The rest

AriCooks, cake, dessert, quick breads and tea cakes, Spring, Summer

Loquat (shesek) tree hangs over our balcony

It’s May in Jerusalem and nothing could be more delightful. The days are warm, the evenings are breezy, and our loquat tree is bursting with fruit. The old ladies that wander the shuk with their backyard-offerings are selling a variety of basil that lasts for weeks in a glass of water set out on our table (it even starts to root), and smells amazing. My fruit and vegetable guy had organic lettuce this week, grown by his teenage neighbor, and bright, sweet cherries, also grown without pesticides. I know that the heavy, sticky heat is imminent and I am enjoying every second of this season.

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I’ve been making a pitcher of my favorite iced tea every few days, which is basically just a fruity tea mix with berries, apples and hibiscus, sometimes mixed with a little white or mild green tea, steeped in a litre of just-boiled water for a few minutes, cooled, chilled and served over ice. Sometimes I mix it with bought or homemade lemonade and sprigs of fresh mint and verbena.

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And after our five week stay in Boston this winter reminded ever more how lucky I am to have access to cheap lemons (80 cents a piece at the markets in Boston!!) I have been also been using them in everything from salad dressing, to dips, to this lovely tea cake adapted from The New York Times Cookbook:

Simple Lemon Cake

1.5 cups flour – I used 50-50 white and whole wheat (you could also use part spelt)

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 lb butter (~125 grams)

2 large eggs, at room temp

3/4 cup sugar

6 Tbs milk

2-3 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice

2-3 Tbs lemon zest

tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F/180C, grease and flour a loaf pan (English cake pan)

Add a little of the lemon juice to the milk to curdle it.

Sift flours, baking soda, powder and salt together in a bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, and then beat in lemon zest and vanilla.

Alternately beat in flour mixture and liquids. Beginning with flour, then adding a bit of the milk and lemon juice etc, ending with flour. Do not overmix.

Spread batter into loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes on the center oven rack.

Happy Spring, listen to this if you haven’t yet (or even if you have).

A pretty delicious weekend

cookies, soups and stews, Spring, Summer, Vegan, vegetarian

Sometimes it’s nice to just be with Jeff and Auralee on Shabbat. And make special things, like Jeff’s favorite Brazilian stew

and challahs that are round instead of straight

and fudgey, gooey, chocolatey cookies that are healthy (made with goat yogurt from the Shomron)

And then, get together with long-lost friends (who are no longer quite so lost at all), and have a picnic at the zoo with Shabbat leftovers and other yummy treats.

Here’s to a good week. שבוע טוב

Brazilian Black Bean Stew, remixed.

This recipe is something I used to make back in our Allston days. It came from a magazine that I clipped, pasting the recipe into one of my cooking notebooks. Although I can’t be sure, I believe is was Vegetarian Times circa ~ 2000 ish. The picture above is of the soup in progress, before adding the cooked black beans. Also, since it is stone-fruit season here, I used nectarines instead of the called-for mangoes, with excellent results.

1 Tbs vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper

5 tomatoes, chopped

1.5- 2 cups cooked black beans (I soak mine for 1 day and then slow cook in the crockpot overnight)

1 small hot green chili, diced

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced, or 2-3 nectarines diced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

salt to taste

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for a minute before adding sweet potato, tomatoes (with their liquid), bell pepper, chili and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender but firm, 10-15 minutes.

Stir in beans and simmer gently uncovered, until heated through ~5 minutes. Stir in the mango (or nectarine) and cook until heated though, about 1 minute. Stir in cilantro and salt. Serve hot.

Chocolate Walnut Cookies, heavily adapted from Veganomicon

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup goat yogurt

3/4 cup sugar (I like the brown, cane sugar)

1 egg

1/2 cup soy milk

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp amaretto

4 oz bar dark chocolate, chopped small

1/2 cup walnut, chopped small

Preheat the oven to 350°F

In a large bowl, sift together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, sugar, oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and amaretto. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, in batches. Add chocolate and walnuts. When the batter starts to get too stiff to mix with a spoon, use your hands. The batter is sticky and and thick and your hands will get very messy and chocolate-covered, but as Isa and Terry say ,”worse things have happened”.

Wash your hands and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or grease with a little oil. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and press to flatten (it helps prevent sticking, if your hands are a bit damp). Place about an inch apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Iced Tea

AriCooks, Spring, Summer, Vegan, vegetarian

Lemon verbena on my balcony on a sunny, hot spring day

Although it’s a little hard to tell with the up and down weather we’ve been having here in Jerusalem, spring is well underway and summer is just around the corner. Some days this week were downright hot which means my iced tea craving kicked in along with thoughts of long hot days, melting popsicles and memories of blazing Israel summers gone-by.

When cool showers become the norm, I always have a pitcher of my favorite iced herbal tea in the fridge. Although this recipe is quite fluid and changes depending on my mood, what’s available, and what country we are in, it always includes dried hibiscus and something fruity like blueberry or cranberry tea, along with something neutral such as white tea or a mild decaffeinated green tea. Throwing in some fresh herbs such as peppermint or verbena can be very nice too.

Iced Tea

Bring a pot of water barely to a boil — about 2 liters/ 2+ quarts  (that’s what fits in my pitcher). Take the pot off the heat and let it sit for a minute then add your blend of teas. To give you an idea of how much I use, here is a standard dinner plate, with the loose tea I used to make one pitcher:

dried hibiscus tea (bottom) and a fruity tea blend from the shuk (top)

Let your teas steep for 3-5 minutes, then remove loose tea/tea bags from the pot, or pour tea through a sieve into a pitcher. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Obviously you will need to play with your quantities, but just remember, if your tea ends up too strong you can always water it down a little, and you’ll have more experience for next time.

French Hill Salad

Dairy Free, Salad, Spring, Summer, Vegan, vegetarian

One of the best parts of being back in Israel is reuniting with friends from my past. Although not all my high school friends remained in Israel after graduation, the ones who did are now much more accessible and even the ones who left Israel come to visit with some regularity.

I am quite delighted to now be residing in the same great city as Ilana, a former Pardess Chana-ite, who gracefully mothers three beautiful children while also working full time as an elementary school teacher. Ilana, her husband Ziv and their children live in beautiful French Hill where she cooks, sews, gardens and makes Martha Stewart look like a lazy socialite. She does it all with a smile and a laugh, taking such genuine joy in life that it is contagious.

This salad is an example of the type of simple and delicious food that comes out of Ilana’s classically-Israeli kitchen. Ziv should be credited too, as he is never far from the food-preparations or (as he pointed out) from being the chief “taster”.

French Hill Salad, adapted from the Samberg house

serve 4-6

Whether accompanying a hearty lasagna (or “matzagna” as Ilana served over Passover), or a simple summer lunch, this salad is a refreshing green treat for cilantro lovers. Make sure to chop the herbs very finely, as their stems can be a little tough.  

1 large bunch of very fresh parsley, WELL washed (I usually do several washes) and finely chopped

1 small-medium bunch of cilantro, WELL washed and finely chopped

1-2 scallions, finely chopped

1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

good-quality olive oil

juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Mix parsley and cilantro in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice and a couple glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and top with chopped toasted almonds.

Loquat Love and a simple Shabbat Cake

AriCooks, dessert, quick breads and tea cakes, Spring

Nothing in life is perfect or simple, except for cake. Cake is a food group to me (I think Jeff and Auralee feel the same) and we find all kinds of ways to sneak it in as sustenance — in the form of breakfast and snacks — in addition to enjoying it in the traditional dessert-manner. This Shabbat, with my new oven fully-operational, there was no doubt that cake of some kind (along with homemade challah) would be on the menu.

One of the nice things about shopping at the shuk is that you cannot avoid knowing what is currently in season. Out-of-season produce goes up in price (or disappears entirely) and produce that is in season is displayed prominently in large quantities. Right now loquats שסק are appearing at the market, though a tad early and not yet as sweet as they will be in a few weeks. My love for these little fruits is so great and has been so deprived for the last eleven years that I happily scooped up a box with the intention of baking them into an upside down coconut cake.

What I forgot is that eating loquats as they are is a juicy, sweet, wonderfully kinesthetic experience that would be mostly lost were they baked into a dessert of any kind. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend serving them alongside this simple little cake, as the flavors are very complementary and the sweetness of the cake helps cut some of the tang of the early fruits.

Coconut Yoghurt Cake

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup milk/rice milk/soy milk

1/2 cup goat (or regular) plain yoghurt

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Grease and flour a small square baking pan (9 inch) and preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC).

Sift together the flours, baking soda and powder and the salt. In a separate bowl whisk the oil, sugar, milk, yoghurt and vanilla. Fold dry ingredients into wet and then mix in the coconut (careful not to overmix). Pour into baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack before turning out of the pan.

Salad is for Lovers

Salad, Spring, vegetarian, Wheat Free

salad (saləd)

noun

  1. a dish, usually cold, of raw or sometimes cooked vegetables or fruits in various combinations, served with a dressing, or molded in gelatin, and sometimes with seafood, poultry, eggs, etc. added
    1. any green plant or herb used for such a dish or eaten raw
    2. lettuce
  2. a finely chopped or ground food mixed with mayonnaise, seasonings, etc. and served as on lettuce or in a sandwich: tuna salad, egg salad sandwich

When I was growing up salad was a pretty straightforward thing. A green salad consisting of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and green olives (which I would pick out and eat sneakily as the rest of dinner was being prepared) was on our dinner table most evenings, usually dressed with my mom’s  italian vinaigrette  (oil, vinegar, and a packet of pre-mixed spices). Sometimes we had Israeli salad instead which was also a simple and predictable mix of finely chopped tomatoes and cucumbers sometimes with a bell pepper thrown in , dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. There were very clear distinctions between “salad and non-salad vegetables” and I knew what they were from a young age. Being told by my mother to “make the salad”  never required any questioning on my part, as I set about the comforting rituals of lettuce-tearing and cucumber slicing. I am not putting down these salads of my youth, I loved them, but it did take some time for me to discover that vegetables tossed in a bowl with some seasoning need never be repetitive or predictable. Once you start to play around, you realize that the possibilities for salad fixings are pretty much endless. Both fresh and dried fruit can marry wonderfully with mixed greens, while a hard boiled egg or two can turn a salad into a light meal. Vegetables that are traditionally steamed, boiled or sauteed can also be fantastic raw, when thinly sliced and lightly dressed in a pungent vinaigrette.

In the past month or so I have eaten a couple of different salads that have literally blown every other salad I have ever enjoyed way out of the water. These recipes both come from my favorite source: old issues of Gourmet Magazine, and are sure to grab the attention of anyone at your dinner table who still considers salad an afterthought.

Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Cucumber and Watercress

serves 8

This first Salad is a heavily adapted version of Gourmet’s Italian Vegetable Salad With Creamy Garlic Dressing, from their May 2009 issue. The changes I made had to do both with my own tastes, as well as what was available on the day I went to the market. If you would like to see the original recipe you can check it out here.


2 fennel bulbs

2-3 persian (mini) cucumbers

1 small head of radicchio

1-2 bunches watercress (I found something called ‘Upland Cress’ at my local market, it was incredibly fresh and spicy — if you see some, grab it)

3 large egg yolks

1 garlic clove, grated (use a Microplane)

2 flat anchovy fillets in oil, chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Prepare Salad

Trim fennel (reserving fronds) and remove tough outer layer. Thinly slice fennel and cucmbers crosswise  (1/8 inch). Slice radicchio as thinly as possible. Toss with cress.

Purée yolks, garlic, anchovies, mustard, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper in a blender. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until dressing is thick and emulsified.

Toss vegetables with enough dressing to coat. Season with salt. Sprinkle with fennel fronds.

COOKS’ NOTES:

The egg yolks in the dressing are not cooked. For a quicker, egg-safe dressing, use 2/3 cup mayonnaise in place of the yolks and oil.

Vegetables and dressing can be prepared 3 hours ahead and chilled separately (vegetables in sealable bags lined with damp paper towels).

Mixed Greens with Feta and Dates

serves 8

This came from Gourmet’s June 2007 issue and originally called for arugula and radicchio. However, the arugula bunches at my local market are hardly ever worth buying and I happen to love the organic herb salad mix, packaged by ‘Locally Known‘ that Whole Foods carries, so I used that instead.


2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup pitted dates

12-14 cups mixed greens (arugula, watercress, baby spinach, baby romaine, radicchio etc)

3 oz crumbled feta (I used a mild sheep’s milk feta)

Prepare Salad

Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl until well combined

Halve the dates lengthwise and then thinly slice  crosswise

Toss together greens, feta and dates and then toss with enough vinaigrette to coat


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.

Lighter Fare

Dairy Free, Salad, Spring, Vegan, vegetarian

Native New Englanders are a hopeful, but wary bunch when spring begins. During a moment of sun drenched delirium this past week, when the temperatures reached into the low 70s (!!), I began foolishly declaring spring’s arrival. My friend Emily (Marblehead born and raised, but a caribbean islander in her past life) burst my bubble:

me: ohhhh I am so relieved that winter is over, it was such a depressing time

Emily: I don’t believe it. This is fake.

me: oh um, right of course, I just meant that it’s  nearly over. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Emily: [harumphs]

It’s a common defense mechanism for us Bostonians, to eschew positive sentiments about springtime in mid-March. March has see many a snow storm, temperatures below 30 and a very long, end-of-winter trudge that can last way into April. Nonetheless, I am hopeful… and certainly not making anymore hearty stews or dense casseroles for a long time. It’s time (or nearly time) for lighter fare, such as rice and grain salads, fruit tarts and cool, tasty spreads.

The following is more of a guide, rather than a recipe, to making tabbouleh– a bulgur and parsley salad that traditionally includes tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and little else, but is very versatile and can accommodate pretty much any fresh, chopped salad-type veggies, fruits, or even nuts. With a dollop of hummus or tahini, tabbouleh makes a wonderful snack, or light lunch.

For you tabbouleh purists out there, this is definitely not you grandma’s recipe. For my column at Foodthinkers, I came up with a tabbouleh that included the pulp from a parsley/apple/bell pepper. You certainly don’t need pulp or a juicer however, to play with tradition. All you need is a very sharp knife and a little patience.

Ari’s New Tabbouleh

serves 5

The key here really is the chopping. When I say “fine” I mean really, really small. You want to have all the ingredients featured in every bite.

1 cup dry cracked bulgur wheat

water

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped, very, very finely

1-2 crisp apples, finely chopped (no need to peel)

1-2 sweet bell peppers (orange, red or yellow), seeded, ribbed and finely chopped

2 small, persian cucumber, seeded (or one large), finely chopped

juice of 1-2 lemons

olive oil

salt and pepper

Put the bulgur in a large mixing bowl and cover with water by about a 1/2 an inch. Leave on the counter to absorb the water for ~45 minutes. If all the water has not been absorbed, carefully drain the excess.

Add the lemon juice (the amount depends on taste. I like my tabbouleh very lemony,so I use 2 lemons. If you are making it for the first time, use one lemon and see what you think) and the apples and cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Finally, add the parsley, bell peppers, cucumbers and any other vegetables you are including. Mix everything together and pour in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, mix well, then season with salt and pepper.