Category Archives: Israeli

Tehina Tehina Everywhere

Tehina//Tehini//Tahini//Tahina

The amount of ways to spell this wonder speaks to how versatile this can be in the kitchen. One of the things that I missed most about Israel when I was in Brazil was tehina. Now, getting ready to leave here again, I’ve already started to miss it.  Not that you can’t get tehina elsewhere. I’ve even found it in most supermarkets in Brazil, at a less than fair price. But truth be told, I was never a tehina believer until I moved to Tel Aviv,  and sadly the tehina I’ve tasted everywhere else just doesn’t compare to what I’ve grown to love so much.

You always hear in Israel, “I make the best tehina” or “No, seriously you haven’t tried tehina until you’ve tried (insert brand name here)”. For some reason all the most reputable brand names are called by various animals that appear on the label- Eagle, Giraffe, Pigeon. Why these animals are associated with sesame paste I don’t know but who really cares when what they contain is so sublimey delicious. While living in Tel Aviv I made it a point to test all the most popular brands and do a comparison to figure out which is really “the best tehina ever”. The clear winner: Tehina Yona (Pigeon.). Tehina comes in variety of colors based on the original color of seeds, golden or white, and the treatment they receive while being processed, toasted or untoasted. The yona is 100% ground white sesames and is pure deliciousness.

When I realized that there was no post on tehina sauce I figured it was necessary as it is a staple for every Israeli household, and is becoming widely popular in the states because of it’s nutritional value and versatility. It is fairly straight forward and completely depends on your personal tastes, do you like it creamy or more liquidy, pure and simple or amped up with various add-ins — garlic, parsley, olive oil, paprika….. tehina is one of those base sauces that can stand up to almost any other flavor and still be delicious (in fact, on a recent edition of Israeli version of Masterchef someone made a savory tehina sauce with vanilla- the judges seemed to like it… and that’s right I somehow still got caught into the trap of Masterchef all the way in Brazil). My personal favorite is to have it with a roasted eggplant and salad.

Anyways enough of my shenanigans- here’s to the good stuff. Two versions: One classy and one dressed up in flavors you wouldn’t expect, but oh so delicious. So this is my tribute to you my creamy white gem of an accompaniment.

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Watermelon and Feta

I realize my recent recipes have been feta heavy. I promise this is the last one I will post for a while, but I just couldn’t resist the watermelons stacked up at the store last week

Like many people, watermelon evokes lots of memories for me. The obvious one being summer but the more interesting is my dear old friend Kelly V. I pretty much can’t see a watermelon without thinking of her. Kelly spent a summer several years ago on a mission trip to Israel and when she returned she was obsessed with a favorite Tel Aviv snack,  watermelon and feta. I was a bit unconvinced that this was as delightful as she claimed when she first brought it up, but her enthusiasm and insistence of the wonders of this two tastes together convinced me to try it. Low and behold it is a fantastic combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy and an amazing hot weather snack or side dish.  Kelly became so well known for touting this dish a friend bought her an adorable t-shirt with watermelon slices on it, which solidified the connection in my mind even more. When she left Berkeley for Chicago,  I sent along to her a old Zionist Congress poster that had once been on display at my old workplace. It was an illustration of a watermelon encouraging people to  “Buy Hebrew watermelon”. To my knowledge, the poster graced the wall of the Avodah bayit and now is happily ensconced in the dining room of Moishe House Chicago. I am sure that the visitors to her home know that the sweet friendly feelings that come along with the watermelon on the wall, are the same ones that she expresses to all the people she meets.

A couple of  brief asides – I will be at the Hazon Food Conference at UC Davis later this week and will be on the Food Writers Panel with Joan Nathan and Jeffery Yoskowitz. If any of my readers are there, come introduce yourself and be sure check out the panel!

Also, since I know there is one person out there who always reads my posts, a big happy birthday to my Dad today! Thanks for being such a faithful reader and always trying to think of a way for me to make money off the blog.

recipe after the break

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Filed under Dairy, Fruit and Vegtables, Israeli

Fattoush

fattoush

Supposedly it is the height of summer, but the only way you would realize this in San Francisco would be by the availability of great summer produce.   I had a pile of zucchini that was dumped on graciously given to me by a friend. Even with plans of zucchini bread I needed some other uses. I decided to continue on with my Israeli theme of late and make some fattoush with a little twist.

Fattoush has it origins in the Levant and the word itself comes from the root fatoot, which translates as anything crumbled.  There are a bunch of recipes in the family but fattoush or pita salad is probably the most common and a great way to use up stale pita. It is a middle eastern version of panzella and is pretty much a dressed-up Israeli salad with toasted or fried bit of pita stirred in. There are a ton of versions but all include cucumber, tomatoes, and a lemon-olive oil dressing.  I decided to add some bell pepper and a big pile of zucchini  roasted with red onion.  I fancied up my pita with some sumac and topped it with a generous spinkling of feta, because I never pass up the opportunity to include more cheese in my diet.

recipe after the break

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Filed under Fruit and Vegtables, Israeli, Pasta and Grains

Labneh

Labneh

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.

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Filed under Breakfast, Dairy, Israeli

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Peppers and Tomatoes

Israeli Couscous

I realize I have been MIA since Purim, but the last month was a long series of crappy happenstance that ate up most of my free time.  Oddly, one of the last of the series, the evening before Pesach began, was my inspiration for today’s post.  I was driving in the Mission, headed over for a Troika dinner meeting when, in my haste to find a parking space, I crashed my car into an Indian food delivery truck.  Anyone who knows me, knows how deeply attached to my car I am, so after assurances that no one was hurt, the sadness of my broken car set in. Despite this, following the insurance fun and the bungee cording of my car’s bumper into a drivable arrangement, we managed to resume the evening plans.  My fellow Troika members, Sarah and Megan, consoled my wounded ego with assurances that I was a decent driver and fed me chametz in the form of Israeli couscous. It was amazingly delicious, both warm the night before and again cold for lunch the next day.

With Passover behind us and with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, coming up next Tues, a little Israeli chametz, seemed like a good way to come back.  Israeli couscous, or ptitim, was invented by the Osem food company to serve as a substitute for rice during the years following the founding of Israel, when rice was in short supply. It is wheat based and has grown significantly in popularity in the US in recent years, and can now be found in most US grocery stores.

Its amazing adaptability, also gave me the opportunity to play Ready Steady Cook. I had some bell peppers that needed to be used, as well as some cherry tomatoes that I bought believing they were an orange breed, but it turns out they were just really under-ripe and flavorless. The best way to rescue bad tomatoes is to roast them with a little olive oil and salt, so into the oven they went. I figured as long as I was turning on the oven I may as well roast the bell peppers too. Digging through my kitchen I discovered a small bag of pine nuts left from pesto making in September, a shallot in its last moments,  and way in the back of my fridge, my long-neglected jar of preserved meyer lemons, that I put up last year. I threw these things together with a block of feta and I had dinner.

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Porcupine Meatballs

Cutie "Porcupine" Meatballs

So this is an Israeli version of homey-hibernation-mode meatballs that was passed along from one of the best Israeli home cooks I know (a close second to my grandma). Super easy, extremely fast, and delicious… well apparently-I’m still vegetarian.  In a fresh tomato sauce and made in a flash they are ideal for quick hearty meals or to feed the little ones. In Hebrew they are called Ktzizot (keh-tzi-tzoat) Kipod (keep-od), which translates to porcupine meatballs. They are called this because of the way the rice pops out of the meat when they are done, reminiscent of the quills of the cute little animal often seen scurrying around Israel.

Click for the recipe!

Come on, you won’t be disappointed you did.

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Abadi…Savory sesame cookies

"Abadi"... reads: delicious savory cookies

If you know me longer than 5 minutes, you’ll probably come to understand my deep love of fresh fruit, produce, and markets. So of course I am a little too obsessed with the shuk (everyday open air produce market) here in Tel Aviv. To say that I frequent the shuk is a bit of an understatement. I have my preferred vendors and stalls and am thoroughly proud to say that I’ve become a usual face in the market community. So I’m pretty keen on what’s going on in the shuk, I often contemplate opening my own stall there when I see vacancies. Anyways, when someone decided to open a stall dedicated to abadi cookies, I was inspired to try my own hand at making them.

 

Abadi is really the name of the brand of the cookies, let’s say like Oreos, even the weird flavors are still called Oreo cookies. And like Oreos, there’s just one brand. These cookies come in a various types, different shapes, toppings, and are offered in both sweet and savory versions. But of course the originals are the best. They are flakey and flavorful, and come in delicious little O shapes. After an intense amount of searching I finally came across a recipe in Hebrew, from one of the online newspapers here. And I must say that these turned out pretty close to the originals.

These cookies are pretty easy and fun to make (ie. good activity for the kids). You can make them into sticks or circles, top them with za’atar, sesame, or sea salt. They are perfect for when you want to a snack for coffee with company or to calm the afternoon munchies. Just be warned, they are addictive.

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Filed under Israeli, Jewish, Other Stuff, Parve

Tehina Cookies

Cookies are so photogenic

Someone at my yoga studio requested I make them tehina cookies. Tehina is sesame seed paste and is used prolifically in Israeli foods, like hummushalvah, or straight up as a condiment with falafel. Obviously jumping at the opportunity for an excuse to make cookies I immediately set to the task. I never fail to be in awe of the strange properties of tehina. It can be liquid or turned into a solid, savory or sweet…. whatever it is made into, it’s bound to be delicious.

These little cookies are no exception. It’s similar in a way to the nuttiness of peanut butter. They taste like halvah and melt in your mouth. These are SO easy and quick to make. They will not disappoint. You can easily double the recipe, or use margarine instead of butter to make it dairy-free.
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Shakshouka!


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!

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Thanksgiving Redux

Pumpkin Kugel for Thanksgiving

With the holidays rapidly approaching and Hanukkah falling a mere week after Thanksgiving this year, the heathens are in full blown production mode, getting ready to delight our faithful readers with some new holiday fare.   Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that the entire point of the holiday is to simply share a meal with your family and friends. There are no gifts to wrap and no temple to be guilted into going to. My family has a tradition of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for.  As only can happen in families, about 25 years ago the youngest of us at the time, said she was thankful for Jello, and to this day we have a Jello mold on the buffet, despite the fact that it rarely gets eaten anymore.  Every family has the dish that it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without, and I love hearing from my friends of different ethnic backgrounds tell about dishes from their family’s country of origin that have a place of honor at the Thanksgiving table.  So, as you are planning your menu, don’t be afraid to bring in an element of Jewish or Israeli cuisine, to this uniquely American holiday. While we are roasting our pumpkins and grating our potatoes, we invite you to peruse some of our recipes from Thanksgivings past.

Dafna’s Israeli couscous – Thanksgiving Style

Ari’s Pumpkin Kugel

Gordon’s non-Jewish Pumpkin Pie – with pumpkin roasting instructions

My Sephardic Pumpkin Challah

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Fruit and Vegtables, Holidays, Israeli, Sephardic