Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday, Thursday...Skip This Wednesday

So as Tuesday dawned, a truth dawned with it:  Italian food is heavy.  I woke up still full of polenta and involtini, and didn't actually get hungry again until about 10:30 a.m.  Nevertheless, the show must go on, and Tuesday's show involves Pesto Lasagna.

I came home from work -- as many of these ELTW entries begin -- to find my wife in a frenzy, trying to roll out pasta dough, mix pesto, make sauce and so on.  We'd broken out the pasta machine for the first time in several years, and despite her efforts, she was unable to get the noodle dough thin enough without shredding in the machine.  I traded my shirt and tie for shorts and t-shirt, and relieved her at the pasta station so she could focus on the other elements of the dish.  After re-reading the recipe several times, I figured out the mis-step, and began getting decent pasta rolled out.  The dough had dried from sitting and was hard to work, and we worried that we'd have to throw it out and run to the store for some noodles, but I had an idea, and sprinkled the dough-balls with water and wrapped them in plastic cling-wrap while I worked on the first one.  The idea worked, and I was able to run all of the dough through the machine and make decent noodles.

While I wrestled with that, Angel had created the pesto and bechamel sauce for the filling -- which I might say had filled the house with a wonderful aroma -- and was able to assemble the lasagna.

The plan had been to make a cake, but the pasta had taken too long, and I was sent out to a new Italian market around the corner from the ELTW kitchens -- Scigliano's -- for "a tiramisu and some garlic bread."  I tagged Evie (oldest girl around ELTW) and we buzzed over there.  We came away with a round bread product, and a half-dozen hand-made cannoli.

I've never had cannoli.  Evie's never had cannoli.  The store owner leaned over the counter and asked in his Brooklyn accent:

"So, ya gonna have cannoli with dinner?  Pretty good, eh?"  Evie just blinked at him.
"I've never had it," she said in a tiny mouse voice.
"Ya never had cannoli?  Aww, ya gonna be addicted!"

So, when we got home, the lasagna was out of the oven and on the table, and we began in earnest.  I have to say, a green lasagna isn't what I'd normally expect to be good, especially a meatless one, but this was a hit.  Savory, cheesy, and thin, chewy homemade noodles that are just worlds better than storebought.  Everyone liked it, which is rare.  It also bled a lot of olive oil into the pesto left on my dinner plate, and the bread made an awesome bruschetta out of it.  There were only two pieces left over after dinner.  One went with me to lunch the next day, the other with Evie.

Then for dessert, we broke open the cannoli.  It's true, I've never had one.  My gawd, they're good.  Rich, mildly cinnamon-y cream, crispy shell -- I think a picture sums it up pretty well:

Wednesday was another day that I woke up still full from dinner.  The problem as I see it is that the food is not only incredibly heavy, but incredibly delicious, which spurs one into eating way too much of it.  I don't know how there can be a single skinny Italian, with food like this around.  As for dinner on Wednesday, I admit we fell off the wagon.  At work it was the last week for a consultant that we'd gotten to know pretty well, and he took us out for dinner.  Very good, but Not Italian.

So, Thursday.  I didn't have much of a hand at all in this recipe.  I think I came home a bit later than usual from work, and most of the creation was already done.  We had summer-squash pancakes, simmered white beans and fennel sausage, and "old lady's handkerchief's," -- green beans and cheese folded in pasta triangles that looked like handkerchiefs.

This was another delicious dinner, and this time a light one!  The pancakes were stupendously savory and salty, very similar to deep-fried eggplant, actually.  The handkerchiefs were a great mixture of green-tasting beans, melted cheese inside, melted parmesan outside, and crispy shell.  And the beans, a very traditional dish from what I understand, were initially a bit off-putting from the licorice flavors imparted by the fennel, but the dish quickly grew on me and melded quite well in my mouth.  The kids liked the pancakes and the shell on the handkerchief.

Lasagna al Pesto
From Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, by Jessica Theroux 

I'm going to do something different with this recipe because a)It's three pages long, b) It's 12:30 at night and c) I'm typing with 9 fingers because of a butcher-knife incident that happened yesterday.

Savory Summer Squash Pancakes
From Italian Home Cooking, 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul, by Julia Della Croce

8 oz zucchini or yellow summer squash
2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 large eggs
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino romano or grana padano cheese
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Olive oil for frying

Grate the squash on the coarse side of a box grater, or shred it using the shredding attachment of a food processor; transfer it to a colander.  Toss with 1 tsp of the salt.  Put the colander in a sink and place a plate and heavy weight such as a large, filled can on top.  Allow the liquid to drain, about 30 minutes.  Using your hands, squeeze as much liquid from the squash as you can.

Beat the eggs and add the garlic, the other teaspoon of salt, pepper, and grated cheese.  Whisk in the flour.  Fold in the squash.

Warm 3 TBS of the olive oil over medium heat in an ample frying pan.  Drop 2 TBS of the squash batter in the pan to form small pancakes.  Fry until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle salt on the pancakes as soon as they come out of the pan.  Serve at once.

Simmered White Beans with Sausage and Tomato
From Italian Home Cooking, 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul, by Julia Della Croce

2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 sweet Italian fennel sausages (about 1/2 lb total) casings removed
1 TBS tomato paste
3 chopped fresh sage leaves, or 1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 cup tasty meat broth, or water
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked, drained cannellini or great northern beans
1 TBS chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a skillet over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute gently until totally softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion and garlic from the pan and transfer to a side dish.

Heat the oil that remains in the pan and add the sausage meat to it, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Saute until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Return the onion and garli to the pan.  Add the tomato paste, sage, broth or water, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.  Add the beans, bring to a boil again, and immediately reduce to a simmer.  Partially cover and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot or warm.

From Marcella's Italian Kitchen, by Marcella Hazan
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups milk
3 eggs
2 to 3 TBS butter

Put the flour in a bowl and add the milk in a thin stream, a little at a time, mixing vigorously with a fork to avoid making lumps.

Add 1 egg at a time, beating it in rapidly with the fork.  When all the eggs have been added, mix in a pinch or two of salt.

Smear the bottom of an 8-inch skillet with 1/2 tsp of the butter.  Place the pan over a burner and turn on the heat to medium low.

Stir the batter and pour 1/3 cup of it into the pan.  Tilt and rotate the pan to distribute the batter evenly over the entire bottom.

As soon as the batter sets and becomes firm, turn it over with a spatula.  When the other side is firm, remoe the pan from the heat and transfer the wrapper to a platter.

Add 1/4 tsp of the butter to the pan, return to the heat, stir the batter in the bowl, and put 1/3 cup of it in the pan.  Cook as described above and repeat the operation until all the batter has been used up.  Stack the wrappers as they are done, one on top of the other.

Fazzoletti della Nonna col Ripieno di Fagiolini e Mozzarella
Baked Crepes with Green Beans and Mozzarella Stuffing
From Marcella's Italian Kitchen, by Marcella Hazan

3/4 lb fresh, young green beans
5 TBS butter, plus additional butter for smearing the baking dish
2 medium garlic cloves chopped very fine
1/2 lb mozzarella, preferably buffalo-milk (!) if available, otherwise whole-milk
2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
A 9x12 inch oven-to-table baking dish or equivalent
The crepes from the basic fazzoletti recipe

Snap off the ends of the green beans and wash the beans in cold water.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, add 2 TBS of salt and when the water resumes boiling, drop in the green beans.  Cook until they are just tender but still firm to the bite.  Drain and cut into 1/3-inch lengths.

Put 3 TBS of butter and the chopped garlic in a saute pan and turn on the heat to medium.  When the garlic becomes colored a pale gold, add the cut-up green beans.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer the green beans ot a bowl.  Taste and correct for salt.

Grate the mozzarella on the large holes of a grater or chop very fine.  When the beans are cool, toss them with the grated mozzarella and half the grated Parmesan.

Turn on the oven to 450.

Butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish.

Lay a single crepe wrapper flat and spread over one-half of it about 2 to 2 1/2 TBS of the green beans and cheese stuffing.  Fold the bare half over the stuffing, making the edges meet.  Fold again in half, making a puffy triangle with 1 curved side.  Stand the triangle in the baking dish with the curved side down.  Proceed in this manner until all the fazoletti have been stuffed and placed in the dish, with the curved sides all facing down.

Sprinkle the remaining grated Parmesan over the fazoletti.  Dot with tiny dabs of the remaining 2 TBS of butter, making sure that there is 1 dab on the peak of each of the fazzoletti.

Bake in the uppermost level of the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, until the top is speckled with a golden brown crust.  Remove from the oven and serve when the dish has settled for a few minutes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So Yeah. Italy.

When we drew Italy from the canister last year, we thought "Cool!  Food we know we like!  This'll be easy!!"  Turns out...nope.  We got a leaning tower of cookbooks, and found out that there are somewhere between a dozen and a bajillion regions in Italy, and they all have their own style of cooking.  And we had seven days -- obviously we weren't going to be tasting the entire country's cuisine.  (Hmm, Olive Garden and Fazoli's aren't looking too bad...)

So on Labor Day, (Monday) we had Involtini de Milano, Polenta w/Warm Cream & Gorgonzola and Roasted Apples w/Hazelnut.  Involtini, as near as makes no difference, are three-meat-meatloaf balls, wrapped in thinly pounded steak.  Yes, I said meatloaf balls wrapped in steak.  I like Italy.

So, while Angel mixed together the meat filling in a bowl, I cut up a steak and pounded it with the flat side of a meat-hammer until it was papery-thin, then Angel wrapped the meat with the meat.

Tri-Meat Filling
Steak for the Pounding
Assembling the Meat-Wads
Assembline the Meat-Wads

After assembly, the involtini were braised, then simmered in a tomato-based sauce with diced carrots, onions and garlic.

Calphalon Colorful

Meatloaf Balls, Wrapped in Steak

 Meanwhile, polenta was simmering on the stove.  You may have seen bricks of pre-made polenta in the grocery store, that you can just slice and heat.  That's about as much like polenta as Spam is like meat.  Polenta comes from corn meal, and traditionally is stirred, by hand, for 40 minutes, nonstop, while simmering.  The "easy" method lets it simmer in a closed pot for 50 minutes with occasional stirring -- which we conscripted our son to do for at least one 2-minute session.

And during all THAT, the dessert was also underway: Baked apples, cored and stuffed with a mixture of butter, sugar, bitter chocolate and chopped hazelnuts...soaked with sweet Marsala wine and sprinkled with sugar.

Baked Apples -- Assembled

Once done, dinner was presented as shown:

Steak-Wrapped Meatloaf ball on Polenta w/Gorgonzola, Cream and Tomato-based Sauce

 First, make a base of fresh, creamy polenta, then drizzle warm cream over it.  Top with several strips of fragrant gorgonzola cheese.  Lay an involtini on top, then cover with warm sauce.  And oh man, was it good.  The polenta was creamy and smooth, not gritty at all.  The gorgonzola added wonderful musty flavors to the rich, tomato-y sauce and the meaty meat, and a bite with all the flavors was heavenly.

The kids liked the meat.

Then, once dinner was over, we had the dessert.  I liked it.  The apple's fruitiness balanced the dark, dark chocolate, and the crunchy nuts complemented the soft, baked apple flesh.  We had mixed reviews from the family, but I liked it.

Baked Apple -- Cooked


Involtini di Milano
From Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, by Jessica Theroux

For the involtini rolls:
  • 4 oz ground pork
  • 2 oz ground chicken
  • 8 oz ground beef
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 6 TBS plain bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black peper
  • 1 1/2 lbs raw slices beef top sirloin, 12-15 slices, pounded to 1/8" thickness and at least 2 1/2 - 3" in size
For the sauce:
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 3 whold cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
To make the filling for the meat rolls, knead together the ground pork, chicken, beef, Parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, salt, and black pepper.

Lay a slice of the beef top sirloin on a cutting board, and place a couple of spoonfuls of the filling at one end.  Roll the filling up into the beeff, making sure to tuck in the sides as you go.  Secure the roll with a toothpick skewered all the wya through the middle of the roll.  Repeat this procedure for the rest of the slices and filling.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide pot until it starts to shimmer.  Brown the involtini in batches, on all sides, and set them aside on a plate when nicely caramelized.  Turn down the heat to medium, and saute the garlic cloves, onion, carrot, and bay leaves in the remaining oil.  Add the wine, screping loose any brown sticky bits from the bottom of the pan, and then the tomato puree, broth and salt.

Return the involtini and their juices to the pot, bring to a simmer, and cover with a lid set slightly ajar.  Simmer the meat rolls gently for about 1 1/2 hours, turning the involtini a few times during cooking.

Serve over Polenta with Warm Cream and Gorgonzola.

Polenta with Warm Cream and Gorgonzola
From Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, by Jessica Theroux 

For the polenta:
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • spoonful of olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely ground yellow polenta
For the warm cream and Gorgonzola:
  • 2 TBS (1/4 stick) salted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 lb Gorgonzola cheese
Bring the  water to a rolling boil in a large, heavy pot.  Add the salt and a spoonful of olive oil.  Let the polenta slowly "rain" into the boiling water, whisking constantly.  Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Switch to a long-handled wooden spoon, and stir constantly along the bottom and sides of the pot.  The polenta is done when it pulls away from the side of the pot in one mass (about 40 minutes).  At this point it will have lost its graininess and become very fragrant.

For a less labor-intensive version of Mamma Maria's polenta, you can cover the pot with a lid during the cooking;  every 10 minutes, stir the polenta for a full 2 minutes.  It will be done in roughly 50 minutes.

Warm the butter and cream together in a saucepan set over low heat, whisking to combine.  Simmer for 5 minutes to slightly reduce and thicken.

To serve, ladle the polenta onto plates, spoon the warm cream sauce over it, place a slice of Gorgonzola on top and finish with the involtini and sauce.

Roasted Apples with Hazlenut, Bitter Chocolate, and Lemon Zest
From Cooking with Italian Grandmothers, by Jessica Theroux 
  • 6 firm baking apples (sch as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Crispin or Pippin) 
  • 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 2 tsp finely grated or minced lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 2 oz (1/3 cup) chopped dark chocolate (I use 80% cocoa content)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine, divided
Optional accompaniment: Softly whipped heavy cream, unsweetened

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a small baking dish, roughly 8 by 10 inches.

Slice a thin layer off the bottom of the apples and discard; this levels the apples out so that they have a stable base upon which to stand during roasting.  Slice 1/2 inch off the tops of the apples and set the tops to one side.  Peel the apple bases.  Then, using a small teaspoon, scrape out an inch-diameter core from each apple, making sure not to cut through the bottom.

Mix otgether 3 TBS of the sugar with teh butter, lemon zest, hazelnuts, and chocolate.  Spoon this filling into the center of the apples, mounding any extra on top.  Drizzle the exposed apples with the 3/4 cup of the Marsala, and cover them with their tops.  Pour the rest of the Marsala over the apples and sprinkle htem with the remaining 1 TBS sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes, basting the apples with the hot Marsala a few times during heir roasting.  The apples are done when a toothpick can be inserted into them easily.  Server warm, with Marsala spooned over the apples and whipped cream on the side.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ciao. How *You* Doin'?

It's happened...we've traveled to Italy, and ELTW is back.  We're eating at Olive Garden, and Fazoli's, and the Macaroni Grill, and --

-- I'm kidding, though it might've been cheaper to just eat out every day this week.  We have a new country, new recipes, new ELTW kitchen, new sources for ingredients.  I should almost call this blog "Eating Like The World, Version 2.0."

So yeah.  As I've said before, we've moved from Michigan to Florida, and from rural nowhere to suburban Tampa.  I'm not so sure we like our new kitchen more than the old one -- it has more counter space, and a gas range instead of electric, but it doesn't seem to work quite as well.  Or maybe it does, and I'm just a grouch.  Anyway, here's a shot of the kitchen midway through cooking Monday's meal:

The "New" ELTW Kitchen

Another large change for is moving to a metropolitan area.  There are something over a million people in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, compared to the 50,000 or so in the 100 miles around us in northern Michigan.  What does that mean to ELTW?  Food stores!  We don't have to cruise the interwebs in search of odd ingredients, and hope they arrive in time
to be useful.  No, there's enough diversity in the area to support ethnic food markets, where we can see, feel and smell the ingredients we're buying.  It's a cool evolution of our project.

Our first such foray was to Mazzaro's Italian Market in St. Petersburg. (St. Pete from here on, because that's what the locals call it...)  We went on a Saturday when they were hosting wine and beer tasting, so the market was absolutely NUTS.  5th Avenue in NYC on Black Friday kind of nuts.  At one point I had to separate from my family to make a surgical strike on the pasta flour aisle, because the six of us would never have made it there and back alive.

Mazzaro's Market

It was worth it, though.  We got smoked mozzarella.  We got fresh fennel.  And prosciutto, and pasta flour, and wine.  And more wine.  We rocked the place.  The free wine helped.

Fiat Wannabe

An interesting personal connection that we have with Italy is that I was there when I was a kid.  When I was 7, Dow Chemical sent my dad to Europe for 6 months; mom and I joined him for three of them.  We lived in Germany, and traveled to Holland, Switzerland, Italy and Sicily in our green Opel.  Here's me with Dad south of Genoa.

Dad and Me, Genoa, 1977

It was an interesting time.  Seeing Rome and Milan as a seven-year-old is a life-changing experience.  You don't remember the same things as an adult, but you remember them forever.  I'm proud to have seen Pompeii, between its volcanic buryings:

Me, in Pompeii, 1977

And there's really no explanation needed for the next pic -- although what I remember most is that mom wouldn't let me climb the tower, because the walkway was around the outside, and there was only a single chain to keep people from falling to their death.  Hey, it was 1977.

Dad in Pisa, 1977

So I'll sign off here, and start putting up our week's experiences some time when it's not close to my bed-time. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Long Hot Summer; Part Deux

It was about this time last year that we took a hiatus from ELTW for summer, and the kids' athletics and such.  This time, the hiatus has been a bit longer -- since Thanksgiving, actually -- and a lot has happened around the ELTW laboratory/kitchens in this time:
  • I had the end-game for business school.  Case competition, final classes, completion dinners, and...
  • I graduated from business school. As of the end of March, 2011, I am an MBA. Woot!
  • During this time, I was applying and interviewing for a new job.  In February I flew to Florida for a weekend to interview...and got the job.
  • Upon graduation, I moved to Florida from Michigan.  It was one degree when we left. One.  Degree.  Ouch.
  • From April until the end of June, I lived in Florida while my family stayed in Michigan to finish the school year. It was not a fun time.  I had to fly home at the end of April when we lost a loved one.
  • At the end of June, I was reunited with my family and we relocated to Florida, where we now live.
We have talked about ELTW.  We have thought about ELTW.  We're pretty sure we're not done with this adventure.  Once we're more settled, we'll resume with Italy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An American Thanksgiving

So, Eating Like The World has been to five continents so far, but this entry is staying right here in Northern Michigan.  Thanksgiving (and Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I guess) is as thoroughly American as the Fourth of July, and we had a pretty decent one this year.

Most years we go to my in-laws, and we "have to" get there at a certain time, which devolves into Angel yelling that we're late, and the kids dithering about instead of putting on coats and shoes, and a sullen car ride.  The visit is a marathon of different family complaining about all the little dramas and injustices of their life while the kids get increasingly stir crazy and malignant.  The food is generally mediocre.  After the visit, the venomous debrief of all the things that ticked off one or the other of us is epic.

Not this year, though.  We stayed home.  We had Thanksgiving for our family, and it was awesome.  We planned the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy for the core.  (the Holy Four, as I call'em)  Angel wanted hash brown casserole, Evie wanted green bean casserole.  Gable wanted steak fries.


Angel started early, and baked three pies on Tuesday: Pumpkin, Caramel-Apple and Cranberry-Blueberry.  She attempted home-made pie crust instead of using refrigerated, and was properly proud of the results.  Wednesday night we mashed together the hashbrown casserole and put it in the fridge so all we'd have to do on T-Day was put it in the oven.

Home-made Honey Rolls

Thanksgiving day, Angel started with making home-made yeast rolls, which sat on the stove rising for most of the afternoon.  When in the pan, Angel brushed them with home-made honey-butter, and popped them in the oven.  Out came the most beautiful looking rolls I've seen in a long time.

The Turkey (tm)

When dinner time came, we assembled our plates of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, beans, casserole, cottage cheese, steak fries, rolls, and accompanied with a local red table wine.  We then went around the table and each of us related the things that we are thankful for.  And we ate.  And ate.  And ate until our stomachs felt like they were going to stage a revolt...which I suppose is the focus of Thanksgiving, at least for a lot of people.

After dinner, Angel's mom stopped by for a piece of pie and a bit of relaxation before heading over to the chaos that is the in-laws' holiday dinner.  At the end of the day, we realized just how relaxing the day had been.  And we were thankful for that, too.

Ellie vs. Turkey Leg

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Israel II

And now...the long-overdue conclusion to Israel Week.

Cliff Notes version:  We ate stew, then we ate chicken.

Right.  So, there seems to be a lot of tradition involved in Israli and Jewish cooking.  As we rolled into the weekend, there were Sabbaths and things to think about.  For one thing, Angel made Challah bread -- traditionally two loaves are made, one to give to the Rabbi, and one to eat with dinner on the weekend.  The twins helped.

Ellie Excited About Challah

Lucy Kneading Challah Bread

As we don't have a Rabbi, we ended up eating both loaves of bread, and they were darn good.  Challah is a mildly sweet bread, braided on top, and (I swear) just made to soak up yummy butter.

Kosher Cholent Stew, with Challah Bread and Red Wine

For Saturday's dinner, we had Kosher Cholent, a stew of beef, beans, barley and potatoes.  It roasts in a 200-degree oven for over ten hours -- I swear the longest time I've ever seen anything roasted -- and when it came out, the beef was so tender, I could cut it with my spoon.  Absolutely delicious.  We had the Challah with it, and a nice red table wine.

Roast Chicken, Rice, Challah Bread

Sunday's dinner was chicken roasted with oranges inside the cavity, with an interesting cinnamon/raisin rice.  There wasn't any chicken left after dinner, especially since petite-looking Evie turns into a ravenous jackal when roast chicken hits the table.  The instructions said to pull the oranges from the chicken after roasting, quarter them and serve them.  Which we did.  Mmm...warm oranges, all ferment-y tasting and stuff.  Tried it.  Didn't like it.

And as if the meals weren't enough, we made home-made hummus and baba ghanoush for snacks.  The hummus was very easy, and with the home-made pita bread from falafel night, it was stupendously tasty.  From what Angel says, the $5 tubs of hummus in the grocery deli sections are outrageously expensive, given the price of a can of chick peas, garlic, oil and tahini.

The baba ghanoush, on the other hand, I can't say much about.  It's basically hummus from eggplants, not chick peas.  We roasted a pair of eggplants, peeled them, seeded them, pureed them...did you know that eggplant innards look disgusting?  They do.  I realize that I've only ever had eggplant cut into slices, breaded and fried.  I love it that way.  but after roasting and peeling them open, the seeds look just like fish roe, when you clean a fresh-caught fish.  We made the stuff....but we never took the first bite of it.

Looking back at our Israeli week, we're left with several impressions.  The first is that there seemed to be a definite focus on making very filling meatless dishes -- the falafel, the soup with matzo, everything during the week left us (or at least me) feeling stuffed to the gills.  Second, the dishes were relatively simple and there was a lot of roasting -- Angel reported that we really didn't have to buy any special ingredients, and that a lot of the recipes were basically "throw ingredients in a pot and roast them for a while," and hence easy to cook

And while we're pausing to celebrate Thanksgiving -- we didn't have to make Indonesian Scuttle-Bugs or something for Turkey Day -- we resume in a week or two in our new country...Italy.



1 loaf
  • Water -- 1/2 cup
  • Margarine -- 1/4 cup, or 4 tablespoons
  • Sugar -- 3 tablespoons
  • Salt -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
  • Lukewarm (110°F) water -- 1/4 cup
  • All-purpose or bread flour -- 3 to 3 1/2 cups
  • Eggs, beaten -- 2
  • Egg yolks -- 2


  1. Add the water, margarine, sugar and salt to a saucepan and heat, stirring until the margarine is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Mix the 1/4 cup warm water and yeast together in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  3. Add 3 cups of the flour to large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, warm sugar-margarine-water mixture and the beaten eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together.
  4. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding extra flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands and is silky and elastic. Remove the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with your fists to deflate it. Cut the dough into 3 equal-sized portions. Roll each portion out into a log about 15 inches long that is tapered at each end.
  6. Lay the three logs next to each other, and starting in the middle, braid them together. Pinch the ends together to make them stick and tuck the ends under. Place the loaf on a baking sheet and cover it lightly with a clean towel. Set aside to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes
  7. Beat the egg yolks with a tablespoon of water. Brush the top of the challah all over with the egg yolk wash.
  8. Place the challah in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the challah and brush it again with more egg yolk wash to get any of the newly exposed places on the loaf. Return the loaf to the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the challah is golden brown on top and has a hollow sound when you tap on it. Remove and cool before serving.
~ From the Whats4Eats website.



  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 pounds chuck roast, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup dry kidney beans
  • 1 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into thirds
  • boiling water to cover
  • 2 (1 ounce) packages dry onion and mushroom soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large oven safe pot or roasting pan, saute onions in oil over medium heat.
  2. Add meat, and brown well on all sides.
  3. Mix in beans; stir continuously until the beans start to shrivel. Stir in the barley. Add potatoes, and add just enough boiling water to cover the meat and potatoes. Mix in dry soup mix and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes on stove top.
  4. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
  5. Cover pot tightly, and place in preheated oven. Allow to cook overnight for at least 10 to 15 hours. Check periodically to make sure you have enough liquid to cover; add small amounts of water if needed. Do not stir; stirring will break up the chunks of potatoes. 
~From the allrecipes.com website 
Rice Dish (un-named)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basmati rice, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds, slivered 
Combine olive oil, rice, boiling water, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and salt to taste over high heat.  Cook, uncovered, until all of the water is absorbed.  Stir in raisins, lower the heat to the lowest level possible, and cover tightly.  Cook for 10 minutes, turn off heat, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Place a small skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds.  Toast for 5 - 10 minutes or until they are just golden and they release their aroma.  Stir almonds into rice, and keep covered until serving.

~From the inmamaskitchen.com website.

Israeli chicken stuffed with oranges (off memooleh betapoozim)

  • 1, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 onions, peeled
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Pat dry.
  3. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Cut lemon in half and rub one half over surface of chicken.
  4. In a small bowl, mix salt and spices together and sprinkle over chicken.
  5. Squeeze juices from lemon half and from one of the oranges into roasting pan and add water. Place remaining orange, whole and unpeeled, in chicken cavity. Cut onions in half and add to the pan.
  6. Cook chicken for 15 minutes, then baste with the pan juices and lower heat to 350 degrees F. Cook for 1 hour, basting after 30 minutes. (*)
  7. Remove orange from cavity of chicken. Cut orange and onions into wedges and serve with chicken.
(*) When checking chicken for doneness, it's a good idea to cut it open gently to make sure the meat is white, not pink, all the way through.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 1 1/4 hours
Serves 4 to 6
~From the ethnicrecipes.us website

Roasted-Garlic Hummus

  • 3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, minced
  • Assorted crudites, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic cloves on a small piece of foil, and lightly drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Seal foil to form a pouch, and roast garlic in oven until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven, and allow garlic to cool slightly; peel and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the chickpeas, and process until finely chopped.
  2. Add lemon juice, sesame tahini, water, salt, cayenne pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and process until the texture is light and fluffy but not entirely smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in chives, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with assorted crudites, if desired.
~ From the Martha Stewart website...I hope she doesn't sue us! ;^)

Baba Ghanoush


  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Place eggplant on baking sheet, and make holes in the skin with a fork. Roast it for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally, or until soft. Remove from oven, and place into a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water, and peel skin off.
  3. Place eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seeds, and garlic in an electric blender, and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer eggplant mixture to a medium size mixing bowl, and slowly mix in olive oil. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. 
~From the allrecipes.com website 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Falafels Rock!

This week, ELTW traveled to Israel.  Research showed that they enjoy a combination of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern recipes, which would make sense given their location near the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  This week also showcases some of the food of my father's family heritage -- firmly Long Island Jewish...if that's a race or species or...hmm, I can hear flame-mail coming my way.  Anyway, I was introduced to matso and bagels and lox at a very young age.  Gefilte fish, too.  Eeyuck.

So we opened on Monday with what several (okay, at least one) website has called the national dish of Israel:  Falafel.  I thought I knew what these were, but it turns out I was completely ignorant.  I'd thought that they were kind of like a gyro -- meat, veggies and sauce in a pita.  Turns out...nope.  They're essentially, well, hummus hush-puppies, deep-fried and served in a pita shell with tomato, cucumber and Tahini sauce.  There's more to it than that, but basically, there you go.

Evie Rolling Falafel

Boxed Falafel Mix. Ecch.

So, Angel made falafel from scratch, and she also got a boxed mix and made that, too.  And as if that weren't enough, she made her own pita bread from scratch.  To go with the falafel, she made a wicked fruit salad called "charoses."  By fruit salad, I mean apples and nuts soaked in red wine.

Well, dinnertime comes around and we load the table with all the stuff.  I cut one of Angel's homemade pita in half and it formed a perfect pocket...but not thick and flatbread-y like storebought pita.  This was more like a shell, thin and chewy and fairly resistant to liquid.  I layered in some tomato and cucumber slices, three falafel balls (scratch, not boxed) and drizzled the tahini sauce over it.

Falafel Fixin's

Oh.  My.  God.  Falafel rock, they one-hundred-percent rock.  Savory, with crispy cucumber and tart tomato, and a sort-of-musty sauce, on that chewy pita?  Holy Potatoes, they're freaking good!  My second one, I tried the boxed-mix falafel, and they were as ashes in my mouth compared to my wife's home-made ones.  I suppose if I'd tried them first I'd have liked them -- there was nothing really wrong with them, they were just way more herb-y and less savory than home-made.

Charoses and Falafel

And the Charoses was (were?) all right.  We used a really sweet red wine to complement the apples.  The kids loved it, actually.  We had to resist the urge to let them eat all they wanted and hope they went to bed really early -- we were good parents and restricted the amount of wine-soaked apples they could have.

After Monday, we had a couple of busy days where we skipped on Israel.  Thursday was the next night in Israel, and the menu was what my dad calls Jewish Penicillin -- chicken soup with matzo balls.  Big shock to me:  Jewish chicken soup has no actual chicken in it.  When I found this out, I was despondent.  I like meat, and I like nice, chunky chicken soup.  Angel informed me that this soup was supposed to be a clear, tea-like broth.  Only.  Everything else is prepared in separate pots to avoid thickening or clouding the broth.  Carrots, noodles, both made in their own pot and combined with the matzo in the bowl, and the broth is poured over it all.

So, Angel made this all from scratch.  She boiled chicken all day to make the stock.  She made the matzo from scratch, not a mix, and enlisted the help of Evelyn, our oldest girl, to help mix and form the balls.  We had an excess of the stock, so we froze a couple-three baggies of it for later, and then we sat down to our meat-less chicken soup dinner.

And after two bites, I apologized for being grumpy about my misguided desire for chicken chunks.  This soup was flavorful and wonderful, and the matzo were not only excellent, but very filling.  A half-hour after dinner, while I did the dishes, I realized just how much they expand and become little lead balls in the belly -- happy lead balls, but lead balls nonetheless.  Still, it was a darn tasty soup.  The kids all liked at least some part of it, if not all things for all kids.  And better yet, I combined a bowl of soup and let it sit overnight in the fridge, and ate it for lunch today, and the flavors had combined nicely.

This weekend, I think we sacrifice a goat.  (What?  Israel doesn't do that?  You sure?)  Stay tuned, anyway.

Jewish Chicken Soup w/Matzo



Note: This recipe involves hot oil. Adult supervision is required. Many grocery stores now sell prepared felafel in the deli section.


  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, well-drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅔ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • Oil for deep frying, enough to fill the pot about 3 inches
  • Pita bread


  1. Mash the chickpeas in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the garlic into tiny pieces. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs to the chickpeas. Mix the ingredients together.
  3. Add the eggs and oil to the mixture and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat oil in the pot until little bubbles rise to the surface.
  5. Shape the mixture into 16 balls, each about 1-inch across.
  6. With the mixing spoon, gently place a few of the balls in the oil—do not drop them in because the hot oil may splash.
  7. Fry a few at a time until they are golden brown—about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the felafel with the slotted spoon. Drain them on a plate covered with paper towels.
  9. To serve, cut pita bread in half to make pockets.
  10. Put two or three felafel balls into each pocket and drizzle with tahini sauce (see recipe).
Serves 6 to 8.

Tahini Sauce

Some grocery stores stock tahini sauce, already prepared, or packaged tahini mix.


  • ¾ cup tahini (sesame seed paste; can be purchased in stores that sell Middle Eastern foods)
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅓ cup water


  1. Mix tahini, lemon juice, and garlic powder in bowl until you have a smooth sauce.
  2. Add the water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until sauce is thin enough to pour.
  3. Pour tahini sauce over pita sandwiches; can also be used as a dip for raw vegetables. 
~ from the Food By Country website

Pita Bread


  • 1 package of yeast, or quick rising yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water


Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy.

Combine flour and salt in large bowl.

Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression.

Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.

Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded.

Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated.

Allow to sit in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to also preheat your baking sheet.

Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.

Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes.

Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking.

Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.
~ from About.com


    What You Need:

    2 red apples
    1 cup of sweet red wine or grape juice
    1 cup chopped walnuts (you can buy them already shelled and
    chopped into pieces)
    paring knife for peeling apples
    wooden bowl
    metal chopping blade
    measuring cup
    large spoon for stirring

    What You Do:
    1. Carefully peel the apples (ask an adult to help you) and cut them
    length-wise in half and then in half again. Discard the peels and

    2. Put the peeled and cored apples into a wooden bowl. Ask an adult
    to show you how to use the chopping blade to chop the apples into
    pieces the size of your thumbnail.

    3. Add the chopped nuts to the bowl with the chopped apples.
    Measure one cup of red wine or grape juice and pour it into the
    apple and nut mixture.

    4. Stir the mixture until it becomes the color of the wine or juice.
    Now the charoses is ready to eat—or you can sprinkle it with
    cinnamon before serving.
    • 1 1/2 kilo chicken parts: bones, wings, thighs, feet, gizzards, hearts, skin in any ratio
    • 2 large carrots, washed, unpeeled, broken into coarse pieces
    • 1 large onion, peeled, cut into quarters
    • 2 celery stalks, cut into quarters
    • 1 medium parsnip, washed, unpeeled, cut into three pieces (or parsley root)
    • 6-8 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, whole
    • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, whole or 2 tsp dry thyme
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn
    • matzo balls (recipe below)
    Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and add water to cover (3 to 4 liters). Bring water to boil over medium heat but watch the pot so water never comes to rolling boil (to avoid clouding the soup). When water is just about to boil, turn heat to lowest setting so only a few lazy bubbles break the surface. Cover pot and let simmer for 4 hours. (Longer simmering will not hurt soup.)
    Remove pot from heat, fish out most of the chicken parts and vegetables and discard. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and defat soup if necessary (see defatting suggestions above). Adjust salt to your taste.
    Makes about 3 to 4 liters of chicken stock.
    For soup body, take about 1/4 cup dry vermicelli (broken into matchstick lengths), 1/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen) and 1/4 cup thin carrot slices per serving. Cook vermicelli in salted water, blanch peas and carrots in boiling salted water until cooked but still crunchy. For garnish, coarsely chop fresh Italian parsley. Add these with matzo balls into individual soup bowls.
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
    • 3 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
    • 1/2 t ground black pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 3/4 cup matzo meal
    • 2 Tbsp soft butter, oil or chicken fat
    Scramble eggs, blend in salt, ginger, parsley, pepper and garlic. Slowly mix matzo meal and butter (or oil or fat) into egg mixture until it forms a dough. This will be a stiff dough, to lighten it add water slowly until it is workable (about 1/4 water).
    Shape dough into neat, round 14 to 18 walnut-sized balls, lower them into simmering stock (using chicken bouillon), cover pot and sgently for 10 minutes. Drain stock.

    ~ From the Jewishmag.com website.