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

An Afternoon with Joan Nathan

Ezra Kedem_Israel Aharoni_Joan Nathan_Mark Furstenberg

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a discussion at the annual Jerusalem International Book Fair entitled, The Changing Jewish Kitchen – Is Jewish food still Jewish food and what is it?. The panel consisted of cookbook author Joan Nathan, Israeli chef, TV personality and food writer Israel Aharoni, Israeli chef Ezra Kedem (Arcadia Restaurant in Jerusalem), and the moderator, baker, chef and restaurant consultant Mark Furstenberg.

I have been a fan of Joan Nathan’s since my mother gave me one of her cookbooks, Jewish Holiday Kitchen, almost 25 years ago. The first two recipes I made from that cookbook were for Passover: Seven-Fruit Haroset From Surinam and Larry Bain’s Bubie’s Haroset. They were a big hit at my family Passover dinner. Years later, when I moved to Israel and Mr. BT and I were hosting our first seder, I told him about a Venetian haroset recipe containing chestnuts that I had found in Joan Nathan’s cookbook and which I wanted to make. He said, let’s make it, and this was the basis for the now famous Nordell family haroset.

During the panel discussion, Ms. Nathan talked about when she visited Strasbourg, France to do research for her latest cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France: the people she interviewed there, she recounted, begged her to find some lost Alsatian Jewish recipes. She said that she is afraid that some of the traditional Ashkenazi recipes are being lost because people are shying away from making the more fattening recipes, like those containing chicken fat, duck fat and goose fat.

Israel Aharoni told an interesting story about Jewish fusion cooking he witnessed in someone’s home in Jerusalem. During the taping of his famous television program, Derech Ha’ochel (The Way of Food), with his friend and co-host, comedian Gavri Banai, they were invited to have Shabbat dinner with a family in the Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. The woman of the house started preparing gefilte fish, which she served with hilbeh, a traditional Yemenite condiment made with fenugreek, zhug, and coriander,  and tehina (sesame paste). Aharoni, whose parents were from Uzbekistan,  was quite shocked that a traditional Ashkenazi family would put Yemenite and Middle Eastern condiments on their table. But then he realized that this was a common occurrence for families who lived in the melting pot of Israel where you find Yemenites and Moroccans who eat gefilte fish and Ashkenazis who eat North African shakshouka and tagine.

The discussion moved on to topic of olive oil. Most people would assume that a country where you can find ancient olive oil presses would have a long and uninterrupted history of cooking with olive oil. But as Aharoni said, “Until 20 or 25 years ago, you couldn’t even get olive oil in Israel. You had to have a friend, who had a friend, who knew someone who lived in an Arab village.” However, he said when Italian food became popular here, the local supermarkets started stocking lower quality Italian and Spanish olive oil. Things have progressed, and you can now buy high quality local olive oil.

Ezra Kedem, who is half Kurdish and half German,  said that when he was a child in Jerusalem and came home hungry from school, he would be given dark bread with olive oil and za’atar. His eyes lit up when he talked about this childhood treat. He said that his parents bought their olive oil once a year from Arabs in Beit Jala, a town south of Jerusalem. The olive oil was put in two or three jerrycans that they would bring to the Arab family to fill up with the liquid gold, as Kedem described it.

After the discussion was over, I asked Ms. Nathan if she was going to be doing a book signing, to which she replied, “they didn’t arrange one, but come with me and I will be happy to sign a book for you.” She is very down-to-earth and easy to talk to. I really felt like I could have talked to her for hours, but she had a appointment to be interviewed by fellow Israeli blogger and Haaretz editor, Liz Steinberg, who wrote a lovely article about her in that newspaper.

What I love most about her cookbooks is the stories and history that she gathers for each recipe. She takes you on a wonderful trip to a country, a town, a home or a restaurant without leaving your home. She makes sure that you feel the love that goes into each family dish. I so wanted to talk to her about some of my own family treasures: the matza balls, the noodle and matza schalets, and the butter cookies. Alas, it will have to wait for another trip.

The first recipe that caught my eye in her new cookbook was a recipe called Soupe au Blé Verte, which is a spicy vegetarian version of the classic Tunisian soup called Shurbat Farik bi’l-Mukh, made with chickpeas and freekeh, and it is a perfect soup for a cold winter’s night. I made a few slight additions to the recipe: I added garlic, since as most of you know, having a half-Hungarian in the house means that you can’t make something without garlic unless you can prove that it is an absolutely forbidden ingredient in that particular dish.

Cavalo Nero

And, I also added our homegrown Cavalo Nero (Tuscan Kale) at the very end of the cooking process. It gave a nice crunchy texture to the soup.

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous is a real treasure and I will be cooking more dishes from it in the coming weeks.

Soup au Ble Vert

Tunisian Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas and Freekeh

Serving Size: 6 to 8

(Soupe au Blé Verte) Slightly adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan

1 cup dried small chickpeas

1/4 cup olive oil 1 small onion, diced

1 stalk celery, finely chopped 1 carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon harissa, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

7-8 cups water

1 tablespoon tomato paste 1 cup freekeh, picked over for stones and chaff and rinsed

1 cup cavalo nero, chopped with the center rib removed

1 lemon, quartered

Place the chickpeas in a bowl, cover with water, and soak them overnight.

The next day, put the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic until the onion is transparent. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan with 1/4 cup of parsley, the bay leaf, harissa, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and a cup of water, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups of water and bring to the boil. Stir in the freekeh and lower the heat. Cover the soup, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours. You may have to add an additional cup of water. Add the cavalo nero and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a wedge of lemon.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/03/12/an-afternoon-with-joan-nathan/

Comfort Food – Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Even though it is December and it should be raining in Israel, winter hasn’t really begun. On Friday, I was out in a short-sleeved shirt planting baby pansies, some unknown flowering purple and white plants, and burgundy and white petunias. I am preparing the “garden” for the winter. I am cutting down the basil and lemongrass. The rest of the herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, should endure the winter weather.

Since it isn’t that cold, I haven’t felt like making the hearty winter soups that I usually make to keep us warm and cozy, but there was a sale on cauliflower and I saw an interesting recipe for cauliflower soup from Thomas Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. It is very easy to make and has a slight hint of curry in it. The recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of curry, but I used one teaspoon of hot madras curry and it was still subtle. I also used 10% fat cooking cream instead of heavy cream and it was still luscious and creamy.

After a small bowl of soup, I served baked salmon with a lemon-artichoke pesto on a bed of mashed Jerusalem artichokes and petit pois on the side. The pesto had the perfect amount of acidity from the lemon juice and capers. It was a nice and light addition to the thick soup.

Comfort Food – Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Serving Size: 10-12 as a first course

From Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

2 heads cauliflower (2 to 2-1/2 kg or 4 to 5 pounds total)

50g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

3/4 cup coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 teaspoon hot madras curry powder or curry of your choice

Salt

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups water

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Remove the leaves from cauliflower, and cut out the core. Trim the stems and reserve them. For the garnish, trim 2 cups of florets about the size of a quarter and set aside.

Coarsely chop the remaining cauliflower and the stems into 1-inch pieces so that they will cook in the same amount of time. You need 8 cups of cauliflower.

Melt 40g (3 tablespoons) of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, curry, and chopped cauliflower. Season with 2 teaspoons of salt, cover, and cook stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Pour in the milk, cream, and water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off the foam from time-to-time.

Using a stick blender, puree the cauliflower at the lowest speed, and blend until smooth and velvety. Check the seasoning, and add more salt if needed. If the soups is too thick, you can dilute it with a little water. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, Add the vinegar and the reserved cauliflower florets, and blanch until tender, approximately 4 to 6 minutes. The vinegar will help keep the cauliflower white. Drain. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat, swirling the pan, until the butter turns a rich golden brown. Add the florets and saute until the cauliflower is lightly brown.

To serve, top each serving with a few cauliflower florets, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/12/05/comfort-food/

Salmon with Lemon Artichoke Pesto

4 salmon fillets, skinned

1 can artichoke hearts

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Pinch red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon capers, drained well

2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest

3 tablespoons pesto

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

Combine the artichokes, lemon juice, garlic, pepper flakes, oil, capers, lemon zest, and pesto in the food processor. Pulse a few times until the mixture is still chunky. Stir in the fresh herbs.

Lay a fillet on top of a large square of foil and spread 2 tablespoons of the mixture on top of the salmon , fold up to enclose the fillets, and tightly crimp the edges to seal the pouches. Repeat with the remaining fillets. Place on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/12/05/comfort-food/

All You Really Need is Soup

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup”
Beethoven

Winter is a good excuse to make hearty soups, something that is true in my house. Mr BT is a world class soup maker. His repertoire includes: chicken soup, lentil soup, onion soup, vegetable soup and cauliflower soup. He always makes a big pot for us to enjoy throughout the week or he freezes some of it to enjoy whenever we want. As the lovely quote from Beethoven states, Mr BT puts his heart and soul in his soups. I am a lucky woman.

Like most of Mr BT’s creations, the recipe for this soup can vary according to what vegetables are seasonally available. You can also substitute lentils or barley for the chickpeas. You may find turkey soup a little unusual: Mr BT decided to start using turkey as a partial or complete substitute for the more common chicken because it has a stronger flavour and has much more meat that similar cuts of chicken.

Mr BT's Turkey and Vegetable Soup

Yield: 10 liters (2 gallons)

2 cups dried medium chickpeas

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

6 large cloves garlic, chopped

8 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced 6mm (1/4 inch) thick

1/2 head celery, dark green leaves removed, sliced

20 juniper berries

3 large sprigs fresh oregano

6 large sprigs fresh thyme

6 bay leaves

4 turkey wings, separated or 2 turkey necks, cut into 8cm (3-inch) sections

500g (1lb) beef soup bones

1/2 head white cabbage, cut lengthwise into six pieces and sliced

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

3 medium courgettes (zucchinis), quartered lengthwise and sliced

2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cut into small chunks

3 large tomatoes, cut into small pieces, keeping the pulp

3 heaping tablespoons of chicken soup powder mixed with a little hot water

The night before making the soup, place chickpeas in a medium sized bowl, add baking soda and cover with enough warm water to leave 4cm (1-1/2 inches) above the chickpeas.

Gently heat enough olive oil (not extra virgin) to saute the onions. Add onions and stir as they saute. After 10 minutes, add the carrots, the celery, juniper berries, thyme, oregano and bay leaves. Cover the pot and saute gently for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not stick to the bottom.

Add soup bones and turkey, and continue to saute gently for another 20 minutes, covered. Add the cabbage, and continue to saute, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.

Add water (hot, if you have a kettle) to within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the top of the pot, bring to a boil, and then lower the flame to a rolling simmer. Add the chickpeas. Leave to simmer for at least 2 hours.

Add the courgette, peppers, tomatoes and the soup powder mixture. Continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve piping hot.

This soup is better on the second and third day.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/24/all-you-really-need-is-soup/

Jewish Penicillin for Pesach

Nathan Matza Ball Soup

I love chicken soup and I may be a bit bold to say this, but I think my chicken soup is very good. I have been tweaking this recipe for about twenty years and I think I have just right. This is not a clear broth soup; it is a rich broth. My husband says, “This broth is rich enough to be a hedge fund.” Forgive me, he has a one track mind because of his startup company.

I won my husband’s heart with my soup and matza balls. I am going to be making a big pot for the seder next week. I always make the soup a day ahead so that the flavours will have time to develop.

I have to tell you that you should be very honoured that I am parting with my soup and family matza ball recipe :-). I hope you will make them with as much love as I do.

Chag Sameach everyone! Next Year in Jerusalem!

Baroness Tapuzina's Chicken Soup

Serving Size: 12

1 (1-1/2kg or #3 or 3lb) chicken

1-1/2kg (3lb) chicken wings or two turkey wings

1 large turkey neck cut into pieces

4 soup beef bones with meat on the bone (optional)

2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut in quarters

2 large leeks, cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) pieces

4 medium carrots, cut in to 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces

1/2 head of whole garlic gloves, peeled

2 sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley

6 juniper berries

20 mixed peppercorns

Salt to taste

Olive oil

Put a generous amount of olive oil in a large soup pot and heat on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, leeks and garlic and sweat until softened. Add the carrots, juniper berries, peppercorns and fresh herbs. Then add the chicken wings, turkey necks and soup bones, and brown lightly, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn the onion, leeks and garlic. Finally, add the chicken and pour enough water to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for approximately 2-3 hours.

Remove the chicken, chicken wings, turkey neck and soup bones to a bowl. When cool enough to touch, pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin, bones, etc. Put in a container or ziploc bag and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Put the soup in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, skim off the fat, if desired, and reheat the soup, add the chicken and turkey meat back to the soup. How much is up to you and bring to a rolling boil to cook the matza balls (see below).

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/23/jewish-penicillin-for-pesach/

I always make the matza balls ahead of time and freeze them. Since my matza balls are a little different from most, I thought I would give you a step-by-step instruction in case you would like to try to make them.

Mama K's World Famous Matza Balls

Yield: 45 matza balls

This recipe has been handed down from generation to generation in my family. It is Westphalian and Alsatian. If you are afraid of using chicken fat, try half chicken fat and half olive oil.

14 matzos

2 medium white onions, chopped coarsely

3/4 cup melted chicken fat and/or goose fat

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons salt, you made want to add more

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

7 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork

1/8 cup matza meal

Additional matza meal for rolling

Step 2 Wet Matza

Wet Matza

Break the matzas into chunks and put into a colander placed in sink. Run water over the colander until the matza is moist, but not water logged. Let the water drain and let stand for one to two minutes. (Can be put into plastic bag and kept overnight in the refrigerator.)

Onions Browning

Brown the onions in melted fat in large heavy frying pan over medium heat until "real brown".

Step 4 Add Matza

Add the matzas and stir gently frequently. Most of the moisture has to evaporate. If mixture sticks to bottom, put lid on the pan for a few minutes to soften. Add the salt, pepper, parsley and nutmeg.

Cooked Mixture

Cool until no more steam comes off the mixture because it must be cool enough so the eggs won't cook.

Mixture with Eggs

Add the eggs and gently stir in the matza meal.

Test the first matza ball by placing it in boiling water. Test that it maintains it shape and taste to check if more salt, pepper and nutmeg should be added.

Finished product

Place a thick layer of matza meal on foil-lined cookie sheet. Use spoons or scoop to make balls, rolling very carefully into the size of a large walnut, using as little pressure as possible. Place on cookie sheet and roll in meal. If you prefer, wet your hands and roll in palm, but this requires scraping off hands and re-wetting frequently. Discard the excess matza meal. Leave on the cookie sheet in the refrigerator, covered with wax paper, or freeze on the sheet before packing in bags for freezer. They can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.

Bring chicken soup to a boil and add Matzo Balls (after they have been brought to room temperature) a few at a time. When they rise to the top, put the lid on the soup for 5 minutes. Serve and say AAHHHH loudly with each bite.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/23/jewish-penicillin-for-pesach/

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