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.
Filed under Israeli, Jewish
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.
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.)
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!
Delicious little chocolate filled cookies
In a much belated response to Gordon’s rugelach post a little while ago, I made it my mission to find a good Israeli recipe for rugalach. So after much internet research I finally found a great recipe in one of my cousin’s older cookbooks.
You can really put in any filling you like, varying from nuts to fruit flavorings, whatever your suits your fancy. I decided to go with chocolate knowing all my very willing taste testers would all be happy with that. I experimented with a number of different chocolate variations, first starting with a chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, and then a chocolate spread. All where tasty but I personally felt the spread was the most delicious, so I give that in the recipe below.
So my contribution to the various latke recipes for an interesting Channukah feast is cheese-infused latkes. These are a more savory dairy infused potato pancakes that turn out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They come out with a classic latke texture with lots of flavor. I used mozzarella cheese but I definitely will try again with a cheddar. Put in a mild cheese like mozzarella or for extreme cheese lovers use a more distinct cheese like feta or even maybe brie…. but choose wisely because there’s only 8 days of chanukkah!
Some latke making notes… I used the Israeli version of Russet potatoes. I highly recommend these as they have a pretty high starch content which will cut down on the need for flour and keep your pancakes together. Shred the potatoes only when you’re ready to fry them up and immediately squeeze out the water. Or if you wanna ditch the dairy just omit the cheese and they’ll still come out delicious.
Some frying tips: I added garlic to the oil to give it some extra flavor, but you can omit this if you’re not a fan garlic, but I like this because it adds a lot of flavor and lets you know when the oil’s ready. Test the heat of the oil by adding a little of the latke mixture, if it starts to sizzle immediately the oil’s ready. Don’t overcrowd the pan! 3-4 at a time is enough. Let the oil come back to room temperature in between batches. I highly recommend heeding this last tip as it ensures perfect latkes every batch.
Click on to get the recipe…
Thanksgiving Cran-Pistachio Couscous
What more can I say about couscous other than it is delicious and hearty. It is available in both large and small grains; even though both are available here in Israel, in the US “Israeli Couscous” refers to dishes using the large variety. This starchy dish is so versatile it’s a good idea to always have a pack or two stored away in the cabinet. I like the small grains as a side under vegetables but prefer the larger kind as there’s more potential to spice it up and add really whatever you like to it.
Usually my Thanksgiving has a pretty Israeli flair to it even when I’m at home. This year I was able to throw together a last minute dinner for my favorite holiday of the year and took the opportunity to run with the Israeli theme. So one of my side dishes was this cranberry pistachio couscous and added subtle autumn harvesty spicing.
for the recipe….
So it’s starting to get a little chilly in Tel Aviv and the fact that I’ll be celebrating my first Thanksgiving away from home is sinking in so I figured it was necessary to make something homey. So I decided to make my absolute favorite comfort food, lentil soup.
Lentils are a legume and come in a variety of different colors. Typically my mom uses lentils of the brown variety but I decided to experiment and try out the orange lentils. As I’ve learned the brown ones are a little more hearty and will render more of a stew. The orange ones are smaller and when cooked for a while turn into a creamy soup, either way you go you’re gonna make something delicious packed with flavor (not to mention iron and protein!). For cooking, the only difference is that instead of cooking for 2-3 hours it really only needs 30-45 minutes.
Continue reading for the recipe….
Here’s what you do:
1 yellow onion
a few stalks of celery
2 small Tomatoes
1 bag lentils
First clean off the lentils running water through them until the water comes out clear. In a large pot let the sliced onion simmer in olive oil until they become translucent. Add the carrots and the celery and let them cook until they are soft. Add the tomatoes and spices and let simmer for 2-3 minutes as the flavor combine. Then add the lentils to the bottom of the pot and stir. Let the lentils stand for about 2 minutes before adding 4 cups water. Turn the heat up and bring the soup to a boil, come for 5 minutes, then cover the pot, turn down the heat, and let cook for 2-3 hours.