Cookbook Review: Secrets from Lori Rapp’s Kitchen

AriCooks, cake, Dairy Free, Jerusalem

Hello! I am visiting from The Dreamy Day with a little cookbook review. Shortly after arriving back in the States I received an e-mail from Lori Rapp of Jerusalem’s La Cuisine, asking if I would mind reviewing her new cookbook on my blog. Since Ari Cooks is my food blog, and the one that is still quite active for recipe-seekers, I thought it best to post the review here. Hope you enjoy (and you can purchase the book on amazon)!

secrets from Lori Rapp's kitchen

Review: Secrets from Lori Rapps Kitchen Tales and recipes from Jerusalem’s popular La Cuisine.

As someone who has worked in the food industry from a young age, both behind the counter and in the kitchen, I thought I knew all the reasons why opening one’s own business is a risky and somewhat crazy endeavor. Over the years people have asked me again and again if I would consider opening my own bakery or cafe one day, and my answer has always been that I don’t have the desire to make my life that hectic and complicated. Inside, however, I have secretly thought that maybe, maybe when my girls are a bit older, and I have more time and energy to devote to such a thing, perhaps I could open something small and unassuming. Just a little place that might become a local favorite somewhere for breads, muffins and cakes. Lori Rapp’s book has done a swift job of reminding and informing me of the perils of the food biz, hitting so close to home for me, that I feel a bit traumatized after internalizing her experiences catering from her home and running her cafe and bakery in Jerusalem.

Amazingly, that is not how Lori Rapp feels. Despite the fact that she was the one whose bathtub was filled with salmon (in the early days of her business), whose face and arm were disfigured by burning caramel, who went through a miscarriage and chemotherapy with little time off from the rigorous pace of her work’s demands, and did all this while navigating an extremely inhospitable city-licensing bureau, impossible-to-please health department, and myriad other hurdles that would have sent most people running for a pleasant desk job, Lori Rapp is glad she spent 21 years doing what she loves.

     The first third of Lori Rapp’s book is memoir, taking the reader on a short trip back in time to her childhood, growing up as the daughter of Holocaust survivors in Toronto. The kitchen of Rapp’s youth was filled with some predictable foods, like shmaltz and poppyseed cake, and some less predictable, such as Mallomars and Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix (Rapp’s father was impressed with the sweets and convenience foods of the new world). As she grew older, Rapp began to discover foods and cooking styles different from her parents’, and her courtship with her husband-to-be, Marvin, was filled with butter-laden, time-consuming recipes — the kind of cooking one does when time and energy allow for impractical meals eaten at late hours.

Rapp then describes in detail, and with the fondness that hindsight can bring, the early years of their catering business: meals for 200 or more, somehow prepared from their small Jerusalem apartment. Adventures in catering brought incidents such as a $2500 electric bill one month, and their five young sons often ate disappointingly simple meals while piles of glazed baked goods (for customers!) mocked them from the kitchen counter.

When Lori and Marvin finally took the business out of the apartment, they were naive and unprepared for the roller coaster of the holiday season in a country obsessed with certain foods at specific times (mountains of cheesecakes and a line out the door on Shavuot, hundreds of honey cakes on Rosh HaShanna). Even so, they smiled their way through 14 years of business ownership before selling off La Cuisine to their partner in 2012.

Luckily for us, that sale did not include the rights to Rapp’s recipes for her wildly popular baked goods and savory items from La Cuisine’s catering menu. When I moved back to Jerusalem in 2011, one of the first things I heard (no joke) was praise for Lori Rapp’s non-dairy cheesecake. Because of the laws of Kashrut, cheesecake had formerly been relegated to the holiday of Shavuot, and the occasional dairy luncheon. When La Cuisine began selling (or selling out of, most often) this cake, happy folks all over the city could serve it at their Sabbath meals. The recipe for the tofu cheesecake of legend is generously provided by Rapp on page 76 and it was the first item I chose to make from her book. I am providing the recipe and photos (my own) below. As for more of Rapp’s delicious cakes (Chocolate Symphony, Chocolate Mousse, Dacquaoise), cookies (florentines, alfajores, butter pecan) tarts and more, you’ll have to buy the book.

Enjoy!

tofutti cheesecake

Lori Rapp’s Tofu Cheesecake

makes one 9-inch cake

Lemon Curd (make ahead and cool)

1/2 cup plus one Tbs sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 oz butter or butter-flavored margarine (I used smart balance)

2 tsp grated lemon rind

3 eggs (or 2 eggs + 2 yolks, if you want it extra rich)

Crust

180 grams (1.5 cups) Petit-Beurre or Marie biscuit crumbs (“Kedem” biscuits in the kosher section of the supermarket are also good)

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 oz butter or butter-flavored margarine

Filling

32 oz Toffuti plain cream “cheese” (do not substitute other brands)

1.5 cups sugar

5 eggs

2.5 tsp vanilla

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

240 ml (one cup) lemon curd

Decoration

120 grams (4 oz) lemon curd

1 Tbs warm water

1-2 Tbs non-dairy heavy whipping cream, unwhipped

Preheat the oven to 350°F

line one 9-inch spring form pan with baking paper for easy removal of the cake

make the lemon curd:

put the sugar, lemon juice, butter/margarine, and lemon rind in a small saucepan, bring to a gentle boil.

whisk the 3 eggs in a separate bowl.

when the butter/margarine mixture is entirely melted in the saucepan pour the mixture into the eggs while whisking (careful not to scramble your eggs!), and pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

bring the mixture back to a simmer while whisking. When bubbles start to break the surface and the curd thickens slightly, pour it out through a sieve into a clean bowl (if your curd is very smooth, just pour it into a bowl to get it out of the hot pot). Curd keeps for 4-5 days in the fridge.

thickened lemon curd

make crust:

mix all the ingredients together and press the the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the  prepared pan.

petit beurre crust

make filling:

beat the tofutti cream cheese and sugar in a mixer with the paddle until smooth. Slowly add the eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice. Scrape down the sides once with a rubber spatula and mix again until it’s smooth.

Pour and lightly spread about 240 ml (1 cup) lemon curd into the bottom of the prepared crust. Gently and carefully pour in the cheese mixture.

Bake the cake for about 50-55 min, until it is puffy, lightly golden and a little bit wobbly.

When the cake cools and sinks back down, loosen it from the pan by cutting around the inside of the ring with a sharp knife, but leave the ring on. Refrigerate overnight, and then remove the outer ring. Lift the cheesecake off of the bottom by pulling on the baking paper. Carefully pull off the paper.

decoration (optional):

mix the lemon curd with a tablespoon or two of warm water and pour it on top of the cooled cake, letting it run evenly almost to the outer edges.

Pour the unwhipped cream into a pastry bag (you can also use a ziplock), cut off a bit of the tip with scissors, and zigzag a design onto the lemon curd, pulling into various designs with a toothpick or a sharp knife.

Mirroring

AriCooks, Dairy Free, Quick Meals, Salad, Vegan, vegetarian

I know it is the tendency of every parent to see elements of themselves in their children. I certainly expected that my child would be like me, both physically and otherwise. But on the days when Auralee is so much like me that I feel as though I am looking in the mirror or hearing a voice recording of myself, I feel a unique mix of utter delight and paralyzing terror. My daughter – as nearly everyone who knows us well, points out – is not “like me”, she is me, only small. She makes the same sarcastic/silly/surprised faces I make, we have the same sense of humor (which is not saying something particularly flattering or sophisticated about me, sharing my sense of humor with a 5 year-old), and we both get ridiculously silly and hyper right before bedtime. We both love goat cheese, and ginger cookies and watching youtube videos of Swan Lake and baby animals doing funny things. We both stomp. A lot. And feel a great sense of injustice over the denial of our basic desires, like having a cat or being able to teleport ourselves to Boston whenever we want. And like me, Auralee excels at creative endeavors, such as arranging my cookie cutters and pastry equipment to resemble a city or a forest, and drawing pictures of flowers, houses, animals and trees.

The joy in this is seeing the funny, quirky, whimsical parts of myself, embodied in an adorable person , while the terror comes from knowing that there is often an inevitable and drastic mood change lurking beyond the next moment. Seeing my own perfectionism, controlling tendencies, and inconsistent (and sometimes, volatile) reactions to basic, every day  life tasks, makes me worry and fear for this little-me, and for the future of our relationship. These are normal, parental feelings and I know that I follow in the footsteps of millions of mothers before me, but no amount of that knowing, or of watching others, can better inform my relationship with Auralee, beyond the simple fact that I am not alone.

In conclusion, there is no conclusion. Just the patient, wonderful, difficult, maddening, amazing process of building a relationship with my daughter (and by extension, myself). And all the learning and failing and sometimes succeeding.

And with the cold weather, and unusually terrible rain, sleet and wind, Auralee and I are spending many hours in close quarters, tucked into our little living room, which we have curtained off from the rest of the drafty apartment. Huddled close to the space heater, we tell stories, draw, play Candy Land, and watch endless episodes of her favorite show, Redwall. When I do leave our blanket pile, it is to turn on the oven, or the stove, and cook or bake. And since there is only so much soup a person can eat (though many of my friends have tried to convince me that endless cups of soup are bound to improve my mood this winter), I am posting a recipe for a black bean quinoa dish that is laughably simple, but very tasty, and a baked tofu recipe with honey mustard sauce. Enjoy!

IMG_0465

Ari’s Black Bean Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1.5 cups cooked (or canned) black beans

3 Tbs chopped chives

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 small cucumber, finely chopped

3-4 Tbs red wine vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper

chili flakes (optional)

Rinse quinoa very well (it has a bitter coating on it that must be washed off) and put in a pot with 2 cups water, a little olive oil and salt. Bring to boil, then simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed ~15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix quinoa, black beans, chives, cucumbers and cilantro. Whisk red wine vinegar and olive oil together with salt and pepper and chili flakes. Pour over quinoa and mix. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed. Serve warm!

Baked Tofu with honey mustard sauce

Tofu, sliced into thin rectangles, enough to cover the bottom of a 9-inch square pan (or you can double the recipe and use a lasagna-size pan)

2-3 Tbs mustard (not grainy)

Tbs honey/sugar/agave

tamari or soy sauce as needed

water/sesame oil

Whisk together mustard and honey and add enough soy sauce to make it into a dressing-like consistency. Taste, and if it is too salty, or no thick enough to pour over tofu add a little water or same oil.

Bake at 375°F/180°C for 20-25 minutes, until the tofu has absorbed the sauce and is a bit brown.

Cooking at the Casa de L

AriCooks, Dairy Free, Vegan, vegetarian

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.

Basbusa – Moroccan Semolina Cake

AriCooks, cake, Dairy Free, dessert, Jerusalem

Although the cafe may not be the hippest hang-out in town , I have to hand it to my boss, Linda. Fifteen years in business and we do a slamming lunch rush almost every single day. Holidays are completely crazy (I’m already getting nervous about Shavuot), and we make almost every single thing from scratch. When you work with the same folks every day, cranking out orders and baked goods, it is inevitable that everyone will get to know each other pretty well, and fairly quickly.

The chef, Mali, whom I work alongside each day, is a fast-working, savvy veteran of the hotel-kitchen industry who has been running the cafe’s kitchen for 7 years. She is a trained pastry chef (our main commonality) as well as a savory chef, with surprising patience for her staff, and little for anyone else. She is also Moroccan, an identity which she carries like a flag, making more than a few comments about Ashkenazim and their tiresome palates, customs and social skills. Like a lone crusader of truths, she dispenses Moroccan folk-wisdom (and a great deal of Mali-isms) throughout her day, both amusing and confusing the staff (mainly me). Although I take her worldview with a grain of salt, her recipes are no joke. This family recipe for semolina cake is just one example of the kind of  wisdom I am glad to take from her, and am excited to share with others.

Mali’s Moroccan Basbusa Cake

This cake is also called one-one-one cake because most of the ingredients are in 1-cup quantities, which makes this recipe very easy to cut in half. Basically, this cake is a separated sponge, with a simple syrup poured over it right after it is removed from the oven. Because its ingredients are so straightforward, I think you could play around with flavors if you wanted to. Perhaps add some citrus zest to the batter, or almond/orange blossom water. 

For the cake:

6 eggs, separated

1 cup oil (Mali uses canola, I used half canola, half olive oil)

1 cup orange juice

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided (I used less, see below)

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup semolina

1 cup flour (I used half whole wheat)

pinch of salt (my addition)

for the syrup:

the syrup is essential!

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Make the cake:

In a large bowl, mix the 6 yolks with the oil, juice and one cup of sugar (I used about 1/2 a cup, instead). Add the flour, coconut, semolina and a pinch of salt and mix until just combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the whites until foamy, then add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup) SLOWLY, whipping as you add, until the whites have reached soft peaks.

Fold the whites into the batter (careful not to over-mix, or you will deflate your whites) and pour the batter into a wide, shallow, greased pan (I used a glass 9 x 13 inch pan, coated with Pam spray).

Bake at 170°C/350°F until golden brown and firm/springy to the touch ~ 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the sugar and water in a small pot for a few minutes.

When the cake comes out of the oven it may be very puffy, and almost higher than the pan. Very slowly and carefully pour the syrup over the entire cake, making sure it is getting distributed evenly.

Allow the cake to cool for a bit and the syrup to fully absorb before serving.

Up, down, pancakes

breakfast, Dairy Free

Today I was talking to a friend about the emotional ride that comes with moving countries. Even if you have done it before, and you know that there will be unknowns, ups, downs, excitement, loneliness, disappointment, elation, frustration, happy days and sad days, not knowing what will trigger all those emotions makes it feel as if someone else is driving this car. Nearly a year into the move and with a relatively stable day-to-day, it still turns out that everything can seem great one week while the next week finds us dragging our feet (me), watching too many silly television shows (also me), and missing absurdly small things like Earth Balance Buttery Vegan Spread or the way a certain hibiscus looked on a living room window sill, framed by homemade green curtains and the sharp autumn sunlight (okay, all of these are me). It’s been that kind of week.

Having two very wonderful constants does help create a sense of home, wherever we are. And so do pancakes with syrup or jam, midweek, made in my favorite cast-iron pan, and served to my little bean who is late to school as a result of our indulgent breakfasting.

Whole Grain Pancakes from the Gourmet Cookbook, adapted slightly.

I realize that separating and whipping egg whites first thing in the morning (especially by hand, as is the case for me) is not everyone’s idea of a fun way to start the day. I promise that folding the fluffy whites into the batter does make a wonderful difference in the pancakes’ texture, as does the medium- to coarsely-ground corn meal. These pancakes are both light and hearty and, if you are judicious with the syrup, I don’t see any reason why they can’t be considered a healthy breakfast. 

1 1/4 whole wheat flour

1/3 cornmeal

3/4 Tbs cane sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups soy/rice milk, mixed with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, set aside to curdle for a few minutes

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks, curdled soy milk, and oil together in a large mixing cup or small bowl. Mix into dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl until the just hold stiff peaks (even soft peaks is fine, you don’t want it to be too difficult to incorporate them into the batter). Gently fold the whites into the batter, trying to not allow them to deflate too much as you do so.

Heat a cast iron or other non-stick skillet and lightly grease. Fry pancakes over medium heat for a few minutes on each side (flip when you see bubbles just forming on the edges and a firming-up overall). Enjoy!

More for your mezze

Autumn, Dairy Free, Salad, Vegan, vegetarian

We’ve been doing some serious eating lately, it being the holiday season here in Israel. Sukkot is up next and we will be having at least two meals with friends, and others at home in our own sukkah. Although there is a lot of meat and fish on holiday tables, the emphasis on fresh vegetables here ensures that even at a barbecue, vegetarians are unlikely to walk away hungry (stuffed is more like it).

Israel and the Mediterranean region at large are quite famous for its selection of pre-meal salads, known as mezze.  Nearly every Shabbat and holiday meal begins with a wonderful selection of small, colorful salads made from legumes, grains, and fresh or roasted vegetables. The salads a host/ess puts out is a reflection of their ancestry, cooking influences, and personal taste.

Since my own palate is the result of quite a culinary jumble — mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardi heritage, American and Israeli identities, New England and Middle Eastern flavors — I don’t really have a standard when it comes to mezze, and I am always open to new and tasty salads making their way onto our table.

This one is welcome!

Roasted Red Peppers with Walnuts and Raisins, from Gourmet Today

Unlike another red-pepper favorite, muhammara, this recipe does not require a food processor and is more of a salad than a spread.

8 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, cored and seeded

1/3 cup plus 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs sherry vinegar

1 Tbs walnut oil

1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup raisins (I recommend less, too many raisins make this salad a bit sweeter than I like)

Preheat broiler. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Rub or brush skin sides of bell peppers with two Tbs. olive oil and put 8 pepper halves, skin side up, on each baking sheet. Broil (in two batches) about 2 inches from the heat until skins are blistered and charred, about 15 minutes per batch. With tongs, transfer pepper to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let steam until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, the vinegar, walnut oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until the salt is dissolved.

Peel peppers. Teal lengthwise into 1-inch pieces. Add peppers, walnuts, and raisins to vinaigrette and toss until well coated. Cover and marinate at room temp for at least 30 minutes.

This salad tastes best at room temperature.

Vegetarian Kubbeh Soup for a Sweet New Year

AriCooks, Dairy Free, soups and stews, Tips and Tricks, Vegan, vegetarian

Just as our life in Tel Aviv had a Yemenite flavor from living and shopping near the Yeminite Quarter and Shuk HaCarmel, our life here in Jerusalem, a stone’s throw away from Machaneh Yehuda, smells and tastes of Iraqi and Kurdish cuisine. Our neighbors are immigrants from Kurdistan (now part of Iraq), whose children, grandchildren and great grandchildren crowd into their tiny apartment every Friday evening. Songs, prayers, laughter and delicious cooking smells waft from their balcony and kitchen window.

“This was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in”, their daughter told me. “It was the kind of place where everyone was always cooking together and front doors were open from the time people woke up until they went to sleep.”

Although Nachlaot (and Zichron Yosef, a small offshoot of Nachlaot, where we live) is now home to all kinds of Jewish immigrants, as well as foreign workers from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, the Iraqi and Kurdish influence is still unmistakable. Up and down Agripas — the main thoroughfare between the outdoor market and the neighborhood — and within the shuk itself, one can find Iraqi flatbreads, stuffed vegetables, mustachioed men playing towleh (an Iraqi version of backgammon) and sipping small cups of strong coffee. If you are lucky, you will also find kubbeh. Stuffed with meat, chicken or vegetables, kubbeh are cracked wheat and semolina-based dumplings that are more or less the backbone of Kurdish cuisine. Joan Nathan writes about one Kurdish grandmother in her book, The Jews of Israel Today, who typically makes about 60 kubbeh every week for the Shabbat meal with her immediate and extended family. This is hardly unusual in this food-centric country, where many of the Jews who came to Israel from Arab nations in search of a better life are still alive and cooking.

Friday afternoons at the Cafe, my coworker Roie throws himself into a frenzy during closing trying to get to his granmother’s house that much sooner for steaming bowls of kubbeh hamousta — a homestyle stew with large chunks of vegetables and fat dumplings stuffed with beef. “What’s the rush?!” I tease him as he hurls dirty aprons towards the laundry pile and scrubs the espresso machine ferociously. “My grandmother’s kubbeh!” he replies, shoving his work clothes into his courier bag and dashing out the door.

Last Shabbat at my friend Julia’s house, my resolve to try my hand at real soup kubbeh (as opposed to the fried version, which I have made before) was finally solidified as I slurped my way through a bowl of her mother-in-law’s beet and lemon version. Although the results of my efforts were fruitful, there is so much to learn about how to make all the different varieties of kubbeh, I feel I could be experimenting for a long time before I really find my favorite recipes. I also may try to find my way into Roie’s grandmother’s kitchen for some tips….

Ari’s Vegetarian Kubbeh Stew, with inspiration from Joan Nathan, Vegan Start and the wonders of the internet.

Even food freaks like me fall into a rut from time to time. With all the upheaval in our life this past year, it had been some time since I felt I’d cooked something really adventurous. Although I would make some changes next time I attempt this stew (as indicated below) overall I was thrilled with the finished product here. 

For the Kubbeh filling:

1 medium onion, finely chopped

10-12 baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped

handful of parsley, finely chopped

salt and pepper

Heat a bit of olive oil in a wide skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute. Cover briefly to allow their juices to release. Add the parsley and cook until wilted.

Allow filling to cool while you make the kubbeh dough.

For the kubbeh dough:

2 cups fine bulgur wheat (Some recipes call for half fine and half coarse. I used all fine.)

2 cups semolina

flour

salt

warm water

Cover the bulgur wheat with salted warm water (a few dashes of salt will do) by about an inch. Let sit in a bowl for about an hour until the liquid has been absorbed (if your liquid gets absorbed too quickly, add more; you want well-hydrated bulgur for this recipe). After the hour, drain excess liquid and mix in the semolina. Begin kneading the dough, adding a bit of flour as you go. Knead until you have a pliable dough that is not too sticky — I would try to add as little flour as possible, but do what you have to in order to get a dough you can work with.

When you have a dough that you feel you can work with, take a plum-sized amount in your hand and shape it so it is concave with an even thickness all around.

Next take a teaspoon of the filling and place it into the middle of the dough.

Then begin to close the dough around the filling, taking care that none of the filling is poking out anywhere (risking kubbeh-eruption during cooking).

 Put your kubbeh in a container with wax paper or plastic between the layers. Cover well and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.

Now make the soup:

2 onions, chopped

3 celery stalks (leaves reserved) cut into a smallish dice

1 1/2 cups of butternut squash or pumpkin, cut into chunks

2 beets, peeled and cut into chunks

2 medium zucchini/magda/summer squash cut into large chunks

celery leaves, finely chopped

handful of parsley, finely minced

salt and pepper

juice of 1 whole lemon

olive oil

4-6 cups water or vegetable stock

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a wide soup pot over medium. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes. Add the celery and pumpkin and saute well until the onion begins to turn golden. Add the rest of the veggies, except the celery leaves and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cover for a few minutes.

Add celery leaves, parsley, salt and pepper. MIx everything well and then cover with 4-6 cups of water or stock. Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.

Begin to drop the kubbeh into the soup — my recipe made about 20 kubbeh, and I used maybe half of them in the soup, freezing the rest for a future soup.

Simmer the kubbeh in the soup for one hour. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Goodbye Busy Summer

AriCooks, Dairy Free, pasta, Vegan, vegetarian

This summer was very full. I cleaned and cooked for a lady from Boston, waitressed and baked at the cafe, taught cooking classes at a local culinary school and for religious teens outside the city, worked the Jerusalem Wine Festival as a wine steward for the Golan Winery, guided for Israel Food Tours, and taught a women’s ballet class during the month of July. Quite a ride.

Yossi, Orit and me (center), pouring tastings of the winery's Gamla wines in the Israel Museum's beautiful art garden.

Now that Autumn is arriving, I am trying to simplify life while still keeping things interesting. My full-time job involves baking, waitressing, and setting up the website at Cafe Belinda in Rehavia (stop by and say ‘hello’!), and I am remaining on staff at Israel Food Tours and the Winery.

Deep Chocolate, Caramel Walnut, and Apple Crumble tarts for sale at Cafe Belinda.

Working on the cafe’s site has inspired me to come up with some new ideas for my own blog. My favorite Tel Aviv vegetarian blogger, Liz, has been brainstorming with me on ways to make our blogs more utilitarian for people trying to get to know Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from a food-perspective, and her recent post on shuk shopping versus supermarket shopping was quite an inspiration.

Liz, gathering a few light-skinned cucumbers from Chayim the Vegetable Seller, In Machane Yehuda

Although I am keen to take advantage of living so close to one of the country’s most exciting and vibrant shuks, I felt like I should pay a little homage to the city in which I became the food-nut that I am today. At the top of my blog’s home page you can now find my list of favorite restaurants, cafes and markets in and around Boston. Please feel free to chime in and share your own, and keep an eye out for my list of Jerusalem’s culinary treasures!

Sampling cheeses from around the world, at Basher in Machane Yehuda

The tough (and ironic) thing about life being so full of these great food-centric jobs, is that I have less time to cook for us at home. Luckily, years of collecting cookbooks and food-magazine clippings left me am armed with an arsenal of quick recipes, such as this creamy vodka pasta. You can expect more like this in the months to come, enjoy!

Pasta with Vodka Sauce, adapted from Amanda Hesser’s, Essential New York Times Cookbook

serves 6 

1 1/2 lbs. penne or ziti (I used whole wheat)

7 Tbs unsalted butter/margarine

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3/4 cup, plus 2 Tbs polish or Russian vodka

1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes

1 cup heavy cream/soy creamer

1 cup freshly grated parmesan (I always substitute pecorino for parmesanbecause I prefer sheep’s cheese)

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a casserole or saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta. Add the red pepper flakes and vodka and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cream and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add to the hot sauce. With the heat on low, add the cheese and mix thoroughly.

Note: When you are making a thick sauce for pasta, it’s always a good idea to reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining the noodles, you can add that starchy, salted water to the sauce if it needs a little more liquid. 

Kuchen

AriCooks, cake, Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Summer, Upside-down cake

Italian prune plums, in a shuk near you

After spending eight hours at work making cakes and chocolate babkas — though not a bad way to spend a day — I came home tired and a little irritable yesterday evening. Somehow, the only remedy to my exhaustion-induced crankiness was to make plum kuchen (nerd alert). My usual excuse for buying large quantities of prune plums is Molly Wizenberg’s plum-ginger crumble, but after making two or three of those in the past couple of weeks, it was time to find another recipe that showcases the little oval beauties.

After Jeff and I spent a few minutes arguing over the pronunciation of the word kuchen (a discussion which ended with my throwing my hands in the air and reminding him that I am only half Ashkenazi, after all) I set to work on this terribly simple, and intoxicatingly delicious-smelling Eastern European dessert.

humble-looking plum kuchen... smells like home.

Plum Kuchen, adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

Kuchen is german for “cake”. This one is made by first assembling a pate brise-like bottom crust or cake, and then topping it with plums that have been tossed with sugar, cinnamon and flour. You can certainly use whatever purple plums are available in your area, just be sure to choose small one for this recipe. 

For the cake

1 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter/margarine

1 large egg

1/3 cup whole milk

grated zest of one lemon

melted butter/margarine for brushing

For the topping

1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar – depending on the sweetness of the plums

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour

8 small, ripe plums, halved and pitted

1 large egg yolk

2 Tbs heavy cream/soy milk or soy creamer

To make the cake, heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Add the shortening/butter/margarine and cut in using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Beat the egg, milk, and lemon zest together. Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until blended.

Press the dough into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter/margarine.

To make the topping, mix the sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Arrange the plums cut side up on the dough. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit.

Blend the egg yolk with the cream and drizzle over the fruit. Bake for 35 minutes, covered for the first 15 minutes of baking. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Orange-Lime Chiffon Cake

AriCooks, cake, Dairy Free, dessert, Summer

People often ask me how I find the time to cook at home. I’ll admit that in the past I’ve had a very tough time answering this question because the truth is I’ve never thought of it that way. Just as I did not have to “find time” to exercise when I was dancing daily and performing weekly, being a food person/pastry chef/cooking instructor means that I rarely have to “make time to cook”– it’s more than just a passion, it’s how I make sense of the world.

Orange-Lime chiffon Cake, heavily adapted from Gourmet Today 

The light, summery cake made my Friday this week, after Shabbat got in the way of my plans to get over to Tel Aviv for an Israel Food Tours get-together yesterday evening.  I may have missed Liz’s watermelon-arak salad (sniff), but having an impromptu Shabbat dinner with our sweet neighbors, that ended with slices of this cake, made me feel much better. 

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (I used white pastry flour– sift before measuring)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (divided)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 large eggs, separated when cold, then left to come to room temp for 20-30 minutes

6 Tbs fruity extra virgin olive oil

4 tsp finely grated orange zest

1 tsp finely grated lime zest

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tsp vanilla extract

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F/175°C. Grease a 10-inch tube pan and dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

Sift together flour, 1 cup of the sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together yolks, oil, zests, juices, and vanilla in another bowl. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

Beat whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer (or a determined arm and a ballon whisk) until the just hold soft peaks. Begin to add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar VERY SLOWLY– a couple tablespoons at a time, whisking/beating as your go, until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks (do not overdo it, or you will have dry cake). Stir about 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then GENTLY but thoroughly fold in the remaining whites. Spoon batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 min- 1 hour. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack. Turn cake out of pan onto a serving platter. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with yogurt, ice cream, fruit or tea.