Here’s what happened when I tried to test a bread recipe during Passover:
I snuck out of my house and hoping no one would see me, I sheepishly bought flour at the corner store. I watched in utter guilt as the yeast proofed and took a few deep breaths as the dough hook began to work its way through the mix of ingredients. I started to think: maybe there’s still time to just make matzo. Then the phone rang, interrupting my thought, telling me I was late and that I needed to leave right that very second.
As I fled for my appointment and the dough leavened, I couldn’t help but wonder if frogs would start falling from the sky. This Passover felt all too real. But I followed through so that my boyfriend’s mom could have challah on her Easter table — and you could use this recipe for a post-Passover challah.
In this twist on traditional challah, the earthy and slightly peppery taste of rye flour and the sprinkling of pungent caraway seeds might evoke a Pavlovian response making you crave pastrami. While the low gluten levels in rye, a close relative of barley, make for a somewhat dense loaf of challah, you’ll find that this is still fluffier than traditional rye bread. The crust is soft like challah’s and it pairs well with a nice brisket or other hearty meat. Leftovers may not lend themselves as well to French toast as classic challah, but toast some up with a few slices of pastrami and squeeze of mustard for a delicious Shabbat afternoon snack — without all of the Passover guilt.
Bagels fresh from the oven at Black Seed Bagels in New York City.
It’s impossible to deny: The New York City bagel has gone downhill.
The once small, chewy and crisp bagels have been transformed into bloated overly airy and stale versions of their former selves. While several young cooks took up the call to revive the Jewish deli — smoking their own pastrami, baking their own rye bread and pickling their own cucs — the bagel languished. It was left out in the cold for mass marketers and producers to co-opt and morph into something that would be unrecognizable to the hundreds of bagel merchants that once dotted the Jewish Lower East Side.
Fortunately, two bagel devotees — Noah Bernamoff, the owner of Mile End Deli and Matt Kliegman of The Smile — have banded together to restore the bagel to its former glory at their new Manhattan shop Black Seed Bagels, which opened this morning.
“Matt and I have been lamenting bagels since Hurricane Sandy,” explained Bernamoff. So in October they leased a space on Elizabeth Street, down the block from Kliegman’s apartment, and got to work on developing a recipe with bakers Dianna Daoheung and Rob Rohl.
The now sadly shuttered H&H Bagels. Credit: Wikicommons
There are many things I can live without — New York bagels is not one of them. They are my desert island food.
I’m a sixth generation New Yorker who moved to London in 1996. My plan was to stay three years. One man and a few sporadic years back home later, I am still in London. What remains firmly from New York are cravings: for real pizza, morning dim sum, the cheese counter at Zabar’s, 24-hour coffee shops (They don’t exist here.), bialys (Ditto.) and good, crusty, everything bagels with a schmear of garlic cream cheese.
They don’t speak “bagel” in England.
Ask a Londoner where to get a bagel, and you’re likely to be sent to Brick Lane. If you’re an expat New Yorker in London, caring local friends will bring you bags of Brick Lane beigels. That’s how they’re spelled here: beigel, not bagel.
On Sundays, Brick Lane is Tourist Central, with rows of tables and open warehouse spaces turning the street into an open-air market where you can buy almost everything from an old Rolleiflex camera to a fresh egg-custard tart studded with berries. Walk away from the market, and you’ll reach two beigel shops. In New York, people would cheerfully argue about which one is better. In London, people queue in foot-shifting silence, noses down over mobile phones, fingers busy with texting.
Seanan Forbes missed New York City bagels so desperately that she spent weeks and pounds of flour developing a recipe to sate her craving. Read her story here.
For the dough
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (or honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, malt syrup)
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups warm water (approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
¼ cup finely ground oatmeal
2 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil (optional)
1 cup whole wheat flour 2 ½ cups white flour, plus more to add while kneading
For the water:
2 tablespoons malt syrup
2 tablespoons sea salt
1½ tablespoons baking soda
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons water
For the topping:
Your choice: kosher or coarse sea salt, smoked sea salt, garlic flakes, onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, sea salt and cracked pepper. For “everything” bagels, mix poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sea salt, onion flakes, and garlic flakes.
For the tray:
It’s a problem when a burger joint can’t make a decent burger.
It’s a bigger problem when said burger joint charges $14 for an anemic, charred patty with cut-rate accompaniments like hard pink tomato slices — and when it’s all delivered by surly servers whose memories are shorter than their attention spans.
But that’s exactly what’s going on at Prime Burger, the much-touted new “sports bar” offshoot of Prime KO, the kosher Japanese Steakhouse on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Prime Burger’s the fifth outpost of Prime Hospitality Group, whose holdings include midtown’s Prime Grill, Pizza da Solo in midtown Manhattan’s Sony Building, and Upper East Side steakhouse Prime at the Bentley. The burger place opened last week in a basement space attached to Prime KO, where celebs like Lindsay Lohan and Alec Baldwin have dined on delicacies like $20 sushi rolls and $50 steaks. Considering the lofty reputations of Prime’s establishments, we expected more from its newest eatery.
Tonight, right after sundown, chef Simon Elmaleh will discard the Passover matzo, set out fine platters laden with leavened, sugary sweets and welcome friends into his home with cries of terbhou ou tseedou, Arabic for “good luck.”
For Moroccan Jews like Elmaleh, the end of Passover marks the start of the Jewish-Moroccan festival Mimouna — a night of open house parties complete with a feast of traditional sweets that honors the Exodus story.
This year, Elmaleh has prepared platters that glisten with sugary glazes: slivers of candied orange peels, fat eggplants in sweetened ginger syrup, poached Bosch pears in a Cointreau-based syrup and figs cooked in syrup with white wine and vanilla.
From left: Bushra Awad and Robi Damelin, two of the 50 women who took part in the project. Photo by Dan Peretz
(Haaretz) — “This is Subriya,” says Robi Damelin, as she begins introducing the people sitting around the table. “She lives in Nablus, and is one of the best cooks in the group. The pumpkin jam and plum jam, two of the best recipes in the book, are hers. This is Tamara Rabinovich from Jaffa, who contributed an amazing recipe for pickled cucumbers in a bag, and this is Umm Ahmed, who also makes all kinds of pickled vegetables, some so spicy they can bring you to tears. Tell the truth, Umm Ahmed — weren’t you trying to kill the Jewish women with your pickles?” A translator renders Damelin’s comments into Arabic, and Umm Ahmed laughs heartily. “Not all the Jewish women, Robi. Just you.”
Black humor is an integral part of the group dynamic. The common denominator for all these women, Israeli and Palestinian, is bereavement. All have lost close family members to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all are members of the Parents Circle – Family Forum, an organization that seeks to foster dialogue between the opposing sides based on a common sense of pain. “The understanding that the pain of loss is the same pain is always the starting point,” says Damelin, who became very active in the forum after her son David was killed in 2002.
There’s a good reason we only eat Kalli’ah once a year. The Turkish inspired beef, eggs and potato dish is not for the faint of heart. Seriously, if you have high cholesterol, just stop reading now. But if you enjoy the succulent rich taste of confit, this is the perfect Passover dish for you.
This recipe was handed down to me by my husband’s family. Israelis since long before Israel was a democratic nation, his ancestors originally emigrated from Turkey but identify their cultural heritage as Nashdidanim — a Jewish group from the secluded mountainous boarders of Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan that dates back to the Babylonian exile. Many of their food customs resemble those of the Turks and Kurds with dishes that include stuffed grape leaves known as dolma and meat filled kubbe dumplings poached in soup or served fried. Kalli’ah is one of the community’s signature Passover dishes.
We’re half way through Passover and if you’re anything like me, you’re starting to crave all of those delicious carbs that the Atkin’s diet and the rabbis frown upon this time of year — bread, pastries, cake, pizza, pasta and even beer.
In Israel, food companies and some creative chefs have found ways around the holiday’s restriction coming up with kosher for Passover chocolate wafers, soup croutons and even bagels — yes, bagels. Some of them work better than others, so here’s what to try and what to avoid during the last few days of the holiday.
“Afifiyot” Chocolate Wafers
Wafers are a classic in Israel. During Passover, the brand Elit brings out its “Afifiyot”. By the look, they are exactly the same as the regular chocolate wafer: rectangles indented with little square designs and filled with chocolate. In color, however, they are much less golden and more of a white with a grey undertone.
If you can get past the cardboard texture of the wafer, then you may actually find them better than the regular ones. It’s as if the makers of “Afifiyot” felt bad for not being able to provide us with the actual wafer and so they overcompensated with a rich dark chocolate. No complaints here!
White House Photo
(Haaretz) — Cooking for twenty people doesn’t usually faze me, even when it’s for a Passover Seder, but the Seder I helped prepare last night was for Michelle and Barack Obama.
After days of long discussions about menu options and in order to add some interest, it was decided that alongside the Passover classics, such as gefilte fish and matzo ball soup, I will make quinoa in coconut milk with roasted sweet potatoes and Tuscan kale. My friend Susan Barocas, former director of the Jewish Food Experience, who was working with me as well, prepared chicken in pickled lemon and olives.
The tradition of making a Passover Seder at the Obama household started in 2008, while he was running for President. The first seder took place at a hotel basement hall during a campaign stop, and the blessing “next year in Jerusalem” was modified to “next year at the White House.” And so a tradition began. Keeping their seder private and intimate, the Obamas continue to host the same guests every year at the White House ever since.
We arrived at the White House early on Tuesday morning. We arrived at a surprisingly small kitchen, peeking at the beautiful flower arranging room on the way. Cris Comerford, White House executive chef, met us at the kitchen. As top chef, Cris is often in charge of much larger events, including State Dinner, yet she amazed me with the amount of research and the sincere interest she showed in the Jewish traditions for the Passover Seder. From grating her own horseradish for the chrein to the little carrots on her home-made gefilte fish, she really nailed it down.
Oversized sandwiches for guests and undersized pay for employees seems to have been the guiding philosophy at Carnegie Deli for more than a decade.
On Friday, a Manhattan federal judge gave preliminary approval to a settlement between 25 current and former employees of the deli and its owners, Marian and Sanford Levine. The New York Daily News reported that the workers, who claimed that pay had been held back illegally for over 10 years, will receive a $2.65 million settlement.
According to court documents obtained by the New York Post, working conditions at the famous Midtown pastrami hotspot were rough: Employees claimed that the management paid them hourly salaries below the minimum wage of $7.25, as little as $2.50 to $3. The class action lawsuit, which was brought on in 2012, also accused the owners of not paying the workers overtime, and of keeping them from having their lunch breaks. The payout will happen over the next four years.
This is not the only legal action the owners of the deli are involved in. Marian Levine, who inherited Carnegie Deli from her father Milton Parker, filed a lawsuit against her husband Sanford last October. She claimed that he had passed along trade secrets to Penkae Siricharoen, a Thai waitress with whom he had had an affair since 1998. Siricharoen’s family runs a Carnegie-knock off called ‘New York Cheesecake’ in Thailand. Sanford Levine had not only invited the Thai family to visit Carnegie Deli’s New Jersey Plant, but also allegedly gave his mistress, who lived in the apartment building owned by his wife a highly advantageous deal that froze her rent for 15 years.
And if that’s not enough trouble for one 77-year-old New York City establishment: Two weeks ago, Jose Robles, one of the deli’s managers, was assaulted by a homeless man outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Instead of coming to help him, bystanders filmed the attack on their cell phones, Robles, who suffered a broken arm, told the New York Daily News.
Shani and Ovad Zetuni in the new Jajo bar. Photo by Ilya Melnikov
(Haaretz) — Two years ago, when I met Ovad and Shani Zetuni for the first time, they convinced me they had something interesting on their hands. Together we hopped over cesspits, rolled in the sand, got some fresh air and climbed down to find a damp cave with high, empty vaulted ceiling.
Our conversation echoed and there was a dripping noise in the background. Workers were busy reinforcing the walls, peeling off old material and plastering them anew, and the ceiling was festooned with ladders. Climbing down a shaky army walkway we had to find our footing between bags of cement.
That dungeon was in reality a 150-year-old Templer winery. Now with the renovations complete it’s about to open as Tel Aviv’s newest wine bar. The food and drink menus were finalized and printed about two months ago and the kitchen is already filled with fresh ingredients. Jajo Wine Bar will be part of the new Sarona complex which is situated on the ruins of the fourth colony established by the German Knights Templers here in the second half of 19th century.
Even before any improvements were made, Ovad could envision exactly how the place would look when the work was done. The plan sketched out by architect Dan Troim dictated where the bar would be, what color the walls would be painted (mocha), which kind of chairs would be used (rattan chairs hand-made by a basket-weaver in Italy) and where the wall of wines would be. But back then, during my visit, when a large lamp shone, it illuminated only the darkness, the workers and Ovad himself, in a stained shirt and with his ubiquitous cigarette, as he supervised the work and found himself schleping things, bending over and working on the molding.
Pizzarelle Con Miele are a classic Roman Jewish Passover cookie. Read about how Alyssa Shelasky learned to make the recipe while living in Rome here.
Inspired by Edith Arbib Anav
Yield: 8 servings
8 sheets of matzo
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup sugar
½ cup of kosher for Passover cocoa
powder, highest quality
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup raisins
2 cups peanut oil for frying
4 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1) Soak the matzo in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes, until very soggy. Remove from water, squeezing out as much moisture as you can from the matzo.
2) Put the matzo in a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients, lighting mashing everything together until all the ingredients are evenly combined.
3) Heat the oil on the stovetop to approximately 325ºF to 350ºF. With a big spoon, form large madeleine-shaped spoonfuls of the mixture. Carefully insert them into the oil, one by one.
4) Fry the cookies for about 5 minutes, flipping half way through.
5) Place the cookies on paper towels to drain the excess oil.
6) Meanwhile, heat the honey, with the lemon juice and a few teaspoons of water in a saucepan over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. The honey should bubble but not burn.
7) Once the cookies have been drained of oil, individually dunk them in and out of the honey pot. Let set. Serve at room temperature.
While the story of Passover may be the reason for having the seder, the real stars of the event are the food and drinks served throughout the evening. Carefully planned, perfected all day for all to enjoy while listening to the hours long story of Moses and the exodus.Like most kids growing up, the reading of the “4 sons” was a significant part of the evening. But what if those sons were a bit older (lets say over the age of 21) and could order a drink alongside their question. What would these guys imbibe based upon their personalities?
The Wise Son: Aperitif Cocktail
The wise son knows that the key to enjoying the seder and making it to the end is by pacing. With one glass of wine already consumed and three more to go, there is no way he will survive the night unless it sticks with something a bit more low proof. And it never hurts to start the evening with an aperitif style drink. This refreshing and slightly citrusy sipper is the perfect way to ease into the nighttime festivities.
• 1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
• .5 oz fresh lemon juice
• 1 oz Bartenura Etrog Liqueur
• 3 oz Bartenura Moscato d’asti
• Combine ingredients into a glass, stir lightly and garnish with the oils of a lemon peel.
The Wicked Son: Tequila Shot
The wicked son is always up to no good and is not one to stick to the conventional methods of drinking. Known for making the night a bit more crazy and perhaps putting some people over the edge, the Wicked son opts to drink a shot of straight tequila (no chaser) to awaken his inner mischievous self.
• 1 oz 99 Agave Blanco
The Simple Son: Tom Collins
Sometimes the best cocktails are the least fussy, and this classic from the father of cocktails, Jerry Thomas, will fit the bill for the Simple son. Herbaceous notes from the gin, the bright citrus from the lemon a sweetness of the syrup combine together beautifully in this cocktail. And this guy knows that limes are too overpriced to use this year for the seder, so sticking with lemon juice will alleviate the burden of the holiday tab.• 2 oz Distillery 209 Gin
The One who does not know how to ask: Vodka Soda
It worked in college….you can barely taste it….and it’s safe.
• 2 oz Vodka (we recommend Distillery 209 vodka or L’chaim Vodka)
• Soda water
• Combine in a highball glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.
Musicians’s food cravings are legendary. Elvis famously flew from Graceland to Denver for his favorite sandwich: An entire loaf of bread stuffed with a jar of peanut butter, another of jelly and a pound of bacon.
Michael Jackson never hopped on a plane for his cravings. He had his personal chef Akasha Richmond to whip up his favorites: Spicy enchiladas, fresh tortillas and matzo ball soup.
In the mid-90’s MJ was living in the penthouse of the Manhattan Trump tower, sharing a floor with Donald Trump. He was in town finishing up his epic HIStory album.
Richmond was living a few blocks south at what was then the glamorous Helmsley Palace (now the New York Palace), often picking up bagels on her short walk up to Jackson’s apartment.
“One day Michael asked for lox and bagel for breakfast,” Richmond told me. She was a bit surprised by the request but went with it. A few days later, he asked her to make matzo ball soup.
“What do you know from matzo ball soup?” Richmond recalls retorting.
“I grew up with a Jewish nanny. I love matzo ball soup,” Jackson replied.
Richmond met Jackson back in the 1980’s when she was cooking at The Golden Temple, one of L.A.’s first vegetarian spots known for playing host to celebrities like Bob Dylan and Demi Moore. “He used to come there everyday. He was really sweet and I used to take care of him,” Richmond recalls.
Soon she and another chef from The Golden Temple started cooking at Jackson’s house. “He would have these epic dinner parties. He loved old Hollywood so Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren might be there. You never knew who would come over,” she says.
Over the next 14 years Richmond traveled with Jackson on his private plane to 30 countries, cooking for him on his HIStory and Bad tours. The crew built her a six foot portable pantry stocked with his favorites — ingredients for Mexican food and matzo meal. “I think for him [matzo ball soup] was comfort food,” she explained.
Richmond never had a family matzo ball recipe so “I would make chicken stock and then follow the recipe on the package…and add a good pinch of cayenne pepper or minced jalapeño — he loved spicy food,” she said.
“I used to joke that I was Michael’s Jewish mother. I was supposed to keep him healthy. When your on those tours it’s really grueling. I did whatever it took: matzo ball soup, green juice, chai tea.”
A decade or so later, Richmond left the tour life to spend more time with her daughter, but on the weekends she would trek out to Neverland Ranch to cook for Jackson. “My daughter had her bat mitzvah party on the ranch…It was about the best bat mitzvah you could have.”
Richmond went on to work as a personal chef for Barbra Streisand — cooking meals from the vegetables grown in the Funny Girl’s backyard. And she continued to experiment with Jewish food.
In 2008 Richmond opened Akasha, a new American restaurant in the Culver City neighborhood of Los Angeles shortly before Passover. She closed the restaurant for the night of Seder and invited friends, family and investors for dinner, serving the same matzo ball soup — replacing the cayenne for a dash of nutmeg. In September, she tried out the idea of hosting a Rosh Hashanah dinner for her customers. It was a hit. “We had 200 covers ever night. We were slammed,” she says. Jewish holidays at Akasha have become a tradition. “There are so many levels of being Jewish. For a lot of people it comes down to the food — that’s what they remember,” says Richmond.
Most of Richmond’s kitchen staff isn’t Jewish, so when she makes matzo ball soup “I tell my chefs — this is the food of my grandmother. Don’t fuck with it.”
Personally, she prefers hers matzo ball soup flavored with Thai ingredients like lemongrass, turmeric and ginger. But for her restaurant’s annual Seders she sticks with tradition — and prays. “I say a prayer over the matzo balls. I…ask the god of matzo balls to make them light and fluffy. They make me so nervous.”
When it comes to Passover, the same treasured foods grace tables every year. Matzah ball soup. Gefilte fish. Brisket. Roast chicken. Growing up, my husband’s family table was no different. I, however, grew up Italian and later converted to Judaism. Our Passover meals now not only include the customary Jewish dishes, but also some of my Italian flavoring as well.
Passover traditions limit how Italian we can go, of course. But beyond the Italian penchant for homemade bread and pasta, there are other foods often universally beloved that add some Italian flair. Here are my top five.
Brussels sprouts were not part of the Palestinian kitchen when I was growing up. I discovered them here in the States and very eagerly tried to push them on my children. To that end, I did what any good mother would do—I pumped up their flavor by adding a little tahini sauce and sweet pomegranate molasses. It worked!
In fact these Brussels sprouts were so delicious that they made it onto the original Tanoreen menu and I’ve never taken them off.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Corn oil for frying
4 pounds Brussels sprouts, outer leaves
removed, cut in half
1 cup Thick Tahini Sauce (recipe below)
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
Pinch sea salt
Pour 1/4 to 1/2 inch corn oil in a large skillet and place over a high heat until hot. To test the temperature, slip half a Brussels sprout into the pan; if it makes a popping sound, the oil is hot enough. Working in batches, fry the Brussels sprouts, turning occasionally, until they are browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
Meanwhile, whisk together the Thick Tahini Sauce, yogurt and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the panko and stir constantly until the crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and remove the breadcrumbs from the heat. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to cool.
Place the Brussels sprouts in a serving dish, drizzle with the sauce and top with the panko crumbs. Serve immediately.
Tahini sauce, a smooth blend of toasted sesame paste, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern kitchens. It is the condiment. There is hardly a dish that isn’t enhanced by it.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups tahini (sesame paste)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 5 lemons or to taste (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Chopped parsley for garnish
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt and process on low speed for 2 minutes or until thoroughly incorporated. Turn the speed to high and blend until the tahini mixture begins to whiten. Gradually add up to 1/2 cup water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley. Leftover tahini sauce can be stored, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.
Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking.”
This hearty Palestinian soup known as rushtay is more commonly prepared by West Bank cooks than by those in Galilee; I learned how to make it from friends I met in Jerusalem. It is a meal in itself and a favorite among vegetarian patrons of Tanoreen. If you don’t have one of the greens on hand, just substitute more of the others. Don’t skip the squeeze of lemon near the end—it transforms the soup. Serve it with a few olives.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
3 cups brown lentils
1 tablespoon plus 1 pinch sea salt
1 cup olive oil
3 medium red or yellow onions or 5 large shallots, diced
1 poblano or other chile pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
41/2 teaspoons ground cumin
41/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
4 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 packed cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 packed cups chopped fresh spinach
2 packed cups chopped kale
2 green or plum tomatoes, diced (optional)
8 ounces fettuccini, broken in half
Juice of 2 lemons (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
Combine the lentils and a pinch of salt in a pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Cover with the lid and boil over high heat for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions or shallots, and chile pepper, if using, and saute until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin, coriander and black pepper and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Toss in the celery, carrots and cilantro, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, kale, tomatoes, if using, 15 cups of water and remaining 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour in the lentils, return the broth to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes more. Add the fettuccini and cook until al dente. Stir in the lemon juice followed by the teklai, if using. Serve hot.
Variation: For a gluten-free version, cut six 8-inch corn tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and use in place of the fettuccini or use gluten-free pasta.
Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking”.
Three years ago, I spent a month living in Ramallah while reporting a story on the Palestinian economy. Yet somehow, save for trips to the corner falafel joint in between frenzied interviews, I managed to barely sample Palestinian food.
When I returned to New York, my regret lifted the moment I walked into Tanoreen, a Palestinian restaurant in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge. Chef and owner Rawia Bishara’s menu is inspired by her hometown of Nazareth, yet many of her dishes share DNA with the West Bank cuisine I missed out on.
Every time I go to Tanoreen, my vegetarianism flies out the window. My favorite item on the menu is the lamb-stuffed baby squash. The dish is elaborately flavored — the yogurt is sour, the spices sweet, the lamb gamy and the squash earthy.
This interplay of flavors is found throughout Bishara’s menu, and also in her new cookbook, “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar,” published this spring. The tome is as colorful as the cuisine it depicts, with photos of the Nazareth hillsides, family picnics and open-air markets. Under the heading, “The Pantry,” is a list of ingredients — pomegranate molasses, bulgur, mastic sumac and many others — essential for concocting the dozens of breakfast dishes, mezzes, salads, soups, stews, mains, pickles, sauces and desserts found inside the book.
The recipes range from traditional fare like maftoul, or Palestinian couscous, (also featured in the “The Gaza Kitchen”) to experimental dishes such as brussel sprouts with panko. There are several simple recipes in the book, but some are more complex than meet the eye. The brussel sprouts, for instance, calls not for tahini but for tahini sauce (made by mixing tahini with garlic and lemon juice)— directions for which are found later in the book.
For my foray into “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar,” I decided to take the easy road. Instead of replicating my beloved baby squash — the book doesn’t have that exact recipe, but instead several that seem similar, like vegetarian stuffed vegetables or stuffed artichokes with meat and pine nuts — I opted for two simple dishes with ingredients I had at home.
The first was shorabit addas majroosh, the pureed lentil soup that is a mainstay in many parts of the Arab world. One of the great pleasures in making pureed soups is that they enable the otherwise fastidious home chef to be a bit lazy. Instead of fretting over how beautiful the carrots and onions would look in the final dish, I chopped them roughly, sautéed them with oil, coriander and cumin in a soup pot, added the red lentils, and let it all simmer. I then pulsed the mixture in a blender, and served it with lemon wedges, salt and pepper. The resulting soup was plain, but comfortingly so — perfect for the late winter Monday that I made it. Bishara’s recipe is meant to serve six to eight; I ate shorabit addas majroosh all week long.
My next try was salatet zahra, or cauliflower salad. The chopped cauliflower should be briefly boiled before it is roasted or grilled, leaving it with a soft interior and an almost crunchy exterior. After roasting, I tossed the cauliflower with tahini (though it called for tahini sauce) and pomegranate molasses and sprinkled it with chopped cilantro. (The recipe calls for parsley, but I had none on hand.)
Perhaps because I used a very nutty tahini, or maybe it was the crunch of the cauliflower, the dish reminded me a little of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My dining partner, on the other hand — much more an aficionado of Arab food than I am — declared it a success: an example “nouveau Levantine” cuisine.
I would make either dish again, but not before I scour the rest of the book. After my culinary oversight in Ramallah, I feel I have a lot to make up for.
Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking.”
Most Jewish holidays have food as a central component of the celebration-from latkes on Hanukkah to misloach manot on Purim and blintzes on Shavuot. Yet, Passover, through the Seder and the full-scale flip from “chametz” to “matza” (from eating leavened foods to eating foods devoid of all leaven), makes food and eating an essential focus of preparation and observance. For at least this week, what we eat and with whom we eat defines us as Jews.
RAVSAK’s Moot Beit Din, an annual competition for high school students in Jewish day schools, made food the focus of our 2014/5774 program. We challenged students from across North America to consider whether a Jewish summer camp that prides itself on being environmentally conscious has an obligation to consider tzaar baalei hayim (mistreatment of animals) and thus serve locally raised kosher meat even if it raises the tuition costs at camp significantly enough to make it less affordable to many families. The case touched on such current issues as industrial farming, the morality of eating meat and the role of economics in halakhic decision making. Students were asked to calculate a cost/benefit analysis of switching to an organic diet at Jewish institutions — an ostensibly desirable undertaking — in light of the real financial issues that might exacerbate the modern plague of the high cost of Jewish living. Like the Seder, Moot Beit Din used powerful questions, ancient texts, wise voices and great debate to elevate mundane conversations about food to a heightened and holy level.