Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Market Day - Sauteed Cauliflower with Cumin Seed

I had no food in the house today. Well, that's not entirely true. I had no produce. I just went and spent 160nis - or about $40, buying produce. Shocking, no?

When it comes to a quick shop, there are a few options in the neighborhood. Any of the local grocery stores - we really only like one for big shopping as their produce is excellent and their selection of dry goods is adequate for our needs. There are also a number of bodega type stores, with everything from fruits and veggies to dairy goods and decent wines. They tend to pricey but convenience always comes with a price tag. Nothing is like the shuk but one can't shlep to the shuk everyday.

Thankfully, Ira has a 2 day a week Ulpan that meets near on 'yarkan'/veg seller that we like. I met up with him and we brought a nice pile of produce home - greens and some crisp apples, persimmons (of course), cukes (slim, small, crunchy Israeli cukes), cauliflower and d'lat (pumpkin). Fresh thyme, fennel and medium sized portobello mushrooms to round it all out.

I bought 2 beautiful heads of cauliflower as well. I have been experimenting with cauliflower again as it is readily available here and always looks beautiful here. I like roasted cauliflower but last time I tried it, first I did a quick saute to take the raw crunch out and then roasted the flowerets the rest of the way but felt it got too soft. It was tasty though.

This time, I did it all the way in the pan and was happier with the results.
2 large heads of cauliflower (this ensured some lunch leftovers), broken into smaller flowerets and the stems trimmed and chopped down.

Peeled and chopped fresh ginger. I would say between 2-4 tbsps, depending on how much ginger you like.

Peeled and chopped fresh garlic. 4-6 good sized cloves.

1-2 tbsp of cumin seed.

Canola oil. I think that for something like this, which is Indian in style, I would go for canola or even ghee if you have any in the house but olive would work as well.
Heat your pan and add the oil (2tbsp should do it). Saute the ginger and garlic, watching that they only lightly brown and not burn. Add the cumin seed and saute until the aroma is nice and toasty (2-3 minutes), again watching that it doesn't burn. Add the cauliflower and saute at a high flame, letting it brown a bit, stirring it up every few minutes. When it's brown to your liking (5 min or so) and beginning to get a bit cooked, cover the pan and let the cauliflower cook to your preferred crunch. If the bottom of the pan is too dry, a splash of white wine or just water will work just fine to keep things from scorching.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beans, beans

I tried to gussy up a pot of beans the other night but it wasn't as inspired as I might have hoped. I combined celery, carrots, the ubiquitous dl'at, or pumpkin, and black beans, with some onion and garlic and red wine and a tad of sweetening from apple juice concentrate. Seasoned it with herbs and some hot pepper flakes, thyme and fresh rosemary. I was looking for an 'herby' taste, that would marry nicely with the veggies and figured we'd have it over a grain - we cooked up a mix of light buckwheat (my new fave and a great improvement over the dark kasha of my youth) and millet (which added a nice crunch and toasty taste).

I tasted the stew and wasn't overawed. I decided to try a fruit element and added in a few fresh, mission figs that were firm and pleasantly sweet. Then, when all was cooked, I tossed in 2 chopped persimmons and a squeeze of lemon.

It wasn't bad. Not perfect - needs some more thought. The figs were nice with the veggies and beans but the whole stew needed some more punch. More wine and more stewing to develop early flavors might have gotten me what I was looking for.

The good news is that we ate it last night and munched on it today as needed and now it's all gone.

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gabe's Stir-fry with Toasted Orzo and Tofu

I continue to encourage my children to get involved in dinner preparation. True, I get bored and so do they, with my own quick and easy interpretations of stir-fries, grains and veggies, tofu and what generally constitutes a fast meal during the week.

Gabe, who is 14, cooked last night, with a bit of instruction and advice from me. I'm pleased to report that he made a good meal and we ate up every last scrap. I suggested that he write it down so that we could share the recipe.

(Gabe didn't want to chop, so he used frozen vegetables even though we had plenty of interesting things in the decide what's best for you)

1 large onion, diced

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 20oz bag of frozen mixed veggies - cauliflower, broccoli and baby carrots

Dried thyme, salt and pepper and Gabe's favorite, hot paprika
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add a healthy pinch or two of dried thyme, rubbing it between your fingers to release the oils, a pinch of salt and 5-10 grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle in hot paprika to you taste. Stir.

Add your veggies in (if you were using fresh, I might suggest sauteing some mushrooms, red peppers and zucchini, or carrots, winter squash and celery, for example) and cover. Cook until tender to your taste. Taste and adjust seasoning.


1 medium onion, diced

Yellow curry paste

3 cups orzo - we use a whole-grain, spelt variety, which is very tasty.

4 1/2 cups boiling water

Toasted sesame oil

Saute onion with toasted sesame oil. Stir in yellow curry paste to your taste - Gabe suggests 2 tablespoons which is pleasantly hot - then add the orzo and toast for a couple of minutes in the pan, stirring continuously. Pour in the boiling water - watch out for the sputter - cover, and cook on a low flame for about 8 minutes, until tender.


1 block of firm tofu, cubed

Chili oil

Canola oil

Sesame seeds


Saute tofu in canola oil with a drizzle of chili oil mixed in. As tofu begins to brown, sprinkle in sesame seeds and toast alongside the tofu, watching carefully (this will all happen quickly). Once the tofu is browned to your liking, add a few splashes of tamari to your taste.


Pile it up. Orzo, topped with veggies and a few cubes of tofu. Great job, Gabe.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Salad

The fall means new produce wherever you live. In Israel, where the summer heat continues to hold on, at least during the day, the markets fill with bounty in time for the Jewish New Year. Ruby red pomegrantes, yellow-green quince, various sexy and appropriately looking mysterious tropical fruits in shocking fuschias and pinks, that invite investigation and tasting. Then, there are the standards - the new crop of citrus fruits and winter squashes, which in those heady moments of fall, seem so exciting, months away from inducing winter blues.

This Friday, I gazed into the refrigerator and considered what would compose an appropriately fall-like salad. I wanted something refreshing and clean on the palate, that wouldn't weigh us down to much before we launched on our heavier main course. I used my new oranges, navel like in their look but ultimately a new variety that I have to ask my fruit/veg guy more about. I've been getting some of our produce through a guy who gets organic fruits and veggies from different places. He claimed he'd get some exciting oranges this week and they were good but as usual, still a bit green and not quite as sweet as what they'll be in another month or two. But tasty nonetheless, with a pleasantly, astringent quality.


Romaine Lettuce - always readily available and it offers a certain bitter quality that makes it, to me that is, more interesting than regular red and green leaf lettuces. It also has a nice crunch as well.

Arugula - what can I say, I almost always use arugula and it always tastes good to me, but one could use other lettuces as well. Watercress can be excellent with this preparation and it's sharp, almost bitter quality makes a nice foil to the oranges.

Oranges - Peeled, pith removed and sliced across the circumference into circles and then cut into half moons.

Green olives - Israel is the land of olives of all varieties. I was fortunate to get young, green olives, still developing in their marinade, along with sliced garlic. (You could also choose an oil cured black olive, which will be saltier and stronger in taste but still good, or herbed, green olives with a crunchier bite).

Sliced, toasted almonds - Just toast them in a frying pan, keeping a careful eye, or in the toaster oven for 5-7 minutes at 300.

Optional add ins - Sliced scallion or purple onion.


Olive oil

Orange juice/Lemon juice: Depending on how many plates you're dressing, figure on the juice of 1-2 oranges and 1-2 lemons. You can decide how puckery you'd like the dressing.

Honey to taste.

Splash of apple cider vinegar to even out the taste.

Dijon mustard. 1-2tbsps.

Salt and Pepper.

Whisk together, taste and adjust. I kept it lightly sweet and only mildly tart to accent the not so sweet oranges and the very sharp olives.


You can mix this all up into a big bowl or arrange plates, which is my preference. Mix together your greens separately and then arrange a casual pile on each plaste. Toss some orange slices on top and then some green olives. Dress each plate with a couple of tablespoons of dressing and freshly, ground black pepper. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What's for lunch?

Oh, that feeling that comes around at different points each day. What's for lunch? Translation, is there any food in the refrigerator? Any good leftovers still lingering from dinner last night...what will I do to stave off starvation?

A few months ago, on a whim really, we purchased a panini press. I figured it would be a fun thing to own but wondered if it would pay off in terms of usage within the family. Four months later, and I can say that it's one of the best investments we ever made, appliance wise, for the whole family. Everyone can operate it - it only has an on and off switch - and in 5 minutes, lunch is ready.

Thing is, toast and cheese, while always a perfect combination, can become a tad old. We've played with the standard list of additions - cheeses of all kinds, sliced olives, roasted peppers, various spreads of interest from mayo and garlic butter to humus and mustard and one novel addition of Natan's, sliced hard boiled egg which adds a nice 'soft' note to the palate as well as a nice bit of protein. We've slipped in sliced, cooked tofu when it was available in the house and have worked with tuna, both salad style and smoked, which was rather swishy and added a nice punch of salt.

Today we looked in the refrigerator for inspiration and after lining up the usual suspects came up with today's recipe.

Pear and Peppered Goat Cheese Panini

Sliced Bread - we used an excellent, whole-grain, pain de mie, baked in long oblong pullman pans to create these huge rectangular breads. The slices are satisfyingly large, although my husband said he would have preferred a softer textured bread for his panini, even though he liked the flavor of the bread. We told him that was because the bread was from the freezer (in the time that it took us to decide what kind of panini to make, it defrosted nicely, even if the texture wasn't perfect).

Grainy Mustard - we slathered it, but use it to your own taste on ONE of the slices.

Quark Cheese or some other soft, spreadable cheese. Here, in Israel, that means labne, which is a lightly, soured cheese that comes in both goat and cow's milk versions, in lower and higher fat varieties as well. We spread this on the OTHER slice of the bread.

1/2 firm pear, sliced thinly (peeling optional).

Baby greens, with some rocket/arugula mixed in.

Some slices of crumbly, lightly aged, goat cheese. Our
variety, had some peppercorns mixed in for a nice, peppery bite.

We served it with some greens on the side and pickled cucumber salad from a few days ago, spooned on top. Lovely, filling and tasty.