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.
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!
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
1 -2 cups grated, good quality cheddar cheese (only at Basher)
chopped fresh green chili pepper for garnish
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.