Monthly Archives: July 2010
This past Monday was Tu B’av, the Jewish holiday of love. A lot of people call it the Jewish version of Valentine’s Day, but personally I hate comparing such a happy day in the Jewish calender to a holiday represented mainly by a baby in diapers shooting arrows at young lovers (why is his mother letting him play with arrows?). I’m also not crazy about comparing the two days because on St. Valentine’s Day in 1349 thousands of Jews were killed in the Strasbourg Pogrom. I can hold a grudge for a long time.
In Biblical and Talmudic times young, single girls would dress in white and go dance in the fields in order to attract potential husbands. A Biblical JDate, so to speak. Today in Israel the holiday has been “Hallmarked” — it’s one of the most popular days to get married, television programming is overflowing with romantic movies and cozy little restaurants make a killing by offering a special Tu B’Av menu, with complimentary champagne.
For the past six years that Ju-Boy and I have been together I have always mentioned something about Tu B’Av. He, the typical British alpha-male, rolls his eyes and mutters, “yeah, yeah, yeah…” But this year… he came home early and in British caveman style, knocked me on the head and dragged me out the door by my hair. In other words, he politely asked me to get in the car for a surprise drive. And drive we did, and drive, and drive, and drive. Two and a half hours later we ended up in Nahariya, a sweet but sad little city on the northern coast, spitting (and rocket) distance from Lebanon.
Why sad? Because Nahariya has so much potential to be a quaint little town. There’s a man-made canal running down the center of town, beautifully gated and promenaded, but all you find in the canal is a puddle or two, and a lot of algae. I realize there’s a water shortage going on, but the canal runs into the ocean, couldn’t the municipality just have the ocean running back up the canal at high tide to give the impression of water? Moreover, the hotels on the main street have become run-down, looking more like the type of establishment that rents rooms by the hour, not the day. The most expensive of these hotels is located right across the street from a well-know sausage and lunchmeat factory. As we drove down the main drag, the smell of salami and mortadela invaded the car. Urgh. Add this to the three (count ‘em, three) hansom cabs with bored horses parked right in the middle of the street, and I just felt so sad.
We drove on to the beach, which was incredibly humid, but lovely, and Nahariya’s saving grace.
After walking on the beach, just one couple holding hands amid the families out to cool down and a few other romantic couples who came to watch the Mediterranean sunset, we headed eastward to a moshav called Netiv Hashayara and Arnold’s. A restaurant with a name like Arnold’s conjures up (at least for me) images of Joanie and Chachi sharing a milkshake in a cozy booth while the Fonz polishes his jacket nearby. Not this Arnold’s. Run by French gourmet chef Uri Arnold, this restaurant is one of the perfect places to take your honey for a Tu B’Av meal. Which is exactly what my honey did. The restaurant had scrapped its regular menu in honor of the holiday and was just offering a special Tu B’Av tasting menu for NIS 188 per person (roughly US $50). And special it was…
Dinner over, we waddled back to the car, groaning with both pleasure and overstuffed stomachs. Ju-Boy knows me so well, the way to my heart is through my stomach.
Ben Zoma says:
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
Appearances and actions can be misleading. My sweet Tinky has drifted though life as if on a cloud with a silver lining. Nothing phases that child (shouldn’t say child, she just turned 21). She takes everything at face value, not because she can’t see beyond any facade, it’s just because she’s a happy kid (yes, I know, 21 is not a kid). There is no pinch of salt in her life. For those of you who don’t know her, watching her go through life with a constant smile on her face, no worries to furrow her brow, it can be disconcerting. She gives off a certain space cadet demeanor, or, as we say in Israel, you might take her to be an astronaut.
According to urbandictionary.com:
space cadet: n. A person who tends to space out often. He or she does not respond when directly spoken to. The space cadet is not necessarily a person of low intelligence or a heavy drug user, but rather one who is so easily lost in reverie that he or she loses all awareness of the surrounding physical world.
Reverie. Yes, my Tinky is lost in reverie. But that’s as far as it goes. Yes, sometimes we have to pull her down to Earth, but that kid is sharp. She knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. Not the most stellar of students (learning disabilities and our family’s own Annus Horribilis may have derailed her), she drifted along on that cloud for a bit, but now she’s on the right track. Her mission in life? To make the world more beautiful, one person at a time. She’s got a great sense of humor (I like to think she inherited that from me). She laughs loudly and loves fiercely. And just like that astronaut she may seem to be, she’s gravity proof — she can bounce back from anything, with a smile.
Tink is a fan of the simple things in life. She lives and studies in Jerusalem, and when she comes to visit us for Shabbat (when the boyfriend isn’t home from the army, and her huge circle of friends isn’t getting together, or she just wants her mommy to spoil her) she has a few requests for the menu…
“Mom, when I come, can you make sure we have Ju-Boy’s roast potatoes? And make sure he makes a lot of dafdafet (Hebrew for loose pages, what she calls leek). And some of his steamed broccoli… and don’t forget to tell him to make some cabbage the way I like it.” Wait a minute, I see a pattern here. Isn’t there anything I make that she likes? And then she says the magic words, “Mom, can you make me your fudge?”
My recipe for fudge? It’s so simple, so easy, I’m almost embarrassed to give it to you. Almost…
Incredibly Simple Fudge
- 1 can (400 ml or 14 fluid oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 300 grams (12 oz) dark chocolate
- 1 dash vanilla extract
- Break the chocolate into pieces (Israeli chocolate is conveniently marked in little squares) and place in a microsafe bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk. There is no need to stir.
- Nuke in the microwave for 3 minutes. If you are micro-wary, you can do this in the top of a double boiler, constantly stirring until smooth.
- Add the vanilla and stir until smoothly combined.
- Spray an 8″ x 8″ pan (20 cm X 20 cm) with vegetable oil or line with parchment paper (I use parchment paper). Pour in the fudge while it’s still warm and pour-able. Tip the pan to make sure the fudge gets into all the corners evenly.
- Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours, or even overnight, if you have the willpower. I have seen kids (and adults) watch the fudge set like some people watch paint dry.
- Cut into squares, serve the masses, and smile as the compliments come your way.
Sometimes it’s so simple to be so happy.
I have a confession to make. I am an addict. Not just a food addict, this one is a much more serious addiction, and in order to get my drug into my system I need to use needles. Family and friends (and bank managers) have tried intervention, but to no avail. I need to use those needles on a daily basis.
You see that bag up there in the picture. I made it myself. I couldn’t help myself. One day I wandered into The Gourmet Yarn Shop and Orly, the owner, became my pusher. She enables me. She takes my money and I walk out of there with my stash. My needles. I need to get that stuff into my system.
This bag has magical properties, it’s a Mary Poppins bag, but it works in the opposite manner. Instead of all sorts of amazing objects coming out of it, things go in there and never come out. I buy a few things at the supermarket, put them in my bag (to save the planet and not use the plastic stuff), and they are never seen again. Knitting needles, crochet hooks, notebooks, chocolate bars, stuff goes in there and never comes out. I’ll bet Jimmy Hoffa is in there…
The other day I downloaded and printed out a recipe for what looked like a really great cream soup. It would be perfect to serve right before Tisha B’Av, full of carbs and filling and just right to have before a 25 hour fast. My mistake? I put it in my bag, never to be seen again. This is the Little Shop of Horrors bag (feed me, Miriyummy, feed me all night long).
What to do? We have a fast coming up and need to load up on the carbs. Ju-Boy claims that if you give him half an onion, he can have supper ready in half an hour. I’m the same way with soup, just as long as I have my handy dandy immersion blender, I can make soup out of anything.
Zhuzzed Potato and Leek Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, unpeeled and well scrubbed
- 1 large zucchini, unpeeled and well scrubbed
- 1 medium leek (including the green)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 packed cup parsley (just the leaves, no stems)
- 1 liter (4 cups) water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and start sautéeing until golden.
- Cut up the potatoes into smallish dice and add them to the pan, let them get some good color as well. Chop up the zucchini and the leek, toss them into the pan, keep sautéeing. Do the same with the garlic, but throw them in whole. Now add the parsley and give it one final stir.
- Add the water, bring it to the boil, turn the heat down, cover the pot, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Now comes the fun part. Get out your immersion blender. Take the pot off the flame, stick your stick in the soup, and start zhuzzing. You don’t know what zhuzz means? Neither does dictionary.com. But it’s simple onomatopoeia, you just stick your stick in the soup, and start zhuzzing. What is so difficult about this? Need a picture?
- Add the brown sugar, the salt and freshly ground black pepper and zhuzz one more time. If you want to add some soup powder, I won’t tell anyone you did.
I served this soup up with a drizzle of cream, and then added a handful of grated cheddar cheese, which then totally obscured the cream in the picture, so we got the flavor and calories without the visual enjoyment.
The soup heats up well in the microwave. You could take some to work with you and it would taste even better. If I tried it, however, it would probably just get lost in my bag.
I have always had a love affair with Jerusalem, even before I first came into contact with what is one of the most beloved cities in the world. My first time was at the age of 16. My family was here for the summer to celebrate my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, and my favorite uncle, Abi, rented a car and drove us to Jerusalem, taking us first to the Kotel. My first reaction was very emotional. This wall, for me, is the symbol of how high we have risen, how low we have fallen. In the countless times I have paid a visit to this wall since that bright summer’s day in 1979, my emotional state has wavered between joy and sadness, but those white stones with the tiny bits of paper stuck in the cracks, messages to Hashem, always evokes a tear, an intaking of breath, a special beat to my heart.
This Monday night we begin the fast of Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. This day is the culmination of a three-week period of mourning which began with the fast of 17 Tammuz, the date on which the outer walls of the city of Jerusalem were breached during the siege. On the 9th of Av, the temple was destroyed.
My father taught me that this date is the Jewish Friday the 13th, when so many horrible things have befallen the Jewish people. It is the date that the stronghold of Beitar fell to the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt. It is the date of the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition. It is the date when the Nazis began the deportation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Any Jew who feels the collective emotion of our people cannot help but mourn on this day.
On Tisha B’Av we fast. In Judaism, the purpose of a fast is to lower the volume on our physical pursuits in order to focus more acutely on our spiritual selves. This doesn’t work for me. I find myself thinking of food. What will I serve to break the fast? How much longer until we break the fast? I find myself drawn to foodie blogs, cookbooks, even the Food Channel on television. I have a one track mind.
In my previous life, my girls and I would break the fast on pizza. We would call the local pizza place half an hour before it was time to eat, the pizza would arrive five minutes before the fast was over. I believe that in those five minutes all the agony, the suffering of the Jewish people, was felt. No amount of Bible study, no amount of keening for what once was, could rival the emotions of those last five minutes. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it, that in the last five minutes something as trivial as pizza could cause us to feel the collective suffering of our people.
Now that we are living in Chapter Two, we have adopted Ju-Boy’s family traditions (although I believe Shy-Boy would like us to keep with the pizza tradition). We first break with some fresh orange juice, then a cup of tea (with milk, Brit style), together with a piece of cake or a boureka. Only later do we start digging around to find leftovers from the meal we ate before the fast, and whatever else we can find in the kitchen. There is no set dinner for after Tisha B’Av in our house, we become the scavengers our people must have become when the Temple was destroyed.
This year I will be home during the day of Tisha B’Av. Normally I am in the office, but there is no office for me this year. I will have no distractions except the worst ones: what will we eat later after the fast is over? I think I am going to occupy myself with cheesecake, I have been told I have a commitment to cheesecake. I have one cheesecake in my repetoire that usually makes people cringe, until they taste it — Smoked Salmon Cheesecake. This is not something you serve for dessert, it’s an appetizer, a salmon/cheese pate that, once you get used to the idea, is perfect for a hot summer’s night when you need to break a fast.
Have you ever eaten something heavy after not having eaten all day? Horrible feeling, no? That’s why this is a perfect meal for Tuesday night, after we haven’t eaten since the evening before. Try to wrap your head around it.
Smoked Salmon Cheesecake
- 2 cups savory cracker crumbs
- 100 grams (half a stick, half a cup) melted butter
- 200 grams (1/2 pound) smoked salmon
- 1 cup fresh dill
- 500 grams (16 ounces) cream cheese (I use 5% fat white cheese)
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1 tablespoon flour or corn starch
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
- Crush the crackers to fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and then pat into a springform pan.
- In a food processor, using the steel knife, puree the smoked salmon. It won’t come out like paste, more like salmon granules. Add the dill and give it a whirl until it has reached a spreadable consistency. Place this mixture into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream and mix until all is just combined. Then sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper. I use a sifter for this so I don’t get clumps of flour. Mix again until all is just combined. You don’t want to incorporate air into the mixture, this will just cause your cheesecake to puff up and crack in the oven.
- Pour this into the cracker crust. Bake this in the hot oven for 10 minutes only. Then turn the oven down to 110 degrees C (220 F) and bake for another hour. Set a timer! When the timer dings, turn the oven off and let the fishy cheesecake rest in there for another 45 minutes to one hour. Then transfer it to the refrigerator, and let it hang out in there for at least 4 hours.
- Serve cold, or even at room temperature. It makes a good nighttime snack a few hours later as well.
A few years ago my daughter Sassy taught me that it is not the right thing to do to wish someone a good fast. You are meant to suffer. So I wish those of you that will be fasting on Tuesday a צום מועיל (tzom mo’il), a meaningful fast.
I’ve mentioned before that I can be a bit spontaneous. Sometimes that’s not such a good trait. Spontaneity can combust, and it will, and God will sit back and laugh. For example…
Cara, one of my favorite friends, tried to fix me up with a friend of hers a mere 16 hours after I had just gotten divorced. “Are you crazy?” I asked. “I just got divorced yesterday! YESTERDAY! And I know this guy, he’s not my type, and besides, he lives all the way across the country, it would never work.” I was determined to keep my impetuous nature in check, at least where Cara’s matchmaking was concerned.
It seems that Bachelor #1 was also not interested. I heard he told Cara that considering I really had just gotten divorced 18 hours before she called him, he wouldn’t, and I quote, “touch me with a barge pole.”
Ah, Cara, bless her cotton socks, as she likes to say (Brits really do say strange things). She’s a sneaky little thing, my friend Cara. A few weeks later she phones up single and fancy-free me to invite me over for a meal on Shabbat. And guess who was there, without his barge pole?
We celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last month. At our wedding, under the chuppah, I could hear God chuckling away, and Cara sat there, looking so smug!
One of the things Ju-boy had to get used to in Chapter Two is that he was now married to someone addicted to baking. When I moved into his house he had no baking supplies whatsoever. There was half a kilo of self-raising flour in his fridge, but I think that was a remnant of Chapter One. I suppose he got custody of the flour. I moved in and immediately stocked the kitchen with flour, yeast, baking powder, all things unfamiliar to this dedicated meat roaster. A few weeks after the wedding we went to the supermarket together. I noticed him in the ready-made cake section, holding up one of those marble loaves, and I rushed over, intending to slap the offending cake out of his hand. What does he need that for? He’s got me! As I approached I saw him shaking his head, and heard him muttering to himself, “I never have to buy one of these things again!” Doesn’t he say the sweetest things?
1 kilo (2.2 pounds, ~7 cups) flour
2 tablespoons instant dry yeast
7 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla (my secret ingredient)
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, you decide
Place the flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla and oil in a large mixing bowl. Mix together at low speed using the dough hook (or knead manually). This will still be very floury, this is just to get the ingredients mixed together.
Now add the salt. The reason I do it this way is that some say the yeast is “allergic” to salt and shouldn’t come in contact with it directly. Some say this is nonsense. I figure, it’s no problem to keep them apart, so I do.
While the mixer is running at low speed, add the water. It shouldn’t be too hot that you end up killing all the yeasty beasties. You just want to warm them up a little.
Now get the mixer running at medium speed, kneading for at least ten minutes. I let it go sometimes for 20 minutes, depending on how hypnotized I get by watching the dough go around and around, and whether I’ve had my morning coffee yet. The dough is ready when it has the texture of your earlobe.
Cover the dough with either a plastic bag or a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm part of your kitchen until doubled. Depending on the day, season, moon phase or alien activity, this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. On a sluggish day (usually cold winter mornings) I like to give it a kick start by placing the bowl in the microwave and zapping on high for 15 seconds. Feel free to punch down the dough and let it rise a second time, if you have/need the time or the inclination.
Once the dough has risen to your satisfaction, give it a good sucker punch to release the air and knead the dough manually for a few minutes. Now it’s time to braid the dough. There are many different ways you can braid, or weave the dough. I like to do a four-strand knotted weave (see the round challot in the picture above). Ju-boy’s middle son, Chip, taught me the one-strand S twist, which is the free form most often seen in Israeli supermarkets. This is one area where you can really let your creativity flow. And just in case you need a little help, try this easy method for a six strand challah.
Once you have your challah braided, place it on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Let it rise again for another 20 minutes or so. Paint the risen challah with the beaten egg (a silicone brush is best for this) and then sprinkle with whatever seeds you have chosen.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F). I know this seems low, but trust me, this works. The slow heat helps the dough rise even more before it starts to brown. If you don’t believe me, ask Cara. She can vouch this works. Look her up in the Yellow Pages under matchmakers.
The challah should bake for about 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes. This is all dependent on your oven and whether you bake free-form or use a mold. I find that free-form takes a shorter amount of time. I once saw one of Israel’s premier bread bakers, Erez Komrovsky of Lechem Erez, on a Food Channel show, and he said that when the house smells wonderfully of baked challah, it’s done.
Remove the challot from the oven and let cool. These babies are amazing when fresh, but if you are going to freeze them wrap them well.
While challah is delicious on Shabbat and on holidays, it’s also majorly yummy when allowed to go stale a bit, and then used in French toast.
While challah is the cornerstone of Shabbat, I like how it’s managed to bind the family together as well. Ju-boy and I actually started our Chapter Two over a loaf of challah at Cara’s house, may we continute to share many loaves together over the years to come.
I don’t remember entering so many posts, but I have quite a few in here:
- Age Old Friends
- A Fishy Story in Two Parts
- Shmaltz — The Sequel
- Dulce Dog Days of Summer
- Oh Didi Honey
- Lambs to the Daughter
Jill, over at Writes Like She Talks, is hosting The “I’m So Busy That Putting Together This Blog Carnival Is Actually What Substitutes For Taking A Break” Edition of Haveil Havalim. Lots of great links of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights in this one, including my own Dulce Dog Days Of Summer, with a great tease about the cheesecake pic. Why don’t you head on over and check it out?
Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing
Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing,
Thumbelina, what’s the difference if you’re very small?
When your heart is full of love, you’re nine feet tall!
featured in the biographical movie Hans Christian Anderson (1952)
Once upon a time there was a little girl. A very little girl. When she was born, even though she was full term, she weighed so little that they kept her in the preemie ward. I’d like to say that she grew, but she didn’t. Well, she did, but slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y! By the time she was two years old the local Tipat Chalav (well baby clinic) was threatening to call a social worker and charge me with abuse because they thought I wasn’t feeding her. When she was three years old our family doctor became concerned because she wasn’t really gaining any weight. By the time she was four she was the size of a two and a half year old. Tiny little thing. I didn’t even need a stroller for her, I would just carry her around in my pocket.
We actually had a wonderful family doctor, who suspected that she might have a growth hormone deficiency (she did). The winter she was four he sent us off to get a bone age x-ray taken, and then on to an endocrinologist. The x-ray clinic was in the same neighborhood as Machaneh Yehuda, Jerusalem’s outdoor market. It was early in the morning and as we got off the bus I thought it would be fun to walk through the market just as it was waking up for the day. Man plans, God laughs.
I held Sassy’s hand as we walked through the market. At one point we passed a fish stall. The vendor stuck this huge net into a pool of live fish, scooped up a few, and tossed them on to a stall of ice, the freshest fish of the day. One of the fish did not take too kindly to being removed from his pleasant bath and tossed on to a freezing tableau, and literally leaped (do fish leap?) off the ice and straight on to Sassy. I don’t know what kind of fish it was, but it was HUGE, bigger than my little girl for sure. It hit her full on, and knocked her over on to the cobblestones. To add insult to injury, it lay there on top of her, floundering around, rubbing it’s fishiness all over my tiny baby. She lay on the ground screaming, the fish lay on her, flopping, and I was in so much shock I just watched it all happen in slow motion. Mr. Fish Vendor came out of his shop and removed the insulted fish, hurling it back on the ice. And my Sassy, she just screamed and screamed and screamed. Tiny she was, but she had the lung capacity of an opera diva.
Since then, if she knew there was fish on her plate, she never ate it again.
Fast-forward 19 years. Sassy has just become engaged to her superhero, Sabraman. It was time for The Dinner. You know, the two sets of parents get together and strategize about the wedding. Sabraman is half Yemenite, half Turkish. Did I cook a meal that was familiar to his parents (something they see on their table everyday)? Or do I showcase my own ethnic background (Hungarian/Lithuanian)? I came up with a third solution. Sabraman, in spite of his boureka-eating, hilbeh-dipping, meaty upbringing, had a thing for lasagne. So I’d make him lasagne. But I thought that would be too outre for his parents, so I made some fish as well. Yes, I know Sassy was going to have a fishy fit at the table, but she behaved herself well, since she’s a fan of my lasagne.
So there we sat around the table, the six of us: Mr. and Mrs. Sabraman, the future Mr. and Mrs. Sabraman, and me with my Ju-boy. I proudly served dinner: lasagne, a green salad, a chilled bottle of white wine, and my fishy creation — Hungarian/Thai Salmon. The elder Sabraman couple just sat there and stared. What is this stuff? Is she going to poison us with her Ashkenazi food? It was a tense two minutes or so. Sassy was trying not to stare at the fish, Sabraman was dying to dig in to the lasagne but was waiting for his father to help himself first. Finally, in the awkward, cricket-chirping silence, Sabraman stands up, serves his parents and then his bride-to-be and says in his superhero voice, “It’s good, eat!” And eat they did, they even had seconds. That night, Sabraman was also my hero.
Before I post the recipe, just a tiny post-script: Sabraman and Sassy are now living in London, and when I spoke to my daughter last week she said to me, “Here’s an update for your blog, I eat tuna now!” I know this is Sabraman’s doing, he’s my superhero too!
I originally posted the recipe on Recipezaar back in 2001, but it’s undergone a change or two since then. Below is as I make it now.
- 1 (3 lb) salmon fillet
- 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
- 1 large lemon, washed and dried
- salt and pepper to taste
While the salmon is still partially frozen, cut into serving pieces. I usually serve this as an appetizer so the pieces are smallish squares.
Place the salmon in a large pot and cover with water.
Toss in the paprika.
Zest the lemon with a Microplane zester and toss the zest into the pot. Cut up the balded lemon into approximately 6 slices and toss that into the pot as well. Add the salt and pepper.
Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil and let cook for 20 minutes. Yes, I know you are supposed to gently poach salmon, but listen to Miriyummy. Don’t treat the fish delicately, it can take it, don’t worry.
Turn off the heat, let sit for about 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.
Chill for at least two hours and serve.
When Ju-boy and I got married five years ago we each brought four children into the mix. Every now and again, for the past five years, someone has asked us if we plan to have any children together. You know, a Yours, Mine and Ours kid. We thought long and hard (about 10 minutes), and decided the answer was no. We can barely take care of our geriatric dog, let alone a drooling, pooing, projectile vomiting, adorable combination of our DNA. At least that’s what we thought….
I survived a pulmonary embolism 7 1/2 years ago, and while I technically can have another baby, it’s not going to be fun (has it ever been fun?). But a short while ago the proverbial light bulb went off over our heads (note to self: buy more light bulbs) and we thought, why not adopt? I, myself, am adopted, why not pay it forward? Adoption seems to be the perfect answer for our Brady Bunch on speed. I have a few friends who have adopted children here in Israel, and the consensus is the younger the baby the more difficult it is to adopt. However, there are plenty of older children out there just waiting for a mommy and daddy to love him. That’s the tack we have chosen to take, and have settled upon the perfect child for our family. Do you want to see a picture of him?
It makes perfect sense. A certified dog trainer by trade, Dog-boy is a weekly visitor to our house, our own Mr. Clean. He keeps our chaotic mess at bay, and we always look forward to his Thursday afternoon visit. Didi, on the bus home from Afula will call and ask, “Has Dog-boy been there yet? Yay!” Shy-boy has his usual million and one questions for him, which Dog-boy patiently answers. Even Shovav the dog loves it when Thursday afternoon rolls around, because Dog-boy will bring his Belgian Shepherd, Cola, and the two will romp around the house and garden, while Dog-boy deals with all the house’s messy nooks and crannies. Dog-boy will whizz around the house, headphones on, listening to his Beavis Butthead music (you have to add your own heh-heh-hehs), the two dogs frolic in the garden, Shy-boy looks on in worship, such an idyll! It’s practically a Normal Rockwell painting. I should call a lawyer and get those adoption papers drawn up right away. Who says you can’t adopt a 29 year old man?
Dog-boy has one other talent. He’s one of my favorite taste-testers. Thursday afternoon, right before the cleaning supplies come out and the headphones get plugged in, I shove a plate of some experiment in front of Dog-boy and wait for his honest reaction. I am guaranteed a very favorable reaction if one of the ingredients is dulce de leche. Known in Hebrew as ריבת חלב, this stuff rivals Nutella as a favorite flavoring/spread in this house. Dog-boy loves the stuff. I could plunk down a plate of dulce de leche covered spinach patties and the boy would be licking his fingers afterwards. Then he would probably throw up. But that’s okay, he’s good at cleaning up after himself.
This past Shabbat we had one of my favorite vegetarian friends and her meat-eating family over for lunch, so I took pleasure in making a dairy meal, with some Dulce de Leche Cheesecake for dessert. There’s a piece still in the fridge with Dog-boy’s name on it, under lock and key. Thursday is coming soon…..
BTW, if you are in the market for a Dog Whisperer, I’m Dog-boy’s pimp. Let me know and I’ll put you in touch.
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
- 1 sleeve petit beurre cookies (roughly 33 cookies)
- 100 grams butter (1/2 stick)
- 500 grams (1 pound) cream cheese (I use 9% Ski cheese)
- 4 eggs
- 1 packet (3 1/2 ounces, 85 grams) instant vanilla pudding
- 1/4 cup sugar (I used light brown)
- dash salt
- 1 tub (roughly 2 1/2 cups) dulce de leche (caramel or butterscotch spread)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 F).
- Place the cookies in the food processor and grind to fine crumbs. Add the butter in chunks and whizz around until it’s all the texture of wet sand. Empty out into a prepared springform pan (25 centimeters diameter, 10 inch), press into a crust on the bottom and up the sides of the pan and set aside.
- Place the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix at low speed until just completely combined. You do not want this stuff whizzing around at light speed, you do not want to incorporate air into your cheesecake. This is not a light and fluffy cheesecake, it is dense and sinful.
- Pour the cheese mixture over the cookie crumb crust and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Use a timer and thank me later.
- When the timer rings after 10 minutes (you can thank me now), turn the heat down to 110 degrees C (225 F) and let the cheesecake hang out in the oven for another hour. Setting the timer is a good idea again.
- When the timer goes off after an hour, turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in there for at least another hour. You don’t need to set a timer, leaving it in there for longer (I’m talking hours, not days) won’t do it any damage. Then transfer to the fridge and let it hang out in there for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
I was going to serve this cheesecake with crushed sugared almonds on top, but you know how those last hours are before Shabbat. You start going headless chicken, running around to make sure the right lights are on, the wrongs lights are off, the plata is plugged in, the iron has been unplugged, and in all this chaos I forgot to grind the sugared almonds. They’re sitting there in my baking drawer, calling my name. “Miriyummy, Miriyummy, we’re in here…. we know you want to nosh on us… come into the light of the kitchen, Miriyummy…”