Saturday, October 12, 2019

Akko Akko All Day Part 2: Spice Market Olives

The Middle East is still a trade route for spices, and it shows. I could stare all day, I want to try compare the five different kinds of hot peppers and make the perfect – perfect, I say – curry dry rub. Of course, baby-back pork ribs would be hard to come by… My trophy purchase in Akko was a half kilo of olives, small as that may seem. They are in the second bucket from the left, dark brown, almost black.
They looked a bit like dry cure but the merchant suggested I add olive oil and spices for a few more shekels. Hit me: the olives, a handful of dried peppers, and a generous pour of olive oil into a clear plastic bag, here transferred to recycled plasticware.
The oil is greenish, cloudy, almost milky. Clearly unfiltered, local. I ask where the oil is from, pitching my affect to imply that I’m not being picky, I’m anticipating his punch line, which is to point and say ‘the next town over’. Like the olive oil at Said’s, it proves something like butter simmered low with a pinch of fresh cut grass. They look sad, bagged on the table, but these olives, both in taste and the high that comes with a great little find, gave me bounce for weeks. They had a milder taste than the jarred dry cured, and that kind of unctuous grip on like peanut butter on your tongue. In my opinion, the native habitat of these olives is room temperature, generously poured in a shallow bowl with plenty of fresh bread, never beyond arm's reach in the Middle East. Or chop the dried peppers and olives, and just warm enough to sautee minced garlic in that olive oil and toss with fresh pasta. In this case the pasta is leftover, but as it's leftover from Smad's wonderful pasta with pine nuts, olive oil, and zucchini, this is no bad thing.
The drink there is fresh citrus-ade from the tree out back of my in-laws place; I can’t figure out if it’s a friendly lemon or an angry orange. A little Akko market atmosphere: random shopping cart full of onions and cabbage in an otherwise empty ally, street cat, and a little market still life.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Akko Akko All Day, Part One: Said's Hummous

Said’s (say ‘sigh-eeds’) has the best hummous in the city of Akko, the state of Israel, or the entire world, depending on who you ask. And if you ask me, I’ll say “yeah, it’s as good as any I’ve ever had, as good as hummous can be”.
Excellence can be born of focus and devotion. Saids’ only serves hummous, and has no menu. No meats, no sweets, no dairy… this is an excellent position to take in the Middle East if you can pull it off because it banishes questions of kashrut and halal. These guys – and it was all guys - make the same handful of dishes all day. Doubtless they have a supply chain for the best local ingredients, sure. The olive oil here is a like soft green melted butter, creating hummous that has the savory tastes of garlic and salt with the mouthfeel of melted chocolate. But beyond that there’s a rhythm and a recognition in making the same recipe a million times, a sense and intuition to compensate for the million little variables in cooking that recipes can’t always predict: variation in lots of bulk ingredients, atmospheric pressure, maybe a high wind across the chimney accelerating cooling. I mean, there’s times that my hummous just isn’t up to par, and I don’t know why. But you know that anyone behind the counter at Said’s can see sub-par hummous coming a kilometer off and compensate with maybe a shy measure of oil or a little extra tahini. Akko Akko all day, Part 1 Below that is a picture of Sara, who brought us out, aforementioned fresh vegetables, condiments, and stacks of fresh Israeli style pita, light and squishy as whipped cream yet tough as leather. You’re outta luck for an accurate recipe here, though, because I really think you’d need an Arab market for atmosphere and olive oil from the place across the street to duplicate it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jerk Beefy, iterations 1 and 2

Well, honest truth, this started as an effort to drop a couple pounds rather than make myself a snack. Store bought beef jerky is overpriced and loaded with sugar and salt. Jerky epitomizes the 'take back the kitchen' part of my cooking philosophy: despite millenia of our ancestors drying meat for preservation (and presumably flavor), we think jerky only comes in little plastic packages. I used two sources to develop a method. A quick internet survey, and many thorough readings -- from highschool on -- of 'Bushcraft'by Richard Graves (founder, Australian Jungle Rescue Detachment in WWII). Regarding jerky, graves says the primary function of smoking meat is keeping flies off until it dries. And you want to avoid fatty meat, which can go rancid easily. So: marinate in a couple kinds of soy sauce, a bit of fish sauce to boost glutamates, spear on skewers (iteration one) or toothpicks (iteration two). dusted well with crushed pepper, put in the oven for five hours (too dried) and eight, when I overslept (way too dried). Chewy, but yummy. And maybe a third of the price per pound.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

vegan dumplings and noodles

Dumplings: hand folded, as noted elsewhere in this blog, filled with the house formula of a mushroom, a root, an allium, and a green; this iteration had white button (ie, supermarket) and dried oyster, shredded carrot, scallion, and bit of celery. Dipping sauce in back of sweetened rice vinegar, scallion, garlic, ginger, soy, would make a spare tire taste good. Noodles: Hong Kong style (that's what the package says, anyway) crisped on the bottom and steamed on the top, fried tofu, mushrooms, bell peppers, home brown sauce (mostly soy, palm sugar, vegetable boullion. Vegetables just undercooked when they leave the stove, perfectly cooked by the time they reach the table. Chopsticks, a glass of red... what are you waiting for?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Jew Long Bao

Hadda do it. Hadda. A tender thigh piece of my strawberry and soy shabbat chicken, gelled overnight in the fridge, a piece of matzah, the best bad pun I've seen in a long time. Yummy, though. Are you Xewish? You don't look Xewish...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Passover 2: Matzah S'mores

So I agree to do snack for my kid's hebrew school class, and then I remember, 'damn, it's still passover... A fine holiday, Passover, a fine holiday, got nothing against Passover but... matzah isn't great for morale at the best of times, and the parallel Easter holiday gets them coming and going. The suffering of my people, eating the bread of affliction amidst a plague of chocolate bunnies and candy eggs. Simple as it looks now, this took days of thought, off and on... I didn't want to show up acting excited about cheese-and-matzah sandwiches with celery sticks. I'm rolling the ideas around... maztah.. fruit... cheese... rice crackers... coconut-almond macaroons (enough already)...cheese... granola...popcorn... chocolate maztah and fruit fondue?... cheese... no crackers... chocolate... chocolate... OMG yes! matzah s'mores. Fun, fire, tasty, and a treat in the truest sense; how often do you make s'mores. I was grinning from ear to ear. And so were the kids. I got kosher marshmallows from the market basket in Gloucester, a box of matzah, and Hershey's chocolate bars, the s'mores standard, are thank goodness kosher dairy. Bamboo skewers. Canned flame from the commissary as a source of heat. I read them all the riot act about fire safety, and took gleeful pleasure in pointing out kosher marshmallows are made of fish gelatin, not the beef or pork gelatin in typical marshmallows. Passed out the skewers and marshmallows, assigned a grown-up to ration chocolate, and off they went. This will doubtless become a tradition, and a welcome end-run for the kids. Just look at Cameron's smile.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Passover I: Killah Matzah Balls

The hard and soft matzah ball debate is unnecessary; it just depends on how much water you put in before cooking. Matzah balls are pretty much matzah flour, beaten egg, and water. The water and egg will mix before cooking, and after cooking the water will be trapped by denatured egg proteins. You want soft matzah balls? Trap a lot of water in there. You want hard matzah balls, not so much. I like them soft, and had to quadruple the amount of water suggested by the nice people at manichewitz. Batter in the sink, testing for size at 1 tablespoon and a quarter cup, scooping and dropping from a quarter cup measure lined with plastic, and the matzah balls increasing in size so dramatically th I was sure they were going to start plopping onto the deck of the stove, potentially injuring passerby (good thing they were soft...)