Jan 20, 2011

Mushrooms & Leeks Phyllo Tarts

After a few rare days of rain, I decided it’s only appropriate to make something with mushrooms. I took my weekly drive to the new farmer’s market at the port of Tel Aviv, and stood in front of the mushroom’s stand picking out kinds I don’t normally buy: a bunch of fresh shiitake, 1 bouquet of oyster mushrooms, 4 big king oyster mushrooms, and a small basket with regular portobello mushrooms (which we usually use). Another stop to the organic stand to buy highly expensive but great looking leeks, and I’m halfway from making my favorite phyllo tarts with mushrooms, leeks and feta cheese.

It’s quite an experience buying in the new farmer’s market, which is open all week, morning till evening, except Sundays. Strolling calmed and relaxed with my shopping trolley through the stands, picking out beautiful fruits and vegetables, and finishing up with a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice and a gouda kalamata bread stick, which you can enjoy while sitting on the deck feeling the breeze in your hair. Or better yet, if you really have the time, sit at the pasta bar inside, order some fresh ravioli and a glass of wine. Some may say: ”Oh, the good life...”

But, one look at the month’s bills and expenses makes us realize that next week you will find us buying at the Carmel Market, where the hard day’s traders are much more hostile, won’t let you be too picky, (or God forbid, sometimes even touch their merchandize), and most importantly the place where you can never show up wearing open shoes... Yes, the rough cold reality which all photography classes love to document so much verses the oh-so-sterile atmosphere with an ocean view window... if there wasn’t a money issue involved, my choice for my fruit and veggies would be obvious. Anyway, wherever you get them, get them fresh and hopefully not sprayed.

These tarts are my usual choice for making something savory from phyllo dough. I love the combination of mushrooms, leeks and feta, but you can actually be totally creative and put almost anything inside and it will turn out delicious.

The concept is quite simple. 4 phyllo pages, each painted with melted butter or olive oil, cut into squares and shaped into a muffin tin to form little baskets. Fill inside vegetables and cheese to your likings, pour royale mixture to hold it all together, and bake. You can totally use just one kind of mushroom, like portobello, or mix a bunch of kinds like I did here... and it will be just as good.

These are a great treat, I think, for parties, picnics or as light dinner served with a salad.

Jan 6, 2011

Cardamom Mandelbrot & Vanilla Kisses

Home for me is a jar filled with cookies, and since I’m home a lot, I always feel guilty if my counter jars are empty. After our wedding Anniversary / Silvester night plans were cancelled due to a much sick partner, we’ve spent the last long weekend together at home. Since nothing was demanded from my culinary skills except a bowl of plain cooked rice, I’ve decided to turn to please my son’s cravings after he himself was deprived of sugar and white flour goodies for a week due to an illness of his own.

I found this amazing recipe for mandelbrot cookies in a 10 years old Gourmet magazine. I usually don’t try any recipes for mandelbrot cookies which are similar to what my grandma used to make, but the combination of almonds and cardamom convinced me to try this one.

At my grandma’s house we used to wake up every morning to a box filled with mandelbrot (almond bread cookies), which are the cakier and softer version for the italian biscotti. Most of biscotti recipes are made without fat, but mandelbrot is usually made with oil, or better yet butter (since the butter crises seems to be coming to an end...no guilts there). Sitting at the kitchen with my grandma in the mornings dipping cookies in coffee is definitely one of my best childhood memories from my grandparents place.

While I was trying out this recipe I soon realized I’ll be adopting it to one of our regular home jar cookies, when a familiar nostalgic feeling came over me and I could not stop eating the ends of the rolls I was cutting before the second bake. I’ve soon remembered another thing my grandma and I used to do and I followed - I saved all the crumbs that were left from the slicing in a small jar for future ice cream topping (so polish!, nothing goes to waste...).

I was so preoccupied with my childhood memories I suddenly realized I was baking my own white flour and sugar craving, so I immediately turned to ask my little one what he wished for, and he replied the obvious: “Kisses...”. So we’ve made another jar filled with those...