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
 

image-stuffed-hasselback-beet

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
 

image-spinach-fritters

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
 

image-apricot-cheesecake

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
 

image-spinach-mushroom-quiche

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?

Quiche.

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*

Method:

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.

Method:

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!

Soup:

Potato-Leek Soup

Mushroom Soup

Artichoke and Mushroom Soup

Baked Dishes:

Spinach Gratin

Qeijadinhas, Brazilian Cheese Tartlets

Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes

Rice:

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

Bread:

Herbed Cheese-Swirl Bread

Desserts

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 202009
 

That good old dairy holiday is creeping up on us.  In just over a week, we celebrate Shavuot (on Thursday, the 28th of this month). The holiday runs into Shabbat. Lots of cooking in store, and many of us are also working out a dairy-based menu for one holiday meal. This link explains the custom of eating dairy on Shavuot.

The supermarket explodes with every variety of cheese, ready-made cheesecake, quiches and pasta dishes. The whole country goes into a lactose frenzy. So here is the first of my Shavuot suggestions: the light  spinach gratin. It’s a  good alternative to the delicious but heavy blintzes of tradition. Cheescake recipe comes next week. Can’t give up the cheescake!

Gratin of Spinach and Rice

serves 3 as a main dish, 4 as a first course or side dish

Ingredients:

4 Tblsp. rice

2 1/2 cups frozen spinach (265 grams)

1 medium onion

A little olive oil

1/3 cup slivered, blanched almonds or other nut – or 1/4 cup cooked chickpeas

3 Tblsp. – 50 grams -  butter

2 Tblsp. flour

2 1/4 cups – 1/2 liter – milk

1 bay leaf

a smidgeon of dried thyme

1 tsp. salt

pepper to taste – I like a few flakes of cayenne plus a shake of white pepper

3 Tblsp. ground Parmesan cheese

1 Tblsp. more butter

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F – 17° C.

2. Prepare your gratin dish – either cover it with parchment paper or butter and flour it very well.

3. Boil the rice till cooked through but still firm, in salted water. Drain it and put it aside.

4. Chop the onion. Sauté it in a little olive oil till the pieces are golden.

5. Add the spinach and let the vegetables cook through together over medium heat, stirring often.

Take the spinach mixture off the flame, cover it, and put it aside. Optimally, you’ll be uniting the ingredients while they’re all still warm.

6. Heat the milk but don’t let it boil. You want it quite warm but not simmering. Turn off the flame and cover the milk pan.

7. Make a bechamel sauce, using a large pan. A large pan will save washing up, as later you’ll be blending the rest of the ingredients into the sauce.

To make the sauce: over a low flame, melt the butter. Throw the bay leaf and the little bit of dried thyme in with the butter and let them heat up with it. Add the flour slowly, stirring the while. When the flour and butter have almalgamated and the mixture starts to froth, slowly pour in the warm milk. Add the salt and pepper. Stir, stir, stir. 5 minutes or less will do it. You should have a thick, cooked-through sauce. Don’t allow the bottom to burn: stir, stir stir!

Remove the bay leaf.  Normally spinach is paired with nutmeg, and if that’s your preference, go ahead and use it instead of the bay leaf and thyme. I happen to like this dish without nutmeg.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce; blend.

9. Add the rice to the pot; blend again.

Now taste for seasoning and if necessary, add more salt and pepper, a little at a time. Blend.

10. Add the almonds or chickpeas; mix it all up well.

11. Pour the mixture into your prepared gratin dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the surface and dot it with butter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it’s light and the top has a golden, slightly blistered crust.

Serve the gratin in bowls, it’s a little soupy.

We enjoyed it for lunch, with sliced salad vegetables and some corn.

The drink in the glass is some of my Raspberry Shrub.

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