Really. here. now.

Gluten Free

One of the many archways of the Old City's Arab Quarter. Photo taken as Liz and I enjoy yet another afternoon spent exploring the Arab Shuk near the Damascus gate.

The unripe fruits appearing on our shesek (loquat) tree off the balcony are telling me that it’s been one full year since we moved into our Jerusalem apartment. A friend once told me that it takes at least that long for a new residence to feel like home and I agree. Having experienced each season here feels comforting, and gives the impression (illusion?) that I know what to expect.

So here it is, the cusp of April 2012 and things could not really be more different than they were not too long ago. Although there are things I miss very much about our Boston life, the life that has taken shape here is so wildly apart from that time, that trying to compare and contrast is… irrelevant. One of the only constants is my food writing and this blog, which I’ve struggled to maintain and to stay in touch with. My Israeli food-blogger friends have been extremely supportive and are an amazing professional network. Through them I’ve gotten jobs, writing gigs, emotional support and inspiration beyond what I could have possibly anticipated, especially so quickly after arriving.

Coffee Roasters in the Arab Shuk

This past month I was thrilled to write my first piece for the Forward’s Shabbat Meals section (thank you Liz!), which includes a couple of our favorite mezze dishes. You can click here to read that piece.

Salads for the Jew and the Carrot piece

I also want to take some space to announce food-writer Katherine Martinelli’s new e-cookbook! Katherine wrote, photographed, and developed & tested recipes for all of this 54-page brunch cookbook herself, in cooperation with hangtime press!! You can check it out here.

Congrats to Katherine!

Also, I am announcing a new category on my blog: Gluten Free. Long after a very lame attempt at trying out some GF recipes back in 2009 when we thought Jeff might have a gluten intolerance, I have been quite serious about trying a gluten free diet myself for the past six weeks due to some health issues. Although it is still unclear whether or not my body is actually intolerant of gluten, I have had a lot of fun discovering the world of GF baking and cooking and all the flours I had no idea existed.

Karina's delicious GF carrot bread, made using sorghum, rice, tapioca, and almond flours.

Lastly I want to share with you all that I am no longer working full time at the cafe, and have opened my own seamstress shop next to and in cooperation with a Vintage Clothing Store here in Jerusalem. I would like to thank the owners of the shop, Shira and Judy, for all their help and also Emunah, who was running the seamstress shop before I was, for the loan of her sewing machine and all her great advice.

...and thank you to Jeff Amshalem for painting the sign ❤ (photo by Judy)

Hope you have a happy April and a chag sameach, and keep a lookout for a new Forward piece on my favorite spring dishes for Passover, coming out later this week.

Helloooo March

AriCooks, Gluten Free, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free, Winter

Nothing like opening up my blog and realizing that somehow it’s been a month since I last posted. It was a long winter of shivering in our little house, and turning on space heaters, the oven, the hot plate, and boiling pots of water to set out in our freezing bedroom. There were beautiful red flowers and holidays that promised spring’s arrival was near, and then another stretch of cold rain and wind. There were crazy busy days at the cafe, as people shuffled in for soup and warm coffee drinks. We catered a lovely party for a new bride and groom, and baked sheet after sheet of hamantaschen for Purim.

Salad plates set out for catering, in the cafe's kitchen

Nidal and Ida, cleaning wine glasses for a party at Belinda

cupcake-decorating centerpieces for each table (my chocolate cupcake recipe is simply this delicious devils food cake in cupcake-form)

Even after baking hundreds of these Purim cookies at work, I still felt inspired to make our own at home. I based my recipe off of Miriam Kresh's, of Israeli Kitchen.

Then in the midst of a rare Jerusalem snowstorm, my friend Anna arrived, her hair all golden from the california sun, and bringing a fresh, warm energy to our home. Her visit coincides with a big transition in our lives, my leaving my full-time cooking job at the cafe to pursue something new and exciting that I will be posting about soon. There are few friends that I would feel comfortable sharing my space with as I navigate the stress, and feelings of uncertainty during this time, but Anna is an amazing and supportive person who is helping me laugh my way into a new reality this month. More on that to come….

In the meantime I’d like to share these gluten-free recipes with you, as I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free eating this month. The following are new favorites (they all work, I promise!), enjoy!

Gluten free chocolatey brownies from Gluten Free Goddess

Fluffy Gluten free pancakes, also from Gluten Free Goddess 

Ari’s Qunioa Salad:

Rinse two cups of quinoa and cook in 2 cups of boiling water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil. Bring to a boil and then simmer until done.

Toss quinoa with 2 peeled and diced carrots, a handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped mint, 1/2 cup raisins and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.

Toss with this dressing:

juice of 1/2 an orange

juice of 1 lemon

salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne, pinch of cinnamon

1/3 cup good quality olive oil, drizzled in, while whisking vigorously

Bitter Green Salad with Roasted Pears

AriCooks, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Salad, Vegan, vegetarian, Winter

Bitter and Sweet.

Isn’t that just like life?

When my daughter was born I experienced an extreme example of the way life seems to always dole out the bad with the good. I had a beautiful, healthy, sweet baby along with carpal tunnel so bad I could not sleep at night (or hold her) and post partum depression that lasted until well after her first birthday.

And now at age 32 I am finally making peace with Israel (I hope), and choosing to make our home there after a lifetime of emotional and physical back and forth. The irony being that I am leaving more behind than I ever did in my previous moves ‘back’ to Israel. Of course there is something nice about knowing that there has been, and will continue to be so much for us here, should we ever want or need to return, but when you are trying to look forward that knowledge is only partially consoling.

It’s a weird time.

Bitter Green Salad with Roasted Pears, from Gourmet Today, edited by Ruth Reichl, 2009

Sustenance was getting a little dense and heavy around here with my cook-with-beer kick still in full swing — it was time for some greens… I imagine that the name of this salad may not be winning appeal from a very broad audience, which is unfortunate because bitter greens, in addition to being good for you, are quite tasty when paired with the right ingredients. So do yourself a favor and give biter greens a chance (if you have not already) and make this colorful, tangy-sweet salad tonight!

This recipe serves 10-12, I cut the recipe in half and still had a lot of salad left over.

For salad

8 firm-ripe Bosc pears (4 lb), peeled, cored, and each cut lengthwise into 8 wedges

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small head chicory

1 small head escarole

1 small head radicchio

1 bunch watercress, coarse stems discarded

1 bunch mizuna, coarse stems discarded

1 small head romaine

For dressing

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Roast pears and make salad:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss pears with oil and spread in 1 layer in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan, then season with salt and pepper. Roast pears, stirring and turning over twice, until pears are tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes, then cool about 15 minutes.

While pears are roasting and cooling, tear enough tender chicory and escarole leaves (discard ribs) into bite-size pieces to measure 6 cups total. Tear enough radicchio, watercress, mizuna, and romaine into bite-size pieces to measure 10 cups total. Toss torn greens in a large bowl and reserve remaining greens for another use.

Make dressing and toss salad:
Whisk together shallot, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

Just before serving, add roasted pears and dressing to greens and toss to combine well.

Note: I highly recommend washing your greens a day ahead and storing them wrapped in paper towels, then plastic bags, in the fridge. There are so many greens in this recipe, it will make preparation seem a lot easier on the day of.


Simply Superb Spring Soup

Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Passover, soups and stews, Spring, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free

Oh spring, you are here.

I have been waiting for you.

Unfortunately, along with spring comes wild and frenetic recital madness at our little ballet school. Even my usually calm and collected teaching partner, Kirsta, has admitted to feeling frazzled — which scares me. Our students seem to have little interest in learning choreography or doing anything really, beyond running around the studio, shrieking, and jumping on each other (spring fever), and if you have never had to costume dozens of squirming 4 and 5 year-olds, then let me assure you, it is like trying to dress an army of epileptic octopuses.

When things get hectic at school, our house begins to resemble the inside of my locker at the Dance Complex (where we teach our classes). Bits of fabric, ribbons, CDs, ballet books, and socks are strewn about. Along with the odd half-eaten banana, empty tea mugs, paper bags, scissors, yesterday’s clothes and a leotard or two. Time to cook becomes scarce, thai take-out, a little more prevalent. Fortunately there are recipes out there such as this incredibly easy, quick and delicious spring soup. For the amount of prep time this soup required, I was expecting something edible, but hardly memorable. I was very wrong.

Make this soup when you are busy, when you aren’t, as the first course of a fancy dinner, as a simple supper with some crusty bread and a fried egg — it can really fit in just about anywhere. Enjoy!

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup, adapted from Bon Apetit, April 2010

Unlike the split pea soup that many of you may have grown up with, this soup is lighter in color and texture, with the mint and shallots giving it a wonderful delicateness. Even if you think pea soup is not your thing, this one is worth a shot.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 2/3 cups chopped shallots (about 6 very large)

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 5 pounds peas in pods) or two 16-ounce bags frozen petite peas, unthawed (I used frozen, with fantastic results, just make sure they are petite)

5 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I use the Whole Foods 365 brand, it is quite tasty and often on sale) 

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint plus additional for garnish

PREPARATION

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add peas and stir 1 minute. Add 5 1/2 cups broth and bring to simmer. Cook until peas are very tender, about 8 minutes.

Cool 15 minutes. Puree soup and 1/4 cup chopped mint in batches in blender until smooth or use a hand-held immersion blender. Return to same pot; thin with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

Re-warm soup over medium-low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls; garnish with additional mint.

Rethinking Passover, with apologies to Mom

Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Gluten Free, Passover, soups and stews, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free

Look, I hate to be one to further stereotypes, but the Jews are a people completely and utterly obsessed with food. Whether this fixation stems from religious restricions on certain foods and food-combinations, from the lean, war years, or from what appears to be a genetic predisposition to weakened stomach conditions, I really have no idea. The irony of this is that a lot of the well-known (Eastern European) Jewish food in the US leaves a lot of be desired, and no holiday exemplifies this lack of gastronomical appeal quite like Passover.

It’s silly really. The restrictions on this holiday, depending on how you interpret the law, are relatively few. In fact, many folks out there who are gluten intolerant, or have a wheat or yeast allergy, eat according to Passover laws all year round. And yet for some reason many of the traditional foods for this spring-time celebration of the Jewish Exodus are heavy, egg-laden, fiber-deprived, lumpy, oily, uninspired catastrophes.

A few years ago, after one piece of gefilte fish pie too many, I decided to start collecting recipes for Passover that celebrated what we can eat on this holiday (such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds), instead of recipes that tried to simulate the things we cannot (uh, passover popovers…). Of the recipes I have compiled thus far some are intended for the holiday — but with a fresh, new take on cooking without grains or leavening — and some are accidentally kosher-for-passover dishes that suit the festive, spring-like nature of the meal.

I would actually feel excited about eating the following two recipes any time of year. They are truly stars of my new Passover recipe collection and I can take no credit for either of them whatsoever. Perfect just as they were written, from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet, respectively, they are examples of how you can reinvigorate your Passover seder, and perhaps help cut back on some of the constipation-talk during the meal. Good luck.

Curried Carrot Almond Soup, from Gourmet, February 2009

1 small onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras)

1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 lb carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cups water

2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk

4 cilantro sprigs, leaves and stems reserved separately

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Cook onion in oil with 1/2 tsp salt in a 4-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add curry powder, red-pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add carrots, water, almond milk, cilantro stems, and 1/2 tsp salt and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season with salt.

Serve sprinkled with cilantro leaves and toasted almonds.

Coconut Fruit Tart, from Martha Stewart Living, April 2008

For the crust

Note: You can make the crust up to a day ahead, pressed into the tart pan. Store in the fridge on a flat sheet pan, to avoid having the pan bottom separate from the top when lifted.

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling

1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

1/2 cup vanilla soy milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

2 tablespoons almond paste

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup soy cream cheese, preferably Tofutti

5 tablespoons apricot jam

4 cups assorted berries

Directions

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients. Press into bottom and up sides of pan.

Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in soy milk and 2 tablespoons sugar, and bring to a boil. Whisk yolks, arrowroot or cornstarch, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Add hot soy milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard vanilla pod.

Beat milk mixture and almond paste with a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Beat in almond flour and cream cheese. Spread into tart crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover edges with parchment, then foil. Bake until set, 15 to 25 minutes more. Let cool completely in pan on a rack. Unmold. Spread jam evenly over the tart. Arrange berries on top.

…and 5, 6, 7, 8

Dairy Free, Gluten Free, soups and stews, Vegan, vegetarian

 

 

One of our younger ballet students, completely unintimidated by the "free dance" portion of class

During one my several attempts at earning a college degree I was enrolled in a dance BA program at a small college a little ways out of Boston. I was one of the few commuting students at the school and also in the minority of dancers who preferred ballet to tap and jazz- the main attractions for many in my program. A lot of the girls were of the Broadway-bound variety while I was busy fantasizing about being Margot Fontaine.

There were a good number of required classes that I liked even less than tap and jazz and at the top of that list was Choreography. Outside of ballet combinations, I am a terrible at coming up with my own stuff and love being given material and trying to do it well. Just give me a nice long, complicated, choreographed adagio and I will be glad to tackle it over and over again, but ask me to come up with 32 counts of something (especially something ‘contemporary’ or modern) and you will be waiting a long time. Fortunately, this fear of improvising does not extend to the kitchen. Strange, no? I LOVE looking in the fridge and cupboards and figuring out what to do with a can of coconut milk, a pepper or two, and a few nuts. That’s not to say that I don’t like following recipes, I do. But there’s nothing like making something tasty out of ‘nothing’. It feels so deliciously unexpected.

This recipe was very loosely inspired by a peanut chicken chile I read about years ago. Apparently a popular Mexican chili-making technique, is to blend all the sauce ingredients together and then ‘fry’ the sauce in some oil before adding the protein (beans, chicken etc). I love that this chili came out green, a very unintentional, but fun side-effect of basing the sauce largely on poblanos and cilantro.

Green Chili with Black Beans and Roasted Poblanos

1 cup dry black beans, soaked and cooked until tender, see note or two cans of drained black beans

2 poblano chiles, roasted and peeled, see note

1 1/2 cups drained whole, stewed tomatoes

1 1/4 cups vegetable broth

1 seeded serano chili (or more to taste)

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp epazote (optional)

salt to taste

Olive oil

Chop up the roasted and peeled poblanos and the stewed tomatoes and put them in a blender. Add a little of the broth and blend until somewhat smooth. Toss in the onion and more broth and blend. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the remainder of the broth and blend. The sauce should be fairly smooth, with no large chunks.

Heat 1-2 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat, in a wide deep saute pan. When oil is hot add pour in the poblano mixture and cook for 5- 7 minutes. Add beans and cook 5 minutes more. Salt to taste. Serve over brown rice with a dollop of yogurt or cream cheese, or some crumbled goat cheese.

Castilian Brazilian

Gluten Free, Quick Meals, soups and stews, Tips and Tricks, Vegan, vegetarian

When you love food and cooking, I suppose there really could never be enough good “food movies” out there. I’ve seen most of the classics (Big Night, Like Water for Chocolate, Eat Drink,Man Woman, Babette’s Feast, etc) and the non-classics, which -without apology- I love just as much (Spanglish, No Reservations). And when I discover a new one it’s like a revelation, even when it’s not original, subtle or brilliant. Woman On Top has enough food, sex, coconut milk and beautiful people (Penelope Cruz, in particular) to more than make up for its campy romance, plus it has some really great performances by Cruz- who carries the film without effort, and Harold Perrineau (Lost’s Michael) as her childhood friend-turned sassy transvestite.

Watch it soon and you may be inspired to make something like this:

Brazilian Stew with Coconut milk

This simple but very tasty recipe is from Gourmet Today and calls for shrimp, which I substituted easily with pressed tofu. Pressing tofu simply means that you drain a block of firm or extra firm tofu, place it on a a few towels, place a few more towels on top of it, and then set something heavy on top like a cookbook or two. Let it press for 20-30 minutes before using it in your recipe.

Brazilian Stew with Coconut Milk, adapted from Gourmet Today

serves 6

1 lb. firm tofu, pressed (see above)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes including juice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 can well-shaken unsweetened coconut milk

Toss cubed tofu  with black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and lemon juice and marinate, covered and chilled, 20 minutes.

Purée tomatoes with juice in a blender until smooth.

Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato purée and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes.

after just adding the tomato puree

after 10 minutes the mixture will be noticeably thicker

Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil, then add marinated tofu, plus any juices from the lemon, and cook, stirring, until tofu is heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes.


Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with rice or a toasted, sliced baguette.




The Results are in…

Autumn, Dairy Free, dessert, Gluten Free, Tips and Tricks, Wheat Free, Winter

It was a close call. We thought my husband might be gluten intolerant, but the allergy test results came back today and we are in the clear, we think.

Thinking Jeff might have a gluten allergy was not the best news for me (or him, but we’re talking about me right now folks, he can gripe on his own blog if he wants to). I mean let’s be serious, I did not go to pastry chef school to improve my looks. I would say that at least 60-70 percent of the time I walk into the kitchen it is to create something that is obviously filled with gluten. That does not include all the times I create a dish with unintended gluten in it. Like nuts or salt or soy (even more so actually) gluten is one of those things that,  the second you attempt to avoid it, is when you realize that it is in nearly EVERYTHING you eat. Oh dear.

I know there are many many resources for people with gluten intolerance. Shauna Ahern who writes the blog Gluten Free Girl is an amazing one and has many lovely recipes for all the standards we enjoy such as chocolate chip cookies, scones, tea bread and so on. However one cannot deny the fussiness of it all (not to mention the expense). Many if not all of Shauna’s baked goods call for no fewer than five different flours such as teff, sweet rice, sorghum, corn and potato. I am sure you get used it and that the benefit of having your loved one be able to enjoy your cooking and baking without feeling sick, outweighs the rest, but getting into it is an uphill journey with much trial and error.

Also, I don’t think I have mentioned Jeff’s sweet tooth. This is a guy who loves dessert and is blessed with a metabolism like a high speed train. I can barely get a cake or a batch of cookies out of the oven before it is time to make another. Last week, with all the Thanksgiving prep I got a little behind in my exploration of the world of gluten-free baking. Jeff kept opening drawers and cupboards looking for bits of chocolate or a stray candied nut, poor guy. After we’d had a chance to breathe and spend a day or two free of orange tubers, I remembered a recipe I’d clipped from Gourmet’s 2005 Thanksgiving issue. A delicious and simple sweet potato pie that I figured could easily be made gluten free. I am not exaggerating when I tell you Jeff ate this for a day and half after each meal (well, okay my daughter and I helped a little). Anyway with a little help from some gluten free ginger snaps, this pie was a roaring success. I’ll definitely be making it again, but for now it’s onto some old favorites we’ve been craving these past few weeks, like real pasta, whole wheat muffins and some dense, chewy raisin bread mmmm….

Sweet Potato Pie with Gingersnap Pecan Crust, heavily adapted from Gourmet’s November 2005 issue

For the Crust:

5 Tbs non-hydrogenated margarine, melted (I used Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks)

flour for dusting (if you are going gluten free, you can use any gluten free flour here, or the Bob’s Red Mill GF flour mix, or potato starch)

1 cup (5 oz) finely crushed ginger snaps (I used Simple Bites GF, and crushed them in my food processor)

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans

2 lb sweet potatoes (3-4 small-medium)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

3 large eggs

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup soy milk (I use unsweetened)

1 Tbs dark rum (don’t leave this out or use rum flavoring, you will be missing out)

1/2 tsp vanilla

Make the crust:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 10 inch pie plate (original recipe said to use glass or ceramic, but go head and use whatever you’ve got). Knock out the excess flour.

Toss together all crust ingredients in a bowl with a fork until crumbs are evenly moistened, then press evenly over bottom and up the side of pie plate. Bake crust for about 6 minutes, then cool on rack.

Make filling:

Increase oven temp to 400 F. Prick each sweet potato with a fork. Roast in a shallow, foil lined baking sheet for about one our, until tender. Remove from oven and reduce temp to 375 F. (Obviously, you could do this step first, or even a day ahead and refrigerate the sweet potatoes, peeled, until ready to use.)

While potatoes cool, cook sugar in a dry, heavy, 8-inch skillet over moderate heat until sugar begins to melt. Continue to cook swirling, or stirring occasionally with a fork until sugar melts to a deep golden caramel. Remove from heat. Carefully pour water down the side of skillet- mixture will bubble and steam vigorously. Return to heat and simmer until caramel is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Tips and Tricks: melting sugar is a slow process, it should take a few minutes, be patient, and DO NOT walk away. Once it begins melting it goes very quickly from crystals to hot liquid to a blackened mess. Be vigilant!

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and remove any tough or dark spots. Puree in a food processor until smooth, then add eggs, cinnamon and salt and blend until smooth (careful, if your potatoes are still hot, you will scramble your eggs). Add soy milk, caramel, rum and vanilla and blend everything until well combined.

Pour filling into crust. Bake until filling 2-inches from edge is slightly puffed and center trembles gently when shaken, ~40 minutes. If the crust begins to brown too much before the filling is set, crimp some foil around the edge of pie. Cool pie on rack for 1 hour before serving.

Jilo

AriCooks, Gluten Free, Vegan

When you have a cooking habit that often surpasses your available funds, grocery shopping gets a little bit more complicated than a trip to the nearest supermarket, but it’s also a lot more fun. In other words, if you have some time to spend acquiring ingredients (and in most cases, access to a vehicle), you can save a lot of money. I love international ingredients but find myself seriously cringing at the thought of paying 3 or 4 dollars for a spice-jar sized quantity of sesame seeds at a place like Whole Foods. So, if what you are planing to make is 4 dozen greek cookies that are covered in the things, stop, breathe and think….who uses sesame seeds? Or really, to be politically correct, which cuisines use sesame seeds? I can guarantee you that your greek friend’s grandma is not buying seeds for her kolouria at Whole Foods. Okay, so now you’re on the right track. Is there a greek supermarket near you? An asian market? I found a half POUND bag of sesame seeds at an Indian/”International” market near my house, for less than Whole Foods charges for one of those tiny 2 oz. jars. Tofu for 99 cents? Try the Super 88, the Asian grocery mecca, or any of the smaller neighborhood asian markets. I could go on, but you get the idea. And what this brings me to is Demoulas Market Basket.

I know, you may have set foot inside Market Basket at one point and were quickly scared away by the sawdust on the floor and the employees chasing a woman who was trying to make a run for it with a shopping cart full of unpaid groceries. It’s okay, put on your non-skid shoes and throw that purse strap over your head and let’s go.

Market Basket is a crazy place, and if you go there on a weekday evening or a Saturday or Sunday morning, you will never want to return. But they have amazing deals, seriously. The produce is great and they even have organic stuff. They sell fantastic organic Hawaiian coffee for like 6 bucks a bag. And because the Somerville location, where we go, caters to a clientele from places like Haiti the Dominican Republic and Brazil you can find really interesting things that you may not have seen before. Which brings me to Jilo– finally. Whew.

So, I saw these adorable little green eggplant things that were wrapped together in packs of 10 or so,  labeled ‘jilo-brazilian eggplant’. Since I love eggplant, I decided to buy them and rely on the wonderful world of online recipes to tell me what to do.

hello, jilo

hello, jilo

The first thing I discovered is that there are two kinds of jilo. One is sort of long, like the ones pictured here and should be used when green. After it begins to turn yellow or orange, it becomes very, very bitter. The other type of jilo is more round, like a tomato and has a red or orange blush to it, which is fine- the color indicates ripeness.

The recipes I found didn’t really excite me, so I decided to see what would happen if I just cut it up (no need to peel) tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it at around 375 F. After about 30 minutes I threw in some grape tomatoes I had lying around and roasted for another 30 minutes or so. The result was slightly firmer, and tangier than ordinary eggplant, but still an eggplant-like dish. We ate it over brown rice with a balsamic tahini sauce (1/4 cup of tahini in the blender with a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and some water to thin it out, salt, and freshly ground pepper. You can also add a little olive oil for a richer sauce).

IMG_0731