Mujadarah – Esau’s Bowl of Goodness

One day Esau, the biblical Jacob’s elder brother, came home one day from hunting in the desert with no game at all. He walks into the family tent and Jacob, the stay-at-home mommy’s boy, looks up at him and says, “hey bro, what’s wrong?” Esau looks daggers at him and says, “I have had a bad hare day. In fact, I didn’t manage to catch a single hare and I am absolutely starving. What is in the pot?” “Lentil stew” replies Jacob. “Could I have some?” says Esau. “What’s it worth to you?” says Jacob. “Name your price.” says Esau, and that was how the children of Israel ended up with the inheritance of Esau and Jacob’s father, Isaac, the son of Abraham. And the rest, as they say, is history.

We don’t know how accurately this little screen play reflects what happened in that tent some 4,000 years ago. But, then, as now, lentils were a key part of the Middle Eastern diet — perhaps tasty enough for Esau to give up his birthright to his younger brother — and although mujadarah probably didn’t exist at that time, this lentil- and rice-based dish is one of the most distinctive and loved parts of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Mujadarah, moujadara, mejadra, mudardara or megadarra: no matter how you spell it or pronounce it, it is a simple poor man’s dish composed of cooked lentils with groats, wheat or rice, and garnished with fried onions. Many claim it as their own and it is made  throughout the Middle East.  Middle Eastern Jews typically served this dish twice a week: hot on Thursday and cold on Sunday. You can order this as a side dish in every grill restaurant in Israel and find ready mixes in the supermarket. But, homemade is the one and only true way to enjoy mujadarah. It is easy to prepare; the only time consuming part is slicing the onions and frying them.

I think the best way to slice the onions is using a mandoline, but you can also use a slicing blade on a food processor. The onions should be dark brown. The caramelised sweetness of the onions marries well with the rice, spices, and lentils. You can also use 2 teaspoons of Baharat instead of the cinnamon and allspice, if you wish.

Mujadarah - Lentils and Rice

Serving Size: 4

Recipe from Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark

For Mujadarah:

1 cup white basmati rice

1 cup small brown lentils

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and pepper

For caramelised crispy onions:

300ml (1-1/4 cup) canola oil

2 large onions, sliced thinly using a mandoline or food processor

For Mujadarah:

Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Rub the rice with your fingertips until the water becomes cloudy. Drain the rice in a sieve and repeat the process three times or until the water is clear. Place the drained rice back in the bowl and cover with warm water, and stir 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The salt prevents the rice from breaking up when it is cooked, and the soaking reduces the cooking time by half.

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the lentils are still a bit hard. Drain and set aside. Make the crispy onions while the lentils are cooking.

To complete the dish, add the olive oil to the pan and add the spices plus 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Stir in a third of the crispy onions, the lentils, and the drained rice. Gently mix them together. Cover with rice and lentils with 1/2 cm (about 1/8 of an inch) above. Season with salt to taste. Cover the top of the water with parchment paper or foil and cover the pan with a lid. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer after 5 minutes. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. The dish is ready when the all of the water has been absorbed.

Serve with a generous amount of crispy onions.

For caramelised crispy onions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. You may have to fry the onions in batches.

When the oil is hot, add enough sliced onion to make one layer, and fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is a golden to mahogany color. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining onion.

Tip: The oil can be reused and will impart a flavor of the onions.

Pumpkin Pisto

Pisto is the Spanish version of ratatouille. There are many versions of this dish, and this vegetable stew is sometimes used as a filling for empanadas. I am not usually a fan of ratatouille because I find that most restaurants or people cook the dish to death and the vegetables just end up a slimy mess. But when I found a recipe for pisto using pumpkin and butternut squash, I had to try it.

I used a Delicata pumpkin that I bought at the Orbanics market, and a butternut squash for this recipe. The pumpkin had a yellow flesh, that is not as sweet as the orange fleshed pumpkin we can buy here to use primarily in soup and couscous. I loved this recipe. It is full of flavor and goes well with chicken and lamb. I served it with roasted chicken with sumac, onion and pine nuts. You could also serve it as a main dish with rice.

Pumpkin Pisto

Serving Size: 4

Recipe from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark

800g (1-3/4lb) peeled and seeded pumpkin or butternut squash or a combination of both, cut into 2cm (3/4 of an inch) chunks

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 large or 3 medium onions, roughly chopped

1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 1 cm (1/3 of an inch) chunks

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 bay leaves, preferably fresh

1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

A few grates of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

12 tablespoons (180ml) passata

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar, mixed with 4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

Sprinkle the pumpkin with the salt and set aside. In a large, deep frying pan (about 30cm or 11 inches in diameter), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and stir until the onions are soft and light brown.

Add the red pepper and saute for an additional 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves and rosemary, and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the pumpkin and reduce the heat; saute for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is barely soft. Add the oregano or marjoram, nutmeg, cumin and the passata. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Add the vinegar-water, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, with the toasted pine nuts.

Chicken with Garlic, Pinenuts, Raisins and Saffron

It is very rare that I buy a cookbook and want to make 90% of the recipes in the book….very rare. So, when Moro: The CookbookDavid Lebovitz recommended all three Moro cookbooks, I had to check them out. It took me about 2 minutes to decide to purchase all three:

Moro is a restaurant in London that specializes in Moorish cuisine, which has Moroccan and Spanish influences. It is owned by Sam and Sam (Samantha) Clark, who met at the River Cafe, married, and went on a three-month honeymoon in their camper-van to Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara desert. When they returned with a slew of ideas, they opened Moro in 1997 and have been enticing customers with their delicious offerings ever since.

So far, I have made two recipes from this cookbook and I can’t wait to make more. Even though there are some seafood and pork recipes in the cookbook, you can easily replace them with fish, lamb, beef, or chicken. There are also quite a number of vegetarian recipes in all three books, especially Moro East, which is based on the allotment they had at the famous Manor Garden Allotments, which were unfortunately bulldozed in 2007 to make way for the 2012 Olympics. The allotments were started in 1900 and had 80 plots which were owned by a diverse ethnic population. Some of the recipes in Moro East were inspired by the Clarks’ allotment neighbors from Turkey and Cyprus.

For Shabbat, I made a delicious chicken dish with saffron, whole garlic cloves, raisins and pinenuts. The sauce is creamy with a subtle hint of saffron. It is very important that you use high quality saffron for this dish. I served it with a Persian short-grained brown rice mix of herbs, pistachios, almonds, and raisins, and French green beans. It is easy to make and could even be made a day ahead.

Mr BT was in heaven over this dish. Now I have to convince him to take me to the not cheap (!) Moro restaurant next time we go to London.

Pollo Al Ajillo con Piñones y Pasas y Azafrán - Chicken with Garlic, Pinenuts, Raisins and Saffron

Serving Size: 4

From Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark

6 tablespoons olive oil

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1 medium chicken, cut into eighths

150ml (2/3 cup) light white wine or fino sherry or half white wine and half sherry

50 threads saffron, infused in 7 tablespoons boiling water

100g (2/3 cup) golden raisins, soaked in warm water

75g (1/2 cup) pinenuts, lightly toasted

Salt and pepper

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic, fry until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (pepper only if using kosher chicken) and place the breasts, skin-side down in the pan. Cook on both sides until the skin is crispy and a deep golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.

Add the white wine or sherry and the saffron in its liquid to the pan, shaking the pan until the oil and the wine are emulsified. Reduce to a simmer and cook the chicken legs and thighs for about 15 minutes. Add the chicken breasts, garlic, drained raisins, and pine nuts. Season with additional salt and pepper, and cook with the cover on for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the breasts are fully cooked.

The sauce should have the consistency of single cream. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or reduce the sauce if it is too thin. Serve with rice or roasted potatoes and a salad or a green vegetable.

Trains and Balkan Water Börek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water Börek - Su Böregi

Serving Size: 6 to 8

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

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

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

1 log of plain goat's cheese

1 egg

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

2 green onions, sliced thinly

Several grinds of black pepper

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

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

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

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

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

Tiramisu – A Little Pick Me Up

There are many stories about the origin of this recipe, but the Italians from the Veneto region claim this luscious dessert as their own. I learned to make it from a drop-dead gorgeous chef at a 3-day cooking course I attended in Riva di Garda, Italy almost 20 years ago. Don’t tell Mr BT, but between you and me, the chef could have made boiled newspaper and I would have left that course a happy woman. I have been promising to make this dessert ever since Mr BT and I met almost 10 years ago, and I promised I would make it for Shavuot, but alas he had to go on a business trip abroad. So, I made it, just because.

Tiramisu is a dessert that you make to wow a new boyfriend, bring a smile to your family or friends, or for that romantic candle-lit  dinner with the one you love.

Traditional tiramisu is made with raw eggs and no alcohol, so if you are elderly, sick, or pregnant, you can make a zabaglione, cool it, beat in the mascarpone, and then fold in whipped cream. It is not authentic, but it will still be creamy and delicious.


Serving Size: 6 to 8

5 very fresh, organic eggs, separated

5 tablespoons icing (powdered) sugar

500g (18oz) Mascarpone cheese

1 package of Savoiardi biscuits

300ml (1-1/4 cup) very strong espresso coffee, cooled

3 tablespoons Marsala wine, sweet sherry, or rum

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Whisk the egg yolks and the icing sugar until they are double in volume and pale. Add the mascarpone and beat until combined.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Mix the cooled coffee and Marsala in a medium size bowl. Dip both sides of the Savoiardi biscuits into the coffee, arranging them in a single layer in a medium size square dish. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture, repeat with a layer of biscuits and cover with the remaining cheese mixture.

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. Sift cocoa powder on top before serving.

Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

As the weather get warmer here, I like to start lightening up the dishes. My husband just returned from a two week trip where he only had fish, so I had to make a chicken dish before he started growing scales and gills. After the first successful attempt at making a hamin, I decided to try a summer recipe from Sherry Ansky’s Hamin cookbook.

This recipe just calls for chicken legs, israeli couscous, onions, and water, which sounded too bland for our taste, so I kicked it up a notch and added garlic, slices of butternut squash, Hungarian paprika, and ras el hanut. The dish was delicious and the sweetness of the butternut squash was a perfect addition. This dish can be made overnight or you can cook it for 4 hours and serve it on Friday night like I did. The best part of this dish is that you line the pan with parchment paper, so there is easy cleanup; no muss and no fuss.

Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

Serving Size: 4 to 6

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

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 small butternut squash

1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

6 whole cloves garlic

2 rounded tablespoons Hungarian paprika

1 rounded tablespoon ras el hanut

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

500g (1lb) Israeli couscous (ptitim)

4 cups of water and another 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 100C (200F) for overnight cooking or 150C (300F) for 4 hours cooking.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly brown. Add the whole garlic, paprika, ras el hanut, salt and pepper; stir for a couple of minutes. Add the Israeli couscous and lightly toast it, stirring constantly. Add the water, cover, and cook the couscous for 8 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, cut the butternut squash in half vertically, keeping the peel on, and seed it removing all of the stringy parts. Then, cut the squash horizontally into 6mm (1/4 inch) slices. Set aside.

Line a large clay pot, or other large roasting dish that has a cover, with parchment paper. Place half of the couscous mixture in the bottom of the pan, patting it down to make sure you have an even layer, and then add a layer of butternut squash slices. Add all of the chicken on top of the butternut squash, and then layer with rest of the butternut squash. Place the rest of the couscous mixture on top and add the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the pan and cover tightly with the lid.

Place in the oven and cook overnight or for 4 hours at the higher temperature. Invert on a platter for presentation.

Shavuot Ideas – Saffron Semifreddo with a Dried Cherry-Cardamom Sauce and Almond-Orange Financiers

Chocolate is most people’s guilty pleasure, but my guilty pleasure is ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but luscious Italian gelato, preferably eaten in Italy at one of my favorite gelateria, Perche No!, in Firenze, or in Israel at Gelateria Siciliana on Ibn Givrol in Tel Aviv.

I also enjoy making my own ice cream and sorbet at home, which I have blogged in several posts here.

The final course for the dinner party last week was a recipe for semifreddo that intrigued me from the moment I saw it on the Food52 website. Semifreddo literally means “half-frozen” and is a frozen dessert that has a mousse-like texture from equal parts of ice cream custard and whipped double (heavy) cream.

I didn’t deviate from the recipe at all and even made the salted-honey hazelnuts, but in the rush of trying to serve the dessert, I forgot to plate them. It was actually better in the end because it would have been too much of a taste contrast with the mini almond-orange financiers I served on the side. The dessert was a huge hit, which made me very happy since Mimi was afraid that some of the guests might not like the taste of saffron. I used a very high quality saffron that I had been keeping for a special occasion.

Sarah, from Foodbridge, brought a large bag filled with Surinam Cherries, also known as Pitanga in Brazil. They were a perfect decoration for the top of the semifreddo and were also quite delicious. I had never had them before but they  remind me of cherries, which as my faithful readers know is one of my favorite fruits.

Mimi suggested that we serve an alternative to the semifreddo, so I decided to make mini financiers which I baked in a silcone chocolate mold that can withstand up to 220C (425F). Financiers are a light teacake, similar to sponge cake, and are usually made of almond flour, a beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, icing sugar and flour. Financiers are often baked in rectangular-shaped molds which are suppose to resemble a bars of gold. You can find these molds in cooking shops, such as 4Chef, in Tel Aviv.

The dessert was a huge hit and I will definitely make this again. I made the semifreddo a couple of days in advance and made the financiers the day before, but you could easily make these several days before and freeze them.

The dessert was served with Mimi’s delicious homemade liqueurs. On offer were lemoncello, geranium, apricot, strawberry and coffee. I love all of them, but my personal favorite is apricot.

Saffron Semifreddo with Cherry Cardamom Syrup and Salted Honey Hazelnuts

Serving Size: 6

For the Saffron semifreddo:

5 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon high quality saffron threads

1 tablespoon sweet vermouth

1 cup double (heavy) cream

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom, toasted

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup filtered water

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons honey

For the Saffron semifreddo:

Bring a small saucepan or double boiler with water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Have an ice water bath big enough for the base of the double boiler or mixing bowl on standby.

In a medium glass bowl or the pan of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and saffron threads. Place the bowl or pan over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and doubled in volume.

Remove from heat and submerge in the ice water bath, continuing to stir to bring down the temperature. If the mixture gets too cold and is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it will release easily if you run hot water on the outside of the bowl.

Beat the heavy cream in a mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Place the egg yolk mixture and the sweet vermouth in the bowl of mixer with a whip attachment, and whip until the mixture becomes thick and pale in color.

Add a third of the whipped cream to the egg mixture and stir together gently. Fold in the remaining whipped cream into the egg mixture. When this is done, you can spoon the mixture into 6 individual ramekins, or place it in a plastic cellophane lined loaf pan, or decorative silicone mold of your choice. Cover the ramekins or other container with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. To serve, run a butter knife under hot water and cut around the edge of the ramekin to invert the semifreddo onto individual plates. Serve with the cherry-cardamom syrup and salted honey-hazelnuts (recipes to follow).

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

Combine all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by half and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) degrees.

Place the hazelnuts in a small mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and sea salt. Add honey and toss once more to coat. Transfer the nuts to a silpat-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring at least once, until the nuts are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Once the hazelnuts have cooled, roughly chop the nuts and serve alongside the semifreddo.


Almond-Orange Financiers

Yield: 21 5 x 10-cm (2 x 4-inch) financiers or 50 mini

30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier molds

140g (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds

210g (1-2/3 cups) icing (confectioner's) sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Zest of one large orange

Pinch of salt

5 large egg whites

185 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).

With a pastry brush, butter the financier molds with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Arrange them side-by-side, but not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the buttered molds in the freezer to re-solidify the butter and make the financiers easier to unmold.

In a large bowl, combine the almonds, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the 3/4 cup of butter and mix until blended. The mixture will be fairly thin and pourable.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake until the financiers just being to rise, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C (400F). Bake until the financiers are a light, delicate brown and begin to firm up, about another 7 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the financiers rest in the oven until firm, about another 7 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.

(Note: If you are using metal Financier molds, then wash them immediately with a stiff brush in hot water without detergent so that they retain their seasoning.) The financiers may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Shavuot Ideas – Fresh Corn Pudding

Planning a dinner party can be quite daunting, but it helps if you are the “planning type” like I am. I was a meeting planner, by profession when I lived in the States and was responsible for planning meetings, conferences, and special events for anywhere from 10 to 10,000 attendees. My parents and grandparents also entertained a lot, so I learned everything I know about dinner party planning from my Dad and paternal grandmother who both loved to host grand gourmet dinner parties. So, planning this dinner for 11 was not a problem for me.  Here are a few good tips:

  1. Plan the menu before anything else and try to make sure that each course is a good marriage for the next.
  2. Check your wine stash or cellar and liquor stash or cabinet to see if you need to purchase a few more bottles.
  3. Make sure that your oven and Shabbat hot plate (if you have one) will be free for each course you need to make at the last minute or for those courses that need to stay hot before serving.
  4. Check that you have enough plates, silverware, glassware and serving pieces.
  5. Check that the tablecloth you want to use is ironed and doesn’t have that annoying wine stain from the last dinner party.
  6. Don’t overdo on the hors d’œuvre or your guests won’t eat your star attraction, the main meal.

Of course, it always helps to have a partner in crime and Mimi is a great friend, and a great co-hostess to work with. She was gracious to offer her home for the event and allowed me to share her kitchen with her. Her account of the “behind-the-scenes” is hysterical and quite accurate. There was a lot of swearing and “oh, I forgot to put that on the plate” going on in the kitchen.

For our main course, Mimi and I served beautiful fresh sea bass fillets that we bought from my favourite fish mongers, Dubkin Brothers. Mimi made the marinade, which was made with fresh herbs, lemon juice, and hot chilies. It was cooked perfectly and tasted good, but I would have preferred it to be spicier. We erred on the side of caution because some people do not like or cannot tolerate spicy food.  Mimi posted the fish recipe on her blog, Israeli Kitchen.

To accompany the fish, we served fresh, steamed green beans and I made individual fresh corn puddings that are made with corn cut from the cob and quickly pulsed in a food processor, fresh herbs, and a little fontina cheese for an added kick. This can be served as a first course, a vegetarian main course, or as we served it, as an accompaniment. I really like this dish, it is not too heavy and is best made with the sweetest, freshest corn you can find. I would have loved to have made it with Silver Queen corn, but sadly we do not have that variety here in Israel. I have heard that Silver Queen is all but a dying variety in the States, which is very sad because it is a sweet and creamy variety of corn. It was the best corn to use for everyone’s southern favorite, creamed corn.

Fresh Corn Pudding

Serving Size: 8

6 ears fresh corn, shucked

1/2 cup double (heavy) cream

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

50g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cool

3 large eggs, beaten lightly

2-3 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs: sage, thyme and chives

1/4 cup grated Fontina or other sharp, good melting, cheese

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and butter eight 1/2-cup ramekins.

Cut the corn off the cobs and place in a food processor. Pulse the corn about three times, until you have a very coarse mixture. Do not pulverise it!

Put all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the corn, and mix thoroughly. Ladle the mixture evenly into the ramekins and place them in a baking pan just large enough to hold them. Place the tray in the oven and add enough hot water to reach halfway up sides of the ramekins.

Bake the corn puddings in the middle of oven for 50 minutes, or until tops are slightly puffed and golden and firm to the touch. Remove ramekins from water and cool slightly on a rack for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges of ramekins and invert each pudding onto a serving plate.

Chili and Chocolate

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

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

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

Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Corn and Red Mole

slightly adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

For the enchiladas:

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 Tbs olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

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

2 cups soft goat cheese

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper

12 corn tortillas

For the red mole:

1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

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

2 /12 Tbs olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup ground sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small red chili, seeded and minced

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

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


1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp white wine vinegar


For the enchiladas:

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

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

For the red mole:

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

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

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta Keeps the Vampires Away

Well, not really, but fresh garlic on your front porch does!

This past Friday I went to Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem with two foodie girlfriends, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and Sarah from Foodbridge. We had a great time exploring the market finding all sorts of goodies to try. I came home with fontina, mahleb, pear cider from Normandy, a loaf of currant and walnut bread, artichokes, and 6 kilos of braided fresh garlic. I thought Mr. BT was going to kill me for buying so much garlic, but his Hungarian side was pleased as a peasant in the countryside. I thought my car was going to smell like a Romanian kitchen, but it wasn’t too bad, or maybe I just like the smell of garlic. We hung the beautiful braid on our shady front porch to dry.

I am always looking for quick dishes to make during the week and I had some ricotta and spinach I bought to use during Passover, but never got around to using. So, I used them to make a very quick, light and delicious Italian dish called Malfatti. It is a Tuscan dish made with ingredients that are used to fill ravioli. In fact it was probably concocted when someone had made too much ravioli filling. There are various versions of this dish, including one served with a brown butter and sage sauce, but I served mine with a tomato and fresh garlic sauce. They are like little soft pillows in your mouth, but without having to pick the feathers from between your teeth.

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta

Serving Size: 4 to 6 serving as a light main course and 6 to 8 a

(Spinach and Ricotta Malfatti)

500g (1lb) ricotta

2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

100g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

1/4 cup semolina, plus more for shaping

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese

Put a teaspoon of semolina into a narrow wineglass. Drop in a ball and swirl until it forms an oval. Repeat. (You may need to add more semolina) You can freeze them at this point.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the malfatti and cook until they float, about 8 minutes. (If frozen, 10 minutes.) Drain malfatti and place on plates or in a flat bowl. Serve with tomato sauce or a brown butter and sage sauce, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana

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