Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pottery Class

I walked out of my pottery class tonight.

That is the first time I have done that in 4 years,
going every single week.

The problem is three-fold. The first, and most annoying of the problems, being that there is a new student who is desperate for attention and just never stops talking and asking everybody (especially me) for help. Ok, I can understand that this is a new skill, but in order to learn you have to do, not have everybody else do for you. And you don't learn by saying I can't do this, this is too hard and calling out for something else to do. Ceramics is something that your mind might understand theoretically, but your body still needs to learn the motions and your hands still need to learn how things are supposed to feel. It takes time and patience and desire.

I have the desire, and I have the patience, but my time is limited to 3 hours once a week, and I don't pay to be the teacher's assistant, I pay to have a teacher teach me. Because there is alot that I don't know, and I am the first to admit that.

The second part of my frustration is that the studio is in a complete state of chaos and just trying to make a space to work in takes up half an hour of my time. It didn't used to be that way, but I have been getting the distinct feeling that the classes, even though they are her bread and butter, are not the first priority for the teacher. Ok, admittedly, she has been going through a bit of a rough time of late, but if people are paying to use the facilities, aren't the facilities supposed to be useable?

The third part of the problem is that SistR has given me her kiln and wheel, it is sitting in my apartment, but I have nowhere to use them, and I don't have the money to rent a whole studio space on my own. What I need is for someone to have a bit of studio space (with the proper electical wiring) who wants to do pottery but doesn't have a kiln or wheel. I think I will have to start advertising.

I mean really, I love making mudpies, and isn't pottery the ultimate mudpie?

Dinner Out

I have a new cousin!

Actually, MMM is an existing 2nd cousin who I have never met before. I grew up in the land of igloos, she grew up on the dark continent, and our paths never crossed until tonight. She is here on business and contacted our mutual 2nd cousin (yes, my family life is replete with 2nd and 3rd cousins 2ce removed on our distaff uncles side - this remaining in contact is a result of wwII and the dissipation of the family to all corners of the earth), and we all met up tonight. I didn't get to spend lots of time with her, there were other people at the table, but I do hope to stay in touch with her and hopefully, over time, get to know her better.

On top of that gaining a new cousin tonight, I got to see me already existing, and dearly beloved cousins, and we all went to dinner at Manta Ray. As usual, the dinner was excellent. They don't understand this blogging thing, they think I am a bit obsessed, so I only took 1 picture of my dinner. But as usual, the mezzete were oppulent and delicious. We had avocado with freshly marinated sardines, tzatziki with fried eggplant, grilled eggplant with labane, grey mullett ceviche with sumach, their excellent balkan bread (like a foccacia) and a really good Israeli wine from a boutique winery called Ella Valley Wines. I didn't get a chance to look at the bottle, but it was a lovely rich red wine, not too tannic and with good legs.

My main course was sauteed shrimp and scallops in a tomato cream sauce. I could have lived without the sauce, it tasted rather like a buttery, watered down thousand island dressing, but the shrimps were juicy and sweet, and the scallops were perfectly seared, with a golden crust and a melting interior that was hot without being overcooked and still tasted of the sea.

Upon my recommendation we finished with a crunchy chocolate decadence. The name says it all!

Monday, October 30, 2006

CSA Mondays

My CSA is back in action!

I have just come back from SistR's where we divied up the spoils.

Oh joy and bliss. I love surprises.

What did we get this week?

  • Kholrabi
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Baby mixed lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Eggplants
  • Butternut squash
  • Grapefruits
  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Red and green peppers

Oh the things we can do...

Don't those beet stalks look like rhubarb? Mmmmm... I have never cooked with root vegetable greens before and I have lots of them to play with. I love a challenge...

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Hannukah is just around the corner.

I know this only because Krembo have started appearing in the shops. "Krembo?" you ask, "What on earth is a Krembo". Well, they are the Israeli equivalent of a Mallomar, but way better.

Standing about 7.5cm/3in tall on a simple 5cm/2in cookie base, this is no creampuff. What we have here is 115 calories of seriously whipped, vanilla flavoured, boiled meringue, covered in the thinnest coating of delicate, supremely shatterable, milk chocolate. This is a 100% mid-winter treat. Even with airconditioned transportation these babies couldn't survive the 5 minutes in the summer sun it would take to go from truck to store . But come winter, like the desert, the stores bloom with little blue and brown (mocha flavoured) foil packages.

Unlike the slightly spongy Mallomars, the filling is so light that the mere act of trying to cut open a Krembo deflates the creamy interior. Biting into one is also a bit of a challenge. If you start at the cookie end, you end up with a shattered chocolate shell oozing filling. If you start at the chocolate end you usually wind up with the cookie and no filling to give it some interest. Biting north to south usually destroys the cookie and the other half of the Krembo falls to the ground.

It could be that the proper Krembo eating technique is a skill that needs to be learned in childhood, and which I will never master. However Krembo enjoyment is a skill that almost anyone, including yours truly, can learn.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rainy Saturday

I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder.

I love rainy Saturdays in Israel, I can curl back up under the covers and dream for an extra hour without feeling guilty. Sunny Saturdays I am up and out of bed by 7, puttering around, windows open and the whole day ahead of me to go wandering around the city, or to the beach, or just around the corner to Moti's for burekas and coffee. But a rainy Saturday is like a licence to laze about and do homey things, watch movies, have an afternoon nap and generally pamper yourself with lots of tea and no fixed agenda. And that is exactly what I did today.

When I finally did get up I inspected the new toy I bought at the flea market yesterday:

A Baker's Ware Cookie and Noodle Kit.

Very early 70's. I think my mom has the exact same thing, and she makes gorgeous looking butter cookies topped with tiny pieces of green and red marascino cherries and crystalized ginger (my favourite).

So I looked at this 10 shekel find, which also included the original instruction booklet with recipes, and seriously contemplated making cookies today. But then common sense took over. I had dinner to prepare for Cactus & Sass and better that I don't have cookies in the house...

So out came the tuna and the gelatine and I made a creditable mousse following the same basic idea as the cod's roe mousse I made a little bit ago, but this time I added a contrasting strip of broccoli/avocado (about 150gr broccoli & 1/2 an avocado. Next time I will add more onions and lemon to give it more bumph, but this way I can take it to work and won't suffer from onion breath...

Next up was a fennel soup with Arak.

I don't know whether the Arak is any good, but I bought it at the recommendation of on of the Hinawi's, so it can't be bad. The soup doesn't photograph well, but the bottle does...

Fennel Soup

  • Fennel sliced thinly 5 bulbs
  • Onion 1 medium
  • Arak 100ml / 1/2 cup (more if you like)
  • Olive oil 1-2 tbsps
  • Flour 1 tbsp
  • Water (or chicken stock) 440ml / 2 cups (more if necessary)
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • Whipping cream for garnish
  • Fennel fronds chopped for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat, add onion and sweat 'til translucent.

Add flour and cook it, stirring for about 2 minutes

Add sliced fennel and stir to coat then add 1 cup of water/stock and cover. Stir occasionally and if pot starts to dry out add more liquid.

When fennel is soft, use stick blender and puree, then sieve the mixture, bring to a boil and add the arak. Adjust the consistency and seasonings. This can be as thick or as thin as you like, personally, I like the intensity of the thicker soup.

To serve, garnish with a swirl of cream, a sprinkling of fennel and a grind of black pepper.

Next up on the agenda was a mixed salad with organic baby greens, romaine and tomatoes from my CSA, hard boiled egg, and a simple vinaigrette. I also made a shaved fennel salad with oranges. Unfortunately I didn't have any pomegranate seeds - that would have made it perfect.

Chicken wings with soy, garlic, onions, chili powder, ketchup and silan, baked until they were gooey and sticky and crispy... At this point C had to take a nap, but that gave the crumble a chance to finish baking.

What makes this crumble different from all other crumbles. I used really ripe persimmons instead of sugar with the apples. I made it more unctuous and added a mysterious, almost musky flavour (according to Harold McGee they are in the same flavour category as pumpkin, but are sweeter to the nth degree.)

All in all, I didn't do alot today,
but C & S benefitted from the fruits of my inactivity.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Last night I went to Benny HaDayag for dinner.

I've been there once before on a very un-hot blind date. There was almost nothing in common between the pair of us and it was a very uncomfortable evening and I seem to have supressed all memory of the food - I think that we ended up just having the salads and then going our separate ways. So last night was kindof like the first time there for me.

This time I went with Cactus and Sassy, and all the way to the new Tel Aviv port I was kicking myself for forgetting my camera at home. I have been so good about carrying it around with me, but I am only human and yesterday morning was more concerned with raingear than photogear. We had made reservations for 20h00, which in Israel is very early. We are not quite as extreme as Spain, but pretty close.

The only other people at the restaurant were tourists, which meant we were seated immediately and didn't have to fight any lineups or loud groups. Benny's doesn't go in for menus - there is a chalkboard inside that stays there - if you want to know what there is to eat you need to get up and check it out. That is also the only place where prices are posted - and that is only the per kilo price of the more esoteric aquatic denizens. We wanted to take advantage of the still warm weather and opted for an outside table - at the end of October! Now who can complain about that?

Our waitress was asking for our drink orders even before we had finished sitting down, and by the time we had got ourselves sorted our table had been covered (quite literally) with a vast assortment of salads and a huge basket of warm rolls. C & I split a half bottle of Mt. Hermon Chardonnay - a nice, eminently drinkable little number, light and refreshing and not a la California and so oaky you spit out splinters.

I knew I had made a BIG mistake in forgetting my camera when I surveyed the goodies loading down our table. First off was a bowl containing a piece of grey mullet swimming in a very spicy Tripolitan (Libya) red sauce. I have friends whose background is Libyan and have come to the conclusion that there is only one sauce in Libya and this is it. You have mafroum, fish, couscous, chicken and everything else in between, served with this sauce. When red sauce (honestly, that is what they call it) is homemade the spice level is at least twice as hot as Benny's, well beyond the pain threshold of unsuspecting tourists. The sauce at Benny's is very conducive to being mopped up with bread.

There was a nice humous with a thick ful paste on top, eggplant - in mayonnaise, with vinegar, and with tomatoe sauce, there was a Turkish salad (tomatoes and peppers stewed), pickled lemons in a turmeric/curry sauce (that is great with falafels), there was cauliflower in the the same bright yellow sauce, there was a moderately spicy green s'hug (chilis and coriander), chopped tomatoes with green chilis and a bit of lemon, there was green tehina, white coleslaw, and red coleslaw, and if that wasn't enough, a really big bowl with chopped tomatoes and onions on one half and shredded lettuce on the other, both lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

When we had made some inroads into all of this bounty, a plate with a beautifully grilled eggplant, split and draped with tehina arrived and a couple of the empty plates were taken away and replenished at C's request.

After we had been eating for at least half an hour, our waitress arrived to take our order. This wasn't laxness on her part, this is SOP for Benny's, relax, take your time, fress!

Now the whole point in coming here was to try their mixed seafood platter, as seen by C+S earlier this week, and lusted after ever since. So they confidently told the waitress that we would have a platter for three. We then continued noshing and a some lovely crispy-melty deepfried eggplant appeared, just to add a bit of variety. Now admittedly, the little salads are not served in large portions, but there are so many of them that you manage to unwittingly eat much more than you thought you would, just in having a bite or two here, a taste and then another one there...

Benny's is not known for stinginess when it comes to portion control, but the only word that C, S and I could come up with to describe the seafood platter when it arrived steaming to our table was appalling. Imagine a shallow triangular serving bowl, now imagine it 45cm on each side (18 inches for the metrically challenged), and now imagine it filled almost to overflowing with fat juicy shrimps, calamari, mussels and crabs. OMG.

We sat and stared, open mouthed, for at least 30 seconds, and then we all tentatively reached out and took something from this overwhelming dish. After that we set to with gusto, but no matter what we did we just couldn't seem to put a dent in it, and every once in a while one or the other of us would shake our heads and say how ridiculous this was. There was enough there for at least 6 people. And I mean 6 people who are serious about their seafood.

The crabs and mussels had been done in butter, white wine and garlic and the shrimp and calamari had been dusted in flour and deepfried. This was the ultimate fingerfood dinner, but not greasy or gooey or gluey. The calamari were meltingly soft, not a rubbery bit in the lot, and the shrimp exploded when you bit into them. The mussels were big and juicy and full of flavour, and the crab was delicious and worth every bit of effort put into them in order to get at the sweet white meat.

45 minutes later I sat back and couldn't contemplate another bite. C+S continued on for a bit, picking out choice morsels, trying to find the perfect last bite, but they soon followed suit and pushed their chairs back replete. By the end of this we were drunk with food, unable to think about even a cup of mint tea, convinced that nothing would pass our lips until the next evening, maybe... For all that, the meal, including wine, soft drinks and mineral water, cost about USD100 for the 3 of us. Now that was ridiculous

We left Benny's after almost 2 solid hours of eating, walking along the boardwalk feeling like our stomachs were arriving at the corner at least five minutes before the rest of our bodies. But satisfied? Oh yes...

On the way out of the port we noticed a newish jewellery store, so we stuck our heads in to see what was on display. Shouldn't have done that. I saw a ring that I really liked and decided that, having inherited a little bit of money from my grandmother Jeannie, enough for a very modest piece of jewellery, I would buy it so that I could wear something that would remind me of her every time I wore it.

But then I decided to try on a lovely silver necklace and tried it on. Usually I try and coerce people into buying things that I think look gorgeous on them, but this time the situation was reversed. C+S both started exclaiming and convinced me that this was a "me" piece and that it would be much more unusual than the ring, which, though lovely, wasn't nearly as special.

Besides, it was in keeping with our seafood dinner. 8^)

So what do all of these pictures of risotto milanese con frutti di mari have to do with anything? Well that is what I did with the leftovers.

Basic Risotto Milanese

  • Arborio Rice 220gr / 1 cup
  • Onion, finely minced 50 gr / 1/4 cup
  • Saffron generous pinch
  • White vermouth 50ml 1/4 cup
  • Wite wine 100ml / 1/2 cup
  • Water or chicken stock 4 cups
  • Butter 20 gr / 1 tablespoon
  • Parmesan, finely grated 75-100 gr / 2-3 ounces
  • Salt + white pepper to taste
  • Parsley, finely chopped small handful

Make sure you use a pot that is large enough. Risotto is deceptive and always needs more space than you think it will.

Over medium heat sweat the onions in the butter until translucent.

Turn the heat up and add the rice, stirring occasionally until the rice goes a bit translucent with a spot of white showing in the center.

Toss in the saffron and the vermouth and stir until absorbed.

Add the wine and stir 'til absorbed.

Add some salt and 1/2 cup of water/stock and stir 'til absorbed.

Continue adding the water/stock by the 1/2 cup full stirring well between additions.

Start testing for doneness after cup 3 by trying a grain of rice for doneness. The rice is done when it is firm but not gritty and there should be a creamy sauce swaddling the rice in the pan.

Add water/stock as needed until al dente.

Stir in the parmesan and check for seasoning.

If it has thickened up too much add some more liquid until it is creamy again {don't forget to check again for seasoning}.

At that point I added my leftover seafood, hence con Frutti di Mari, covered the pot for 5 minutes with the heat turned off and kept warm under a tea towel.

Just before serving stir in most of the parsley, saving some for garnish.

Eat, drink and thank goodness for leftovers.


Ok, these are only the leftovers...

Now imagine the real thing...

More to come on this tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


The first storm of the season blew in last night.

It was seriously
one of the most spectacular lightning storms I have ever seen.

When I was little, two or three years ago, I was told to count the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder claps and then divide by 4. The number I came up with was approximately how many miles away the lightning had struck. Last night I tried doing the same: flash one steamboat, two steamboats, three steamboats, four steambo... flash. For over an hour there was lightning every 4 to 7 seconds, without letting up. I actually put myself to sleep trying to count through to a thunderclap before the next lightning bolt hit.

I have double glazed windows - something that is not so common here - and so I didn't particularly notice the thunder, but today everybody at work was talking about how they had been woken up by the violence of the thunder last night.

Today another minor storm blew in and I took a couple of photos of the most amazing cloud formations. This bottom photo is the most perfect cumulonimbus cloud with a really pronounced anvil. Too cool - more lightning tonight!

Ah winter, this means thick soups, thick sweaters and walking around looking like Bibendum, in all of my wet weather gear and multiple coats - I still ride my scooter when it rains...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Noa Bistro

Nir Zook is my favourite Israeli chef.

He is innovative but keeps within the bounds of traditions - all traditions actually. He has a sense of humour and can poke fun at himself and he is playful when it comes to his food, while remaining serious about maintaining quality and providing visual and oral excitement.

When Dad was last here we went to a little auberge in the hills just above Rosh Pina. What a disappointment that turned out to be. It's reputation is blown out of all proportion and the chef there succumbed to the overbearing Israeli sweet-tooth with no mediating factors in the dishes to get them out of the appalling rating I would have given. The prices reflect their snobby, elitist attitude, whereas the service is better at the Big M... Although the place itself is lovely, I would recommend it only as a very last resort. added to any of the dishes we had.

This time, I decided on Noa Bistro, confident that chef Zook wouldn't let me down. Having been grabbed this way and that by the a la carte menu, dad & I ended up having their Special Menu, which is for 2 or more people.

The first thing brought to the table was a basket of warm rollls with soft butter and absolutely outstanding s'chug made from vine leaves instead of the hot red peppers or hot green peppers and fresh coriander which are the norm. In keeping with Israeli tradition the starters were put into the middle of the table. This was actually a bit of a problem because we were seated at a table for 4 and were presented with 4 full sized dinner plates each holding a different appetizer, which then left barely enough room for our plates, let alon the drinks.

Chigga is a form of vegetarian kubbeh made with fresh tomatoes and tomato paste mixed with bulgur and formed into not so little torpedos. It was served on a chopped tomato salad with shredded fresh basil.

This one serving would have made a nice lunch
Israel is trying to compete with the USA when it comes to serving sizes.

There was a perfectly good caesar salad topped with local parmesan that, once again, would have made a nice lunch for one along with the rolls. The sea bream carpaccio was diving, doused with super premium extra virgin olive oil (I think pressed from Syrian olives, which are a type of small bitter olives with oodles of flavour that originated in Syria and now grow here so they don't have to be smuggled in). This was sprinkled with chopped chives and freshly ground black pepper. Thank goodness there were still rolls left to smear up every last drop of fish flavoured oil.

The last appetizer was smoked shrimps in a coriander cream sauce with sauteed lettuce. Having been lightly smoked, the shrimps only needed warming in the sauce and were juicy and bursting with flavour. Oh what I wouldn't do to have my own smoker... Once again we were glad that the rolls hadn't all been devoured, as not a drop of sauce got left on the plate.

For our main courses I had a lamb sinya, which was a very, very generous piece of lamb topped with green tehina and baked in its own little gratin dish until it was meltingly tender. Dad had the gnocchi in a shrimp cream sauce. We tucked in immediately and I only remembered to take a picture halfway through - so below is my sinya with 2 of dads shrimps on top.

Desserts were a very rich berry fool with meringues and an espresso pannacotta with a caramel sauce

The only disappointing moment of the evening came when dad felt his bottle of beer and decided it wasn't cold enough. But the wait staff cheerfully replaced it with one that had obviously been in the back of the fridge and was icy cold. That put the smile back on dad's face.

And the smile stayed there all the way through dinner.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Funny Man

My father is a funny man...

What does this have to do with chocolate cake? Well, we checked into the Austrian Hospice in the old city of Jerusalem and the first thing he looked at was the menu for their cafe. The rooms didn't interest him, nor did the amazing view from the roof. What caught his eye was their menu.

For the rest of the day, as we meandered through the bazaars, shouks, alleyways and passages; as we made our way around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; as we made wrong turns and ended up at the right destinations, every time that I mentioned food or made a comment about any of the incredible looking edibles displayed everywhere we turned "oh that looks yummy" he would say "yes, but did you know that I ate Sacher torte at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna?"

Or he would make silly jokes about the earlocked men praying at the wall not getting Wiener Schnitzel for dinner, or that the bewigged women wouldn't be getting Mozart Kugel from their husbands.

I could tell he only had one thing on his mind... dinner.

And we hadn't even eaten lunch yet!

When we did eventually stop for lunch we went to "our usual place", which means Abu Shukri, a famous hummous joint. I have to admit that now that I live in Jaffa I am a bit (ok, very) spoiled when it comes to hummous and its related glops.

For instance the masabacha (it's mashawasha if you are in the north), or breakfast hummous at Ali Karavan, is out of this world. It is so good that it even converts confirmed hummous haters. Since my last visit to Jerusalem I am no longer a neophyte when it comes to hummous. That meant that even though my dad thought Abu Shukri was wonderful, I thought it was merely passable. It is too much of a tourist trap now and the food standards have slipped, nothing to make me swoon.

My afternoon tea was actually rootbeer, something that I have never seen before in Israel, and a craving recently spawned by a few recent blogs by Toast. Boy was it ever good.

At the end of the day I indulged my dad and we returned to the hospice, ordered a couple of beers, sat in the garden and had Wiener Schnitzel, potato salad and Sacher Torte with Schlag.

A typical Viennese dinner, complete with chocolate cake
in the middle of the old city of Jerusalem,
how surreal.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I Think I'm Back

I apologize once again for the paucity of posts recently.

My visit to Jerusalem was only partially to blame.

Serious problems with my cable provider meant I had zero Internet connectivity for more than a week while they blamed my ISP (whose tech support staff honestly did their utmost to help, but to no avail). After 1 visit from a cable tech (who had already been at my place a month ago for the same problems) and 2 visits by techs from my ISP, the cable guys decided that yes, the problem was with them and eventually changed almost all of the routing connections to and in my building. Even that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't used what is commonly called "Vitamin P" here, the P standing for protectsia, which is self-explanatory. I ended up calling the CEO's secretary and she put out an urgent call for service. Who knows what would have (not) happened if I hadn't done so. I don't feel too badly about this as this is the first time in ten years that I have used any of my connections...

So, what interesting things can I write about? The Sukkoth Blessing of the Kohanim took place while we were there. What a fascinating thing to watch - not that I understood why all of these men were wandering around the plaza in front of the Western/Wailing Wall with tightly furled palm leaves (some in special plastic palmleaf protectors). And then, all of these supposedly sane people, pushing and shoving their way to the Wall, packing themselves in as close as they could get in order to doven or, as I call it, kadiddle, back and forth, back and forth, muttering their prayers, their combined voices rising and falling, but not in any concerted synchronization.

I think, though, that I will switch topics completely and write a bit about the sweets that I saw (and tasted) while I was in Jerusalem.

Everywhere you go in the old city of Jerusalem, especially in the shouk proper and the Muslim quarter starting at the Damascus Gate, there are sweet shops. These are actually bakeries that produce all manner of Middle Eastern sweets, which are some of the most wonderful sweets imaginable. Because it is Ramadan, there seemed to be even more variety than usual.

One of my favourites is something that I know as Loukom.

The first time I ever came across these achingly sweet round balls was in Greece, on the island of Skiathos. My mom had come out to spend a month with me and in our wanderings we had landed on the island lured by tales of a place. still unspoiled by tourists, that boasted miles of empty beaches.

The main town is on the hillside looking down into the harbour. Every morning we were woken by the clippety cloppety sound of the garbage donkeys as they made their way through the narrow cobbled lanes. After breakfast at one of the kafenions we would wend our way down to one of the many deserted beaches and spend the day swimming, reading and dozing in the warm fall sunshine. When we finally returned to town we were always ravenous. Of course we couldn't just walk into the first restaurant we passed, we would have to look at them all, see what specials each one had and then make our choice.

Every evening, as we performed this hunting ritual, we would say good evening to an old man tending a vat of boiling oil. We would watch fascinated as he squirted hazelnut sized blobs of dough into the oil. The would sink briefly and then float to the surface and slowly swell to the size of a silver dollar, merrily bubbling away. The old man would turn them this way and that until they were a pale golden yellow. He would then scoop them out and toss them into a bowl of thick gooey syrup. Once thoroughly doused they would be put by the dozen into a wax paper cone and be handed over to the customers. Neither my mother nor I could face having a dozen of these to share - it seemed like pure gluttony, so we never bought anything. But one evening, our last on the island, the old man motioned us over and handed us each a sticky golden ball, and then waited expectantly as we bit into it.

I think our surprised looks must have been payment enough, because he burst into a big smile and patted his belly. He then turned away to serve the next customer.

Why were we so surprised? Well, I personally was expecting a rather sodden warm sweet bit of pastry - kind of like what happens when you dunk a donut into milk - soggy and rather textureless. What we got was crispy and crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside where the syrup had been absorbed by the dough. My mom said they reminded her of Koeksisters. I don't know about that, but either way, they were a revelation. When I saw them in Jerusalem the first time, I bought some and shared them around. But when I am alone, I never get them, because they sell them by weight or by the dozen & that is dangerous...

These are some of the other sweets. The dark half moons are a soft semolina pastry filled with chopped walnuts, deep fried and dipped in syrup. The triangles fore and aft are filled with either sweet cheese flavoured with rosewater, or are filled with thick sahlab, which is kind of like a cornstarch pudding, but which has it's own distinct flavour. Both are liberally brushed with the ubiquitous syrup.

There were also stacks and pyramids of gorgeous baklahva filled with almonds, walnuts, peanuts (my all time least favourite), pistachios and pinenuts (my all time favourite). The best of these has been made with butter and are so rich and sweet that one is more than enough, but you never can stop just there...

Unfortunately, my local mini-market has a small bakery section that at this time of year makes really good versions of the sahlab and walnut sweets, as well as fresh donuts filled with cherry cough-syrup jam or dulche de leche.

I think I hear them calling my name...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


My dad and I entered the old city of Jerusalem through the Jaffa gate and were immediately greeted by a cart-full of Jerusalem bagels (bageleh here). These are long, light, oval, sesame-seeded bread rolls, not to be mistaken for Montreal bagels, which are boiled in honey water and are small and heavy.

We wandered through the meandering alleyways of the bazaar to the Austrian hospice, which is on the via Dolorosa.

The variety of things available for sale in Jerusalem is quite remarkable.


all kinds of shoes (both new and used),

and the most amazing falafels shaped like hearts or torpedos.

These are the best falafel I have ever eater. What makes them different is that they are filled with ful, are made to order, and the properly hot oil in the precariously perched pan is changed every day.

You could say that they are ful full falafel...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Strange Thing II

The Answer...

Well personally, I thought they looked like squid eggs...

But, what is pink or yellow, sweet, juicy and enormous...

Kind of scary looking when viewed up close...

With skin thick and protective of its treasures...

Pomelos are something I only discovered after I moved here. They are pretty amazing creatures, like grapefruits on steroids, but without the bitterness.

On a different note,

I would like to apologize for being offline for most of last week,

I was in Jerusalem for a couple of days and simultaneously, my Internet connection went wonky - a burnt out connection plug outside somewhere and router problems and... It is in temporary fix mode right now, but hopefully it will get fixed properly tomorrow... I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Thank Goodness For Friends...

My Internet cable connection is down.

Thank goodness for friends who let me use their computers to let you know that I can't post right now.

Hopefully I will have a connection on Sunday evening (Israel time) after the techie guy has been to visit and fixed me back up.

Please forgive me.

Oh, by the way, the mystery photograph is the interior flesh of a red Pomelo.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Strange Thing

I am off to Jerusalem today, but I have a question...

What is this?