Valentines Day Chocolates!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know you are still wondering what to do. We all spend a lot of time looking for something new and creative to do. We all want to “keep it fresh”. Well, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and let me tell you it gets hard. I am a devotee of the classics. Let’s do a romantic dinner. That’s not to say we can’t shake things up a little bit. If you or your significant other are certified chocoholics, like me, how about a meal that has chocolate in every single course?

There is so much to love about chocolate but what you need to know here is that it starts out as cacao, which is mouth wincing bitter. Don’t be scared, that gives you control. That bitter cacao nib is a chameleon. Once add sugar, fat and cream, with a little mixing, you can have the sweet Hershey Kiss from your childhood or a complex and award winning delicacy.

In a typical three-course meal, you’ll start with salad. Let’s make milk chocolate vinaigrette. The milk chocolate is an emulsifier that creates a welcome creaminess. Serve the vinaigrette it over greens that included purple radicchio. Radicchio is a little bitter so it cuts the sweetness. Spinach adds necessary balance. To round out the salad add Asian pear for a tart crunch and diced cranberries for their sweet chewy flavor.

The star of the main course is a fennel seed and cacao nib rubbed pork tenderloin. The secret really is the rub. The rub is a blend of cacao nibs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cayenne with cocoa powder and brown sugar bounces all over your mouth. The recipe calls for grinding the nibs and seeds in a mortar and pestle. The result will be quite coarse. If you’d like a finer texture you can use a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember though, the finer the rub, the less pungent the flavor. Is the rub sweet or spicy? The rub will seal your juices in while cooking so you won’t need any other sauce than the glorious juices as they pour out when sliced.

In keeping with the play on sweet and spicy the pork is served with a charred cauliflower in a picada sauce. Picada is similar to a pesto. This recipe uses; bitter dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, garlic, parsley and a touch of sweet sherry. The cauliflower should be tender, almost creamy, inside and just charred on the outside. There are so many great textures in your mouth.

In moments of humility and mistakes often come our greatest success and sweetness. Dessert comes from one of those moments. I misread a recipe that called for teaspoons of flour and sugar as tablespoons and the result is more like a rich, incredible brownie than cake. It won’t look so pretty when you first turn it out, so decorate with abandon. You can try whatever fresh berries in season. For a more elegant presentation, sift some powdered sugar through a lace doily and add some fresh herbs. I always say if it smells good together it will taste good together so get creative; how about some tarragon or thyme? If you are short on time a dollop of fresh whipped cream will work too.

Here’s the truth, I did not take pictures the last time I made this and don’t want to use stock pictures from the internet. I promise to post pictures as soon as I can. Finally, it appears I can only do one recipe per post so I will send the recipes one after the other.

I wish you and your loved one a very meaningful Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking continuously, drizzle in oil until thickened and combined.
  2. Divide arugula/spinach among plates. Top with pear, cranberries and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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Jam Cake!

For most of my life I heard about “Granny”. My Great-Grandmother. By all accounts she was an amazing cook, great seamstress and she was feisty! My Great-Grandfather was 27 years older than her and had come from a family of privilege in Georgia. My Great-Grandfather was “one of the most sought-after bachelors”. By all accounts he was a bit of player and drove a flashy “rubber-tired buggy” with a “trotting horse”. Today that might be compared to a little red corvette. Granny was a schoolmistress that came from a hard working, “good” family. In the 12 years they were married, prior to his death, they had 4 children and she was pregnant with the 5th when he passed. While the story is told of their love at first sight, I’m guessing there was a certain amount of satisfaction in catching the un-catchable.

In 1900 $18,690 would have been the equivalent of approximately $430,000 today. In 1900 that would have meant that you were wealthy. This is how much the savings passbook shows my great grand parents had in the their bank account when Granny started using it to write recipes. That is a lot of money for the time. While they lived a somewhat grand life with servants and a large plantation home, they also were very conscious of using what they could from their own land. They had crops such as watermelon and their own patch for growing fruits and vegetables. They also raised several different types of chickens and had milk, butter and cheese from their own cows.

A grandchild’s imagination can run wild and mine is no different. At first, I imagined my “feisty” Granny getting mad at Ab, my great grandfather’s nickname. Perhaps he had asked her to run ANOTHER errand to the bank on a day when she had sick children and chores to do on the Plantation. I can see her running into a friend and asking for her Watermelon Rind Preserves recipe. When she realized she has no paper, maybe she thought, “I’ll show him the value of his money!” and scratched out the recipe right there on the 4th page of the passbook. I say this because the recipe is quickly given. There is no list of ingredients and amounts, then instructions. It’s all on continuous sentence.

I sometimes fantasize that maybe she really didn’t have any paper and thought it would be “just one recipe”. However, it became her go to for writing recipes when she ran into friends. Eventually, the recipes did evolve and have a list of and amounts ingredients and instructions.

Today we don’t have passbooks and most of our recipes are shared via email, the Internet or pinterest. Having those recipes written in my grandmother’s handwriting is invaluable. As the years passed, after my Grandfather’s death, times got hard for my great-grandmother and her family. She was able to turn to her Brother in law for help and keep her family together, during the depression, World War II and a great cyclone. I still imagine that she would have been teaching us that the value of a rich family history has more value than today’s $430,000.

My favorite recipe was the Jam Cake. This is a traditional southern cake that came out of Tennessee or Kentucky, depending on what website you are looking at. I have searched high and low for a jam cake recipe that was made with wine instead of buttermilk. I’m not sure why Granny made the substitution, but it sure is good!

I’m giving it to you as written and then my version. How lucky was my Granny to be able to bake with such a limited recipe. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

Jam Cake!
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Jam Cake!
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Beat eggs and sugar together until light colored and ribbony.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder together.
  3. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add to eggs and sugar.
  4. Slowly add flour & baking powder mix to butter/eggs mixture.
  5. Once flour is completely added, add spices and lastly wine. Blend until just combined.
  6. Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350°F for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. For frosting I make a cream cheese frosting and use a good store bought caramel sauce to make a caramel frosting. Divide the layers. I put an extra layer of jam in between cake layers with the frosting and then frost the whole cake.
  8. You can find my cream cheese frosting recipe in my May 8, 2015 post of Red Velvet cake.
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A Case for Boxed Cake Mix

I am a Mom that went to culinary school whose kids like boxed cake mix! I’ve tried many a homemade cake from yellow to red velvet and every frosting imaginable. While they do love my cream cheese frosting they still like, dare I say it, canned frosting and boxed cake mix better.

So when my daughter suggested we do one of those doctored up box cake mix recipes, to add something chocolate to our family holiday celebration. I reluctantly agreed. My only caveat was that it couldn’t have any other processed ingredients. We came really close but the one my daughter wanted had instant pudding in it. I caved.

The directions were “SOOO” complicated. “Empty contents of Bag”. Add in this. Stir in that. I persevered. We greased the pan and baked the mix for the prescribed 30-35 minutes. The whole time I was mumbling under my breath and sighing. How could this be? I make great cakes! Most kids would kill to have me as their mom!

The timer went off and out came a good-looking moist cake. Huh, maybe? We’ll see. It cooled. I poked. It seemed moist and had a nice aroma. Since I managed to get out of the store without buying a can of frosting, I suggested a hack, I knew. The finger taste test was good and so far my daughter approved.

Once the cake was sliced in half, filled and frosted we put it out and we were ready for the harshest of critics…the family. They loved it! Of course every body thought it was one of my recipes and of course my daughter couldn’t wait to tell them it was a doctored up cake mix.

Well at least I can take joy in knowing that there is homemade cake and frosting that I can make with my daughters that they will like. So from my family to yours, enjoy!

*One note- I would love to give credit where due but I honestly don’t remember where this came from. It was a quick screenshot on the phone and off to the store before mom changed her mind.

A Case for Boxed Cake Mix
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A Case for Boxed Cake Mix
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Ingredients
Vanilla Frosting
Servings:
Instructions
Cake
  1. In a mixing bowl pour cake mix and pudding mix. Turn on mixer and add sour cream. Slowly add vegetable oil.
  2. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.
  3. Add milk, vanilla and sea salt.
  4. Add milk, vanilla and sea salt.
  5. Pour into 2 prepared (greased & floured) 8” round cake pans. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan then turn out and cool completely on rack. Frost and serve.
Frosting
  1. Blend together marshmallow fluff, butter and vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar until well blended and consistency is as desired. If it gets too thick you can add some whole milk a couple drops at a time. Frost cake and serve.
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Winter’s Colorful Citrus

Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.

The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.

Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.


Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
  4. Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
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Why is it important to Me?

I am often asked why do I write about cooking. Why is it important to me that “you” cook? It’s often a hard question to answer. Maybe, because it feels existential to me; I cook therefore I am. Recently, I had a small epiphany to this question. I woke up early one morning, I went down stairs and noticed the pungent aroma of too ripe bananas. I immediately got to work on banana bread. My movements around the kitchen, to grab my ingredients were easy and lazy on a warm Saturday morning: three ripe bananas, an egg, some flour and sugar are the basics and then I can get fancy. As I worked it dawned on me, this is why I want YOU to bake. I want you to stumble into your morning kitchen and think “banana bread” or cinnamon rolls or whatever you are craving and not be intimidated, afraid or ill prepared to bake. It is gratifying to bake/cook for your family and friends. It is also extremely gratifying to be the teacher. I want your emails saying you succeeded or even failed with one of my recipes. Let’s walk through it and try again. I love running into you in the store and answering your questions about ingredients or techniques. Send me the pictures! I want to see.

So in turn this answers another question that I have been asked. What’s your voice? Who’s your audience? My voice is just me. And you are my audience. In any article you read whether it is here on my blog or a book or a magazine; I want you to feel like we are sitting at the island in my kitchen, sipping a cup of … and just talking. You can ask me anything and tell me everything. See you soon.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
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Adapted from a recipe on Food Network.
Servings
1 loaf
Servings
1 loaf
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Adapted from a recipe on Food Network.
Servings
1 loaf
Servings
1 loaf
Ingredients
Glaze
Servings: loaf
Instructions
Bread
  1. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer bowl, mix together the peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and well blended.
  3. Mash the bananas and then fold them into the wet mixture.
  4. Ad the flour mixture and beat on medium low until just just combine. Some lumps are ok.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 9X5X3 loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. I know that sounds vague but every oven varies and you don't want your bread to be over or under baked. A tooth pick should come out clean but just clean. Run knife around edges and let cool completely in pan.
Glaze
  1. Put peanut butter, butter and confectioners sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave and stir, in 30 second intervals, until smooth.
  2. Pour glaze over top of turned out bread. Garnish with chopped peanuts. Let set for 10 minutes to set up before slicing.
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Try Something New! Graham Cracker Edition

When I read a post where the first thing the author does is make an excuse, I have to admit it is a huge turn off.  Julia used to say something to the effect of don’t make excuses for your food whether it’s bad or good, everybody already know’s. Well, Julia, true that but sometimes life just rushes by and you get behind.  The ironic thing is I have been writing like crazy, because I have so much to say!  It’s the cooking and picture that seem to set me back.  So here I am to catch up and I think this first one is a good one.

We finally got a little cold snap her in Los Angeles.  I love to think that means we can have a fire in the fire place and snuggle up.  I mean what else can you do when it is 50 degrees out (pause for groan from the east coast)? A fire in the fireplace almost always means S’mores.  So tonight it meant making my own graham crackers.


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I don’t know why I wanted to make my own graham crackers. There was something so intriguing to me. I imagined it would be very complicated so it never occurred to me that I would share it here, under try something new. It was super easy!

I went looking for “Graham” flour. Guess what? Its really just whole-wheat flour that is not sifted during the milling process and is ground coarsely. You can find graham flour in some health food stores. For my purposes I used plain whole-wheat flour. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour Company. I made the first batch exactly as directed. One of my daughters is not a big cinnamon fan and I thought it could be a little more “wheaty” so I made some adjustments and the following is my recipe. It really is simple.

My advice is to be patient when rolling out the dough. You do want to get them very thin. You also will want to have a ruler handy, if measuring out as squares, which is the proper graham shape. I admit I got bored of that and made some squares and some circles with a biscuit cutter. Finally don’t forgo the pricking with a fork. This helps them keep their shape, without puffing up.

Homemade Graham Crackers
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Homemade Graham Crackers
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. I used a stand-up mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, honey and milk. Blend into flour mixture, until a ball starts to form. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if necessary.
  3. Wrap and chill the dough for about an hour. Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured board an knead gently for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line with parchment, 2 baking sheets.
  5. Roll the dough to 1/16"; make sure the board stays floured so the crackers transfer easily.
  6. Cut the dough into 3X# square and prick them with a fork several times. Place on prepared pans and brush tops with a little milk. You can sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if you wish.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely, on rack. They will keep well wrapped at room temperature for a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
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La Peetch!

I have returned from Julia’s, La Peetch! It was everything I thought it would be. It was so much more and a little less at the same time.

For anyone that fancies themselves a good cook. For anyone that has ever watched a black & white episode of The French Chef, on PBS; walking into the kitchen at Julia Child’s home in the south of France and seeing the peg board wall still adorned with every kitchen utensil imaginable is awe inspiring. Somewhere in your mind you understand that these can’t all be original pieces but it doesn’t seem to matter. YOUR IN HER KITCHEN!!! As you “tour” her approximately 10X13 kitchen, you can feel her, you can smell the remnants of meals past and your fingers want to graze over every edge.

Our first evening there we were served appetizers on her cottage table. They were simple, as I thought they should be. We had a little cheese and both green and black olive tapenade on crostini. Each of us explored the home and compared it to pictures on our phones. We sat on the green velvet couch and walked the grounds imagining Julia and Paul walking every step with us.

The next morning, we met again at that cottage table for coffee and “morning pages”. We were given a prompt and our writing began. For me, this is where I think my separation from Julia began. I had a crazy expectation that she would work through me and I would suddenly have words flowing from my fingertips. Not so much. As the week went on and this exercise got more frustrating for me, the bloom fell of the rose, as they say. But, in a good way. I became less focused on Julia and more focused on the women I was with. I started listening to their words. I paid more attention the food and beverage I was consuming, in the moment, instead of what Julia would have been eating and drinking. As I did that the words started to come for me. The drink started to taste sweeter and I had a keener sense of how our food tasted. I was able to enjoy even the simplest meal of pasta with Roquefort sauce.

It was last day and I had yet to find my perfect magazine pitch or outline for my breakout cookbook. Some had already began their journey home and others were taking in a sunny day at the pool. Some had gone exploring in St. Paul de Vence. I decided to take my camera and journal and explore the property practicing my new camera skills. I was composing some artsy photo of an olive or a leaf when the piano started. It was so beautiful and magical. It stopped me mid-shot and I started to write. In that moment I found the soul of Julia I had been looking for. It wasn’t her words but her inspiration that came through me.

On the very last day, I found my words and started my project. So while I continue to walk with you on your journey to good cooking I will share some peeks into my project along the way. Here is my version of the Roquefort Pasta we had a La Peetch. Bon Appetit!

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Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
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A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
Print Recipe
A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Note: I cook my pasta in a well salted boiling water. As the saying goes the water should taste like the sea. Reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water for the recipe. Right before putting everything together, while the water is still boiling hot, swirl it in your serving bowl, to warm it, then toss out.
  2. In a small bowl combine Roquefort and butter with a fork until well blended and soft.
  3. Put pasta in warm bowl with butter mixture and toss slowly so pasta can absorb flavors of cheese and butter. Slowly add cup of cooking water until "sauce" forms and pasta is coated (you may not need whole cup). Season with nutmeg. I use a good amount. There's something about cheese and nutmeg.
  4. Toss with lemon zest and rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning with fresh ground pepper.
  5. Serve with fresh greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette and fresh bread with butter. Don't forget the wine ENJOY!
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Mastering the Art of French Cooking

While I’m am off doing the above, I hope to be posting lots! However, I never wish to leave my devoted followers hanging.  I thought there could be nothing more appropriate than giving you a recipe from Julia’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Since it is Fall and apples are abundant I am giving you a variation of a Clafoutis.  Clafoutis is really just a fruit flan and is typically done with cherries.  Her are Julia’s words.:

The clafoutis which is traditional in the Limousin during the cherry season is peasant cooking for family meals, and about as simple a dessert to make as you can imagine: a pancake batter poured over fruit in a fireproof dish, then baked in the oven.  It looks like a tart and is usually eaten warm.

Clafoutis aux Pommes (Apple Flan)
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Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Clafoutis aux Pommes (Apple Flan)
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Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Saute apples gently in hot butter, until browned. Let stand in skillet for 1/2 hour with the brandy, cinnamon and first 1/3 cup sugar.
  2. Blend together the milk, additional 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour for a full minute until well blended and frothy. It is best in a blender, but a hand mixer will work as well.
  3. Butter a fireproof baking dish. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in the dish and set over moderate heat for a minute or two until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat.
  4. Spread the apple mixture over the batter layer. Pour on the remaining batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
  5. Place in the middle of an oven preheated to 350 and bake for about an hour. The clafoutis is done when it has puffed and browned and a needle or knife plunged in to its center comes out clean.
  6. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar just before serving. It is best served warm or hot. It will sink slightly in the center.
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I’m Going to Julia’s!

There’s that icebreaker question, “If you could invite any 3 people, dead or alive, for dinner; who would it be?” My answer is simple. Julia Child, Julia Child and Julia Child. I even know what I’d make, my Osso Bucco and Parmesan Ricotta Gnocchi.

You may think that Julia is the obvious choice for a chef but there is more to my choice than just that. Cooking is a lifetime sport, you never stop learning or playing with your food. There is always room for improvement or a new technique. Julia herself was well into her forties before she enrolled in the Cordon bleu. Which is why she is one of my biggest inspirations.

I am often asked how long I’ve been cooking. I can honestly say I’ve been cooking since I was 2 years old. I finally formalized my education when I was 23. The last few years of writing this blog, with your support and feedback has really fueled my desire to continue my education and to educate you.

Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to travel to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. I will be going with a small group of women writers and an amazing mentor, for a 10-day retreat. I can’t wait! I feel like a kid anticipating Disneyland. I know when I come back I will have so much more to share with you.

I want to share those recipes with you that I would have cooked for Julia, had I been given the chance. I hope I am posting often from France too, but this should keep you day dreaming while I’m away. As Julia would say “Bon Appétit”!

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Osso Buco
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Osso Buco
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Osso Buco
Gnocchi Verde
Servings:
Instructions
Osso Bucco
  1. Rub veal shanks lightly with olive oil , season with salt & pepper and chopped herbs.
  2. Dust each shank shank with seasoned flour and set aside.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet and heat. Do not let the oil smoke. Brown shanks on all sides. You may add small amounts of oil if needed, be careful not to overdo it.
  4. Add the wine, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
  5. Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Test for tenderness. Fork should pierce meat easily.
  7. Sauce should be thick. If not , remove meat and hold, let sauce reduce uncovered over low heat.
Gnocchi Verde
  1. Remove stems and veins of spinach and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 minute and then drop in ice water to stop cooking. Squeeze ALL moisture out and let air dry. You want spinach to be bone dry. Chop spinach fine.
  2. Saute onion and pancetta in butter. Add spinach and saute until dry. Cool until cool to touch.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and fold all together.
  4. Flour your hands and form 1" - 2" balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel. You can hold here for up to 6 hours.
  5. When you are ready to cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil oil and salt the water. Add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook until puffed and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. They should rise to the surface. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove, GENTLY, from water.
  6. Place in a buttered dish in a single layer. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.
  7. Broil for 5 minutes until just browned. They are great served as is or with your favorite tomato sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • You can chop and slice the fresh vegetables by hand. I use a food processor and the chopping and slicing blades. This save a lot of time.
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Israel and Hummus

I went to Israel last year. I was on a fabulous Women’s trip that was a little sight seeing and a lot of spiritual education. How could it not be spiritual with 260 women? The trip is based in Jerusalem and there are lots of day trips throughout the country, to Masada, Tel Aviv and Tsfat, among other places. When I left for Israel, I was armed with my laptop and fork. I was going to blog about my spiritual journey and surely the amazing food that would accompany it. Well the best laid plans as they say. I should have made sure to have comfortable dancing shoes and sweat mopping towels.

Our first stop was Tsfat, in the north. It was amazing and beautiful. There were 260 women dancing together and drinking on the northern coast. We were served Israeli salad and hummus with huge, fresh made pitas. We were served beautiful pickled vegetables that had just the right amount of tart and sweet. The entrée came and it was salmon encased in fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil. It was served with simply grilled sweet potatoes and mushrooms. We were tired, hot and hungry and the meal did its job to satiate us. When we were thirsty we had cold water. When we thought we couldn’t stay awake even one more moment, there were fireworks and cold Goldstar beer. And then more dancing and singing, hugging and crying. What an amazing night! And I wrote all about it.

Thanks to chefs like Ottenlenghi, the rest of the world is experiencing Israel’s wonderful food scene. When you walk through the open markets in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem the vibrant colors and aromas are intoxicating. Lunch on our first day was the most amazingly authentic and delicious falafel. I had it loaded with pickles and cabbage and tahini with hummus and French fries. It was exactly what I wanted in an Israeli falafel.

This year my husband will be going on the men’s trip. I’ve done my best to tell him where to go for the best falafel and hummus. To not miss the hidden wine shop in Tsfat. He will find that the shashuka at the hotel is a great way to start each morning and that even Israel has great Chinese food.

Of the 30 different hummus’ I ate while I was in Israel, I came home with this recipe. It is the best one I had and I love the tang of lemon.

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Hummus
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Hummus
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put them in a large pot with shallots, salt and dried pepper (I like to add a whole peeled carrot, sweetness, but its optional). Cover with cold water by one inch. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or two.
  2. Drain, but reserve the liquid. Discard all but the chickpeas.
  3. Puree about half the chickpeas in a food processor with 2 Tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the garlic and remaining chickpeas and continue to puree.
  4. While pureeing add lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and spices.You may add additional cooking liquid if needed, but don't let it get runny.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve with fresh, warm pita.
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