Jiǎozi – Chinese Pot Stickers

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.

From Wikipedia:

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.

Chinese Pot Stickers

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.

Jiaozi – Chinese Pot Stickers

Yield: 50 dumplings

Jiaozi – Chinese Pot Stickers

For a vegetarian filling, use cabbage, bok choy, spinach, celery, carrot, etc.

500g (1lb) ground beef

6 tablespoons sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

4 - 6 garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press or minced finely

500g cabbage, chopped finely

1 teaspoon salt

6 green onions (green part only) or garlic chives, chopped finely

Dipping sauce:

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon white rice vinegar

2 teaspoons chilli oil

Skin:

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups cold water

1/2 cup flour (for kneading)

or use Gyoza Skins

For the filling:

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.

To cook:

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/12/22/jiaozi-chinese-pot-stickers/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/09/22/slow-roasted-short-ribs-in-pomegranate-juice/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/07/25/israel-celebrates-ramadan-too/

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

For more Ramadan recipe ideas, see:

Makloubeh

Musakhan

Makroud (Date and Sesame Biscuits)

Ma’amouls

Klejah

Ba’abe

Mina de Maza

I hope everyone that had or went to a seder last night enjoyed themselves. My macaroons and Mr. BT’s haroset were a hit at our family seder. Tonight I made matza balls and a Sephardic meat pie that is found in Egyptian, Turkish, Balkan, and Italian Jewish homes. One of my colleagues suggested that I make a Mina for Passover. I had never heard of it and when he sent me the recipe I knew I had to try it. It is not difficult to make and I made it this evening, but you can make it ahead and heat in the oven before serving.

I slightly adapted a recipe from Janna Gur’s  The Book of New Israeli Food. It called for pine nuts, which I love, but they were 30NIS/8USD for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) at the supermarket and I couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for them. Frankly, I have never seen them priced so high. I also wanted to make it with ground lamb, but at 169NIS/46USD a kilo (2lbs), I told the butcher “thanks, but no thanks”.

I added walnuts in place of the pine nuts and ground veal in place of the lamb. It was still delicious and I think I prefer the walnuts in this dish. I will definitely make this next Passover.

Mina de Maza - Matza Pie

Serving Size: 8

Crust:

8-10 matzas

1/2 cup olive oil, for brushing

Filling:

4 tablespoons oil

2-3 medium onions, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

700g (1-1/2lbs) ground beef or lamb

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

4 eggs

1-2 medium new or white potatoes, cooked and mashed

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, roasted

1/2 cup fresh parsley

3/4 cup chicken stock

Soaked Matza

Dip the matzas in a bowl of cold water for a minute. Wrap the matzas in a moistened kitchen towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.

Fry the onions in the oil until they are golden. Add the garlic and the meat and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice and remove the pan from the burner. Cool slightly, and add the eggs, mashed potatoes, walnuts and parsley. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

Mina de Maza

Grease a 24cm/12inch diameter round baking dish. Brush the wet matzas on both sides with a little olive oil and arrange 4 or 5 on the bottom, draping enough over the sides to later cover the filling. Spoon half of the meat mixture into the baking dish and flatten. Cover with a layer of matzas and top with the remaining half of the meat. Fold the matza draped over the side of the dish to cover the filling and brush with oil.

Mina de Maza

Place an additional matzo on top and brush with oil, too. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, ladle the soup over the pie, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Cool slightly and invert on a plate before serving.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/03/31/mina-de-maza/

Hamin – Slow Cooking for the Soul

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/

Assyrian Inspired Hannukah

I know I should have made something Greek for Hannukah if I wanted to make something from the relevant ancient enemy of the Macabbees, but I couldn’t find anything that sparked my interest. So, I decided to make an Assyrian dish. They did conquer Israel in 772BC and scattered the tribes throughout the Middle East. But don’t worry, I don’t harbor any bad feelings towards the Assyrians. They are our brothers and still speak a variation of the language of my forefathers, Aramaic. The Assyrians have been Christian for almost two thousand years and make up a small, persecuted, minority in Iraq; many of them fled during the period since the fall of Saddam Hussein because of the violence between the different Muslim factions in Iraq.

Mr BT forgot that we would not be eating at home on Thursday and had taken out some ground beef from the freezer. So, I had to figure out what Hannukah inspired dish I was going to make with ground beef. I didn’t want to make kebab or stuffed vegetables like I normally do. I remembered that I had seen recipes for potato patties stuffed with ground meat, but was always afraid that they would be lead bombs in the stomach. But, in the spirit of Hannukah, I decided to give it a try. Potato patties are eaten in a variety of countries, using a variety of spices or no spices at all. The Russian version are quite bland, while the Algerian and Iraqi versions are quite flavourful. I decided to make a fusion version from Algerian and Assyrian recipes for potato patties filled with minced beef or lamb. The potato exterior is from an Algerian recipe and the meat mixture is Assyrian.

Mr BT calls this type of cooking “Con-fusion” cooking. Con, as in Congress, the opposite of progress. Okay, I know, stop with the bad jokes and get back to cooking.

The potato chaps were surprisingly light and full of spicy goodness. The spices are quite subtle, so make sure you taste the meat before making the patties. If you want to see a good step-by-step pictorial of how to make them, see Mimi’s photos from Israeli Kitchen.

Chag Hannukah Sameach from Mr BT and Baroness Tapuzina!

Potato Chaps or Potato Kibbeh

Serving Size: 4-6 as a main course

Potato Mixture:

1kg (2lbs) white potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

2 eggs

1 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Meat filling:

1/4 kg (1/2lb) lean ground beef

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup canola oil or oil of your choice

Flour for dredging

Cook potatoes in water, until tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add eggs, onion, garlic, salt, turmeric, cinnamon and parsley.

In a frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the ground beef, parsley, pine nuts, and all of the spices. Cook until the meat is cooked through. Set aside to cool.

Moisten your hands with water, and take a couple of tablespoons of the potato mixture, flatten it in the palm of your hand. Place 1 tablespoon of the the meat mixture in the middle. Carefully bring the sides of the potato over the meat mixture. You may have to add a little more of the potato mixture to the top of the patty. Close the patty and flatten it. Moisten your hands in cold water before you make each patty. Place the patties on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Dredge the patties lightly in flour before frying.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/12/12/assyrian-inspired-hannukah/

Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries

Georgian food is not widely known, but it has a mixture of Eastern European, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern influences. They make dumplings like you find in Poland and Russian and  Khachapuri, which is similar to Turkish pide with kashkaval cheese. One of their famous dishes is chicken with walnut sauce and you will find numerous different recipes for walnut sauce. Some of them contain garlic and herbs, such as Satsivi,  and others contain red wine vinegar or pomegranate molasses, such as Bazhe.

I decided to make a delicious and easy Georgian kebab or meatball recipe. It contains dried sour cherries and walnuts. You can add pinenuts instead of walnuts, but I like the earthy taste of the walnuts. Don’t leave out the mint in this recipe because it really adds to the flavour of the kebab.

Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries

Serving Size: 4

7 ounces ground veal

7 ounces ground chicken

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup dried sour cherries, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted or toasted pinenuts

1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, lightly whipped

1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Georgian Kebab

Combine the veal and chicken in a bowl, then add the onion, garlic, sour cherries, pine nuts, paprika, allspice, and cinnamon. Mix well, then add the egg white and mix again. Finally, add the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small balls the size of golf balls. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then sauté the meatballs, a few at a time, turning occasionally, until cooked through and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/06/14/georgian-meatballs-with-walnuts-and-sour-cherries/

Tu Bishvat – The Jewish Arbor Day

Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday in the Hebrew month of Shevat, usually sometime in late January or early February, that marks the New Year of the Trees (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות, Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot‎) or the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. It is customary to plant trees and eat dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree, which grows wild around the country, coincides with Tu Bishvat.

The origin of Tu Bishvat lies in the ancient Jewish taxation system, which was based mainly on the tithe of every farmer: The first tax was dedicated to the Levites, the men of sanctity and education; the second tithe was a means of securing the pilgrimage and strengthening national solidarity; and the tax of the poor was meant to safeguard, together with numerous other precepts (mitzvot), the social support system for the indigent of the land.

Only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the beginning of the Zionist movement that saw the Land of Israel as central to Jewish existence, did the holiday really become what we know it as today, the festival for planting trees or the Jewish version of Arbor Day.

This Tu Bishvat, I made two new dishes. For the main course, I decided to make Turkish köfte  or kebab as they are called in Hebrew.  They are basically small meat patties with grated onion, pistachios and spices. You will find a myriad of different variations of kebab. I served them with a tahina sauce and they were accompanied by a steamed artichoke and roasted potatoes with zaatar. I used Turkish red pepper flakes that have been roasted and rubbed with olive oil for this dish. They are not quite as hot as regular hot pepper flakes. This meat mixture can easily be prepared a day ahead and the dish is very quick and easy.

Köfte with Pistachios and Tahina Sauce
For the Köfte

1 ½ cups pistachios

340 g (3/4lb) lamb

340g (3/4lb) beef

2 medium onions, grated

2 tsp ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the tahina sauce

Make 2 cups

1 tablespoon ground cumin

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup tahina

¼ cup water

Salt to taste

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

Köfte with Pistachios

For the Köfte

Combine the meat, pistachios, onions, cumin, black pepper, red pepper and mix well. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Lightly knead parsley into the mixture. Roll into tablespoon size balls. Brown on a grill pan. Drain on paper and serve with tahina sauce.

For the tahina sauce

Whisk lemon into the tahina, gradually add water until smooth. Season with salt. Add the garlic, black pepper and nigella seeds. Keep at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/02/15/tu-bishvat-the-jewish-arbor-day/


The second dish I decided to make was a traditional fruit cake called Gubana from the Friuli region of Italy and also from neighboring Slovenia. The version I made is a yeast cake, almost like brioche, that is prepared as if you are making puff pastry. The dough is very forgiving and not difficult to make. The only catch about this recipe is that it is time consuming. You must make the dough a day ahead. This cake is sublime; it almost melts in your mouth, and Mr. BT was almost fainting with pleasure.

Already known at the time of the Romans, the Gubana’s fame has increased over the centuries. Two versions exist: a “country” one (Gubana friulana) and an “urban” one (Gubana giuliana). The more refined latter type in fact has a flaky pastry shell and also contains, apart from the recipe of the former (raisins drenched in grappa, grated chocolate, almonds, walnuts, orange and citron peels, figs, plums and pine nuts), spices and candied fruits. The recipe I made is a combination of the Gubana Friulana and the Gubana Giuliana with a little touch of Baroness Tapuzina.

Every Friulian homemaker will have the “original” recipe for Gubana and they will differ from house to house and town to town. A tale is told about a poor mother living in the Natisone Valleys who had nothing to sweeten the Christmas meals with. So she prepared a cake made with what she had at home: flour, eggs, walnuts and honey. The regional tradition requires that the “Gubana” be present for every major festival, such as Christmas and Easter but also for wedding banquets; the bride and bridegroom used to present every guest with this delicious cake.  The term “Gubana” is a Slovenian word deriving from “gubat”, which means “to roll up”. In the local dialect it is called “Gubanza”, which became “Gubana” in Italian.

Gubana– Friulian Fruit Cake

Serving Size: 10-12

For the dough:

340g (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

50g fresh yeast or 2 packages dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

For the filling:

6 pitted prunes

6 dried figs

6 dried sour apricots

10 dried sour cherries

1/8 cup candied lemon

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup pine nuts

3 tablespoons grappa

Grated zest of 1 small orange

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

To make the dough:

Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle over 1/4 cup of the flour, and using your fingers, works the butter and flour together to make a uniform mixture. The butter should remain malleable. Shape the butter into a 10cm (4 inch) square, wrap it in plastic and set it aside in a cool place, but not in the refrigerator. Note: If you live in a hot climate, then put the butter in the refrigerator, but let it sit for a few minutes to become malleable before placing it on the dough.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and warm water to dissolve the yeast. Add a pinch of sugar and let the mixture sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the yeast mixture, sugar, egg and milk. Using the paddle, beat the ingredients until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead in the remaining 1-1/2 cups of flour for about 3 to 5 minutes or until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it relax for 30 to 45 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and roll it into a large rectangle, about 40 x 40 cm (16 x 16 inches). Sprinkle the surface with some flour.

Gubana Dough

Place the square of butter in the middle of the rectangle of dough.

Gubana Dough

Fold the left and right sides over the middle, then the top sides over that; the goal is to make a "package" of dough.

Sprinkle the work surface and the top of the dough, as well as your rolling pin. Roll the dough in from the middle toward the top and bottom, making a long rectangle, maintaining the width, but increasing the length.

Gubana Dough

Gubana Dough

Fold the bottom upwards to the center, making a flap, and then fold the top over that, making an envelope. Turn the dough clockwise, so that the top flap faces the right; the dough should resemble a book. Once again, flour the work surface, the dough and the rolling pin, and repeat the rolling and folding process. You will end up with another book fold. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Gubana Filling

For the filling and assembly:

To make the filling, place all of the dried fruits and nuts, sugar, cocoa and spices into the food processor.

Gubana filling

Process to chop until the fruit-nut mixture is finely chopped and the spices and cocoa are thoroughly combined. Add the grappa and orange zest, and pulse to incorporate them.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it was stored overnight, you will have to allow it to come to room temperature for about an hour before attempting to roll it. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 38 x 55 cm (15 x 22 inches).

Spread filling on dough

Spread the filling evenly across the center of the dough, leaving a 2.5 cm (1-inch) border at the near end and each side.

Rolling the dough over the filling

Roll the dough, jellyroll style, starting from the bottom, wide side; you will wind up with a long snake.

Gubana ready for rising

Grease a 25cm (10 inch) springform pan. Roll the snake into a tight coil, and lay it into the pan, seam side down. Brush the dough with melted butter. Cover the dough with a towel and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Gubana

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Brush the surface of the dough with egg glaze. Bake the Gubana on the center rack of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway through the cooking period to ensure it browns evenly. Allow the Gubana to cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove the sides of the pan to cool it completely. To serve, slice the cake in wedges. Gubana will keep wrapped in plastic up to 2 days.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/02/15/tu-bishvat-the-jewish-arbor-day/

Hankering for Tuscany

I can’t believe that it has been over a year since our trip to Verona, Tuscany, and Umbria. We are constantly talking about that trip and are longing to go back, so much so, that we hope one day we can buy a vacation home in Italy.

I have been meaning to finish blogging about our trip to Italy, but other events have distracted me. So, I am going to try and finally finish writing about our trip in the next few weeks.

Mr. BT and I did not spend a lot of time in Tuscany this trip because we concentrated most of the trip on Umbria. However, since neither one of us had been to Siena, we decided to make a detour on our way to Umbria. Siena was founded by the Etruscans and later refounded as a Roman colony. It grew to be one of the major cities of Europe and used to be as big as Paris was. It is really hard to believe that it was once that large and prosperous. Prosperity and innovation came to an abrupt halt with the Black Death, which reached Siena in 1348. The population went from 100,000 to 30,000 and never recovered. Today, it has a population of approximately 60,000.

The center of Siena is its great square, Piazza del Campo. Over four hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne described it as the most beautiful square in the world. I am not sure it is the most beautiful, but it is surely something to be seen. It is massive, you can see that this was the center of life for the Sienese. It was the  location of the city’s marketplace for produce and livestock, the scene of executions, bullfights, communal boxing matches, and the Palio. The Palio is a traditional medieval bareback horse race that is still held today, with all of its pomp and circumstance, one day in July and August.

The Duomo di Siena in its current size was built around 1215. Had it been completed, it would have been the largest cathedral in Italy outside Rome. Unfortunately, the expansion of the Duomo was halted due to the Black Death and lack of funds. But, it is still an awesome structure. It is a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture made of black and white marble. The striped, almost zebra-like design is modelled after buildings in Pisa and Lucca. Walking in the cathedral with all of the inlaid marble floors and striped walls puts you in a trance.  Donatello, young Michaelangelo, Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni, Arnolfo di Cambio and Pinturicchio all contributed to the mass of beautiful art in the cathedral.

It is really hard to take it all in in one visit. We were under pressure to get to Umbria before dark, so we didn’t get to spend as much time as we would have like. This church is a definite must-see.

You cannot leave Siena without trying some of their specialties, such as pici. This pasta, which looks like spaghetti but is about twice as thick, is usually served with a wild boar ragu, but we made it with pesto in our hideaway on a mountain in Umbria.

Some of their other specialties are pappa col pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), tortino di carciofi (artichoke omelette), and salsicce seche (dried sausages). They are also famous for delicious sweets, such as panforte and ricciarelli. The best place to try these are at Pasticceria Nannini , which has been selling its delicious panforte, ricciarelli, and other Sienese delights since 1909.

Ricciarelli (pictured above, upper left corner) are classic orange-laced Sienese almond paste cookies that were once a Christmas delight, but are now enjoyed year-round. We bought a couple of these and wished we had bought some more. But our waists thanked us half-heartedly for not doing so.

Panforte contains dried fruits, spices (such as black pepper) and nuts. Some say that an authentic panforte should contain 17 ingredients to coincide with the number of neighborhoods (contrade) within the city walls.  Documents from 1205 show that panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe which was due on the seventh of February that year. Literally, panforte means “strong bread” which refers to the spicy flavour. The original name of Panforte was “panpepato” (pepper bread), due to the strong pepper used in the cake. There are references to the Crusaders carrying panforte with them on their quests. It is thought that the original panforte was made by nuns.

We tried a slice of the Panforte Margherita, which is made of sugar, almonds, hazelnuts, flour, orange zest, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. It was absolutely delicious.

All-in-all our short trip to Siena was well worth it. More to come….

The supermarket had a very good deal on an inexpensive cut of meat they called “Hamin”, which means a cut of meat for a slow-roasting Moroccan version of cholent. I really dislike cholent, but I figured I could find some other interesting slow-roasting recipe for this good deal. I remembered a wonderful beef and polenta dish that I had years ago in Firenze and I knew this was the perfect recipe for my cheap cut of meat.

Brasato al Chianti is a Tuscan slow-cooked beef dish that is typically made with Chianti wine, but I used a nice Israeli red table wine instead because Chianti does not cost 4 Euros here. For the Piedmont version of this dish, substitute a Barolo wine. A sangiovese or any light-bodied red wine can also be substituted.

The result was excellent: you wouldn’t have guessed that this was about the cheapest cut of beef they had in the supermarket, because it came out tender and full of flavour.

Brasato al Chianti

Serving Size: 4-6

(Italian beef braised in red wine)

1/4 cup olive oil

1kg (2 pounds) beef rump roast

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 bottle Chianti wine

1 cup stock or water

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 spring fresh oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

6 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high flame. Remove the meat from the marinade, drying it off before searing. Brown the meat on all sides. Add marinade and vegetables to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low, cover and bake at 150C (300F) for 4 hours. Add water as necessary to maintain liquid so it covers about half of the beef. Remove the meat to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 10-15 minutes.

While the meat is resting, strain the pot liquid through a colander. Discard the sprigs of herbs and puree the vegetables in a food mill, blender or food processor. Stir the pureed vegetables back into the strained liquid and adjust the seasonings. Slice the beef and place it decoratively on a warm platter.

If you like a lighter sauce like I do, you can serve the sauce and vegetables as is or remove the vegetables and reduce the liquid by half, adding the vegetables a couple of minutes before serving.

Serve over polenta or gnocchi, or make polenta cakes, like I did, by make polenta according to the directions on the package. Let the polenta cool, form patties, and fry them in a little olive oil.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/12/15/hankering-for-tuscany/

 


Erev Yom Kippur 5769

Erev Yom Kippur dinner at my parent’s and grandparent’s house was always a multi-course affair. It was really no different from the festive multi-course meal we had for Rosh Hashana. Since moving to Israel, I realized that these massive meals did not help with the 25 hour fast. In fact, they made it much more difficult. So, we had a two-course meal.

I deboned chicken quarters by removing the the pelvic bone, thigh bone and half of the leg bone. If you buy your meat from a butcher, you can ask them to do this in advance. Otherwise, it is really not that difficult to do. I then stuffed it with a Syrian meat and rice mixture called, Hashu. It is typically used as a filling for kubbeh or lamb shoulder. It has a lovely aroma of allspice and cinnamon with a hint of hot paprika. I used sweet paprika this time, because it is better to have blander food before you fast. It is an easy main course to prepare and would be elegant enough for a dinner party. But, to add a little more elegance to the meal, you could stuff cornish hens.

For those of you who fasted, I hope it was an easy one for you.

Chicken Quarters stuffed with Hashu
For the chicken:

4 chicken/thigh quarters, deboned by removing the pelvic bone, thigh bone and 1/2 of the leg bone

2-4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

String to tie chicken

For the filling:

500g (1 pound) lean ground beef

1/3 cup short-grain rice (white or brown)

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup water

Soak rice in cool water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with your hands. Add the meat mixture to a frying pan, add water and start breaking the meat in to small pieces. Cover until the rice is cooked through for approximately 10 minutes. Let cool.

Deboned and Ready for Stuffing

Stuffing with Hashu

Tied with a Silcone Tie

Ready for the oven

Fill the chicken with approximately 1/4 cup of the meat mixture and fold the chicken meat over the mixture and tie with cooking twine (I used silicone ties) to enclose the stuffing. Put seam side down and drizzle each chicken quarter with pomegranate molasses.

Bake at 180C (350F) for 1 hour.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/10/11/erev-yom-kippur-5769-2/

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