Jan 232010
 

This past Thursday, six of the some of the more interesting (okay, I am biased) Israeli food bloggers got together:

Irène of Irène Sharon Hodes
Liz of Cafe Liz
Miriam of Israeli Kitchen
Sarah of Foodbridge
Yael of Apples and Honey

We had fun learning about each other. Some of us talked about whether we should only focus on one genre of food such as raw food, kosher, vegetarian or Middle Eastern/Kurdish, others talked about concentrating on the promotion of their food writing for professional gain, and some of us just enjoy writing and learning about cultures they are not familiar without thinking about whether it will turn into something like a cookbook or freelance articles. The most important thing we all agreed on was that we want to try and meet once a month at a different locations, and also arrange field trips to wineries, shuks, dairies, and other interesting food-related jaunts.

We met at the lovely Mazzarine Cafe on Montefiore 42 in Tel Aviv. When you walk into the cafe, you feel like you have  just walked into a chic Parisian cafe. I love the way they designed the space, with several different rooms to choose from: the front of the cafe with a constant view of the beautiful pastries on offer; the main room with a lovely view to the garden room, which gives you a feeling of sitting in a botanical garden; and the private room, with a beautiful wooden table that reminded me of my cousin’s French farm table in Holland. We had reserved the private room.

The cafe was founded by Chef Pâtissier Alon Goldman who started his culinary career working at the legendary and sorely missed Keren restaurant owned by one of my favorite Israeli chefs, Haim Cohen. There he fine-tuned his pastry skills and after a year he decided to move to France to expand his professional knowledge. He studied at the famous Lenôtre Culinary and Pastry School in Paris. While in France he worked at several Michelin starred restaurants such as the beautiful Burgundian restaurant at the late chef Bernard Loiseau’s Relais Bernard Loiseau and at the famous Ladurée pâtisserie. He also studied Mediterranean pastry at the famous and mouthwatering Karaköy Güllüoğlu (some of the best baklava I have ever had!) in Istanbul, Turkey, and was head pastry chef at Taboon restaurant in New York before fulfilling his dream of opening his own cafe.

The staff at the Montefiore location were very nice and excited about the food bloggers visiting their cafe. They all understand the items that they are selling, which is very refreshing for an Israeli cafe. But, really, how could you not be enthusiastic about selling beautiful looking cakes and pastries.

The menu has an array of sandwiches, salads, pasta, and main dishes to choose from. Most of us ordered from the specials on offer:

I choose a delicious soup made from a mushroom and vegetable base with perfectly pink-centered salmon and pasta designed with flat-leaf parsley.

Yael chose a vegetable quiche and salad.

Sarah and Irène chose a grilled tuna with Chinese pancakes, jasmine rice and a soy reduction. The tuna was also medium rare as I like it. My only issue with it is that the soy reduction was a little too salty, but I would definitely order it.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of Liz’s Caesar salad and Miriam’s gnocchi with artichokes and roasted cherry tomatoes, but I did taste Miriam’s and the gnocchi were light as they should be and the sauce was very nice. Another dish I will have to order.

Mazzarine’s very charming chef, Sharon Artzi, who only joined the restaurant a week ago, came to greet us with one of his new and very interesting dishes, gnocchi stuffed with prunes and served with roasted eggplant and a tehina-portabello mushroom sauce.

I know that it sounds quite strange and maybe too many flavours, but it worked and I thought it was delicious. He explained that he is going to change the entire menu in the coming weeks. I think there is great promise from this chef and I look forward to dining there again.

Of course we couldn’t leave without trying some of Chef Alon’s lovely pastries:

Sarah and I chose Zen – a tart filled with chocolate crème brûlée and covered in dark chocolate, which is perfect for a chocolate lover.

Miriam chose the eclair with cream and strawberries.

Irène chose Ebony, which is topped with 70% chocolate mousse,  filled with chocolate crème brûlée and covered in dark chocolate with an almond macaroon on the side.

The truth is that although the tarts and cakes were, or looked, wonderful, I would have liked to see more of them based on fruit, which is certainly not lacking in Israel during the winter. For that matter, I would have liked to see more Middle Eastern influence in the traditional French and Austrian pastries in the confectionery cabinet, which would have been a good marriage to the new chef’s main dishes. I highly recommend a visit to Mazzarine: where you will not be disappointed.

If anyone would like to come to our next event in March, please send me an email on my Contact page above and I will add you to the list.

Jan 192010
 

Two Fridays ago Mr BT and I went on a lovely nature walk near Uriah (from the sordid tale of King David, Uriah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheva) with Sarah from Foodbridge and Mimi from Israeli Kitchen. I learned that you can stuff cyclamen leaves just like grape leaves. I saw wild asparagus, zaatar, fennel, borage, a mastic bush, which is used to make chewing gum and is also used in ice cream, and navel wort, which Mimi uses as an ingredient in the amazing moisturizer that she makes. We did not pick any of these plants because most of them are protected by law, but it was fun learning about them. I can’t wait to go on another walk with them.

After the walk, Mr BT, Mimi, and I went to the town of Ramle (derived from the Arabic word Raml, meaning Sand), founded around 716AD.

A geographer, el-Muqadasi (“the Jerusalemite”), describes Ramla at the peak of its prosperity: “It is a fine city, and well built; its water is good and plentiful; it fruits are abundant. It combines manifold advantages, situated as it is in the midst of beautiful villages and lordly towns, near to holy places and pleasant hamlets. Commerce here is prosperous, and the markets excellent…The bread is of the best and the whitest. The lands are well favoured above all others, and the fruits are the most luscious. This capital stands among fruitful fields, walled towns and serviceable hospices…”

Ramle is no longer at the peak of its prosperity, and in fact is now one of the poorer cities in Israel, but it should be proud of its ancient architecture, such as the Pool of Arches, pictured above, which is an underground water cistern, currently under restoration. Also known as St. Helen’s Pool and Bīr al-Anezīya, it was built during the reign of the caliph Haroun al-Rashid in 789 AD (the early Islamic period) to provide Ramle with a steady supply of water.

The shuk is rich and vibrant showing off our beautiful produce and the multi-cultural diversity of the city.

The stalls are full of interesting vegetables and greens that grace local kitchens. The purplish root vegetables, on the left in the picture above, are purple carrots. When carrots were originally brought to Europe from Central Asia, they were in fact purple and yellow, not the bright orange color we know nowadays, which was developed in the Netherlands in the 17th century. The green-eyed Arab woman selling them, who must have been a great beauty when she was younger, was so happy that we knew what they were. She also sold beautiful fresh peas that I have not seen since I moved here. I bought some and we savored every morsel.

Mimi and Sarah had told me about the Bukharan baker who sold traditional Uzbeki flatbread. I had seen a travelogue a couple of years ago about Uzbekistan, which showed a local baker making flatbread stamped with beautiful geometric designs. Apparently, women used to bring their loaves to the local baker and put their own unique design on the bread so that he would know who to give them back to.

The baker in Ramle puts lovely floral and Star of David designs on his bread. We bought a couple of steaming hot ones to take home.

They also make lovely round challot.

Ever since Mr BT and I ate at Ezba in Kfar Rama, I have wanted to make a dish with freekeh and I had the great fortune to find some at a Halal butcher shop in Ramle. The shop was very nice and sold all sorts of interesting items to cook with. I thought about recreating the dish we had at Ezba, but I decided instead to stuff a chicken with freekeh. To offset the smokiness of the wheat, I added dried sour apricots that I soaked for 20 minutes in hot water and also added toasted pumpkin seeds for a little added crunch. The dish was delicious and the dried apricots really went well with the freekeh. I will definitely make this again. You could use cornish hens instead of a chicken for a more elegant meal.

I served the chicken with the purple carrots that I tucked in under the chicken. The roasted carrots were sweet and delicious with more carrot flavour that their orange cousins. I thought the carrots were going to be solid purple, but when I cut into them, a beautiful yellow and orange sunburst revealed itself.

Roasted Chicken stuffed with Freekeh

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 roasting chicken, 2kg (4lbs)

1-1/4 cups freekeh

1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup dried apricots, soaked in warm water

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Soak the freekeh in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes, skimming off any debris that floats to the surface. Change the water twice and drain well in a colander.

Cook the freekeh, uncovered, in a medium sized pot of salted boiling water, stirring and skimming occasionally, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes; drain well in a colander and transfer to a bowl.

While the freekeh is cooking, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onions, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent. Add the coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper. Cook stirring for a minute more and add the onion, dried apricots, and pumpkin seeds to the freekeh. Set aside until the mixture has cooled completely.

Stuff the chicken cavity with as much stuffing as you can and tie the legs together with string. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the chicken. Place the remaining stuffing in the bottom of a small roasting pan and place the stuffed chicken on top. Brush the chicken with olive oil and bake 180C (350F) oven for 1 hour or until the chicken is completely cooked and is a nice golden brown.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/19/freekeh-friday-at-shuk-ramle/

Jan 122010
 

Israeli Hamin, North African Shahina and Dafina, Iraqi Tabit, Yemenite Taris, Hungarian Solet, Kurdish Matfunia, Ladino Haminado, German Shalet and Eastern European Cholent or Chulent are all words for a Shabbat slow-cooked meal that has been made since at least the 12th century and possibly as far back as ancient Egypt in many households except my own. Whatever you choose to call it, hamin originates from the ban on lighting a fire or cooking during Shabbat, since these are considered to be forbidden forms of work. However, it’s permitted to start something cooking before Shabbat starts, so provided the heat is kept low enough, it’s possible to start cooking the hamin on Friday afternoon and have a nice tender slow-cooked meal for lunch on Saturday.

I had never heard of this dish until I moved to Israel. I remember my grandmother telling me how she and my great-grandmother would make challot at home and take them to the village baker to bake on Friday morning, but she never mentioned making this stew and my great-grandmother, who died when I was 19 years old, never made it for Shabbat, so I have to assume that this dish was as unfamiliar to my family as was gefilte fish.

Growing up in the Deep South, baked beans, pinto beans, and blackeyed peas were all readily available, but not a very popular staple in my house. My mother loved all of these, but I always thought they were disgusting. So when I saw cholent for the first time, it reminded me of refried beans or baked beans, two dishes that I really disliked. I tried it once at the house of one of my relatives in Israel, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat it again. However, one day I was discussing my dislike of cholent with Mimi of Israeli Kitchen and she told me that there are many different types of cholent, some without beans, that I should try.

I started doing some research and found that there are Sephardic versions that use chickpeas, bulgar, rice, and even couscous instead of the European versions that use white beans (also called navy beans) or barley, like the ones used in cassoulet. The Ashkenazi ones used beef, goose, and duck while the Sephardic ones used beef, lamb and chicken. This dish is supposed to be a complete main course in one pot, so it also can contain stuffed goose necks, chicken necks or stomach.  If you are Ashkenazi the stuffing is likely to be some variation of flour, bread crumbs, chicken, goose or duck fat and potatoes; if you are Sephardi, it is more likely to be minced meat and rice flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and allspice.

The hamin may also may contain dumplings. Kurdish Jews make a cracked wheat and semolina dumpling that is stuffed with minced beef or lamb; Moroccan Jews serve a large fragrant dumpling made with a mixture of ground nuts, minced lamb, mince beef and bread crumbs, flavoured with sugar, black pepper, mace, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

For my virgin hamin, I found an interesting recipe from the master chef of cholent, Sherry Ansky, a food writer who is passionate about this slow-cooked dish, so much so, that she devoted an entire book to the subject, punctuated by stories from her own life about the role different types of hamin and cholent had played for her. I chose to make a root vegetable hamin with asado or short ribs and goose drumsticks. This recipe does not contain the dreaded bean nor the much loved slowed eggs that I also loathe. I started by browning the meat and the vegetables in a large frying pan and then did the next stage of cooking in a large soup pot, and only after that moved all the ingredients to a very large clay pot, but if you have a large enough Dutch oven or Pojke, then you can just do the whole job in that one pot. You should cook this for about 20 hours, including the one hour it cooks on the stove top.

Since I never prepare a heavy Shabbat lunch, I decided to make this Thursday night and serve it for Shabbat dinner. It is a bit unconventional, but it worked for us. This hamin is delicious and I have been converted. I am going to wait a few weeks, but I would like to try another hamin. I see an Iraqi Tabit in our future or maybe one with pitim or maybe one with pasta……

Don’t plan any activities after lunch because you will probably be too heavy and bloated to even move from the table.

Root Vegetable Hamin

Serving Size: 6 to 8

Adapted from a recipe in Hamin (in Hebrew) by Sherry Ansky

Hamin Ingredients

2 kilos (4lbs) veal or lamb osso buco (I used short ribs)

1 kilo goose drumsticks

10 whole shallots, peeled

2 heads of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half

3 to 4 celery stalks, chopped

2 celery roots

2 parsley roots

4 to 6 small turnips

1/2 (1lb) kilo Jerusalem artichokes

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika

2 -3 bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2-3 fresh sage leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

3 medium tomatoes chopped or 250g crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 to 7 potatoes, peeled and cut in half

2-3 small sweet potatoes (optional, instead of some of the potatoes), peeled and cut into thick slices

Water to cover

Peel and cut the turnips, celery root, parsley root and Jerusalem artichokes into large cubes. Place the root vegetables and celery in a bowl and set aside.

Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Brown the meat and goose drumsticks, in batches, on all sides, and set aside in a bowl.

Add 2-3 more tablespoons of oil, reduce the heat to medium and saute the whole shallots for 3-4 minutes. Add all of the root vegetables except for the potatoes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to ensure that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the paprika, cayenne, black peppercorns, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and stir a little more.

Root Vegetable Hamin

Then return all of the meat to the pot and stir everything together. Pour on enough boiling water to just cover all of the ingredients and add the thyme, bay leaf, sage, and rosemary. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and cook for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 90-100C (195 - 212F).

Add the potatoes and garlic, add a little more salt to taste, cover the pot tightly and put it in the oven until lunchtime the following day.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/12/hamin-slow-cooking-for-the-soul/

Jan 042010
 

Hi Fellow Israeli Food Bloggers,

Have you been curious to meet your fellow food bloggers? Do you know the difference between WordPress and Pressed Duck?

Join me and Miriam Kresh from Israeli Kitchen to talk food, trade cooking secrets and just have fun getting to know one another.

When: Thursday, January 21, 2010
What Time: 20:00
Where: Mazzarine Patisserie Artisanale, Montefiore 42, Tel Aviv

We have to spend a minimum of 50NIS per person to reserve a big table.

RSVP by Tuesday, January 19th to:
Miriam: mimi[at]israelikitchen[dot]com or
Michelle: baroness[at]baronesstapuzina[dot]com

Jan 022010
 

The first year I moved to Israel I invited a few friends over to my flat for a nice New Year’s dinner. I bought sparklers and really bad champagne in  Shouk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. A few minutes before midnight we went out to my rooftop terrace, lit the sparklers and started yelling out “Happy New Year!”. Much to my chagrin, a neighbor yelled out of his window “Sheket!”, which means “shutup!” I never really celebrated New Year’s Eve again.

New Year’s Eve is not celebrated in Israel like everywhere else. Religious Jews do not recognize it as the new year because the start of the new year in the Jewish calendar is Rosh Hashana, which falls during the early autumn. So, even though you will see people celebrating in restaurants, pubs, and discos around the country, most people do not celebrate it.

Mr BT and I had a quiet dinner at home.

I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to cook on Thursday, so I had to find some dishes that I could make quickly, but were gourmet. I found an interesting salmon recipe from Chef Eric Ripert, who is chef of the famous Michelin three-star restaurant, Le Bernardin. I have never eaten there, but I have seen him on few cooking shows and his dishes always looked delicious. The recipe called for the salmon to be wrapped in phyllo pastry, so I went to the supermarket to buy a package of phyllo the day before. I took the box out the night before and when I came home to start cooking I discovered, to my annoyance, that I had bought puff pastry! The dessert I was making also called for phyllo, so what was the Baroness to do?! I improvised, like any good chef would do. I had a package of rice paper wrappers that I hadn’t used yet. I had Mr BT check on the internet if rice paper would crisp up like phyllo, and he reported that it was crispier than wonton wrappers. So,  I  replaced the phyllo  with the rice paper and it was a huge success. The dish is light and delicious and I will definitely make it again. We began the meal with a steamed artichoke with aioli, then I served the salmon on a bed of sauteed mushrooms with a side of Creole Orange Rice. The rice is spicy with a nice hint of fresh orange. It was perfect with the salmon.

Rice Paper Wrapped Salmon with Sauteed Mushrooms

Serving Size: 2

The Salmon:

2 (250g or 1/2 lb) salmon fillets, boneless and skinless

4 large round sheets rice paper

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

The Soy-Mustard Vinaigrette:

1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cut chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauteed Mushrooms:

1/2 lb mixed mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salmon wrapped in rice paper

For the Salmon:

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Soak two sheets of rice paper, one at a time, in warm water for 20 seconds. Place the sheets on top of each other and place one fillet of salmon in the middle. Wrap the rice paper around the salmon like an envelope. Repeat with the next two sheets of rice paper and salmon fillet. Set aside.

Mix together the soy sauce, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the thyme and parsley. Set aside.

Place the oil in a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the two fillets of salmon and saute for about 4 minutes on each side, until the rice paper is lightly browned or crispy to the touch.

For the Mushrooms: Trim the ends off the mushrooms and cut them in half, depending on size. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the white wine and reduce adding the butter to create a silky delicate sauce. Add the herbs to the pan and remove from the heat.

To plate, place a fillet on top of a bed of mushrooms. Sprinkle the soy-mustard vinaigrette on top of the salmon.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/02/happy-2010/

 

Creole Orange Rice

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 medium navel orange, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup rice

2 cups water

Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Sprinkle the salt and cayenne on the onions. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, cover and cook the rice for 20 minutes.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/02/happy-2010/

I wanted to make individual cranberry strudels for dessert, but I didn’t have any phyllo, so I decided to make bourekas instead. Mr BT suggested that I serve them to guests and not tell them what is inside. I would say that I didn’t have time to make dessert and thought we could have a savory dessert instead.

Cranberry Bourekas

Yield: 10 to 12

1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel

1 package puff pastry

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with silicone and set aside. Put the cranberries and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Drain them, discarding the liquid and return the cranberries to the pan.

Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.

Cranberry-Apple Bourekas

Unroll the puff pastry and cut strips about 5cm (2 inches) wide. Place a rounded tablespoon of the cranberry mixture near the bottom edge of the puff pastry.

Cranberry Bourekas

Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.

Cranberry Bourekas

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bourekas are golden. The bourekas make leak slightly during baking. Transfer the bourekas to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/02/happy-2010/

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