Category Archives: Celebrations

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.

 

Thanksgiving

Every year Ju-Boy throws a little party, replete with charred meat and flowing single malts, to thank his tightly-knit group of friends for lending him their support while he made the transition from the smoking remains of Chapter One to the J-Date Twilight Zone.  I wasn’t there that first year, still trapped in the throes of Chapter One myself.  But I’ve heard the stories… Ju-Boy unkempt, Ju-Boy on his own, Ju-Boy on the loose.  Thankfully, he had his friends to be there for him, eat his culinary experiments and drink his whisky.  And thus was born the First Annual End-of-Summer Party.

Friends giving thanks...

By the time the Second Annual End-of-Summer Party rolled around I was already in the picture.  Ju-Boy and I had been dating for about two months and it was time to run the gauntlet of meeting his friends, his pack, what he likes to call his troupe.  I already knew some of them.  Karen and I were friends back and high school.  Miiiiiiiichael used to fall asleep at my Friday night table when he was single and in the army.  His wife, the Lovely Linder, was a familiar face from mutual friends’ weddings and Bar Mitzvah celebrations.  I had heard about Sweet Caroline from our mutual friend SW, back in the days when we actually wrote letters and didn’t text and chat on Facebook.

Chilling out at the end of summer

It was fun to meet the rest of the bunch.  Just to make sure they liked me, I brought some insurance in the form of sushi, Thai-ish pasta salad and profiteroles.  That evening was the first time I fed the troupe, but not the last.  Just a few weeks ago we served up the Eighth Annual End-of-Summer Party.  Over the years the menu has changed, returned to its roots, changed again, but some things remain the same.  Ju-Boy grills the meat, the whisky flows, and I go to town on the side dishes and desserts.  You could say this was the Ju-Boy/Miriyummy/Troupe version of Thanksgiving.

This year I served up a few new dishes, like the Spicy Carrot Sticks from the new KBD Teens and 20-Somethings cookbook I reviewed — those were a hit.  I doubled the recipe to serve 12 people and I think maybe I should have quadrupled it instead, they went THAT fast.  Another hit this year was the return of my Thai-ish Pasta Salad.  I first came across this recipe back when I lived on a hilltop overlooking Jerusalem.  We put together a community cookbook to raise money for our synagogue and this recipe is one of my favorites (thanks Sherri!).  I’ve changed it a little over the years, and it never fails to please.  I’ve seen dainty eaters inhale the stuff.  Do me a favor, when you make this, try to have your friends and family take human bites, it can get ugly…

Thai-ish Pasta Salad


  • 1 pound (500 grams) pasta — thinnish noodles work best
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (corn, canola, etc.)
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dry red pepper
  • 1 shelled peanuts, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander (cilantro, cusbara)or parsley, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  1. Cook the pasta as per package instructions, breaking long pieces in half before cooking.  Drain.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat cook the oils, honey, soy sauce and dry pepper and let boil for 2 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl pour the sauce over the pasta.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, letting the flavors seep into the pasta.
  4. Before serving, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Serve at room temperature.

 

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." - C.S. Lewis

It’s My Birthday And I’ll Bake If I Want To…

Today is my birthday, and I’m shlepping a cake into work.  Yes, I’m the one bringing in my own birthday cake.  Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?  While I never “officially” worked in the States (does camp counselor and JCC dance teacher count?), I do know (because I watch The Office), that you don’t throw your own birthday parties at work in the States.  You have the PPC, the Party Planning Committee do it for you.  There are balloons, cake and maybe even a speech by the boss.

Remember those dogs that you had everyone sign? I think I got 5 for my 10th birthday.

Not so in Israel.  The birthday girl or boy has to bring in the refreshments.  There’s always the cake, sometimes there’s ice cream, and if you’re lucky, you get a present.  Wait, there is a PPC.  I have always been the PPC, because I’ve always been the office manager.  When I wasn’t the office manager I was the only woman in the office, and the job fell to me then as well.  It’s a weird custom that always throws the Anglo immigrants for a loop, but they get into the swing of it quickly enough.  And when they have completely gone over to the Dark Side, and have gone totally Israeli, they do what a lot of Israelis do for their birthday, they take the day off.

Yeah, right, the Bar Mitzvah birthday boy gets the really BIG candles...

I’ve been here for almost 28 years, since I was 20 (now you know how old I am), and I’m Israeli enough to bring in my own cake, but not Israeli enough to take the day off.  And that’s why I’m shlepping the cake in to work today.  I baked it last night, and I really enjoyed myself.  I’m going to enjoy myself even more today when I treat myself to sushi for lunch.  And I wonder what Ju-Boy has up his sleeve as far as presents go.  I’ve already given him several hints, even suggesting that you, my dear readers, pass the hint on to him as well.  Some of you actually have.  This Shabbat we’re going away for the weekend with two other couples whose wives are also celebrating birthdays this week.  But tonight, what I really want, is just a quiet evening at home with my Ju-Boy, maybe watching one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, which was another birthday present once upon a time.

I’m baking one of my favorite cakes, Orange Poppy Seed Cake, which is from Levana Kirschenbaum’s cookbook, Levana’s Table.  The first time I saw Levana Kirschenbaum was on some obscure cooking show where some huge woman with an almost incomprehensible Jamaican accent strolled the streets of New York extolling the joys of Jewish cooking.  She and Levana prepared latkes in the basement of Levana’s synagogue on the Upper West Side.  The second time I saw Levana Kirschenbaum was in Zabar’s in the cheese section.  I was in New York with my cousin Rivka and she introduced me.  As it turns out, Rivka and Levana go to the same shul, and Levana even catered a kiddush Rivka threw to celebrate her return to good health after an illness that had the whole family worried.  I mentioned the TV show to Levana and she told me she could barely understand that woman as well.

So it’s my birthday, and I’m in the office, and I’m heading in to the office with the cake.  I hope they like it, and if they don’t, I do.

Levana’s Orange Poppy Seed Cake

Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup poppy seeds

Syrup

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F.)
  2. To make the cake: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.  Set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat until just combined.
  4. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the 3/4 cup orange juice.  Mix slightly after each addition, just to incorporate.
  5. Add the poppy seeds and mix to incorporate the seeds into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 10-inch springform pan.
  7. Bake for 1 hour, or until the point of a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. To make the syrup: While the cake is baking, place the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan and heat until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  9. When the cake is done, immediately unmold it from the springform pan.  Prick it all over with a skewer and brush the syrup all over the top and sides of the cake while it is still hot. The cake will absorb all the syrup.
  10. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

Do you think I'm going to cut up my cake before work just to get this shot? Think again. This was taken by Evie* of food.com

Headless Chicken

Ju-Boy's End of Summer Party -- 2009

 

I gave up many thing when I married Ju-Boy.  I gave up the Jerusalem mountain air.  I gave up quiet streets and living in a town with no stoplights.  I gave up a certain amount of my independence.  What I feel the most, however, is that I gave up my friends.  Okay, they are still my friends, but because I now live a one-hour’s drive away (long distance in the Israeli psyche), I don’t get to see them often, or at all.  I don’t get to bump into them at the grocery store, wave to them as I take my evening power-walk (oh yeah, I also gave up power-walks), I don’t get to exchange gossip outside the synagogue, and I don’t get to just hang out with them, either at the Shabbat table or for a coffee evening during the week.  I miss them. 

I gained many things when I married Ju-Boy.  I gained a house with stairs (my first time living in a house, not an apartment).  I gained living in a somewhat cosmopolitan city with a main street full of fun shops.  I gained the Cooking Channel (the X said we couldn’t afford it because we were already paying the cable company a ton for all his sports channels).  I gained the use of Ju-Boy’s amazing turbo oven, and I gained his friends. 

When we spoke about them I used to call them “your friends,” and he would always correct me and say “our friends.”  But, tachles,  they started out as his friends, and I then began to refer to them as my friends-in-law.  Regardless of the fact that I even knew some of them longer than he did, they were his friends.  But little by little, I have taken over.  Shar calls on the phone and Ju-Boy is ready for a chat, but she wants to speak to me!  Yummy Mummy calls my cell phone for the Shabbat meal invitation.  Most of them read my blog, but how many of them even know he has one, huh? 

John shows off his hands-free drinking technique

 

I like his, erm, my friends, they’re good people, and they make sure that with all the hustle and bustle of busy families, smachot, grandchildren and life in general, that we still get together for a laugh.  We make sheva brachot celebrations together for our children, we try to go away together for a Shabbat here or there, we drink Marc’s whisky and eat Yummy Mummy’s cake creations.  We’re in and out of each other’s houses on Shabbatot for meals, and a few times a year we get together for holiday potlucks. 

It was the annual Simchat Torah potluck that made me go headless chicken.  I had just started a new job and needed to put in some time on erev chag.  Shar was hosting the event at her house (at least 50 people were expected) and Ju-Boy had volunteered four dishes — challah, fish pie, couscous salad and chocolate babka.  Isn’t he the most altruistic husband you can imagine?  Four dishes, when most people were making only two.  But both of us cook, so that makes sense.  What doesn’t make sense is that all four dishes are MY specialities.  Ju-Boy helped by giving a running critique of my fish-skinning skills.  Brave boy, I was holding a sharp knife… 

So it’s erev chag and I have four dishes to make in two hours. I didn’t get a chance to make any the night before because we were out late (visiting one of my, erm, our friends from my Jerusalem days), and that morning my boss decided he needed just one more email, just one more thing, just one more… aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!   I got home from the office, saw the mess in the kitchen, the mayhem in the rest of the house, and that’s when I went headless chicken! 

like a headless chicken  (British) also like a chicken with its head cut off (American

if you do something like a headless chicken, you do it very quickly and without thinking carefully about what you are doing (usually in continuous tenses) I’ve got so much work to do – I’ve been running around like a headless chicken all week. He was racing around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to do the work of two people.
Definition thanks to The Free Dictionary
One of the great miracles of Judaism is that no matter how early or how late the holiday or Shabbat starts, you are always ready at the last minute.  Amazingly, everything got done on time, and when I lit the candles and ushered in the final holiday of the season, the house was relatively calm, I was relatively calm, and even the floors were clean.  That night it was just the family for dinner, the quiet before the storm.

 

We arrived at Shar’s house the next day after all the singing and dancing  and boozing lechayims at shul.  Since we probably live the furthest away, we were the last to arrive.  The house was full of friends, their kids, their kids’ kids, invited guests and Shar and Perrys dog Chief looking for attention (their cat was smart and found a hiding place).  And yet Shar was amazingly calm.  Whether she had started on the whisky early, or had swallowed a bottle of Rescue Remedy, I wanted some of that!  I think it was just her natural personality, Serene Shar and Peaceful Perry, surrounded by good friends, safe in the knowledge that we all pull together to celebrate en masse.  The next time I go headless chicken I need to channel me some of that…
Couscous Salad

I first tasted this at my (our) friend Shosh’s house back when I lived in Givat Ze’ev.  I politely took a portion, then seconds, then thirds, this was yummy!  I got the recipe, and over the years it’s evolved to what it is today.
  • 350 grams couscous (1 package)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soup mix
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 5 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 teaspoons grated gingerroot (or to taste, I use almost a tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  1. Pour the couscous into a large bowl.  Mix in the soup powder and olive oil, stir well to combine (I use a fork).  Add the boiling water and let soak until all the water has been absorbed.
  2. Place the carrots and parsley in a food processor (steel knife).  Zest the lemon with a Microplane and add it to the food processor.  Process until a minced finely.  Add the juice from the lemon, olive oil, ginger and pepper.  Process until a paste has been formed.
  3. Add paste to the ready couscous and mix together.
  4. Add the chickpeas and mix together.
  5. Turn into a salad bowl and chill for at least two hours.

This is a great dish to serve on Saturday lunch, or to take to a potluck with 50 of your best and newest friends. 

Another Day In Paradise

Paradise Cake

Normally I’m a very confident cook.  People like my food.  Ju-Boy says I shouldn’t get too cocky.  Yes, that’s the word he uses, cocky.  I’ll make something and when I finish putting it together I might take a small taste, and if it’s worked out well I might just punch the air, do the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance and say, “I rock!”

“Don’t get too cocky,” Ju-Boy will almost always reply.  If he’s not there, I will play both parts.

I love desserts.  Actually, I love every course, from soup to nuts, as they say.  But I have a special place in my heart, stomach, psyche, for dessert.  I could be that once upon a time my Magyar father told me that it’s a Hungarian custom to eat dessert first.  My Lithuanian mother would then say it’s only because Hungarian Jews are slaves to their sweet tooth.  They would be worried about pogroms, so they would save the best for first.  Makes sense to me.

Ju-Boy, amazing cook that he is, is not a patissier.  He makes a decent trifle (Brits appreciate understatement, so he knows this should be a compliment).  He can serve up a pretty plate of fruit.  But beyond that, his talent lies with meat and potatoes, not sugar and spice, everything nice.  So as you can imagine, when I joined the Ju-Boy family, my dessert skills, along with my pastry bag and collection of sprinkles, were quite welcome… with the exception of Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime, dessert hater

I would bring out pretty bowls of chocolate mousse and he would decline to partake.  I would serve up ice cream cake with praline topping and he would decline to partake.  I would bring out a bowl piled high with chocolate-covered profiteroles and he would decline to partake.  This kid was starting to give me a complex.  It didn’t matter that everyone else at the table was begging me to induce a sugar coma, Optimus was not interested in my desserts.  My balloon of contentment was starting to deflate.

One night we all went out to dinner to celebrate a bunch of birthdays.  Dessert was chocolate mousse cake replete with whipped cream and birthday sparklers.  You can just imagine my surprise and horror when Optimus cut himself a piece of cake and ate it!  Okay, that’s it!  I’m angry now!

Do not administer chocolate!

My anger soon evolved into smug bitchiness.  It wasn’t long before Optimus started to groan.  “Urgh, I feel sick!  Dad, why did you let me eat that piece of cake?  You know what sugar does to me!  That’s why I never eat dessert.”  As much as I wanted to hold a gun to his head, I obviously hadn’t, he had eaten that chocolate bombe bomb fully compos mentis.  I fully understood now, and knowledge is power.

My smug bitchiness soon evolved into irritation.  Optimus wasn’t feeling well and was going to make sure we all knew about it.  In the car on the way home I began to wish we had never ordered that &@*%! cake!  “Dad, drive slowly, I’m going to be sick!”  (Brits are polite, they don’t hurl.)  “Dad, open a window, I’m going to be sick!”  “Dad, can you stop the car, I’m going to be sick!”  And so on, and so on, ad nauseum

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when, during Shabbat lunch at our house, I served up some Paradise Cake and Optimus ate it!  It seems he’s been building up a tolerance.  What’s even more wonderfully surprising is that a few days later he called to ask for the recipe!  He and the Rani were having guests the following shabbat and they wanted something Miriyummy.  At that moment he was my favorite child.

I’ve been making Paradise Cake for over 27 years.  When the X and I were first dating in Jerusalem we used to frequent a restaurant called Le Souffle, and Paradise Cake was their flagship dessert.  They gave me the recipe and PC became my signature dessert for years.  Don’t you love restaurants that are generous and share recipes?  Sadly, Le Souffle went out of business in the mid-80s, but Paradise Cake lives on.

Paradise Cake

The recipe can be made parve but tastes so much better when dairy.  If you need the parve conversion, give me a buzz…

  • 15-20 plain biscuits (depending on the size of the dish)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 200 grams (1 cup) butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 80 gram box (3 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • chocolate syrup for decorating
  1. Dip the cookies one by one in the whipping cream and lay on the bottom of your cake pan  (I’ve used all sizes).  Reserve the rest of the cream for the vanilla layer.
  2. Make the chocolate layer by melting together the dark chocolate, butter, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee.  You can either do this on the stove top.  I normally nuke it for 3 minutes.  Mix to combine well.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  If your chocolate mixture is still hot, don’t dawdle, you don’t want scrambled eggs in chocolate sauce.
  4. Whip the whites to stiff peaks.  Fold into the chocolate mixture until completely combined.  Spread this over the cookie layer and place in the fridge to set, between 15 and 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, take the rest of the whipping cream and whip together with the instant vanilla pudding and the vanilla extract.
  6. Spread this over the chocolate layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.
  7. Before you serve the cake, decorate with chocolate syrup or whatever else you like to use to decorate cream cakes (I once used pulverized sugared almonds, a bit hit).

I don’t often quote my X, but will here:  “One piece and you’re in paradise, two pieces and you’re in heaven, three pieces and you throw up.”

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Photo by -Sylvie- of Recipezaar.com

 

My mother, of blessed memory, hated the heat.  Born in Lithuania, she spent the first 35 years of her life either there, or freezing her tushy off in Sweden (with a short stop in Bergen Belsen, also not exactly warm, balmy breezes).  My mother loved freezing her tushy off, she hated the heat.  When I first became engaged to The X, with an August date set for the wedding in Israel, my mother kvetched about the trip which would take place during the hottest month of the year.  After the glass was broken and my mother hugged me under the chuppah, she whispered in my ear, “If you ever give birth to any babies in the summer, I am not coming to help!” 

No summer babies, do you hear me? Oh, and mazal tov!

Mommy plans, God giggles… 

Ever hear the phrase lazy days of summer?  Hah!  I have four of the most gorgeous daughters on the planet, each one more beautiful than the next, each one simply exquisite, each one born in the summer. 

Aren’t they beautiful?

Three of my gorgeous girlies have birthdays at the end of July, all within two weeks of each other.  Nomush, my maverick, decided to let me experience pregnancy during a record-breaking swelter, all the way through to the end of August. 

And you know what?  My mom came out each time to help!  In the multiple diaper-induced coma back then I am not sure I fully appreciated her sacrifice.  Back then we had no air-conditioning, and I’ve never seen anyone wait for the chill of the Jerusalem evenings more. 

It’s never to hot for a cuddle — Savta and Didi

Yes, it was hot under there!

Five years ago I got married again, and yes, it was during the summer.  When I called my mom with the good/bad news, she said to me, “Oy!  Miraleh!  Again with the summer?”  And this time, with the wisdom accumulated over  score of years (in between weddings), I absolved my mother from coming out.  She loved the pictures I sent her. 

So July and August can be busy months in the Miriyummy household.  Once upon a time there were birthday parties to plan, Bat Mitzvah celebrations to coordinate, presents to buy, cakes to bake… oh yeah, the cakes!  I once tried to get the girls to have ice-cream cakes for their parties, but all they really have ever wanted was a deep chocolate cake (like their Miri-mummy, can I blame them?). 

Deep Chocolate Birthday Cake with Miriyummy Ganache 

I’ve made bajillions of birthday cakes over the years, but back in 2004 the lovely Molly53 posted a cake on Recipezaar that has become THE birthday cake in our household.  We accept no substitutions.  I usually make a non-dairy version. 

Cake: 

  • 1 cup butter or 1 cup margarine (200 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup cold black coffee
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Ganache: 

  • 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 1 cup cream or non-dairy substitute (I use Rich Whip)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
  2. Grease and dust an 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inch) cake pan with cocoa. Actually, I just line it with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter and add sugar a little at a time.
  4. Add eggs the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa together 3 times.  Sometimes I don’t bother to do this and the cake still bakes beautifully.
  6. Add the coffee to the batter alternatively with the flour mixture.
  7. Mix well after each addition.
  8. Then add vinegar and vanilla.  Mix well again.
  9. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until your cake tester comes out dry. Leave to cool completely.
  10. To make the ganache, simply melt the chocolate and cream together, either on top of the stove over low heat, or nuked in the microwave for about three minutes.
  11. Pour over the cooled cake and let set.
  12. This cake actually tastes great when kept in the fridge.  You can also decorate it with little silver sprinkles or anything that shows up well against the deep, dark chocolate of the ganache.

Using parchment paper enables you to lift the cake easily out of the pan and serve

 

Today is the 12th of Elul — happy 25th birthday Nomush! 

Today is the 22nd of August — happy 21st birthday Chip!

Holy Grail

A very unique Do Not Disturb sign

Have you ever wanted something that was just out of reach?  Sometimes it’s just there, over the horizon, you can almost taste it, but it’s just… out… of… reach!  Such is the case with the Carmel Forest Spa.  Ju-Boy and I had been wanting to go there for the longest time, ever since we first got married.

We go away at least twice or three times a year.  Living in a blended family is not as easy as the Brady Bunch made it seem.  Everyone in our family has issues, both pre-and post marriage.  Every so often Ju-Boy and I tell the kids we’re disappearing for a while.  They either stay with their other parent, or with friends, or they have a bayit rek (empty house), where they invite all their friends to come have an adult-free Shabbat together (can you spell Risky Business?).  Believe me, this is much cheaper than marriage counseling!

Taking your bicycle through Egyptian customs evoked scenes from Midnight Express

We’ve been to Eilat (and bicycled into Egypt), the Dead Sea, twee little tzimmers (bed and breakfasts) in the north, even an Alpine cottage on the Lebanese border, but we have always chaleshed (yearned as only Jews can yearn) for the Carmel Forest Spa.  I’ve been squirreling away the shekels, and we were finally able to achieve this Holy Grail of alone time for our fifth wedding anniversary.

This place was everything we had imagined.  The solarium was peaceful, the massages and treatments blissful, the meditation class relaxing (we both fell asleep and snored in class) and the food… the food was divine!  Flying to Venice for the week would have been cheaper, but this was at the top of our To Do List.

When you go to a hotel, have you ever been tempted to take away a souvenier?  You know, a towel, a robe, plumbing fixtures, plasma televisions?  Come on, fess up!  This time I was desperate to take something home with me.  Actually, not something, someone!  I wanted to make room in my suitcase for Uriya, the spa’s patissier.  All the food in the spa was amazing, but the desserts, OMG the desserts!  By Day 2 I had started pacing myself at each meal just so I could have plenty of room for Uriya’s handiwork.  The pecan pie!  The tri-chocolate pyramid!  The lemon meringue pie!  And most special and delicious of all, the halvah parfait!

Well, I didn’t get to take Uriya home with me, but I stalked him enough while I was there and he generously offered to give me the recipe for the halvah parfait.  I don’t think I could have brought Uriya home anyway, I already have Ju-Boy eclipsing my culinary talents on the savory dishes, let me still be the Queen of the Sweet Stuff at home.

Man Plans God Laughs Department:  Uriya and I spent about a month emailing each other back and forth, but in the end, unfortunately for me, the Carmel Forest would not release its halvah parfait recipe as it is still in rotation in their dining room.  So the story of my Holy Grail has a secondary Holy Grail to it, my search for halvah parfait.  It’s taken me all of July and the beginning of August, three different recipes and my own tinkering with the variations, but I think I finally got it.  It’s not exactly the intense pleasure I experienced with Uriya’s parfait, but it’s as close as I am going to get without an industrial ice cream machine… or a kidnapping.

I had to put this in a bowl and have this for breakfast just to take the photograph -- oh, the things I have to go through for my readers...

Miriyummy Halvah Parfait

  • 1/2 pound (400 grams) halvah, any flavor (I used vanilla and chocolate marbled halvah)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cream (I used a non-dairy version)
  1. Grate or grind the halvah and heat it over a low flame with the water until melted.  Cool.
  2. Beat the yolks an add the sugar.  Beat for about 4 minutes until creamy and light.
  3. Beat the cream and fold into the yolk/sugar mixture.
  4. Beat the whites and fold into the mixture.
  5. Fold in the cooled halvah mixture into the fluffy creamy mixture.
  6. Freeze according to your ice cream machine or in a Tupperware.  After about 3 hours remove the parfait from the freezer and fold it all together again, as this might separate in the freezer.

So what do you do when you’ve achieved the top of your To Do List?  Slot in another Holy Grail — what do you guys think of Venice?

Man plans, God laughs, but I got a good recipe out of it in the end

Place Me As A Seal Upon Your Heart

For the Jewish holiday of love, Tu B’Av, Ima 2 Seven was tagged in a meme where you have to post your favorite Jewish love song.  She then tagged Immahlady, who has now tagged me.  It’s been a week and a half since we celebrated Tu B’Av, but I’m always in favor of prolonging celebrations, especially one as feel-goody as this one.

Back in 1979 I was in Israel for the first time, and I fell in love with the country.  Back then, Ofra Haza came out with her Love Song, and it was the perfect soundtrack for my heart over heels falling in love with my home.

The lyrics aren’t lyrics at all.  It comes from Solomon’s Song of Songs, chapter 8, verses 6 and 7:

Place me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; because love is as strong as death is, insistence on exclusive devotion is as unyielding as She′ol is. Its blazings are the blazings of a fire, the flame of Jah. Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away. If a man would give all the valuable things of his house for love, persons would positively despise them.

Are we still tagging?  In that case, I tag Avital of This and That, and Toby of A Time of the Signs.

I received a complaint or two that my last post didn’t have any food in it, not really, so to tie this all in to my love song subject…

Sara and Chaim -- may you have a long life together filled with love, happiness, much laughter, good food and wonderful friends!

This is dedicated to Sara and Chaim Azoulay, who got married on Tuesday night.  We’re making Sheva Brachot for them tonight together with the Lovely Linder and her Miiiiiiiichael, and here’s a photo of the Sgulah Challah I’m bringing.  The recipe can be found here.  I used one whole recipe for this challah, braiding it with six strands, and used 4 kinds of seeds on top as sgulah for fertility.

!מזל טוב חיים ושרה

Happy Days

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.

View of the pier from the beach

Romantic canal, romantic algae

If you're hot and thirsty, slushies to the rescue -- pick a flavor, any flavor...

View of the sunset from the pier -- nothing but sea until Malta

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…

We started with sparkling white wine

Then the meze arrived, including the house foccacia and fatoosh

The eggplant cream was a bit bland...

... but the goose liver pate with caramelized onions was divine

Just as we thought we were almost full, the chicken and beef tortilla rolls arrived

Lamb kebabs on a bed of tehina -- I loved this, and I hate lamb

Appetizer course brought to an end with nectarine sorbet to cleanse the palate

Entrecote steak -- this is a tasting menu? Each one was huge

Beef stew in a poyke (cauldron) -- we were underwhelmed by this dish, although it could be due to the fact that we had already eaten enough for three meals, each!

Did I say we were stuffed? Our appetite was renewed when the spare ribs arrived. Ju-Boy was very, very, very happy!

We pounced on dessert before I could remember to take a picture first. Halva mousse and an ice cream cookie sandwich. We were underwhelmed, but not enough to forego devouring it all

Just when we thought dessert and the meal were over, more dessert! Dark chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, with alien vomit sauce (sorry, I meant passionfruit). There was also a glass of mint tea (unpictured).

We were each given a parting gift, an Arnold's bottle opener/key chain

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.

A Fishy Story in Two Parts

Sassy and Sabraman

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.

Hungarian/Thai Salmon, bizarre fusion food at its best

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.

Hungarian/Thai Salmon

  • 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.

Hungarian/Thai Salmon -- perhaps this is next on Sassy's menu?

Sassy at a restaurant in London, even her hamburgers are tiny!

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