Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Israeli omelet

I am not sure if this is an "authentic" recipe for an Israeli omelet or even if it is a recipe at all.  It is more a series of choices and  is just how we make what we call Israeli omelets.  My son asserts that it is nothing like the omelets that he ate in Israel, but no matter.   It is related to a variety of Middle Eastern omelets and pancakes, but I think that this is by far the simplest and the best.  It leaves out the flour and other vegetables that sometimes find their way in, and is better as a result.  It is similar to an Italian frittata or Spanish tortilla, but thinner, crisper, and altogether more fun and makes a super-quick light dinner.  It is great served with pita bread, chopped Israeli salad,   and either a tahini or yogurt sauce-- recipes for both follow.  I have given directions to serve two, but you can easily halve or double it as needed. 

Israeli omelet

Scramble some eggs, or a combination of eggs and whites.  Mix in a handful of washed chopped flat-leaf parsley and a few chopped scallions, the whites and some of the greens. Season with salt and pepper.  Spray a non-stick skillet with some olive oil spray and heat on high.  Add a little olive oil if you want.  (The more oil you use, the crisper but more fattening the omelet.)  Make either many small pancakes (use a 6 inch skillet for this), with a scant ladleful of egg mixture for each, or one large one in a 10-12 inch skillet.  Cook about 3-5 minutes until the bottom is set and the edges a bit crisp.  Flip the small omelets, or put the large one under the broiler until the top is set and a bit brown.  Serve either whole or cut into wedges, hot, warm, or room temperature, with warm pita, chopped salad, and yogurt or tahini sauce. 

What about quantities?:  They are really very approximate, but for two people, two eggs and two whites, or three eggs will do it.  About 1/2 cup chopped parsley and 3 scallions.

Yogurt sauce:  Basically, any plain yogurt that you like will do it here.  If you want it a little more interesting, smash a clove of garlic with the side of a broad knife and peel.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and puree the garlic by working it with the side of the knife and the edge as well.  Put it in a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup to 1 cup of yogurt.  Add more salt if needed, and if you feel like it, some ground dried spearmint and either Aleppo or cayenne pepper (a 1/2 teaspoon of the former, a small pinch of the latter).

Tahini sauce:  Puree the garlic as above.  Put in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon tahini and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  Stir and drizzle in a little water.  The ingredients will seize up.  Slowly drizzle in between 1/2 cup and a cup of water, stirring all the while with a fork..  The tahini will thin out to a smooth sauce.  Stop adding water when it is the texture you want, which should be somewhere between a bechamel and heavy cream

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Persian green beans, and dried limes

This recipe is a modified version of an Iranian pilaf filling that appeared in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian which is one of those rare cookbooks where every recipe seems to be good.  I have modified the method and the seasonings, but retain the use of dried limes as a key ingredient.  Dried limes have an interesting flavor, something that I would describe as low citrus with the aroma of a musty cathedral. This analogy is meant to be complimentary and it is not original though I can't trace its sources. They bring a powerful funky citrus aroma without sourness.  While limes generally have a way of brightening a food, dried limes darken it and add considerable depth of flavor.

They are most widely used in Persian cooking and are available in Middle Eastern and Indian markets.  Generally, you can only buy the whole ones, which you can use in one of two ways: you can puncture the limes in a few places and add to liquidy soups or stews, or you can crack them, pick out the seeds and add the debris to a sauce.  If you are really lucky however, you can buy them already ground.  This is available under the Sadaf label, a kosher company from California that distributes a wide range of Middle Eastern spices. They call them ground lemons, but don't believe it, they are limes.
They go beautifully in tomato sauces, so try them in:

Persian Green Beans

  • 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into quarters and sliced (you can substitute the equivalent amount of shallots, about 1/2 cup sliced)
  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or more to taste (you can substitute a teaspoon of paprika and a large pinch of cayenne)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried lime
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup boiling water or a little more

  1. Heat the oil on medium high in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onions and saute, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green beans and salt and saute, stirring or shaking occasionally  until the beans are glossy.
  3. Ad the spices and saute for another minute until they lose some of their raw aroma.
  4. Push the beans aside and the tomato paste.  Heat a bit, and then add the water to the paste, stirring until you have a sauce.  Mix together well until incorporated into the green beans.  The amount of water will depend largely on the shape of your skillet, but the sauce should almost but not quite cover the beans.
  5. Cook 10-15 minutes on high, stirring from time to time,  until most of the liquid is evaporated, the sauce is thick, and the green beans are done.  I like the beans in this dish on the tender side.  If you want them crisper, use less water and be careful not to scorch the beans and sauce.  If you want them them really soft, add more water and cook for as long as a half hour.  Taste for salt.
  6. Serves 8 generously as a side dish.  Best with rice or bulgur, and also good cold with yogurt. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Roasted cauliflower and tomato soup

This soup is easy (by my standards), low-carb, low-fat, vegan, and pareve.  You can gussy it up if you want -- some suggestions are below -- but it is fine just as it is.

Roasted cauliflower and tomato soup

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground chitpotle chile, thyme,  smoked Spanish paprika, and cumin
  • handful washed chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 quart boiling vegetable stock (I actually used 4 teaspoons of Osem powder in boiling water)

  1. Roast the cauliflower according to my recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Eggs.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onion in the canola oil in a medium (3-4 quart) pot on high heat until it is soft and starting to brown on the edges.  
  3. Add the spices and give a few stirs.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook down on high heat until it looks like a sauce, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Add half the cilantro and stir a bit
  6. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  7. When the cauliflower is done, set aside a few of the smaller florets for a garnish, and add the remainder to the soup, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  8. Puree the soup using a hand-held immersion blender. (You could use a conventional blender, but then you have to let it cool down and the recipe would not longer be fast and easy.)
  9. Reheat the soup, stir in the remaining coriander, and serve with a few roasted florets in each bowl.
  10. Serves 6 as a first course.
Other accompaniments:  Although this soup is fine as it is, we had it with a little goat's milk yogurt stirred in.  I am not being precious, it is widely available now.  The sweetness of the goat yogurt counteracted the acidity of the tomatoes very nicely.  You could also serve the soup with a variety of traditional Mexican garnishes:  diced chili, white onion, tortilla strips, cheese, avocado, lime and more cilantro.  This could turn the soup into a main dish for up to four people, especially at lunch.  For more on these garnishes, and on preparing the tortilla strips, see my recipe for Mexican vegetable soup. If you were going to use a lot of garnishes, I would eliminate the roasted cauliflower garnish and just puree it all with the soup.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chicken meatloaf with Thai curry and cabbage

Those who occasionally read this blog or dine at our table know that this is not the way I usually cook.  It is inspired by my cousin Ronnie (who may even go by "Ron" now though it doesn't sound right) who has had the most successful sustained weight loss of almost anyone I know.  The last time I saw him he told me about this chicken meatloaf that he made with Thai curry, thai basil, and cabbage, but said that from one time to the next he couldn't remember how he made it, so he asked me to work out a recipe and blog about it.  So, here it is:

Chicken Meatloaf with Thai curry and cabbage

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 pound green cabbage, shredded fine (about a quart)
  • salt
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (optional -- I had them in the fridge)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste  (I use Thai Kitchen, which is vegan and has a nice lemongrass/lime aroma;  other brands may have shrimp paste); 1 tablespoon will give just the hint of a curry flavor, 2 will be much stronger
  • 1 3/4 pounds (i.e. 28 ounces) ground white meat chicken
  • 5 - 10 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a broad knife and crushed to a puree with a little salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten.
  • 1 teaspoon Bragg's aminos or soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (Ronnie used Thai basil since he lives in Florida and says that it grows like a weed in his yard.  There have to be some advantages in living in Florida.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

  • Saute the onion in the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet until golden.  Add cabbage, salt lightly, and saute on high, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is brown.  (The browner the better, but you can stop when you want.)  It will lose lots of volume.  Toward the end, add the shredded carrots.  Depending on your patience, the process will take between 10 and 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the vegetables.
  • Turn the heat down to low and add the tablespoon of curry paste.  Stir to incorporate it well and  cook for a few minutes until it no longer smells raw.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.  Add the sauteed vegetables and incorporate well into the mixture.  
  • Turn into a loaf pan that will hold all the contents, sprayed with oil spray so that it will not stick.
  • Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 
  • Serves 6-8.  This is great served with Sriracha sauce, or a combo of Sriracha and ketchup.
Burning questions:

What's with the ground chicken?  Basically, it's the calories.  Usually I have limited tolerance for ground up bird, and find it dry and uninteresting.  However, this dish is only 5 WeighWatchers PointsPlus (even with the canola oil to saute the veggies) which is almost nothing, and is low in calories and high in protein.  The chicken has a pleasant and delicate flavor.  By itself, it can be as dry as sawdust, but with the sauteed vegetables and eggs, it is very moist.

Do I need to saute the vegetables?  Not really, but it will be much tastier if you do.  The onions and the cabbage caramelize and add a lot of flavor to the loaf.  Also, the canola oil adds relatively few calories to the final dish, and is a very healthy oil.  The chicken is so lean that a bit of fat helps to make it juicy.  It is a common misconception that the sensation of juiciness is a result of the amount of water in the food.  Rather, it is a result of salivation, which moistens the mouth when you eat, and which is a reaction to fat, and to a lesser extent salt in the food.  (See Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I still haven't decided whether teiglach ("ei" is pronounced as a long "a") are a treat or an act of aggression.  Perhaps a bit of both.  I love the stuff and we served different versions both nights of Rosh HaShanah. But I think you have to grow up on it.  Everyone over 50 at our table devoured it, but with the exception of my 11-year old niece, Jamie, everyone under 50 politely ignored it.  Our fault for not making sure our kids were exposed to the finest parts of their heritage at a younger age.

Just after the dough hits the syrup
The name means little pieces of dough (teig is Yiddish and German for dough), which instead of being baked, are boiled in a ginger-spiced honey and sugar syrup. Although the cooking method may seem odd, it is actually very logical where reliable home ovens are scarce, as they certainly were in Eastern Europe before the great Jewish migration.  

After cooking, the teiglach are left to thicken or harden with nuts and dried or candied fruit.  There are lots of variations, but the most popular seems to be a hardened pyramid of dough balls in candied syrup that you can chip away at while you sip tea.  It may also be made in individual pieces, sometimes stuffed with nuts and rolled in coconut or other nuts, or in a thick but still liquid syrup and served in a bowl.  The fruits and nuts are up to you. I think that the texture of chopped walnuts is the best.  Some dried cranberries or cherries mixed in are nice too.  Apricots, so so.  Raisins, traditional but probably no, no.  Best of all in my opinion are the carcinogenic glazed cherries that occasionally top butter cookies and seem to have entered kosher bakeries through the very fruitful Italian-Jewish symbiosis in New York City.  (At least it was very fruitful for the Jews .  We got those cherries and rainbow cookies -- what would a shiva be without them?  I can't quite figure out what the Italians got out of the deal.)

Below is how I made them, based on a recipe from The Complete American Jewish Cookbook,
about 5 minutes from being done
published in 1952, as adapted by Frances Horowitz, who has been making teiglach during Elul for decades and shipping them as far as New Zealand!  I thank Frances for her sharing her long experience in teiglach-making during this process.

Because the dough is boiled rather than baked the preparation is out-of-the-ordinary and lots of fun since you get to see what is going on.  The dough puffs up as it boils and gets crisp, contrary to what you might expect when you boil it in syrup.  You can involve other people in rolling and dropping the dough nuggets in.    Whether you make this alone or in a group, it is not the time for multitasking.  Give it your full attention. 

My recipe has two variations:  one where the syrup hardens and the teiglach stick together in a mound, the other where they are served in a thick syrup.  Most people in my family (except my father) prefer the first.  The Horowitz clan go with the second.
the finished product



  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ginger (see note below on spicing)

  • 2 cups flour, sifted with 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Optional but highly desirable mix-ins  (see below)
  • Chopped nuts -- walnuts, pecans, pistachios or blanched slivered almonds
  • Fruit -- raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, candied cherries, chopped apricots
  • Our favorite combinations were pistachios with dried cherries and chopped walnuts with dried cranberries, both with some candied cherries mixed and and on top for garnish.

  • Consider making this on a dry day.  I have found that if it is very humid, the teiglach won't solidify as well.  
  • Wear shoes (or sneakers) with socks.  This is not a time for cooking barefoot or in sandals.  The syrup gets very hot and you don't want to dribble any on your feet.  
  • Combine honey, sugar and ginger in a large pot and bring slowly to the boil.  The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will become a syrup.
  • Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients with the eggs and oil to make a very soft dough.  
  • Turn up the heat under the syrup to a full boil.
  • You can either roll and pinch the dough roll it out and cut it.  To pinch, pinch the dough and roll into 1/4 to 1/2 inch balls and set aside on a lightly floured surface.  When you accumulate 5-10 balls, drop them gently into the boiling syrup.  Be careful not to splash the syrup which is extremely hot.  Continue until you use up all the dough.  To roll, roll out a portion of the dough about 14-1/2 inch thick.  Cut it into strips 1/2 in ch wide, and then into 1/2 inch diamonds.  Scoop up a bunch and drop into the pot.  I used to prefer pinching, and now I prefer rolling, which I think is easier and produces better results.
  • Cook the teiglach in the syrup , uncovered, on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Every few minutes stir them so that the ones on the top are rotated to the bottom and submerged in the hot syrup.  The syrup will darken but regulate the heat so that it does not burn.
  • To test for doneness, remove one ball from the syrup to a cutting board.  Be careful because it will be very hot, especially the syrup.  Cut into it with a knife.  It should be crisp and dry.  
  • When the teiglach are done, proceed as follows, depending on whether you want them in a candied mound or in a thick syrup:
  • For the mound:  Pour 2 tablespoons of boiling water into the pot and stir.  Immediately add whatever nuts and fruits you are using. Scoop it out of the pot onto a lightly oiled, heatproof plate and shape into a mound.  Pour the remaining syrup over the mound, covering all parts.  Garnish with some of the candied cherries if you are using them (and you should). The syrup will stiffen and harden as it cools. When cool, stick with toothpicks and cover with foil or plastic wrap.
  • To serve in syrup:  Add 1/2 cup boiling water to the pot, and pour it into a bowl.  Add the fruits and nuts to the bowl as desired.  This is particularly nice served in crystal.
  • In either case, if your family likes this sort of thing, be prepared to fight them off.
  • This recipe serves between one and an infinite number of people.

Spicing:  Frances uses less ginger, but I found the 2 teaspoons in the syrup just about right.  Adjust to your own taste.  It would be fun to try some different spice combinations, and I may do so next year in addition to the traditional ginger.  I think that ground cardamom (about 1 teaspoon) and black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon) would be a hit with fans of those spices.

Fruits and nuts:  The consensus at our table was that chopped walnuts were the best complement to the flavor and texture of the teiglach.  It went very nicely with dried cranberries, and raisins would go well also, though we are not such big raisin fans.  Pistachios and dried cherries were a very close runner up, and are far less traditional.  A few of the candied cherries are an essential addition.  Another good combination would be slivered almonds and chopped dried apricots.  Feel free to experiment here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rosh Hashanah, Filipino-Style: Mongo Guisado (Mung Bean Stew)

"You always make things because you think I should like them, not because it is something that I like."

Maya is right of course.  That is what I do.  But, when you are making a Filipino Rosh Hashanah dinner based on Mechado for a large group of beef-stew lovers,  there has to be something for the family vegetarian to eat and mongo seemed like a good choice.  This is a stick-to-your ribs stew of mung beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, lime, greens and traditionally, leftover lechon kawali, or deep-fried pork belly.  When properly made (as it was at the late, lamented Cendrillon and presumably still is at Purple Yam),  the lechon is so crisp and flaky that you don't quite know when your mouth begins to make contact with the crust.  However, I have moved beyond lechon and in any case this did not seem like an appropriate ingredient for a Jewish New Year's meal, let alone for the dish intended to please the vegetarian at the table.  So I worked out this version based on a recipe in Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan's (the owners of Purple Yam)  Memories of Philippine Kitchens .   A few departures from their recipe:  I find that  broth made from whole mung beans can have an unpleasant flavor, so in addition to soaking them, I drain them after boiling.  I also only boil them for about 15 minutes, since this preserves their texture.  At Romy and Amy's suggestion, I leave out the lechon and use coconut milk for richness.  I used light coconut milk, which was perfectly acceptable.  Regular would have been far better, but also far more fattening.  Also, for flavor and texture, I added vegetarian chorizo. If I weren't making it with a vegetarian in mind, I would have used a dry turkey kubano sausage, or looked for a kosher chorizo.  (Those who eat treyf can make it with regular Mexican or Spanish chorizo which will certainly be easier to find than Philippino lechon.)

So, did she like it?  "Ugh.  It reminds me of something they used to serve me in Uganda.  I'll pass."

Mongo Guisado  -- Mung Bean Stew

  • 1 cup whole green mung beans (with the skin)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 vegetarian chorizos , cut into half inch slices (ok to substitute a meat sausage if you don't need a vegetarian or pareve dish)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 7 ounces coconut milk (light ok, use more if you want)
  • 1 teaspoon or more of Bragg's aminos or soy sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 10 ounces to 1 pound fresh spinach, washed well, coarse stems removed, shredded if desired

  1. Wash mung beans and soak 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, rinse and drain again, and put in a medium pot with about 5-6 cups water.
  3. Bring to the boil, turn heat down to simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes until barely tender.  A few of the beans may be bursting.  Drain and discard the liquid and reserve the beans.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot. (You will need a large utensil to accommodate the spinach later), and saute the sausage until crisp on both sides. Remove the sausage, drain on paper towels and reserve.
  5. Add onion to the fat in the skillet, sprinkle lightly with salt, and saute until soft but not brown.  Add garlic and saute a few minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes and their juice and cook on high about 15 minutes until much of the liquid evaporates and thickens into a sauce. Add lime juice and cook a few minutes more.
  7. Add the coconut milk and cook on medium until it is absorbed and the sauce is thick. 
  8. Mix the reserved mung beans into the sauce, taste and season with Bragg's or salt. Simmer about 10 minutes so that the flavors can meld.  The stew can be set ahead at this point.
  9. When ready to serve, bring to the boil and add spinach.  You may need to do this in several batches to allow it to wilt into the stew.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes until done.
  10. Serve garnished with the crisp sausage slices and with additional lime wedges.
  11. With rice and a salad, this is a main dish for four.  It is also a side for 8, and may be doubled.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jambalaya, farkashert

Kosher jambalaya?   Not impossible, but since pork is pervasive in Cajun food, and in just about all cooking from the  American South, you have to be a little flexible.  I worked out this variation with chicken and some kosher sausages that I like (OK, I am addicted to them). Over the next couple of months I also hope to post some other farkasherte Southern dishes like a pulled barbeque made with chicken thighs.  

This method combines Cajun seasoning with Spanish technique, so that the rice is not mushy and you are left with soccarat, the wonderful crust that you sometimes get at the bottom of a pan of cooked paella.  Most recipes for jambalaya that I have seen use long grain rice and cook it covered in liquid for 45 minutes.  This adapts a paella-method, which cooks the rice stove-top or unconvererd in the oven (or on an open fire), or, as I do here, a bit of both.  I thought the results were quite good.  I hope that you do too, and don't miss the pork. 


  • 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces spicy sausage, cut into half inch pieces (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons spice mix
  • 1 chicken cut into 8-12 pieces or 8-12 thighs
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and some green, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 stalks of celery, trimmed, strined and chopped
  • 4 green frying peppers or 2 large green bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chili, chopped (optional)
  • 8 - 12 cloves sliced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 1/2 cups medium grain Spanish rice (I use Montisia, from near Tarragona, since it is the cheapest of the Spanish rices at the local market)
  • 15 ounce can chopped our diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire roasted with green chili here)
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (I used Manishewitz out of a box, you could use homemade)
  • salt to taste
  1. You will need a dish that you can cook on the stove and that will withstand very high oven temperatures. It shouldn't be too deep, since evaporation is key to this method of cooking rice.  A classic paella pan works well, but is difficult to negotiate on the stove.  I used a large, oval enameled cast iron casserole, about 2 inches deep. The pan should be large and deep enough so that it won't boil over, which may set off your  A large  5-6 quart flameproof casserole would probably work as well, but you run a greater risk of mushy rice.
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Remove the racks or adjust them so that they are on the highest shelves, since the pan will rest on the bottom of the oven. (If you have an electric over, put one rack on the lowest shelf.
  3. Put a little oil in the cooking dish, and brown the sausage pieces well on all sideson medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Watch the fat so that it doesn't smoke, and adjust the flame accordingly. Remove to a bowl when done.
  4. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken pieces in the spice mix. If you are calorie counting, take off the skin first, but after making this both ways we agreed that the skin adds more than just grease and it is worth accounting for the extra calories.  (See below)
  5. Add as many pieces of chicken as will fit comfortably to the pan, and brown well on all sides. Remove pieces to dish as they brown, and add the remaining pieces.
  6. Add all of the vegetables except the chili and garlic to the fat in the pan, and cook on high heat until they begin to caramelize.   
  7. Add the chili and garlic and cook for a minute or two.  Add the bay leaf, thyme, and paprika and mix well.
  8. Add the rice and mix in until it is well coated with the fat, and then saute another minute or two.
  9. Add the tomatoes and cook on high for a few minutes until most of it is absorbed.
  10. Add the broth, along with the accumulated chicken juices (euphemism for fat). Stir the sausage into the rice, arrange the chicken pieces on top, bring to a boil, and cook uncovered over high heat for 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer the pan to the bottom of the oven, and cook for 25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.  If you would like, you can move it to a higher shelf at the end broil for a few minutes to crisp the chicken skin.
  12. Cover the pan very loosely with foil, and leave in the oven at least 5 minutes.
  13. Serves eight.

Sausage:  This and the tasso ham are the challenges, since there are no real kosher equivalents.  I just leave out the tasso.  One could try pastrami, but the flavors of coriander and mustard seed would be outof place.  I use Lower East Side  brand Spicy Beef and Red Pepper Sausage, made of course in Newark.  It is like a spicy frank, but with coarser meat, and I find it quite tasty.  You could substitute any of the spicy kosher sausages, precooked or otherwise, though I would avoid ones with North African flavors.  Neshama makes a kosher andouille which would probably be very nice, though I am hooked on the LES spicy beef. A semi-dry turkey cubano would also work.

To skin or not to skin? This is really acceptable if you skin the chicken, particularly if you use thighs which are more difficult to overcook.  However, leaving the skin on adds a lot.  Many flavors are fat-soluble, and the extra dose of chicken fat carries the spice very nicely.  The skin, especially if crisped at the end is delectable.  And, finally, much of what we mistake for moisture in food is actually salivation, our own physiological reaction to fat.  Every week I have eaten this dish, I have lost weight, even making it with the skin on.  Your call. 
Spice mix:  Using a clean coffee grinder reserved for spices, grind fine 3 dried red chili peppers, 1 tablespoon dried thyme,  2 teaspoons each black peppercorns, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and smoked Spanish paprika.  You will use 2-3 tablespoons for this recipe, and save the rest for other uses.  You could also use a prepared cajun spice mix.

Timing, pans ovens and racks:  The precise timing and method that I have given has worked for a very large skillet a bit deeper than a paella pan, and  rectangular enameled cast iron dish.  It is impossible to be precise here.  Sometimes you just have to go with your good sense and wing it.  The pan should uncovered and be relatively wide relative to its depth. If you like your rice crusty, the bottom of a gas oven works best.  If you don't, or have an electric oven, put it down close near the heat source.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kecap terong: Indonesian eggplant with sweet soy sauce

This dish is inspired by Maya, who will probably not eat it.   When she tastes it, she will probably say "it is too sweet, and I am kind of off eggplant."  But we are having it because of what I call the Maya principle, which is that you get to make and eat what you want when you are at home.  When you are in a restaurant, you eat their cuisine. (I am talking about the ethnic restaurants that we usually go to, and not what Maya used to call "exotic" places like IHOP.) You eat Turkish food in a Turkish restaurant, Mexican food in a Mexican restaurant, and Galitzianer food in a Galitzianer restaurant.  My inclination at home is to try and prepare an ethnically and regionally consistent meal (themed to the headlines if possible) but over time, Maya has worn me down and convinced me that I don't have to do that.  We had a bumper crop of eggplants from our CSA so tonight for Shabbat dinner with our farkashert Jambalaya (recipe to follow soon, I promise) we are having Indonesian eggplant with sweet soy sauce.  We were going to have it South Indian style (I thought that the spicy peanut sauce would bring a certain harmony to the Southern main dish) but that seems to contravene the Maya principle a bit.  Besides, the Indonesian variety has a much smaller calorie/Points impact (btw I am back on Weight Watchers, another reason I have been posting less) so it seemed like a better choice.  Like the Southern Indian version, it is adapted from Julie Sanhi's Moghul Microwave. Eggplants do very nicely in microwaves.

Kecap terong:  Indonesian eggplant in sweet soy sauce

  • 1 to 1.5 pounds eggplants, ideally the long thin Asian ones, if not a regular one will do
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 3 tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce -- you may substitute 5 teaspoons soy sauce and 4 teaspoons sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or Bragg's aminos
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 fresh red chili peppers

  1. If using Asian eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.  If using a regular large eggplant, cut into quarters the long way and then into slices.
  2. Quarter the onions and slice.
  3. Mix together the spices in one dish, and the soy sauces and lime juice in an other.
  4. Heat oil for 2 minutes in a 2-3 quart microwave-safe casserole.
  5. Remove casserole from the microwave, toss the eggplants and onions with the oil.  Sprinkle with the spices and toss again.  
  6. Cover with a piece of paper towel and zap for 4-5 minutes.  Time is difficult to determine since it is a function of the power of the microwave, the shape of the dish, and the density of the eggplants.  It is also a function of the preference of the diners.  My wife likes her eggplants very tender, so I tend to cook for the longer time period.
  7. Removed from the oven, and pour over the liquids.  Add the chilies now, sliced, if you are using them. Cover with the casserole lid.
  8. Return to the oven, zap for another 4-5 minutes. 
  9. Leave at least 5 minutes fore serving.  This reheats well, and is ideally served with white rice, but we will be having it with Jambalaya.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vietnamese red cabbage salad

Other than the recipe for spiced pecans that I posted earlier , I have been very negligent about keeping up my blog this summer. We have had a busy June and July sort of running a graduate dormitory, so I am trying to get back into the swing of things. A lot came together for us Memorial day weekend.  First, we went to San Francisco for our cousin Mina's bat mitzvah.  I won't go into all the liturgical and other details of the trip, but the dinner was amazing.  I am not sure if the Slanted Door, one of the leading high-end Vietnamese restaurants in the city, usually does catering, but they did on this occasion since the bat mitzvah has been friends with the daughter of the owners since they were in nursery school.   Since the reception was at the JCC, it was farkashert, or at least there was no high treyf, which suited me just fine.  There were cold salad rolls, dumplings stuffed with mung bean puree, vegetarian radish cake, tofu and mushroom curry, mackerel with caramel, sauteed bok choy, and red cabbage slaw with grapefruit and spiced pecans.  The slaw tasted like it had a soy-based dressing, rather than one based on fish sauce, so it was strictly vegetarian.  Fish sauce represents particular kashrut problems and is virtually impossible to get prepared under supervision.

Harry and Seth
We came home from San Francisco on Memorial Day, and Harry returned from nine months in Israel the following morning at 5:30.  We went to pick him up at JFK, and one of his friends, Seth Engelbourg (see picture) who had been with Harry on Kibbutz Keturah and shared an apartment with him in Jerusalem, stayed with us that night.  They hung around in the city that day, came home for dinner, and then went out to see the Spiderman show which they said was so bad that it was actually funny.  For dinner, we had Semur Daging, sauteed bok choy, and rice.  I was also going to make a gado gado to go with it but it turned out that Seth is allergic to peanuts.  So I tried to improvise the Vietnamese cabbage slaw from the bat mitzvah.  Instead of a fish sauce based dressing, I devised a vegetarian nuoc cham  based on Bragg's aminos which tasted very similar to what the Slanted Door had made.  The dinner was in general a success (and they consumed an incredible amount of food) but the salad played to somewhat mixed reviews, at least for the returnees. Seth said "The salad is pretty good,  but the dressing is too focused on the chili; there is nothing else going on there. Maybe it also could have used some crunchy noodle for contrast, or maybe some crisp fruit."  Everyone is a Top Chef judge nowadays.  Anyway, I worked on it a bit, tweaked the dressing and the salad, and added grapefruit and spiced pecans which it was made with originally and which I had not used on the first occasion I made it.  You could also add toasted ramen.  I think the improved version struck the right notes and  I hope that Seth would like it.

Vietnamese red cabbage salad, in the style of the Slanted Door:

I still need to get the hang of food photography -- excuse the sponge, peeler, and Osem's package.

  • Small red cabbage (1-1.5 pounds)
  • 1/4 small white cabbage (optional)
  • 1 grapefruit , 1 mango (ideally slightly underripe) or 2 oranges
  • 4 scallions, all of the white and some green, chopped
  • Cilantro, about 1 cup chopped
  • 1/2 cup candied pecans (optional, see my recipe for spiced candied pecans use about 1/6 to 1/4-- you can substitute toatsed ramen if you want)
  • Vegetarian nuoc cham  ( use most of my recipe for vegetarian nuoc cham )

  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages, shred the cabbages very fine and put in a large bowl.  Ideally, use a mandoline on its finest setting. (Belinda and Alex, parents of one of our summer residents, got me one as a present, so it is my new toy.) 
  2. Prepare the grapefruit or oranges.  Slice off the top and bottom with a very sharp knife so that it sits flat on the cutting board.  Slice off the peel and pit to expose the flesh.  When you are done, you should be left with the fruit with little or none of the white pith.  Take the fruit in your hand, and use a very sharp knife to remove the fruit segments, leaving the membranes behind.  Remove the seeds and put them in a bowl.  Be real careful doing this.  When you are done, take the grapefruit carcass and squeeze the juice onto the cabbage.  If you use a mango, just peel it and shred the flesh.
  3. Toss the cabbage with the nuoc cham, about 1 cup, and set aside until read to serve.  IF the cabbage was very fine they will be soft.  Otherwise, the are better if they sit a bit in the dressing.
  4. Top with the cilantro and scallions.   Scatter the pecans and fruit on top. 
  5. Serve as is, or topped with grilled chicken or tofu.

Spiced candied pecans

I know this is my first recipe in a while.  Excuses will follow, but I feel particularly bad for my niece who spend most of her summer in the Ukraine (in a place she insists on calling L'viv) and Poland.  (Does she write Warsvawa in her blog, or whatever they call it?  I don't think so.)

This recipe is based very closely on Julie Sanhi's cookbook Moghul Microwave, which adapts Indian recipes for microwave use.  I have been using it intensively for years, and have actually reverse engineered many of her recipes, (such as her mattar paneer) which are quite good, for the stove top since I find that many are both easier and come out better using conventional methods.  I have continued to make a few in the microwave.  I find that it does really well with fish dishes and eggplant (less stirring means less breaking up), and makes okra far better than other methods -- crisp and with no slime.  I tried making these candied pecans on the stovetop and it was a disaster, so it was back to the microwave.  I vary the spice mixture considerably from what she uses, and you can vary it further still.

Spiced candied pecans

  • 8 ounces shelled pecan halves, roasted (toast for about 5 minutes in a 250 degree oven if not yet toasted)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pareve margarine (substitute butter if you don't care whether or not these are pareve)
  • spice mixture (see below), about 2-4 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Stir together the sugar, water and margerine in a microwave-save casserole, cover with paper towel, and zap on high for 4 minutes (until it is a syrup.)
  2. Immediately add the spice mixture and the baking soda and stir well to combine.
  3. Stir in the pecans and coat well with the mixture, and immediately pour out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Separate the nuts as much as you can.
  4. Let cool and break apart any clumps.  Stored in a covered container, it keeps for a few weeks at room temperature and ages in the freezer.
  5. These make a great snack with drinks, and are really nice in a number of salads -- a Vietnamese red cabbage slaw recipe  to follow soon.
  6. Makes about three cups.

Spice mixture:  I generally take 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole cuminseed, 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed,  1/2 teaspoon ajwain, and 1-4 dried red chilies and whirl them in a coffee grinder reserved for spices until they are ground.  I use the entire amount in the recipe.  Decrease the peppercorns and omit the chilies if you don't want it spicy. You can use the equivalent amount of ground spices, but you will find it hard to find ground ajwain, which adds a nice funky thyme-like aroma.  You could try using garam masala, a Northern Indian spice mix used to finish off dishes, or ras al hanout, a Moroccan equivalent.  For pastrami pecans, you can try equal amounts of peppercorns, coriander seed, and mustard seed, though dry roast these in a skillet first. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vegetarian nuoc cham (Vietnamese fish sauce dressing)

Vegetarian Vietnamese Dressing

This is a vegetarian adaptation of nuoc cham, the Vietnamese sweet fish sauce dressing, which seems to be used with just about every Vietnamese dish, at least those which we get in the states.

Fish sauce is a liquid drained from fish that are salted and left in a jug in the sun to ferment. I have heard that kosher fish sauce is available, but I have checked lots of places in the capital of the Jewish diaspora (the Upper West Side) and haven't found it yet.  So, I am dubious that such a thing exists, though I will have to try Jersey and Brooklyn.  Although fish sauce is said to be made from anchovies, which have fins and scales and are therefore are kosher, without supervision who cares about this,  it is possible that any given sauce contains treyfe fish. (The use of fish flavorings along with meat is of no concern to me.  For more on this, see my posting on lamb shank ragu and the umami problem.)  It also presents a problem for vegetarians, including my daughter.

As as substitute for fish sauce, I use Bragg's aminos, which tastes like a wonderful aged soy sauce with lots of umami undertones.  I also sometimes wonder what Google is up to.  I push this product so much you would think that they would take out an ad on one of my pages.  You could also use an expensive aged soy sauce.   I find that Bragg's makes the best substitute, not quite the same, but not bad at all:


  • 1/2 cup Bragg's aminos (substitute fish sauce or a wonderful aged soy sauce if you wish)
  • 3 cloves smashed garlic
  • juice of two limes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • on chopped green or red chili (bird or serrano) -- optional, remove ribs and seeds if you don't want it so hot
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  1. Smash the garlic with the side of a broad sharp knife or cleaver.  Sprinkle with 1 spoon of sugar and set aside for a minute.
  2. Chop, smash, and crush the garlic and sugar until you have a puree. Put it in a jar or small pitcher.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. The quantities are approximate and can be adjusted to your taste.
This dressing may be used for any number of Vietnamese or Thai-style salads. I will post some recipes shortly.  It is also great with grilled meats on cold boiled rice noodles. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mexican Carrot Soup

I work at the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (more on this program below) and our office manager, Adriana, has a very good palate so I sometimes bring her samples when I bring in my lunch.  She has apparently become a big fan of my cooking.  I know this because I recently returned from a meeting of our Latin American partners in Queretaro, Mexico.  I arrived on the 3rd day of the meeting and the first question everyone asked me was not about work, but about this carrot soup.  I had brought in some of this for Adriana, and she apparently raved about it to the group before I arrived.  So, this is for Adriana, Marina, Anabella and Fulvia, the cooks and foodies in the group. (I am including a very rough approximation of the metric amounts on their account.) The recipe is also for my niece Sarah, who when she is not surviving harrowing airplane rides on Eastern European carriers  that she thinks are safe and competent seems to have been checking this site regularly from Vienna.  I haven't updated it in more than a month and don't want to leave her hanging, so she will find this recipe shortly after she arrives in Lvov (which she insists on calling L'viv).

I adapted the  recipe from Diana Kennedy, but I like mine better. She uses scallions and purees them in the soup along with the cilantro, giving it a sort of swampy look.  I use white onion and remove the cilantro before pureeing, so the soup is a nice orange but still has the cilantro flavor.  This is good hot or cold, simple to make and  fun to eat since you can vary the garnishes.

Mexican Carrot Soup

  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped (white onions are the norm in Mexican cooking)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if you want
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots (about 750 grams), peeled and sliced
  • 1 large starchy potato (white, russet or Yukon gold, about 300 grams) peeled and diced
  • 1 small-medium bunch cilantro, roots cut off and washed well until not sandy
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) liquid (vegetable or chicken broth, canned or boxed ok, or the equivalent in water and bouillon -- I used 3 tablespoons of Osem pareve soup powder)
  • salt and white pepper to taste
For garnish, some or all of the following:
  • chopped white onion
  • chopped jalapeno or serrano (hotter) chile -- leave in the seeds if you want it hot
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • lime quarters
  • diced avocado
  • tortilla strips (see below)
  1. Saute the onion in the oil on medium heat until soft, but do not brown.  
  2. Add carrots and potatoes and saute another few minutes.
  3. Add the liquid and bring to the boil  Turn heat down to a simmer.
  4. Tuck the cilantro into the soup. 
  5. Cover and cook about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  6. Cool a bit, and fish out the cilantro.  Puree using and immersion blender (much easier and safer) or in a regular blender or processor.   
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.  
  8. Serve hot or cold with some or all of the garnishes above to 6 - 8 people.
Tortilla strips:  This is a great way to use up stale tortillas.  Cut 6 tortillas in half, and then cut them into thin strips, about 1/8 inch.   Spray a baking sheet (lined with foil if you want) with vegetable oil spray, put the tortillas on the sheet and spray them again.  Don't pack them too close or it will take very long for them to dry out. Bake in a 250-300 degree oven until crisp, which will take 30 minutes or more depending on many factors.  You can also deep or shallow fry them.

Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP):  IFP is a grantee of the Ford Foundation's that provides postgraduate fellowships to students from 22 countries around the world so that they can become leaders in their fields.  The fellows are drawn from groups in their societies that have lacked access to higher education. The program has demonstrated that there is a demand for higher education in marginalized communities around the world, and that people from these communities are capable of completing rigorous graduate programs. Our fellows are chosen for their leadership potential as well as academic excellence, and the overwhelming majority return to their communities where many become social change leaders. It is a great place to work, and you get to meet some of the most interesting people in the world.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Braised sauerkraut

This is choucroute garnie without the garnie -- sauerkraut braised with wine and aromatics.  My version is vegetarian and pareve, but you can vary it for me, or use it as a base to braise meat, especially things like short ribs. The quantity that I give is a substantial side dish for four.  You can double it, and it keeps well.  It is easy enough that you shouldn't have to wait for an ocassion to make it:

Braised sauerkraut (basic version)

  • 1 pound sauerkraut
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons gin (optional, and if not using juniper berries)
  • 1/2 cup dry white white wine or vermouth
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (I use water with some Osem powder, so sue me)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
  • pinch of thyme
  • few grindings of pepper

  1. Drain the sauerkraut, an put it to soak in a bowl of cold water while you do the chop and saute the aromatics.
  2. Saute the onion, carrot and celery  in the oil on medium until soft but not brown in a large covered skillet or 2-3 quart pot.
  3. Drain the sauerkraut again, and squeeze out the water.  It does not need to be bone dry, but it should not be dripping wet either.  
  4. Add the sauerkraut and saute for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add gin if using, and boil for a minute.  Add the wine and broth and bring to the boil.
  6. Add bay leaves, thyme, pepper and juniper berries, if you are using them.
  7. Simmer the kraut on medium low for at least a half hour, or up to an hour or more if you have time.
  8. That's it.  It goes well with boiled potatoes, mushroom dishes, roasted meats, etc. and also on a vegetarian Reuben sandwich. (I will post this in a few days.)

Fancy version:  tie 5 peppercorns, a pinch or spring of thyme, 2 lightly crushed juniper berries, and 2 bay leaves in a cheesecloth bag.  This is called bouquet garni.  If you are being so fancy, you should use vegetable broth rather than bouillon. 

Even fancier, Polish version:  Use the bouquet garni.  Soak about 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms in hot water to cover until soft.  (I put them in a pyrex measuring dish, cover with water, and zap for a few minutes.)  Remove the mushrooms, rinse, chop and add to the sauteed vegetables and saute a few minutes before you add the sauerkraut.  Strain the soaking liquid to remove grit, and use instead of the broth.  Use a few tablespoons of Madeira or port instead of some of the wine.  I would leave out the juniper berries here, but many would not. 

Meat version:  Use schmaltz (rendered chicken, goose or duck fat) instead of the oil, and be more generous with it.  Use chicken or beef broth if you have homemade on hand.  This is wonderful to braise short ribs:  double the recipe, and brown the ribs before adding them to the kraut.  Braise 2 1/2 hours until tender. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Asparagus with orange, two ways

There was a movie released in the 1980s called Ladyhawke, which I have actually never seen. Part of the plot is that two lovers are doomed to lifelong separation by a demonic curse invoked by the corrupt and jealous Bishop of Aquila: by day the woman is transformed into a hawk, while at night the man becomes becomes a black wolf, and they can only meet each other very briefly at dawn and at dusk.  Sometimes, my marriage reminds me of this.

I am a morning person.  I almost always wake up before my alarm, which is set at 6 am. The exception is weekends when I don't set my alarm but usually seem to wake up between 5 and 5:30.  Amy drags herself out of bed at 7 with difficulty when I am leaving or have already left.  On weekends, she almost never wakes up before 9.   Amy generally gets home later than I do, and we may have meetings or classes on different nights.  I will start to fade around 9, while she is up dealing with a combination of insomnia and addiction to the real estate channel.

This also reminds me of asparagus with orange flavor, a wonderful combination.  Although it is possible to get everything all year round now, for a price and considerable carbon impact, asparagus is at its peak in the early spring, whereas oranges are at their best in the winter.  They seem to cross briefly in March to May when oranges are in decline.  The classic combination is steamed asparagus with maltaise sauce, a variation on hollandaise which substitutes orange for the lemon.  While this is a fine combination, you can hear your arteries harden while you eat it, so here are two dishes that combine the flavors or orange and asparagus in a way more in accord with how we eat now.

Asparagus with orange vinaigrette

  • Trim 2-3 pounds of asparagus and cook however you want.  I generally just put it in a large pot of salted boiling water and for thinnish asparagus, cook it until just before the water returns to the boil which makes it just a shade or two more tender than al dente.  You can also steam it in an asparagus steamer (lots of luck here -- I find that These steamers are a waste of money and the asparagus always slips out of the steamer basket) or cook it in a microwave.  Remove from the pot, steamer or microwave and cool in a colander under cold running water.  There are two many variables to even give times here.
  • Make a vinaigrette with the grated rind and juice of and orange, the juice of a lemon, and as much olive oil as you feel like, between 1 and 6 tablespoons. 
  • Dress the asparagus just before serving.  (It doesn't suffer much from marination, but I find it better freshly dressed.)
  • We serve this dish every Passover, and you can adjust quantities for a family meal.

Pan-roasted asparagus with orange flavor

  • Wash a pound of asparagus, trim off the tough bases, and cut in 2-3 pieces to separate the stalks from the tender tops. 
  • Put some olive oil in a nonstick skillet, heat it, and add the stalks.  Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Add the tops, sprinkle with salt. and continue to saute another 7-10 minutes. For medium thin asparagus, 10-15 minutes on medium heat seems to do it, but you have to adjust cooking times to your own taste.
  • Grate the rind of an orange.  Smash 2 large or 2 small cloves of garlic with the side of the blade of a broad knife, and a large pinch of coarse salt, and with the side and edge, work it into a paste.  Combine with the orange, and if you want it a bit spicy add a very large pinch of Aleppo pepper or a very small dash of cayenne. 
  • Push the asparagus to the side of the skillet, turn heat down to medium low, and add a tablespoon of oil in the open space.  Add the paste and saute in the oil until it begins to loose its raw aroma.  
  • Mix into the asparagus, taste for salt, and cook another minute or two to combine the flavors.
  • Serves 2-4 s a side dish

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moroccan carrot salad with pistachios

Moroccan salads are very different from the salads and dips that we typically associate with Middle Eastern cuisines.  Rather than hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli and similar dishes, there is a wide variety of sweet, tart, spicy and aromatic dishes of cooked and raw vegetables.  One of my favorites, and one of the easiest, is a dish of grated carrots dressed with lemon juice, sugar, and rose or orange-flower water.  After buying a jar of pistachio oil for my enhancement of Yotam Ottolenghi's Pistachio, Watercress, and Orange Blossom Salad, I was looking around for new uses.   We were going to serve a chicken tagine with artichokes for dinner on Friday, and when I woke up on Friday morning at 5 am, an hour before my alarm, I started making appetizers with whatever vegetables we had in the fridge.  Since we had both carrots and pistachio oil, I prepared this riff on the classic grated carrot salad.  It give the salad a buttery, nutty quality (I know I am repeating myself) and modesty aside, I think it is light years beyond the original. 

Moroccan carrot salad with pistachios

  • about 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons of sugar, to taste
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange-flower water
  • 1-2 tablespoons pistachio oil (see below)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • One pound carrots
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped  unsalted pistachio meats, or more if you really like them

  1. Combine the salt, sugar, lemon juice, orange flower water and pistachio oil in the bottom of a serving bowl, and mix well with a fork. Add a pinch of cayenne if you want
  2. Peel and grate the carrots on the large wholes of a hand grater.  ( The processor disk of a food processor would also work, but avoid the carrot shreds you can buy in the supermarket for this dish.  They do not exude the juice that hand-grated carrots do, and this becomes part of the sauce. )
  3. Mix the carrots into the dressing in the serving bowl, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Garnish with the chopped pistachios just before serving.
  5. Serves 4-8 as part of a selection of appetizer salads.
To make the original version:  just leave out the pistachio oil and nuts.

Pistachio oil:  I am hooked, but if you don't want to spring for it, you can use olive oil.  For something more authentically Moroccan try argan oil, which I have actually never tasted but will one day.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My shortest blog post: Yotam Ottolenghi's Watercress, Pistachio and Orange Blossom Salad.

I am going to do something I never do, which is basically post a link to a published recipe and just suggest and enhancement.  The recipe is Yotam Ottolenghi's Watercress, Pistachio and Orange Blossom Salad which appear in last weeks New York Time's dining section.  I mean, why mess with perfection, except just a little.  So instead of dressing the salad with olive oil, use pistachio oil.  It is a reasonable treat, and gives the salad a deep, nutty, buttery flavor.  Well worth the indulgence.  Oh, and you can substitute arugula for some of the cress if you want. Be sure to dry your herbs well.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Roasted garlic aioli

The third step in the order of the Passover seder is to eat karpas, which is most often parsley or celery dipped in salt water.  The reasons for this are rather obscure, but are often linked to Passover as a spring holiday.  You say the blessing over vegetables ("fruits of the earth") and then dip and eat.  In our family, we would have boiled potatoes, since that was as close as my grandfather would get to a green vegetable, and since the blessing is the same as that on parsley.  However, there is nothing to say that the karpas has to be so meager, and really any vegetables go.  Supposedly, Persian Jews serve a platter of herbs, which is the traditional opening of a Persian mean in any case.  The Cairo Geniza, one of the great documentary sources for medieval social history, contains evidence that karpas was something of a cocktail party at the beginning of the seder.  At our seder, we have gotten progressively more carried away with this over the years.  It can pacify those for whom the fifth question ("when do we eat?") is the most important one,  allowing the rest to enjoy the seder.  It fortifies everyone until dinner and keeps them happy. This year we had steamed artichokes, boiled new potatoes, radishes, carrots, fennel, and herb platters (coriander, watercress, tarragon, dill, parsley, and scallions), along with a variety of dips:  olive oil, beet caviar, guacamole, and this roasted garlic aioli.
Readers of this blog will know that my mother is seriously garlic averse, and aioli presents a real challenge when she is in the house.  However, although it is very sharp, aromatic (and delicious) made with raw garlic, it mellows out considerably ir you roast it first. The taste is still garlicy and rich enough to satisfy garlic lovers.  I actually roast it in the microwave which is fast and easy.  While I am sure that my mother would have been personally offended by the smell if we served a conventional aioli, she did not even remark on the roasted garlic version.  She may even have eaten some. Here is how I do it:

Roasted Garlic Aioli

  • 2 head garlic
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup flavorful liquid
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. The garlic is most easily roasted in a microwave.  Remove the paper outside of two heads of garlic, but leave whole.  Cut of a little of the tops to expose the insides of the cloves.  Put them in a measuring cup or microwave-safe dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, pour on 1/4 cup liquid (I used water with 1/2 teaspoon of Osem PArve Pesach vegetable broth, but you can use what you want.  Cover and zap for about 3 minutes or until garlic is tender. Squeeze the garlic out of the peels -- it will plop right out, and proceed as follows depending on whether you make it by hand or in a mini food processor. (The quantities aren't large enough to use a regular blender or food processor.)
  2. To make it in a mini-processor: Put the peeled garlic in the processor with one egg yolk and a pinch of salt, and whir until chopped and combined.  With the motor running, drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil -- as much as it will take before breaking. Remove and mix in the lemon juice.
  3. To make it by hand:  Smash the peeled garlic with some coarse salt with the side of a chef's knife or cleaver.  Using the blade and the side of the knife, work into a puree.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in an egg yolk.  Slowly drizzle in up to 3/4 cup of olive oil  It will be easier to see that the sauce is not breaking up if you are doing this by hand.  Stir in lemon juice.
  4. The quantity given here makes just under a cup, and as one of many dips it was enough for 14.  By itself, I would say it serves 4-6, depending on how you use it.  It is delicious with all kinds of veggies, especially cold or room temperature steamed ones.  It would also go well as a side sauce with boiled or roast chicken, or with fish.  You can also spread it on fish fillets before baking quickly in a hot oven. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mica's chickpeas

Mica Hoodbhoy is 50% Turkish, 50% Pakistani, but 100% gastronome.  She is one of the people, and they are relatively few (no offense intended to the rest of you), whose taste in food I really respect. This is her recipe, more or less, for chickpeas cooked with tomatoes and spinach.  You can add roasted or fried eggplant if you want to, but you really don't have to.  It is a cinch.   I made it with canned chickpeas and it was just fine.  You can make it with chickpeas you cook yourself and it will be even better.  This is a very easy vegetarian main dish to whip up on short notice.

Mica's chickpeas

  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 4-10 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • a few grindings black pepper
  • 14 or 28 ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes, with liquid (depends on how tomatoe-y you want the dish)
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch pieces and broiled (optional)
  • 19 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well (or 2-3 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • salt to taste
  • 10 ounces - 1 pound fresh spinach, shredded (I find that the pre-washed large leaf spinach works well here)
  • 1 - 3 teaspoons dried spearmint (don't use peppermint here)

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in large pot or skillet. 
  2. Add cumin seed and cook for a minute or so until it darkens slightly.
  3. Add onion and saute until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two, but do not brown. 
  5. Add the Aleppo and black peppers and saute on low another minute.
  6. Add tomatoes and cook on high for about 10 minutes until the oil separates and it thickens into a sauce.
  7. Add chickpeas, eggplant and salt to taste and cook until eggplant is soft and chickpeas are hot.
  8. Add spinach, cover and cook until spinach is done to taste. (Some people like it barely cooked, some like it cooked much longer.  The time will depend on your taste, as well as the size and shape of the pot. Don't get me started about how long it takes things to cook......)
  9. Add the spearmint.  If it is crushed and clean, you can add it straight to the pot.  If it is in leaf form, you have to push it through a sieve to leave the debris behind.
  10. Cook another few minutes and serve with rice, bulgur, pita or couscous.  It is also nice with yoghurt, especially with a crushed clove of garlic and some salt.
  11. Serves 3-4 as a main dish depending on what else your are serving, and many more as a side.

Matzo brei with bananas, courtesy of Jeff Segall

I find that I generally make more matzo brei after Pesach that during the holiday.  During I may get around to it once or twice, but after you have to use up all that matzo.  Last year I found myself eating Sri Lankan style matzo brei several times a week until our home was matzo-free. So I was very happy when Jeff Segall, language teacher, sailor and musician, emailed around the variation that he makes which contains mashed bananas.  It makes a nice weekend breakfast, and will make it easier for me to finish the final boxes.

Matzo brei is a very personal thing, of the same order as pizza or bagels.  Just like it is hard to argue with people's taste in pizza and bagels, it is pointless to dispute their taste in matzo brei.  Some like it like a single cake, others scrambled.  Some like it soft, some crunchy.  Some salty, some sweet.  And some all of the above. For the record I am a scrambled crunchy person who likes his matzo brei with salt, pepper and something sweet.  Jeff uses a different soaking method than I do, and makes his like a large kugel.   His recipe is included at the end.  I tried to soak the matzos following his instructions, but I just couldn't do it.  I fell into default mode. So I don't expect you to follow my directions either.  But do try adding the bananas -- it is a real treat.

Banana Matzo Brei --Basic Recipe

  • 5 matzos
  • 4-6 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1-4 tablespoons of butter
  • cinnamon

  1. Soak matzos according to your preferred method.  Mine is to break them into more or less equal quarters and put them in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with cold water, and let the matzos sit about 30 seconds.  Drain them while they are still crunchy,  cover them, and let them sit aside to absorb the water and soften.  It takes about 5-10 minutes, and they will soften further when you add the eggs.  I find that this way you don't have to squeeze out the excess moisture, because there is none.  However, as I said above, matzo brei is a very personal thing, and I don't expect anyone to change their preferred method on my account.  
  2. Beat the eggs, add a pinch of salt (or a bit more if you are like me), and mix into the matzos.  If they have not softened all the way, let them sit for a few minutes more until they do.  
  3. Slice, then mash the bananas, and mix them into the matzo and eggs.
  4. To make like a single cake:  Heat a 10 inch nonstick skillet, add as much butter as your conscience, your cholesterol and your spouse allows, and pour in the mixture.  Spread it out and cook on medium heat until well browned.  Flip and cook until well browned on the other side.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve with honey, date honey, or maple syrup. 
  5. To cook as pancakes:  Heat a 12 inch or larger nonstick skillet or griddle and add butter.  Drop about 1/2-3/4 cup of batter to make large pancakes.  Cook until brown, turn and brown on the other side, and serve as above.
  6. Serves 3-4, depending on appetite. 

Middle eastern variation:  Omit the cinnamon. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the batter.  This is best served with date honey.

For the kid in all of us:  Mix in up to a cup of chocolate chips. Serve this with whipped cream. 

Jeff Segall's recipe in his own words:

Fill a large bowl about 1/3 of the way with lukewarm water. Take about 4-5 sheets of matza and break them along the natural fault lines. Each piece should be about three or four fault lines wide and be about 1/3 the length of a matza. Break them into the bowl. Soak them for at least a minute. Be sure they're completely soaked and soft. Then holding the matza with one hand, pour the water out. Press the matza gently to squeeze out the excess water. Into the matza pour 4-6 eggs that you have already completely beaten so that the yolks and whites are thoroughly mixed. (For a lower cholesterol version, use 4 eggs and 2/3 cup of liquid egg whites). This serves 3-4.  With a fork, pick up the slices of matza so that both sides of every piece are infused with the eggs. 
To this mixture add two thoroughly mashed sliced bananas. Stir the mixture together. Pour this mixture into a hot pan greased with butter or margarine. Let it sit and fry for less than a minute. Then Flip. Cook 2 minutes. If using a smaller diameter pan, flip once more, let sit as it bubbles away, and flip yet one more time.  Serve with cinnamon sprinkled lovingly and sparingly from above. If you want it even sweeter, add maple syrup to your portion.  Invite your friends.  They'll love you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yemenite Beef and Potato Stew for Passover and Year Round

(I originally posted this in 2011 -- hear are some update notes from 2018:  We served this stew for the first seder this year and it was a big hit.  Because many people prefer chicken to beef, we used the chicken thighs instead of the beef bones, and came to the conclusion that the flavor was better, and the bone-in chicken also added a gelatinous richness to the sauce that was perhaps better than the version with beef bones or short ribs.   So, I added the option of chicken back into the recipe.  Also, we noticed that a freshly opened, new package of cumin bought for Passover made a real difference -- so make sure that your spices are fresh.)

It is a little late to be posting this recipe.  Pesach is almost over, and the temperature is approaching 70 degrees, and this dish is both Passover and cold weather food.  I have never figured out why countries like Yemen and Brazil make such wonderful rib-sticking cold weather dishes.  My recipe is adapted from the one in Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook , which is one of those rare cookbooks where all the recipes are good.  I have yet to make anything from there that hasn't been wonderful, but of all the recipes, this may be our favorite.

Our seders tend not to be gefilte fish, soup and kneidlach and brisket affairs.  People get that elsewhere and on other nights, and have come to expect other things from us.  So this was our main dish, and we have been eating it for dinner on and off since the beginning of the holiday.  The main challenge in making this was in adapting it for my garlic-o-phobe mother, so we did a trial run a few weeks before the holiday and much to my surprise, we didn't miss the garlic.  Also, Levy used a combination of beef and chicken and I find that the chicken gets too overcooked, so I substitute short ribs, which also give the sauce a lot of richness.  I also eliminate the water to concentrate the flavors and make it easier to serve on plates. (You may have to add water depending on the moisture of the other ingredients.)  Finally, I serve it with a fresh chutney of cilantro, chili, walnuts and fruit which livens it all up.

This is a great one-dish meal any time of year.  The potatoes soak up the flavor of the sauce.  It can be reheated many times.  And though it takes a few hours to cook, it requires very little work.  The hardest thing is peeling the potatoes:

Yemenite Beef and Potato Stew

serves 8-10

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 very large onion, chopped
  • 8-15 cloves garlic, sliced (optional -- one day I will do a side by side test)
  • 2-3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3  tablespoons tomato paste
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes , drained (or half of a larger can)
  • handful chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2-3 pounds beef stew (chuck or shank) cut into chunks if possible
  • 2 pounds meaty beef bones, short ribs or flanken
  • 8-10 medium red potatoes, peeled
  • 3-4 chicken thighs, skinned if desired (recommended if not using beef bones)

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Saute onion in oil in a very large casserole (the largest flame and ovenproof one you have, 7 quarts or larger ) until soft but not browned.
  3. Add garlic if using and saute for a minute.
  4. Add spices and saute on low for about three minutes, stirring.
  5. Add tomato paste, stir, and then add tomatoes and parsley.
  6. Mix in stew meat, short ribs and potatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and put in the oven.
  7. Bake for 1 hour.
  8. Add chicken if using, pushing it down into the sauce.  Cook for 2 more hours.
  9. That's it.  You can hold the dish for another hour or two in a turned off or low oven.
  10. Serve with green walnut fruit chutney (recipe below), harissa or  schug (Yemenite hot sauce).  Although it doesn't need it, this goes very well with rice (we are enthusiastic kitniyot eaters) and also with quinoa.  
Green Walnut Chutney:  Put a handful of walnuts, a sliced green chili (I used a serrano with the seeds still in for heat), a small peeled, cored chopped granny smith apple, a peeled clementine (check for seeds), a handful of cilantro and a large pinch of salt into a blender or small processor.  Process until smooth.  You can substitute other nuts or leave them out altogether, but I find that they both give the chutney substance and keep it from turning dark.  Use this within a few days.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Favorite Passover Recipes; Seders and Maturity

I really wanted to call this something like "Slouching toward Pesach" but I didn't think that it would be as effective a title in attracting web traffic.  As I have remarked before, it is remarkable how many people end up on my site with Google searches for "absolute best latke recipe."  For those who ended up here due to a similar search, I beg your forgiveness, and ask everyone to read on.  No original recipes here, but also I hope nothing ordinary. Just links to some recipes already on the site that are suitable for Pesach, whether for the seder or otherwise. If you want recipes for brisket or matzoh balls, there are plenty of other places to look.

Pesach is always a test of maturity for me.  It turns out that my wife will have to work on both Sunday and half a day on Monday, so I will be responsible for a lot of the final cleaning and the cooking.   I will have to scale back some of my ambitions.  None of Paula Wolfert's confit of artichokes and oranges. (Cleaning 20 artichokes at this time of year!?  I decided my family wasn't worth it.) We were planning on a carrot soup with dill and dill matzoh balls, but we will skip that one as well.  Also, I had high hopes this year of trying to replicate my grandmother's chremslach, which we used to call Martian spacecraft, except rather than flying, they sank like lead to the bottom of your stomach.  These are mashed potato and egg patties, stuffed with shredded meat and gribenes (chicken cracklings) dredged in matzoh meal and fried in chicken fat.  Maybe next year.     Amy said that I was being very grown up and taking these setbacks in stride.

We are going to start our seder with Salmon Buglama, a Georgian dish that is similar (but better, if you asked me) to many of the cold Sephardi fish dishes cooked with tomatoes and served at the beginning of a festive meal.  We were going to make a Moroccan chicken tagine with prunes as one of our main dishes, but decided that there is too much chicken in life, we should be free of it at the seder.  Instead, we will have it for Shabbat dinner the Friday night before (when we are hosting Fulbright fellows from Bolivia, India, Turkey and Uzbekistan -- who needs this right before Pesach?) and will instead have a Yemenite beef and potato stew.  A wonderful side dish that we will not be making because my mother is garlic-averse is broccoli with schmaltz and garlic .  This dish provided me with much comfort in the dark days after the Citizens United decision and the 2010 elections, and if you have chicken fat around, and who doesn't this time of year, it is a great Pesach dish, whether at the seder or during the week. There will be lots of desserts, including Tishpishti, a Turkish walnut and orange cake.  Even if you have another recipe, I urge you to try this one.  It is far easier than any other version and really delicious.  And of course, matzoh toffee which used to be a rarity but now seems to be everywhere.  It is probably the only legitimate reason to buy and use Kosher for Passover margarine. 

There are also a number of recipes on the site that are suitable for the holiday, if not for the seder.  I love matzoh brei, both the conventional version and the Galitzianer version with onions.  Best of all is a riff on Kotthu roti made with matzoh instead of leftover Sri Lankan breads.  It is stir fried with spices, vegetables and eggs, and you can adjust the spices if you are one of the deluded souls who accepts a broad definition of kitniyot  and avoids eating them on the holiday.  Even though there are only two of us at home now (and my wife is on low-carbs) I will probably go ahead and get a 5-pound box of white matzoh so that I can make kotthu roti in the weeks after the holiday.

Finally, last but not least, two nice seasonal easy egg dishes, for those who really want to push their cholesterol through the roof:  spinach with eggs and asparagus Italian-style baked with cheese served with Spanish-style eggs fried in olive oil.

Hag kasher v'sameach to all.  I will try to post again during the holiday if I make anything interesting.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One of the world's best salmon dishes: Salmon buglama

As Passover approaches, my thoughts turn toward gefilte fish, which of course means "stuffed fish."  So why are the fish balls in the jar called gefilte fish?  They are the stuffing without the fish, cooked separately. My grandmother, who made the best gefilte fish that I have ever had, referred to the fish balls as kneidel, the same term she used for matzo balls and actually cognate with the French quenelles.  Her gefilte fish was mamish stuffed.  She would take the stuffing, and stuff pike, carp and whitefish steaks, with the skin still on to hold the stuffing in, as well as the heads and cook them in the fish broth along with some kneidel for those who didn't want to deal with the bones.  My grandfather and uncle were both fishmongers, and one of the signs of adulthood in my family was your graduation from kneidel to stuffed fish heads.   Given all of this, no one in my family is willing to eat gefilte fish out of the jar at a seder.  Likewise, no one is willing to make it how my grandmother did, and even if they were willing, no one knows how because no one took the time to learn the recipe.  

So what do we do?  We serve salmon buglama, a recipe which I adapted from Darra Goldstein's The Georgian Feast .   I switched her safflower oil , likely a holdover from Soviet era agriculture, to olive or walnut oil, and handle the onions differently.  Otherwise, the recipe is pretty much the same, with the exception that we serve it cold as well as hot.  During the year, we usually have it hot with new potatoes zapped with garlic, and then eat the leftovers cold for lunch the following days.  However, on Pesach we have served it cold for at least 10 years as our fish course, and people demand it every year.  It is very easy, and you can prepare it a day or two in advance. The quantity below will serve 4-6 as a main course, and be enough for small portions for 8-10 as an appetizer.  You can increase the quantities proportionately.  It is most attractive if you cook and serve it without disturbing the layers.

Salmon buglama

  • 2 pound salmon filet (wild is best, farmed is acceptable), skin removed and cut into cubes the size of stew. (they may do this for you in the fish store, save the skin if you want and see below)
  • 1 medium to large onion, halved and sliced thin
  • Cilantro, washed well and chopped, up to one cup
  • 1-3 lemons, sliced thin with seeds removed.
  • 4 to 8 bay leaves, depending how much you like them (you can find and use fresh bay leaves on Pesach if you have compunctions about dried herbs and spices)
  • 2 large tomatoes,  sliced thin, or the equivalent in smaller tomatoes.
  • Olive oil, or substitute walnut oil if you want
  • Salt and pepper.
  1. In a deep skillet with tight cover , drizzle a little oil and lay half the onion.
  2. Put the salmon on top of the onion, season with salt and pepper, top with cilantro and remaining onion, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
  3. Layer in order the lemon, bay leaves and tomato, season with more salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.
  4. Cover tightly, bring to the boil, turn heat down and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or a bit more if necessary.  Don’t open the cover and don't test the fish by disturbing the layers, but if the cover is nice and hot and the tomatoes lightly cooked, it is done.
  5. Serve hot or cold.
What to do with the skin?   If it breaks your heart to have them throw out the skin at the fish store, have them save it.  Brush it with oil on both side or spray it with oil spray, sprinkle with coarse salt and spices to taste (cumin and not pepper is a nice combo), and broil until crisp.  This has a potent smell, so either do it the day before your guests arrive, or make sure you know them very well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrating Purim and Nowruz with Americanized Falooda

Mixed faloods with rose syrup
This year saw the fortuitous almost coincidence of Purim (Jewish Mardi Gras cum Halloween) celebrating the deliverance of Jews from their enemy du jour (so what else is new) during the ancient Persian empire and the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, which, although it has Zoroastrian roots, is, or was widely celebrated in Iran by Muslims, Christians and Jews as well as Zoroastrians.  Purim usually comes in late February or early March, while Nowruz is tied to the Vernal Equinox in later March so they rarely come out together.  However, this year is a Jewish leap year where we add not just an additional day, but an additional month, all the Jewish holidays are late (they are never on time) and Purim and Nowruz almost coincide. Interestingly, some historians argue that Purim is actually the Jewish Nowruz, and that the Book of Esther (clearly written as a diaspora novella rather than as "scripture") was written to explain why the Jews of ancient Persia were celebrating this particular holiday. 

This opens up endless gastronomic possibilities, so for Shabbat dinner last week, we marked the occasion with food that was mostly Persian, Parsi, and Irani. The Parsis are a Zoroastrian community that emigrated to India millennia ago to escape persecution, the Iranis one that left in the nineteenth century. It seemed particularly appropriate to  acknowledge the Persian roots of Purim with foods of communities that originated in Persia but fled to escape religious persecution.  (BTW, and speaking of escaping or ending religious persecution, you haven't lived until you have seen the St Petersburg Hillel Purim video.)

The main dish was a salmon baked with green coconut chutney, which we served with crusty Persian rice, Indian cauliflower and a dish of black-eyed peas with spinach, dill, curry leaves and dried lime, a very typical Persian spice that smells like an old cathedral. (This is a good thing.)  For dessert, we had falooda (also spelled faluda) using the recipe from Niloufer Ichaporia King's My Bombay Kitchen .   It is a milk shake with creamy milk, falooda sev (noodles softened and soaked in syrup), basil seeds, ice cream and rose syrup.  Amy and I had something similar once in a Pakistani sweet shop in Jackson Heights whose name we forget but which we remember as the Al-Qaeda Cafe, since it was dominated by a huge replica of some mosque or other and Amy and our friend Marilyn were the only women there who were not veiled.

Falooda is sort of a weird dessert, and I was probably the only one who liked it, at least with the original rose syrup.  But one of our guests last week was our friend Nancy, who is a maple syrup fanatic -- she and her husband Gary have even tapped maple sap from the trees near their house in the Adirondacks.  Just so you believe this, here is a picture which they sent me of how they do it:

a bucket on a tree with tap

a bucket of sap

We had some cans of maple syrup in the cabinet from our last trip to Montreal, so we tried it and it was far more popular with most of our guests than the rose syrup. And voila, American Falooda.  Try it both ways and see what you prefer.

The dish really defies recipes, and is nice made at the table with everyone mixing it to their own taste but here is how you make it.  It is sort of like making really weird sundaes.

Falooda, Irani and American style

Shake 2 tablespoons basil seed (sold in Indian groceries as takmuriya -- I have no idea if these are related to regular basil) in a sieve to remove any debris.  They are nondescript, small, hard black brown seeds. Soak them in between 1 and 2 cups of cold water for about 15 minutes.  They will swell and become gelatinous, squeaky and crunchy at the same time.   I prefer the lesser amount of water which I find preserves the crunch and squeak of the seeds and what little aroma there is. They can be a great conversation starter, as people discuss whether they look more like insect larvae, fish roe, or fish eyes.  (If you cannot find basil seeds, you can try to substitute chia seeds which are vaguely similar.) After they are soaked, this is what they look like:

Soaked basil seed.
 Soak a packages of falooda sev (falooda noodles, available in Indian and Pakistani groceries) in very hot water for about 5 minutes until soft.    I If you like them Drain, cut into shorter lengths and cover with a cooled simple syrup, equal parts sugar and water zapped in a microwave until it boils.  Both the noodles and the seeds can be made in advance and kept well covered in the fridge, but I find that the seeds absorb other odors, so make sure they are well-covered.

If you cannot find falooda sev, you can substitute cellophane noodles:  take a small package, soak in warm water about 1/2 hour. If you like them chewy, you can use them now.  If you like them slithery, boil them in water for no more than one mine, and drain and rinse immediately.  Cut into 1 or 2 inch lengths before using.  You will of course no longer be eating falooda, rather cellophanoodla, but it will still be fun.  (This of course depends on your definition of fun.)

When you are ready to serve, assemble each serving as follows:
  • Put a few noodles in a large wine glass.
  • Top with a large spoon of basil seeds, to preference. (I would say to taste but there really isn't any.  It is more about texture.)
  • Top with about 1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or a combination of the two.
  • Pour the syrup carefully, and it will sink to the bottom as in the picture below.  It is hard to give exact quantities and depends largely on the sweetness of the syrup and your own taste.  We found that 1-2 tablespoons of the rose syrup that we had was good, but that closer to 3 tablespoons of maple was needed.  
  • Top with ice cream.  This is what they will look like if you have done it right:   

With maple syrup on left, rose syrup on right.
When you eat it you will mix it, and the rose syrup version turns an attractive or shocking pink, depending on your perspective.