Vegetarian Enchiladas

January 1, 2013 § 4 Comments

A few weeks ago my favorite chef instructor from culinary school sent me a message to check in and see how I was doing. “I’ve been checking your blog,” she said, “But you haven’t posted in so long I was starting to get worried.” Oy.

She’s so right. My little neglected blog sits here growing more and more dusty as life whirls on and I come to terms with the fact that I cannot do it all. When I first started my blog in 2009, I was happy and excited with how much joy it brought me, both because I felt proud and inspired by being a part of the online food-blogging community, and because of the responses I got from friends and strangers. At the time, Auralee was just 2 and I had also recently taken over the ballet school I had been teaching at for many years, while often teaching at the culinary school on the weekends. Friends would cheer me on with encouraging words like, “I don’t know how you do it all!” And I did feel rather super-human. But the truth was that I had a charmed life.

Twelve years in the same city (the longest I’d ever lived anywhere, consecutively), afforded me connections and the support of friends and family. We had stumbled into a housing situation with friends in which we paid an amount of rent so low for the area it was unheard of. From the comfort of our little third floor, Victorian apartment, I cooked and blogged in the mornings, while my uniquely independent child played with her toys and entertained herself for hours. When Jeff got home in the afternoon, I was off to teach my dance students, take class myself, and come home to our little bohemian life with some Thai take-out and hand-crafted beers from the gourmet market on the corner.

When we decided to move to Israel, part of the decision had to do with Jeff’s school. I knew that our life would be drastically different when he began his rigorous master’s program, and I theorized that the low tuition we would pay if he went to school in Israel would make life easier for us than it would be in Boston. I’ll never know how true that is, since I have no basis for comparison. And while it should not have come a surprise that having a husband in school full time and a small child, while trying to work and make ends meet, would be difficult, I still was not prepared for the full weight of it.

Luckily, humans are adaptable, and as long as I don’t think too much about real Pad Thai, I am able to truly enjoy the unique and often magical things about being here, of which there are many.

But I love my blog, and since I don’t want to let it die, I might need to scrape together a little extra energy to share some cooking with you all (which of course happens every day, whether I manage to write about it or not!). Thanks to those of you who still read and comment, even as my posting-frequency dwindles, and to Chef Martha for reminding me that some folks use it as a way to check up on me while we are far away.

Corn tortillas

Corn tortillas, found at the Gluten and Sugar Free store on Agripas St, Jerusalem. Ingredients: Corn, water & salt.

Shabbat Enchiladas

After several attempts over the last few weeks at making Pad-Thai that tastes even vaguely similar to the stuff we get at our beloved Rod Dee (not going to happen without lime and whatever other magical mystery ingredients they put in there), I finally stepped into more familiar and successful territory with old staples, like veggie maki rolls (hurray! So easy and Auralee will eat them too) and mexican-ish food, which is also not to be found here unless made at home. After consulting with some food-friends, I hunted down corn tortillas at the Gluten Free store on Agripas here in Jerusalem. They sell them frozen, but I thought they were pretty good, and they did not break or crack too much when I rolled them. If you need info/directions to the Gluten Free store feel free to message me. This recipe is entirely my own, and not authentic in the least. Enjoy!

Ingredients

8 corn tortillas

1 cup dried black beans (you can also use canned)

large red onion, chopped

2 small zucchinis, chopped

2 small yellow zucchinis (summer squash), chopped

1 cup canned/frozen corn kernels

fresh spinach, washed well and coarsely chopped

cilantro, to taste

spice blend- I had my favorite spice guy (Hamami on Rechov HaShazif in the shuk) mix up a blend of mexican-ish spices for me. He used smoked paprika, oregano, cracked red chile, and a chicken spice-rub, but you can play with this and make your own.

3-4 cups tomato puree (I used the organic kind they sell in a glass bottle at the health food store)

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1 -2 cups grated, good quality cheddar cheese (only at Basher)

chopped fresh green chili pepper for garnish

Prep

Leave tortillas out to defrost while you make the filling.

If you are thinking ahead, you can soak the beans the night before, and they will boil up quickly. Otherwise, just check them for stones, and put them in pot, covered by a few inches with water, bring to a boil (do NOT ADD SALT) and let simmer until tender ~ 1.5 hours.

In a wide saute pan, gently heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add onions, sauteing until very soft. Add a few pinches of your spice mix and the chopped zucchini and summer squash. Saute everything over medium heat, adding salt and pepper and more spice mix of you choose. Stir in corn and beans when they are ready along with chopped cilantro, to taste. Taste and adjust spices.

Set veggie mixture aside.

In a clean pan and using nothing other than the water clinging to their leaves, gently cook spinach until wilted. Set aside.

Heat the tomato puree, adding some of your spice mixture, salt, pepper and any other embellishments you choose. Set aside.

Now you have all your enchilada components ready. Heat oven to 350°F/170°C and have a lasagna pan ready. Pour about a cup of the tomato puree into the bottom of the lasagna pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the cooked spinach over the puree and season it with a little salt and pepper. On a cutting board, lay out corn tortilla and fill with zucchini mixture (1/4-1/3 cup filling). Roll the tortilla up and place seam-down in the pan. Repeat with the 7 remaining tortillas (or however many you can fit), you may have some leftover filling, which is delicious on it’s own or in an omelet. When all your tortillas are snugly rolled up side by side, pour the remaining spiced puree over them, trying to make sure to cover all the tortillas so they don’t get too dry, top everything with the grated cheddar cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or so, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is nicely melted. If one of those things starts happening too fast, you can cover the pan with some greased foil (so the cheese doesn’t stick to it).

Serve hot, with chopped more cilantro and fresh green chilis.

The Language of the Shuk

September 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

When new English-speaking acquaintances ask me how I learned to speak Hebrew, it is always in the same tone of voice: slightly bewildered surprise. They are often struggling themselves with modern Hebrew, even after years of study in a Hebrew school or Jewish day school. I will speak freely here about one thing I do well, since it is through no exceptional talent that my Hebrew is nearly unrecognizable as anything other than native (on good days). I lived here as a child, I tell them, and usually the conversation ends there. The truth is more complex, and (I think) more interesting than that, however. I learned Hebrew very carefully, and through a system I began devising (somewhat unknowingly) when I was 9 years old.

When my family moved to Jerusalem a few months before my 10th birthday, Hebrew was already familiar to my ears. We had spent summers here and during the school year I attended a Jewish day school outside of Boston where we learned the Hebrew alphabet alongside the English one. Still, I was hardly prepared to be thrust into an Israeli public school on the first day of 5th grade, my loud and aggressive classmates barking in quick, clipped slang as they disobeyed the teacher’s orders to sit down and open their notebooks. When a red-headed girl spoke to me, I recognized only three words in her sentence: “you”, “new”, and “mine”. It was in that moment that I understood that my survival hinged on two things: the red-headed girl’s kind, open smile, and my ability to listen very, very well.

Fifth grade was boot camp for my Hebrew. I can’t say that I learned one other thing that year (certainly not math), but by the time 6th grade began, I sounded exactly like the other children in my neighborhood, at school, and in my Scouts troupe. Had we stayed on as a family, my reading, writing and, in fact, my entire identity would have been quick to follow suit. But my Israeli story is in parts. In the 7th grade we returned to the States, and the next time I lived in Israel was in high school. My 5th grade Hebrew had some catching up to do, and I fell back on a familiar strategy — I listened, parroted, and soon the teenage phrases in the air became my own.

As a college student in Beer Sheva the outdoor market was my favorite place to practice my more grown-up Hebrew. Half the shuk being Arab in Beer Sheva, I learned Arabic words and slang that still tinge my speaking today, occasionally confusing others when my outer appearance does not match the Sepahrdi-colloquial-working class lilt of my words. “Where are you from?” Israelis sometimes ask –not because they cannot place my accent outside the country, but because they cannot place me in it. “Are you French?” “From Bat Yam (a lower-class suburb of Tel Aviv)?” I give them the short answer, not bothering to explain that I learned my Hebrew from children, from the Shuk, from Eyal Golan songs, and from the street.

And now back in (a much more religious) Jerusalem, home to Hebrew University but also Machane Yehuda, I listen to the Hebrew of the Persian spice vendors (musical), to my Kurdish neighbors (colloquial), and to the young women who come for alterations at my shop (educated), and my varied collection of sayings and of ways of expressing myself continue to grow. And even though it fails me from time to time, and little old Ashkenazi ladies who probably taught the language to the Pioneers correct my grammar, I love my spoken Hebrew and its mix of inflections. I love that it is mine.

A couple of readers have asked  for the recipe for the Tomato Zucchini gratin, pictured above, left, in the photo from this week’s meals for the L Family.  It is a fairly simple recipe and I am posting the link here. A couple notes: no need to salt and sweat the zucchini. The tomatoes however do benefit from being drained. You can just saute all the zucchini at once if you have a wide enough saute pan. If cow’s milk cheese is a problem, you can use pecorino, which is made from sheep’s milk. Enjoy!

Cooking at the Casa de L

August 27, 2012 § 4 Comments

sweet potato ravioli have been a regular request at my private chef-gig

Last spring we were very sad to say goodbye to one of our favorite families in Nachloat, the Fisch’s. Mo, Caitlin, and Ben were possibly the first family we’ve ever known where each of us liked our counterpart in their family, as well as the whole. Caitlin and I would chat happily while Ben and Auralee played after school, Jeff and Mo talked easily about their shared interests, and Auralee confessed that she would like to marry Ben, after we explained that she could neither marry Jeff nor Saba (my dad). When they departed Jerusalem for greener pastures, Caitlin left me a parting gift whose great value I was soon to discover — her private chef gig.

After a grueling 10 months at the cafe I was lucky to fall into two work situations that are so perfect for me, and for our current lifestyle, that I feel that the universe has more than compensated for those long hours and exhausting work in the cafe’s kitchen: the seamstress shop and cooking for the L family. The L’s are not only vegetarians with a kitchen that would make any professional cook swoon, they are adventurous eaters! Hurray! With balanced sensibilities (they love veggie stir-fry, but are not afraid of puff pastry or butter), and a fondness for Asian dishes (pad thai) as well as comfort food (moussaka, lasagna, minestrone soup), I am constantly able to try out new recipes and have fun searching the outdoor market for obscure ingredients.

The L’s have won my little foodie heart with their outspoken appreciation of my cooking, their sunny kitchen, and their really, really kick-ass coffee maker. And I have decided not to waste anymore Mondays without sharing some of the meals I cook for them. Enjoy!

Every Monday I make three large dishes for the L’s to eat throughout the week. This week I made sweet potato ravioli (my own recipe, which can be found here) a baked tomato, zucchini and kalamata dish from this weeks Vegetarian Times, and an African peanut stew, which is my own riff on a chicken version from Gourmet.

Spicy African Peanut Stew

medium onion, diced

1-2 red chili peppers, diced (I used one in the stew and one for garnish)

2-3 celery ribs

4 cloves garlic, minced

1.5 Tbs finely chopped ginger

3 large carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1.5 cups peeled, diced tomatoes

2.5 cups chopped butternut squash

couple handfuls of broccoli or cauliflower florets

1/3 cup peanut butter

2 cups vegetable stock or water

fresh basil or cilantro for garnish

Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery and saute until onion is translucent. Mix in garlic, ginger and chili pepper and saute just a minute or two more before adding the carrots. Cover until carrots have begun to soften then add the squash and tomatoes. Cover until bubbling and add the broccoli and 2 cups of water or stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or so until all veggies are soft. Mix 1/3 cup peanut butter with 1/3 cup boiling water, and stir this into the stew. Add salt and simmer until the stew has thickened. Garnish with fresh basil or cilantro and more chili peppers. Enjoy over rice.

End of Summer

August 26, 2012 § 3 Comments

Dolly at Echo Lake in Maine, one of our most favorite places in the world.

The end of summer is rough. The weather makes it feel like anything is possible, but the calendar says there is real-life business to be done, school beginning, meals to plan, rent to pay, and so on. (Although I was less despondent than I’d expected to be when we returned to Jerusalem on Friday, there is still that heaviness in the air that always comes when September is in sight.) The sight and smell of our neighborhood hit me hard after almost a month in the States — the floral, smokey fragrance of Nachlaot, the soft, hazy sunset on Friday evening over the still, quiet landscape of Shabbat. Our time removed from this place came with the usual reflections and re-realizations: I love Israel, yet its size makes me terribly claustrophobic but, at the same time, it is the only place I have ever felt safe. Driving up and down the coast of Maine earlier this month, its magnificent wide-openness dotted with farm houses (including our friend, Sharon Kitchen’s new place, which is absolutely perfect), clean lakes and green forests, I felt grateful and relieved to be able to stretch out in that expanse. Yet, for me, the feelings of strangeness and of not-belonging are still present even after years  of living in New England. This feeling of belonging to two places and to none simultaneously is what I was trying to leave behind during those eleven years in Boston. Unfortunately, once an identity has been split, it is not possible to make it whole again. So here I am, looking very much forward to being back in Jerusalem — to the heartbreakingly sacred and lovely quiet of Shabbat settling over the city, to the smell of cookies and breads baking in Machaneh Yehuda, to the intimacy of the community in our tiny neighborhood, to being at my little shop and with the wonderfully creative group of friends we have found here, to a million things about being a Jew in a Jewish land that cannot be translated into words — but never whole in this place anymore than I am over there. Goodbye Summer, you were grand as always!

Trumpeldor

June 23, 2012 § 4 Comments

Hello food blogosphere! I am missing you terribly, but have been completely consumed with seamstressing (mainly), private-chefing, food tour-leading, and very occasionally modeling for the shop.

Handmade Mexican dress, at Trumpeldor. Photo by the very talented, Judy Kaufman

Vintage Israeli Gotex dress

I have been seriously considering adding a sewing category to this blog, but have no idea if that would be of interest to any of my current readers. If you are an aricooks follower who might be interested in things like basic sewing alterations (zippers hems, taking in/out pants and skirts), and more specifically, alterations of vintage dresses and other women’s clothing, let me know!

 

 

Green City

April 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Grape leaves growing in Nachlaot.

The warm weather has arrived and we are seeing some early summer fruits in the shuk as well as the beloved shesek. Young grape leaves are growing all over the neighborhood and the air smells like orange blossoms. Jerusalem, while not my favorite place during the winter months, more than redeems itself come spring. Very warm days, give way to soft, breezy evenings, and the nights are still cool enough to enjoy our down comforter, but not so cold that I can see my breath in our bedroom (yes, that happened in February).

We’ve been picnicking and having campfires like crazy, to make up for all the dark evenings spent indoors and the park near our house is filled with other families doing the same.

cooking vegetable kebabs over our campfire during Pesach.

The warmer weather brings cravings for things like melon (the honeydew are juicy, sweet and delicious right now), iced hibiscus tea, and fresh salads. The recipes that follows is my own, and was published over Passover in The Forward, as part of a piece I did on green foods for Pesach. Enjoy!

Dusk in the Emek

Mixed Greens Salad with Figs, Roasted Pepper and Balsamic-glazed mushrooms

1 container of mixed baby greens, ~4 cups
6-7 dried figs, chopped
1 cup lightly steamed green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 sweet red bell pepper, roasted (as demonstrated here), peeled, seeded and cut into strips
small box of baby bella or white button mushrooms, quartered
⅓ cup mild soft white cheese, crumbled/cut into small pieces (ricotta salata or goat cheese work well here)
½ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
½-¾ cup olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey
salt & pepper

Put baby greens in a large mixing bowl. Add green beans, roasted pepper and figs, set aside.
Pour enough balsamic into a medium saute pan to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly reduced, then add the quartered mushrooms. Toss mushrooms in the balsamic until evenly coated. Drain excess liquid from mushrooms and when cool, add to salad. Crumble cheese over the salad.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup balsamic vinegar with the honey, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil while whisking well until emulsified. Toss salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

*If you are making the salad ahead, wait until just before serving to add the cheese and dressing.

Really. here. now.

March 31, 2012 § 5 Comments

One of the many archways of the Old City's Arab Quarter. Photo taken as Liz and I enjoy yet another afternoon spent exploring the Arab Shuk near the Damascus gate.

The unripe fruits appearing on our shesek (loquat) tree off the balcony are telling me that it’s been one full year since we moved into our Jerusalem apartment. A friend once told me that it takes at least that long for a new residence to feel like home and I agree. Having experienced each season here feels comforting, and gives the impression (illusion?) that I know what to expect.

So here it is, the cusp of April 2012 and things could not really be more different than they were not too long ago. Although there are things I miss very much about our Boston life, the life that has taken shape here is so wildly apart from that time, that trying to compare and contrast is… irrelevant. One of the only constants is my food writing and this blog, which I’ve struggled to maintain and to stay in touch with. My Israeli food-blogger friends have been extremely supportive and are an amazing professional network. Through them I’ve gotten jobs, writing gigs, emotional support and inspiration beyond what I could have possibly anticipated, especially so quickly after arriving.

Coffee Roasters in the Arab Shuk

This past month I was thrilled to write my first piece for the Forward’s Shabbat Meals section (thank you Liz!), which includes a couple of our favorite mezze dishes. You can click here to read that piece.

Salads for the Jew and the Carrot piece

I also want to take some space to announce food-writer Katherine Martinelli’s new e-cookbook! Katherine wrote, photographed, and developed & tested recipes for all of this 54-page brunch cookbook herself, in cooperation with hangtime press!! You can check it out here.

Congrats to Katherine!

Also, I am announcing a new category on my blog: Gluten Free. Long after a very lame attempt at trying out some GF recipes back in 2009 when we thought Jeff might have a gluten intolerance, I have been quite serious about trying a gluten free diet myself for the past six weeks due to some health issues. Although it is still unclear whether or not my body is actually intolerant of gluten, I have had a lot of fun discovering the world of GF baking and cooking and all the flours I had no idea existed.

Karina's delicious GF carrot bread, made using sorghum, rice, tapioca, and almond flours.

Lastly I want to share with you all that I am no longer working full time at the cafe, and have opened my own seamstress shop next to and in cooperation with a Vintage Clothing Store here in Jerusalem. I would like to thank the owners of the shop, Shira and Judy, for all their help and also Emunah, who was running the seamstress shop before I was, for the loan of her sewing machine and all her great advice.

...and thank you to Jeff Amshalem for painting the sign <3 (photo by Judy)

Hope you have a happy April and a chag sameach, and keep a lookout for a new Forward piece on my favorite spring dishes for Passover, coming out later this week.

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