Mar 292008
 

Za'atar mixture of sesame seeds, sumac and salt

Za’atar which is called hyssop in English is used to make tea, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac and salt and slathered with olive oil on bread, put on top of labane and in my case it is mixed with matzah meal as a coating for red mullet.

Moses Maimonides, a philosopher, rabbi and physician who lived in North Africa and Egypt, prescribed za’atar as an antiseptic, a cure for intestinal parasites, a cold remedy, loss of appetite and flatulence. Rubbing the sides of the head with za’atar oil was believed to reduce headaches. There is also a belief that this particular spice mixture makes the mind alert and the body strong.

I like za’atar so much, I am growing it in my new garden. It is also great chopped up and mixed into an omelet or a salad.

Red Mullet with Za'atar Crust

Serving Size: 2

350g (3/4lb) small or 4 medium red mullet filets

2 cups matza meal

2 to 3 tablespoons za'atar mix

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

In a plate, mix the matza meal, za'atar mix, salt and peper. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and water.

Place the fish in the egg mixture and mix until the fish is thoroughly coated and then dip in the matza meal mixture until well coated. Cook the fish in about 25mm (1 inch) of hot oil for approximately two to three minutes on each side or until flaky. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/03/29/zaatar-a-biblical-plant/

Here are some beautiful flowers on the way to our village:

These are called bottle brushes because they look like a bottle brush.

These flowers are Anemones in English and Kalanit in Hebrew, which is related to Kala, the Hebrew word for a bride, referring to the flower’s beauty. It is mentioned in the Talmudic scriptures and is referred to as Klonita.

The scientific and English name was derived from the Greek mythological word Anemoi, the wind gods. One of whom, the legendary Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes. In ancient Greece, wreaths of anemones were used to decorate the altar of the Goddess Venus. Hence, the species name Coronaria.

In Arabic it is called Skaik-a-Na’amann, probably referring to a Canaanite god by that name, and mentioned also as a flower name by the Prophet Isaiah (17:10) “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants” (In Hebrew “pleasant plants” is Nitei Naamanim).

During the Middle Ages, a wreath of anemone flowers was put on a sick person’s neck because it was believed to help cure him.

Mar 272008
 

I am busy deciding what to prepare for the main dish and dessert for Passover, since most of the other items on the menu are the expected traditional fare. I am considering the following:

Roasted Poussins with Pomegranate Sauce

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Spiced Pinenuts (from my friend Chef Farid Zadi)

Patatine e Carciofi Arrosto (Roasted Potatoes and Artichokes)

Torta del Re

Nottingham Nut Cake

Lemon, Creme Fraiche and Chestnut Cake (for a dairy meal)

Damp Apple and Almond Cake

Castagnaccio

For more ideas, click here. I will post my menu in a couple of weeks.

Mar 212008
 

My first post on this blog was during the holiday of Purim and here we are one year later making Hamantaschen again. I decided to make three of the four fillings I made last year: Cranberry-Orange, Date-Walnut and Apricot Lekvar.

My family did not have a tradition of making Hamantaschen for Purim. My German grandmother made Haman’s Ears, which was dough that was rolled out and cut into strips, fried in oil and dusted with powdered sugar. I only started making this biscuits about 12 years ago when the little old lady that used to make them for our synagogue developed dementia and couldn’t make them anymore. She was not a member of our congregation, and so we used to drive 60 miles to Birmingham to buy them from her to serve at our congregation’s Purim party. One of the congregants went to pick up the 10 dozen Hamantaschen she had ordered and the little old lady didn’ t know why she was there and hadn’t made any biscuits. So, I received a frantic phone call asking if I could make them. I said I had never tried, but how hard could they be? I found a recipe and I have been making them ever since.

This year, I wanted to make another cookie in addition to the Hamantaschen because I had to make gifts to give to our landlords, who live about 100 yards away, and our new neighbors. It is Jewish law that on Purim one must send at least one Mishloach Manot (sending gifts of food) to a friend and also send Matanot La’evyonim (gifts to the poor). You are suppose to give two different types of ready-to-eat food, each of which require a different blessing. So, you can give two different cakes or biscuits or fruits, etc or mix them up.

I was looking at an Italian blog and found a link to a recipe for biscuits that are from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. A friend of mine who is from Venice told me that he remembers going to a bakery in the Ghetto and buying these biscuits. They are called Impade and they are filled with an almond filling and rolled in icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar). Have a look at the link below for more pictures on how to make the cookies. If you speak Italian, then you can read the entire recipe. Here is a loose translation (I did a few things differently):

Impade

Yield: About 45 biscuits

Venetian Jewish Almond Cookies

Pastry:

500g all purpose flour

275g sugar

3 small or medium eggs

125 ml corn oil

Filling:

250g whole blanched almonds

200g sugar

2 eggs

Zest of one lemon

Impade Dough

Mix the sugar and the flour together and create a well. Add the eggs and the oil and bring the flour-sugar mixture from the sides into the egg-oil mixture. Mix until you create a ball, similar to pie dough. It should be soft and elastic. Set aside and prepare the filling.

Impade Almond Filling

Grind the almonds and place in bowl. Add the sugar, lemon zest, the eggs and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Rolled dough

Take 1/3 of the dough and roll into a 2cm (4/5 inch) diameter snake. Cut the snake into 5cm (2 inch) pieces and roll each one flat into a rectangle.

Rolled out and filled

Put one teaspoon of almond filling in the middle of the rectangle and bring the long sides together over the filling and pinch together into a crest.

Impade Prebaked

Then shape the dough into the shape of the letter "S".

Impade

Bake the biscuits at 200C (400F) for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180C (350F) for an additional 15 minutes.

Roll them immediately in icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) and let them cool.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/03/21/chag-purim-sameach-happy-purim/

Mar 082008
 

I am finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We have been unpacking like crazy, but we still have a little more to do. However, I did find time to take some pictures around my new village and make a cake for a friend’s birthday party on Saturday night.

Spring is rearing its beautiful bounty here in Israel. Here are a few pictures near my new home:

I really love my new house. It is so nice to have a garden. I can’t wait to take advantage of it. The citrus trees are in full bloom, so when a friend of mine asked me to bring something for her birthday party on Saturday night, I decided to make something citrusy. She said she wanted something with orange in it, so I made an orange curd cake. This is a variation of a Serena Bass recipe I have for her lemon curd cake. I added less sugar and I also added a little lemon juice to offset the sweetness of the oranges. It is an easy cake recipe and the curd can be prepared several days in advance. This is a very moist cake that will be a big hit at any meal or afternoon tea.

Orange Curd Cake

Serving Size: 10 to 12

For the orange curd:

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

Zest of 3 oranges, finely grated

1/2 cup orange juice

Juice of 1 lemon

4 extra-large egg yolks

2 extra-large whole eggs

100g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

170g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1-1 /2 cups sugar

3 extra-large eggs

3 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Orange Curd

For the orange curd:

In a medium-size nonstick or nonreactive saucepan, add the sugar, salt, and orange zest and juice, and whisk until smooth. Then add the egg yolks and whole eggs and quickly whisk well. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring pretty much constantly until the mixture starts to bubble around the edges (about 8 minutes). Then add the butter in little lumps, stirring after each addition, and simmer gently. (No boiling, as the molten mixture can cause quite a burn if it splats onto your hand.) Stir for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens well. Transfer it to a small shallow bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface while the mixture is still hot; set aside to cool. Once it's cool, you can use it immediately or transfer it to a plastic container, cover the surface as before, and store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

For the cake:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 22cm (9-inch) springform pan with vegetable oil.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. Using an electric mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, beat the butter until creamy and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. While the sugar is fluffing up, break the eggs into a bowl and whisk to blend. Gradually pour the eggs into the mixture and beat for another 2 minutes. Scrape the sides and base of the bowl a couple times to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, stir in the orange zest, add the dry ingredients, and fold in gently until just a little flour is still visible.

Spread half the cake batter on the bottom of the pan. Cover with half of the orange curd, keeping just shy of the perimeter. Spoon on the remaining batter somewhat randomly, then drop 3 large spoonfuls of the orange curd on top of the batter. Take a butter knife or blunt knife and make a figure eight motion in the batter to create a marbling effect.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean and the lemon curd on top has turned a rich golden brown. If the curd is browning too much, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Then run a small sharp knife around the circumference. Release and remove the sides of the springform. Run a large, sharp unserrated knife under the cake to loosen it. Then use the knife blade to help slide it onto a cake plate. You can either dust with confectioners' sugar or leave the cake plain so the orange curd shows.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/03/08/orange-you-glad-it-is-almost-spring/

Mar 022008
 

I can’t believe it has been one year since I started this blog. Time flies when you are having fun and I have had a lot of fun writing this blog.

I haven’t quite completed unpacking all of the boxes because we only moved to our house last Tuesday, but I will be posting some pictures of my new village this weekend.

I have so much to share with you in the coming months…….. I still need to finish my report from my trip to Italy in the fall and I am going to be planting a herb garden and some other goodies in my new garden. So, bear with me a few more days and the blog will be back reporting my cooking and travelling adventures.

This year, I plan to show you more pictures from Israel, such as the flora, fauna and outdoor markets. If you have any requests, let me know and I will try to fulfill them.

I would like to thank all of you for your comments and support over the past year. I am so amazed at how many people and how many countries have check out this blog.

Regards,

Michelle Kemp-Nordell
aka Baroness Tapuzina

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