thighs (in Israel, Pargiot). The next thing is to prepare one bowl for the beaten eggs and another bowl for the crumb/almond mix.

Then…but I’m giving it away. It’s so fast to make, it’s fun.

Chicken Thighs in an Almond Crust

adapted from Al HaShulchan magazine, July 2009 edition

8 portions


8 deboned chicken thighs

100 grams – 1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds

200 grams – 1-1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon crushed, dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly-ground black pepper

olive oil to drizzle


Preheat oven to 180° C – 350° F

1. In one bowl, mix the almonds and bread crumbs.

2. In the other bowl, beat the egs with the soy sauce, crushed garlic, salt, and some pepper.

3. Dip both sides of the chicken thighs in the egg, then in the crumb mixture.

4. Roll up and place each piece of chicken on a baking tray lined with baking paper. If lots of the crumb mixture has fallen off the pieces, just pat some back on.

5. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover all loosely with a sheet of foil. Don’t tuck the edges in. You want to keep the almond crust from burning, but to bake, not poach, the chicken.

6. Bake 30 minutes. The crust should be golden and the chicken tender.

Note: This dish reheats nicely on a hotplate or in a dry skillet over a flame-tamer. Keep the chicken tightly covered with foil when reheating, so it doesn’t dry out.



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