For Shavuot: Goat Cheese Quick Bread with Apricot and Mint

Goat Cheese, Mint and Apricot Quick Bread

Cheesecake and blintzes are probably the two most popular dishes that are served on the Shavuot table, but being me, I like to find at least one new dish to put on my table. One of the first recipes that caught my eye in Joan Nathan‘s new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, was a quick bread that had goat cheese, dried apricot and mint. The combination of the creamy goat cheese and apricots really appealed to me, and it was a simple recipe that could be made without much effort. I used sour apricots because I think that they give a stronger apricot flavor than the Mediterranean ones. This quick bread is delicious and is perfect for a elegant brunch, afternoon tea, or served as an appetizer, sliced thinly and cut in quarters, for a dairy dinner.

Quick Goat Cheese Bread with Mint and Apricots

Yield: 1 Loaf

Serving Size: 8 to 10

1/3 cup olive oil

3 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2oz grated Gruyère, aged Cheddar, or Gruyere de Comte cheese

4oz fresh goat cheese

1 cup chopped dried apricots (prefer sour or California apricots)

2 tablespoons roughly minced mint leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried mint

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line it with baking paper.

Add the eggs to a large bowl, and beat well. Add the milk and oil and whisk until smooth.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl, and then add to the egg mixture. Stir until it is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan and sprinkle the Gruyère, Cheddar, or Comté, crumble the goat cheese on top, and then scatter the apricots and the mint. Pull a knife gently through the batter to blend the ingredients slightly.

Bake for 40 minutes. Cool briefly, and remove the bread from the pan, peeling off the baking paper. Slice and serve warm. You can also make it in advance and freeze it.

Trains and Balkan Water Börek

I used to love to go to the train station in my hometown. My father would take us there every once in a while to see the trains and we would always try to get there early so he could put a penny on the rails and have the train run over them. As soon as the train was safely out of harm’s way, he would retrieve the misshapen pennies for us to take home as souvenirs of our adventure.

So when I found out that the Tel Aviv municipality had painstakingly renovated an Ottoman-era train station, now unoriginally called HaTahana (The Station) near Neve Tzedek, I couldn’t wait to go and see it. And I must say, they did a beautiful job with the restoration.

The train station was inaugurated in 1892 and was the first railway line in the Middle East. The rail line went from Jaffa to Jerusalem and the length of the journey took 3-1/2 to 4 hours. The line was eventually extended to Lod and Haifa, and in 1921 the train travelled to Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya, Egypt, approximately 160km (100 miles) from Cairo. The station was closed in 1948 and only reopened as an entertainment complex this year.

There are several restaurants and cafes to choose from to sit and have a leisurely coffee with your favorite someone, such as Cafe Tahana in the original railway building.

Or sit on the roof of Shushkashvilli Beer Bar and Tapas, which is in a beautiful old Arab house that stood in the neighborhood called Manshiya, built by the Turks in 1892 to house Egyptian laborers working on the new railroad.

The Wieland Villa, built in 1902, was owned by a German Templar named Hugo Wieland, who built his home and a factory building and agricultural materials next to the railway station with the intention of shipping the goods throughout what was then Palestine and around the Middle East. The family remained in the house until the 1930s when they left and eventually moved to Australia.

HaTahana also has some lovely boutiques and art galleries in the surrounding stone buildings that will appeal to all sorts of shoppers.

The train tracks are quiet now, but HaTahana is abustle with people enjoying the lovely cafes, restaurants, art exhibitions every Thursday evening, and the real reason Mr BT and I got up early to go there: the Orbanic market, which is the new organic farmers market, open only on Fridays.

After visiting the old Ottoman station, I was inspired to make a Water Börek, which is a cheese or meat bureka, made with boiled warka leaves. Instead of going to all the trouble of making my own warka, I bought Moroccan cigar wrappers at the supermarket. Since most of my readers in the US and Europe will not be able to find cigar wrappers so easily, you can use egg roll wrappers. You can serve this for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a light supper with a big salad.

Water Börek - Su Böregi

Serving Size: 6 to 8

1 pkg (500g or 1lb) Moroccan cigar wrappers (thawed) or large egg roll wrappers

100g butter, melted or 1/4 cup olive oil

250g (1/2lb) Bulgarian or Greek Feta

1 log of plain goat's cheese

1 egg

1 cup fresh parsley or 1/2 cup parsley and 1/2 cup dill, chopped

2 green onions, sliced thinly

Several grinds of black pepper

Butter a 22cm (9 inch) deep-dish pan.

Mash the feta and goat's cheese together until well combined. Add the egg, parsley, green onion and black pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

In a large pot of boiling water, place one cigar sheet or egg roll wrapper in the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Scoop out the sheet with a wire mesh skimmer and place in the pan. Don't worry if you can't straighten the sheets out, just try to smooth a few out so they will go up the sides of the pan. Repeat until you have one layer of the sheets.

Brush butter or olive oil on the sheets and cover with half of the cheese mixture. Place another layer of boiled cigar sheets, brush them with butter, and add the rest of the cheese mixture. Place a final layer of cigar sheets, fold over any sheets that are hanging off the side of the baking dish, and brush with butter. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly brown. Serve hot or a room temperature.

Chili and Chocolate

I am not a big Mexican food eater, mainly because I do not like avocados and refried beans. I know that Mexican food is so much more than that; I just haven’t taken the time to learn more about Mexican cuisine. One dish I have made before is chicken mole which is made with a sauce that contains Mexican chocolate and chilies. I have used chocolate in savory dishes before and find that it adds an extra creaminess to the dish.

It is very difficult to find the ingredients you need to make Mexican dishes in Israel, and I had to improvise when I decided to make something with the kosher corn tortillas I bought at my parent’s local supermarket a few months ago. I found a very interesting recipe for cheese enchiladas that I had to try. I had to find a way to make the red mole without compromising too much on the taste using ingredients that are ready available here. I could not find dry mild chili powder, so I used sweet paprika, some cayenne pepper that I brought back from the States, and a whole, seeded red chili pepper. Believe it or not, it worked. It tasted like what I remember having in a restaurant, but I would like to make it next time with Oaxacan Mole which is amazing stuff. I have no idea where I will find dried guajillo chilies and dried epazote here to make the recipe. I guess I will have to wait until my next visit to the States.

The other problem we have here is that I cannot buy Monterrey Jack or Muenster cheeses. I have never seen them at any cheese shop or cheese counter in Israel. So, I decided to buy Fontina as a substitute, which was expensive, but was perfect for this dish. Next time, I will try making it with Gouda or Edam, which are less expensive alternatives.

Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Corn and Red Mole

slightly adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

For the enchiladas:

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 Tbs olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 1/2 cups grated Jack or Muenster cheese (I used Fontina)

2 cups soft goat cheese

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper

12 corn tortillas

For the red mole:

1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1 1/4 teaspoons each of anise seeds, cumin and dried oregano (I omitted the anise seeds because I didn't have any)

2 /12 Tbs olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup ground sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small red chili, seeded and minced

1 oz 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or Mexican chocolate

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (omit if you use Mexican chocolate)


1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp white wine vinegar


For the enchiladas:

Cover the raisins with warm water and set aside. Brown the pine nuts in a dry skillet and set aside. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the same skillet and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat to soften, then add the corn and cook for a couple of minutes more depending on whether the corn is fresh or frozen. Drain the raisins and put in a bowl with the pine nuts, onion and corn mixture, 1 cup of Fontina, the goat cheese and the cilantro. Mix everything thoroughly and add salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the tortillas briefly in olive oil, drain them on a paper towel, and fill them with the cheese mixture. Roll them and place them seam-side down in a baking dish. Make the mole. At this point, you can refrigerate the enchiladas.

For the red mole:

Toast the seeds and oregano in a dry skillet, then remove to a plate as soon as they smell fragrant. Grind in a mortar. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently for about for minutes, or until onion is brown on the edges, then add garlic and ground spices and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat, let the pan cool for a minute, then stir the ground chili into the onions along with the water. Return to the stove and bring to a boil, stirring slowly but constantly so that the chili doesn't burn. It will thicken as it cooks, so add a little water if it gets too thick. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted. Simmer for ten minutes, then stir in the vinegar to bring all the flavors together. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 190C (375F). Pour the mole sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkle with the rest of the Fontina and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

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