Monthly Archives: April 2010

I Say Potayto, You Say Potahto

Some women have a thing for tall men.  Others have a thing for men with curly hair.  And then there are those women who go for muscles.  Visual stimuli, works for some, but not for me.  For me the attraction is aural.  

If you’re having trouble figuring that one out, or keeping your mind out of the sewer, look it up. 

Okay, back to my aural fixation…  I have a thing for English accents.  It’s an illness, really.  It all started in the 7th grade, when Miriam Greenblum beckoned me into her bedroom and said, “You have to listen to one of my sister’s records, it’s so cool!”  The record was The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, and at that point my life changed forever.  I fell in love first with their music, then with them (predominantly George Harrison), and later on, when I saw their movies, with their accents.  I didn’t realize that they had working class Liverpudlian accents, I just loved listening to them talk.  I started watching any BBC production I could on public television.  Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, To The Manor Born, as long as they were speaking with that accent, I mopped it up.  

The First Husband was a Brit.  Still is, actually.  21 years of listening to him say ” ‘ello, luv,” well, let’s just say I didn’t divorce him because of his Cockney accent.  And then there’s Ju-boy, a/k/a The Last Husband.  Also a Brit.  He’s got a yummy accent, London with a touch of country.  Everything that comes out of his mouth sounds golden (to my fetished ears), even when he yells, “Oh Miriyummy, my sweet, my cherub, where the @#*! have you hidden my slippers?” 

But man plans, God laughs. While I ooohed and aaaahed over his accent, he did have this habit of correcting my pronunciation.  When I would ask him if he wanted some tomato in his salad, he would not answer yes or no, but would say tomahto.  He uses a tis-you.  He keeps to a she-jew-al.  It’s a tiny bit irritating, or, as he would say, it gets up my nose.  But still, I love to listen to him, even when he rolls his eyes when I’d ask him if he wanted a banana (he’d say no, he didn’t, he wanted a ba-naaaaah-na).  Finally, I confronted him.  “Do you want me to sound like Madonna after she moved to England?  Do you want me to tawk to you in my Bronx accent?  Yo!  Ju-boy!  Ya wanna tomahto?  Would you care for a spot of cawfee?”  He got the point.  And we continue to live happily ever after, for the moment. 

Oddly enough, in spite of the Gershwin lyrics, the Brits also say potayto.  Does it matter?  I’m getting hungry discussing this.  Which leads us to part of what’s for supper tonight, Golden Herbed Potato Wedges.  You can find the recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Israeli Kitchen.  Full of wonderful recipes, this blog is always a source of mealtime inspiration. 

Golden Herbed Potato Wedges -- before

Golden Herbed Potato Wedges -- after

Carbo heaven!

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In Which I Become A Sous-Chef

Having churned out four daughters, you would have thought one of them had inherited my food obsession, both in cooking and eating.  But nooooooooo!  I should have seen it coming early on with Sassy, my oldest.  When she was born she weighed 2.3 kilos.  That’s a little over 5 pounds for those of you more comfortable in avoirdupois.  (I know, I’m being facetious.)  Today, 25 years old and married, she doesn’t weigh much more.  When she was little she would never eat, which was very frustrating to the Jewish Mother in me.  I would equate food with love, and she would be full up after just looking at a spoon of cottage cheese.  The other three didn’t weigh much more, and didn’t eat much more as well.

When I was a little girl I was also a picky eater (you wouldn’t know it from looking at me today), but I loved hanging out with my mother in the kitchen and watching her cook.  She would let me stir, she would let me dig my hands into the hamburger and squish things around, she would let me scramble eggs — I was in kiddie heaven.  I really have to thank my mother for letting me patchkeh around in the kitchen, wincing at the mess I would create and never letting that prevent me from making more messes.  I still have this picture in my head of her trying to extinguish the small fire I started by trying to fry an egg in a plastic cereal bowl.

Don’t get me wrong, my girls can cook!  Sassy married her soulmate, Sabraman (yes, he’s a superhero) and is trying to be more Yemenite than his whole family combined.  She has become the Queen of Hawaiij. Her sister, Tinky, makes a mean mushroom Alfredo pasta. My girls can cook, they just aren’t as obsessed with it as I am.  Sigh…..

Enter my stepson, Shy-boy.  He’s Ju-boy’s youngest, and he loves to cook.  Ju-boy loves bonding with his son while teaching him how to roast potatoes (he claims the secret is how much you sweat while making them), and I welcome having a sous-chef in the kitchen.  Except usually, Shy-boy ends up doing the cooking, and I am his sous-chef.  Which is exactly what happened today.

Carine Goren is the baking guru of Israel.  I love her recipes and her cooking shows on the Israeli Cooking Channel.  The recipe below comes from one of her books, אפייה זה משחק ילדים, which translates into Baking is Child’s Play.  Shy-boy has been chomping at the bit to try out a few of her recipes and today we did.

Pizza Cookie

This is a giant chocolate chip cookie topped with strawberry jam and white chocolate.  If you squint, it really looks like pizza.

Pizza dough:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/4 teaspoon salt

100 grams (1/2 cup) butter or margarine

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

Pizza sauce:

1 cup red jam (we used strawberry, raspberry works too)

Cheese:

100 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate, grated (we didn’t have any so I chopped up some white chocolate chips instead)

  • Line an oven tray with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (320 in F)
  • In a bowl, mix together the white sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla essence and salt.
  • Melt the butter (marg) in the microwave and add to the mixture in the bowl.  Stir with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the flour, baking soda and chocolate chips and stir until you get a uniform dough.
  • Pat the dough down on to the parchment paper in the shape of a thin circle (pizza-shaped).  This will form one large cookie.  If the dough sticks to your hands wet them a bit and continue to pat the dough down until you have your pizza base.
  • Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30-35 mintues.  The cookie should be golden and a little bit soft in the middle.  When ready, remove, and let cool completely.
  • With the back of a spoon spread the jam as you would pizza sauce.
  • Grate the white chocolate over the jam, until the entire base is covered.
  • Cut your pizza cookie into triangular slices with a pizza cutter.  Come on, if you’re going to pretend this is a pizza, pretend all the way.

Mix the dough with a wooden spoon.

Pat the dough down to create the pizza base.

Spread the jam over the baked base.

Distribute the white chocolate "cheese" evenly over the "sauce."

Take the illusion all the way to the limit, cut into slices with a pizza cutter.

Scarlet’s Brownies, Finally!

When most people go abroad they usually like to visit the normal tourist attractions.  You know, famous city landmarks, museums, shopping, shopping, SHOPPING!!!!  Not me. Well, except for the shopping part, but not the kind of shopping you think.  I love supermarkets.  In New York, Zabar’s is my shrine. No kidding. With few exceptions, I have to go and spend time in Zabar’s every time I visit New York. It drives my kids crazy. They would rather spend hours and hours in Macy’s or some giant mall. I would rather have root canal than do that.

I love visiting supermarkets, and even more, love buying things that we don’t have back home. I once pulled up to the El Al security check at Kennedy airport with one whole suitcase with nothing in it but chocolate and Slim Fast products. And horrors of horrors, it looked weird on the x-ray machine so they opened it. The ex-elite combat unit security clerks looked at my stash and asked, “What are you going to do, first eat the all the chocolate and then use the Slim Fast?” Embarrassingly, yes!

When I was dating Ju-boy he told me he was going to visit his daughter Scarlet (as in the color, not O’Hara) on her air force base down south.  He mentioned that the last time he went down there for Parents’ Day he unknowingly came empty handed, while all around him families were hauling out what could pass for a full, six course Thanksgiving dinner.  But this time, he was dating a Nigella Lawson wannabe, and I was happy to suck up impress and sent along some brownies.  Instead of nuts or chocolate chips, I tossed in a bag of some of my self-imported Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips.  Ju-boy proudly handed over the brownies to daughter Scarlet, who put them away in her room to save for later.  But, alas (this should be read with your right forearm over your forehead in the alas position), Scarlet never got to taste those brownies.  By the time she said goodbye to Daddy and had returned to her room the brownies had been decimated by her roommates. 

Fast-forward five years, and Scarlet has been a civilian for quite a while now.  She lives on a kibbutz about an hour’s drive from here and we’re going to visit her this evening.  While I was rearranging my baking drawer (doesn’t everyone have a baking drawer?) I found my very last bag of Reese’s chips.  And guess what’s now cooling before I cut it up into gooey, chocolately squares?

Before posting the recipe please let me get up on my soapbox and talk to you about vanilla.  I make my own vanilla.  How la-di-da does that sound?  But it is sooooo much better than the fake stuff they sell, and so much cheaper than the real stuff they sell.  I got my recipe from one of my foodie friends, Ruth.  Ruth was kind enough to share her recipe with me, and gave permission for me to spread the word to the masses (that would be you).  So check out Ruth’s Homemade Vanilla Extract on Recipezaar, you can thank me (and Ruth) later.

Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips

3/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup margarine

2 1/4 cups white sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla (I just pour out a glug of vanilla)

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 bag (10 ounces) peanut butter chips

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 in F-speak).
  • Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper.
  • Melt the margarine and then stir in the cocoa.
  • Mix in the sugar and the vanilla.
  • Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Don’t stir too much, just until all the ingredients are incorporated.  Whatever you do, don’t use an electric mixer for this part, you want gooey brownies, not airy brownies.
  • Add the peanut butter chips and stir again.
  • Pour/scrape the batter into the parchment-line pan.  Make sure to get as much as you can in there.  As my mother used to say, you could leave a whole bite behind!
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • You should let these brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.  Ideally, you should place the cooled brownies in the freezer, and then cut the frozen brownies into perfect squares.

One note about parchment paper:  the person who invented parchment paper deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for cooking.  You don’t need to grease the pan, and even better, after you’ve frozen the brownies you just take the paper by the edges (not delicately, grab those edges) and lift the whole thing out of the pan.  You barely have to clean the pan, a boon to those of us who love to cook but hate the clean up.

Just grab the parchment paper and lift...

Hopefully this time Scarlet will have these babies all to herself.  She does have a roommate, Sasquatch (not because he’s big and hairy, because he’s got HUGE feet).  Maybe she’ll let him have a bite…

Do you think Scarlet will share with Sasquatch?

Once I was Anti, Now I’m Pro

Happy happy Independence Day!  Israel is 62 years old, the country snoozes off the celebrations of the night before, there’s a lingering smell of fireworks in the air, and I am digging around the kitchen for breakfast.  I love breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day.  So important, in fact, that I could have breakfast for lunch and even dinner.  I should have been a hobbit, don’t they have a meal they call Second Breakfast?

Shovav, my dog, and I are rummaging around the house trying to find something tasty to eat.  Shovav gets his dogbreath chicken liver bits in a bowl, but I’m still looking.  I’m peckish, as my ex-husband used to say.  Not starving, just peckish.

And then I remember — Ju-boy is away in England for the week (and quite possibly longer thanks to the volcano whose name I dare you to pronounce).  While he’s gone I take advantage of the fact and buy certain foods that would never be allowed past his autocratic shopping dictates.  When Ju-boy is away I buy fruit just because it’s “pretty.”  I buy canned and processed goods that would otherwise never make it into the kitchen.  I buy real, dairy ice cream, and don’t share it with anyone!  This time, I was in Meatland, that glorious emporium that caters to a town full of Anglo immigrants who can’t live without their Dr Pepper, Walker’s crisps and biltong.  I was in there there other day looking for my Dr Pepper and Cadbury Crunchie fix when I spotted them, and I knew they had to be mine!

Yes, blueberries are an Israeli fruit.  We don’t really have the right climate to grow blueberries, but up north, in the Golan, you can find them in abundance.  Don’t expect to find them as easily as you would find the oranges, loquats, prickly pears and apricots, being sold on the side of the road.  These babies are meant for export, and off to Europe and even further they go.  I’ve bought Israeli blueberries in New York.  I’ve seen them in London.  And now I bought them in Ra’anana.  They were probably exported to Europe and then imported back into Israel.  At least, the price felt that way.

So blueberries in freezer and now in hand, I defrost them in a colander.  And then I start to play.  I take out a shallow bowl (blue and white, of course, it is Independence Day).  I ladle out a little yogurt, add some blueberries, more yogurt, more blueberries, isn’t that lovely!  A true blue and white breakfast. 

But wait, it needs just one more thing.  And not everything blue and white is actually colored blue or white.  I run (okay, amble) upstairs to my stepson’s windowbox farm.  Shyboy is growing all sorts of interesting things there from “found” objects.  He’s got a tomato plant climbing the walls just from some seeds he found in his salad.  One day he dug a bag of nana (mint) out of the fridge and it had been kept fresh in there for so long it had started to sprout roots.  So he planted it and now we have fresh nana.  I add a nana leaf to the top of my breakfast.  Ju-boy would be so proud, he thinks presentation is very important.

I have started buying pro-biotic yogurt.  Back when I was a little girl in the Bronx I remember my mom shtupping me full of anti-biotics.  And now we eschew those for pro-biotics.    I Googled why pro-biotics are so good for you, but maybe if the explanation had been written in iambic pentameter I would have better absorbed the explantion.  My friend Helene tells me it makes her feel better, lighter, less (or hardly even) bloated, and that’s a good enough explanation for me.  I now buy pro-biotic yogurt. 

Independence Day Breakfast for Two

2 cups of blueberries, fresh if you can get them, if not, frozen and thawed

2 (200 ml) containers of pro-biotic yogurt

1 sprig of nana (mint)

  • Defrost and thaw the blueberries if you don’t have fresh ones.  I did mine in a colander under some lightly running water.  Lightly, lightly, you don’t want Niagara Falls crushing them.
  • Use a blue and white dish, it’s Independence Day!
  • Start with a layer of yogurt, then alternate as many layers as you like, ending with a dollop of yogurt.
  • Top with a sprig of mint, it’s pretty, and you might want to take a picture for posterity.
  • Serves 2.

Man plans, God laughs — this is meant to serve two people.  Last night, sometime close to 11 PM, my daughter Didi and 30 of her best friends climbed into a taxi (think clowns in a Volkwagen) to go off and celebrate in dark and scary south Tel Aviv.  She got home safely and I assume will be asleep for most of the day, so instead of this being a breakfast for two, it was a large and leisurely breakfast for one.  Patriotic and healthy, I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever……

Just a question — if the yogurt is pro-biotic and the blueberries are full of anti-oxidents, have I just canceled everything out?  😉

Blame It On The Volcano

Repeat after me — Eyjafjallajoekull.  I dare you to spell it, let alone pronounce it.  I grew up in a family where Swedish was the secret language, so Scandianvian is not exactly gobbledygook to my ears.  But Eyjafjallajoekull?  Really?  I think I mentioned a word remotely similar the last time I came out of a general anesthetic haze.

Until last week, how many of us even knew this place existed?  I want to see a show of hands!  I’ve even been to Iceland, and still could have gone on and happily lived my alloted 120 years without ever mentioning this volcano.  But my life’s motto has once again come to bite me in the tushy — man plans, God laughs.

Ju-boy, my husband, left last Sunday, Sunday OVER A WEEK AGO, for a one week business trip to Manchester, England.  “See you next Sunday, ” he said, “when you pick me up at the airport.”  Hah!  If you listened intently, in between the sound of planes taking off and landing, you could hear the Fates cackling in the distance.  Next Sunday has come and gone, and Ju-boy is still in England, thanks to that unpronounceable volcano and its ash plume.  The man is trapped on an island.  I am married to Gilligan. 

He’s one of the lucky ones.  I have a friend who lives in New York who wrote me that Kennedy Airport is starting to resemble a refugee camp with all the travelers trying to get back to Europe.  No place to stay, no change of underwear, these people are really at the mercy of the volcano.  At least Ju-boy has friends and family in London, where he’s now staying.  At least Ju-boy is there on business, and is now firmly ensconced in the London office of his company clicking away on his computer.  At least Ju-boy has a credit card and knows where to buy the presents we all hinted at (if he wants to come home without the locks having been changed, that is).

Last Thursday he called me with laughter in his voice, “I may not be able to come home.”  Ha ha.  On Friday I could still hear him smiling over the phone.  On Saturday night he was looking at driving to Madrid and taking a plane home from there (until we heard they closed Madrid, and Barcelona, and then Athens…).  On Sunday, well, it just wasn’t funny anymore.  Now it’s Monday, tonight and tomorrow is Israel’s Independence Day, and we are on separate continents.  Ha ha?  Not! 

So here I am, keeping the home fires burning, or at least the air conditioning working.  I’ve been invited to join friends in their Independence Day celebrations, but am in the year of mourning for my mother so am avoiding any celebrations in any case.  Ju-boy and I were just going to have a quiet day at home.  Now, I will.  Ju-boy will spend the holiday tomorrow in the London office.  At least the tea will be decent.

So I’m a bit down, and when I’m down (or up, or anything), I like to cook.  My daughter Didi is home tonight from her National Service, and it just took her to say three words to get me into the kitchen:  mac ‘n’ cheese!  Or is that two words and a contraction?  In any case, word count aside, I whipped up my usual go-to recipe, it emerged piping hot from the oven just as Didi emerged piping hot from the bus from Afula.

It’s amazingly simple to make, so simple, that I actually have to think about it to write it all down, since it’s so automatic.

Simple Mac ‘n’ Cheese

500 grams (one pound) shell-shaped pasta

250 grams (1/2 pound) shredded mozzarella cheese

250 grams (1/2 pound) shredded mild Cheddar cheese

1 cup light cream (I used 10% fat)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I use a lot)

Flaked sweet paprika, mostly for color

  • Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and rinse.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree C (that’s 350 to those of you who think in F).
  • Pour the pasta into a large bowl, add the cheeses, cream, black pepper and paprika.  Mix.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands.
  • Pour into a greased 11 X 13 inch baking pan.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes.  You want the top to be nice and crunchy while the underside is creamy and gooey.
  • For more crunch, bake this in a wide and shallow dish.  For more gooey, use a smaller and higher dish.
  • Serves 6, depending on the emotional state of the eaters.

Excuse the pictures, I was always better at English lit than at art…

Notice the chip in the bowl.  I love that chip.  My daughter Tinky made that bowl in one of those pay-lots-of-money-to-paint-some-crockery places and the thing got chipped right away.  Instant character.

For a closer look at the lovely flakes of paprika…

No quite the food one serves in Israel on Independence Day, but then, blame it on the volcano.  Chag same’ach everyone!  !חג שמח

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