Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vino!

I haven't written about Israeli wine yet, so...

NPR (the best radio station...ever) has an interesting piece about Israeli wine and geopolitics. Much of Israel's best wine is grown and produced in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, geographical areas claimed by Palestinians and the Syrians respectively. The article brings up the issue of how these wines' origins should be labeled, and what may happen to these vineyards should the areas one day not be part of the Israel.

Geopolitics aside, Israeli wine is really good and steadily gaining a strong worldwide reputation, and I'll talk about some specific brands in future posts.




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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The best thing about Thanksgiving is...

...turkey sandwiches the next day. I love waking up the day after Thanksgiving and foraging through the leftovers in the fridge to prepare an incredible sandwich.

I like to toast the bread and spread a high quality mayo on both sides. I love Hellman's mayonnaise. I don't think any other brand even comes close. (I'm going to write a blog post just about Hellman's mayonnaise) This morning I used some of the leftover arugula, sliced a tomato, and fried an egg. Fried eggs make everything taste better. Hashes, sandwiches, huevos rancheros, everything. (I'm going to have write another blog post just about fried eggs) This sandwich is the epitome of Thanksgiving to me, and the holiday would not be complete without one.





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Thanksgiving Recipes

Why I'm posting my turkey recipe after Thanksgiving and not before is a legitimate question...but better late than never.

Asian flavored Thanksgiving Turkey

Ingredients:
Turkey - size will vary
Cilantro - one package
Lemongrass - 3-4 stalks
Ginger - 1 good sized knob
Garlic - 4 cloves
Jalapeno - entire pepper
Red Curry Paste - 3 tablespoons
Olive Oil - 2-3 tablespoons
Salt Pepper - to season

Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to 325 F. Prepare your turkey for the oven. Cut off the neck, take out the innards, clean the outside of any protruding feathers that are still slightly sticking out. Cut under the skin on the top of the bird, so that you can lift up the skin to place the herb mixture underneath.
2. Finely chop the cilantro, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno and place in bowl. Add curry paste and mix in well. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to season. Lift up the turkey skin and spread the mixture as evenly as possible around the top of the turkey and next to the legs. Season the top of the bird with salt and pepper and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil. Spread evenly on the outside of the turkey. Tie the legs together so they don't fall to the sides and tear the skin. Stuff the cavity with half an orange and half an onion. These give off juices, instead of soaking them up.
3. Place the turkey in an oven tray uncovered and place in the oven for 30 minutes so the outside can start to brown. After 30 minutes add a cup or two of water or white wine to the tray. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and place a thermometer in the turkey breast, being careful not to touch the bone.
4. Cook the turkey until the turkey reaches 165 F. This is enough to kill the salmonella and other bacteria, yet not overcook the turkey.
5. Take out the turkey when ready and let rest for approximately 30 minutes so the juices don't run out upon carving. Enjoy!

Tips: Do not stuff the turkey with bread or any food that will soak up the turkey juices and dry it out. Additionally, if you do insist on stuffing your turkey make sure the temperature of the stuffing also reaches 165 F. Often the stuffing is at a lower temperature than the breast meat, and if not cooked enough can increase the chance of salmonella poisoning.



The Turkey right before carving

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Thanksgiving in Israel

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving in whatever country they found themselves in this year. To accommodate the lack of a national holiday here and people's work schedule I celebrated Thanksgiving last night...on a Friday. My Shabbat Thanksgiving was delicious, a lot of fun, and reaffirmed Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. First, a little Thanksgiving trivia. How fast can an adult Turkey run? The answer will come later in this post.

Joining me last night were my good old friends Becca, Alon, Tina, and David and my good new friends, Shiri and Ido, whom I met last night. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is actually the preparation of the meal, and the mini-courses I prepare before the main event. Once I got the turkey in the oven (more on the turkey later) I started making a stock using the classic french mirepoix, some of the left over veggies that went into the seasonings on the turkey, and the left over turkey neck. By the way, what do you call a baby turkey? (Answer later on in this post) Shiri made some guacamole and around 230 pm we had a nice bowl of spicy turkey soup with chips and guacamole. Oh, I had my first glass of wine, of many, at this time too. I had been really excited to cook the innards of the turkey (the liver, kidneys, etc..) and was disappointed upon picking up my turkey to learn that these had been thrown away. Not my first choice, but I bought some chicken livers and cooked them in the broth of the spicy turkey soup. I placed them on some thinly sliced cooked beets and had chicken liver on beet carpaccio. Yes, I was pretty full at this point, and the turkey wasn't even out of the oven yet. (Answer to the trivia questions: 20 miles per hour, and a poult)

I made an asian flavored (see the recipe in the previous post) turkey that I think was cooked perfectly. The breast meat was really juicy and nobody asked for gravy. We had stuffing (gluten free for Becca) a great quinoa/beet salad, a greenbean and chestnut dish, sweet potato and pecan pie, brownies, cranberry sauce, cranberry crumble, and more. Everything was delicious, the conversation was great, and it was a very memorable thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

True, I live in Israel, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving for a lot of reasons, but the food is the primary one. Even in Israel I look forward to each year bringing this bit of Americana into my life.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I will be blogging about my Shabbat Thanksgiving (I am doing this in Israel, so you have to adapt a little) in the coming days. Pictures too!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yarden's Roasted Eggplant

I just wanted to post this picture of some absolutely beautiful roasted eggplants with tehina, pine nuts, mint, and zatar. My friend Yarden made them for his two year old son's birthday party last weekend, and the moment I saw them I knew I wanted to 1) eat them and 2) take a picture to post on the blog.


The eggplants were perfectly cooked and had that delicious smoky eggplant flavor that was perfectly balanced with the cool refreshing tehina. People either hate or love roasted eggplant. I love them.


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

How do you make nachos Israeli?

Use goat cheese!




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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shuk HaCarmel to be renovated...eventually

Haaretz reported today that the Tel Aviv municipality approved a plan to renovate Shuk HaCarmel and the surrounding area, which has not been renovated since it was first established in the 1920's! However, like any good Israeli public works project the plan is years away from actual implementation. Objections will be raised, revisions will be made, and even the municipality itself envisions a two year process before any work is actually started. I'll put my money on double that amount of time...at least.

In any case, its nice that there are plans in the works, as the shuk badly needs some renovations. The stalls are old and rundown, there is only partial cover from rain, and the surrounding neighborhood (the Yemenite Quarter) is in bad shape. The Yemenite Quarter is home to Irit, one of my favorite places to eat in all of Israel, which I highly recommend to everyone. Many of the quarter's residents are poor, and I worry that the renovation plan will gentrify the area and lead to an exodus by the few original inhabitants of the neighborhood. We'll see...



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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Corn and Carrots 2 Ways

I've been noticing on Top Chef, and some other cooking shows, that its become very popular to serve a dish that is a certain ingredient prepared in a few different ways. Beef three ways, for example. On the same plate you'll have a grilled steak, carpaccio, and a braised piece of beef. Today's recipe post is in that spirit as I share two different ways to prepare corn and carrots together in the same dish. By the way, did you know that corn in the plural is actually corns? Does anybody say that?

Corn and Carrots 2 ways

The first preparation of these two ingredients is to make corn and carrot fritters. The recipe is a variation of one I saw on the cooking blog No Recipes. They're easy and quick to make, and with the chili mayo dip are perfect for a cold evening. Should make approximately 12-15 fritters.

Ingredients:
Corn - kernels of two ears or one can
1 Carrot - shredded and squeezed of excess moisture
Cilantro (fresh) - 1 tbs chopped
2 Scallions - the white parts only, diced
1/2 Jalapeno - finely diced
Wheat flour - 1/2 cup
*can be replaced by corn flour in order to be Gluten free
Corn Flour - 1/4 cup
Baking Powder - 1 tbs
1 Egg
Spice mixture - 1.5-2 tbs total - Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Cumin, Curry
Mayo - 2 spoonfuls
Sweet Chili Sauce - 1 tbs

Instructions:
1. Mix the cilantro, scallions, corn, carrot, and pepper well together. Add the egg and mix until even.
2. Combine the flours, spices, and baking powder and whisk together.
3. Combine the flour mixture to the corn and mix well together. Add the water and mix again.
4. Coat a frying pan in oil until the whole pan is just covered. When oil is fairly hot add spoonfuls of the corn mixture making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Press down on the mixture if necessary to keep the fritters uniform in shape.
5. When one side is golden, flip over and fry until the other side is golden. When both sides are ready, take out and place on paper towels to drain any excess oil.
6. Mix the mayo and chili sauce until full incorporated and very smooth.
7. Serve with a small dollop of the chili mayo and enjoy.

The second recipe is a corn and carrot salad, using fresh corn and steamed carrots. Its a refreshing, tasty alternative to a classic green salad.

Ingredients:
Corn - Kernels of two ears or one can
2 Carrots - sliced thinly
Garlic - 2 cloves diced
Cilantro - 1 tbs chopped
Scallions - 1 white part diced
Dill - 1 tbs chopped
Lemon - juice of half a lemon
Olive Oil - 2 tbs
Red Chili Pepper Flakes - 1 tsp
Salt Pepper - to season

Instructions:
1. Steam sliced carrots until cooked, approx. 5 minutes. Combine with the salad hot, or if preferred to keep the salad cold, cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the garlic, cilantro, dill, scallions, corn, carrot and mix well.
3. Add the lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Mix and its ready to eat.



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Friday, November 6, 2009

Is there anything better than a great chocolate chip cookie?

There's nothing Israel related in this post, just a recipe for some amazing chocolate chip cookies courtesy of the food scientists at Cooks Illustrated Magazine. What makes these cookies special is the whipping process, which makes them really light and soft.

Ingredients:
1 ¾ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
200 grams unsalted butter/margarine
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 ¼ cup chocolate chips

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Whisk flour, baking soda in a bowl and set aside
2. Cut ¼ of the butter into a few pieces and set in a large mixing bowl. Cut the rest of the butter up into pieces and put on a frying pan until melts. Once melted, continuously stir for a few minutes or until it starts to darken and become a more golden color. At this point stir in the melted butter with the non melted pieces in the mixing bowl until it is all melted
3. To the butter add sugar, salt and vanilla and stir until its all mixed well together
4. Add the egg and yolk and whisk for about 30 seconds until mixture is smooth. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes. Whisk for 30 seconds two more times and after each time let the mixture rest for 3 minutes. By the end it will be a very thick, creamy mixture and very difficult to whisk.
5. Stir in flour mixture and mix around until it’s all incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and mix in.
6. Divide dough into around 16 portions, no more than 8 per baking sheet. The portions should be in a ball and just over an inch high.
7. Cook for 10-14 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through.
8. Take them out and enjoy! And another amazing thing about these cookies is that somehow they get even softer the next day. So make sure you don't eat them all at once, and have some left over for later.


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Simple Sabich Recipe

For those who want to try sabich at home, the recipe below is very easy to make. For those who want to make their own amba, view this recipe here.

Ingredients:
Pita (fresh and hot as possible) - 4
Eggplant - 1 medium sized
Hardboiled eggs (sliced) - 4
3 Tomatoes - diced
3 Cucumber - diced
1/2 Red Onion - diced
Juice of one Lemon
1/2 bunch Parsley - diced
Tahina - store bought
Hummus - store bought
Amba - store bought or from recipe above
Harissa - store bought
Canola oil - enough to cover thin eggplant slices by 1/2 inch

Instructions:
1. Slice the eggplant into thin slices, approximately 1/4 inch. Fry in canola or other vegetable oil until a dark golden color and pat dry with paper towels when done.
2. Dice your tomatoes, cucumber, onion and mix with the minced parsley. Add lemon, salt, pepper and mix together.
3. Spread hummus on the sides of the pita and place in one or two slices of eggplant and the slices of one egg.
4. Add a few spoonfuls of the salad (thinly sliced pickles can be added as well) and top with tahina, harissa, and amba as you like.
5. Enjoy on a relaxing Saturday morning as is traditional with Iraqi Jews.


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Everything Sabich

Sabich is one of the more popular streetfoods you can find in Israel, and it can be argued it's more "Israeli" than falafel or schwarma because its more unique to Israel than the latter. Sabich consists of fried eggplant, hardboiled egg, tomato, cucumber, hummus, tehina, and various spicy sauces. One of the spicy sauces (amba) is made from mango, cumin, turmeric, and a variety of other ingredients. While it may be used in other dishes, I have only seen it offered alongside Sabich. One thing I appreciate about sabich is that while the dish is vegetarian it is extremely filling, one of the strong points of falafel as well. You can order a sabich and have no remorse that you didn't opt for a schwarma instead.

Iraqi Jews are those credited with bringing sabich to the mainstream, as they would traditionally eat fried eggplant on Saturday morning. The etymological roots of sabich may come from this practice, as "sabah" means morning in Arabic. Others will argue that the name is actually an acronym of the foods that make up Sabich, and I'm sure there are multiple other explanations as well.

Throughout the country you can find many excellent sabich establishments, but in the Tel Aviv area there are four that I frequent. The most famous sabich in the city, and probably the country is Oved, actually located just east of Tel Aviv on Sirkin st. in Givatayim. Famous for its colorful creation of words specific to the process of ordering sabich, there are long lines pretty much any hour the place is open. For example, if you want to have a spicy red sauce all you have to do is say Hapoel, the name of one of the Tel Aviv's soccer team whose color is red. If you want the spicy mango sauce (amba) say Macabbi, the other Tel Aviv team whose color is yellow. Oved is a required experience for any Sabich lover or anyone interested in Israeli food in general, but its not the only option.

In the center of Tel Aviv there are three excellent places to get Sabich. Long lines are also prevalent at Sabich Frishman, at the corner of Frishman and Dizengoff St. Located in about a small of a location as possible, they always serve an excellent portion of Sabich. Right next door is Falafel Frishman, and while they offer good falafel, the much longer lines for sabich tell you which one people think is better. Just a few minutes away is Falafel Gabai on Bograshov street. The staff is extremely friendly and their variety of salads is very appealing and fairly unique. Gabai offers excellent falafel, soups, shakshouka, and other dishes, but I always go for their sabich. Finally, Hakosem, on the corner of Shlomo Hamelech and King George street offers another excellent sabich. Their staff is also very friendly, and when lines are long they are sure to pass you a ball of falafel to keep you satisfied while waiting. The food is great, and their very brightly colored chairs will cheer up anyone's day.

So next time your in line for falafel or schwarma, think about ordering a Sabich instead.

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