Saturday, December 14, 2013

Staying Warm in a Snowy Jerusalem

Israel has been struck by the worst snowstorm in decades. Being from New York I was happy to see the snow, as I've mentioned before I love the cold but this is taking it to an extreme. The best place to stay warm is in the kitchen, so that's where I've been for the past few days cooking up my own storm and coming up with some new recipes to stay cozy on these chilly days.
I love tomato soup but I used to only eat the canned stuff, don't get me wrong I still have a soft spot for that but I decided it's time to grow up and make something that's actually good for you. 

Tomato Soup with Fennel Grilled Cheese 

Tomato Soup
28 oz/800 gram can of whole peeled tomatoes 
cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil 
1 large onion diced 
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil 
3 cups water

Preheat oven to 410°F/210°C 
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Drain the can of tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Place the tomatoes on the cookie sheet in an even layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. If you're short on time you can skip this step but it definitely adds another layer of flavor to the soup. While your tomatoes are roasting heat olive oil in a large pot, add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and allow everything to soften. Add the tomatoes and the dried basil. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and cook for 3 minutes. Add the reserved liquid and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Puree and serve with grilled cheese. For a little indulgence add some heavy cream. 

Fennel Grilled Cheese
1 fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced
cooking spray 
8 slices of bread 
shredded mozzarella 
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 410°F/210°C
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Place fennel on the sheet in an even layer and toss with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes until softened. In a pan or panini grill heat cooking spray or butter over medium heat. Toast 4 slices of bread on both sides add cheese and roasted fennel. Top with another piece of bread and cook until bread is toasted and cheese is melted. For a homemade panini press put a piece of foil on top of the sandwich while it's in the pan and place a can on top to weigh it down. 
Slice each sandwich on a diagonal and serve with tomato soup. 

Serves 4 

Enjoy and stay warm!  

Our little Israeli soldier snowman 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pumpkin Challah

It's not going to happen for another 77,798, but I still wasn't able to fully embrace Thanksgivukkah or Chanksgiving as my father called it. I felt that Chanukah was being overshadowed and why is Thanksgiving getting top billing in the name? But I do love Thanksgiving and I definitely love Chanukah. Both are filled with warmth and bring together family and friends. So in honor of this once in a lifetime occasion I used some of the Thanksgiving/Autumn (something that doesn't really exist in Israel) flavors and one of my favorite Jewish foods, challah. The warm flavors of pumpkin and the spices of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg made me feel cozy in my kitchen even though it doesn't feel like Fall in Jerusalem and the comfort of kneading my dough by hand reminded me of making challah with my mother in New York. Since Chanukah and Thanksgiving won't be meeting up for a very long time I suggest making this recipe for this shabbos and bring some new flavors to a classic.

The recipe calls for canned pumpkin, an ingredient that they do sell here in American style stores but it is a little pricey because it is imported. Thanks to my parents I have a few cans here from America but I know that you can substitute with the chunks of squash that are sold in every supermarket. Peel and boil until very tender, mash with a fork or puree with an immersion blender and then strain it pressing out as much moisture as you can.

This recipe is from The Shiksa in the Kitchen be sure to look around the site she has a lot of other great ideas.

2 Packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup lukewarm water, divided (make sure it's not too hot or else you will kill the yeast)
2 Tbs white sugar
1 whole egg
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup honey (I used the cheaper silan/date honey)
2 Tbs canola oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch of cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
7-9 cups all-purpose baking flour

Pour 1/2 cup lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) add yeast and 1 tablespoon of white sugar to the water wait 10 minutes to activate the yeast. If the mixture doesn't get bubbly and foamy then your yeast is not good and your bread won't rise.
Once the yeast is activated and the remaining 1/2 cup of water and white sugar to the bowl along with the egg, yolks, honey or silan, oil and spices. Whisk to combine. Add the brown sugar and pumpkin puree. Whisk together to form a thick liquid.
Begin to add the flour by the half cupful, stirring in each addition with a wooden spoon. When it gets too hard to mix with a spoon switch to the best tools in the kitchen, your hands. Keep adding flour until your dough is smooth, elastic and not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and spray the bowl with cooking spray, cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
When your dough is ready, flour your work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Knead the dough a few times and then separate with a bench scraper or knife into equal pieces. The original recipe says that this makes two large loaves but I was making rolls and was able to make 18 large rolls. Shape the dough however you like, braids, pull apart, or rolls.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. The recipe calls for an additional egg to brush the challahs with but  you can use the leftover whites from all those yolks. For a little extra crunch and color I topped my rolls with pumpkin seeds. Let the formed dough rise for another 30-45 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C. Baking times vary depending on how you shaped your challah.
Enjoy and Happy Chanukah!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

PB+C Birthday Cake

I made this cake last Friday for my sister in law's birthday. Since she is a choco-holic I knew I had to find something decadent that would fit the bill. This recipe is so incredibly simple, airy and delicious. It uses a little oil and doesn't have any eggs or margarine, so it can even be considered "healthy". I found the recipe on a great cooking site which promised that this will become your go-to chocolate cake and I completely agree it has. The batter is very easy to put together and the ingredients are things you most probably already have in the kitchen. The cake is great on its own, but since it was for a birthday I enhanced it a bit. I made a double recipe and sliced each cake into 2 layers. Between each layer I spread peanut butter frosting and then frosted the outside with chocolate frosting and garnished the sides of the cake with crushed peanuts. Best part of baking birthday cakes instead of buying them? Getting to lick the bowl :) Happy Birthday!

Chocolate cake recipe adapted slightly from Cafe Beaujolais (Ten Speed Press, 1984).

Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbs neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs cider of white vinegar

Heat oven to 350° F or 175° C.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and vinegar.
Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth, or pour through strainer in to a bowl and break up lumps, pressing them though.
Pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the counter several times to pop air bubbles.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently.
Cool before removing from the pan and dust with confectioner's sugar or top with frosting if desired.

I did not have any vanilla so I used hazelnut liquor instead (hazelnut+chocolate=Nutella yum).
I dissolved one tsp of coffee into the water to help boost the chocolate flavor.
To slice cake evenly into layers I went around the edges with serrated knife then took a long piece of dental floss and pulled it through the cake to make an even slice.

Peanut Butter Frosting
1/2 stick margarine softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp soy milk
1-1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or if you've got a strong arm) beat together margarine and peanut butter until fluffy. Add sugar and stream in soy milk. Add more sugar or milk until it reaches desired consistency.

Chocolate Frosting 
1/2 stick margarine melted
1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tbs soy milk
1/2 tsp coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla or hazelnut liquor

Mix together melted margarine, cocoa, coffee and vanilla or liquor. Slowly add in confectioner's sugar and soy milk until it reaches desired consistency.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Late Night Mac and Cheese

When I was growing up, an after Shabbos treat in our house was "Saucy Noodles". My brother invented the dish and while we teased him about it, we all came to love it. This is a more adult version of that childhood favorite. It was created several weeks ago after my friends and I returned home from Motzai Shabbos Slichot. On our walk home at about 2 AM, my friends said they were hungry so we stopped at the 24 hour store and picked up some food. I pulled together this creamy comfort food in less than 20 minutes. All it took was about 5 minutes for us to eat the entire thing. This might not be the healthiest thing to be eating in the wee hours of the morning but who cares? It's delicious. Sorry that there is no picture of this dish, we were just too hungry

1 lb (or 500 grams) pasta. Any shape you have on hand will do
3 Tbs butter
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbs flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup shredded cheese preferably mozzarella, but anything you have on hand will do
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and a big pinch of salt (the key to great pasta is salted water) and cook according to package directions. While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for one minute then whisk in flour. Cook for about a minute, then slowly whisk in milk and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. When it comes to a simmer, mix in the cheese and make sure no lumps have formed. Add more milk if the sauce isn't the thickness that you desire. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Devour.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Red Lentil Soup with Tachina Swirl

The weather in Jerusalem is changing and I'm so excited! The temperatures are slowly dropping and I decided it was time for a thick hearty soup for dinner. The smokiness of the paprika and the heat from the chili powder give this soup that homey warmth feeling and lentils make this soup so deliciously creamy, you won't be able to resist a second helping. Rich in fiber, iron and protein, lentils should definitely become a pantry staple in your house (so should tahini paste, it's one of my most favorite ingredients, which you'll come to learn in later posts).
If you don't have a blender don't worry you can mash up the lentils with a fork or leave them as is.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion minced
4 cloves garlic minced
2 carrots diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups red lentils
Salt and pepper

4 Tbs tahini paste
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
cilantro (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion and carrot. Sauté for 5 minutes then add garlic and spices. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add lentils and enough water to cover them by one inch. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes until lentils are falling apart. Remove from heat and transfer to blender or use immersion blender. Bring the soup back up to a boil. In the meantime prepare tachina sauce. Mix together all the ingredients, you might need a splash of water to loosen it up depending on the thickness of your tahini paste. When mincing the garlic sprinkle a bit of salt on your cutting board and work it into the garlic as you mince, this creates almost a garlic paste and cuts down the assertiveness of the garlic so it doesn't overpower the sauce. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a swirl of tachina.
Serves 4.


I have always loved to cook and I have recently made aliyah and live in Katamon. I want to use this forum to display recipes I have developed, share helpful cooking tips and tricks, post pictures of delicious food that I make and see, and just share the fun I have in the kitchen. You don't have to be a professional or have any fancy tools, just the basics and an empty stomach. So join me on this new adventure of cooking in Israel.