Friday, August 31, 2012

Argentine Family Traditions

Zeide and me drinking Mate on the back porch

Today would have been my grandfather's 81st birthday. He passed away October 19, 2011, a few days before my son was born. Pablo Hackman, my Zeide (we called him by the Yiddish word for grandfather), was born in Poland and moved to Argentina as a baby. There he married my grandmother "Lala" and they had two kids before moving the family to New York. I wanted to celebrate his birthday by reminiscing about a typical family gathering.

Our food and get-togethers were very much influenced by Argentine culture. And Argentine culture is influenced by Italian culture. We ate lots of pasta, and said "ciao," and probably did lots of other things I don't realize are more Italian that South American. I grew up in Florida, living near my grandparents and my Aunt Monica's family. We got together often to enjoy asado Argentine barbecue.

We would all meet at Lala and Zeide's house in the afternoon. We might sit outside by the pool, or inside with a soccer game on the TV. At some point, maybe in the afternoon, my grandparents would prepare mate (mah-TAY) for us to share. (I was going to make this whole post about yerba mate, but that will wait for another day.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick Electrolyte Drink

It's hot outside! It is so hot that running simple errands can take a lot out of me. Do you ever feel so thirsty and exhausted, but water just isn't cutting it? When I return home from a sweaty walk, this is what I like to put in my water bottle:

  • 2-3 lemon slices
  • a little drizzle of agave syrup (maybe 1 teaspoon)
  • TINY pinch of low-sodium salt substitute. Read the ingredients. You want something with sodium AND potassium. I use something that is half sea salt (sodium chloride) and half potassium chloride.
  • ice
  • water

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Foraging PLUS Purslane Tips and Recipes

Last week I took a very pleasant and informative "Wild Edibles Class" with experienced forager, Ronit Peskin. We walked through Gan Sacher in Jerusalem and found over a dozen edible plants - fruits, herbs, spices, medicinal plants, and more. I can't wait to tell you about everything I found and what you can do with it! Today I will discuss Purslane - the lemony, crunchy, weed of summer.

First, what did we find in Jerusalem?
Trees: Pine, fig, carob, olive, sumac, dwarf pomegranate, Judas tree/redbud, thorny Hawthorne, yucca
Bushes: capers, wild carrot/Queen Anne's lace (bird's nest), myrtle, rosemary, lavender, wild fennel, black mustard, wild oats, Roses
Low-lying Weeds: plantain (plantago lagopus), mallow, clover, purslane, prickly asparagus. prickly lettuce

Now, all about Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Also known as: Cat's tongue, pourpier, ma chi xian - horse tooth amaranth, verdolaga, pigweed, little hogweed, pusley, pussly, perpine, munyeroo, portulaca, garden purslain, rigla, or רגלת הגינה

Where to find it: Purslane is everywhere! In the city, in the forest... Maya commented on my Facebook Page that she used to collect purslane at her family's farm in North-West Pennsylvania. And here in central Israel, where it has been a very hot dry summer, it's still green.

How to pick: Look for bright green, thick, paddle-shaped, waxy leaves (like a jade plant), on knobby, fleshy green (or red, pink, or brown) stems, and tiny yellow flowers. Purslane generally hugs the ground and grows in a sprawling spider or web-like shape. The biggest leaves and the thinner stems are best for eating. It can be gathered without any tools, since it lacks thorns or a woody stem.

Poisonous look-alike: At some stages, purslane might be confused with poisonous spurge.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grilling Ideas PLUS Kosher Recipes Link-Up

I recently joined the Kosher Connection. Each month we'll jointly host a "Link-up" on a different theme. Today I'd like to share some general ideas about:

  • Nontraditional dishes that make the most of a tradition grill (like things you can serve on Shabbat or bring to a pot-luck)
  • Tips for using non-traditional "grills" (great for cooking on vacation or in dorm-style situations)

The smoky, dry heat produced by a grill gives food some amazing flavors. Once you already have the grill set up, there's no reason to stick with simple grilled veggies and the traditional meats. You can use the grill as a flavor-boosting step in so many dishes.

By using the grill you can add an exciting summery flavor to dishes that can be taken to a friends house, to work, rewarmed for Shabbat, or eaten cold.

This Shabbat I served a crustless quiche or pashtida. The main ingredient was grilled butternut squash. The grilling (or roasting) carmelized the squash in a way that wouldn't have been possible if I baked the whole cassarole at once. Instead, the squash was soft and sweet and fully cooked by the time the egg was done. I even enjoyed this cold for breakfast yesterday!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gluten-free 3-cheese Vegetable Lasagna

This dish is heavy on the prep, but very rewarding. My husband and I decided we liked the leftovers even better, hot or cold.

Avi watching me slice eggplant
Fried eggplant

You will need three cheeses:
  • Something salty (I used Bulgarit)
  • Something soft like ricotta or cottage cheese
  • Something stretchy and melty like mozzerella (I used "gvina tzuba", something like Edam.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sabra Sorbet (Frozen Prickly Pear) PLUS How to Safely Cut Them Open

Photo by Sarah Melamed
Drive down any highway in Israel this summer and you will see spiny golden balls generously sprinkled along the tops of the cactus patches. This cactus fruit or prickly pear is called tsabar צבר in Hebrew and is the name sake of the native born Israeli - called a Sabra - prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside.

I don't have patience for Sabras. All the Israeli friends I've made in the last couple years were friendly on the outside, and any prickly people I've met still scare me. But this year I decided to get over my fear and buy my my own tsabar. Of course, I wasn't venturing into a cactus patch, I was just crossing the street to buy some de-clawed sabras. But even with the big thorns cut off, they can bite. 

Since the sabras were packaged, I was forced to buy a whole kilo. If I had only bought one or two, I probably would have been turned off by the seeds and quit, but being stuck with a whole bowl-full, I had to find something to do with them. It turns out they make a wonderful sorbet!

Friday, August 10, 2012

My First Lychee Encounter with VIDEO

Lychee "nuts", or Litchi chinensis, are technically in season, though they're still not cheap. My kids go crazy for them and I think they are really beautiful inside and out. (I'd love to do an art project with the skin/shell.) They have prickly, leathery magenta skin. It doesn't have sharp spines, so you can easily handle them. If you leave them in the fridge the skins will dry out and become more difficult to cut open, but the taste of the fruit remains sweet. The texture is in between a grape and a plum, the pulp is white and translucent. I would describe the taste as sweet and perfumy. If you cut straight through to the the seed, like you might open an avocado, the flesh easily separates from both the skin and the seed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homebrewing - Part 1: Why make your own beer? Guest Post

Boaz with Sam Adams Award
I am honored to introduce Boaz Harel, the first place winner for Pale Ale in the 2012 Sam Adams Longshot home brew competition in Israel, and author of the Three Cats Brewery Blog. Boaz is also married to  Maya, the author of the hilarious and informative blog How to Be Israeli. I first met Boaz and Maya when we were college students in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This October we both welcomed our first "Made in Israel" babies into the world. Congratulation Boaz and Maya!

Let's try a simple exercise. Go get yourself a glass of cola. Now look at the glass and ask yourself what's in it. Chances are you couldn't answer the question, and with soft drink companies being so cagey about their products (and for a reason - if you knew what was in it you'd probably never drink it) you'll probably never know. Now go get a glass of beer and the same question. What's in this? The answer to that question is just four words: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. What's more, all the wonderful variety of beers in the world, from the black roasty Guinness, to the pale crisp Bud Light, is made from those same basic four ingredients. Water, Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast (and magic :) ).
Beers from Three Cats Brewery

In fact, beer is such a simple, easy, and natural beverage, that you can actually make it at home. In the second part of this post I'll show you how, but before we get into that, let's talk a little about what beer is, and why you should make it. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Easy Arepas (Corn pancakes)

When I was growing up in South Florida, my family would go to Miami to see the Marlins play baseball. One of the highlights of the trip was the delicious, sweet, greasy, cheesy arepa I would usually order for dinner. I don't think this was the most authentic Venezuelan or Colombian arepa, but it was utterly delicious. Two sweet corn pancakes were fried on a griddle, with white Jack cheese melted in the middle. You eat it like a sandwich with a little cardboard holder. Imagine my surprise when I learned that every stadium and fairground in the United States does not host Arepa Queen stands!

I wanted my family to have a little taste of the pleasure that comes with this wonderful flavor combination, so I've been making my own wonderfully un-authentic arepas using an inexpensive sandwich maker. This could easily be made in a dorm or hotel room if you bring the ingredients. You can also serve it with salsa or guacamole on the side.


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