May 302014


tian zucchini potatoes recipe

Many readers have complained that I’ve been neglecting this blog. I can’t defend myself, because it’s true.

I’ve been thinking, and I hope, growing in different directions.  I’ve been writing for other publications. These writings, not all of them food-related, leave my mind sort of empty after hours of research, writing and revising. Not much brain power is left for my personal reflections. Cooking and even eating, have been hasty, seat-of-my-pants operations for the past long while.

But food and the urge to cook are still on my mind. They always will be. So I’m returning, maybe a little changed, a little freer. And Reader, I’m always aware that you’re there, and that some are wishing I were back here already. This summer it’ll be nine years since I opened a blog, named it Israeli Kitchen, and started to post. I write this with a feeling of returning home, somehow, like a child who left her parents’ home to travel and returns different, but still loving.

So here’s a French variation of Italian frittata and Persian eggah, the tian. You can also call it a gratin.  The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Elizabeth David, and I found it in her “Is There A Nutmeg In The House?” It’s a simple combination of eggs and vegetables, often flavored with cheese or garlic, then baked. You can substitute chard or spinach for the zukes, use the same measure of cooked rice instead of potatoes. Season as you like. It’s a rustic dish that you can adapt to the ingredients you have on hand. I like to serve this tian as the main dish at dinner, adding a leafy salad and a small cheese platter to round out the meal.

And if you’re looking for something interesting for Shavuot, something that emphasizes vegetables rather than cheese, tian is the ticket.

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May 132013

Shavuot whipped cheese mousse

Rich, yet light, with just the right touch of fruit to make a festive Shavuot dessert.

Even after a rich dairy meal, the gang wants a dairy dessert. And who am I to say nay? I’m a sucker for anything white and creamy, myself. Like the apricot swirl cheesecake I concocted a couple of years ago.

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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.

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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.

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Jun 052011


Do you have to be Jewish to love cheesecake?

Well, no.

But it helps.

Shavuot  is coming up next Tuesday night. We have reasons  – religious reasons – for eating dairy on Shavuot. For many, that’s cheesecake.

And what, you might ask, rolling your eyes, does cheesecake have to do with receiving the word of G-d on Mt. Sinai?

Well, nothing.

The custom is to eat dairy. Cheesecake is modern tradition, based on the indisputable fact that it’s delicious.

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Aug 132010


Leafy greens are one of my favorite foods. But not that of the Little One. To get them into her, I have to get sneaky and combine them with a buttery crust, preferably some mushrooms, and cheese. She thinks it’s a dairy meal, I call it vegetarian. So what does she get?


Actually I’m embarrassed about this quiche. It’s delectable to eat – looks pretty on the table – satisfies my Jewish Mother Feed’em Requirements and there’s never a scrap left over. But Elizabeth David, food writer whose scholarly, elegant works I’ve been re-reading, would turn her nose up at it. Quiche, according to the late, great Ms. David, real quiche, needs only cream and eggs, and “a small amount of streaky bacon.” No cheese. No vegetables of any description.

image washed spinach leaves

Oh dear. Well, times have changed. The classic Quiche Lorraine is still a thing of wonder (minus the bacon for kosher folk), but the cheese-and-veg-loaded tart is accepted by all as quiche too. So here mine is.

Years ago I found that the basic crust recipe from Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest works best for me. I don’t even get the food processor out to mix it up. I just rub the butter into the salty flour, scooping up more flour from the bowl to release any butter clinging to my fingers. I like the friction of grainy flour in my hands. The work relaxes me. But for those who don’t like that idea, just whirl your crust ingredients in the food processor.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

Ingredients for Crust:

1/4 cup cold butter, diced

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

water or milk – by tablespoons, as needed*


1. Rub the butter into the flour, or put the flour into the food processor and add the diced butter – till the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the salt.

2. Add the liquid, one tablespoon at a time. * Note about the liquid for crust: Molly Katzen’s recipe calls for “up to 3 tablespoons.” That’s for American flour. Working with Israeli flour, I always need up to 5 tablespoons for the dough to hold together. Go slowly and stop adding liquid as soon as the dough holds together.

3. Make a ball of the dough, wrap it up in plastic wrap or a clean plastic bag, and chill it for an hour in the fridge.

Meantime, prepare your filling.

Ingredients for Filling:

2 cups fresh or frozen spinach

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk, buttermilk, or loose sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

Firm cheese to slice and lay over crust – about 200 grams – 7 oz. or 3/4 cup * Israelis: I use  Hemed cheese. Katzen recommends Swiss or Cheddar as this first cheese.

1/2 cup another, mild cheese, for filling. Brie is good, but any mild cheese is good too.


1. If using fresh spinach, wash it and steam it quickly in its own rinse water. Add no salt. If using thawed-out frozen spinach, steam it with no added water or salt. Chop it up coarsely.

Cooked, chopped spinach

2. Chop the onion. Sauté it in a little olive oil or butter till it’s beginning to soften. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Sauté the vegetables till the mushrooms start to release their liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the fire.

3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk and beat again. Add a pinch of salt and another of pepper. Set the bowl aside – in the fridge if the kitchen is hot.

4. Slice the first cheese. Chop the second cheese into large dice.

cubes yellow cheese
Assemble the Quiche:

1. Roll the dough out and fit it into your baking pan. I usually place a sheet of baking paper on the pan first because I hate to scrub out baking pans. But it’s not as pretty.

2. Fit the slices of firm cheese over the raw crust.

raw crust with cheese

3. Mix the sautéed vegetables into the spinach; mound all on top of the crust.

vegetables in quiche crust

4. Pour the beaten egg/milk mixture over and into the vegetables. Dot the cubed cheese all over.

quiche filled with custard too

Transfer (carefully) to the oven, pre-heated to 375° F -190°C. Bake 35-40 minutes.


Finished quiche, sideways

This dairy, vegetarian dish is light yet filling – comfortable for lunch or dinner these hot days. Keep it in mind for Shavuot, too. Enjoy!

May 172010

Don’t get me wrong. I adore dairy foods, more than what’s good for me.  But it seems that the great dairy festival that’s Shavuot is as hard to take as the Purim’s junk food orgy. The day after Shavuot, the entire country loses productive time dealing with dairy overload.

Listening to a few friends’ menus, I notice lots of dishes loaded with cheese, and lots of starchy foods – most of them stuffed with cheese. Bourekas, blintzes, and lasagna, all at one meal. Even salads must have cubes of feta on Shavuot, apparently. I mean – I often fix a big salad dotted with feta. But lasagna followed by eggplant parmesan followed by cheesy baked potatoes followed by…a big stomach ache. Where’s the balance here?

The Israeli dairy industry depends on everyone buying lots of soft and hard cheeses for Shavuot. They push dairy as hard as they can in their advertising. And I must say that many of the recipes they provide look divine. I love dairy, darn it. And carbs, I love carbs too.

Darn it.

Three factors keep my Shavuot menu cheese-moderate. One is, my son-in-law’s custom is to eat two meat meals on Shavuot and keep the dairy only for the third meal, at the evening of Shavuot day. Since my married daughter and her family spend every Shavuot with us,  I honor his custom.

Another is that my husband, who also loves cheese, can tolerate only small amounts of dairy.

And then, there’s my own feeling, as explained above.

But don’t get me wrong – there will be dairy on the table.  I bought an irresistible chunk of sheep’s milk Tomme for holiday cooking and post-holiday eating. The grownups look forward to my New York cheesecake, so I’m baking one. I made a strawberry ice cream to indulge my little grandsons, who I know will ignore the cheesecake. That’s it.

The menu for the one dairy meal (subject to change at my whim):

  • Challah
  • Choumous
  • Stuffed vine leaves (hand-made but bought at the shuk)
  • Sliced tomatoes with an herb vinaigrette, and plenty of sliced cucumbers for the little ones
  • Orange-glazed salmon
  • Eggplant casserole, which nobody but Husband and I will eat
  • Spinach quiche for the eggplant haters
  • New York Cheesecake - strawberry ice cream

Here are more suggestions for Shavuot. Enjoy, and eat in good health!


Potato-Leek Soup

Mushroom Soup

Artichoke and Mushroom Soup

Baked Dishes:

Spinach Gratin

Qeijadinhas, Brazilian Cheese Tartlets

Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes


Risotto with Nettles and Carrots (substitute spinach for nettles)

Fish and Eggs:

Fish Baked in a Walnut Crust

Grilled Fish in a Spicy Lemon Marinade

Shakshouka, Mimi’s Way


Herbed Cheese-Swirl Bread


Rice Pudding With Drunken Raisins

Flim-Flam Flan

Malabi, Middle-Eastern Milk Pudding

and the very best for last…

Wicked, Wicked Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche and Whisky Glaze

May 272009

Got back from the supermarket in one piece, for which I do render thanks. Milchig Madness has descended upon the population of Israel, and only the lactose-intolerant will be spared. Be warned…

If you like your cheesecake creamy and rich, this one’s for you. The shot of booze lightens the ensemble and adds a touch of luxury.

Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche and Whiskey Glaze

serves 8.  You can use rum instead of whiskey.

Ingredients for crust:

150-grams of granola cookies or cookie of choice

50 grams butter

1/2  tsp. cinnamon

2 Tblsp. sugar, more or less to taste

Ingredients for Filling:


For Israelis,  500 grams 5% white cheese that has sat in a sieve for at least one hour, to rid it of excess water.

Or use the specialty “gvina le-afiyah” that appears in markets at this time of year.

For readers outside of Israel: 500 grams – 2 cups – of any soft, creamy white cheese.

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla essence

1/2 cup dulce de leche

Ingredients for Topping:

1 container of 15% sour cream

1 Tblsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla essence

1/4 cup dulce de leche, minus 2 Tblsp.


The 2 Tblsp. dulce de leche reserved from above

2 Tblsp. whiskey

I. Make the Crust

1. Melt the butter.

2. Crush the cookies in a food processor with the cinnamon.

3. Combine the butter and cookie crumbs and add sugar if your taste so dictates. Mix well.

4. Spread the crumb mixture in a 9″ round cake pan and level it out with your fingers. Put the pan aside.

II. Make the Filling

1. Combine the cheese, eggs, sugar,  and vanilla. Mix well.

2. Pour the filling onto the crust.

3. Take spoonfuls of the dulce de leche and plop it down in pieces all over the filling.

Draw a knife through the filling a few times to distribute the dulce and marble the cake.

4. Bake for 35 minutes as 170° C – 32° F. It will be firm but still tender, maybe a bit wobbly in the middle. Sort of like a Jewish grandmother.

III. Make the Topping

1. Mix the sour cream, vanilla essence, and sugar. Add the larger part of the dulce and mix again.

2. Spread this topping over the cake as soon as the cake is ready.

3. Mix the reserved 2 Tblsp. of dulce with the 2 Tblsp. whiskey – it will blend, just keep mixing.

4. Drizzle it over the surface of the topping.

5. Either leave it like that or draw a knife gently over the topping/glaze to marble it  (you’ll feel the firmness of the cake underneath – try not to cut it).

6. Bake the cake a further 10 minutes.

All the cake to cool, then refrigerate it 6-8 hours before serving.

All you need with this is a cup of espresso followed by an hour of healthy exercise.

May 262009

This is our family recipe for cheesecake. It’s more elaborate than the cookie-crust, easy-bake varieties, but so worth the few minutes extra work.  Not too sweet,  light and creamy at the same time, with just that hint of lemon and vanilla that makes you feel like you need another slice now, before someone else lays hands on it.  The recipe is easily doubled. I often do that, because there won’t be enough for everyone otherwise.

You’ll need something for beating egg whites: I used to whip them by hand but considering middle age and carpal shmarpal, I now plug in a hand mixer to do it. Have three bowls at hand, 1 large, 1 medium, 1 small. Prepare a baking pan either with baking paper or by greasing it with sweet butter and coating it with flour.  And do not preheat the oven: you want to start baking cold.

New York Cheesecake

6 servings


6 eggs

3 Tblsp. sugar, plus 6 Tblsp. later

500 grams – 1 lb. – 2 cups –  soft, creamy white cheese – here in Israel I use 9% white cheese

1 tsp. vanilla essence

Juice of 1 lemon

6 Tblsp. sifted flour


1. Separate the eggs.

Keep the whites in the large bowl.

Put 3 of the yolks in the medium bowl; in the small bowl, the other 3 yolks.

2. In the medium bowl, beat the 3 yolks with the 3 Tblsp. sugar and all of the cheese. Mix well till smooth.

3. Whip all the egg whites till stiff.

4. To the whites, add the 6 Tblsp. sugar and whip till the whites make smooth peaks.

5. Add:

the flour

the lemon juice

the 3 yolks from the small bowl and

the vanilla.

Mix very well. This is the batter.

6. Pour 2/3 of the batter into the baking pan.

7. Mix the remaining third of the batter into the cheese mixture. Mix well.

8. Pour this new mixture straight into the center of the batter in the pan.

Bake at  300°F – 150° C for one hour.  Turn the oven off, but don’t remove the cake: just open the oven door a crack and let the cake cool inside. Once cooled down, store the cake in the fridge.

My cake overbaked a bit – ideally it’s not so dark on top. But it was light and toothsome all the same. Enjoy, it’s yum!

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