Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back - with vegan oreos

I took a break from gobbling bacon sandwiches (with a side order of spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, sausage and spam) to whip these up for a party where I knew a lot of the guests would be vegan.

1 cup 5 oz all-purpose flour (by volume, may vary with local conditions)
generous 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7-1/2 oz margarine, cubed, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 backing sheets with parchment paper. Put all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle on low speed until thoroughly mixed. Add the margarine gradually, increasing the mixer speed as the margarine integrates to avoid getting powder everywhere. Mix until the dough comes together. Knead a few times on a floured surface; it will still be rather sticky. Divide the dough in half; roll out each half in turn between sheets of parchment paper to about 1/8" thickness. Cut out 2" circles. Arrange on the baking sheets with about half an inch of space between them. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

1/2 cup margarine
2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the shortening in a stand mixer; add the sugar and vanilla and whip until light and fluffy.

When the cookies are completely cool, frost one and sandwich another atop it, bottom to bottom. Yield: 18-20 cookies.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fruit Meatloaf

I like this recipe because it's so flexible; as long as you get the proportions correct for the major ingredients you can vary just about everything else to tweak the flavors.

1-1/2 lbs ground meat; it can be all beef or mostly beef plus pork and/or lamb. If you use all beef make sure it's not more than 75% lean
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 handfuls dried fruits; I like a combination of raisins, apricots, and prunes. Chop larger fruits into raisin-sized pieces
1 Tbsp jam or fruit preserves, any flavor
1/4 tsp fresh-ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
(all the dry spices can be adjusted or substituted to taste, but the cinnamon helps bring out the fruit flavors and hot paprika or something else spicy makes a great contrast to the sweetness)
generous pinch kosher salt
1 egg

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, take off your rings, and mix thoroughly by hand. Press into a small loaf pan or other oven-safe dish. Use less than the entire vessel if necessary to make the loaf at least 2 inches thick. Bake for 1 hour.

Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ginger BBQ Sauce

This is a pretty standard KC-style BBQ sauce with a ginger kick.

2 thumbs ginger
2 c ketchup
1 c water
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 c brown sugar
3 T olive oil
4 T smoked paprika
2 T chili posder
4-6 cloves garlic
2 t chili flakes

Thinly slice one thumb of ginger - no need to peel it. Bring the water to a boil, add the ginger, reduce heat to a bare simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, set aside.

Peel and finely dice the other thumb of ginger. Smash and dice the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan, add the ginger and garlic, and saute gently until the garlic starts to color. Add 1/2 cup of the ginger-infused water and all the other ingredients. Stir, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Between the sugar and the vinegar it'll keep indefinitely in the fridge.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Year's Pancake Brunch/The Politics of Kashrut

Business first: the next Florentin Pancake Brunch will be Friday, December 30th from 11 am to 1 pm. More info here. Pictures from the previous brunch here.

One of the blogs where I cross-post recently asked for permission to alter a recipe because it called for bacon and they were - reasonably - uncomfortable about even seeming to advocate basar lavan on an Israel-themed blog. But that got me thinking (always a dangerous condition).

When I lived in the US, I kept a kosher household for over ten years, despite the relative difficulty and expense of getting kosher meat and other items (I didn't live in a major Jewish population center). I had a number of reasons, though being an apatheist none of them were "because G-d says so". It was mostly a personal-is-political type of decision and, since moving to Israel I've seen how the same factors lead many to the opposite decision.

In the USA, keeping kosher is an affirmative act; one does it to be/show/proclaim one's membership in the small community set apart from the nominal but pervasive Xtianity; one (or at least I) spent a lot of time on such issues as the moral implications and interplay between kashrut and animal cruelty, etc. When the whole mess with the Postville packing plant blew up I went to a fair amount of trouble to get my meat from another source, and I was disappointed (though not surprised) that none of the major hechshers yanked their certifications.

Here, NOT keeping kosher seems more of an affirmative act. Granted I don't know very many datim or haredim, but among my secular friends are a number who deliberately do not keep kosher because they want to deny support to the corrupt rabbinut and they see the whole certification thing as a big racket.

In the States I preferred the kosher chicken to nonkosher - due to diet and how they're raised the meat ends up more flavorful and toothsome, and certainly the birds are treated much better during their short lives by Empire than by Tyson or any of the other major poultry producers. 

Conversely, in Israel I hear people complain all the time that kosher beef is tasteless compared to non. I don't find the problem to be the kashrut of the meat. I'm equally unimpressed by Tiv Ta'am's meat counter as Mega's or Shufersal's. I think the real problem is that meat prices are so high here that most people won't or can't spend enough to get good quality, properly-aged beef. There's a kosher natural food market and a nonkosher butcher shop from which I've gotten perfectly delicious cuts, but they cost substantially more than the chain markets. Likewise, I've learned not to order beef at any restaurant that's less than 150 shekels a plate, whether or not they have a teudat kashrut.

As for pork? Well, I'm eating bacon again but I still can't bring myself to put a pork chop or a baby back rib in my mouth. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Turkey Cordon Blooey

1 deboned turkey thigh
Alton Brown's poultry shake (or your own)
chili oil
4 strips bacon
4 stalks white asparagus
4 lychees, chopped
handful shredded mozarella

Preheat oven to 375F; heat a cast-iron skillet over a medium-high flame. Spread out the turkey thigh. Season it liberally on both sides with the poultry shake and rub with some chili oil. Sear in the skillet, 2 mins on each side, then remove. While the turkey is resting reduce heat under the skillet and cook the bacon. When the turkey is cool enough to handle, roll it up with the bacon, asparagus, lychees, and mozzarella inside. Secure with short skewers if necessary.

Put the turkey back in the skillet and bake for half an hour.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deconstructed Tuna Casserole

So, "deconstructed" this, that, and the other thing is popular in hipster food circles nowadays. Or maybe it used to be but now it's passé - I can't keep up. The idea is you take some well-known, boring recipe - often some kind of comfort food - and make something that has nothing in common with it except the ingredient list, except you supercharge it with all the trendiest, most expensive varieties of the ingredients you can find. And you put it all together with a fancy presentation including lots of verticality. Vertical food is very trendy as well.

Here's my take on deconstructing your mom's tuna casserole - you know, the one you make with canned tuna, canned peas, a can of Campbell's cream-of-substance soup, noodles and crushed-up potato chips. Like a rocket, you assemble it in stages.

Miso rice

3/4 cup dry basmati rice
1-1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp dark miso paste

Combine, bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the miso, reduce heat and simmer covered for 10-12 minutes.

Citrus cream sauce with vegetables

1 ear sweet corn
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
handful frozen green peas
handful chick peas

Boil the corn for 25 minutes, drain, allow to cool, then slice the kernels off the cob. In a small saucepan melt the butter, stir in the flour, and simmer over very low heat for 3-5 minutes until it has a nutty aroma. Add the orange juice, stirring until it thickens into an even paste. Stir in the milk, raise the heat to a boil and then back off to a simmer again, stirring occasionally to keep it smooth as it thickens. Add the corn, peas, chick peas, orange zest, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 10 minutes then cover and turn off the heat.

Parmesan cookies

Put a silpat or a piece of parchment paper in a baking pan. Plop a generous tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese and spread it into a thin circle. Make 2 or 3 of them. Then put the pan right under your broiler at maximum for no more than 2 or 3 minutes until the cheese starts to brown. Watch carefully because the difference between GBD and charred is seconds only. Once cool you'll have crispy cheese biscuits.

Seared tuna and grilled portobello mushrooms

1 sushi-grade tuna steak, 4-6 ounces
toasted sesame oil
chili oil
sesame seeds
2 large portobello caps
olive oil
Worcestershire sauce

Thaw the tuna in your fridge, and be prepared to devote 24 hours to that. If you try to cheat by thawing it at room temperature you'll be disappointed with the result. Once thawed, put it in a bowl and drizzle on a little chili oil and a little toasted sesame oil, just enough to coat. Marinate in the fridge for an hour.

Get a dry, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet rocket-hot. Sprinkle the tuna with sesame seeds and cook it for 2 minutes on each side. While the tuna is resting, add a little olive oil to the skillet and grill the mushrooms for 2 minutes a side, hitting each side with a couple dashes of Worcestershire. When the tuna has cooled, slice it thinly across the grain.

Buttery enoki mushrooms

Saute a couple of ounces of enoki mushrooms gently in a little butter.

Final assembly

Press the rice into an even layer on a small serving platter. Place the mushrooms gill-side up on the rice and stuff them generously with the vegetables in cream sauce. Spread the enoki mushrooms over the sauce, and arrange the sliced tuna artistically on the enokis. Top each portobello with a Parmesan cookie set at a jaunty angle. Sprinkle red onion around the edge of the platter.

I meant to take the picture before we dug in and ruined the presentation, but oops.
Pretentious? You bet. Delicious? Indeed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yes you CAN get great pancakes in Israel

At least you can while I have anything to say about it.

Look, I'm all for embracing new cultures. I mean, I left my country of birth, for new people, new places, new language, even a new alphabet.

New food.

And I love the food of my new home: shakshuka, hummus, falafel, sabich (mmm, sabich!), and plenty more. But you can embrace the new and still miss the old. And what I miss most is my Saturday morning breakfasts at Brother Juniper's. During the week I usually skip breakfast: roll out of bed, make coffee, and head straight to work. Which made Saturday that much more special.

And I'm sorry, but if there are good, American-style pancakes in Israel I haven't found them. And I've looked. What you get when you ask for pancakes are either limp, underflavored crepes, or thick, heavy, oversweetened monstrosities buried under whipped cream, Nutella, peanut butter, and god knows what else. Dessert, not breakfast.

Until now.


I decided to take matters into my own hands, in my own kitchen, and on my own rooftop, and today for the first time served a Friday morning pancake brunch on my rooftop in Florentin. It meant a couple hours of increasingly-frantic cooking prep, but it was well worth it. By eleven o'clock I had assembled a pitcher of mimosas, a pot of coffee (my favorite blend of Columbian and Papua New Guinea beans), a cast-iron skillet brimming with my special recipe of home fried potatoes and, yes, a humongous pile of pancakes. And real Grade A amber maple syrup.

Nine people joined me for a leisurely meal and conversation. And it was pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself. The potatoes were an unexpected hit; next time I'll have to make more. And I think there will be a next time; this was too much fun not to do it again.