sumac onions

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One more from the previous post, since I make these all of the time and they’re great as both a condiment and in lieu of salad dressing.

Simple Sumac Onions
from Zahav

1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tb red wine vinegar
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Throw into a bowl, adjust for taste. 😉

The cookbook ingredients say to serve immediately and they’re great like that, but I find them to be even better the next day, once a little fermentation has kicked in — the onions are milder and have expressed more juice, making a bit of a sauce.

 

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Israeli food for lent

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Most of what was served at a recent (Greek Orthodox) Lenten/vegan dinner party. A few items were purchased, but the rest came out of the Zahav cookbook, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Also a visit to the restaurant in Philly, which was spectacular.

From left: Fennel/kohlrabi/green apple salad with zhug, eggplant/onion spread (purchased), pickles, beet and tehina salad, taramosalata (which is not vegan, but is pareve and lenten), chopped salad, pickled onions with sumac, hummus, and then roasted squash with zucchini tehina sauce and walnuts.

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This is a spin on the fennel salad from Zahav, with kohlrabi added because I was intrigued by a kohlrabi salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, plus green apple for sweetness. Zhug is not for everyone because it has a kick, but I thought it worked really well.

Whatever else you take out of the Zahav cookbook, the tehina sauce will probably be the most useful. Michael Solomonov’s brilliant notion of letting the garlic mellow by marinating in the lemon juice is transformative. It has a wider applicability than just tehina sauce — it got used in a chole masala recipe yesterday — but it will certainly do wonders for your hummus if you make it Israeli-style.

 

Zahav’s basic tehina sauce:

1 head garlic
3/4 c lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1.5-3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups tehina
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1-1.5 cups cold water

(1) Break up the garlic, but don’t bother peeling. Blitz it, the lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp of salt in a blender until you get a paste. Then let it sit for at least ten minutes.

(2) Strain the garlic-lemon mixture into a bowl, then add tehina and cumin and 1 tsp salt.

(3) Using a whisk, immersion blender, or your tool of choice, mix until smooth, adding water to keep the tehina from seizing up and to get the desired consistency. It will get lighter in color as you go and your desired end state is luscious and smooth. Adjust for salt and cumin to taste.

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Zahav’s hummus, or The Reason You’ll Never Buy It At the Supermarket Again

Zahav’s hummus (or Dizengoff’s hummus, which is the same thing) is more or less tehina sauce, chickpeas, and a little more cumin. It’s insanely easy even if you use dried beans and is endlessly customizable.

Zahav‘s beet salad is well-known and fantastic. I don’t bother salt-baking the beets; I peel and salt them generously before roasting and shredding. Mix with tehina sauce, dill, mint, and lemon juice and you’re pretty much good to go.

The zucchini recipe in the book comes with anchovies, feta, and hazelnuts, but two of the three aren’t vegan and I have walnuts, so that’s how it got made. I’ve done it with the anchovies and it’s not overly fishy, so skipping them didn’t hurt too badly. Roast some extra squash to blitz with tehina sauce

 

cucumber and poppy seed salad

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As happens every year in early August, people prove their love and affection to me by buying me stuff. *cough*

One of my presents was Ottolenghi: the cookbook, the first collection by the fellows behind one of London’s hippest restaurants. I know, I know, English food! My time in England and Wales was coated in mayonnaise and memorable for the utter dearth of fresh ingredients anywhere – did everyone just eat takeaway from M&S? – but apparently they have gotten better about it in the last dozen years.

Ottolenghi’s team has put together a lovely cookbook, full of gorgeous photographs and Middle Eastern-influenced recipes. It’s also a cookbook without an American edition, so it requires some fluency with both the metric system (or a good cheat sheet) and English cooking argot and ingredients.

The first recipe I tried out of the book was a case in point. In translation:

Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad
(adapted from Ottolenghi)

1 pound Persian/Israeli or kirby cucumbers (4-6 depending on size), sliced into manageable spears
2 mild red chilis… or 1 small Serrano chili, thinly sliced
3 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp superfine sugar (powdered is acceptable, but ideally just dump your table sugar into the blender/grinder)
spare 1/2 cup nice neutral oil
spare 1/4 cup white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together, preferably with your fingers so you can make sure the spears are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

notes: (1) The recipe asks for caster sugar, which we call “superfine” and tend not to stock in the house unless you barkeep. Powdered will work in a pinch, but you can just make superfine sugar by putting granulated sugar in the blender or food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Don’t use table sugar; it won’t dissolve easily. (2) I used the amount of oil and vinegar required, which is what’s listed above, but it’s too much. There’s a lake at the bottom of the bowl. My suggestion is to halve the amounts – at least – or, better yet, just do the oil and vinegar to taste as you do the salt and pepper.

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My homemade caster sugar and the photo from the book, so you can see what it’s supposed to look like.

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A little color’s not a bad idea, so I used part of a plum that I had lying around.

All in all, not a bad debut for the cookbook. I look forward to more adventures with it.

too darned hot

blueberry smoothie

Heat waves in NYC are generally a few days long, once in a while stretching to maybe almost a week before there’s a thunderstorm and we’re back down to the muggy 80s instead of the sultry 90s.

banana smoothieAnd so the plan was to wait until the heat broke before updating the blog because the computer is in the hottest part of the house and sitting there editing the pictures and then writing up a blog post required turning on an air conditioner when it would have otherwise been postponable. In short, it would have been intolerable and ConEd would have loved me even more than it already does. Better to wait for the heat to break.

mint chip ice cream 

It’s now August and I’m still waiting for the heat to break. We’ve had maybe a week total of days below 90F, several days of it being over 100F, and we shall not speak again of the electric bill.

maple walnut ice cream

So clearly it’s time to buck up and be willing to sweat a little for the blog.

jícama salad

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So along with the fresh garbanzo beans, I picked up a couple of jicama, which I’d eaten before several times but hadn’t ever bought for myself. And then, of course, the next step was to figure out what to do with it.

I look at and save a ton of recipes, from food blogs, from magazines, from cookbooks. But it always seems like whenever I get something without a prior plan, I have trouble coming up with that plan after the fact.

(This is a tale of an impulse purchase gone right, by the way.)

I used the first one in a regular salad and to nibble on with cheese; this is what I did with the second one.

 

Jícama, Orange, and Cilantro Salad
(adapted from Gourmet)

4 navel oranges, peel, pith, and membranes cut away and sections cut free 
1 medium-large jícama (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into a chunky dice
1/2 small red onion, medium diced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup toasted cashews, chopped

Combine all ingredients save for nuts and adjust for taste; top with nuts before serving. The salad is good the first day but improves overnight.

It may seem like an odd combination, but all of the ingredients complement each other well, sweet and sharp and juicy and crunchy – it’s definitely something I’ll make again.

The recipe as written called for lemon juice and pine nuts, but I didn’t have the latter and I thought lime juice went better. Feel free to revert back to the original, but I like the changes.

 

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My jícama, which was looking a little perkier before it sat in my fridge for a while.

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Oranges. The best way to clean up oranges for a salad is to supreme them, which I generally don’t bother doing because it always feels like you’re wasting half of the orange. You’re not – ninety percent of what you get rid of isn’t the good part and, if you’re me, you’re reclaiming that other ten percent after prep.

Supreming an orange is simple: chop off the top and bottom so that you can see flesh, then cut away the sides so that you not only get rid of the pith, you cleave off the outer membrane as well:

IMG_3154 From there, you can easily remove each section from the membranous core with v-cuts.

IMG_3157 It’s more wasteful and, at least until you get used to it, more time consuming than just peeling and slicing an orange, but the difference in presentation makes it worthwhile. 

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This, by the way, is not a small red onion. It is a medium onion and half of it is Too Much. Just for the record.

 

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The salad, the next day, over some lettuce and accompanied by a cheese omelet.

summer salad

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“You’ve been slacking on the blog,” I was chastised this past weekend. “I am,” I agreed, “but I have been eating a lot of salad and I can’t take pictures of that.”

But, really, I can. And so I did.

This weekend brought the first promise of what is to come – a sultry summer in the city. Sure, we’d had that freakish 90-degree day last month, but that’s what it was – freakish. When the temperature and the humidity level are about the same and it’s May, it’s not freakish. It’s a harbinger.

Today wasn’t as miserable as yesterday or the weekend, but a cold supper seemed like a good idea anyway.

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Our starting point. This is a 4.5 quart bowl, I think. I’ve long since gotten rid of the packaging. But it’s the largest bowl I own that I can reasonably fit in the fridge and isn’t currently being used as a fruit bowl.

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One medium head of red-leaf lettuce. I happen to really like iceberg – which lost a bit of its bad reputation after Saveur ran a feature on it last year – but it’s been very expensive and very pitiful of late. So foo-foo lettuce it is. I like red-leaf lettuce; it’s buttery and soft but still has decently crunchy ribs.

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Throw in three small head of broccoli. These were peeled, microwaved, then shocked in a bowl full of ice and water and left until cool. Hence the pretty color. Raw broccoli is fine, too – I certainly nibble enough of it while prepping – but I like it cooked better. Mind you, I barely cook my broccoli and it still has snap.

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Throw in a couple of kirby cukes…

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… a few carrots…

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… and some celery, all traditional salad ingredients.

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I’ve been adding apple to my salads for decades. Fruit in general makes a good addition – dried or fresh. Cranberries, orange, pears, plums, grapes, raisins, and berries all work. It’s a good flavor and texture complement, looks nice, and it’s a great way to get rid of fruit (especially apples) not awesome enough to eat plain and not quite far gone enough to cook. This empire apple is perfectly fine, by the way.

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Leftover vegetables are awesome in salads, like these golden beets. Which are, in addition, very pretty. I love beets, but they take so long to make in the oven. I should figure out how to make them in the microwave, or if that’s possible.

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The white cube-ish bits are jicama and ricotta salata, which is a great salad cheese and one of the only ones I’m comfortable putting in the salad proper and not adding on top later as I would with, say, feta or asiago, which tend to get very sad sitting in a bowl with vegetables that are mostly water.

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Side view. Don’t worry; it’ll be gone by the weekend.

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Dinner! The green’s on the top because of the first-in/last-out principle.

Of course, this pile of nutrients is all well and good, but a couple of bits of cheese does not a complete meal make. Adding protein to salads is easy.

Beans: Canned or dried beans are great in salads. I had cranberry beans in the fridge (more on those when I get around to posting about the tagine I made yesterday), but I didn’t put them in. I may do it later, but I wanted a bean-free meal after several in a row.

Eggs: An omelet on the side is fine, but my usual methods are to top a salad either with some scrambled eggs or with a sunny-side-up egg and let the yolk serve as dressing.

Meat: yes. 🙂

Nuts: Always a tasty contribution to a salad. I don’t add them until the last minute because they’ll get soft sitting in the bowl overnight.

Fish: tinned or fresh. What I went with tonight, namely some of the leftover baked halibut.

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charoses – mortar of champions

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For Pesach, I observe the rules for Ashkenazi Jews with respect to kitniyot – no legumes, no rice, no most of what I eat every day – but when it comes to the seder and the charoses, I am more than happy to go do as the Sephardim do.

Charoses, used to symbolize the mortar that bound the bricks the Israelites were forced to labor over, is usually just apple and honey and nuts and a good glug of Manischewitz if you’re Ashkenazi. To this I add dates, raisins, cinnamon, and cardamom and I usually have to make it by the quart because it goes fast.

This is best made in advance so the flavors have time to meld and the dried fruit has time to dissolve. I usually do it the night before and adjust the morning of.

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Two Macintoshes and a Gala…

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… this was a good year in that I remembered to dice the apples small the first time and didn’t have to go a second round.

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The dates and raisins should be chopped, but you don’t have to go crazy with it, especially if you’re making it far enough in advance that the dried fruit will break down.

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I still hate shelling cardamom, but it’s really what makes the difference here. I always worry that I’ll go over or under – I’ve done both – but since too much is really too much, err on the side of caution and then see how it tastes in a few hours. I didn’t use all of this. I think I went with… three? Five?

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The finished product, immediately after. I didn’t take a photo of it the next evening before packing it up for the seder, but the dried fruit had macerated enough that there was a nice, thick, glossy brown sauce that worked well to hold everything together (like the mortar it’s supposed to be). It sort of looked like very thick pie filling, actually.