Almond trees are blooming like crazy, the Emek is green and glittering with fresh rain and red anemones, we had our second gorgeous Saturday in a row, and even though our apartment still feels like the inside of a walk-in refrigerator, I know it won’t be long before I can open some windows and trade this cold, stale air, for the new, mild air of spring. That’s the thought that keeps me going as we slog our way through the final stretch of Jerusalem winter.
This past week we celebrated Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees, by eating many dried fruits, appreciating the buds and colorful flowers that dot the green spaces, and by planting a tree! Jeff and Auralee, along with a friend, visited The Valley of the Gazelles here in Jerusalem, and planted a carob tree (photos, courtesy of Caitlin Eisner Fisch).
Another welcome happening this week was Sala’s (of Veggie Belly) lovely post on the food tour she did with me in early December. We wandered Machane Yehuda together, tasting as we went, and ate at the Kurdish neighborhood institution, Rachmo. We were also very lucky to be invited into Hassan’s pita and laffa bakery for a private tour, mini-baking lesson, and an informative chat on the history of his business. See her description of our day as well as some great photos here.
And a second must-read for this week is Liz’s piece for The Jew and the Carrot (the Foward’s food section). I love her description of Tel Aviv’s unique Shabbat atmosphere, a city she so clearly loves. The pancakes look wonderful too — wholesome and fluffy, just the way I like ’em.
And lastly, I strongly recommend these sweet, spiced biscotti from Fork Spoon Knife. You can click through to her recipe, or read on below to see how I adapted it slightly. Happy Dunking, and remember to breathe deep, spring is (nearly) here.
Fig, Cashew and Cardamom Biscotti, slightly adapted from Fork Spoon Knife.
So many recipes on the web and in cookbooks really catch my eye. Whether it’s a photo that entices or the use of a specific ingredient that lures me, the end results range from wonderfully satisfying to terribly disappointing. This recipe falls into the former category. Of course, I knew it would be hard to go wrong when figs and cashews are involved, but I did not know that I would also learn something new. Cardamom powder (the so-called ‘ground cardamom’) we buy in supermarkets and spice shops is a bleached, mild-tasting substitute for the pungent, tiny, dark seeds that fresh cardamom pods contain. Do not skimp on this step if possible — use fresh-from-the-pod seeds in this recipe.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
1/3 cup cane sugar
5 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground in a spice/coffee grinder
zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, chopped
Preheat oven to 325°F/165°C. In a small bowl, whisk dry ingredients together and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the egg. Mix in zest and cardamom. With a rubber spatual, fold in the dry ingredients until just blended, then fold in the cashews and figs. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a 15 x 1.25 inch log and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until very pale golden (I rotated the pan halfway through). Remove from oven (leaving oven on) and when cool enough to handle, slice with a serrated knife into little biscotti-size cookies. Be gentle.
Place the biscotti back on the pan or directly onto the oven rack and toast on each side for about 7 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool.
Serve with your favorite warm beverage. I enjoyed mine dunked in black tea!