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AriCooks, dumplings

Vegetarian kubbeh soup at Ima Restaurant in Jerusalem. Kurdish home cooking, still at its best.

When I was a little girl in Jerusalem, my family had a couple of favorite eating-out spots for nights when we wanted to do something special, impress guests from the States, or for when no one felt like cooking (my parents must’ve gotten a little tired of my tuna sailboats and mashed potato-nests on my mom’s nights off from the kitchen). One of them was the Kurdish homestyle restaurant, Ima אמא (mother, in hebrew). Located just a couple blocks from the shuk, Ima had a rustic and casual interior with Ima herself stuffing kubbeh and grape leaves, boiling rice, and mixing up delicious eggplant salads in the kitchen. Amazingly, Ima is often still there (and at their newish take-away location in the shuk), though the decor and atmosphere have changed significantly. Much more upscale (white tablecloths!) with a slightly refined menu (no fried cigars…), Ima’s feels like a place to impress a date or to celebrate an anniversary rather than a place for a family weeknight dinner (though they do have two dining rooms, one slightly more casual than the other). However, the food is still full of flavor and love and I was happy to dress up a bit  when we ate there with my parents during their visit here in August.

There has been a LOT happening in the world of fine dining and new cuisine in Israel during the last 20 years. Some of it has been for the better — such as realizing that many of the quality ingredients Israeli chefs were searching for outside the country (olive oil, spices etc) are actually native and best produced locally. While other aspects of the culinary revolution are part of a natural progression of extreme, outside-the-box, overachieving and experimenting that any new country’s food community must go through before returning to a balanced norm.

Of course I am glad that we now have european-style breads, Italian espresso, wonderful goat cheese, and really great ice cream and sorbet in Israel, but I am even more glad that we still have places like Ima, where I can know what to expect, and it’s really, really good.

Vegetables stuffed with flavorful rice in a tomato-based sauce.

189 Agripas Street, Jerusalem. 02 624 6860

Apple Cider Dumplings

AriCooks, Autumn, Dairy Free, dessert, dumplings, Tips and Tricks, Winter

Tomorrow is the day we ship our stuff off across the seas. That will include nearly all my kitchen equipment so this is likely my last post before Tel Aviv!

My sister came by yesterday evening, bearing Thai Food (we never turn Thai-food bearers away) and bringing her usual witty banter, smudged eye-make-up, and hilarious anecdotes from another day of waitressing. There are not a lot of people who are allowed to see the state of physical and emotional affairs up here on the third floor, in the final days before our departure, but Alissa is one of the privileged exceptions.

Post-noodles, dumpling-making seemed like a good idea to my slightly manic, pre-move self. After all it was only 9pm- the night was young! These apple cider dumplings were an apt choice since they remind me of Here… of cold weather, and New England flavors and cooking for people I love.

dumplings simmering in apple cider syrup

Cinnamon Dumplings with Apple Cider Syrup, adapted from Martha Stewart Living, September 2005

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry)

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter/vegan margarine, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk/soy milk

4 cups apple cider

Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)


Sift flour(s), baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir together sugar and 3/4 cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar begins to melt and turn light amber, about 14 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has melted and mixture turns medium amber, about 2 minutes more.

Meanwhile, work butter/margarine into the flour mixture using your fingers or a pastry blender until flour is incorporated but mixture is still crumbly. Whisk together egg, egg yolk, and milk in a medium bowl. Form a well in the center of flour mixture; pour in egg mixture. Stir gently with a fork until combined.

Remove sugar mixture from heat; slowly whisk in cider. Return to heat; bring to a simmer. Using your hands or a small spoon, divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces, and roll into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Carefully drop 6 balls of dough into the simmering cider syrup. Cook, turning once or twice to coat fully, until dumplings have tripled in size and are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a platter, and cover. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Divide dumplings among 6 bowls, and drizzle with the remaining cider syrup.

Serve with creme fraiche/whipped cream or just as they are.

Pierogis for all

dumplings, Tips and Tricks, vegetarian

How could anyone not love a dumpling? Cute, nutritious, and charmingly reminiscent of the old world, dumplings have much in their favor. Nearly every cuisine has its own take on these toothsome little darlings — wanton, ravioli, samosa, gyoza, manti, potsticker — whatever your mood there is surely a dumpling to suit you.

By some odd coincidence or simply geographical probability, two of my closest dance friends happen to be of recent Polish descent, and it is because of this that I decided it was time to become more familiar with the pierogi.

This particular pierogi is from the Gourmet Cookbook and though it hardly falls under the quick-meals category, it is simple and straightforward and requires no special equipment other than food processor (a blender or mortar and pestle could also do the job). Do not be scared away by the dough-making process, there is little you can do to mess this up, just mix all the dough ingredients together and knead until you have a cohesive product. Most of all, give yourself time, counter space and — if you’re into kitchen camaraderie —  invite someone to help you stuff and fold.

Wild Mushroom Pierogis, from the Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl

Please feel free to make this recipe in stages (as I do with many of my more time consuming recipes). The mushroom filling can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days. The dough, however, should be made the day of, and please do not skip the ‘resting’ stage. The gluten that is formed during kneading makes the dough very tight and it will be almost impossible to roll out if it is not given 30 + minutes to relax at room temp. Once the pierogis are filled and folded, you can store them between sheets of wax paper in a covered container for a day or two before cooking.

For filling
1 cup boiling water
2/3 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 medium onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Make filling:
Pour boiling water over porcini in a small bowl and soak until softened,10 to 20 minutes. Lift porcini out of water, squeezing excess liquid back into bowl, and rinse well to remove any grit. Pour soaking liquid through a paper-towel-lined sieve into a bowl and reserve.

Finely chop onion and garlic in a food processor, then add cremini and porcini and pulse until very finely chopped.

Heat butter in a skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook mushroom mixture, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are dry and 1 shade darker, about 8 minutes. Add reserved soaking liquid and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick, dry, and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes (there will be about 1 cup filling). Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely, then refrigerate until you are ready to use.

For the Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading and rolling

3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)

2 large eggs

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

Make the dough

Stir together flours in a bowl. Make a well in flour and add eggs, salt, and water, then stir together with a fork without touching flour. Continue stirring, gradually incorporating flour into well until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding only as much additional flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. (Dough will be soft.) Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes.

Roll out dough and fill pierogies:

Halve dough and roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface into a 15-inch round, keeping remaining dough wrapped. Cut out rounds (about 24) with floured cutter. Put 1 teaspoon filling in center of each round. Working with 1 round at a time, moisten edges with water and fold in half to form a half-moon, pinching edges together to seal. Transfer pierogies as assembled to a flour-dusted kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining rounds, then make more pierogies with remaining dough and filling.

Cook pierogies in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to skillet with onions. Toss gently to coat and serve immediately.

Topping Suggestions

These doughy little treats definitely taste better with a topping or two.

Onion topping

1 lb onions, chopped

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Cook onions in butter in a large heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Sour Cream Topping

1 cup sour cream (I used Toffuti vegan sour cream)

1 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill

Mix sour cream and chopped dill, and dollop away!