Dec 17, 2010

The Absence of Autumn with Bosc Pears Tartelettes

After the last weekend of extreme stormy weather, it’s safe to say winter has arrived to Tel Aviv. Having to give up on autumn this year, we’ve waited for the rain so much, that when it finally arrived we soon wished it will go away, cause we’ve remembered that Tel Aviv’s apartments are definitely not constructed for anything but nice or sticky weather. So with no real autumn, my favorite of all seasons, all that’s left is to trust that sadly the Israeli winter won’t be that harsh anyway, will go away in a split second, and soon we’ll find ourselves “enjoying” summer for another 7-8 months of the year...

With a very long absence on my account too, I’m finally posting my not-so-up-to-date autumn post, with hope I’ll catch up soon to some more wintery ones.

I found those amazing Bosc Pears in the market two weeks ago and decided to pair them with some classic baked almond cream tartelettes. So long in their necks, aristocratic in all pears, Bosc pears (Beurre Bosc) have a dark cinnamon brown color skin and a white aromatic juicy interior, perfect for baking.

I first made the pears in vanilla syrup, and then baked them with almond cream in some almond cinnamon short dough shells. The smell of them coming out of the oven is priceless, but since I made the recipe solely for this blog, I’ve soon found myself in the middle of the day, alone with eight of them in the kitchen, and no one to share the odors and craving to break one before shooting. I did enjoy one with my husband later that night, and they heat up really good, but if you can, bake them fresh, and enjoy soon... nothing compares.

And for last, a recommendation. Miri Hanoch and Eyal Shany’s new column in “Time Out Tel Aviv”, is a real treat to read. With her witty smart writing and his recipes and realistic food photos they combine to some really joyful food articles, that were missed since their writings for “Musaf Haaretz”.

More posts more frequently ahead..., I promise.

Jul 19, 2010

Summer pasta salad

Oh Summer! It’s definitely here, and here to stay for at least four more months... The Israeli summer is soooo long, it makes you forget that you ever felt a cool breeze in your hair... Existing in a hot and humid weather is no easy task for anyone. Even summer’s biggest fans who greet it with real joy and happiness are now melting slowly in the city, trying to find strips of shadow to walk under in the hot streets. You have to walk the city of Tel Aviv to enjoy it, but summer makes you remember, that yes, you have a car, and you’re going to use it, even for taking your 3 years old from the preschool around the block.

I am a winter person, and as such, I never greeted summer with much delight. My main task is to hide wherever AC is available during the day, and go out at night (like nocturnal animals do...). Ignoring reality and the season is the best survival tip I could find till now, and let me say that the “if you can’t beat them - join them!” rule really does not apply here. Unless you’re willing and able to spend your days at the beach drinking margaritas (mostly life does not work this way...), than keep behind closed doors dreaming of fall, and rear your head just when absolutely necessary.

But... Oh, the summer food! I really love anything regarding summer food and desserts, the best fruit and vegetables, great colors and textures. Summer hold the joy of finding the freshest ingredients and making light and healthy meals. The season where starters play the role of main dishes is my kind of season!

So far I’ve only posted sweet recipes, since it is my specialty. But I really want this blog to be about more than baking, so this is my first savory dish for you. Last Saturday we had a great summer pasta salad for dinner, the one I usually make for picnics. Cold wheels shaped pasta with oven plum cherry tomatoes, lightly cooked romano green beans, sheep’s milk feta cheese, roasted garlic and dill. So fresh and summery, great for lunch or dinner in a cool atmosphere, or packed for a picnic, for those days it’s OK to drink margaritas at the beach... Enjoy!

Jun 23, 2010

Coconut Milk & Hazelnuts Laddu

Sometimes the routine of your day just stops, and time stands still because you have to be focused on one thing only. Those were our last few days when my son was very sick, and that is why my last post got so delayed.

With a terribly humid and hot weather outside, and a high fevered boy by my side, I feel I should have released this week a recipe for granita or popsicles... but I took these photos last week and I really wanted to share this recipe for those little Indian sweats called Laddu.

I got acquainted with Laddu thanks to Niv, my brother in law, who made them for me for my last birthday. He mixed roasted semolina flour, coconut, sugar, nuts and a bit of milk to make sugary and sandy balls, beautifully wrapped in a clear bowl. It’s such a wonderful thought to make or bake something for someone’s birthday.

I have never tasted Laddu before, and was immediately hooked by the chance to experiment with it and mix it with different tastes and ingredients. It is very easy to make, and you can easily change the kind of flour, nuts or amount of sugar in the recipe. The secret, as Niv pointed out, is to make the Laddu with different textures inside. I took his recipe and added white chocolate, petit beurre biscuits and coconut milk for extra coconut flavor. Mine turned out less sandy and a bit more wet than the original version, and the consistency quite dense and full of nutty texture from the crushed hazelnuts and almonds. I love the combination of coconut and white chocolate, which was kind of my excuse for making these in the first place.

I found out that Laddus are considered a festive treat at celebrations of births and weddings, and that Lord Ganesh, the Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles, is a huge fan! Make these for any celebration, you can also just serve one at a coffee break or with a cup of milk, and your sugar cravings are fulfilled for the day...

Jun 9, 2010

Blueberry Muffin & The City

My first blueberry muffin was a love at first sight. Long before the Carrie Bradshaw’s cupcake trend I had the “muffin mania”, and made dozens of muffins in every chance I could. I have tasted my first blueberry muffin when I was twelve years old and visiting the “Big Apple” with my Dad on my big Bat Mitzvah trip around America. I bet every memory is somehow selective, and I’m sure that this muffin would not taste today as it did back then..., but something in that moment was very special, as I was just discovering New York City for the first time, and just like the blueberry muffin, I fell in love. Today, after many long and short visits, a lot of Woody Allen’s movies, some academic essay writings and countless storytelling from my big brother, who lived to tell the tale of his stay there, I can surely say it was more than a fling.

I think I love New York City so much because it’s somehow unreachable, always a bit foreign , but yet so familiar and makes you feel right at home. Just the city’s spatial proportions makes me feel alive more than any other place I know. Maybe the glorification I make for it would have vanished some if I was to stay there for a long period of time, and then the magic would turn into routine and claustrophobia.

In a weird way it’s the same with blueberries. Eating that muffin in a small diner for breakfast was my first encounter with those amazing berries. Coming back home when I was twelve, there weren’t any fresh blueberries to find, and even today they are very hard to come by, and are quite expensive. Our Israeli climate makes it hard to grow them and they can mostly be grown upnorth. Every month of May I wait for the small, overpriced, half filled plastic boxes so I can make my muffins with fresh berries. Frozen ones are always a good option, but it’s not the same.

Even though I really wished we could have bushes of blueberries in our backyards, and make whole tarts, pies, jams of it without feeling financially guilty, I know it would have taken some of the magic away...

I’ve tried countless flavors of muffins, but the classic one with blueberries wins them all. This is my all times muffin recipe, which I always twist and change to make better. I love the combination with orange zest, and try not to make them too sweet so they can be great for breakfast too. Always eat fresh! If necessary, freeze well covered, and reheat in the oven.

May 31, 2010

Chocolate Ginger Cookies For Brave Kids

When it comes to hot and spicy food, I easily fall prey to the prejudice that is held towards my ethnic group. I don’t like hot food. I mean, some black pepper or a whole chili never really bother me, and in some cases are quite essential, but I never really eat spicy food which is so hot that it numbs your mouth. What’s the point to blur all the tastes in a dish for the sake of one? With that being said let me tell you that I absolutely adore very hot flavors that disappear after a second or two - like wasabi, mustard or ginger. I can eat those for breakfast.

I got the idea to make Chocolate ginger cookies from a cocoa mix Anna gave me on her stay here. Chocolate goes really well with hot flavors, and I thought that I never really tasted a chocolate cookie that had ginger in it.

I went to the “Organic Market” with my boy to buy some sugared ginger. Those little cubes were so beautiful that he immediately grabbed a big one and put it in his mouth, expecting a sweet marmalade like candy... “Oh, take it out! - it’s going to be spicy...” I told him right away with panic. And then, with the ginger cube still in his mouth, I kneeled down to meet his height, and said with a more relaxed sorry-I-acted-mommy-crazy-on-you kind of tone: ”Sweetie, this is ginger; it’s coated with sugar, but soon you will feel very hot in your mouth, so please take it out and try a smaller bite...” He spitted the chewed on cube, and then, after two seconds, the tears came rushing in. I think he never imagined that his taste buds are capable of feeling this way.

After making a batch of these chocolate ginger cookies, I filled our cookie jar, pleased with the outcome, but feeling a bit guilty because little “y” won’t be able to enjoy them. I thought to myself - O.K., these are adult cookies... but when my husband came home he didn’t get them at all. “Well, I guess there’s probably a good reason why you have never tasted a chocolate ginger cookie till this day”, he said. “The ginger just doesn’t work”. I disagreed with him, and just when I was about to taste another cookie to prove to myself I was right, little “y” stepped into the kitchen demanding to taste the cookie. I let him taste it after a long lecture about ginger and the way it made him feel in the market. He took one little bite and started crying again. I felt even guiltier: I was now making cookies which make my child cry, and not for the good reasons. I was sure he will spit out the cookie and throw it away, but surprisingly he took another bite, and finally finished it without making a sound.

This incident could lead me to one of the following conclusions: ginger and such flavors are acquired tastes, or a kid will put up with anything for the experience of chocolate...

Make these cookies for the right crowd, or choose to omit the ginger for great regular cocoa chocolate chips cookies. Either way, enjoy!

May 24, 2010

Our New Breakfast Hit: Muesli Snacks

Breakfasts are always a big issue in our house. We wake up late, left with 30-40 minutes of morning arrangements before we are rushed to say goodbye to each other, and then start our day apart. “What would you like for breakfast?”, We ask our little one. “mmm…white oatmeal!”, he would respond confidently. “Again?” we would ask with a bored look, and think to ourselves that really, we did not give him any more options (besides, maybe, cornflakes and fruit).

Getting your kid to like something new can be tricky sometimes. You have to be enthusiastic about it, but yet very cool. You have to make a bit of a fuss, but act like it was always part of the house’s menu. Four key elements that always work for me are:
a. show the dish “in its making” process first.
b. incorporate new tastes and textures with familiar ones.
c. always be the first biter, and let your kid ask:”what are you eating?”
d. don’t be too bummed if it doesn’t work, there’s always tomorrow or his adulthood...

But really, who am I kidding? If it’s sweet and there’s vanilla in it, it’s already in the bag.

So we gladly added something new to our breakfast menu, something light, healthy and quick - muesli snacks! I made homemade granola, which is really worth it. Well, not money wise, because buying all the good ingredients for it really cannot be too cost affective. You can easily find some well priced tasty granolas in the market today, but being the picky eater that I am, nothing beats controlling exactly what goes inside your homemade granola. I made this one with coconut, dried pineapples, walnuts, almonds and vanilla. It was so good, and a big jar of it lasted for almost a month. We eat it for breakfast with yogurt, honey and fresh fruit.

May 18, 2010

Cheesecake and A Gift From London


My friend Anna came for a short visit to Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago, after spending the last two years in London doing her Masters degree at the AA School of Architecture, and working for a well known architecture firm. After being away from home for so long, it’s almost impossible to try and fit in all you want to do in only a nine days vacation - family, friends, sights, restaurants, coffee shops, the ocean, and, of course, shopping!

That’s why we were very glad that for two days of her visit she stayed in our house. As for myself, I knew that I have to keep a balance between being the domestic loony hostess I am used to be (staying late the night before baking a cake, granola and crackers...), and giving Anna the space she needs in order to do whatever she wants to. And to put it in my own words: “Yes. Don’t feel obligated. treat us as a B&B...” .

I guess it’s like the balance between the things we say and the things we mean.…


We’ve celebrated her first day in the city by having breakfast at Cafe 12, the new and coolest café at Rothschild Av. by Mati and Ruti Brudo, and then came home to have some tea and cake, how British of us. I’ve baked the tastiest cheesecake by “Reviva&Celia”. Anna didn’t know I’ve baked her a cake, and yet she took out of her suitcase a beautiful Antique pie server by sheffield, how appropriate!. I made a vow to use it immediately, and not to keep it as 'the guests silverware' only. Thank you sweetie, for everything. miss you already...

I’m publishing this post at the last minute (as usual) and a second before Shavuot, so if you haven’t decided yet which cheesecake to make this holiday, this one is a safe bet, and if it’s too late for you, well, there’s always other opportunities to bake a good cheesecake.

I’ve made some really minor changes to the recipe, so if you want the original one you can find it in their wonderful book “Reviva and Celia - Sweets”.

For the base of this cake I’ve used some leftovers of very buttery polenta shortbreads, but you can easily replace them with petit beurres and a melted butter as followed. Enjoy!

May 6, 2010

On Maurice Sendak and Oatmeal Cocoa Pancakes

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Just like Mickey from “In The Night Kitchen”, the wonderful kid’s book by Maurice Sendak, I find myself many many times being awake in the wee small hours of the morning, trying to make something work.

It was always like that. I never knew how to manage time the way I wouldn't be left with last minute projects. Everything I was ever passionate working on always happened while everybody else were asleep. As a former Architecture student I found myself building models throughout the night (but hey, didn’t everyone?). Every party or birthday celebration always kept me deprived of sleep while I was planning, wrapping presents, picking out menus. Ever since I can remember myself, I have experienced my baking skills in the middle of the night.

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“Why?”, “Why are you doing it to yourself?”, my dear Mr. Y (my darling husband) asks in a judgmental voice..., “When will you learn ... to put things in perspective ... to start planning more early?” Well, the truth is - I admit that I like it this way. I like the silence, that non-pressure environment. I like that in those hours it seems like time has stopped and morning is very far away. I like the fact that it’s just me, and I don’t need to face the dreaded juggling between tasks, that I can do what I always do best: doing one thing at a time and doing it right (well, most of the time...).

So, this new blog is about my love to whatever meets the eye and mouth, for the love of baking, planning and making things nice, preferably in the night, in my nocturnal little kitchen. But not just - because I’m really trying to improve my ways, to "join society" and to manage my time more efficiently.

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For my first post on this blog, here’s something that won’t keep you up awake at night. It’s the easiest morning pancake, and just like Sendak's “In the Night Kitchen” ends with the promise of making an all time American pancake every morning (“Milk for the morning cake...”), I made a promise to myself to make a bunch of pancakes for my two guys every weekend.

This is the cocoa oatmeal version, which is slightly more corrupted, but of course they’re worth it... serve them with fresh fruit and lots of thick yogurt.