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...)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Arab Market: Seeds and Spuds, Candy and Chaos.

Arab market, somewhere east of Nazareth. Big sheet metal warehouse, entirely open, an informal dirt parking lot on one side, and a chaos of trucks, crates, and shouting over a floor of drops and discards. Produce you can tell just came out of the field... spuds still covered in dirt, cabbage with the rough, eaten outer leaves we never see because, ie, some Jamaican migrant worker at the Smalowski farm in Hadley, Mass has cut them off with a billhook before the shrinkwrap. Clear plastic bags of seeds... sunflower, fried fava beans, fresh fava beans, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, peanuts, almonds, pecans, salted, unsalted... sold by the scoop and the kilo, a nice change from the sealed 1.75 oz packages hanging by the cash register. And the fish monger in a keffiyeh and leather jacket who graciously allowed me to take his picture. Looked like mostly farmed tilapia, but the pink bags by his left hand are shrimp on ice, a leeway allowed by Halal dietary laws but not Kashrut.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Brasserie M&R, Tel Aviv

Brasserie M&R is so trendy ('how trendy is it?!') -- It's so trendy that it doesn't have a sign outside. And I probably never would have set foot in it, except that we're old friends with chef Gidon Horton. Openers: a salad with boutique lettuces and fat shavings of parmesan, and excellent home made crostini to sample with two spreads, a little Middle East (babaghanoush) and Eastern Europe (chopped liver). The babaghanoush: they just do it better out here. Smooth, smoky... I think it's the tahini paste, and fresh local lemons. Mediterrannean air. Something. The chopped liver: chicken livers, egg, carmelized onion, salt and pepper, not much else. Also smooth, just like in the old country. Neither lasted long. Walking on the wild side -- for Israel, anyway -- I ordered moules frites and fried calamari. The Calamaretti Fritti: spiced breadcrumb coating, perfectly cooked--al dente like pasta -- over a salad like tabouleh, except pearl pasta instead of crushed wheat. I have to take exception with the moules frites, though, because they don't actually come with frites. The waitress, when gently pressed on the issue, said 'well, they would be good with frites'. Of course they would. Dessert, well, dessert was hand picked strawberries -- probably from the fields between Tel Aviv and our house-- whipped cream, and some sort of 'Death by Chocolate' cake. With chocolate sauce. And espresso. This is trendy with backbone: good location, good eats, good service. They don't need the sign.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kfar Saba, Israel: If I Had A Hammer

So a neighbor comes over with a couple pounds of pecans off the tree in her back yard, small but perfectly good. My boys are sizing them up, wondering how to crack them, and Aunt Shoshana behind them starts yelling, 'Patish! Patish!' My kids didn't know it meant hammer, and I saw no point in translating; Aunt Shoshana didn't anticipate or didn't care about the mess that will result from the conjunction of two boys, a hammer, a several pounds of pecans. But great heart shall not be denied, as Tolkien said, and the language barrier was crossed, pecans were eaten, and the mess was eventually cleaned up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dinner in Nazareth

At Diana's, which 'everyone has heard of', started as a concession stand for a movie theater, long since gone, now an upscale, wine-bottles-along-the-wall-in-cool-diagonal-bins grill. Glass fronted kitchen where we watched the cooks sear, spear, and form kebabs onto skewers to order. Palestinian staff and clientele, but except for the headscarves -- and bitter, local, homemade olives -- you really couldn't tell. The hummous was fresh, excellent, strewn with chickpeas and buttery olive oil. The tabouleh, contrary to what I'd expect, was mostly scallion and parsley, with just a scattering of cracked wheat. The abovementioned bitter local olives next to pita fresh from the oven, with a texture soft like cotton candy. Lamb grill plate, with salad and rice with lentils, followed by a child's sized cup of coffee strong enough to remove paint, spiced with minced ginger, and I think cinnamon and cardamom.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Machne Yehuda Market, Jerusalem: Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Sometimes, you see a giant cracker that looks like a three foot tongue in the baker's window, and you think 'I must have that'. It happens to me, anyway. Honestly, if I really understood what that thing looked like, I might have had second thoughts about that picture (but posed for it anyway).
Savory, probably pita dough, with a sprinking of sesame seeds and spread single layer thin. The ends cracked like crostini, and the middle had some chew. The first move (pity) was to fold it into my backpack, so I wouldn't injure fellow shoppers. I worked this over slowly, wandering markets and alleys, for two days.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Arab Market Near Akbara, Israel

Field trip with my brother in law around the Galilee, swinging by an Arab market for road snacks, middle east style: salted and fried fava beans instead of chips. And a selection of pastries for the folks back home, scraped off the tray with putty knives. Several kinds of baklava were filled with nuts, others with sweetened goat cheese, and all soaked with a sugar and cinnamon syrup sweet enough to freeze your teeth, which didn't stop me from eating them out of hand. The orange pastries on the tray are filled with goat cheese, and colored with beta carotene.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kfar Saba, Israel: Orthodox Juice

There's a park adjacent to the farmland behind my mother in law's house in Kfar Saba, Israel. It's got beautiful cactus, aloe, and trees, plus a medium size citrus orchard, with lots of grapefruit, plus oranges and some kind of tangerine. The heart of the park has been saved, but part of the perimeter, like much of Israel, is rapidly becoming a cluster of high rises (I call them hives for humans). During this time, the grapefruit orchard has simultaneously been prolific and totally neglected. Fruit clustered in the trees, and in various states of freshness and rot on the ground. So, since I can't read the signs that probably say 'no trespassing' or 'don't pick this fruit', and since it's pretty clear no one cares, I made several trips and came back with a found grocery bag with half a dozen or so grapefruit. Sliced to ruby flesh that bled copiously, and juiced like a sponge full of water, the quickest way to get the most value from grapefruit. As Wonka swore by mixing chocolate with a waterfall, they say nothing softens citrus like a good juggle.