Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dancing Queen

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up.  Lots of little girls want to be ballerinas, but very few actually do grow up and wear their tutus professionally.  I was determined to be one of the few who did.  Okay, not an actual ballerina, but I wanted to dance.  I loved to dance.  I went to one of those all girl high schools that didn’t have much of a gym program.  For us, gym was folk dancing.  Mrs. Chertoff was one of my favorite teachers, mixing Israeli folk dance with modern interpretive, square dancing with disco.  Occasionally we would be forced out into the sunlight and fresh air to throw a few tennis balls at each other, but most of the time we were in the gym dancing to Erev Ba or trying to remember the steps to Pippin’s Magic to Do.

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Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Tithes

 

Grandpa surrounded by family

When Ju-Boy and I were dating we played the “Where Is Your Family From?” game.  My father was Hungarian, my mother Lithuanian.  His mother was Irish, and his father was Viennese.  Not Austrian, Viennese.  He was very exact about that.

Sharing a joke with Optimus Prime and The Rani at their wedding

Grandpa was a true gem.  I only came to know him late in his life and I could see that I missed out on years of entertainment.  He had a true love of life, music, wine, women and song.  He left Vienna as a child and moved to London, but despite his many years in England he had a certain Viennese flavor, a je n’ai sais quoi, or rather, an ich habe irgendetwas.  He was never without a twinkle in his eye.  He spoke softly and carried a big stick, and was full of humor, the same dry humor he passed on to his son.  Being in the room with the two of them could be painful, you had to constantly be on your toes because you were never sure if they were being serious or not.

Like his sons and his grandsons, the man loved fruit.  When he came to visit the house was filled with fruit.  Actually, the house is always filled with fruit.  But when Grandpa came to visit we made sure there was even more fruit than usual.  Another thing we always made sure to have for Grandpa’s visit was a jar of store-bought marmalde.  He loved marmalade.  It used to irk me a bit, I make a mean jar of the stuff, but Grandpa usually came to visit in the warmer months of the year, and oranges are a winter fruit in Israel.  I never did manage to have a jar of the homemade stuff available when he came through the door.

Father and son -- this is one of my favorite photos

Three years ago Grandpa came out to Israel during the winter.  He came specifically for Optimus Prime’s wedding to the Rani.  With all the insanity of the festivities, the Shabbat chatan, the oofroof and the sheva brachot, I didn’t even think to make him some marmalade.  There was always next year.

But next year never came.  Grandpa was fortunate enough to see his first grandchild married.  He went home to London and based on some pretty racy photos, celebrated Purim, big time.  He celebrated his English 81st birthday on a Sunday, his Hebrew 81st birthday on Monday night, and died on Tuesday.

It’s been almost three years since Grandpa died, and he is missed.  These days, every time I make some orange marmalade I get a bittersweet feeling in my heart.  I wish I had made him a jar.

Enter Aussie Elie.  If Grandpa’s passing saddens me whenever I make a batch of marmalade, Elie manages to put a smile on my face.  He loves the stuff.  I can’t even make a batch anymore without putting aside some for what has come to be known as Ma’aser Elie (Elie’s tithe).  This winter alone I’ve made two or three batches, and no matter what time of night it’s done and jarred, Elie is at my door, ready for his dosage of sticky, orange goop.

One of the rules in my house is that you are not allowed to eat anything unless I’ve taken a picture of it.  Ju-Boy knows this, the kids know this, but Aussie Elie sweeps in and swoops down and absconds with my marmalade before I can even photograph it.  Enter Better-Half Hindy to save the day.  The girl can be quite handy with a camera.  And she’s quick, too, since I understand Elie can eat the stuff pretty fast and it’s gone before you know it.

Elie’s Marmalade

Yeah, why not name it after Elie?

Photo courtesy of Hindy Lederman

  • 6 large oranges
  • 1 kilogram sugar (2.2 pounds, 5 cups)
  1. Wash the fruit well.  Really well.  Cut away any blemishes.
  2. Cut into quarters, and then cut those quarters into half.  Remove any pits.
  3. Place the orange pieces, skin and all, in the food processor and zhuzz around until finely chopped.  You can leave in a few larger pieces for artistic interpretation.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do this in two or three batches.
  4. You can add some crystallized ginger while zhuzzing, but I never have.  I adore the stuff, but not everyone does.
  5. Dump the zhuzzed oranges into a heavy pot, and then dump the whole kilo of sugar on top.
  6. Bring to the boil, then lower the flame to medium.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.  It can splatter, so be careful.

Do not double the ingredients.  Rather, make two batches.

This never goes dark and can last for six months in the fridge without any need to sterilize the jars.  Six months, or one Elie.

 

Photo courtesy of Erin R. of Recipezaar

 

Theory of Relativity

Once upon a time About three months ago I had a birthday.  I woke up to presents, birthday cards, and even baked my own cake.  But way off yonder, in the Frozen North (London), my daughter Sassy and her Sabraman had their own idea for a present.  In the most clandestine of operations, money was transferred into Ju-Boy’s bank account, and he was supposed to take me out for dinner.  It was meant to be a surprise.  And… it was meant to be for my birthday.

As is the case of most of my life, man plans and God laughs.  Dinner plans were made.  First I canceled, then Ju-Boy canceled, then I canceled again.  At one point Ju-Boy decided to almost fly over the handlebars of his bicycle, and instead of going out to dinner I watched him get a few stitches in his leg (he asked the nurse for a lollipop for being such a brave boy).  What I didn’t know was that all this time Sassy was waiting for a report as to how I enjoyed her birthday present.  Ju-Boy finally confessed, and plans were made again, and canceled, and made again.  And canceled…

Do you have a wish list?  I do.  Spending a few days at the Carmel Forest Spa was at the top of the list.  That’s been checked off.  I’d been wanting for years to go to Stonehenge.  Ju-Boy made that dream come true in 2005.  One of my mini-holy grails has been to eat at MC², a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Bitan Aharon, just north of Netanya.  Reservations were made, and canceled, made again, canceled again.  Finally, this past Monday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day, it looked like this was going to get checked off my list as well.  We don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, Jews have their own lovers’ holiday, Tu Be’Av, and we celebrated that back in August.  But I wasn’t going to let a little kid in diapers carrying a bow and arrow ruin my birthday evening, no matter how many months after my birthday it was.

The restarant was offering a special chef’s tasting menu that night in honor of Valentine’s Day — 15 courses.  We thought we were going to be in for a night of gluttinous gorging, but the courses were small, tiny, even miniscule, and yet by the end we were stuffed.  And so it began:

 

We started with some crostini with tri-color peppers, and what the restaurant called a "wheat shot" on the side

 

(Coarsely) julienned carrot sticks with a pomegranate sauce. We were underwhelmed by this dish.

Hot foccacia with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip -- at this point we were still hungry and fought over the dip.

Each table had a menu printed out specifying each of the courses.  At this point, consulting the list, we realized that the restaurant had skipped a course, the almond pate.  We asked the waitress and she said she would bring it immediately.

It seems that we thought immediately meant right now.  The waitress wasn’t using our dictionary, it seems.

 

The restaurant called this dish Enamored Eggplant. It was topped with tomato sprouts which tasted a lot like coriander. The cheese was feta. This was quite possibly my favorite dish... so far.

Rothschild Salad -- wilted lettuce leaves, tasteless boiled beets, bland ricotta cheese and a few caramelized pecans. I enjoyed the pecans. That's about it. Ju-Boy declared this the worst dish on the menu.

Little circle of goat cheese with nigella seeds, and a dab of pepper puree. We were starting to get bored.

Did I mention that each course, each tiny course, was brought to us and then cleared away before they brought the next course?  It started out as cute.  By the time the goat cheese dish had arrived we were losing patience.

 

Grapefruit and Campari Sorbet — this replaced the eggplant as my favorite dish. I so need to find a recipe for this!

Um… we’ve just had our palettes cleared by the sorbet, we’re ready for the main part of the meal, but where’s that almond pate?  Once again, we asked a passing waiter.  He promised to bring it out…. immediately.

 

Pea soup with walnuts, creme fraiche and chili oil. Ju-Boy loved this! You could just taste the fresh peas, although considering the fact that it was February, you could just taste the frozen peas.

At this point Ju-Boy decided to excuse himself (you know what that euphemism is for).  He came back and told me I just had to check out the restroom, so I went to freshen up (yet another euphemism).

Isn't the bathroom pretty?

This is what happens when you have a restaurant in an old building on top of a nature reserve.

I returned to our table to find that the soup had been cleared away and that Ju-Boy had inquired yet again about the almond pate.  It was coming… immediately.

 

Ravioli in a pear and cream sauce -- delicious! This is probably the one portion I would have liked supersized.

 

Basmati and wild rice, with marinated tofu, sunflower sprouts and a mint and yogurt sauce. This was delicious! Ju-Boy cleaned his plate (and a bit of my plate) and he's not a tofu lover at all!

It was just about now that a very large and beautiful beetle crawled across our table.  It was very colorful and looked like a piece of Egyptian scarab jewelry.  It was quickly whisked off our table by our waiter who apologized and said, “That’s what happens when you are right in the middle of a nature preserve.”  I was fascinated, but unfortunately, our unexpected dinner guest was gone before I could take a picture.

Surprise, surprise! Almond pate! It was NOT worth the wait.

 

The end of the “main course” part of our meal: Root Vegetables in silan (date honey) and olive oil. This was delicious, although we did get into a discussion whether a tuber is a root vegetable or not. Such a romantic meal… hmmmmm…

Dessert was not listed as a course on the menu, but we knew it was coming, and we were ready!

Fruit skewer with chocolate and vanilla sauces. We had to fight over share this. It got ugly.
Affogato: vanilla ice cream and whipped cream with some hot espresso to pour on top. Nice, but nothing to write home (or blog) about.

We had started our meal with a nice glass of shiraz each, which I didn’t photograph.  Ju-Boy ended his meal with an “upside-down” coffee.  We  well-fed and ready to go home.

On the way home, cozy and warm in the car which was lightly pelted with rain, I called Sassy and Sabraman to thank them for my birthday present.  It’s nice to still celebrate your birthday three months after the fact.  Do you think I can drag the event out for the whole year?

Blogs in the Attic

Every now and again you run across a blog or blog post and say, “I wish I’d done that!”  I muttered those words to myself just the other day when I saw that Pragmatic Attic ran her collection of (in her own words) Lots of Jewish/Kosher Food Blogs.

Yours truly was in there, as well as a bunch of blogs I read, but there are also a bunch of blogs I never saw before, and I had a fun afternoon at work checking them out.  And then I went strolling through the whole website and came across the Recipe Index.  I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time here, first reading, then cooking, then dieting…

I hope Pragmatic Attic keeps up her list.  If you know of any sites that don’t appear, why don’t you drop her a line?

 

Pragmatic Attic's Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Tart -- oh my!

 

 

Pay It Forward: Improve The Matzav

You so need to read Ruti Mizrachi’s blog post.  Please follow the link and vote.

While All The Earth’s Foundations Shake

 

Soy Vay!

Goldie From The Block

I once read somewhere, back when blogdom was in its infancy, that one kitchen diva’s nightmare was that guests would arrive and there wouldn’t be anything on the table they were willing to eat.  Haven’t most of us had that nightmare?  You know what I mean… you invite guests over for Shabbat lunch and it turns out they are macrobiotic raw foodists who don’t want to go near your cholent, or snaggle-toothed carnivores who turn up their noses at your tofu curry.  You just can’t win with some people.

I used to be one of those guests, once.  I was a vegan for 5 years back in the mid-90s, eschewing meat, eggs, dairy, any kinds of animal product.  I totally freaked my friends out.  It’s not that I was being kind to animals, it was that animals weren’t kind to me, I had problems digesting animal protein and a vegan diet was the only one that worked for me back then.  These days I’m my old carnivorous self again, although I love catering for veggie guests.  When veggie friends come over I can whip some tofu curry as good as any card-carrying PETA member.  Ju-Boy gets a bit miffed, though, when they reciprocate but don’t sacrifice a cow for his dietary preferences.

Once upon a time, before my vegan days, I had a friend from back in the hood, Goldie From The Block.  Goldie and her very own SugarBear had recently made aliya and I invited them over for dinner.  “You know we’re vegan,” announced Goldie.  My first reaction?  Oy!  I spent two weeks researching a vegan menu worthy of Goldie and SugarBear.  After all, I wanted that meal to be perfect!  I had invited another couple over for dinner as well, and the X (I was married to the X then) said, “This other couple are not used to this alien food, you should make something dairy as well, just as a backup.”

So our guests showed up for dinner, and I started to bring food out on to the table.  Potato and leek soup, lentil pie, tofu and sweet potato curry, couscous and salad.  I had a fruit salad chilling in the fridge for dessert, to be topped with a forest fruits sorbet.  Not a single animal had been harmed or taken advantage of for this meal.  Except for when I brought out the quiche.  If I was going to cater to the vegans, I’d cater to the non-vegans as well, and I had made a small tomato and onion quiche with lots of cheddar cheese, eggs and cream.  As I placed this dairy masterpiece on the table I said, “Everything here is vegan, except for the quiche.”

“Quiche!” exclaimed Goldieblox and her Bear.  “Quiche, we love quiche!”  and they helped themselves to giant portions of enslaved animal products.  “B-b-b-b-b-but,” I blubbered, “you guys are vegans!”  “Yes,” said Goldie, “but we don’t expect people to cater for us when we go out!”  Goldie may have been married to a Bear, but I was the one who growled then.

Goldie, SugarBear and their three cubs

But what’s a little oppressed animal cuisine among friends?  Although Goldie from the Block and SugarBear have given up their vegan ways, they still are very kind to animals and other living things in the guise of lacto-ovo vegetarians.  They live on the other side of town with their three cubs.  Goldie had a birthday the other day, and her friends all got together to throw her a party.  We all brought something to eat, and in memory of those vegan days I brought along a dish of edamame hummous.  No animals were harmed, exploited or taken advantage of in that dish of green.  As Goldie tried some on a cracker she told me that it was “juuuuuuust right!”

Edamame Hummous

Don’t let the fact that this is healthy or vegan deter you, it’s yummy, and a nice alternative to chickpea hummous.

  • 1 bag (400 grams, about 13 ounces) frozen, shelled edamame
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoon tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Bring the edamame to boil in a pot of water for about 3 minutes.  You can also nuke them in the microwave for about 5-7 minutes, until hot.  Drain them in a colander and rinse under running water.
  2. Place the beans in the food processor.  Add the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good zhuzz until the mixture is the consistency of guacamole.  If it’s too thick add a teaspoon of water, one at a time, until the right consistency.
  3. Taste and correct seasonings.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until party time!

Serve with pita chips or strips of red pepper for dipping.

 

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