Weekend Breakfast

Oh summer, where did you go?  This week I’m back to work full-time.  The kids don’t return until the 4th but my kids are back at day-care full time, my husband is back to school and life is back to overly full, overly scheduled and overly stressful.

Which means we’re also back to no time to eat, lots of eating on the go and packing snacks.  No leisurely breakfasts, no long lunches, no easygoing dinners.  So this past Sunday, I made sure to revel in the time we had.  I made pancakes.  The toddler helped.  They were delicious.

Sunday Pancakes

I make mine from the Pancakes From Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan.  It was left in my house more than 10 years ago by one of my high school friends who was living with us at the time.  She visits often and is always pleased to see the things she left behind when she moved- says it makes her feel like it’s still home.

Ingredients

1 cup flour

2 Tablespoons sugar (I always use 3)

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Mix the flour, sugar, salt baking soda and baking powder in a bowl with a whisk.

As the toddler likes to say, “Mix gently, Mama!”

In another bowl ( or measuring cup), whisk the melted butter, egg and buttermilk.  If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own- put 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a one cup measure.  Fill the rest with milk (preferably whole) and stir.  Let it sit for about five minutes and then you’ll have homemade buttermilk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk.  The batter will stay lumpy and get sort of spongy.  Don’t overmix.

About ten million years ago I bought my husband an electric griddle because he wanted to be able to make omelettes, pancakes and french toast (i.e. breakfast).  I use it more often than he does but, to be fair, when he does use it, it’s pretty damn good.  Anyway, it’s my prefered method for cooking pancakes.  I set it to about 350 and then turn it down to 300 when I’m ready to cook.  Pour the batter into your pan or griddle.  I make smaller pancakes so it takes a few tablespoons for each.

Let them cook until bubbles appear on the surface.

Okay, not a great photo but just to give you a sense.  There will be lots of bubbles like that.  Flip them when they’re bubbly.

Serve them immediately.  If you must hold them, place them on a wire rack in the oven set at 200.  But they’re really better right away.

Thick, chewy, spongy, buttery and sweet.  Excellent with syrup or without.  If you have any leftover (we only do if I double the recipe), freeze them and then you can have pancakes on the go- they heat up nicely in the microwave and then the toaster.

Jealous

All my favorite food bloggers have been to Paris this month.  Sigh.  While I am incredibly happy for them, I am so sad for me.  I have never been to Paris.  Well, once, when I was 5 and it was only the airport, a lay-over on our trip to Israel.  I clearly remember changing clothes in the airport, between two towels held up by my parents.  That’s it.  That’s my Paris memory.

For better French memories, I direct you to this post by the Hippo and this one as well.  Also, this one from Lady Gouda.

What were we eating while everyone else was out gallivanting across the French countryside?  This:

That would be homemade bread, fruit salad and eggs in ham cups.

It wasn’t French food but it was tasty.  I could almost pretend that I was away someplace exotic.

Almost.

At least I have these two to make me smile (they’re better than France, really.  But not nearly as delicious.):

Coming up (when I have time) a birthday dinner, some family food memories and meatballs.  Stay tuned!

 

Grown Up Brunch

When I was little, my family would get together with other families for dinner or brunch or some other meal.  I’d play with the children from that family and the parents would talk. Usually it would separate out by gender but I have distinct memories of looking up and seeing all the adults around the table, chatting, laughing and watching us play.

Today, we became my parents.  It was awesome.

We had friends over for brunch, two couples, one of whom has children.  The adults (though, since it’s us, I use the term loosely) sat at the table, chatting, laughing and eating while the two older kids played.  This is what it looked like when they were done playing:

It was great.  And we had so much food!  Bagels, cream cheese and lox (we’re good Jews), yummy cookies and pastries (thanks to one couple), homemade blueberry muffins (thanks to the other couple) and a mushroom and leek quiche that I threw together so that we’d have some more protein, you know, for balance.

It really was a lovely morning and it was nice to see G. and the other child play together.  He’s the son of a good friend from high school (with whom I’d lost touch but, thanks to facebook, we’ve re-connected) and it was neat to see our children getting along.  Also a bit surreal since most days I still feel like I’m in middle school- it’s hard to believe that high school was over 15 years ago and that many of us now have children of our own.

At any rate, here’s the quiche recipe.  I find quiche quite forgiving and it can take on a number of different flavors.  It’s a great leftovers dish since you can throw almost any veggie in there and have it end up tasty.  Eggs, cream, cheese….  what’s not to like?

Leek and Mushroom Quiche

Ingredients

1/2 recipe of dough (I use the Hippo’s recipe but I add about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar for a bit of sweet)

6-9 eggs, depending on the size of your pie pan

3/4-1 cup of milk, light or heavy cream- use what you have

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 – 3/4 cup leeks (sliced and cleaned)

1/2-1 cup of grated parmesan cheese (other cheeses work well, too)

Directions:

Make your dough and let it firm up in the fridge.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Slice and clean your leek.  I make really thin slices and then separate the layers into a bowl, cover them with water and let them sit.  All the sand and dirt will sort of fall out and sink to the bottom. I actually love leeks- they’re milder than onions and sort of sweet.  I saved one leek to make potato leek soup later in the week.  I can’t wait!

Chop up your mushrooms while the leeks are soaking.

Heat a small saute pan on the stove over medium heat.  Add some olive oil and toss in the leeks (take them out of the water first).  Let them cook a bit until they’re soft and sort of translucent but not brown- maybe 5 minutes or so.

Add your mushrooms and let that cook until the mushrooms cook down (i.e. release their liquid and get smaller).  Meanwhile, crack your eggs into a large-ish bowl.

I think there's something really pretty about eggs. I know, I'm weird.

Whip them with a whisk until they’re all blended together well.

Add your cream (or whatever dairy you’re using) and some salt (and pepper if you wish).  Whip again to mix and set aside.  Then it’s time to roll out your dough.

Now, I am NOT a dough expert.  I can not crimp or flute to save my life so my crusts are always asymmetrical and sort of ragged looking.  I only started making my own pie crust in the last year or so when I realized that 1) the Hippo’s recipe was easy and did not involve lard (big debate in the pie crust world about how lard is what makes a really good, flakey, decadent pie crust which is probably true but, ick) and 2) I could make it in my food processor.  I love my food processor.  So take my rolling out advice with a grain or two of salt and find what works for you.

I roll my dough on a cutting board because I’m never sure my counters are clean enough and I am never prepared enough to clean it before I put the dough down.  Lightly flour your surface as well as your dough.

Start rolling from the center out, not from either end. I remember this from my bakery days but I’ll be damned if I can remember why- I think maybe it’s more even this way.

Flip it over and turn it 90 degrees.  Roll again, from the center.

Continue this until it is the thickness and roughly the shape that you want.  Again, mine are never symmetrical and never the correct shape.  Keep in mind that you want to work the dough as little as possible and that the more time it has to heat up the less flakey it will be- has to do with the butter melting and other food science-y stuff.  If you really want to know more, I’m sure Alton Brown can tell you. (I just watched the video link and he actually uses a ziplock bag and two pie pans which, if I had two pie pans, I might try)

I put my pretty red pie pan on top of it partly to measure and partly because it’s easier for me to get the dough into the pan.  You can be all fancy and roll the dough over your rolling-pin and then sort of drape it over the pan but I find that fancy makes holes in the dough (at least for me).

Flip it over so that the dough is on top of the pan.

Peel off your cutting board if necessary and then sort of drape the dough gently into the pan.  I press down gently to kind of tuck it into the sides and bottom.

At this point, you should make the edges look pretty.  I do not, but you should.  I just sort of leave it.

By now, your mushroom/leek mixture should be done (did you forget about it?  I hope not!).  Set it aside to let it cool for a few minutes while you grate your cheese.  I am (as well we all know if we’ve been reading along) lazy so I do mine in the mini-food processor.

Sprinkle about half of your cheese onto your crust.  It will sort of insulate it once you add the other things and make it less soggy as it bakes.

Your mushrooms and leeks should look a bit like this:

Add them on top of the cheese and sort of spread them around as evenly as you can.

Give your egg and dairy mixture another whip and then pour over.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and toss into your oven.  You may want to put a baking sheet underneath, in case some of it spills over.

Let it bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.  About halfway through, I always need to cover it loosely with a bit of aluminum foil as it will be brown but still jiggley.  You want it to be firm and not wiggley in the middle.  When you take it out of the oven, let it sit for a few minutes before cutting into it, otherwise it won’t set as well.

Around here we’ll eat quiche for any of the our three meals.  It’s good both hot, room temperature and cold.  And it’s generally pretty easy to throw together last minute, too.  I’ll sometimes do a bacon cheddar cheese quiche or a sausage and other kind of cheese.  Sometimes it’s just whatever veggies I have on hand- peppers, broccoli, asparagus you name it, it can probably go into a quiche.

Enjoy with your friends and family (even if you’re not having brunch).

A Week of Meals

“So, what do you eat all week?”

This is a question that’s been asked of me by people who don’t cook.  For many people, the idea of creating dinner/lunch/breakfast seven days a week is daunting.  As I’ve mentioned before, I plan out a week in advance, shop for that week and do as much prep as I can motivate to do over the weekends.  As far as I can remember, my grandmother worked a different way- she decided on the day of or perhaps a day before, what she would make.  Then she’d shop that day and see what was available.  I know from reading, experience and talking with others, that in places where fresh produce and farmer’s markets are widely available, people tend to cook dinner based on what’s there that day.  When I’m on vacation or over the summer, I tend to do more of that since I have the time.  Grandma, when I cooked with her, had retired, had no children in the house (well, except me and my cousins when it was summer) and had many options for fresh meat, vegetables, baked goods and fish.  The neighborhood has changed a bit since then and many of the Jewish bakeries, produce and meat stores have closed.  There’s still a fishmongers, a farmer’s market once a week and a Jewish grocery which has a meat counter.  I use them sometimes and feel like I’m back with Grandma.

Anyway, rather than a long story and recipe today, I thought I’d let you in on what it is we eat all week.  Just in case you were curious or wanted some menu ideas.

Breakfast around here tends to be a hurried affair on work days.  I’ll give the toddler some toast and a scrambled egg or just a banana, depending on what she wants.  Hey, sometimes it’s “ack-ers”.  I figure she eats well at daycare and at dinner so I can afford being  more lax around breakfast.  We eat early- maybe her stomach just isn’t ready.  I tend to have an egg white omelette with Munster cheese.  Protein, baby.  The husband eats cold cereal (the same one.  Every day.  Which always makes me think of this scene in City Slickers).

Today, however, I didn’t have to work  so breakfast wasn’t rushed.  We had french toast made with the challah I’d taken out of the freezer for Friday night.

Lunch is usually salad- I make a big one on Sunday and use it all week.  I’ll cook some chicken breasts as well and slice them, leaving them in the fridge for the week.  If there are good leftovers from dinners, I’ll take that to work as well  Packing your lunch definitely saves money and makes good use of the leftovers.  Plus, as I am “eating for two”, I am constantly either hungry or dissatisfied with what I have.  Good times.

Dinner is where the money is, so to speak.  I plan Saturday or Sunday through Friday.  By Friday I’m often beat and if it’s a paycheck week, might treat us to Chinese or Thai or some other easy take-out.  If it’s not, it might be leftovers or sort of a catch-as-catch can kind of thing.  In a perfect world, I’d cook a good, special, sit-down meal to celebrate Shabbat but I’m not there yet.  Challah and candles are the best I can do right now.

So, our meal plan for the week:

Sunday:  Lettuce Wraps(so good, check out the Hippo for the recipe) and Vegetable Fried Rice.  I don’t really have a recipe for fried rice.  I use leftover rice and whatever veggies I can find in the house.

garlic, celery, onion, carrots, green pepper, red pepper and broccoli

I’ll also throw in chicken or other meat if I have it.And sometimes, for decadence, cashew nuts.  If they’re on hand.  I saute all the veggies in some sesame oil, add the rice, add some soy sauce, siracha or whatever else seems tasty at the time.  I stir it all together and then throw in the nuts at the last minute. If you can find the dark soy sauce, that’s what makes it take like “real” fried rice.  What comes out is different every time, not always pretty but generally pretty tasty.Monday- Tonight I’m going to make a ricotta frittata and salad.  We’ll have been home all day and nibbling on leftovers and snacks so I won’t be that hungry and I’ll want something easy.  Plus, I have some ricotta to use up.  If I were doing it “right”- I’d make the ricotta itself.  But not today.  Today is for catching up on work, spending time outside with my daughter and napping.

Tuesday- It’s just me and the toddler as the husband is in class so we’ll try this soup I’ve read about but have never made, Avgolemono.  I’ll add some chicken for more protein and call it a day.

Wednesday- It’s supposed to be a bit more chilly so I’m making broccoli and cheddar soup, based on this recipe, and will serve it with salad or good bread (If I can remember the night before to throw it in the bowl).

Thursday- Is my night to work so on Wednesday night, I’ll do some prep work (browning meat and onions) and Thursday morning before I leave, I’ll throw everything into the crock pot for this pasta and beef recipe.  Pasta and meat are never turned down in my house and since I won’t be eating it, I’ll even use real beef (Recently I’ve developed a revulsion to ground beef).

Friday- I’m planning dinner with a good friend/adopted brother and so will probably go with take-out of some sort.  Asian probably, ’cause that’s how we roll.

Meanwhile, in the fridge, along with the leftovers from Sunday night, I also have a yummy carrot and parsnip soup that I created on Saturday.  A friend of mine mentioned it a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to try it.  Again, I didn’t really have a recipe but here’s how I made it:

I peeled some carrots and parsnips and chopped them into chunks.  I chunked up  half and onion and a few tomatoes I had to use up.  I throw in a handful of peeled garlic as well.  It all went into a roasting pan and was salted and tossed in some olive oil.  They roasted at 425 for about 40 minutes- until things were tender and roast-y, if you know what I mean.

I put all of them into a pot, including all the veggie juices from the pan, and added enough chicken broth to cover.  I let it simmer for a while probably about an hour- I was busy!

I used my stick blender to puree all of it and added some chicken broth to thin it out a bit.

Then, because I needed to use it up and because I’m decadent like that, I added some heavy cream.

A little salt and pepper to taste and it was done.  It was really quite good and didn’t really need the cream.  I’m not sure I’d have missed it.  The carrots and parsnips were just sweet enough and the tomato gave it a nice little bit of acid.  I’m looking forward to eating it for lunch today and a few more days this week.

So, there you have it.  The answer to, “So what do you eat all week?”

C’mon Irene…!

So, here we are in the midst of Hurricane Tropical StormN’oreaster Irene.  So far, my yard and neighborhood has been ok.  Inside, our basement is flooding a bit, as it always does when it rains (a few inches in some places, nothing like what most people have to clean) and we have  an old leak in our kitchen ceiling (we’ll be getting that fixed SOON).

The leak....it's growing!

Outside isn’t too bad yet.  We have what amounts to some twigs and leaves on the deck:
and a few larger branches down near the pool equipment.  I went out earlier and hauled a medium sized branch out of the pool for easier clean-up later.

People around here have a healthy respect for the whether, for the most part.  I think we have more experience with things like snow rather than hurricanes but it’s a universal reaction to run to the store in the days before a predicted storm to stock up on staples.  You know, milk, bread and eggs.  So we can all make french toast to our hearts’ content.  There’s even a french toast alert system. Honestly, as I wandered the aisles of the crowded store yesterday, I wondered what I could make if the power went out (we have all electric appliances) or, more importantly, what I could have on hand that wouldn’t need heating.  I have the usual- tuna, cheese, peanut butter- but none of those are that appealing.  I decided on a quiona salad with tomato, cucumber, red pepper and feta. I also had some roasted chicken so we could make chicken salad if needed.

But when we woke this morning (at an ungodly hour because apparently G. was anxious to meet Irene, in whatever form she arrived), we had power and nothing was amiss.  So, french toast it was.  Hurricane french toast, if you will.

My french toast is generally eyeballed.  I don’t use measurements.  However, if you look up a recipe (as I did to write this post), here’s what you need:

Ingredients

Loaf of bread, slightly stale is ok, challah is the best, especially if you can buy it from Cheryl Ann’s Bakery.

2-3 eggs

1 cup milk, cream or half and half (whatever you have on hand, I generally have milk)

Optional:  cinnamon, nutmeg, ground clove, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

Whisk the eggs and milk/cream/half and half in a deep-ish bowl.  Sprinkle in the spices, if using.  (I use pumpkin pie spice and none of the others or I use a combo of the others but not the pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice).  Add a teaspoon of vanilla, if using.  Whisk it all together until combined.  Slice your loaf of bread- you should have about 8 pieces, depending on the size of your loaf and thickness of your slices. 

Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium heat.  My griddle is electric and I generally set it around 250 or 300 degrees farenheit. You can butter it a bit, if you like.  Dip the bread, slice by slice, into the egg mixture, turning to coat each side.

Place the slices on the griddle and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Time to flip!

Serve with maple syrup, berries, powdered sugar, honey or my personal favorite, peanut butter with bananas and maple syrup.  It’s the way a grad school classmate of mine used to eat the free french toast we got at the hotel we all stayed in our first year of school and I’ve eaten it that way ever since.  Plus, it always makes me think of her.

Just add maple syrup!

Okay, folks, I obviously jinxed myself as I wrote this.  Just as I was spell-checking, I heard a thud and looked out my window to see this:

I’m going to quit while I’m ahead, lest something else fall.  I’m off to call the insurance company….

Full of…. Everything!

What a wonderful weekend!  There’s little I like more than being surrounded by my friends and family.  When you add good food and cute babies, well, I think that’s heaven.  So this weekend I had all of that.  The Hippo came to visit and we spent Saturday with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her family.  My mom came along to visit as well and we sat in the family room, watching all of the babies play.  We snacked on homemade cornbread (someday I’ll give you this recipe along with a pretty good story) with strawberry jam, fruit, cheese, crackers…yum.  The baby had her first strawberry which she decimated, despite being toothless and the adults drank wine and laughed.  It was a weekend that left me full in all senses of the word- physically, emotionally, mentally– but all in that warm, comforting way.

Saturday night we had steak, sweet potatos, green beans, artichokes- a veritable feast! The steak was in honor of the Hippo- if you read along on her blog, you know her husband doesn’t eat it, whereas my husband would eat it every day forever if allowed.   No photos or recipes from that one- really  simple and straightforward. We roasted the sweet potatos, steamed the green beans and artichokes and used a grill pan for the steak (which I marinated in a little soy sauce, Montreal steak seasoning and olive oil). All very basic cooking and nothing that exciting about which to blog.  But Sunday…oh, Sunday….

We spent the day Sunday cooking up a storm.  Molasses cookies, fresh bread, chicken meatballs and Italian wedding soup.  I’ll have all the recipes for you in the next few posts but today I’m going to start with the bread.  Wonderful, homemade, fresh, yeasty bread.  Think you don’t have time to make bread?  Yes, you do.  Think it’s too much hard work, all that kneading?  Nope, it’s not.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the No-Knead Bread that swept the internet a few years ago.  (There’s a link here.)  That version is fantastic and so easy but takes 12 hours to rise plus prep time and second rise- it’s a low yeast, high rise time ratio.  So, more recently it was updated to shorten the rise time- more yeast added and only 4 hours rising time (plus about another hour of prep and second rise combined).  That’s an afternoon.  Throw the dough together at breakfast and when you come back after lunch, you can bake it up.  Or throw it together at lunch and bake it off for dinner. Brilliant.  There are whole wheat versions but I haven’t tried those.  I’ve alluded to this recipe before (here) but didn’t share it with you.  Now I will.

Quick-er No Knead Bread

Ingredients

3 cups white flour

1 packet yeast (this is 2 1/4 teaspoons)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 1/2 cups water (lukewarm, not too hot)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water.  Mix together by hand until you have a sort of shaggy dough.  It will not look pretty.

Shaggy dough. In fact, this needed a little more water. Your dough should look shaggy like this but not so dry.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warmish place (i.e. NOT the fridge or outside) for 4 hours.  It will expand and get sort of bubbly on the surface.  It will also be quite sticky.  After four hours, lightly flour a clean surface (I use a plastic cutting board) and dump the dough out onto it.  Sort of fold the dough in on itself a few times, adding just a sprinkle or two of flour (don’t be heavy handed or your bread will be too dense, I really do mean just a sprinkle).  Don’t knead it but shape it into a ball.

Cover with parchment paper (or a towel) and let it rest (again in a warmish place) for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, put a heavy pot with a lid into the oven.  I use my Le Cresuet pot but I’ve also been successful with Corningwear casserole pots. 

With the pot and lid in the oven, heat the oven to 450 degrees for about a half an hour (see how it’s just as long as the bread needs to rise again? Clever, no?).

After the 30 minutes, carefully take the pot out of the oven and sort of dump the bread into it.  Shake it around for a second to distribute it but don’t get too worried- it’ll spread as it bakes.  Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. (I have a terribly uneven oven so I check mine every fifteen minutes or so).  It will be done when it’s a nice toasty color on top and makes a hollow sound if you tap it on the bottom (the bread, not the pot). 

It’s important to let it cool before you slice it both because it is so hot and because it will be sort of squishy right out of the oven and won’t slice well.  Oh, but when it’s ready?  Mmmmmmmm.  NOTHING like fresh bread.  Nothing!

Kitchen Fail: Challah Bread

Jewish holidays are counted from sundown to sundown.  This means that Shabbat, which is Saturday, starts every Friday at sundown.  It’s a day of rest so observant Jews will start to prepare for Shabbat on Friday morning by cleaning, shopping and cooking so that there will be nothing to do on Saturday but rest, relax and visit with loved ones.  It’s a tradition I love.

When I lived in Israel, Friday was kitchen cleaning day.  We’d make breakfast for the kibbutz and then pull out all the leftovers from the week, heat them up and set about cleaning the kitchen.  We cleaned the kitchen every day, of course, after lunch but Fridays was the massive clean day.  We scrubbed the floors, scrubbed the pots, scrubbed the ovens, washed out the walk-ins, cleaned the potato peeling machine, disinfected the countertops…  It was glorious.  We’d always get done earlier on Fridays and that was nice, too.  We always ate with my cousin who’s a wonderful cook and often her daughters and grandchildren would join us as well.

Growing up, my grandmother would make sure that Friday nights included a fresh challah bread, Shabbat candles and Shabbat wine.  She’d almost always have dessert, too.  When I knew her, Grandma wasn’t working at my grandfather’s store, so she had some time to shop and cook on Fridays.  I love the idea of Friday night family dinners but find that by the time I go to work, pick up the baby and get home, the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal.  So for a while, I made an effort to buy a challah on the way home.  But now, with the baby, even that’s bigger endeavor than before- no more running in, now it involves taking her out of her carseat, carrying her, wrestling her back into her car seat…  just more complicated.  Plus, my husband started working on Friday nights, leaving me and the baby to our own devices.  Which, while nice, does not encourage me to cook a big meal. (It encourages me to eat things like cereal or peas for dinner.)

But Friday nights felt wrong.  At the very least we needed bread, if not the family gathering.  Imagine my delight to find this no-knead challah bread recipe.  It takes most of the work out of the bread.  Plus, it’s much less time for rising.  Of course, it’s still not something I can throw together at 4 and eat at 5 but it is possible for me to make several loaves on a weekend, freeze them and then defrost and bake on a Friday afternoon.  Problem solved, right??

Well…..   This is a “kitchen fail” post.  The first time I made it, I decided to halve the recipe.  No need for four loaves of bread if it’s not good (wasn’t sure how it would turn out)!  So I halved the recipe but somehow in my mind, half of 7 was 5.  Yeh, not so much.  I ended up with some very, very stiff dough.

I kept it because it just felt wrong to throw it away.  So I tried to make flatbread with it.  I rolled it out thin.I brushed it with some olive oil and sprinkled some grated parm, oregano, seasoning salt, dried onion and garlic powder for a savory kind of flatbread.  I used butter, cinnamon and sugar on another in order to try a sweeter flatbread.

The savory one wasn’t bad but it was kind of bland.  And the texture was just….. wrong.  Not really crisp, not really soft.  Kind of a pita-like consistency but not quite right. I eventually admitted defeat and threw out the bad dough.

BUT, please do try the actual challah recipe because it’s in fact, quite good and pretty easy.  Just do your math correctly.

No-Knead Challah
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved (you know, assuming you can do math)

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
Poppy or sesame seeds for the top

Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter (or oil) with the water in a 5-quart bowl.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.  I used a dough hook and my trusty mixer.

THIS is what the dough should look like- sticky and wet. NOT dry and stiff.

 

Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time.

On baking day, butter or grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper, or a silicone mat. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Divide the ball into thirds, using a dough scraper or knife. Roll the balls between your hands (or on a board), stretching, to form each into a long, thin rope. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Braid the ropes, starting from the center and working to one end. Turn the loaf over, rotate it, and braid from the center out to the remaining end. This produces a loaf with a more uniform thickness than when braided from end to end.
Allow the bread to rest and rise on the prepared cookie sheet for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. If you’re not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with the seeds.

Bake near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time. The challah is done when golden brown, and the braids near the center of the loaf offer resistance to pressure. Due to the fat in the dough, challah will not form a hard, crackling crust.

Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Quick and Easy

Haven’t heard from me in a bit, yes?  Let me tell you why.  My darling, wonderful, sweet, good-tempered, adorable baby has been sick.  Turns out she’s had an ear infection in each ear for a few days now which has been accompanied by wicked high fevers.  And my poor, sweet, darling girl has not been herself.  This means that rather than playing in her exersaucer or sitting in her chair “helping” me cook, she has been demanding to be held by me.  And if someone else is holding her, I must be within touching distance or else she is very upset.  This has made making dinner very difficult.  And it has made blogging about dinner downright impossible.

So what do I make when we’re having days like this?  Something quick, easy and healthy. Something that comes from Israel, actually, so at least I’m sticking to the theme of my last few posts.  This recipe is something that every Israeli knows how to make, at least according to my cousin, Sivan.  I think it’s the Israeli equivalent to scrambled eggs and toast.  Or Ramen.  Or Mac and Cheese- something even people who don’t cook can make.  I think it’s quite telling that we have mac and cheese and ramen (overprocessed, salty and carb-based) whereas the Israelis have this (fresh and veggie-based).

Sivan is the granddaughter (one of three) of Myrim and she may be my favorite of the three girls (but don’t tell!).  I’ve always found her beautiful and mysterious and so, so cool.  Once, when I visited the kibbutz (I was in high school), I fell in love with the boots she was wearing while she was working in the kibbutz kitchen.  She sent me a pair, laughing because to her they were just work shoes.  I wore them all the time and felt very cool when I did.  As we both grew up, we grew closer and in the year leading up to my wedding we emailed several times a week- I used her as a sounding board for all my hopes and fears about marriage and she proved an excellent listener.  She came to my wedding and a year later I took my husband to Israel for the first time to attend her wedding.  She’s a beautiful, smart, funny, strong and graceful woman and I’m so grateful to have her in my life.  This is Sivan, a few years ago when she was pregnant with her daughter (I have lots of photos of her but this one is a favorite):

See? So beautiful!

Sivan is many things but she will tell you two things she is not. If you ask her, she will she she is not  1) a cook and 2) good at English.  Both of these statements are lies.  Her English is fantastic as evidenced by the zillions of emails we’ve sent back and forth.  In fact, she recently sent me one and then sent it again after a spellcheck- I didn’t see a difference!  Sivan is also a pretty good cook, as evidenced by the following recipe.  So I think we can add “humble” to her list of endearing characteristics. This recipe is written mostly in her words with a few clarifications by me.

Sivan’s Shashuka

(This is a dish that can be used for any meal.  I generally add some salad and some crusty bread to go along with it if I’m serving it for lunch or dinner.  I’ve also played with the measurements and ratios of peppers to tomato- once you’ve made it a few times, you can adjust it to be more tomato-y or more pepper-y or thicker or thinner…. you get the idea.)

Ingredients:

Eggs (one to two per person, you decide)

3  onions, chopped
4-5 ripe tomatos, chopped (I’ve also used canned stewed or canned diced or canned crushed tomatos and had success- better in the winter when we don’t have fresh available)
1-2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped

Chili peppers- optional  (I’ve never used these but I’m not a huge fan of hot things)
100 gr  (3.5 ounces/7 tablespoons/one tablespoon shy of a ½ cup) tomato paste (I’ve used both more and less, depending on my mood)
salt
black pepper
sugar (just a teaspoon or so)
fresh lemon juice (just a few squirts)
paprika (less than a teaspoon)
Tabasco sauce- optional (I’ve also never used this.)

Directions:

Heat some olive oil over medium heat in a deep frying pan.  Sauté the onion in olive oil until golden-brown.
Then add the red peppers and garlic. (I’ve also had success throwing in the onion and pepper together.)

Sauté for 1-2 minutes then add the tomatoes.  Let them simmer for about 10 minutes and stir from time to time.

Add tomato paste and about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water.
Add seasoning: salt, pepper, lemon juice, sugar and paprika – Stir well.
Cover the pan and let cook on low heat for 15 more minutes.
The sauce should be very rich in flavor and quite thick. If needed cook for few minutes without the lid and allow the water to vaporize.

Using the back of a spoon, make indentations in the sauce.  Open eggs over the indentations in  the sauce (sunny side up) and cover the pan.
Cook for few minutes until the eggs are cooked. It is best to keep the yolks still runny and the egg whites well cooked.

Serve the eggs with the sauce using a big spoon.

Salad, Salad Everywhere

As I mentioned in my previous post, Myrim had three children.  I’ve told you a bit about the youngest and now I’d like to share some about the eldest, Amatzia.  Amatzia is in many ways a typical Israeli man- a little chauvinistic, very sure of himself and a bit arrogant.  He is also quite atypical.  He’s spent most of his adult life studying Saddam Hussein and his Iraq.  So much so that he’s one of the world’s experts and when Iraq was big news, he was on television all the time.  We’d turn it on and be all, “Hey, there’s our cousin!” Amatzia has trained our military and has spent time at the U. S. Institute of Peace in D.C.

The first time my husband met him, we were having breakfast in Boston at Amatzia’s hotel.  He was here for a conference or some such.  When my husband, my mother and I met him in the lobby, he was on the phone with NPR.  Y’know, like one is. You see, moments before Saddam Hussein had been captured.  Remember that?  NPR immediately called Amatzia for an interview.  During breakfast his phone didn’t stop ringing and we ended up cutting it short because a car from an NBC affiliate had come to pick him up so he could be on television. immediately.  We got home, turned on the tv and saw him speaking.  My husband called his parents, made them turn on the tv and said, “See that guy?  I was having breakfast with him about a half hour ago.”

But aside from being a big old expert, Amatzia is still my cousin.  He’s the one that drove us around Israel, proudly declaring, “This is Israel.  We go where we like.”, whenever one of us was nervous about where he was taking us.  And we had reason to be.  My absolute favorite Amatzia story is this:  my two cousins and I were visiting Israel after my junior (their sophomore) year of college.  Amatzia brought us way, way up North on the border with Lebanon to see Rosh Hanikra.  Which was beautiful, as it always is.  

After our visit, he decided he wanted to show us this view that he remembered.  So we begin driving.  I was in front with him, my two cousins were in the back. One fell asleep.  As we’re driving, I start to notice big, imposing, important signs written in Hebrew, Arabic and English.  These signs say things like, “Military Only.  Keep Out.”  or “Border Crossing- Military Vehicles Only.”  or, my favorite, “Entering Military Only Zone.  Trespassers Will Be Shot.”  As we’re passing these signs, there’s a barbed wire fence to our left and military watchtowers every ten feet or so.  We drive through a few gates which are marked (of course) “Military Only.”  My cousin and I start to get nervous (remember, the other one was asleep) and I say timidly, “Amatz, I think maybe we aren’t supposed to be driving here….?”
“Nonsense.”  He replied confidently.  “This is Israel.  We go where we like.”  He kept driving.  We pass more scary signs and gates.

Suddenly, he pulls onto the shoulder of a road and makes a sound something between a “huh.” and a “hmmm.”  My cousin and I (other one is still asleep) look around, realize that the barbed wire fence that had been on  our left is now on our right, start to panic and say, “Amatz?  Hmmm?  Hmmm what?”

“I think….”  he says with some authority, “….that we are in Lebanon.”

My cousin and I start to panic.  I immediately start thinking about where my passport is (back on the kibbutz in my suitcase) and my cousin starts looking in her bag for some sort of weapon (she found a small pair of nail clippers).  My other cousin continues to sleep.  “LEBANON?”  I say, trying to keep my voice calm, “How can we be in Lebanon??”

“Sometimes there are holes.”  He said, shrugging.  He then turned the car around and drove us back the way we’d come, my cousin clutching the nail clippers with white knuckles until it was clear that we were back on Israeli highway.

(My sleeping cousin, by the way, will tell you that she was awake for this.  She would be lying.  When we told her later what happened she was both disappointed and pleased that she’d missed it.)

I tell you these stories so that you get a sense of the kind of man my cousin is.  He’s truly one of a kind.  But, like all Israelis, he loves to eat.  And he loves his salads.  In Israel meals are accompanied by many, many salads and they are not salads the way that we think of them.  The only way I can describe it is that you get to start your meal with an assortment of dips, fresh vegetables and soft, warm pita bread.  Sometimes the salads are the whole meal, sometimes they’re just to start.

So, I give you two traditional Israeli salads, in honor of my Israeli cousin who goes where he likes.

Traditional Israeli Salad

The trick to this salad is good, fresh produce and the technique in cutting.  Everything should be in small, somewhat uniform pieces.  Don’t dress it until just before you serve it.  Also, the leftovers make a great breakfast, especially when mixed with plain greek yogurt or cottage cheese (unusual for the U.S. but excellent in Israel).

Ingredients:

1/2-1 red bell pepper, washed and seeded

1/2-1 cucumber, peeled

8-10 cherry tomatos or one medium tomato

Optional:  parsley, chopped and one scallion, chopped

olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice

Directions:

Start with the pepper (no reason, just the one I tend to start with).  Slice it into long strips.Cut small chunks of these strips and dump into a bowl.  Next, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise.  Then cut each half in half again:

Cut into long, thin strips (like the peppers) and then into chunks (like the peppers- are you sensing a theme?).Dump those into the same bowl as the peppers. Then get your tomatos ready. I always use cherry because they’re my favorite (ok and grape but I used cherry this time).  If you’re using a whole tomato, cut it like the cucumber- in half and then in half again, then strips and then chunks.  If you’re using cherry, cut each one in half and then into quarters.  Sometimes I cut the quarters in half as well, depending on how big the tomato is.  Basically, you want things to be roughly the same size.  Mix everything together in the bowl.  If you’re using parsley and scallions, throw them in now and toss them, too.  Set aside until you’re ready to serve.  If it’s going to be a few hours, put some plastic wrap over it and put it in the fridge.  Just before you serve it, dress it with a few teaspoons of olive oil (good olive oil is essential here- keep in mind this is a Middle Eastern dish and olive come from the Middle East), a few squirts of lemon juice and salt and pepper.  This part really is to taste- some like the salad really tangy, others a bit more mellow.  Toss it all around and serve.Eggplant Salad (a version of baba ghanoush)

This is just about the only way I like eggplant.  It’s a version of baba ghanoush but I find it a bit milder than store versions. And lest you think that mayo is not used in Israeli, I will tell you that I made this salad every week when I worked in the kitchen on the kibbtuz.  Industrial size container of mayo and all.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

mayonnaise

salt

pepper

Directions:

Clean out your oven.  Then set it between 450 to 500 degrees.  Poke the eggplant with a fork in several places.  This will allow steam to escape and will keep the eggplant from exploding in your clean oven.  Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet (I always cover mine in aluminum foil to help with clean up).  Bake the eggplant for a long time- between 45 minutes to an hour.  When it’s ready, it will be charred in some places and will have sort of collapsed in on itself.  It will basically look like garbage.  I apologize for not taking a picture of this but it will look so bad that if you leave it out like that, someone will throw it away, assuming you have burned your dinner (no lie, happened to me). It will look something like these:

Image not mine- from a google search for whole, roasted eggplant.

Let the eggplant cool for a long time or else you will burn your fingers.  Once it’s cool, scrape out the insides into a strainer.  Place this over a bowl and let it drain.  I usually leave it overnight but a few hours might do it.  Discard the skin of the eggplant.

Ugly but stick with me- it'll get good, I promise!

Once it’s drained you’ll get lots of oil in the bottom of the bowl.  Discard this or else you’ll have a really oily dip/spread.

Eggplant is one oily vegetable.

Chop up the eggplant pulp and put it into a bowl.  Add enough mayonnaise to make it creamy- this is to taste as some like the mayo taste more than others.  I’d say for one small to medium eggplant, start with one to two tablespoons and taste from there.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Okay, so it's not a pretty dish. But it's good.

I like this best on warm pita bread.  The eggplant has a sort of smokey, mellow taste which is offset nicely with the mayo.  It’s really good.

Festival of Lights, Last Night

It’s the last night.  So, I’m sure you’re all wondering about the beautiful, intricate hannukia I’ve been featuring.  Well, I’m glad you have been because it’s a really good story…

My grandmother’s cousin, Roska, lived in Israel.  She was married to Myrim.  Roska and Myrim were two of the founding members of the kibbutz on which they lived, Kfar Menahem. Myrim got to Israel, as the family story goes, by walking from what is now Poland (then Vilna) to what is now Israel (then Palestine).    That’s right, walking.  Myrim and Roska used to tell stories about how they had one egg a week to share among the six (or was it eight?) founding members.   And stories about how their friend Unice, the son of an Arab sheik who lived in the next village over, used to come through the fields to warn them when the Arabs were going to raid.  And stories about getting stabbed in another town a few miles from the kibbutz and going to the hospital but pretending to be someone else so he wouldn’t be deported.  So many stories- all of which sound too much like fiction to be believed but if there was one thing Myrim was, it was honest.  Helping to found the kibbutz meant that Myrim was talented in many areas- farming, fighting and metalwork, just to name a few.  He could fix just about anything that was broken and was able to build different machines to help the kibbutz farm and do chores more efficiently.

Myrim and Roska had three children, Amatzia, Kohevet and Gavri.  I’ll tell you all about Amatzia and Kohevet another time.  Gavri was the youngest and he was born right around Chanukah.  Myrim loved his children more than anything else in the world and he took great delight in them and their accomplishments.  They grew up on the kibbutz which means they grew up separately from Myrim and Roska- seeing them at meals and visiting with them but living in the children’s house, not at home with them (I remember when I first learned this about the kibbutz, I was horrified.  Of course, I was five at the time and couldn’t imagine living apart from my parents.  As an aside, the kids of my generation were the last ones to live in the children’s houses.  Now on most kibbutzim the children live with their parents.).  Gavri was a bit of a favorite, being the youngest.

Gavri grew up and went into the army, as all 18 year old Israelis do.  There was a lot of conflict in Israel at that time- it was just after Israel had been declared a country and they were fighting at the borders all the time.  Gavri was fighting during the Yom Kippur war.  Not a long war, actually, but a war nonetheless.  When the war was over, no one had heard from Gavri.  Roska and Myrim began to get nervous.  As the family story goes, Roska went into the desert where Amatzia (the oldest) was engaged in top secret military manuevers and demanded that he find his brother.  To this day, no one knows how Roska found him.

Sadly, when they did find Gavri, he had died.  It is thought that he and his fellow soldiers died within the first few days of fighting.

Myrim and Roska were devastated.  People deal with grief differently and Myrim turned to the metalwork he had been doing.  He began to create beautiful hannukias in memory of Gavri since he had been born around the time of Chanukah.  He made so many that people began to take notice.  He became a minor celebrity and some of his hannukias can be seen in different places like the the White House.  The one in the photo is one he made just for me, using my initials. I have some beautiful metalwork from Myrim and the objects and jewlery I have are among my dearest possessions.

When I met Myrim I was two years old.  He adored me and the feeling was mutual.  He drove me around the kibbutz on his motorbike in the little sidecar.  I did cartwheels on the lawn in front of his house.  He took me to his metal shop and to the dinning hall.  Each time I visited Israel, Myrim was there to show me around, hug me and make me feel special.  In 1996 my cousins and I went to Israel and stayed with Myrim in his little house on the kibbutz.  He got up in the morning to make us breakfast and it was the best egg and onion scramble I’ve ever had.

Myrim passed away a few years ago and right up to the end, he was sweet, kind, giving and generous.  The nurses that took care of him adored him and if I close my eyes, I can still see his face when you gave him happy news. He’d open his eyes wide, smile and say, “yofi” which in Hebrew means “wonderful.”  I can still hear his voice and feel the warmth of his hug.

Roska, Myrim and my grandparents in Eliat in 1987

 

Myrim’s Eggs and Onions

Ingredients

1-2 eggs

1/2- 1 onion, chopped

a few spoonfuls of milk

oil

Directions

Chop the onions in small, thin pieces.

Heat oil in a frying pan and add the onions. 

Let them get crispy and brown over medium-high heat, stirring once in a while.  Don’t let them burn but let them get close.

Mix the eggs and milk in a small bowl and then pour over the onions.  Yours may look a bit yellower than mine as I had an extra egg white to use up from a previous recipe.Sort of stir it all around until the egg is cooked through.  Enjoy with a little bit of salt and some toast, if you wish.

 

You can read about the hannukias in Myrim’s own words and see photos of them here.