Kosher Salt Magic (An easy chicken recipe)

AriCooks, Jerusalem, Shabbat, Tips and Tricks

IMG_0119Once upon a time I was a vegetarian. For most of my life, actually, and a bit of a health-nut as well. And though my blog (and our table ) is still filled mainly with vegetables and non-animal proteins, I have two very hungry, carnivorous little girls who love roasted chicken and roasted broccoli alike. It began when we moved to Nachlaot. My older daughter, then 3, went to a public nursery school where they served a hot lunch. She was picky at home, eating mostly omelets, cucumbers, pasta and tofu, and not particularly willing to try new things. At school however, whether due to peer pressure, or simply the deliciously salty Osem soup powder added to all their meals, she happily cleaned her plate of chicken with rice, pasta and schnitzel, meatballs and green beans. So I started experimenting at home, cooking up a little chicken here, turkey meatballs there, and was pleased (and a little horrified) to discover that she loved them.

Since that time, I have found that the pleasure of watching my daughters eat well, trumps my desire to find creative ways to feed them vegetarian fare alone. And I am happy to say that this moderate attitude has produced kids who are never disappointed by roasted carrots, cauliflower, beets, or green beans, but rather overjoyed when we have chicken, salmon or meatballs, once or twice a week– they see meat as a treat and veggies as weekday fare.

Of all the recipes I have collected from my beloved Shuk vendors thus far, this one is the most miraculous.

Kosher Salt Chicken

It’s so simple, it’s barely a recipe

1 whole chicken

a lot of kosher salt

Rinse your chicken– if you’re into that. Put it on a pan lined with parchment. Pour kosher salt all around the edges of the pan, and inch or two wide. Don’t let it touch the chicken. Roast in a 375°F (180 C) oven until it’s golden and lovely looking and about 165°F internal temp (get a thermometer if you don’t have one, they are essential). Remove it from the oven. Enjoy.
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I know it’s not easy to see, but the chicken is framed by a good amount of salt.

 

 

 

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.

What happens next

AriCooks, Autumn, Hanukkah, Jerusalem

I remember last Channuka well. My friend Sharon Kitchens asked me to submit a few paragraphs about the holiday for her blog, based out of Maine, to give readers a feel for the winter season here in Israel. Mustering all the positive feelings I could regarding the cold and rain that had recently befallen us, I wrote what I hoped was a cozy little piece , that more or less summed up the ambiance ’round the festival of lights in my neck of the woods.

This year, with Channuka arriving a bit early (coinciding with Thanksgiving) and with the weather today upwards of 80°F, the holiday took me a bit by surprise. For the first time in years, we did not greet the first candle with potato latkes (though I did make these earlier in the week) and tomorrow we will be eating pumpkin pie rather than jelly doughnuts.
I won’t pretend to be such an Israeli that I don’t feel twinges of nostalgia and longing for the sharp sun and crisp air of New England’s November days, but since this is our last Channuka in Israel for the foreseeable future, I feel it less than I have in past years.
This year is all about the ‘last this and that’, as we are obligated to return to North America in July so that Jeff can fulfill his teaching commitment for his educator’s/master’s program. Honestly, though I am trying very hard to live in the moment (and our moments are full of wonderful friends, meals, the colors of the shuk, Jerusalem at sunset…) it is extremely difficult not to wonder what next year will be like. I am already heartsick for this place and for the life we have built here, even as I struggle through mundane tasks (laundry, school pick-ups, list-making, etc). Additionally, we are different people than we were when we returned to Israel in 2010 and I am anticipating a pretty intense re-integration into American life.
With all that in mind, I hope to spend a little more time between now and July documenting our [food] life here on my blog. Each place we’ve lived has shaped me as a cook and shaped our family’s eating-style in a unique way, and none more than our time in Nachlaot. The DIY culture of this neighborhood (and of Israeli society in general) as well as the incredibly rich cultural influences around us every day, help me keep in mind why I’ve always been so drawn to the kitchen and to food as the great connector, comforter, and equalizer.
Happy Channuka to All!
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Please, please please, Spring.

AriCooks, cookies, Jerusalem, Tu B'Shvat

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).

The Valley of the Gazelles is a green space that was saved from developers by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. This area is home to a steadily (re)growing indigenous population of gazelles.

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

1 egg

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!

A Sunny Saturday

AriCooks, breakfast, Jerusalem, quick breads and tea cakes

After a week of rain and cold, were were lucky to have a truly gorgeous Saturday here in Jerusalem. Families were out in the Emek (Valley of the Cross), enjoying the almond blossoms, cyclamen and the bright red anemones that look incredibly vibrant against the greenest grass we will see this year. Auralee, Jeff and I wandered the valley for hours, until the sun began to set, enjoying the colors and the glimpse of spring-weather.

After wearing ourselves out, we went home to enjoy apricot sage scones, roasted tomato salad with white beans, butternut squash stew, and an apple crisp. Not bad for a short weekend.

Apricot Sage Scones, adapted from Martha Stewart Living, 2005 

I’ve had this recipe in my binder of clippings ever since I first made it in 2005. When my friend Caitlin, a personal chef here in Jerusalem, asked if I had ever made savory-sweet scones, I immediately began singing the praises of these, which reminded me that it had been too long since we’d had them ourselves. You can put the leftover sage leaves on a sheet pan, covered with a paper towel, and allow them to dry for a week or so at room temp. Then crumble them up and keep them on hand with the rest of your dried herbs and spices. 

2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)

1//4 cup sugar

1 Tbs baking power

3/4 tsp salt

5 Tbs cold butter, cut into cubes

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

2 Tbs + 1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped

1 cup cold cream or milk (I used soy milk)

standing sugar and milk/cream for brushing and sprinkling

Put the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until mixed. Add the sage and apricots and pulse again. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Then add the cream slowly (you may not need it all). The batter should be tacky, not so wet that you can’t handle it. If your scone batter gets too wet, you can add a little extra flour. Turn the batter onto a lightly floured surface and quickly shape into a flat-ish circle (handling the dough as little as possible), about 8 inches around. Cut it into triangles (first in half, then quarters and so forth) and place the scone on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush each scone with a bit of milk/cream/soy milk and sprinkle with standing sugar.

Bake at 350°F/175°C until done ~ 18 to 20 minutes. These will make your house smell divine and are best eaten slightly warm.

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.

Weeknight Cake-making

AriCooks, cake, Jerusalem

It has taken a while, but I finally managed to get the electricity adapter I need to convert my US appliances for use in our apartment here in Jerusalem. I was beside myself with joy to turn on my mixer again for the first time, and was talking to my food processor, like a batty old lady, apologizing for keeping him in the cupboard for so long…

I had two immediate thoughts when I heard those little motors purr to life: devil’s food cake with strawberries & frosting, and walnut basil pesto.

It's the start of strawberry season here in Israel, and this year's crop is GORGEOUS

Elbowing my way to the basil

I used my favorite devil’s food cake recipe for the cake’s base, and a fantastic “marshmallow” frosting recipe that is dairy-free, smooth, silky deliciousness. For the pesto, I simply made my favorite dairy-free, free-form version which includes walnuts, lots of basil and some fruity, organic olive oil, delivered by our egg and honey man, Amnon.

Enjoy!

Super-spreadable Fluffy White Icing, adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri

You need a little patience to make this swiss meringue recipe, but I promise it will pay off. The most important thing to remember is to whisk continuously, both while the meringue is over the bain-marie (simmering water) and once you pull it off the heat, until it has reached the desired texture. 

4 large egg whites

large pinch of salt

2/3 cup sugar (I use organic/natural sugar)

1/2 cup light corn syrup (do NOT grease your cup to help the corm syrup slide out! Your egg whites will not firm up if mixed with even a tiny drop of oil)

Half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Combine the whites, salt, sugar, and corn syrup in the bowl of an electric mixer (or any bowl, if you are using a hand-mixer — just make sure the bowl sits over the water, not in the water). Whisk ingredients by hand, just to combine.

Regulate the heat under the pan so that it boils gently and place the bowl on the pan. Whisk gently, just to keep the mixture moving, until it is hot (~130°F/55°C) and the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl on the mixer and whip with the whisk attachment until the icing has cooled and becomes white and fluffy. It will look silky and will hold medium-firm peaks.

Learning the Latke

AriCooks, Hanukkah, Jerusalem

When I was growing up we weren’t big latke-makers in our family. My childhood memories of potato pancake-eating are blurry — a soggy, cold latke on a plastic plate after my school’s Hannuka concert, a mini-latke here or there at a synagogue event. To be honest, I did not begin making my own latkes until 5 or 6 years ago and quickly discovered that there were actually many more options than the usual potato-onion-and-salt- meet-hot-oil, varitety. After several years I felt confident that I had made up for my lack of latke-practice in my youth and was confidently and cluelessly serving up mediocre latkes to family and friends, without much thought. Until now.

This Hannuka, working at the cafe, I’ve gotten the chance to participate in a great deal more latke-making than in all my past years combined and have seen what goes into getting a consistent product that our customers are pretty crazy about.  I’m not saying that makes me an expert, but I have learned some useful tips that I thought I’d share:

1. You will never manage to squeeze all the moisture out of your potatoes, so just do the best you can and move on. In past years, I’ve squeezed, wrung, and used a half roll of paper towels trying to dry my grated potatoes — and the darn latkes still didn’t always stick together in the end. Give your grated potatoes a squeeze before you add them to mixing bowl, and then again, right before they go into the frying pan. If you follow the rest of these rules, that oughta do it.

2. Ignore the no-flour rule. Some of my go-to cookbooks are just dead wrong when they say that adding flour to your latkes will make them dense or heavy. A little flour (half a cup per 6 or so potatoes) adds body and helps soak up some of that excess moisture. Obviously you can make latkes without flour as well, but it certainly won’t harm them, and may make it a little easier to get a uniform product.

3. Salt is not optional. Potatoes are bland. Try biting into one and you’ll see. Latkes in their original form have just three or four ingredients. Without salt, you’ve got yourself an oily, golden paperweight.

4. FINELY grate your potatoes, onions and whatever other vegetables you put into your latkes. The large holes on your grater are going to give you pieces of potato that are too big to distribute evenly throughout the latke mixture. Using a food processor or the small holes of a box grater will give you the size you need.

5. If you are not using eggs, use another binding agent. Cornstarch works great.

6. OIL, oil, oil, oil. The foods we eat on Hannuka are fried because we are celebrating the oil in the temple burning for 8 days and nights. Latkes will not fry up properly in a pan coated with pan-spray or a shallow layer of canola. You need inches of oil here and it needs to be hot. Latkes should take a couple of minutes to become golden brown, on each side. Test one to see if your oil is the right temp, and don’t forget to squeeze ’em right before sliding them into the pan.

7. Drain on paper bags. As with all fried foods, you will maintain the latkes’ crispiness if you let paper bags, as opposed to paper towels, soak up the oil after frying.

Happy Hannuka and happy frying!

The Mighty Maqluba and some Iraqi Shuk fun

AriCooks, Jerusalem

A rather impromptu and welcome visit from fellow food gals, Katherine and Liz had me scrambling for ideas of where and how to spend a few hours in Jerusalem earlier this week. In the end it became obvious that none of us ever tire of Machane Yehuda, and that with the time allotted we were happy to explore more nooks and crannies of Jerusalem’s outdoor market, which is still exciting to me even though it is so close by.

Liz made her usual stop at Uzi-Eli’s gat juice shop to get warm with some of his spiced hot chocolate.

When Katherine arrived we headed into the Iraqi shuk to find some lunch. We chose a place tucked into the corner at the far end of the shuk, where the proprietor always sits outside beckoning to passers-by. Inside his unassuming looking eatery we were delighted to find an incredible variety of rice and vegetable dishes, as well as kubbeh soup, stuffed eggplant, and at least three kinds of ktzizot (meat balls). As soon as he opened the maqluba pot, we were all sold, and tucked ourselves into a corner table as the dishes began to arrive. Maqluba literally means upside-down, and it is another example of a dish I have seen much more in Jerusalem than I did in Tel Aviv because of its Iraqi origins (maqluba’s origins are disputed, of course, as with many dishes in Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine). Usually it is made with meat, so I was delighted to find it offered entirely vegetarian, as a main dish.

 

After using the pitas to mop up any leftover sauce from the bamia (okra) and kzitzot, we headed over to Marzipan to peruse the sweets and pick up some chocolate rugelach. A month before Hannuka, the bakery already looks quite festive with sufganiot (traditional Hannuka doughnuts) and כדורי שוקולד – chocolate balls (you can read more about those Israeli treats in this article by Sarah of Foodbridge).

It's tough to contain one's excitement at the sight of those gooey, chocolatey rugelach -- only the best at Marzipan bakery

 

Tea at my place was next on the agenda. We sat around the space heater, sipping steaming cups of verbena as it began to pour. Thanks for coming to town, girls! Truffle hunting is next, so stay tuned….