It’s a very rainy weekend in northern Israel. Jeff, Auralee and I are visiting a school where Jeff has been offered a job as a counselor. It’s a boarding school for at-risk youth that provides vocational training (among other things) and is also home to a small farm where some of the kids work. The smell of cow manure wafts through the dorms as the wind shifts and the mud that clings to one’s shoes has a viscous, clay-like quality. If this does not sound familiar to you, here’s a post on my agricultural high school experience back in the mid-90s at a place not far from where I am sitting now. We will be here through Shabbat while Jeff shadows some of the staff and Auralee and I get a feel for what it would be like if he accepts the position (the staff and their families live on campus). So far all I can really tell you is that it is cold, damp and muddy, exactly as it was in February in Pardess Chana when I was a student, and that hot black tea feels like a luxury (slippers would be fantastic). Nothing like a little trip back in time to make one appreciate her kitchen-of-the-present, no matter how rudimentary it may be.
Sicilian Cheesecake for an oven-less kitchen, from Claudia Roden’s Cooking of the Mediterranean – בישול ים תיכוני
Everyone has their own definition of a well-balanced meal. Mine usually begins with vegetables and red wine and ends with chocolate and tea. Although Jeff is pretty satisfied with my plant-heavy cooking-style, I can tell that our diet is sometimes slightly lacking in protein by his body’s standards. This dessert, aside from being tasty and a change from our usual repertoire of sweets, boosted our dinner’s nutritional content because it is made with sheep’s ricotta which is high in protein and low in fat. Chocolate, rum, and cookies are also involved. How much more can one ask from a dessert?
1 Kg/2.2 lb unsalted sheep ricotta (obviously, cow’s milk ricotta will do if you must substitute)
100 grams/1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 drops/tsp vanilla
100 grams dark chocolate/4 oz baking bar, finely chopped
300 grams/10-12 ounces sugared dry fruits, finely chopped (optional)
300 grams/10-12 ounces lady finger (or other sweet, dry) biscuits
175 ml/6 ounces/3/4 cup rum (for soaking biscuits)
25 centimeter/10 inch round container
Crumble/mash the ricotta with the powderes sugar and vanilla. Add the chocolate and sugared fruits (if using). Pour the rum into a shallow bowl and dip each biscuit into the rum briefly. Arrange the biscuits in a single layer in a shallow 10 inch (25 centimeter) serving dish. Spread filling over the biscuits and arrange remaining biscuits over the top. Cut biscuits to fit around edges of cake (I cut mine into thirds) and chill for 1-2 hours. Enjoy!