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

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

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

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

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


Ari’s Black Bean Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1.5 cups cooked (or canned) black beans

3 Tbs chopped chives

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 small cucumber, finely chopped

3-4 Tbs red wine vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper

chili flakes (optional)

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

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

Baked Tofu with honey mustard sauce

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

2-3 Tbs mustard (not grainy)

Tbs honey/sugar/agave

tamari or soy sauce as needed

water/sesame oil

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

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

Vegetarian Enchiladas

AriCooks, vegetarian, Winter

A few weeks ago my favorite chef instructor from culinary school sent me a message to check in and see how I was doing. “I’ve been checking your blog,” she said, “But you haven’t posted in so long I was starting to get worried.” Oy.

She’s so right. My little neglected blog sits here growing more and more dusty as life whirls on and I come to terms with the fact that I cannot do it all. When I first started my blog in 2009, I was happy and excited with how much joy it brought me, both because I felt proud and inspired by being a part of the online food-blogging community, and because of the responses I got from friends and strangers. At the time, Auralee was just 2 and I had also recently taken over the ballet school I had been teaching at for many years, while often teaching at the culinary school on the weekends. Friends would cheer me on with encouraging words like, “I don’t know how you do it all!” And I did feel rather super-human. But the truth was that I had a charmed life.

Twelve years in the same city (the longest I’d ever lived anywhere, consecutively), afforded me connections and the support of friends and family. We had stumbled into a housing situation with friends in which we paid an amount of rent so low for the area it was unheard of. From the comfort of our little third floor, Victorian apartment, I cooked and blogged in the mornings, while my uniquely independent child played with her toys and entertained herself for hours. When Jeff got home in the afternoon, I was off to teach my dance students, take class myself, and come home to our little bohemian life with some Thai take-out and hand-crafted beers from the gourmet market on the corner.

When we decided to move to Israel, part of the decision had to do with Jeff’s school. I knew that our life would be drastically different when he began his rigorous master’s program, and I theorized that the low tuition we would pay if he went to school in Israel would make life easier for us than it would be in Boston. I’ll never know how true that is, since I have no basis for comparison. And while it should not have come a surprise that having a husband in school full time and a small child, while trying to work and make ends meet, would be difficult, I still was not prepared for the full weight of it.

Luckily, humans are adaptable, and as long as I don’t think too much about real Pad Thai, I am able to truly enjoy the unique and often magical things about being here, of which there are many.

But I love my blog, and since I don’t want to let it die, I might need to scrape together a little extra energy to share some cooking with you all (which of course happens every day, whether I manage to write about it or not!). Thanks to those of you who still read and comment, even as my posting-frequency dwindles, and to Chef Martha for reminding me that some folks use it as a way to check up on me while we are far away.

Corn tortillas

Corn tortillas, found at the Gluten and Sugar Free store on Agripas St, Jerusalem. Ingredients: Corn, water & salt.

Shabbat Enchiladas

After several attempts over the last few weeks at making Pad-Thai that tastes even vaguely similar to the stuff we get at our beloved Rod Dee (not going to happen without lime and whatever other magical mystery ingredients they put in there), I finally stepped into more familiar and successful territory with old staples, like veggie maki rolls (hurray! So easy and Auralee will eat them too) and mexican-ish food, which is also not to be found here unless made at home. After consulting with some food-friends, I hunted down corn tortillas at the Gluten Free store on Agripas here in Jerusalem. They sell them frozen, but I thought they were pretty good, and they did not break or crack too much when I rolled them. If you need info/directions to the Gluten Free store feel free to message me. This recipe is entirely my own, and not authentic in the least. Enjoy!


8 corn tortillas

1 cup dried black beans (you can also use canned)

large red onion, chopped

2 small zucchinis, chopped

2 small yellow zucchinis (summer squash), chopped

1 cup canned/frozen corn kernels

fresh spinach, washed well and coarsely chopped

cilantro, to taste

spice blend- I had my favorite spice guy (Hamami on Rechov HaShazif in the shuk) mix up a blend of mexican-ish spices for me. He used smoked paprika, oregano, cracked red chile, and a chicken spice-rub, but you can play with this and make your own.

3-4 cups tomato puree (I used the organic kind they sell in a glass bottle at the health food store)

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1 -2 cups grated, good quality cheddar cheese (only at Basher)

chopped fresh green chili pepper for garnish


Leave tortillas out to defrost while you make the filling.

If you are thinking ahead, you can soak the beans the night before, and they will boil up quickly. Otherwise, just check them for stones, and put them in pot, covered by a few inches with water, bring to a boil (do NOT ADD SALT) and let simmer until tender ~ 1.5 hours.

In a wide saute pan, gently heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add onions, sauteing until very soft. Add a few pinches of your spice mix and the chopped zucchini and summer squash. Saute everything over medium heat, adding salt and pepper and more spice mix of you choose. Stir in corn and beans when they are ready along with chopped cilantro, to taste. Taste and adjust spices.

Set veggie mixture aside.

In a clean pan and using nothing other than the water clinging to their leaves, gently cook spinach until wilted. Set aside.

Heat the tomato puree, adding some of your spice mixture, salt, pepper and any other embellishments you choose. Set aside.

Now you have all your enchilada components ready. Heat oven to 350°F/170°C and have a lasagna pan ready. Pour about a cup of the tomato puree into the bottom of the lasagna pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the cooked spinach over the puree and season it with a little salt and pepper. On a cutting board, lay out corn tortilla and fill with zucchini mixture (1/4-1/3 cup filling). Roll the tortilla up and place seam-down in the pan. Repeat with the 7 remaining tortillas (or however many you can fit), you may have some leftover filling, which is delicious on it’s own or in an omelet. When all your tortillas are snugly rolled up side by side, pour the remaining spiced puree over them, trying to make sure to cover all the tortillas so they don’t get too dry, top everything with the grated cheddar cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or so, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is nicely melted. If one of those things starts happening too fast, you can cover the pan with some greased foil (so the cheese doesn’t stick to it).

Serve hot, with chopped more cilantro and fresh green chilis.

The Language of the Shuk

AriCooks, Quick Meals, Tips and Tricks, vegetarian

When new English-speaking acquaintances ask me how I learned to speak Hebrew, it is always in the same tone of voice: slightly bewildered surprise. They are often struggling themselves with modern Hebrew, even after years of study in a Hebrew school or Jewish day school. I will speak freely here about one thing I do well, since it is through no exceptional talent that my Hebrew is nearly unrecognizable as anything other than native (on good days). I lived here as a child, I tell them, and usually the conversation ends there. The truth is more complex, and (I think) more interesting than that, however. I learned Hebrew very carefully, and through a system I began devising (somewhat unknowingly) when I was 9 years old.

When my family moved to Jerusalem a few months before my 10th birthday, Hebrew was already familiar to my ears. We had spent summers here and during the school year I attended a Jewish day school outside of Boston where we learned the Hebrew alphabet alongside the English one. Still, I was hardly prepared to be thrust into an Israeli public school on the first day of 5th grade, my loud and aggressive classmates barking in quick, clipped slang as they disobeyed the teacher’s orders to sit down and open their notebooks. When a red-headed girl spoke to me, I recognized only three words in her sentence: “you”, “new”, and “mine”. It was in that moment that I understood that my survival hinged on two things: the red-headed girl’s kind, open smile, and my ability to listen very, very well.

Fifth grade was boot camp for my Hebrew. I can’t say that I learned one other thing that year (certainly not math), but by the time 6th grade began, I sounded exactly like the other children in my neighborhood, at school, and in my Scouts troupe. Had we stayed on as a family, my reading, writing and, in fact, my entire identity would have been quick to follow suit. But my Israeli story is in parts. In the 7th grade we returned to the States, and the next time I lived in Israel was in high school. My 5th grade Hebrew had some catching up to do, and I fell back on a familiar strategy — I listened, parroted, and soon the teenage phrases in the air became my own.

As a college student in Beer Sheva the outdoor market was my favorite place to practice my more grown-up Hebrew. Half the shuk being Arab in Beer Sheva, I learned Arabic words and slang that still tinge my speaking today, occasionally confusing others when my outer appearance does not match the Sepahrdi-colloquial-working class lilt of my words. “Where are you from?” Israelis sometimes ask –not because they cannot place my accent outside the country, but because they cannot place me in it. “Are you French?” “From Bat Yam (a lower-class suburb of Tel Aviv)?” I give them the short answer, not bothering to explain that I learned my Hebrew from children, from the Shuk, from Eyal Golan songs, and from the street.

And now back in (a much more religious) Jerusalem, home to Hebrew University but also Machane Yehuda, I listen to the Hebrew of the Persian spice vendors (musical), to my Kurdish neighbors (colloquial), and to the young women who come for alterations at my shop (educated), and my varied collection of sayings and of ways of expressing myself continue to grow. And even though it fails me from time to time, and little old Ashkenazi ladies who probably taught the language to the Pioneers correct my grammar, I love my spoken Hebrew and its mix of inflections. I love that it is mine.

A couple of readers have asked  for the recipe for the Tomato Zucchini gratin, pictured above, left, in the photo from this week’s meals for the L Family.  It is a fairly simple recipe and I am posting the link here. A couple notes: no need to salt and sweat the zucchini. The tomatoes however do benefit from being drained. You can just saute all the zucchini at once if you have a wide enough saute pan. If cow’s milk cheese is a problem, you can use pecorino, which is made from sheep’s milk. Enjoy!

Cooking at the Casa de L

AriCooks, Dairy Free, Vegan, vegetarian

sweet potato ravioli have been a regular request at my private chef-gig

Last spring we were very sad to say goodbye to one of our favorite families in Nachloat, the Fisch’s. Mo, Caitlin, and Ben were possibly the first family we’ve ever known where each of us liked our counterpart in their family, as well as the whole. Caitlin and I would chat happily while Ben and Auralee played after school, Jeff and Mo talked easily about their shared interests, and Auralee confessed that she would like to marry Ben, after we explained that she could neither marry Jeff nor Saba (my dad). When they departed Jerusalem for greener pastures, Caitlin left me a parting gift whose great value I was soon to discover — her private chef gig.

After a grueling 10 months at the cafe I was lucky to fall into two work situations that are so perfect for me, and for our current lifestyle, that I feel that the universe has more than compensated for those long hours and exhausting work in the cafe’s kitchen: the seamstress shop and cooking for the L family. The L’s are not only vegetarians with a kitchen that would make any professional cook swoon, they are adventurous eaters! Hurray! With balanced sensibilities (they love veggie stir-fry, but are not afraid of puff pastry or butter), and a fondness for Asian dishes (pad thai) as well as comfort food (moussaka, lasagna, minestrone soup), I am constantly able to try out new recipes and have fun searching the outdoor market for obscure ingredients.

The L’s have won my little foodie heart with their outspoken appreciation of my cooking, their sunny kitchen, and their really, really kick-ass coffee maker. And I have decided not to waste anymore Mondays without sharing some of the meals I cook for them. Enjoy!

Every Monday I make three large dishes for the L’s to eat throughout the week. This week I made sweet potato ravioli (my own recipe, which can be found here) a baked tomato, zucchini and kalamata dish from this weeks Vegetarian Times, and an African peanut stew, which is my own riff on a chicken version from Gourmet.

Spicy African Peanut Stew

medium onion, diced

1-2 red chili peppers, diced (I used one in the stew and one for garnish)

2-3 celery ribs

4 cloves garlic, minced

1.5 Tbs finely chopped ginger

3 large carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1.5 cups peeled, diced tomatoes

2.5 cups chopped butternut squash

couple handfuls of broccoli or cauliflower florets

1/3 cup peanut butter

2 cups vegetable stock or water

fresh basil or cilantro for garnish

Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery and saute until onion is translucent. Mix in garlic, ginger and chili pepper and saute just a minute or two more before adding the carrots. Cover until carrots have begun to soften then add the squash and tomatoes. Cover until bubbling and add the broccoli and 2 cups of water or stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or so until all veggies are soft. Mix 1/3 cup peanut butter with 1/3 cup boiling water, and stir this into the stew. Add salt and simmer until the stew has thickened. Garnish with fresh basil or cilantro and more chili peppers. Enjoy over rice.

Green City

AriCooks, Salad, vegetarian

Grape leaves growing in Nachlaot.

The warm weather has arrived and we are seeing some early summer fruits in the shuk as well as the beloved shesek. Young grape leaves are growing all over the neighborhood and the air smells like orange blossoms. Jerusalem, while not my favorite place during the winter months, more than redeems itself come spring. Very warm days, give way to soft, breezy evenings, and the nights are still cool enough to enjoy our down comforter, but not so cold that I can see my breath in our bedroom (yes, that happened in February).

We’ve been picnicking and having campfires like crazy, to make up for all the dark evenings spent indoors and the park near our house is filled with other families doing the same.

cooking vegetable kebabs over our campfire during Pesach.

The warmer weather brings cravings for things like melon (the honeydew are juicy, sweet and delicious right now), iced hibiscus tea, and fresh salads. The recipes that follows is my own, and was published over Passover in The Forward, as part of a piece I did on green foods for Pesach. Enjoy!

Dusk in the Emek

Mixed Greens Salad with Figs, Roasted Pepper and Balsamic-glazed mushrooms

1 container of mixed baby greens, ~4 cups
6-7 dried figs, chopped
1 cup lightly steamed green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 sweet red bell pepper, roasted (as demonstrated here), peeled, seeded and cut into strips
small box of baby bella or white button mushrooms, quartered
⅓ cup mild soft white cheese, crumbled/cut into small pieces (ricotta salata or goat cheese work well here)
½ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
½-¾ cup olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey
salt & pepper

Put baby greens in a large mixing bowl. Add green beans, roasted pepper and figs, set aside.
Pour enough balsamic into a medium saute pan to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly reduced, then add the quartered mushrooms. Toss mushrooms in the balsamic until evenly coated. Drain excess liquid from mushrooms and when cool, add to salad. Crumble cheese over the salad.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup balsamic vinegar with the honey, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil while whisking well until emulsified. Toss salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

*If you are making the salad ahead, wait until just before serving to add the cheese and dressing.

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

More for your mezze

Autumn, Dairy Free, Salad, Vegan, vegetarian

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

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

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

This one is welcome!

Roasted Red Peppers with Walnuts and Raisins, from Gourmet Today

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

8 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, cored and seeded

1/3 cup plus 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs sherry vinegar

1 Tbs walnut oil

1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

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

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

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

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

This salad tastes best at room temperature.

Vegetarian Kubbeh Soup for a Sweet New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Kubbeh filling:

1 medium onion, finely chopped

10-12 baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped

handful of parsley, finely chopped

salt and pepper

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

Allow filling to cool while you make the kubbeh dough.

For the kubbeh dough:

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

2 cups semolina



warm water

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

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

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

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

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

Now make the soup:

2 onions, chopped

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

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

2 beets, peeled and cut into chunks

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

celery leaves, finely chopped

handful of parsley, finely minced

salt and pepper

juice of 1 whole lemon

olive oil

4-6 cups water or vegetable stock

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Busy Summer

AriCooks, Dairy Free, pasta, Vegan, vegetarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

serves 6 

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

7 Tbs unsalted butter/margarine

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

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

1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes

1 cup heavy cream/soy creamer

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unexpected

AriCooks, asian-inspired, Dairy Free, Quick Meals, Salad, Summer, Vegan, vegetarian

Can't stand the heat? This light and nutritious tofu salad is perfect for summertime lunches.

It’s a tried and true fact of living that few things are what you expect them to be and that life is full of surprises. Of course both those things sound like cliches, but we have sayings for a reason, and as the years go by I am more and more struck by the universality of the human experience.

When we decided to leave Boston it was after a long period of frustration with a place that is undeniably cold and (as a matter of perspective) cold-mannered and, in many ways, ambivalent. Having been a part of a largely non-Jewish (and apolitical) dance community for many years in Boston, few people had much to say to me about our upcoming move in terms of choice of location. Unexpectedly however, a friend who is a well known Irish Dancer mentioned that she knew a fiddle player who was moving to Israel at the same time as we were. I was intrigued.

“An Irish fiddle player?” I asked, “Moving to Jerusalem?”

As it turned out the musician in question was married to a journalist who had just accepted the rather overwhelming job of being the Middle East Correspondent for Public Radio, and they would be transplanted to Jerusalem for the next three years.

“How brave…” I murmured, “To be the wife of a journalist in a land that is so foreign to you, to which you have no idealogical or religious connection. And with small children to boot…”

Seeing as we would both be new in town, the Irish dancer offered to connect us.

“You can show her the ropes,” I believe was the general gist of conversation.

Although I suppose I have showed Ellery around a bit since we both arrived in Israel, our friendship has proven to be a lot more complex than simply a half-Israeli helping out a newbie (who, as it turns out, is quite capable of learning the lay of the land with or without a guide). With Ellery, Matt, and the kids so much a part of our lives here in Israel, I am constantly reminded that Boston is a home. We wax poetic about our favorite cafes, markets and restaurants, and trade anecdotes about Somerville and East Boston (our respective old neighborhoods). I also have the opportunity to see Jerusalem through the eyes of someone who neither loathes nor romanticizes this wild place, a truly refreshing opportunity. Ellery is quick-witted, dry and often very funny in her day-to-day assessments of Israeli society as she sees it. For these and many other reasons (such as my having a partner in Cheesecake Factory-bashing), I am thankful that she is here. I look forward to more adventures with her and the whole K-B crew.

E, this tofu salad is for you!

Ellery and Pookie, drinking a beer.

Tofu Salad, Yerushalmi Style

8 oz firm tofu, drained and crumbled

1/2 cup cooked short grain brown rice (or any cooked grain you have avaiblable)

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs Tamari soy sauce

3 Tbs tahini paste

2 Tbs dijon mustard

1/4 cup mayonaise

3 scallion, green parts only, finely chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

2 small carrots, diced

1 small cucumber, peeled and diced

1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped

a few fresh basil leaves, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the crumbled tofu in a dry skillet over medium heat, until it loses some of its moisture and shrinks slightly.

Put the tofu into a mixing bowl and add the cooked rice. While the tofu is still hot, swiftly stir in the lemon juice and soy sauce.

Now add the tahini, dijon and mayonnaise and stir everything together. Add the chopped veggies and herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy on its own, or stuffed into a pita with extra mustard and crisp lettuce leaves.