Blood Orange Tart with Orange-Almond Crust

Blood Orange Tarts with Orange Almond Crust

When I hear someone say “blood oranges”, I am immediately whisked away to my time in Lugano and my many trips over the border into Italy. They have a perfume like no other and I loved having a tall freshly squeezed glass of the beautiful blood red juice. As I drank the sweet and tangy glass of nectar, I thought about the blue waters of Sicily. So when I made my weekly trip to my local organic farm shop and saw a crate full of blood oranges, my heart burst with joy. “Where are these from?”, I asked the green grocer. “They are from a farmer in  the Golan. They just arrived.”

Mr BT was returning from a business trip in a week, so I asked if they were going to be selling them for a while, and he said yes. So, a few days before Mr BT’s return, I bought enough for cocktails and for an idea I had for a Passover dessert. Initially, I was going to make an upside-down blood orange polenta cake which some Italian Jews serve for dessert on Passover, but the weather started getting warmer and I thought a nice simple tart with a creamy blood orange curd sounded more refreshing.

Blood Oranges

Until I cut into the orange, I was not sure what variety the oranges were, but as soon as I saw the dark red flesh, I knew they were the lovely Moro variety. The flavor is stronger and the perfume is more intense than a normal orange. It is more bitter than the other varieties, which is perfect for cocktails, marmalade, and creamy, luscious curd.

Blood Orange Juice

Mr BT and I have a history with blood orange juice: our guests were served a blood orange caipirinha when they arrived at the reception. The cocktail represented my Italian ancestry, payed homage to my Brazilian cousins, and reminded Mr BT that he was created from a beautiful love in Rome, the place where his parents married, lived, loved and made Mr BT.

The tart was made with simple ingredients, but delivered even more than I expected. It brought back beautiful memories of my time in Lugano and trips to Italy, my wedding, my in-laws’ grand love affair, and stirred the excitement of a early fall trip to one place neither one of us have been to: Sicily. We will be celebrating rather important, ahem, birthdays this year, and what better place to do so, than in beautiful Sicily?

Almond-Orange Tart Base

Blood Orange Tart with Orange-Almond Crust
For the curd:

6 egg yolks

Zest of 2 blood oranges (don't forget to grate the zest first before juicing)

125 milliliters (½ cup) blood orange juice

1-½ tablespoons lemon juice

165 grams (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

70 grams (5 tbsp) cold butter, chopped

For the crust:

170 grams (6 ounces) whole almonds

1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar

2 teaspoons blood orange zest

70 grams (5 tablespoons) butter, melted

For curd:

Place the egg yolks, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from the heat and gradually add the butter, stirring well after each addition. Pour into a bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. The curd should be thick.

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 180C (350°F) and butter a 22cm (9-inch) tart tin or 4 individual tart tins with a removable bottom.

In a food processor, grind the almonds with the sugar and orange zest until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse a few times, until the butter is evenly distributed. You may need to stir the mixture with a spatula before placing it in the tart tin. Pat almond mixture into the bottom and sides of tart tin. Bake for 10 minutes, until the nuts are lightly toasted, then remove to a rack to cool.

“Fudgy” Haroset Brownies

It is hard to get a chef to part with a special recipe and when you finally get the recipe out of them, they may leave out key ingredients so that when you try to make it at home, it doesn’t taste like you had at their restaurant. I can understand why they don’t want to give away all of their secrets because chefs, cookbook authors and some bloggers work very hard at perfecting their recipes, and they don’t want to give them away for free.

This story rings true with Mr. BT’s haroset recipe. This recipe was a closely guarded secret of my husband’s and I have been trying for years to get his permission to post his recipe, but he has always refused. But this year, he finally gave in and is letting me post, well…..most of the real recipe. This version will still taste good, but he just couldn’t part with a few secret ingredients.

I introduced Mr. BT to Venetian-style haroset when we first met and he loved it at first taste. He decided to try making his own version, which he has perfected over the years, and it is the best I have ever had. It is not for the weary and some people will be shocked by its powerful punch.

Faye Levy’s Passover article on Haroset in the LA Times contains five delicious recipes, but the one that I had to try was the Haroset Bars. I had been searching for something new to make for the seder and this was perfect since we always have leftover haroset. I adapted her recipe because Mr BT’s haroset is already sweet enough and packed with dried fruit. I also substituted walnut meal for matza meal. I do not usually bake with matza meal.

My recipe produced a very moist bar and some of my relatives used a fork to eat them instead of using their hands, but that is probably because we are a little too European :-) to eat dessert with our hands. I grew up eating fruit with a knife and fork, but I have learned to eat it with my hands. It took me years to eat fried chicken with my hands.

I think the marriage of haroset and chocolate was meant to be. This is definitely a recipe I will make again and again.

I hope that you and your family had a lovely Passover holiday.

Chag Sameach!


"Fudgy" Haroset Brownies

Yield: 24 small bars, 16 large

Adapted recipe by Faye Levy

1/2 cup ground walnuts or almond flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

113g (1 stick) unsalted margarine or butter, soft, cut in small pieces

3 tablespoons mild olive oil

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (about 2.4 ounces)

1-1/2 cup (packed) haroset with Mr. BT's World Famous Thermonuclear Haroset (see below) or Faye's haroset

2 large eggs

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with foil and butter the foil.

In a medium bowl, mix the ground walnuts, potato starch and salt.

In a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer, or in a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is smooth. Add the oil and the brown sugar; beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating thoroughly on high speed after each one. Add 4 tablespoons of the ground walnut mixture and beat over low speed. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining ground walnut mixture. Stir in the haroset and chocolate pieces.

Transfer the batter to the pan and spread it in an even layer. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts and pat them lightly so they adhere to the batter. Bake until the top browns lightly and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out nearly clean, 18 to 22 minutes; if the wooden pick comes out chocolaty, test again. Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.

Turn the brownies out gently onto a plate, then onto another plate or a cutting board so that the walnuts are on top. Using a sharp knife, cut it carefully into 16 bars. Serve at room temperature.

Mr. BT's World Famous Thermonuclear Haroset

Yield: 6 cups

Mr. BT's World Famous Thermonuclear Haroset

4 large Granny Smith apples, cored, but unpeeled and cut to 1/2 cm (1/4-inch, but really 1/5th) dice

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

150g (6 ounces) chopped walnuts

150g (6 ounces) chopped almonds

150g (6 ounces) dried Mediterranean apricots, cut into eighths

12 dried figs, stems removed, cut into twelfths

12 large Madjhool dates, pitted, quartered along its length, cut into fifths

12 pitted prunes, cut into eighths

150g (6 ounces) golden raisins

150g (6 ounces) dark raisins

1 cup sweet kosher wine

1/4 cup brandy

1/2 cup date honey (Silan)

3/4 cup sweet chestnut paste

Grated rind and juice of one orange

1/2 knob (about 1-inch) fresh ginger, peeled and grated on a micro-plane

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Place the apples in a large bowl and add the lemon juice. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add more spices and sweet wine to taste.


Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

Over the years I have posted a lot of recipes for slow cooking on my blog; this stems from my dream to have an outdoor brick oven for making pizza, bread and clay pots filled with some slow-simmering concoction. Slow cooking takes me back to my childhood when I watched my great-grandmother make all of the lovely baked goods, stewed fruits, and gooey, browned chicken that she made in a crusty old enameled pot she brought with her from Germany in 1935. Oma used her body and soul to make plum cakes, lebkuchen, butter cookies, spiced plums, stewed figs, etc. She didn’t have a Kitchenaid or a food processor, she made everything from scratch, her hands and arms were the whisk, the wooden spoon, she knew when something was mixed enough and didn’t concern herself with weights and measurements, nor did she bother with oven temperature. She made everything by sight, touch, taste and feel, and she always knew when the oven was hot enough for this, that or the other.

I thought a lot about Oma while I was preparing my mise en place for our Rosh Hashana dinner. I felt her watching over me, reassuring me that I had enough onions, garlic and carrots, and that I should be careful not to burn anything. It is at times like these, especially when I am making an old family recipe, that I wish I could bring Oma and Mama K back here, for just a few hours, to give me pointers on how to not make the butter cookies spread out,  or so that I can ask them if I have made the dish to their standards.

Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

3 hours, 30 minutes

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

Adapted recipe from Eli Landau and Haim Cohen

3 kg short ribs (asado or shpundra), with as much fat removed as possible, cut into sections

2 medium onions, sliced thinly

8 small shallots, peeled and cut in half

1 head of garlic separated into cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 celery stalks, diced

6 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

3 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried

2 cups (1/2 liter) of pomegranate juice

2 cups (1/2 liter) of chicken stock

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 100C (200F).

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large oven-proof pot on medium-high heat. Add the short ribs and brown them on all sides. Place them on a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and the shallots, and saute them until they are transparent. Add the garlic, carrots and celery, and stir until the onions begin to brown. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Add 1 cup of pomegranate juice and scrape the pot, loosening any bits that have stuck to the bottom. Add the rest of the pomegranate juice and chicken stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Add the meat back to the pot and bring to the boil again, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and place it in the oven or leave it on the stove top, on the smallest burner and the lowest flame, for 3-1/2 hours. Occasionally baste the meat.

When the meat is cooked, almost falling of the bone, place it on a serving platter. Place the pot on medium-high heat and cook until the sauce thickens. Pour some of the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Two Variations of Roasted Spring Lamb with Orange and Herbs


Spring has sprung all over Israel and after a rather sad period in my life, I am basking in the beauty of nature’s bounty. Over the past few weeks, Mr BT and  I have travelled to the north and south of the country visiting dairies, wineries, open markets, flower shows and renewed my spirits and zest for life. I think my father would be a bit annoyed with me for taking so long to post, but I just wasn’t ready until now.

Before Pesach, I bought two 1/4 lambs (shoulder and ribs) which I didn’t have a chance to cook during the holiday, but I found two great opportunities to roast them: the Shabbat after Pesach and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day). Over the years, I have made some very interesting lamb dishes: some of them from recipes I found and some inventions of my own. These recipes are a collaborative effort between Mr BT and me. Oranges go beautifully with lamb, because they cut the fattiness of the meat, so the first lamb shoulder was marinated in wild and farmed oranges, rosemary, garlic and mustard and the second one was marinated in za’atar, rosemary, garlic, anchovy, and mustard.

I used wild oranges for the first recipe that we collected from trees near where we live. These trees are a natural hybrid that grow wild by the side of the road leading to our village and are sourer than regular oranges, in fact too sour to eat as they are or to drink the juice.

Lamb Shoulder with Oranges, Rosemary and Garlic

Slow Roasted Lamb with Wild Oranges, Rosemary and Garlic

Serving Size: 6

1 quarter lamb (shoulder and ribs), approximately 6-7 kilos (13 - 15 lbs)

2 medium farmed oranges, quartered

3 medium wild oranges or 3 large lemons, quartered

1 head of fresh garlic (if available) or regular garlic

2 heaping tablespoons seedless Dijon mustard

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is still slightly chunky. Do not puree.

Place the lamb in a roasting pan and marinate it for 2 hours, turning it over after one hour.

Cover the lamb with aluminum foil and put in a preheated 150C (300F) oven for approximately 6 hours or until the meat is fork-tender.

On Yom Hatzmaut, we brought the second lamb dish to our friends Cassia and Massimo’s house. Massimo is a Florentine who is also an avid cook and wine lover in true Italian and Florentine fashion. He makes delicious jams, the best limoncello I have every had, and his pasta dishes would make all Italians cry with joy. I will post more about this dinner in my next post. Mr BT and I always enjoy travelling around Israel with them looking for interesting food places to visit and just hanging out.

Slow-Roasted Lamb with Wild Oranges, Za'aatar and Anchovies

Slow-Roasted Lamb with Orange, Za'aatar and Anchovies

1 quarter lamb (shoulder and ribs), approximately 6-7 kilos (13 - 15 lbs)

1-/12 heads of fresh garlic (if available) or regular garlic

3 tablespoons of fresh za'atar or fresh oregano

1 small jar anchovy fillets in olive oil

1/2 cup olive oil

3 heaping tablespoons seedless Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 large sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only

Juice of 3 medium oranges

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is still slightly chunky. Do not puree.

Place the lamb in a roasting pan and marinate it for 4hours, turning it over after 2 hours.

Cover the lamb with aluminum foil and put in a preheated 150C (300F) oven for approximately 1-1/2 hours and then 120C for 6 hours (I cooked it overnight) or until the meat is fork-tender.

Eccles Cakes for Tu Bishvat

Eccles Cakes


I don’t know why, but I have always had a fascination with mincemeat. I don’t even remember the first time I ate this boozy filling in a pie, but I must have been a child and for some strange reason this little girl, who was quite a picky eater, when it came to new foods and food with strange names, never questioned whether there really was meat in this rather sweet and spicy dessert. I just thought it tasted good. Flash forward to 1982 and my first trip to the island across the pond: I remember having an Eccles Cake at a picnic at Windsor Great Park watching Prince Charles miss the wooden ball during the Queen’s Cup polo match. I don’t think it was the best Eccles Cake I have ever had, but it was the beginning of my love affair with them.

Eccles Cakes were first sold in 1793 in a shop in the village of Eccles, which is now part of Greater Manchester, but the original recipe may have been adapted from a cookbook from 1769 called The Experienced English House-Keeper by Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald, who was from Cheshire. The author called them “Sweet Patties” and the filling contained the meat of a boiled calf’s foot (gelatine), apples, oranges, nutmeg, egg yolk, currants and French brandy.

Nowadays, you will find all types of additions to the “traditional” Eccles Cake filling, but the traditional filling is the same as the recipe I adapted from Dan Lepard: currants, lemon zest and brandy. I added candied peel, which might horrify traditionalists, but I like the added flavour. You might even find recipes with spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon, but I think this takes away from the lovely naked fruity taste of the currants , and you should never, ever, use puff pastry, because then you would not be able to call them Eccles Cakes any more; they would have to be called Chorley cakes.

I think they are nice to eat any time, but this year they were a tasty treat for our Tu Bishvat table. Dan Lepard’s recipe is easy to make and the dough is a dream to work with; yes, it is a little time-consuming, but well worth it. These make rather large cakes, which you could easily make into 24 smaller cakes for a more reasonable portion.

Note: I found the currants at Eden Teva Market in Netanya.


Eccles Cakes

Yield: 12 large or 24 small

Adapted recipe from Dan Lepard

Note: I have tried to convert the measurements as precisely as I can for the American readers, but it is better to use the precise metric measurements if you have a scale.

For the pastry

400 grams (4 cups) strong white flour (I used '00')

1 tsp salt

25 grams (2 tablespoons) caster (granulated) sugar

175g (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small cubes

50g (3-1/2 tablespoons) butter or margarine, cut into small cubes

1 medium egg yolk (keep the egg white for later)

100ml (a little less than 1/2 cup) cold water

75ml (1/3 cup) cold milk or cold water

For the filling

500g (18 oz) Zante currants

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon candied orange peel, finely chopped

1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, finely chopped

100g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Demerara sugar

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and add the butter or margarine. Whisk the egg yolk with the water and milk or just water, and mix with the flour to a firm dough. Wrap, chill for 30-60 minutes, then, dusting the work surface with a little flour, roll into a 2cm (3/4-inch) thick rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, then re-roll it to the same size and fold again. Wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes. Repeat the double roll, fold and chill twice more.

Eccles Cakes Filling

Place the currants in a bowl, pour 500ml (2 cups) of boiling water and set aside for five minutes. Drain thoroughly, then mix the currants with the lemon zest, candied lemon and orange, butter or margarine and brandy, and put in the refrigerator while finishing preparing the dough.

Eccles Cakes Dough

Roll the pastry to 2cm (3/4-inch) thick, cut in half and keep one half chilled while you roll the other half into a 0.25cm (1/15-inch) thick rectangle. Cut the dough into six (12 for the smaller version) equal squares.

Eccles Cakes Filled

Place a 50-60g (3-1/2 to 4 tablespoons) ball of currants (or half that if you are making the smaller cakes) in the centre of each one, dampen the edges with water and pinch them together to form a tight seal so the filling will not spill out.

Eccles Cakes Ready for Egg Wash

Flip it over, round the shape with your fingers, roll out slightly to flatten and place them seam down on a baking tray lined with a silpat or nonstick paper. Repeat with the other pastry and filling.

Eccles Cakes Ready for Oven

Brush with beaten egg white, sprinkle with sugar, slash the tops and bake at 200C (180C fan-assisted)/390F for about 30 minutes.


Rosh Hashana 5772: Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

For erev Rosh Hashana I tried another recipe from Joan Nathan’s new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, and it was a perfect ending to a lovely meal. Apart from the wonderful taste, what I loved about it is that it was easy to make. I made the apple sauce and the tart dough a couple of days ahead and baked it the morning of the dinner. The apple sauce is delicious on its own and the best part is that this dessert has very little sugar in it. I used Granny Smith apples for the apple sauce because I prefer their tartness and for the slices on top, I used Gala, a lovely delicate apple that is perfect for a French-style tart.

Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

Serving Size: 8

(French Apple Sauce Tart) Slightly adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

130g (9 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small cubes

2 cups of thick apple sauce (recipe below)

2 Gala apples, peeled and thinly sliced, preferably with a mandoline

In the bowl of a food processor, put the flour, salt and sugar, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter or margarine and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons of water and pulse until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in cellophane, and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Roll the dough into a circle 25cm (10-inches) in diameter. Place the dough into a 22cm (9-inch) tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork and bake blind for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool slightly.

Lower the oven temperature to 200C (400F). Spread the apple sauce over the tart base and place the sliced apples on top in a circular pattern. Bake for 30 minutes and serve at room temperature.

Compote de Pommes

Yield: 2 cups

1 kilo (2 pounds) Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

250 grams (1/2 pound) Italian blue plums or red plums

1/8 cup of sugar

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/3 cup white wine

Place all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan, cover, and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are mushy. Set aside to cool.

Rosh Hashana 5772: Muesli Challah

Muesli Challah

I love researching the history of food, and one of the foremost experts on the history of Jewish Food is Gil Marks. I am going to have the immense honor of dining with him and hopefully picking his brain a bit. His entry about Challah in his book, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, explains the different traditions of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities for eating bread on Shabbat: whereas Ashkenazi communities had little access to white wheat flour, and so reserved it for the challah on Shabbat, the Sephardi world had easier access to white flour, and so the difference between weekday and Shabbat bread was not so much in the type of flour used, but in different variations of the bread itself, including adding sesame seeds, or even switching to whole wheat flour.

After reading this entry in Marks’ encyclopedia, I wondered if my ancestors would think that my festive challah made from whole wheat, rye and white flour would be fitting enough for our holiest holidays, and I hope the answer would be yes. I have a recipe for muesli buns that I thought would make an interesting challah for this year’s Rosh Hashana, and it didn’t disappoint. It might be a bit unconventional, but I am an unconventional kind of girl. I also made my tried and true challah for the plain eaters in the family.

This year, as every year, we celebrated Rosh Hashana with family and friends in Jerusalem. It was an interesting group as we represented the best of the Israeli table, one that represented several different countries: Israel, Holland, England, Germany, France, the Philippines and the United States. We thought of loved ones we missed who are no longer here or are far away, we laughed, and we thought of all of the things we want to do to make this year more sweet, more healthy, more prosperous, and most importantly more peaceful.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and we hope you have happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year.

Chag Sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr BT

Muesli Challah

Yield: 2 medium loaves

500 grams (4 cups) whole wheat flour

300 grams (3-1/3 cups) rye flour

300 grams (3-1/3 cups) all purpose flour

30 grams (2 tablespoons) salt

50 grams (2 ounces) fresh yeast

740 ml (3 cups) cold water

100 grams (3.5 ounces) raisins

100 grams dried figs (3.5 ounces), cut into quarters

100 grams prunes (3.5 ounces), cut into quarters

100 grams hazelnuts, roasted

100 grams Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

400 grams mixture of flax seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Honey for drizzling on top

Add the flours and salt to a mixer with a dough hook and mix until combined. Crumble the fresh yeast over the flour mixture and add the cold water. Mix initially at low speed and then increase the speed to medium until the dough separates from the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be a little sticky. If the dough is too dry, add water, a tablespoon at a time. Lower the speed and add the dried fruits and hazelnuts. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a towel or cellophane, and let rise for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.

Punch the dough down and place on a clean, floured, work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into eight pieces, hand-rolling each piece into a long snake, and braid into two loaves with four strands each. Brush each loaf with honey and sprinkle the seed mixture on top.

Place each loaf on a lined baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180C (350F). This bread freezes well.

For buns: Make half a recipe and divide the dough into 12 pieces and bake for 15 minutes.

Israel Celebrates Ramadan Too

There are about one and a quarter million Muslims in Israel, and most of them will observe the holy month of Ramadan, which this year begins on the evening of the 29th of July (Islam follows a lunar calendar, in which the months gradually move around the months of the Gregorian calendar). The fasting begins at sun up and lasts until sundown, when the evening’s feast begins. Israeli and Palestinian Muslim cuisine are similar to the cuisines of neighboring Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and to a lesser extent, Egypt, although it has its own distinctive dishes and variations on regional delicacies. For example, the hummous tends to have a stronger lemon flavor instead of the heavy tehina flavor that you find in Egyptian hummous.

Traditionally, the fast is broken by eating a couple of dates, for a quick burst of energy, followed by a cold drink, such as tamarind, which is soaked in water the night before, then strained, sweetened and mixed with rose water and some lemon juice; or Qamar El-Deen, which is made by soaking apricot leather in hot water, mixing it in a food processor or blender, and chilling it before serving.

Soups are served after the long day of fasting, and these help provide the necessary liquids to rehydrate the body. The most popular soups are those made with lentils, vegetables, or freekeh, which is cracked green wheat. Various salads, such as baba ganoush, Arab salad, and hummous are also served at the beginning of the meal.

During Ramadan, unlike the other months of the year, meat is consumed in relatively large quantities. Festive Palestinian chicken dishes such as Musakhan and Makloubeh are served as a main course. Date, walnut and pistachio-filled biscuits, such as Makroud and Mamoul, are served to close the meal and washed down with sweet mint tea.

Partly because I live next to three of the largest Arab towns in Israel, and partly because I lived and studied with Arabs from various countries and like their cuisine, I decided to borrow some of the culinary experience of Ramadan and make a couple of typical dishes at home.

For a starter, I made an Iraqi lentil and meatball soup, which is almost a meal in itself, especially when Ramadan falls in midsummer.

Iraqi Lentil and Meatball Soup

Iraqi Lentil Soup With Meatballs

Serving Size: 6 to 8

2 medium onions, minced

500g (1 pound) ground beef or lamb or both

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt plus salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups homemade chicken broth

1 pound brown or yellow lentils

55g (about 2 ounces) angel hair pasta

2 carrots, finely diced

Juice of half a lemon

Preheat an oven to 200C (400F), and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place half of the onions and the ground meat, parsley, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and allspice in a medium-sized bowl. Mix the meat mixture thoroughly, and form into balls the size of walnuts. Place on the baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick any stones from the lentils, place in bowl, cover with cold water, and drain.

In a large pot, sauté the remaining onions in olive oil over medium heat until golden. Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. Add the lentils and the carrots to the soup and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are almost tender.

Break the angel hair pasta into the soup and add the meatballs. Simmer slowly for another 5-10 minutes or until the lentils and noodles are cooked, adding more chicken broth or water as needed. Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice into soup.

Mr BT and I wish all of our Muslim friends: Ramadan Kareem!

For more Ramadan recipe ideas, see:



Makroud (Date and Sesame Biscuits)




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.

Red and White Sangria – The Perfect Yom Ha’Atzmaut Refreshment

Sangria Fruit

Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, is on Monday. The whole country will be turning on their grills and the flavors of grilled lamb, beef short ribs, kebabs,  steaks, chicken, and fish will fill the air. I like to start the celebration with a big pitcher of sangria.

For some, Sangria is typically a Mediterranean drink served at Spanish restaurants in beautiful pottery jugs, made from red wine and fruit. However, sangria doesn’t originate from Spain. Legend has it that the British East India Company travelled to India and tried a drink known as Pac that contained five ingredients referred to in its name- eau de vie, sugar, lemon, water and tea.

The British took this recipe back from the East Indies and the name of the drink evolved into punch. The word punch became ponche in Spanish, used to describe sangria which is, in essence, a fruit punch. Even the French claim to have created this drink that they call sang-gris. Truth be told, the Greeks, Romans, and Ancient Israelites all had various drinks that they made from a base of red wine, fruit juices, and honey because the water was not fit to drink since it was used to bathe in and also used for various other unclean reasons.

No matter where it originates, it is a refreshing spring and summer drink that is perfect as a cocktail served by the pool or  with a light summer meal on the terrace. If you search, you will find hundreds of variations of sangria, some even adding ginger ale or Sprite! I prefer to make mine with the minimum of ingredients: wine, fruit, a cinnamon stick or ginger syrup, and a splash of Cointreau or brandy.

Red and White Sangria

Red Sangria

Serving Size: 4 to 6

2 orange, sliced thinly

1/2 apple, cut into cubes

2 small red plums, nectarines or other stone fruit, cut into cubes

2 cinnamon sticks

1 bottle red wine, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or other dry red

2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons Cointreau or brandy

Put all of the fruit and cinnamon stick in a large pitcher. Add the red wine, orange juice and Cointreau. Stir well and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld together. Serve over ice.


White Sangria

Serving Size: 4 to 6

For the sangria:

1 orange, sliced thinly

1 lemon, sliced thinly

1/2 apple, cut into cubes

1 bottle white wine, such as Emerald Riesling or Chardonnay

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoon ginger syrup

3 tablespoons Cointreau or brandy

For the Ginger Syrup:

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly

For the ginger syrup:

Place the water and sugar in a small pan, and bring to a boil. Add the ginger slices and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and place in a glass jar. Keep refrigerated.

For the sangria:

Put all of the fruit in a large pitcher. Add the white wine, orange juice, ginger syrup and Cointreau. Stir well and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld together. Serve over ice.


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