Spring Flowers and Red Fruit

The flowers we planted at the new house are doing well as are our herbs. The round pot in the background of the picture above contains rosemary and lavender, which remind me of our trip to Provence.

We also planted za’atar. I can’t wait to put some on roasted chicken and in my homemade bread.

Does anyone know what these are called? I know the purple one is a petunia, but I am not sure about the others. I fell in love with them at the nursery. They picture does not show the amazing colors. They are a vibrant orange, vibrant red and vibrant fuchsia.

I just happened to have some sour cherries that were begging to be put into something, so I decided to make a creamy sour cherry clafoutis. This recipe is from one of my favourite food writers, Paula Wolfert, who is an expert on Southwestern French cuisine and Moroccan cuisine. My husband and I were lucky enough to be recipe testers for her new edition of The Cooking of Southwest France. The clafoutis recipe is very easy to make and you can substitute any summer fruit you like. It is also good with apricots or plums.

Limousin Cherry Clafoutis

Serving Size: 8

300g (1 pound) sour cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted (optional) and patted dry with paper towels

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup flour, plus more for dusting

Pinch of salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 cup half and half

50g (4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened), plus more for the dish

2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

In a bowl, toss the cherries with all of the sugar except for 1 tablespoon. Spread the cherries out on a baking sheet and freeze for 1-1/2 hours. If you are using frozen cherries, remove them from the box and follow the instructions above.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup flour and salt. Whisk in the eggs. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the milk with 3 tablespoons of the butter until the butter melts. Whisk the warm milk into the flour mixture just until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk and the cream. Add the Cognac and vanilla, cover and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Prebaked Clafoutis

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Butter a 22 cm (9 1/2-inch) deep-dish pie plate or a well-seasoned iron skillet and dust with flour. Spread the cherries in a single layer in the pie plate, adding any sugar from the baking sheet to the cherries. Whisk the batter again and pour it over the cherries.

Bake the clafoutis just above the center of the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is just set and golden. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar, cut into wedges, and serve.


Dinner Under the Stars

The beginning of last week we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. We had delicious dinner in their lovely Sukkah. I forgot to bring my camera, but will update this post when my friend sends me the pictures we took using her camera.

Our friend Miriam makes delicious wines using grapes, other fruits and herbs. We had the honor of having her cabernet sauvignon, strawberry and summer wines, which is made from pea pods. Yes folks, you read it correctly, pea pods. It was delicious and tasted quite fruity; very difficult to describe without sounding a bit pretentious. The strawberry wine was a little fizzy and tasted as if you were biting into a giant, luscious and ripe strawberry. Yum.

We closed the meal with delicious lemon cakes that her daughter made and the Kritika Patouthia biscuits and mango-nectarine sorbet that my husband and I made.

Kritika Patouthia are Greek biscuits from the island of Crete. They are filled with ground almonds, ground walnuts, sesame seeds and honey and are typically rolled in icing (powdered) sugar. I decided that they were sweet enough and omitted the icing sugar. These cookies are delicious and went well with the last of the summer mango-nectarine sorbet. I came up with this recipe when I didn’t have enough mangoes to make sorbet. The nectarines work quite well with the mango and do not get lost with the strong mango flavour.

Kritika Patouthia

Yield: 5 to 6 dozen


1/2 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons orange juice

Juice of one lemon

6 tablespoons white sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt


1 cup ground walnuts

1 cup ground almonds

1 cup sesame seeds

1 cup honey

Confectioners' sugar

Orange flower water or orange juice for sprinkling

Mix together olive oil, water, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add olive oil mixture to flour mixture.

On a floured surface, work and knead to a smooth dough. Cover dough (you can place the empty bowl over it) and let dough rest for an hour.

While dough is resting, make filling.

To Make Filling:

Combine ground walnuts, ground almonds, sesame seeds and honey together in a bowl. Mix until well coated.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Sesame Almond Walnut Filling

Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 3 inch squares. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in center of each square.

fold up

Moisten edges with orange flower water or orange juice and cover the filling by folding in the four corners and pressing them firmly together in the center.

Bake for about 25 minutes. While cookies are still warm, sprinkle lightly with orange flower water or orange juice and dip in a bowl of confectioners' sugar.


Mango and Nectarine

Mango and Nectarine Sorbet

Serving Size: 8

3 medium size mangoes, cut into chunks

3 large nectarines, peeled and cut into chunks

Juice of one medium size lemon

1/2 cup simple syrup or to taste

ying and yang

Place the mango and nectarine chunks in a food processor and process until the mixture is a puree. Add the simple syrup and lemon; mix for one to two minutes. Put in an ice cream maker, following manufacturer's instructions.

Take the sorbet out of the freezer 15 minutes prior to serving.


Erev Sukkot

Wednesday night was the beginning of the seven day festival of Sukkot. The word Sukkot is the plural of the Hebrew word sukkah, which means booth or hut. During this holiday, Jews are suppose to build a temporary structure in which to eat their meals, entertain guests, relax, and even sleep. The sukkah can be built of any materials, but its roof must be an organic material, such as palm fronds or tree branches, and it must be partially open to the sky.

On each of the seven days of Sukkot, the Torah requires that Jews should take four species of plants and shake them in a specific manner. These species are: the lulav (date palm frond), hadass (bough of a myrtle tree), aravah (willow branch), which are bound together and collectively referred to as the lulav, and the etrog (a citron, a lemon-like citrus fruit). The shaking of the lulav with the etrog is done in the synagogue and in the Sukkah.

There isn’t really any typical dishes for Sukkot. A lot of people make dishes with fruit, such as quince, pomegranates and apples. I decided to try two new recipes for the evening meal. For the main course I prepared Honey-Barbecued Short Ribs with Rosemary-Glazed Corn on the Cob and I prepared a Quince-Bay Leaf Tart with Pistachio Crust for dessert. Both of the dishes were delicious, but we prefer the other short rib recipe I made for Lag B’Omer.

The quince tart recipe called for one large quince, so I used two medium size ones and it was clearly not enough, but too late to do anything about it, so I topped the quince with two sliced apples.

Honey-Barbecued Short Ribs with Rosemary-Glazed Corn on the Cob
(I used thyme instead of rosemary)

Quince Tart with Pistachio Crust

Slice of tart

Quince-Bay Leaf Tart with Pistachio Crust

Serving Size: 6 to 8


4 medium quinces

4 large bay leaves

1/4 cup vanilla sugar or 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla


60 g (1/3 cup) pistachio nuts

100 g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

75 g (5 tablespoons) sugar

150 g (2/3 cup) flour

Quince and Bay Leaf

Use a mandolin to slice the quince in thin, even slices. Place the quince slices, bay leaves and sugar in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover and simmer until the quince is soft and the water has evaporated. This could take 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Pistachio Crust

Place the pistachios in a Cuisinart and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Mix together the nuts, butter, sugar, and flour until it forms into a dough. This is a basic butter crust recipe and it will be a little dry.

Press the dough in a lightly greased tart pan and add the quince filling. Bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/ 347°F) for 25-30 minutes or slightly brown on the top.


Rosh Hashana 5768

Chag Sameach everyone! I hope you had a nice meal with your family. We went to my cousin’s house for the first night of Rosh Hashana and had a lovely time.

We invited some friends of ours for dinner last night. My husband made a Rosh Hashana favourite and I introduced several new surprises to our repertoire. Everything was delicious.

The cake calls for sour cream and one of my guests has a dairy allergy and can only tolerate butter in baked goods, so I substituted a non-dairy yogurt in its place. It worked fine.

And in case you are wondering about why I served a dairy cake, we keep kashrut according to the Italian tradition which is one hour between meat and dairy.

Our menu was:


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Rosemary Cashews

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds

Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Green beans

Round Challah with dried fruits and nuts
Golan Winery Sion Creek red wine


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Yield: 24 biscuits

Recipe from Restaurant: La Garbure (Châteauneuf du Pape) Chef: Jean Louis Giansilly

5 garlic cloves

3 sprigs of basil

5 tbsp olive oil

50g (3.5 tbsp) pine nuts

300g (1.3 cups) flour

10cl (.4 cup) warm water

10cl (.4 cup) olive oil

2 tsp salt

25g (1.7 tablespoons) baking powder

4 egg yolks

Ground pepper

Prepare a pesto by crushing the garlic cloves with the basil, olive oil, and pine nuts.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, warm water, and some ground pepper. Add the pesto and blend well to obtain a smooth dough.

Roll into a long snake and slice the into 1/4 inch (6mm) wafers and bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 minutes (depending on size).


Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.

1 chicken, cut into eighths

1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 whole garlic cloves

2 cm fresh ginger, grated or chopped finely

1 quince, cored and cut into eighths

10-20 majhoul dates, pitted and cut into quarters

10 dried figs, stem removed and cut into eighths

10-20 dried sour apricots, cut into quarters

20 walnut halves

Couple of pinches of black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup water

½ c pomegranate molasses

½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

On a low heat, place the olive oil in the clay pot, just to cover the surface. Add the onions when the oil is hot, but not sizzling. When the onion is soft, add the garlic. When the onion is lightly brown, turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, stirring constantly until browned, approximately 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on a low flame for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes and checking that there is enough remaining liquid for a nice sauce.

Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.


Sweet Break at Work

Every Thursday my team takes a 30 minute break to go to the rooftop and enjoy the fresh air and homemade goodies that each team member, in turn, brings. Sometimes we have the break in the morning, and have breakfast goodies, and sometimes we have the break in the afternoon. We change it around for variety and the last couple of months we decided the theme would be cakes and ice cream. When we had the breakfast round, one of my colleagues brought a gas burner and made omelets. They were delicious.

This week was my turn and since my birthday is at the beginning of next week, I decided to celebrate my birthday and make homemade ice creams and cakes. I prefer cakes without icing and really like cakes or tarts with lots of fruit. So, I decided to make a plum cake, cherry coffee cake, dulce de leche ice cream, and for the adventurous I made pomegranate gelato. Everything was delicious except for the pomegranate gelato. It was terrible. The recipe calls for cornstarch as a thickener, which I have never been able to find in Israel, and so I decided to use an egg yolk instead. It was not enough to form a custard, and I should have added more eggs, but I decided to process it anyway. The gelato didn’t solidify completely, and it had a very funny chalky aftertaste. I am going to try and make a pomegranate sorbet instead.

Meggyes Piskóta

Serving Size: 8 to 12

(Hungarian Cherry Coffee Cake) This cake is moist, chock-full of cherries, easy to make and is delicious. You can make this a day ahead.

Softened butter and dried bread crumbs, for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sliced natural almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

300g (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (preferably fresh, or use 380g (12 ounces) frozen cherries, unthawed, and bake for a few more minutes)

Confectioner's sugar, for garnish

Preheat to 375°F. Butter a 13- X 9-inch baking pan, coat with the bread crumbs, and tap out the excess.

Process the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until the almonds are very finely chopped, almost a powder; set aside.

Beat the butter on high speed in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Add the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract.

Using clean beaters and a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed just until they form stiff, shiny peaks. Fold half of the whites into the butter mixture, then half of the almond-flour mixture; repeat with the remaining whites and almond-flour mixture to make a thick batter.

Prebaked Cherry Coffee Cake

Spread evenly in the pan and arrange the cherries in rows in the batter.

Bake until golden brown and until the top springs back when lightly pressed in the center, approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Sift confectioner's sugar over the top. Serve warm or cool completely.


Almond-Plum Cake

Serving Size: 8

Adapted from a recipe from Food & Wine magazine

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups granulated sugar

250g (9 ounces) almond paste

85g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste

3 large plums (12 ounces)—halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 22cm (9-inch) spring-form pan. In a small bowl, mix the cake flour with the baking powder and salt.

Beat the sugar with the almond paste until crumbly. Add the butter and beat at high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Put the mixture into the prepared pan.

Prebaked Almond Plum Cake

Arrange the plums over the top of the batter. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until the cake is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove the outside ring of the pan. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes longer.


Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 liter (quart)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

2/3 cup dulce de leche

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk and the dulce de leche, stirring constantly, until the mixture is blended and steam begins to rise from the surface, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a heatproof mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Gradually add the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard thickens and a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Cool the custard to room temperature and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Spice up your Life!

I decided to try something new for a change. I have been wanting to play around with warka leaves for sometime now. Warka leaves are a very thin pastry, thinner than phyllo which are used to make Maghrebi savoury and sweet pastries, such as beestiya and cigars. For an good explanation of warka and Algerian cuisine, see my friend, Chef Zadi’s blog.

I also made some clove-cinnamon ice cream. I really love the flavour of cloves and thought it would be an excellent compliment to the peach briwatt. It was. As usual, I doubled the amount of cloves and used about 9 cinnamon sticks. My husband loved the strong clove flavour, but you might want to follow the recipe the first time unless you are a spice junkie like me.

Cinnamon-Clove Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 liter (quart)

2 cups whole milk

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup sugar

6 whole cinnamon sticks

16 whole cloves, slightly crushed

8 large egg yolks

Combine milk, cream, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon and cloves in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Cover; steep 1 hour. Then, strain the milk mixture and put back in a clean saucepan.

Whisk yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl until well blended. Bring milk mixture to simmer. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture; return to same pan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across (do not boil). Strain into another medium bowl; chill uncovered until cold, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Process chilled custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to container; cover and freeze. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)


My husband thought the the peach flavour was a bit too subtle for the ice cream, but I liked it. You can use any fruit of your choice, but if you use a harder fruit, such as apple, you might want to sautée them before placing them in the pastry.

Peach Birwatt

Serving Size: 2

2 warka leaves (also known as brik, brick, dioul and malsouqa)

1 peach, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ras al hanout or cinnamon

Sliced almonds

50 g butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Thaw out two warka leaves and cover them until ready to use. Place one warka leave on a flat surface and place the slices of one half of the peach onto the bottom half of the warka leaf. Sprinkle some sliced almonds, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of ras al hanout or cinnamon on the peaches. Dot with a pat of butter.

Brush water on the edges of the warka and fold the bottom edge over the peaches and then the sides. The, roll the parcel up until you have a burrito or blintz shape.

Melt the butter and the olive oil in a medium heat pan and fry the parcels until lightly brown on either side. Serve warm with ice cream.


"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

This was my Uncle Alfred’s slogan for his restaurant, The Annistonian. My 96-year-old beloved great-uncle died two weeks ago, two days after his birthday. Uncle Alfred was born in Berlin, Germany to a family of butchers. Instead of becoming a professional boxer (he was a junior champion semi-professional boxer in Berlin), he decided to follow in the family footsteps and became a Metzgermeister (master butcher) in 1928.

In June of 1938, Uncle Alfred volunteered to report to the local police station, where he and other men were taken to Sachsenhausen. His family was worried when he did not come back that evening after reporting to the police station and his mother went to the police station to find out what happened to him. She saw a school friend of Alfred’s, who worked at the police station and he promised to find out where he had been taken. Six weeks later, and thanks to his school friend, he was released from Sachsenhausen. When he returned home, his mother told him to leave the country right away. He listened to her and a few days later, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Europe (HICEM), he went to Belgium, stayed two weeks, and then made his way to Paris. He eventually went to Marseilles, and started looking for a country that would give him citizenship. He found out that Colombia was accepting immigrants and he obtained passage to Colombia in the fall of 1938.

He worked in gold mines in Colombia for one year and became very sick and almost died. He decided dying of malaria was not going to be his fate and he moved to Bogota, where he worked in various restaurants and then eventually opened a restaurant and butcher shop. After the war was over, he found out that his parents, two brothers and one sister died in Auschwitz. One sister came to Bogota and raised a family and another sister immigrated to the US.

He went to New York in 1951, met my great-aunt Helen at Grossinger’s and in 1953 came to my hometown where he opened a fine-dining restaurant called the Annistonian in 1958. From 1958 – 1976, people came from near and far for his hand-cut steaks, seafood, fish and his pièce de résistance… Wiener Schnitzel.

I wish I had taken the time to learn more about cooking from him. I really regret this now. One of his most amazing feats in the kitchen was that he could carve a turkey and put it back together and you wouldn’t realize it had been carved until you got up close to it. He also made very good strudel and Black Forest cherry cake. When I tried making both of these desserts, he gave me his good housekeeping seal of approval. I was honored.

When I decided to move to Israel, Uncle Alfred called me “his hero”, but he was my hero. He survived the Nazis, moved to a strange country where he had to learn how to work in the gold mines for survival, survived the loss of most of his family, triumphed in Bogota and made a family and a career in the US. To honor his memory, I made a meal.

Uncle Alfred, I will always treasure your great humor, your amazing charm, your delicious food and your great dancing.

The menu was as follows:



Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel

Bratkartoffeln (Home fries)


Wine: Wuerttemberg Edition Gourmet Kerner 2004


Fig Galette

We began the evening with my husband’s tapenade. He adds just the right amount of garlic to give it that kick. In addition to the usual ingredients he added a little fresh rosemary and oregano. It was delicious.

I have a confession to make, and please do not send me any cards or letters in protest, but my husband hand-cut and pounded a whole turkey breast instead of veal. The veal was 15EUR/20USD per kilo and is just over our budget right now. If you do happen to make this with turkey, do not marinate it in lemon juice.

Wiener Schnitzel

Serving Size: 4 to 6

2 pounds boneless leg of veal or turkey breast, cut into 1/4 inch slices, pounded thin

1 cup lemon juice (omit when using turkey)

1 teaspoon salt (leave out if you are using kosher meat)

1/4 freshly ground pepper

3 eggs

3 tablespoons water

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups canola or light olive oil

Lemon slices

Arrange veal in single layer in large baking dish. Pour lemon juice over the veal and let stand one hour, turning the veal twice. Drain the veal and pat dry, then sprinkle it with salt (don't use salt if you are using kosher meat) and pepper.

Beat eggs and water in a pie plate. Coat veal with flour, dip in egg mixture, coat with crumbs, patting them in gently, and shake off the excess. Put the slices between parchment paper on a plate and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in large heavy skillet until it begins to smoke. Fry one cutlet at a time in the oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Drain the meat on paper toweling and keep in a warm oven until all the cutlets are cooked. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley sprigs.


The trick to making good home fries is to use waxy, firm potatoes. Do not use baking potatoes. Peel them and parboil them either the day before or earlier in the day.


Serving Size: 6 to 8

2.5 kg (4-5 lb.) potatoes, waxy potatoes

250 ml (1 cup) yellow onion, thinly sliced

125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika

1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika

Salt and pepper

Parsley (optional)

Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.

Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.


Fresh from Oven

The fig galette was easy to prepare, but make sure that you place the tart on a rimmed cookie sheet, otherwise you will have a mess in your oven.

Fig Galette

Serving Size: 6

For the dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

100g (7 tablespoons) cold margarine or butter, cut into cubes

3 tablespoons very cold orange juice or water

For the filling:

566g (1 1/4 lb.) ripe figs, stemmed and quartered lengthwise

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg wash

1/4 cup sliced almonds

To make the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until reduced to pea-size pieces. Add the water a little at a time and pulse until the dough just begins to come together in a rough mass. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 200C/400F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough into a round slightly larger than 13 inches/33cm and about 1/8 inch/3mm thick. Lift and turn the dough several times as you roll to prevent sticking, and dust the surface and the rolling pin with additional flour as needed. Use a dough scraper or an icing spatula to loosen the pastry if it sticks. Trim off any ragged edges to make an even 13-inch/33cm round. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the filling, in a large bowl, gently toss together the figs, brown sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.


Uncover the dough and transfer to the baking sheet. The edges of the dough round will hang over the pan edges. Arrange the figs in a pile in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch/5cm border uncovered. Fold the dough up and over the filling, pleating loosely all around the circle and leaving the galette open in the center.

Ready to Bake

Brush the pleated dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the dough and press on them lightly to help them stick.

Bake until the crust is golden and the figs are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40 minutes. Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Your Great-Great Grandfather’s House is Still Standing!

These are the words of an email that I read in shock last April.

I received an email via JewishGen from a man from my paternal great-grandmother’s hometown, Giershagen, Hochsauerland, Nord Rhein-Westphalia, Germany. He asked if he could be of assistance and I wrote him back. We exchanged a few emails and after I explained who I was and which relative lived in Giershagen he proceeded to tell me that my great-great-grandfather’s house and the synagogue that he attended are still standing. I cried. I lived in Germany for two-half years, rather close to Giershagen and never went there. Okay, I was young and stupid.

Since my job takes me to Germany every 3-4 months, I decided on the next trip I would drive up to Giershagen. Fortunately, my husband was able to join me for the weekend.

David and I drove for almost 3 hours to the beautiful Hochsauerland village of Olsberg and stayed at a lovely hotel recommended by our host, Wolfgang.

Olsberg is 30km from Giershagen. While we were driving on dark winding roads at night, my husband remarked, “Leave it to your family to live in the middle of nowhere!”, but when he woke up the next morning and saw the beauty of the area, he said that he understood why our family lived here. It is green and hilly and really picturesque.

Wolfgang met us at our hotel for breakfast and then our journey began. First, at his lovely home, where he showed me letters, newspaper clippings and photographs of the area. Some of the letters were quite humorous. One of them was from a woman originally from Giershagen who heard from a distant relative that one of my great aunts had grown very fat! It reminded me of living in my hometown.

We then stopped in the village of Padberg to see the synagogue where my great-great grandfather, nicknamed Chicken Opa, prayed and had to walk 7km one way to get to. I found out that he would walk to synagogue and walk right back. Walking 7 km was “no big deal” back then. We walk 2 km to our synagogue.

The synagogue is the oldest half-timbered (fachwerk) synagogue in Westphalia, first mentioned in 1751, and is on the property of a local farmer. The Jews in Beringhausen, Giershagen, Helminghausen, Madfeld, Messinghausen and Roesenbeck were all members of the Padberg synagogue.

The synagogue is so tiny. Maybe 30 men could sit on the ground floor and 15 women on the top floor. It was quite emotional being in the synagogue, I could almost see people praying there…I felt their presence. The synagogue survived Kristalnacht in 1939 because the building was sold in 1932 when the congregation could no longer get a minyan together. The synagogue was made into a memorial and small museum in 1999. Some of the prayer books, a mezuzah and other artifacts are on display.

After looking at all of the pictures, architectural drawings and prayer books in the synagogue we headed to the cemetery in Beringhausen where some of my family are buried. The cemetery is located on a hill in the middle of the forest. It is a beautiful resting place.

The cemetery has 38 tombstones dating from 1862 to 1932. Some of the tombstones were turned over during the war, but the town of Marsberg put the stones in their proper place after the war.

Our first stop in Giershagen was to see the Jewish path. The 7 km path through forest and up and down hills to the Padberg synagogue. It wouldn’t have been fun to walk that in the rain or snow, but I want to go back and do the walk. It must be a beautiful walk in good weather. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any photos of this. There is even a marker at the beginning of the path that says Judenpfad or Jewish Path.

We went to visit a neighbor of Chicken Opa who was about 6 or 7 when my great-great grandfather left in 1937. Chicken Opa baby-sat him from time to time while his parents tended their fields. He had nothing but fond memories of going to his house. He told us that Chicken Opa had the largest apple tree in the village and that he could play and make as much noise as he wanted, except when Opa was praying. He also told us that when the house was sold to someone else, he went over and got a sausage hanging rack that Opa used to hang the beef sausages he made.

He then asked to be excused for a minute and he came back to the room with this:

He explained that Chicken Opa bought a Leica camera before he left Germany and he gave him the box with some money before my great-great grandfather, one daughter and my grandparents left for Alabama in December 1937. I was quite moved that he still had this box. It was all I could do to keep from crying. I was speechless. He was also teary when he told us how sad he and his family was when Chicken Opa left. He then gave me a glass with the crest of Giershagen on it and we said good-bye. It was really a lovely meeting and I hope to spend more time with him the next time I go back.

Then, we left his house and stood in the street and saw the one thing that brought me here in the first place, the house:

The house has been completely renovated and looks nothing like the original one in the picture below, but I know that the heart of the home is still there and Chicken Opa is smiling somewhere knowing that I went back to see where his life began.

Solomon Freibaum, a.k.a Chicken Opa, left his home and all his possessions at the age of 81 to go to a country where he didn’t speak the language, that didn’t have kosher food for him and didn’t pray like he did. But he lived to the ripe old age of 88. My grandfather told me a lovely story about him. Chicken Opa was Orthodox and he always wore a kippah and a hat when he went to synagogue in Germany. The first time he went to the ultra-reform (at the time) synagogue in my hometown he wore his kippah and hat. He noticed that no one was wearing a kippah let alone a hat and he removed them. My grandfather said, “Opa, it is ok; you can keep your hat on.”, to which he replied, “Child, I pray with my heart, not with my hat.”

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