I don’t know if I am alone here, but I have always found that it is nearly impossible not to apply every word that Sam Cooke and Patsy Cline ever sang, directly to my life. Both artists sang songs (and I think I can include Hank Williams here too) that have an uncanny ability to speak to whatever heartache/lovesick/bad day/life change/cloudy afternoon I am going through. It is a comfort and relief to know that the human experience is so universal (and that I am just like everyone else…?)
At any rate, as you may have guessed, I definitely have ‘leaving on my mind’ and my favorite place to express my anxiety and excitement about our upcoming move, is in my little kitchen. In recent weeks I have cooked my way back in time, through recipes that Jeff and I have enjoyed over the years in Boston; apple pie, caesar salad, thai curry, whole grain pancakes, and fall soup purees. But I have also been thinking a lot about my cooking and eating future in Israel, where ingredients and their availability are very different from what we have in New England. Middle Eastern food has always been a large part of what we eat, and if I am going to stay interested (and interesting to you all) I am going to have to delve a little deeper into the lexicon of Israeli and Arab cuisine… the time to go way beyond hummus and falafel has arrived.
Moroccan Cigars Stuffed with Jerusalem Artichokes, from The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan
If you have trouble finding Jerusalem artichokes (also called ‘sunchokes’) you can use celeriac root, rutabaga or turnips plus some mashed potatoes, or you can use cauliflower, as I did. Feel free to make the filling a day or two ahead.
Makes enough filling for about 36 cigars
2 lb. Jerusalem artichokes (or substitution)
8 whole shallots, peeled (if they are large, use 3 or 4 and break them up)
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
20 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
2 large eggs (entirely optional, I did not use eggs in mine)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
18 sheets phyllo dough at room temperature (1 package will suffice) – do not try to unroll semi-frozen phyllo- it will break!
1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350º F
Spread the Jerusalem artichokes, shallots, and garlic on a greased pan. Strew the thyme sprigs or the dried thyme on top, and cover with aluminum foil. Make 3 or 4 holes in the foil and bake for an hour (make sure everything is very tender). Remove the sprigs of thyme.
Put all the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until blended but not pureed. Add the eggs (if using), salt and pepper to suit your taste. Mix well.
Lay one sheet of phyllo sheet out on a work surface and brush it with oil. Cover with 2 more sheets, brushing each with oil.
With the scissors, cut the phyllo rectangle in half to form two 8 1/2-by-13-inch rectangles. Then cut each rectangle in thirds to make three long strips, about 8 inches long and 4 1/3 inches wide (these measurements are not very important, they just give you an idea of the traditional cigar size). Place a tablespoon of filling long one long edge, fold each edge in about a half and inch (woops, I did not do this), then roll up like cigar, encasing the filling. Brush again with oil and place on a baking pan (greased or lined with parchment). Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling.
Increase oven temperature to 400ºF and bake the cigars for about 15 minutes, or until golden.