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

 

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soy ahoy, part two: hot and sour edamame with tofu

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As mentioned last week, I went a little soy crazy in Flushing. This is the rest of the story.

 

Hot and Sour Edamame with Tofu
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cool Everything Vegetarian)

1/4 cup neutral oil, divided
8 oz tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 hot dried red chiles, minced or the equivalent in red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fermented black beans or other salty bean product (miso, etc.)
1/3 cup shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup stock or water, mixed with 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups edamame

Heat your wok/skillet. Put in half the oil. When it’s hot, add the tofu and brown.

Add the rest of the oil and, after it’s hot, add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic and ginger and chili (flakes) and saute until they’re soft and fragrant, too.

Add liquids: wine, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and stock. Add salty bean product.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to low. Add browned tofu and edamame. Simmer until edamame is tender, 5-7 minutes, and adjust seasonings.

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Edamame is certainly not new to me, although I’ve never bought it in this format and I’ve never cooked with it, so I’m counting it in the tags. I’m more used to it in the bento boxes at the Korean lunch place and as bar snacks. But these were quite affordable and much less of a hassle than peeling a gazillion pods myself.

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Tofu, mid browning. I’d drained it earlier. I’ve got a system going involving one of my cooling racks, a cutting board, and the Gourmet cookbook (all thousand pages and two tons of it). It’s less complicated than it sounds and is more effective than just resting cubes between weighed-down dishes.

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Browned tofu, onion, and then garlic and ginger. I may have been a little generous with the ginger.

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The brown pastes that have lived in the back of my fridge since the Clinton administration, at least. The one on the left is miso and, yes, I got rid of the spoon contamination from the chili paste on the right.

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The serving suggestion from Bittman is over rice. The first time, pictured at the top, I ended up doing it with kasha because that’s what I pulled out when I stuck my hand into the back of the freezer looking for the rice. (I have portioned containers of both for easy dinner.) It was tasty and nutritious. For leftovers, I used my spinach noodles:

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It was also tasty, if not necessarily as nutritious as the kasha.

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And there was dessert.

666 is the number of the entree

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I have a very mixed history with food pretending to be other food – or, at least, non-meat pretending to be meat. Historically, I’ve disdained it. It’s like the bread and cereal and other items that appear around Passover so that you can still have your Cheerios for breakfast without eating chametz. If you’re going to give something up – especially for a non-medical, non-required reason – then give it up and stop weaseling with technicalities.

But that was a position staked out largely before I gave up pig products, which explains why I have a vegan chorizo recipe photocopied and waiting to be tried. Also, it explains this post.

This is technically my second experiment with seitan, the first being the little curds I picked up the other month and tried to figure out how to use without any sort of directions or suggestions on the package. In my vegetarian Thai cookbook, there is a recipe for making seitan from scratch, the end steps being to either deep fry (preferred) or bake the results. I got something edible out of toasting the store-bought version, so I figured I’d try again.

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These may put anyone on the path to carnivorous behavior. They felt exactly the way they look – like rubber.

Thankfully, they look a little more like food and less like mistakes from the tire factory after toasting, even though I believe this type is supposed to be steamed:

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As for what to do with them, I opted to go for a Chinese-Thai mishmash (it’s not elegant enough to be called a fusion): a Thai green curry stir-fry.

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This is my new-ish wok, by the way. It’s one of those flat-bottomed types for western stovetops. I actually have a proper Chinese wok, complete with a crown that rests on the burner grate, but this is easier to work with. It was originally a bright, shiny stainless steel, but while my seasoning has been irregular, the important part – the bottom – is well done. It’s gigantic, though, and one of the reasons my next home cannot have a tiny stove.

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Food that looks exactly like what it’s supposed to be. More or less; the coconut milk is reconstituted from powder.

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This is a lot of food and yes, I was eating it all week.

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I didn’t make it as soupy as a Thai curry that you get in a restaurant would be – I love that style, but that’s an awful lot of coconut milk to be consuming. It was saucy enough, though, and very tasty.

Dessert was from the other end of the globe: a poppy cake made with the remainder of the mun filling from the Purim hamantaschen. 

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chick peas two ways: tea-and-chili chana

I’m posting these recipes in order of appearance, but this was actually the one I wanted to try first. Except that, for once, I didn’t have any chilis in the house, so the amchur recipe got made first.

When I did make this one, I still (as usual) used the wrong kind of pepper. Most of the time, it doesn’t really matter much. But occasionally, the difference in size and hotness does matter and this… might have been one of those times. This didn’t turn out too hot to eat, but it was definitely a sinus-clearer as made, which is why I’m giving the recipe as written.

As for the rest of the recipe, it’s simple and a little different, using tea as the liquid instead of water. I drink copious amounts of tea all year long, so this is right up my alley – at least in principle. In actuality, I drink copious amounts of rooibos all year long. But I still have loose Darjeeling in the house, so all was well. If you don’t, I’m pretty sure the culinary gods won’t strike you down from on high if you use a couple of Tetley teabags – just make sure they’re plain.

 

Tea and chili chana
(adapted from 660 Curries)

2 TB black tea leaves, preferably Darjeeling
2 cups water

2 TB neutral oil (canola, etc.)
1 TB cumin seeds

2 TB finely chopped ginger
1 TB finely chopped garlic
2-4 anaheim/serrano/cayenne chiles [or two medium jalapenos], sliced thinly crosswise, with seeds.

3 cups cooked chick peas
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1.5 tspn kosher salt
1/2 tspn turmeric

juice of 1 lime

Make tea. Bring the water to a boil, pour over leaves, let steep for five minutes, then strain.

Heat the oil until shimmering in a medium saucepan. Add cumin and stir until aromatic, 10 seconds.

Add ginger, garlic, and chiles and saute until the ginger and garlic start to brown and the chiles are fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Stir in the chick peas, cilantro, salt, and turmeric and mix well. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add tea, stir, and bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes until sauce is thickened slightly.

Stir in lime juice and serve.

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Yes, I could have made tea in the teapot, but I didn’t want to foul it.

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Tea!

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This? Is a lot of jalapeno. It’s two large peppers, which is possibly half a pepper too many because while it wasn’t too hot to eat, it was on the verge of being too hot to enjoy, which is the important barometer. I will say that it was less of an assault on the reheat/leftover side, though.

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The dry sauté to cook the turmeric.

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And here’s another of those do-as-I-say moments. I covered the pot after adding the tea and wandered off, not realizing until six minutes had passed that the whole purpose was to leave it uncovered so as to get rid of some of the liquid. So I reached for the besan (chickpea flour) and thickened it a bit that way, which is why it looks so thick here. (And please ignore that this bowl was not clean at the start; it is apparently the only picture I took after adding the tea.)

chick peas two ways: amchur chana

I received 660 Curries as a gift last year, but didn’t make anything from it straightaway because it was August and too hot to cook. My birthday falls in that part of the New York summer when it’s hot enough long enough that it’s still 89 degrees at midnight, which can mean little use for the brand-new cookbooks except as reading material at the dining room table as I sup on salad and Cheerios (not at the same time).

But then comes fall and winter and the reminder that my office is freezing and I have a lovely little thermos and hot lunches, even on blistering summer days, isn’t a bad thing because it’s always winter at work. And so even as it starts to heat up again, it’s worth socking away a few containers of stuff to heat up.

I might have started slow when it came to this cookbook, but I’ve more than made up for it in the months since then. I’m probably down to the low 640s by now in terms of curries left to try, not counting any of the ones I’ve repeated (like this and this) more than once. Not everything has been awesome and amazing, but it’s never been less than perfectly serviceable. And that’s part of the point, I think – there are fancy curries and then there are get-home-from-work-hungry kind of curries where you look at what’s in the fridge and try to find something to do with it. And this book covers both.

The two curries I’m posting are definitely in the latter category. Especially since I *gasp* used canned chick peas, at least in part.

 

Amchur Chana

2 TB neutral oil (canola, etc.)
2 tspn cumin seeds, divided: 1 tspn ground, 1 tspn seeds
2 cardamom pods
1-2 cinnamon sticks

1 14.5oz can diced or crushed tomato


2 TB amchur (mango powder)
1 TB ground coriander seeds
1 tspn kosher salt
1/2 tspn lal mirch/cayenne
1/4 tspn turmeric

3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans is fine)
1 cup water
4 TB finely chopped cilantro, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on med-high; when it’s shimmering, add cumin seeds, cardamom, and cinnamon and stir for 10-15 seconds. Don’t let the cumin burn.

Add the tomatoes, amchur, ground cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne, and turmeric. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chick peas, water, and half of the cilantro. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes. The sauce should thicken up a bit.

Sprinkle remaining cilantro and onion and serve.

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You can get away with the already-ground coriander if you absolutely have to, but it tastes different – and better – this way.

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Cumin seeds in hot oil get very done very fast, which is why I don’t normally try to take pictures of it – it’ll burn by the time I get the camera ready. I was prepared this time, but it was a near thing.

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The recipe calls for crushed tomatoes and feel free to use them if you’ve got them, but I only buy diced, so that’s what I used. I buy diced because I don’t buy fresh tomatoes – I don’t eat them – and it’s the best way to simulate fresh ones when cooking. Just don’t get the kind that comes with basil or garlic or whatever else they sell.

(My dislike of raw tomatoes makes it rather ironic that I am growing a tomato plant on my back porch, but we’ll cross that bridge should I actually get tomatoes from it.)

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Ready for the final simmer, which takes it from this…

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… to this.

Tasty, fast, and done in less than an hour. Not a bad deal.

chole palak (chick peas and spinach)

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As with everyone, there are days when I get home from work and have zero desire to do any serious cooking, but at the same time I don’t want cereal or an omelet or any of the soups in the freezer. This recipe is a perfect one for those nights.

It comes from Manjula’s Kitchen and I’ll leave you to find the recipe and video there. About the only change I made is the one you can see above, which was to use a can of tomatoes instead of fresh, which I suggest anyway for the dead of winter because (I am told) tomatoes are wooden-tasting right now anyway.

Oh, and I also doubled the spinach, since mine was starting to go a little. I had been saving it for another recipe that had too long of a cooking time for a weeknight and the spinach wasn’t going to last until the weekend.

As a rule, I prefer dried beans to canned, but this recipe is all about the laziness and in highly spiced dishes it’s less of a factor.

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My very, very sad jalapeno plus spices. I was so lazy, I didn’t even use the tiny bowls, which are in the same cabinet as these pyrex ones, but are nested.

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Sad jalapeno well disguised and nicely contrasted.

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Was not kidding about the spinach. The bowl is one of my Fiesta gaucho bowls, 24 ounce capacity, and the spinach is packed and overflowing.

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Halfway.

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Done. I didn’t really mash the chickpeas and, if you watch the video, you’ll see that this is less liquidy because of the extra spinach. But it was tasty and made a few excellent lunches in addition to one fast, satisfying dinner.

 

For the record, this was the spinach dal recipe I had to wait for a weekend for and, well, I have to say that it wasn’t worth the effort. It wasn’t bad, but three hours of cooking should result in something more outstanding. Or a good roast.

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But I do feel obligated that much of last week’s meals involved this:

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