There is a stereotype that all Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve, well…. my family either ate Chinese at our favourite restaurant or we had Texas barbecued brisket from Ft. Worth, Texas’ famous Cousin’s Bar-B-Q , Greenberg’s smoked turkey from Tyler, Texas and the fixins: homemade mustard coleslaw, Mom’s baked beans, etc. I can’t eat it anymore because it is not kosher, but Cousin’s make some of the best damn barbecued brisket I have ever had. One of these days I am going to try to make my own.
So, in keeping with the family tradition, I made a non-traditional Kung Pao Turkey by torchlight. No, it is not a family tradition to cook by torchlight on Christmas Eve: the power went out right as I was finishing chopping the vegetables. Mr BT helped me finish the meal by holding a torch over the stove top. Luckily, I have a gas stove top, so I could continue cooking in the dark. The power didn’t come on until halfway through dinner, so we ate by candlelight. Awwwww, how romantic.
Mr BT and I wish you and yours a very happy holidays!
250 g (1/2 lb) skinless turkey breast, cut into cubes
100 g cashews or peanuts, toasted
2 whole red fresh chilies
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
2 small courgettes, diced
1 small container white button (champignon) mushrooms, sliced
For the marinade:
1 tablespoon water
½ tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking wine
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking wine
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water or chicken broth
Roast the cashews in a 160C (300F) oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.
Mix the water, rice wine, salt and cornstarch in a medium size bowl, add the chicken and marinate for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients of the sauce together.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat and stir fry the chicken until opaque and half cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Stir fry the chillies, garlic and ginger for a few seconds and then add back the chicken and give it a good stir. Add the mushrooms and the courgettes and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the sauce and the bean sprouts and stir until the sauce thickens. Finally, add the cashews and the green onions and stir until mixed through.
For those of you who have followed me on this blog, you know that I have had many cooking mentors in my life: my mother, father, both grandmothers, Uncle Alfred, my second mom Alberta, and my third mom Ying. Ying is not just a cook, she is really a chef who understands the science of cooking, someone who knows if there isn’t enough leavening, if there is too much sugar or too much butter, and knows how to doctor something that was over or under seasoned. She just knows and can explain it. She was my baking science teacher and my Chinese cooking teacher. She and my Dad (z”l) taught me everything I know about Chinese cooking and I will be forever grateful.
I used to make Chinese food a lot, but I got so wrapped up in learning about other ethnic food when I moved to Israel, I put it on the back burner. Also there aren’t any good Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese restaurants here, so I don’t have much inspiration either. But lately, I have had a craving for Chinese food and so I decided to make one of my Dim Sum favorites, pot stickers. I love them steamed and fried, but decided to make pan-fried ones.
Dim sum is usually linked with the older tradition from yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travelers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest. Thus teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks.
The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, in modern society it has become common place for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.
While dim sum (literally meaning: touch the heart) was originally not a main meal, only a snack, and therefore only meant to touch the heart, it is now a staple of Chinese dining culture, especially in Hong Kong.
On a trip, many years ago, to Seattle, I went to a great cookery shop near the famous Pike Place Market that was then only know to locals and a few tourists, Sur La Table. It was and still is a cookery lover’s dream. I came home with three things that I still have: a funky bespoke hat, a 1987 edition of Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco and Huang Su-Huei’s Chinese Snacks, which is written in Chinese and English. Chinese Snacks contains recipes for many Dim Sum favourites like steamed buns, steamed dumplings, won tons, etc. It has step-by-step photos, but with that said, it really helps to have a Chinese grandmother to show you some of the tricks of folding and shaping the dumplings. If you don’t have access to one, there are YouTube videos that show you how to do it.
My folding technique is not perfect and the dough is not quite as thin as packaged gyoza skins, but I was rather proud of the way mine turned out.
Mix the ground beef, the sesame oil, salt, pepper, grated ginger, and garlic together. Set aside.
Mix the chopped cabbage with 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and add it and the green onion to the beef mixture. Mix the mixture until everything is well incorporated and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
For the dipping sauce:
Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
For the skins:
Place the flour in a large bowl and add the water. Knead into a smooth dough and set aside for 10 minutes. Roll it into a long snake and cut it into 50 pieces and then roll each piece of dough into a 7.5 centimeter (3-inch) disk, making the outer edge thinner than the center. Dust them liberally with additional flour, and stack them (the flour will help keep them fresh and prevent them from sticking to each other).
To get perfectly circular wrappers, use a biscuit/scone cutter that is 7.5 - 9 centimeters (approximately 3- to 3.5-inches) in diameter, roll out your dough to a slightly larger size, and use the cutter to cut out a perfect circle.
Moisten the edges of the dough with water and place a teaspoonful of the filling in the center of the dough. Fold the circle in half and using the index finger and thumb, bring the sides together to pleat the front of the dumpling while keeping the back of the dumpling smooth. For an excellent tutorial of how to fold the dumplings, go here.
Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of canola or peanut oil. Arrange the dumplings, flat side down in the pan. Don't be afraid to put them close together. Turn the heat to low and fry the dumplings for one minute or until golden brown. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook for about 6 minutes over medium heat or until the water has evaporated. Flip the potstickers onto a plate and serve with the dipping sauce.
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.
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
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.
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.
All photos and recipes are the copyright of Baroness Tapuzina unless otherwise noted.
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.
I am sure everyone is wondering where I have been for the last two months. I wish I could give you some glamorous answer, but the truth is that life got in my way: work deadlines and a trip to London; and I had a cold which then turned into the flu over the holidays. Now I am back and raring to go.
Winter has finally reared its head here in Israel and all I could think of was making comfort in a bowl. First, I made us a big pot of hearty chicken soup which nurtured Mr BT and me through the cold-flu episode. It healed us, warmed us and comforted us as it always does. Good old chicken soup.
When I finally had the energy to cook again, I decided to make the second best comfort in a bowl recipe, polenta. Soft polenta, stirred clockwise with a wooden paddle over a low flame and served with sautéed White Button mushrooms, King Oyster mushrooms, homegrown Cavolo Nero from my garden and creamy Gorgonzola cheese. Life can’t get much better than that.
I am looking forward to an interesting 2012, filled with new recipes, new adventures and some lovely surprises.
I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.
Place the water and salt in a large saucepan over a low flame. Immediately add the polenta in a steady stream while stirring constantly in a clockwise motion to avoid lumps. Stir ever few minutes in a clockwise motion until all the liquid is absorbed and the polenta is thick, approximately 30-40 minutes. The polenta should be soft and creamy, not grainy.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks, garlic and Cavolo Nero. Saute until the leeks are slightly soft and barely golden, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, cooking until they are softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the leek mixture and the white wine to the pan. When the wine is cooked down slightly, add the chopped thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
When the polenta has finished cooking, crumble in half of the Gorgonzola and mix through. Place the polenta on a large platter and form a well in the center. Place the mushroom mixture in the well and crumble the rest of the Gorgonzola on top.
Italians are passionate about just about everything, but when it comes to food, they have a passion for the ingredients that make up a dish as much as for the final result. I was recently speaking to a friend of mine from Firenze about garlic while he was making spaghetti con aglio, olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers). Although he was chopping up the Chinese garlic that is the most commonly available kind in Israel, he told me, “I only cook with Italian garlic or red garlic from France!” I explained to him that I only cook with local Israeli garlic that I buy fresh in season at the shuk. At that moment it hit me that I too am passionate about my ingredients.
If I am making homemade pasta, I will only make it with ’00’ flour, which is finally readily available here. And the reason for that is not because I am a flour snob, but that the all-purpose flour here in Israel behaves differently from flour in the US or the UK. I remember going to a cooking shop in Tel Aviv about 10 years ago that carries special ingredients for cooks and asking them if they had ’00’ flour. They had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained that doppio zero is a high protein flour that is the most highly refined and is talcum-powder soft. A few months later they ordered some and it has been available ever since. Even Stybel, a local flour mill, is offering it (Stybel 9 pasta flour).
My pasta maker was out of commission for several years because the handle was misplaced in one of our moves. I finally ordered the handle in the States and a friend’s parents were kind enough to bring it with them when they flew to Israel. What better way to try out the handle than whipping up a batch of pasta dough. The pasta dough recipe comes from a wonderful Italian cookbook called Two Greedy Italians: Carluccio and Contaldo’s Return to Italy by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, which Mr BT brought back from London as a “just because” surprise. This is Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe with the exception of the turmeric and the lemon zest.
I changed Yotam’s recipe a little by serving the pasta with a drizzle of homemade basil oil. It was a nice addition and didn’t overpower the lemon in the ravioli.
Rapeseed, olive oil or basil oil (see recipe below)
Lemon juice (optional)
Mix the flour, semolina, tumeric and lemon zest together on a clean work surface or in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. With a fork, gradually mix the flour into the eggs until combined and then knead with your hands until the dough is smooth and pliable, but not sticky. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten the dough and dust each side with flour before placing it in your pasta machine. Set your machine to the widest setting and roll the pasta dough through. Turn up the setting on the machine by one and repeat the process until you get to number 10 (or follow your manufacturer's instructions) and your dough is almost wafer-thin. When the pasta sheet is rolled out, keep it under a moist towel so it does not dry out.
Use a 7cm (3 inch) round ravioli stamp or the rim of a glass to stamp out discs from the sheets of pasta. Brush a disc with a little egg white and place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Place another disc on top and gently press any air as you seal the edges of the raviolo. Place the ravioli on a tea towel or tray, sprinkled with semolina, and leave to dry for 10-15 minutes or cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator for one day.
When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, tarragon, and lemon zest. Drizzle with rapeseed, olive oil or basil oil, sprinkle with salt and a squirt of lemon juice.
When Paula announced that she was working on a new Moroccan cookbook, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. But this time my fingers will not physically turn the pages because I am jumping into the 21st century and buying the eBook version. I have run out of bookshelves in my house and made a tough decision that if I wanted another book, I would have to resort to buying the electronic version. So far, I have bought two electronic cookbooks: Encyclopedia of Jewish Food and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. I didn’t invest in an electronic book reader; I downloaded the free reader software for my Mac and I have to say, I rather like the ebooks. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the feel of a book in my hand, but it is really convenient to get a book you want within seconds.
Paula’s latest cookbook, The Food of Morocco, is not available in electronic form until 15 November, but I have pre-ordered it and I cannot wait to scroll through the pages. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait to get my hands on one of the new recipes.
This special recipe deserved to be cooked with the right equipment, so I went to couscous central, Shuk Netanya, to buy my new couscoussière (kiskas in Arabic) and a large sifter to make couscous from scratch. One of these days, I will buy a clay couscous steamer, but the metal one will have to do for now.
This Berber recipe, from the Souss valley in southern Morocco, which is famous for its Argan trees, is a bit unusual if you are not familiar with different types of Moroccan tagines, because the couscous (called kesksou baddaz in Moroccan Arabic) is not made from traditional semolina, but from cornmeal. It calls for mint and cilantro instead of the more conventional combination of cilantro and parsley. Lamb and mint always go well together, and the fresh mint in this dish imparts a wonderful flavor in the meat and goes surprisingly well with the corn couscous.
The only changes I made to this recipe is that I used fresh herbs instead of dried, and made the couscous according to the recipe I learned from my friend Raizy. For a nice fluffy couscous, I would recommend following her recommendations.
One day in advance, marinate the meat in a crushed mixture of garlic, spices and salt. Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of water to cover.
The following day, drain the fresh chickpeas, cover with fresh, cold water, and cook, covered, for l hour. Drain, cool, and remove the skins by submerging the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water and gently rubbing them between the fingers. The skins will rise to the top of the water. Discard the skins and set the peeled chickpeas aside. (If using canned chick peas, peel them and set them aside.
Bring the meat to room temperature. Meanwhile, place the onion, 2 tablespoons oil, ginger, paprika, saffron water, turmeric and herbs in a 5 liter (5 quart) casserole set over medium heat. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion dissolves into a puree, about 10 minutes.
Add the meat and slowly brown on all sides. Meanwhile, stud the lemon with cloves, stuff it with the fresh herbs and tie together with a piece of string. Add it to the casserole along with the tomato and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour.
Add the chickpeas and cook for 1 more hour, or until the meat is fork tender and the bones are easily removed and discarded.
Meanwhile, follow my instructions for making the couscous here, but follow the measurements in this recipe.
In a wide bowl, toss the grits with 3 tablespoons argan oil or olive oil and then work in a 3/4 cup of cold water. Let rest and ten minutes later moisten with another 3/4 cup of water.
Add the corn grits to the couscoussière, cover and follow my instructions above.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables: peel the carrots and turnips and cut them into 1-1/2 inch lengths. Trim the zucchini ends, halve and cut into 4 centimeter ( 1-½ inch) strips. Peel and cut up the pumpkin in to large chunks.
Add the turnips and carrots to the casserole and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the pumpkin, courgette and peppers, and continue cooking until all the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Take the casserole off the heat and remove the preserved lemon bundle before serving.
Dump the couscous onto the middle of a large, preferably round, serving dish and moisten it with 2 cups of the broth and olive oil or smen. Fluff the couscous with a fork and form a huge well in the center. With a perforated spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables into the well. Top with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve the remaining broth on the side.
Ever since Mr. BT gave me the Plenty cookbook I have been wanting to make everything in the book. Most of the recipes are perfect for the scorching summer when no one feels like cooking. The Friday before last it was blazing hot, and the thought of spending all morning in the kitchen did not appeal to me. I made two quick and easy Ottolenghi dishes: one was a baked lamb pie that I found on his Guardian weekly column and the other came from the cookbook.
Kibbeh, kibbe, kubbeh or koubeiba, which means dome or ball in Arabic, can be found in Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Kibbeh Nabelsieh is the better recognized torpedo-shaped kubbeh with a shell of bulgur and lamb that is ground to a paste and filled with ground lamb, spices and pine nuts. There is also Kubbat Haleb which is made with a rice crust and named after Aleppo. This version is served anytime, but especially made during Pesach in a Jewish home.
Kubbeh soup dumplings are made with a semolina shell and filled with ground lamb or preserved lamb. Kibbeh Nayyeh is finely chopped raw lamb or beef mixed with fine bulgur and spices, such as Baharat. There is also Kibbeh bel-saniyeh which is made with a decorative top or covered with a tehina sauce like I made.
The perfect match to the baked lamb pie was a refreshing and light salad with green beans, peas and mangetout, which are called snow peas in the United States.
Serving Size: 6 serving as a light main course and 8 as a first
125 grams (1/2 cup) fine bulgar wheat
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
350 grams (3/4 lb) minced lamb
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander
60 grams (2 ounces) pine nuts
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons self-raising flour
Salt and black pepper
50 grams (3-1/2 tablespoons) tahini paste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sumac
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Line a 20cm (8-inch) spring-form pan with parchment paper. Put the bulgur in a bowl, add 200 milliliters (1 cup) of tap water and set aside for 30 minutes.
Place four tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and saute the garlic, onion and chilli on medium-high heat until soft. Place in a bowl and set aside. Cook the lamb on high heat and cook until brown. Add the onion mixture back to the pan and add the spices, coriander, salt, pepper, and most the pine nuts and parsley. Cook for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. You want the spiciness to come through the lamb.
Check if the water has been absorbed by the bulgar, if not, then strain it through a fine sieve and place back in the bowl. Add the flour, a tablespoon of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Work into a pliable mixture, with your hands, until it just holds together. Push the bulgar mixture firmly into the base of the spring-form pan until it is compacted and level. Spread the lamb mixture evenly on the top and press down. Bake for 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, 50ml (3 tablespoons) of water and a pinch of salt. The sauce should be thick, yet pourable. Spread the sauce on top of the kubbeh, sprinkle on the remaining parsley and pine nuts and bake for 10 minutes until the tahini is set and the pine nuts are golden.
Before serving, sprinkle the sumac and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Cut into wedges.
250 grams (1/2 lb) French green beans, trimmed and blanched
250 grams (1/2 lb) mangetout (snow peas), trimmed and blanched
250 grams (1/2 lb) green peas (fresh or frozen), blanched
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 mild fresh red chilli, seeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 handfuls baby chard leaves or other mixed baby leaf lettuce (optional)
Coarse sea salt
Combine the blanched green beans, mangetout and green peas in a large bowl.
Place the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, pour the contents over the bean mixture. Toss together and add the nigella seeds, red onion, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and tarragon. Mix well and season with salt to taste.
Just before serving, gently fold the chard leaves and serve.
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.
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.
Here is a guest post from my friend, Emily Segal, who is a certified holistic nutrition counselor and writes a blog on her website, Triumph Wellness. Be sure to sign up for one of her classes, such as Sugar Detox. You won’t be disappointed. I learned a lot and came home with recipes that helped relieve my sugar cravings.
Barbequing or Al HaEsh, in Hebrew, is a national pastime in Israel. Wherever you go in this country, you will see groups of families and friends huddled around the grill, enjoying the outdoors and food cooked fresh over a fire.
It is then, with a heavy heart, that I am here to deliver the bad news: Grill too often and you are exposing yourself and your family to an enormous cancer risk. But before you send the lynch mob to my house, let me explain the problems and offer some solutions!
When animal meats are cooked over a grill, or any high heat source, for that matter, a very dangerous compound is formed. Heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, have been identified by the FDA as known carcinogens. Meat need not be charred or well done to contain these chemicals. Testing has found HCAs in grilled chicken patties cooked for just three minutes on each side.
Even chicken breasts grilled for just six minutes can contain dangerous levels of HCA, which puts barbecue chicken at the top of a new list of the five worst foods to grill. High HCA levels were also found in grilled steak, pork, salmon, and hamburger.
The Five Worst Foods to Grill:
Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done contain14,000 nanograms of HCA per 100 grams
Steak, grilled, well done contains 810 nanograms per 100 grams
Pork, barbecued 470 nanograms per 100 grams
Salmon, grilled with skin contains 166 nanograms per 100 grams
Hamburger, grilled, well done contains 130 nanograms per100 grams
There are two more issues that make barbecued meat unsafe for consumption:
1. Another cancer-causing compound – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) – also forms on barbecued meat when fat from the meat, drips off into the fire and causes a flare up of flames and smoke. PAHs have been classified as cancer causing agents by various organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, we are exposed to PAHs through breathing air contaminated by wild fire or coal OR eating meat or foods that have been grilled.
2. Hot dogs. Wow, do I even need to tell you how unhealthy hot dogs are? Research has shown that processed meat, such as that found in hot dogs or other smoked meats, increases one’s risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent for every 50 grams consumed daily! (A 50-gram serving is approximately the size of a typical hot dog.) A 2002 international study spear-headed by the American Cancer Society showed an alarming increase in colorectal cancer rates worldwide, but ESPECIALLY here in Israel! The landmark report clearly states that no amount of processed meat is considered safe to eat.
So, what can we do? Do we need to stop barbecuing entirely? Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself and your family while you still enjoy the grill:
1. If you are going to grill meats, be sure to serve fresh, raw fruits and vegetables as side dishes. Most Israelis already seem to instinctively do this. Raw fruits and veggies are loaded with carotenoids and other phytochemicals that are noted for their anti-cancer properties. Use organic fruits and vegetables or course, as conventionally-grown are covered in the very substances we are trying to avoid!
2. Try grilling other items, not just meat. Vegetables don’t produce HCA’s or PAH’s and neither does tofu or veggie burgers. Try making veggie kabobs with your favorite veggies and tofu cubes. You can also make skewers that alternate bites of meat with vegetables or fruit. That way you’ll eat smaller portions of the meat.
Some other things that taste great on the grill are: Portabello mushroom “steaks”, potatoes or sweet potatoes, corn, pineapple, papaya and mango!
3. Cook meats at lower temperature for shorter times. One way is to pre-cook meats in the oven and then finish them quickly on the grill. Or buy smaller cuts of meat that take less time to cook through.
4. Select lean cuts of meat and trim the fat to reduce PAH’s. Or cook on top of a hot plate to reduce fat flare-ups.
5. Don’t eat blacked or burned meat or chicken. They have the highest levels of HCA.
6. Marinate meats before grilling. Some studies have show that marinades containing vinegar, red wine or lemon can reduce the formation of HCA’s.
7. Skip the hot dogs and other processed meats. They are just not worth it.
The bottom line is that from our earliest days on this planet, we humans have enjoyed gathering around a campfire, cooking food in the outdoors and sharing the experience with loved ones. There is something very profoundly healthy and probably cancer-preventing in doing that! But as our food supply becomes increasingly chemicalized and even the charcoal and lighter fluid we cook with would be unknown to our ancestors, we must practice caution and moderation. If we want a long-life of barbecuing ahead of us, we need to adapt some of the above steps to safe-guard our health.
Here is a delicious, healthy marinade and/or sauce with an Asian twist to spread on those veggie-tofu kabobs:
Just stir all of the ingredients together and brush on the kabobs before putting them on the barbeque and again before or during grilling. And unlike meat marinades, you can continue brushing this sauce on the cooked kabob without danger of food poisoning.