This blog seems to be turning into the story of what I’ve been doing in the increasingly long periods between posts. This time I have a great excuse. I was moving. Between looking for a new place, packing, the actual move and unpacking, two months have gone by. Not only have I not made anything for the blog but I have barely cooked anything at all in that time. I even let one of my favorite Jewish food holiday, Shavuot, pass without a dairy delight emerging from my kitchen. So for my inaugural post from my new kitchen I decided to start the cheese making I have been threatening for at least a year. I actually purchased the book Home Cheese Making at least six months ago, but it took me lending it to my friend Megan to be prodded into finally making some. We made mozzarella and lemon cheese but I had yet to unpack my camera, so I’m starting you off easy with the simplest cheese imaginable, labneh.
Labneh is a traditional middle eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Israeli’s have embraced it and it has become a staple at breakfast. It is typically sprinkled with herbs, or rolled into balls and then in herbs, drizzled with olive oil and served with bread or pita. It also makes a great condiment spread for sandwiches, or base for a dip and is much healthier than mayo.
I spent the better part of the last decade believing I had an intolerance to eggs. Every 6 months or so I would try them again just be be sure because I love them and regret it within an hour. Recently, I started buying the cage free organic ones at Trader Joes and low and behold my intolerance has disappeared. I am not sure if I just got over it or there was something in standard eggs that was causing the issue, but either way I have resumed eating eggs with gusto. As I have mentioned in the past my dad used to get up on Sundays to get fresh bagels and then would make a giant pan of scrambled eggs to go along with it. I have now resurrected the eggs on Sunday tradition for myself and a friend who has the tendency to hang around on Sundays. Normally I am a big fan of bacon with/in/on my eggs, but having been indoctrinated by the several weeks of Wise Sons delicatessen brunches, I decided to go deli on my eggs.
Scrambled eggs with lox, scallions and cream cheese is now a modern Jewish brunch standard. Why just throw lox and cream cheese on top of a bagel when you can serve it up all creamy with your eggs… and then put it on top of your bagel.
recipe after the break
Fresh Vanilla and Ice Cream together in ONE delicious frozen dessert
Yes, yes I know it’s winter. But ice cream just makes those hard days feel easier. So dispute the frequenting rain and extreme cold in Tel Aviv (well cold by my, and Israel standards, which in actuality means like 45F) I decided to make ice cream to cure some winter day blues. Which kind of ice cream you ask… HALVAH CHUNK ICE CREAM!
Halvah as a flavor is extremely popular and widespread in Israeli food. Along with the standard chocolate, vanilla, halvah is bound to be found in any ice creamery in Israel. Halvah flavored, halvah topping, halva chunks, or even tahini flavor with halvah pieces, halvah with seasame candy…..think of it as the Israeli version of peanut butter, and in the world of ice cream, it is just as prevalent.
I had a lot of leftover halvah from a slightly botched halvah experiment, something went wrong in the mixing process and it turned out much too crumbly. It was very tasty but not solid enough to cut and eat, I figured it would be much better put to use in a fresh batch of vanilla ice cream. So this is my representation of the halvah/ice cream combination, and I must say it was a huge hit.
I used the vanilla ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz’s blog, recipe here. I won’t put up the halvah recipe I used since it wasn’t very successful, plus you can find Marc’s version right here. Or you can use store bought if you choose.
Click to see brief instructions on how I blended the halvah into my ice cream…. and pictures! (although they aren’t the best quality.)
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen made their public début at Off the Grid: McChoppin Hub on Saturday. They served a fantastic brunch with your choice of corned beef hash, bialy with lox, or cheese blintzes and babka as a side. Since I had my fill of cheese blintzes last weekend I went for the corned beef hash and a bialy with cream cheese. As expected, the corned beef was perfection, the bialy was chewy and full of oniony goodness, and I was ridiculously full by the end of the meal. I got there a bit early around 10am, so it was relatively quiet and my friend and I got our food super fast. By 11 the place was packed and had turned into a giant Cal-Jewish community reunion. If there is one thing you can say about the Jewish community it is that we turn up to support each other. We completely rearranged the tables in the restaurant so everyone could catch-up and at one point someone suggested that the deli be renamed Cheers. It was decided that the Wise Sons needs a permanent location soon because it is going to be an amazing hang-out and once they start serving pastrami and beer, I don’t think people will every leave. One of the best quotes of the morning was when a friend looked down at his plate of eggs, bialy and lox and said with pure joy, “I am so happy right now”. Overall it was a fantastic morning, with delicious food, great friends, and a successful start to a new venture. They will be at Off The Grid for 3 more Saturdays at 105 Valencia, so come on out to the next one!
As I have mentioned several times before, my good friends Evan and Leo are on a quest to open a Jewish deli in San Francisco. After choosing the name, Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, a few weeks ago, they have been on the fast track to getting word out and bringing their delicious food to the masses in San Francisco. Since I have basically been doing it anyway, I have decided to formally chronicle their journey to becoming the premier purveyors of traditional, high quality Jewish deli in the Bay Area. Next weekend on Saturday, January 22, they will be publicly debuting their creations at Off the Grid: McCoppin Hub, and will be serving brunch at 105 Valencia inside Jackie’s Vinoteca & Cafe. They have an amazing menu planned, including lox and bialys, babka, corned beef hash (my favorite), and what may possibly be the best cheese blintzes I have ever had.
I was lucky enough to get to try the blintzes this Sunday at a rehearsal for next weekend. Their secret is using farmer cheese instead of the more familiar cottage cheese. It makes for a wonderfully smooth textured filling, and I will likely steal this tip from them for my Shavuot post in June . In keeping with their commitment to using seasonal produce, they were topped off with a dried fruit compote which made for a delightful combination of tart and sweet, that perfectly balanced with the creamy filling.
They will be serving brunch on Saturday from 9-1pm unless they run out of food before then. I am planning on heading over early to make sure I get my fill of the house-cured corned beef hash and you can expect an update of the event next week. This will be the start of a 4 week run for them at Off the Grid, with 2 Saturdays of brunch and 2 Saturdays of their to-die-for meats starting on February 5th. It was great to see them so excited and nervous for their first big event, so be sure to come out and show your support.
click for the full brunch menu
Besides being exceptionally entertaining to say, Shakshouka is a simple and homey meal. It can be found in most cafes, breakfast places, and sometimes even dedicated shakshuka spots everywhere in Israel. Equally popular as a Saturday brunch or a breakfast outdoors as a high energy meal before taking down camp. It’s usually served in it’s pan with a bread basket companion. This dish is basically a tomato sauce with eggs easy-over eggs atop. Definitely one of the best “pantry raid”, “one pot meal”, AND “leftover reviver” I’ve ever known. On those lazy nights I always remember my dad (the resident cook in my house growing up) taking stock of the fridge and somehow managing to whip up an always delicious shakshouka that left the whole family satisfied.
One of the many wonderful qualities of this dish is it’s versatility. The beauty of it, in my eyes, is the fact that you can turn out a great shakshouka just with what you have on hand. A great place to use up that extra bit of pasta sauce, the last half of the tomato paste from the can, extra veggies that managed to sneak away to the back of the drawer and aren’t looking so fresh.
In this version of shakshouka we chose it as our “brunch” on a mini picnic to the Ben Shemen forest. Easy to make, even outside, minimal prep time, and it turned out excellently on the small burner we had to cook on.
Here’s how we made it, but really, no shakshouka I’ve never managed to recreate a shakshuka.
Click to read the recipe!
Its the day after Thanksgiving and I am enjoying the satiety that come from too much food and drink, and in the miracle of miracles, I finally got a seat at the grown-ups’ table. I had thought it might happen, given the guest count and but I have been having Thanksgiving with the same crowd for about 25 years and had yet to graduate, so I wasn’t holding out too much hope. But happen it did and it was all that I’d hoped for, but I was promptly told it was a fluke occurrence and I would be headed back to the “young adult” table next year. While today I will bask in the glory of my newly recognized adulthood, Hanukkah is just around the corner (starting Wed night) so the frying and latke making has already begun for the Heathens. I figured in honor of Thanksgiving I would carry on the pumpkin theme and make pumpkin latkes. Obviously these have a slightly different texture than traditional potato latkes, and are more pancake like. They are also slightly sweet so I would include them with my apple latkes as a great Hanukkah breakfast or dessert option.
fruit for sukkot
I was going to do a “what to do with your leftover etrog” post for Sukkot but discovered from the folks over at the Jew and the Carrot, that actually eating the etrog may be a bad idea. It turns out that most of the etrogim produced for the United States are blasted with pesticides to make them look pretty but probably pretty toxic to ingest. So, at the suggestions of Jo Ellen, the editor of Zeek, I have decided to embark on a taste test of fruits I have never tried. Given Sukkot’s tradition of eating fruits, nuts and grains this sounded like a good way to start the holiday especially because it comes so early in the year and it is still a bit warm here in Cali. We do have a couple of other traditional recipes posted from last year, so I urge you to check out our Holishkes (Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage and Ma’amoul date cookies if you want to follow the tradition of eating stuffed foods. I am pretty well ready for Sukkot as, luckily, or oddly, I have built-in Sukkah on my deck due to the fact that my European chain-smoking next door neighbors, have put up a bamboo mats to help protect me from the second-hand smoke. I suppose in order to be in keeping with the requirement that it be a temporary structure I could ask them to rotate the mats.
Trying new or interesting fruit actually something that Dafna, (a co-heathen) and I used to do occasionally when we worked together. I used to bring in interesting fruits and we would sit at my desk and decide whether to add them to our regular fruit repertoire. Baby kiwi and honey crisp apples were two of our favs. I headed over to 99 Ranch and Berkeley Bowl to see what I could find. Upon entering 99 Ranch the first thing I came upon was a durian. Now Dafna will get a bit of a chuckle out of that as we once won the Bay Cities trivia contest by correctly answering durian. Lucky for me I remember that the hint was that tribal people used to rub it near their sleeping places because the disgusting smell would keep away predators, so I kept on walking. What I eventually settled on were starfruit, dragon fruit, fresh dates, golden kiwi, and passion fruit. (I threw a pomegranate in there for a little holiday festiveness)
We heathens are introducing a new category today: “Mishpoke” or family. It turns out some of our kin wanted to write about their recipes in their own voice, and given that they dealt with us during our teenage years, we figured it was the least we could do. Today’s guest Mishpoke is none other than my father, Howard. Alternately known as How, Howie, daddio, Poppy and simply The Dad. When he offered to share his fried matzo recipe, I was thrilled as it was always a favorite of mine, whether it was being made by him or, when I was very young, by his dad, my grampa Max (always served with a side of individual servings of Smuckers jam that I now suspect had been pilfered from restaurants)… so without further ado here’s The Dad’s first post:
Passover was always a time of mixed feelings for the Kushner “Kids” ~~ my two sisters and I. There were the interminably long and serious Seders at my Uncle Harold’s house when his dad, Uncle Louis, directed the Seder, and the subsequent less serious Seder with the emphasis on how much Manischevitz Wine (not the watered down kind they usually gave the kids) you could sneak when Harold assumed the mantle of leadership. The first time you were asked to read the Four Questions (in Hebrew) also was a mixed bag — fear that you would mess up and pride when you performed flawlessly.
However, straightforward feelings of joy and anticipation came when my Dad came home with a five pound box of Matzos for Pesach. We knew that Fried Matzos were in the offing. Both Mom and Dad made it, but we kids always hoped Dad would make it ~~ His version was so crispy and good! His secret was a huge cast iron pan
and excessive amounts of hydrogenated Crisco. Good Grief! I have tried to emulate his recipe for my kids and some of my grandkids (so far), leaving out the Crisco.
Let’s get some chametz in before pesach!
Turns out, the kumquat is in season so I thought it would be fun to mix it into Amiee’s challah dough recipe. Why did I choose a seasonal fruit? Eating seasonally is something I’ve been trying to do a bit more of lately. Although our supermarkets allow us to buy foods grown virtually anywhere in the world all year round, these options are not the most sustainable. By purchasing local foods in-season, you eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles. Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes.
The most common variety of kumquat is the Nagami, or oval kumquat, which grows to be about two inches long and an inch in diameter–so cute a tiny! Kumquats have a pale orange rind that’s edible; unlike other citrus, the rind is actually the sweetest part of the fruit! The inner flesh and juice are sour and contain seeds, which you shouldn’t eat, so when you make the puree make sure to take them out!