The Jew And The Carrot

Keeping Up with the Pollans

By Liza Schoenfein

Foodie Family: The Pollan women are (from left to right) sisters Dana, Tracy and Lori and their mother, Corky. Photograph by John Kernick.

The members of my family are, for the most part, smart, accomplished, attractive and close to one another. I’ve always been pretty keen on them. But now that I have a window into another family, the Pollans, I sort of feel as if my own is somehow lacking.

Of course I knew that Michael Pollan was basically the spiritual leader of the sustainability (and sensible eating) movement in the United States. I knew that Corky Pollan was the writer whose Best Bets column I always flipped to first when she was at New York magazine. I knew that Tracy Pollan played the smart, beautiful girlfriend of Alex P. Keaton on the 1980s sitcom Family Ties, and that she later married her leading man, Michael J. Fox.

But I didn’t know — did you? — that all of these Pollans (along with two more beautiful and accomplished sisters, Lori and Dana) were members of the same nuclear family.

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Waving Bye-Bye to Pumpkin Pie

By Gayle L. Squires

Torta di zucca, an Italian winter squash and olive oil cake. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

Admitting this in the days leading up to Thanksgiving might put me squarely in the crosshairs of the long-defunct House Committee on Un-American Activities, but I’m a risk-taker, so here goes: I don’t like pie. I particularly don’t like pumpkin pie. Now that I’ve said it out loud, please let me explain. (Don’t worry, I’ll be brief — and there’s cake at the end if you listen to the whole story.)

I will limit my anti-pie sentiments to three. First, the bottom crust is usually either too hard if it’s blind baked, or too soggy if it’s not. Second, and I know that I’m going to offend our orange-hued mascot of this week’s holiday feast and lovers of spiced lattes everywhere, pumpkin filling has the look and texture of baby food and the smell of a candle. Finally, if your home is anything like mine, after stuffing ourselves with turkey, dessert must be non-dairy, and while butter might be able to save many a pie, parve pie is just sad. After Thanksgiving dinner, I typically fill my dessert plate with the cut fruit.

Before this gets all Debbie downer, I do have a solution to my Thanksgiving woes: cake!

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Putting Janna Gur's ‘Jewish Soul Food’ to the Test

By Alix Wall

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

This is a sporadic column by Bay Area personal chef Alix Wall, in which she evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results. This time, she cooks her way through Israeli food authority Janna Gur’s new book.

When Janna Gur’s “Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh” arrived, I knew right away that I had a special book on my hands.

Gur emigrated to Israel from Riga, Latvia, as a teenager. The author of The New Book of Israeli Food, she championed Israeli cuisine before Yotam Ottolenghi; before Einat Admony. Together with her husband, Ilan Gur, she founded and still edits Al HaShulchan, an Israeli food magazine. She is frequently sought out to speak to groups about Israeli cuisine, and at one dinner with some visiting journalists, she was asked why so little traditional Ashkenazi food was to be found in Israel. Part of preserving a people’s culture is preserving its food, this journalist argued. Gur didn’t disagree. Rather than seeking out Israeli versions of old favorites, with this book Gur goes back to the diaspora, while at the same time updating many classics.

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Juicy Semolina, Coconut and Pistachio Cake

By Janna Gur

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

When semolina cakes come out of the oven, they are not so sweet and are very crumbly, but once they are doused with hot and fragrant syrup, they turn moist and very sweet. The syrup also prevents them from drying out so they keep for a long time. The following version, from Ruth Oliver’s kitchen, is the best I have ever tasted. Ground coconut and pistachio nuts add crunch, and cream renders the pastry richer.

Makes one 15 x 0-inch (40 x 5-cm) cake

For the cake

¾ cup (6½ fluid ounces/180 ml) vegetable oil
1½ cups (12 fluid ounces/350 ml) half-and-half (single cream)
1 cup (3½ ounces/100 g) shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5½ ounces/160 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ cups (9 ounces/250 g) semolina (cream of wheat or cream of farina)
½ cup (2 ounces/55 g) ground pistachio nuts
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs
1½ cups (11 ounces/300 g) sugar
For the syrup
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2) Combine the vegetable oil and half-and-half in a large bowl.

3) Combine the coconut, flour, semolina, ground pistachios, and baking pow¬der in a separate bowl. Stir into the oil mixture.

4) Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed for 8 minutes until pale and fluffy. Gently fold the beaten eggs into the semolina batter.

5) Pour the batter into a deep rectangular baking pan approximately 15 x 10 inches (40 x 25 cm). Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry with a few crumbs adhering.

6) While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup Bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

7) Take the cake out of the oven and pour the syrup evenly over the warm cake. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

VARIATIONS

For a nondairy version, substitute the same amount of coconut milk for the half-and-half.

BASBOUSA DESSERT

Cut the cake into small squares and top each square with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, crème fraîche, or thick yogurt. You may also add a spoonful of tart fruit preserves, or serve it with fruit compote or with wine-poached pears.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Georgian Eggplant Rolls With Walnut and Herb Filling

By Janna Gur

These look like Italian involtini, but the filling is unique and typically Georgian: pureed walnuts perfumed with fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), garlic and vinegar. When pomegranates are in season, add fresh pomegranate seeds for crunch and flavor. I got this recipe from Marina Toporiya, a Georgian cook who used to own a modest restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv, where she turned out wonderful and unusual dishes from the old country.

Makes 12 to 14 rolls

For the eggplants

Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dredging
Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 to 3 eggplants, very thinly sliced lengthwise (you should have about 14 long, thin slices)

For the filling

12 ounces (350 g) walnuts
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon (or less) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
Salt
Seeds from ½ pomegranate (optional)

1) Prepare the eggplants Put some flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt.

2) Heat a frying pan over medium heat and coat with a ½-inch (1½-cm) layer of vegetable oil. Dip each slice of eggplant into the flour mixture, then put in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan (work in batches, if necessary). Fry the slices for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and allow to cool.

3) Prepare the filling Put the walnuts, garlic, onion, cayenne, turmeric, red pepper flakes, paprika, parsley, cilantro, vinegar, water and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the pome¬granate seeds (if using).

4) Spread a heaping spoonful of the filling on a fried eggplant slice and roll up the slice tightly. Place, seam-side down, on a plate and continue with the remaining filling and eggplants. Serve promptly.

TIP

Certain eggplants, especially those with lots of seeds, tend to be bitter. To get rid of the bitterness, sprinkle the sliced eggplants with coarse salt and set in a colander for an hour. Wash, pat dry with paper towels and fry as directed.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Moroccan Spicy Carrot Salad

By Janna Gur

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

To make this simple and tasty meze salad you will need two typical North African condiments — pickled lemons and harissa. Both can be made at home or bought at specialty food stores or Middle Eastern groceries, and both will prove useful and versatile additions to your pantry.

Serves 6 to 8

6 medium carrots, sliced into ¾-inch (2-cm) coins
3 cups water
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon pickled (Moroccan) lemons, finely chopped (see below or store-bought)
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro or mint leaves, chopped

1) Put the sliced carrots in a saucepan and add the water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the carrots are tender but still have some bite.

2) Transfer the carrots to a bowl (save some of the cooking liquid). Add the harissa, pickled lemons, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, salt, and about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and mix. Let cool. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

3) Refrigerate for a few hours, preferably overnight, to let the flavors meld. The salad will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Before serving, bring to room temperature and toss with the cilantro.

Pickled Lemons | MOROCCAN

For me, pickled lemons define the concept of a “secret ingredient.” Less sharp than fresh lemons; soft, aromatic, and spicy, they perform miracles in vegetable and grain salads and are a great addition to chicken and fish braises. I also use them in pasta sauces, especially those with tuna. Preparation is easy, but the curing process takes about three months.

Makes 2 pounds/1 kg

2 pounds (1 kg) lemons, thinly sliced or cut into small wedges, pips removed
1 cup coarse salt
5 garlic cloves
2 small hot chile peppers (red or green)
4 to 6 allspice berries
4 bay leaves
Sweet and/or hot paprika
Fresh lemon juice, to cover
Vegetable oil, to seal

1) Dip the lemon slices or wedges in the salt to cover all sides and arrange in layers in a sterilized glass jar. Place the garlic, chiles, allspice, and bay leaves between the layers of lemon. Press down hard until the juice begins to run out and pour the lemon juice on top. To seal, pour a generous layer of vegetable oil on top of everything.

2) Refrigerate for 3 weeks and up to a month. When the curing process has been completed, discard the garlic, chiles, allspice, and bay leaves and keep refrigerated.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Recipe: Brussels Sprout Risotto

By Yotam Ottolenghi

Photograph by Jonathan Lovekin © 2014

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped (1 1/3 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 lemons, rind shaved in long strips from one, finely grated zest from the other
1½ cups Arborio or another risotto rice
18 ounces trimmed Brussels sprouts (7 ounces shredded and 11 ounces quartered) lengthwise
Scant 2 cups dry white wine
Scant 4 cups hot vegetable stock
About 1 2/3 cups sunflower oil
1½ cups Parmesan, coarsely grated
2 ounces Dolcelatte, broken into ¾-inch chunks (The Forward substituted gorgonzola dolce)
1/3 cup tarragon leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and black pepper

1) Place the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic, thyme and lemon rind strips, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and shredded sprouts and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Pour in the wine and let it simmer for a minute before you start adding the stock, 1 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Turn down the heat to medium, and carry on adding the stock in ladlefuls, stirring often, until the rice is cooked but still retains a bite and all the stock is used up.

2) While the rice is cooking, pour the sunflower oil into a separate large saucepan; it should rise ¾ inch up the sides. Place over high heat and, once the oil is very hot, use a slotted spoon to add a handful of the quartered sprouts. (Take care that they are completely dry before you add them; they will still splatter, so be careful.) Fry the sprouts for less than 1 minute, until golden and crispy, then transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Keep them somewhere warm while you fry the remaining sprouts.

3) Add the Parmesan, Dolcelatte (or Gorgonzola Dolce), tarragon and half the fried sprouts to the cooked risotto and stir gently. Serve at once with the remaining sprouts spooned on top, followed by the grated lemon zest and the lemon juice.

Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

“Plenty More” is available for purchase through online booksellers such as Powells.com and IndieBound.org.

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Mahatma Ghandi's Secretary Cooks Indian Hameem

By Alix Wall

Pearl Sofaer (right) works with Frances Kalfus during a Berkeley cooking class. photo/alix wall

At a recent cooking class featuring a few dishes from the family of Bombay-born Pearl Sofaer, the stories threatened to eclipse the food.

“My mother was a secretary of Gandhi,” she said, as a student browned chicken parts on the stovetop. “He gave her a sewing machine. She wanted to take it to the U.S. when we left, but my father wouldn’t let her.”

The class, held at the Berkeley home of Rabbi Yehuda Ferris and his wife, Miriam, was co-sponsored by Chabad of the East Bay and JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), where Sofaer is on the speakers’ bureau. Sofaer is the author of “Baghdad to Bombay: In the Kitchens of My Cousins.” The 2008 book is very much like the class was, full of stories with some family recipes included. Sofaer learned how to cook from her mother in the United States — because in India they always had a cook.

The author, cantorial soloist, artist, mother and grandmother lives in Greenbrae; she has been in the United States for most of her adult life. While she and her mother were born in Bombay and her father in Rangoon, Burma, all are of Iraqi descent.

“I’m a Mizrachi Jew, who came from between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers,” she said, and then broke into the song about the waters of Babylon.

“When Babylon disintegrated, that’s when they moved to Baghdad, which became a major center. It was where the Hebrew alphabet was first written down, and the sofers (Hebrew for scribes) did that writing. I feel extremely fortunate to be from this heritage because it’s so very rich.”

The food she made was less rich, using no oil at all. While Indian cuisine is heavy on oil and ghee (clarified butter), she said Baghdadi Jews do not cook that way. We made a simple salad of diced tomatoes, dressed only with lemon juice, chopped cilantro and salt and pepper.

Same with a beet salad with caramelized onions; again, it was dressed with lemon juice, a bit of cranberry juice (the addition comes from her cousin in Toronto, not from India), and salt and pepper.

Sofaer was clear that all leaves should be plucked from the cilantro stems. “Never serve your guests cilantro like this,” she said, pointing to the entire stem. “I can’t stand lazy restaurants that do that.”

Before participants plucked, Miriam Ferris put the cilantro through a vigorous wash-and-soak in water and vinegar to make sure it was free of bugs, as kosher law dictates. She then laid it out on a light-box — normally used by photographers — to check it again. It had to go through the rinse process a second time when a bug was found after the first wash.

The main dish was made for the next night’s Iraqi Shabbat dinner. It was an Indian version of hameem (also spelled hamim), a Mizrachi version of cholent, also called t’bith in Arabic.

A whole chicken is rubbed with ground turmeric and cardamom and then browned. Tomatoes that have been parboiled and mashed are added, along with rice. Later, parboiled carrots are added, along with their cooking water, additional water, salt and pepper. The dish is cooked first over a flame and then later in the oven, where it can remain overnight.

Given that Sofaer was born in 1934, there were very few houses in India that had ovens during her childhood. “We had a charcoal brazier, and made hameem the night before,” she said. “We’d cover it with big burlap bags to keep it warm and cook it like that all night, and then eat it when we came home from synagogue for lunch.”

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Indonesian Gadu Gadu

By Dana Weiss

Dana Weiss’s nanny’s version of Gadu Gadu

*Vegetarians can leave out the chicken

Serves four

Sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
I clove of garlic, crushed
2 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter (not sweet)
1 teaspoon cumin
3 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
A few stalks of lemongrass
2 tablespoons soya
½ cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander

Steamed vegetables
3 zucchinis peeled, halved (lengthways) and cut into thin strips
1 cauliflower broken up into florets
1 cabbage cut into thin strips
1 carrot halved (lengthways) and cut into thin strips

Chicken 3 chicken breasts cut into cubes of approximately 3x3cm
2 tablespoons cornflour

1) To prepare the sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan, except for the coriander, and cook uncovered over a low light for about 30 minutes. Add the fresh coriander and put to one side.

2) In a bamboo steamer, or a pot with straining holes, steam all the vegetables quickly—about 3 minutes, season and place in ice water to stop the cooking process and ensure that the vegetable remain crisp.

3) Heat a wide pan with a little oil and place the cornflour in a flat bowl. When the oil is hot roll the chicken cubes in the cornflour until they are fully covered. Gently shake off any excess flour and fry until browned. Place the cubes on a plate lined with absorbent paper towel.

4) To serve, divide up the vegetables and the chicken onto plates and pour the sauce over them. We recommend serving it with either rice or noodles.

About Dana Weiss: Dana Weiss is the presenter of the weekend news on Channel Two Israel. Previously she was the host of “Meet the Press” on the same channel. She is also a documentary producer, investigative journalist and a lawyer and a guest lecturer at the Sammy Ofer School of Communications at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.

Recipe and photo: Courtesy of Jerusalem Season of Culture. Photographer: Yael Ilan

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Chicken Freekeh by Chef Kamal Hashelmon

By Kamal Hashelmon

Serves 4

Spice mixture
1 flat teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon of dried marjoram
½ teaspoon cumin

4 clean boneless chicken thighs

Freekeh
2 carrots peeled and cut into small cubes
2 onions cut into small cubes
2 finely-chopped garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups freekeh (smoked green wheat) or wheat
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons raisins
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup water
Cooking oil

For serving
2 handfuls of freshly chopped parsley
2 handfuls of roasted and chopped pine nuts

Prepare the spice mix

1) To make the freekeh, heat a pan with a little oil. When the oil is hot add the onion cubes and carrot and fry until the onion is translucent—about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.

2) Add the freekeh and mix well making sure that all of the grain is covered with oil. Add the raisins and about 2/3 of the spice mixture and mix again.

3) Pour in the water and ¾ of the stock. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and cook on a low light for about 30 minutes. Stir intermittently and if needed, adjust the seasoning.

4) To make the chicken, place the chicken in a bowl and rub the seasoning, salt, pepper and the remaining spice mix, into the chicken.

5) Heat a heavy pot on a high light. Pour in a little olive oil and fry the chicken, a few minutes on each side. Add the remaining chicken stock and cook until the liquid is reduced and absorbed into the chicken.

6) Pour the freekeh onto plates, place the chicken on top and garnish with chopped parsley and roasted pine nuts.

About Chef Kamal Hashelmon: Formerly the Head Chef for the St. George Landmark Hotel’s Turquoise Restaurant in East Jerusalem, Hashelmon is a Palestinian chef who specializes in Lebanese cuisine with a twist. His culinary training spanned the Middle East where he studied and worked in a number of different countries including, Beirut, Amman and Cairo, and a four-year term in one of Israel’s top restaurants, “Mul-Yam.”

Recipe and photo: Courtesy of Jerusalem Season of Culture. Photographer: Yael Ilan

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Baked Falafel for Meatless Mondays

By Molly Yeh

In college, Mondays meant falafel. It started when Soom Soom, an amazing Kosher eatery on 72nd St., had falafel happy hour. Two sandwiches for the price of one. My fellow students and I would pair up and walk over for dinner. We’d cram into the tiny joint, bask in half-price falafel yumminess, and enjoy the break from school.

When I graduated and moved out to Brooklyn, I lived within a mile of enough falafel places to keep me on my toes for months: an Israeli bar and restaurant, a gourmet falafel place with delicious doughy pita, and a bright green falafel truck parked right in front of my brownstone whose smells seeped into my living room (in the best way possible), to name a few. I loved them all and always looked forward to Monday dinners.

Living on the farm, I miss my many falafel places. But, since moving away from New York, I have loved making my own. With its basic ingredients being items that I always have on hand (garbanzo beans and various spices) that can be paired with whatever fresh herbs or green leafy vegetables I have at the moment, a homemade falafel is never out of reach. Served with a salad or rice and tahini sauce, it makes for a trusty and tasty meal.

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Honey and Schmaltz: Your Virtual Jewish Recipe Box

By Sari Kamin

Sari Kamin

It started with an artichoke. I was in Rome studying food and culture. The day before, I had eaten the best pasta of my life: a simple cacio e pepe sublimely balanced with pepper, cheese, and the most perfectly cooked al dente noodles. But it was a artichoke in the old Jewish ghetto that left me speechless.

That bite became the inspiration for Honey & Schmaltz an ongoing culinary memoir of Jewish food.

Despite being raised by a Reform rabbi, religion and I have never really clicked. But as I bit into that fried artichoke — a food as Jewish as matzo ball soup — I was overcome with nostalgia. I’m not Italian, but somehow I felt a deep connection to my ancestors. I wanted to dig deeper into my own history by way of the lexicon of recipes my people had produced.

Over the last two months I met with and interviewed close to 40 individuals — chefs like Aaron Israel at Shalom Japan, food writers like Joan Nathan and Gil Marks and passionate home cooks. I asked them each to share a recipe with me — one that had been passed down through generations in their family and embodies their heritage. I asked them to cook the recipe while I witnessed, photographing their process in the kitchen, taking down the recipe and sampling the results. As they cooked I heard the stories behind the recipes, where they came from and who made them, when they were eaten and why they are special.

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Joan Nathan's Italian Plum Tart

By Joan Nathan

Sari Kamin

I can never decide what I like better about this Alsatian and southern-German tart: the quetsches (similar to Italian Blue Plums, which are available for a short time in the fall) or the butter crust (called sablé in French and Mürbeteig in German ). On a recent trip to France, I learned a trick for making it: if you bake the tart with no sugar over the fruit, you won’t get a soggy crust. Just sprinkle on a small amount of sugar after baking. Italian Blue Plums are only available in the early fall, so I tend to serve this tart at Rosh Hashanah. If you make it at another time of the year, other varieties of plums can be used.

Reprinted with permission from “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France”

Yield: 8 servings

Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1stick butter 8 tablespoons
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon Salt

Filling
1/3 cup plum jam
1 tablespoon brandy
2 pounds Italian blue plums (or greengage plums in the spring)
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

To make the crust, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and butter or margarine together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade until crumbled. Then add the egg yolk, and pulse until the dough comes together.

Put the dough in the center of an ungreased 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Dust your fingers with flour, and gently press out the dough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and bake the crust for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 375 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven, and let cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Mix the jam with the brandy in a small bowl, and spread over the bottom of the crust. Pit the plums, and cut them into four pieces each. Starting at the outside, arrange the plums in a circle so that all the pieces overlap, creating concentric that wind into the center of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and lemon zest.

Return the tart to the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the plums are juicy. Remove the tart from the oven, sprinkle on the sugar, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Variation: This pie can be made with apricots, peaches, or blueberries.

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Pilaf with Kidney Beans and Carrots

By Dahlia Abraham Klein

Pilau

Prep Time: 30 minutes plus 12 hours for soaking the beans and 1 hour for soaking the rice
Cook Time: 2 hours plus 1 hour 30 minutes for the beans

Serves 6

1 cup (200 g) dried red kidney beans
2 cups (450 g) brown basmati rice
3 cups (750 ml) boiling water
2½ teaspoons sea salt
½ cup (75 g) raisins
3 large onions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 large carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 head garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) oil
6 cardamom pods
3 cups (750 ml) water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Drain and pour the rice into a large bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and pour boiling water over it. Mix well and let it soak for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, plump the raisins in warm water.

In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil. Sauté the onion, stirring, for 7 minutes, or until softened. Then add the kidney beans, season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pat down the mixture with the bottom of your spoon to form a fairly even layer.

Make another layer with the carrots and season with remaining salt and cardamom. Make sure not to combine the carrots with the onions.

Spoon the rice over the carrots, distributing it evenly all over the top.

Bruise the cardamom pods: Place the pods on a flat surface, place the flat blade of a large chef’s knife on top of them and press down on it with the heel of your hand to crush them lightly until the outer husk cracks. Poke some holes into the rice and place the bruised cardamom pods into the holes. Pour 3 cups (750 ml) water and remaining oil over the rice in a circular motion.

Drain the water from the raisins and season with cinnamon.

With a spoon, form a pocket in the rice around the side of the saucepan, and place the raisins into the pocket. In the center of the saucepan, firmly push into the rice, the whole head of garlic.

Place a paper towel large enough to cover the pan on the surface of the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Cover tightly with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until the rice is fully cooked. (The towel will absorb the steam, preventing the rice from getting too sticky.) Check the rice periodically to make sure that the rice did not dry up. If the water has dried up during the cooking process and the rice is still not done, add ½ cup (125 ml) water.

When the rice is done, use a skimmer to gently transfer each layer onto a serving dish. First, remove the garlic and set to the side of the platter. Then transfer the rice, then the carrots, and finally the beans. Scatter the raisins over the top for a sweet accent.

Photo by Sari Kamin

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'The Forest Feast': Mashed Beets With Sweet Potatoes and Apples

By Alix Wall

The mashed beets were another win, though there was a minor quibble or two with the recipe. Three beets are roasted along with one sweet potato and one apple, after being cubed, and then mashed with Greek yogurt and butter or olive oil, and topped with dried cherries, scallions, olive oil and sea salt. Beets are not one-size-fits-all, and Gleeson doesn’t specify what size to use. She also doesn’t say what kind of apple, so I went with a Granny Smith, to add some tartness. Dried cherries also come in tart and sweetened versions, and I happen to like tart, so that’s what I had on hand. The sweetened variety would have detracted from the dish, while the tart ones were the perfect accent.

My larger complaint with this recipe is that it says to roast, not specifying that a beet is harder than a sweet potato or apple, and therefore takes longer to cook. Next time I will put the beets on one tray and the sweet potato and apple on another, and that way I can leave the beets in longer. I tried mashing the veggies while still hot with a hand masher, no chance. I then got out my immersion blender, and still had trouble. The yogurt and butter were not enough, so I had to add some milk, as I would to mashed potatoes, to make them mashable. That did the trick, but the immersion blender was still working overtime.

My finished product turned out much lighter in color than Gleeson’s photo, making me wonder whether my beet ratio was too low; hers is as dark as beets are in their natural state; mine looked more like summer borscht with sour cream already blended in. However, the taste was excellent — with the sweet potato shining and the the sour cherries, scallions and sea salt working excellently as toppings.

Recipes, art and photography from Erin Gleeson’s “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from my Cabin in the Woods” used by permission.

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'The Forest Feast': Asparagus Tart with Brie

By Alix Wall

The tart is one of those that will get oohs and aahs at a dinner party; it’s not only beautiful and delicious, but also incredibly rich — perhaps why Gleeson serves it an appetizer.

My one fear was that the pine nuts might burn being in the oven as long as it took to cook the asparagus through and puff pastry until brown. I chose to add them at the halfway mark, which might have been erring on the cautious side.

The recipe would likely work well for other vegetables like cherry tomatoes.

Recipes, art and photography from Erin Gleeson’s “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from my Cabin in the Woods” used by permission.

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'The Forest Feast': Kale Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons

By Alix Wall

Another day, another kale salad. But no. The chiffonade kale is tossed with grated parmesan, pine nuts and store-bought polenta cubes that are fried in olive oil until crispy. The dressing blends Greek yogurt, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and garlic. One dining companion said the polenta croutons were like little delicious surprises.

Dressing: In a blender, add: ¾ cup olive oil, 2 whole garlic cloves, ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, [my adds: salt and pepper]. Blend well. Makes way more than needed for one salad.

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Tanoreen's Lentil Noodle Soup with Greens

By Rawia Bishara

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”.

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Tanoreen's Brussels Sprouts With Panko

By Rawia Bishara

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.

Thick Tahini Sauce

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.”

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Cooking the Book: 'Olives, Lemons and Za’atar'

By Naomi Zeveloff

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.

Tanoreen’s Lentil Noodle Soup with Greens

Tanoreen’s Brussels Sprouts With Panko

Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking.”

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