Monday, November 27, 2006

Zweibel Tag

No, this doesn't mean catch the zweibel.

Nor does it refer to the 1970's craze for the
dolls that wobbled but didn't fall down.

In honour of , Zorra at Kochtopf has issued an invitation to anyone interested in participating in a one off IMBB event.

Well life would be pretty boring without onions now wouldn't it. How could actors cry on cue without the hidden slice? How could you make a chicken do piaza without onions? Hamburgers wouldn't be hamburgers without the ubiquitous ring of onions on top and what would all those restaurants do without their onion flowers?

The region of Alsace is well known for 4 gastronomical delights. The first and foremost is foie gras, the second is its wine, the third is choucroute garnie a l'Alsacienne, and the last is Flammekueche, or Alsatian onion pie. The other famous regional export, non-food related, is the Alsatian or German Shepherd dog.

The onion pie is a rich custardy concoction filled with onions fried until they are golden brown.

Alsacienne Quiche - Jaffa Style

  • Puff pastry
  • 3 large onions
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 200gr cheese (edam, muenster, havarti, chevre, feta, cheddar) grated or sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli (tops only broken into small florettes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg - to taste

Preheat the oven to 325f. Roll the puff pastry very thin and fit it into a quiche tin/pan that has the bottom lined with baking paper. Prick it and blind bake just until colour starts to show. While it is still warm carefully press back any bubbles, making sure not to crack the pastry.

While the pastry is baking, blanche broccoli in lightly salted water, rinse and cool in cold water and strain well.

Finely dice the onion and the bacon and cook together until the onion is fragrant and a deep golden brown - make sure not to burn it. If the bacon is very lean, add the olive oil to the pan to keep from sticking. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sprinkle about 2/3 of the cooked onion/bacon mixture onto the bottom of the pastry, cover with the cheese, sprinkle the remaining onion mixture on top and then lay the broccoli artistically on top (I did mine in concentric circles with the stem ends facing into the center).

In a bowl mix the eggs, milk and cream together, beating thoroughly, but not enough to make the mixture foamy. Add salt, pepper and lots of nutmeg and mix again, then pour this onto the filled tart - it won't fill the tart to the top and the broccoli tops will be above the custard mix.

Bake approximately 25 - 30 minutes. The egg will have puffed up a bit and gone a bit golden in places but the center will still be a bit wobbly, don't worry, it will continue to cook with residual heat. Let cool at least 5 or 10 minutes before cutting.

This will serve 6 with a mixed green salad for a light lunch, or 8 as a starter.

It can be eaten hot, warm or cold
I have been eating it cold for lunch at work.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I'm Seriously Disturbed

That is the conclusion my friends came to when they heard I got up at 05:30 in the morning in order to bake a sweet bread that I didn't intend to eat.

I love baking. Of all the culinary arts used on a regular basis by normal cooks (we aren't talking making sugar flowers, or fancy-dress food, just normal everyday stuff) baking is as close to making mudpies as you can get. Like a pot that starts out as an unprepossesing lump of clay, a loaf of bread starts as a pile of goo and ends up as the staff of life.

Having been completely successful with the Sullivan Street No-Knead bread recipe, I decided that I would try another variation, this time trying to speed it up a bit and making a sweeter dough. One of the reasons for this was a small plastic baggie of hawai'ij for baking that an Iraqi friend of mine gave me. Unlike regular hawai'ij, this smelled strongly of sweet spices, primarily star anise, with a background of cardamon, cloves and cinnamon. Christmas season coming up I have been thinking of panettone and stollen and I thought to myself "Aha! Why not a Middle Eastern version of Christmas Bread?" So that's what I did.

Christmas BethLehem (Christmas House Bread)

  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 tsp 5 spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/4 tsp mace (I ground my own)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
  • 3/4 cup mixed dried fruit finely chopped
    (I used crystallized ginger and chopped white raisins)
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil, 200 gr butter, softened

Put flour, sugar, salt, spices and yeast into a large bowl (I used the bowl from my KitchenAid mixer), mix well.

Pour milk onto fruit and warm until blood temperature. Pour into flour mixture and stir until incorporated. Mixture is fairly sticky and rough looking. Pour on oil and using a spatula try to get it all around the dough, underneath as well as on top - this will help to keep a skin from forming on dough while it rises. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and then cover the bowl with a tea towel. Place bowl in a warm spot where it can rise for at least 12 hours.

If you want to cut back on a few hours of rising time, put the bowl in a microwave together with a cup of very hot water. Keep changing the water in the cup when it gets cold. The dough will double in size and spring back when poked gently.

The next bit can be a bit messy if you don't have a mixer with a breadhook attachment - but it is mudpies in its purest form.

Take dough and punch it down. If using a mixer, put the speed on slow and beat for 2 minutes, then add 1/3 of the softened butter, beat until it is well incorporated - another 2 or 3 minutes, then add another 3rd of the butter and mix well again and then add the final third.

If you don't have a stand mixer, then take the dough and put it onto a very clean counter top. Pat it out until it is about 1/2 inch thick (this doesn't have to be accurate and you can smear the dough out if needs be). Smear about 1/3 of the butter onto the dough and then with a scraping/smearing/folding motion incorporate the butter into the dough. Do this twice more until the butter is well incorporated.

Work the dough very well, either in the mixer on low speed, or by hand. The dough will be very smooth and shiny and slippery from all of the butter.

In a deep cake tin (I used an Angel Food tin) spread the dough out evenly (use a buttered spatula or your buttered hands). Cover the dough with plastic wrap and the tin with a clean tea towel. Put this into a warm place and leave it sit for at least 8 hours, or until doubled (again, I speeded things up with the hot water in a cup trick).

Heat the oven to 400f with the rack on the second lowest level. Put the tin (without plastic wrap or tea towel) into the oven and turn the oven down to 375f. Bake approximately 35 minutes, until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

This is, like all yeast breads, best eaten warm.
But toasted the next day, it is still pretty darn good!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Device of Interest

I saw this machine in the Flea Market yesterday.

I have seen many old sewing machines, hacksaws with rusty blades, cellphones (of indeterminate origin), mixers, blenders, keys, pots and pans, but this, in my opinion, is one of the prettiest, and most interesting devices I have seen so far.

But this ice grating machine is one that made me wish I had a bigger house. It was pure form and function, in its original colours, patented and proud of it.

Wouldn't you want one of these?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday in Jaffa

I managed to get up this morning in time to join SistR and Jesamine on their school run. For some reason it was just plain hard for me to move out from underneath my duvet. But I did, grabbed a very quick,and very cold, shower - my fault, I'd forgotten to turn on the hot water, and climbed into the back seat with Jes. When she is in the car I am not allowed to ride up front

I'm considered part of the kid brigade. Which is a compliment.

Today, instead of going to the Carmel market, we went to a regular grocery store. Not that I needed anything, not that I ever really need anything, but I always end up buying things that I could live without, but enjoy having. This time around it was 2 liters of really good olive oil so I can try making another Mark Bittman - Minimalist recipe - this one for Thanksgiving Confit of Turkey

The Minimalist's Turkey Confit
Mark Bittman, The New York Times
Time: About 3 hours, Yield: 2 to 4 servings.

  • 4 turkey wings, thighs or legs
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • About 20 sage leaves or 10 thyme sprigs or 5 rosemary sprigs
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 quarts extra virgin olive oil, or as needed.

Toss turkey, salt, pepper, herbs and garlic in a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for a half-hour or up to 24 hours.

Put turkey, herbs and garlic in a saucepan just large enough to fit it. Cover with olive oil. Turn heat to medium and watch carefully; allow just a few bubbles to come up at a time. (Use an instant-read or frying thermometer and keep oil at 190 to 200 degrees.) Do not allow meat to brown.

Cook, turning meat once or twice, for two hours or until it is quite tender but not falling off bone. Remove meat from oil. You can refrigerate turkey and oil separately or together, until needed. (If storing separately, use turkey in a few days; if you store it in oil, it will keep a week or more.)

When you’re ready to cook, put 2 to 4 tablespoons of used oil in a skillet large enough to hold turkey pieces in one layer; set heat at medium-low. (Also use leftover oil for other purposes.)

Cook turkey pieces slowly, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp, 10 to 20 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, alone or over a bed of greens with a little dressing.

However, my plans went awry when Cactus asked me please not to make that for her... For some odd reason she just couldn't get her head around turkey simmered in oil for hours. How strange.

So plans were adjusted moderately. For starters we had The Bread (this time white and buckwheat flour with a bit of coarsely ground millet and barley for texture) with some nice French butter melting into all the nooks and crannies. To date this has been the most successful loaf. It rose beautifully high and was brimming with holes. The next one will have rye flour in it - another of my grocery store purchases.

I baked the turkey wings with apricots, ginger, garlic, onions, sage, savoury, thyme and marjoram (aka poultry spice). We did have greens in the form of about half a kilo of juicy flat green beans, steamed and served with a small pat of butter and Maldon salt. We are, after all, civilized people!

My house smells like Thanksgiving, but with no leftovers!

But of course, I couldn't not go out and enjoy the sunshine.

So I wandered around my neighbourhood and into the Jaffa Flea Market.

For some reason today I photographed faces...

Mainly old(er) faces,

or perhaps wiser faces.

But I also took pictures of ridiculous faces,

and also faces just plain enjoying themselves.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

End of a Long Week

Hip Hip Hooray - Thursday's Here

I honestly don't know what got into me this week, but I have been dragging myself from bed to work to home and the computer to bed and back again, and that seems to be the sum total of my activities. Hopefully I will have more energy tomorrow when I go wandering off to the market, do my photographing, shopping, chatting and socializing, and then come home to cleaning and cooking.

I love having friends like Cactus,
they certainly help to get my weekend started on the right foot.

I arrived on her doorstep an hour late - I did warn her that I was doing a good deed and completely reinstalling the operating system for my old Toshiba laptop (9 years old, 6 gig hard disk memory, floppy & cd drives, 1 usb port and infrared). There is actually nothing at all wrong with the computer except that it was just not powerful enough for my needs, but for a complete neophyte... it is perfect, and that is who is getting it, once it is restored to its original pristine glory.

The neophyte is my computerless aunt. Computerless because she spends all her money looking after, and finding new homes for, all the animals that get rejected from the animal shelter. The first time I ever visited her she had about 6 3 week old kittens who needed to be bottle fed, a regular posse of about 18 cats, 11 dogs and 4 donkeys. Except for the kittens and the donkeys, all the other animals wandered in and out of the house and got on perfectly well.

Cactus, perfect hostess that she is, poured me a glass of white wine and then stuck me to work dealing with the salmon fillets that were our dinner. That was actually not too onerous a job for me, I sat and sipped and peeled and then sliced a lemon. The rest of the prep involved instructing her to turn on the oven grill, pour some olive oil in an oven tray (disposable by preference), slap the fish in skin side down, grind some pepper on top, plonk the lemon slices on artistically, sprinkle some olive oil onto the fish and throw the tray into the oven.

As we choked on the smoke that came out of the oven we dealt with the broccoli and cabbage (steamed and boiled respectively), got out the plates, and 8 minutes later most of the smoke had floated out of the open doors and windows, and dinner was ready (smart girl, she had already roasted some new potatoes).

The only thing needed was a sprinkle of salt and we had a delicious, healthy dinner.

To complete the Englishness of it (well, what could be more Brit than boiled cabbage?) we had cheese for dessert - a lovely, perfectly ripe French Brie... who needs more than that?

Driving home, I came to the unpleasant realization that up until now I have been moaning about nothing when I complained that winter was here. Tonight my teeth chattered so badly that I couldn't hear my indicator lights... So the first thing that happened when I walked in the door was to put the kettle on so I could fill up my hot water bottle. If you hear sloshing, it is just me readjusting it to warm another part of my anatomy.

Pity I can't type with it balanced on the top of my head!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Random Views

This is Shabazi Street in Neve Tsedek, part of the original city of Tel Aviv.

It also happens to be the place with the healthfood store closest to my house. It has the most exotic name - Neroli, and though it is tiny, it is packed ceiling to floor with all kinds of goodies, dry goods, oils, organic fruit and veg, all sorts of soy products, natural cleaning stuff and even blue potato chips! The only problem is I take out a small mortgage every time I go in there.

This is just a gratuitous picture from the sculpture garden around the corner from my house - I don't understand why there is a tray on the kneeling girls head, but I like this piece very much, it gives me a warm homey feeling.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I've Got Chutzpah

What the heck is chutzpah? you ask...

Well, it is posting a picture twice, but I have my reasons.

I decided that it was time for me to participate in another blogger event, and this time I chose DMBLGIT. What that translates into is : Does My Blog Look Good In This, which is being hosted over at SpittoonExtra.

I say chutzpah as well, because this is a food photo thing and well, the mystery creature above hasn't been styled or tinted or manipulated in any way, except if you call peeling a pomello manipulation. But personally, I thought it was a really sexy photo - au naturel, you could say, and looking exceptionally edible in a weird squidgy sort of way.

In the meantime, I haven't been remiss about blogging - for some reason I couldn't access BloggerB at all yesterday and so I threw up my hands in frustration and went to bed at a reasonable time for a change (that has happened less and less since I started blogging, and I have a feeling that I might not be alone in this).

Tonight I was mudding. I now have an almost completed casserole - it just lacks handles, a very funky bowl, and the bottom half of a half-sized casserole that I think will be perfect for making The Bread - taller and narrower. Also perfect for making small stews for 4, baked potatoes, or to use as a tureen for soup.

I love playing with mud,
it was always my favourite childhood pastime.

I guess I haven't yet grown up yet!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Winter is Here

Well, I can't really complain...

After all, winter here only lasts about 3 months, and yes, it is a little chilly, but I grew up knowing how to dress for the weather, so when I drive my scooter on rainy days I look alot like the Michelin Man, or the Pillsbury DoughBoy, decked out in yellow wet weather gear with 3 heavy sweaters underneath my kevlar jacket. But that doesn't mean that I don't come home cold and a bit miserable - I can never manage to avoid getting rain down the back of my neck...

So tonights dinner was quick and easy, hot, filling, and above all tasty. Ikura-don, or salmon roe on a bowl of rice, with Furikake . I love the salty sweet burst of the eggs, they are so incredibly unctuous and lux. What a great way to get over the grumps!

And because I have a waste not want not philosophy,

while my rice cooked I turned my leftover The Bread into
garlicky croutons.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Bread

A variation on a theme...

Ok, maybe I have become a bit obsessed with this bread. Or maybe I have become a bit obsessed with using my own pottery to cook in. Or, just maybe, this bread is so forgiving that even with my cantankerous oven, what starts off looking completely unpromising turns into something I can be proud of.

Maybe it is a combination of all three and, just to top it off, there is nothing like the smell or taste of freshly baked bread warm from the oven.

I started a regular batch of The Bread (aka Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery No-Knead Bread) on Thursday night after I had been stood up by a blind date. Nothing like anticipating for the future when the present has given you a raspberry. But it was my gain on Friday when a beautiful loaf came out of the oven just in time to share with SistR and her family for Shabbat dinner. Blessed by providence and a great recipe!

Friday evening I decided I would try a variation on a theme and made a mixed grain version. I did start out by following the original recipe but because I used a mixture of different textures and types of grains, I realized, at the 12 hour mark, when I took a peak to see how things were progressing, that something wasn't right... my oops somewhere. The recipe below is after correcting my mistake (I threw in more food for the yeast).

No -Knead Bread - a mixed grain version
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup each ground barley and millet
    (I put mine through an old fashioned coffee mill twice)
  • 1/4 cup each buckwheat and spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups water
    (getting the original 1 5/8 is difficult for me...)
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (I used a mixture of both).

Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over barley and millet & let soak until cooled.

In a large bowl combine flours, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/4 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

I was a little dubious about this because the dough was very, very wet (I guess the other flours don't absorb water as easily) , but this came out of the oven looking amazing, smelling irresistable and tasting phenomenal, with a light fluffy interior made chewy and rich by the various grains and a crust that shatterered when bitten into. Who needs butter?

My other project for the day was to finish making my chestnut puree. I gently warmed the cooked chestnut and cream mixture that I prepared yesterday evening (when it was cold it was thick and claggy and would have choked my stick blender), and then used the said stick blender to puree this until it was smooth as satin. This took a fairly long while because there was about 500gr of peeled chestnuts and 1/2 cup cream. But my patience was rewarded, because there is nothing grainy or coarse about this stuff.

So what am I going to do with this? Something I haven't had in about 15 years, but can still taste... This is one of my favourite desserts of all time. I think of this in conjunction with gleaming silver and shining crystal because my mom only ever made this dessert for guests. I don't think I ever had this except as a leftover. Which is kind of a good thing because, if you like chestnuts, this is completely addictive!

My Mom's Cold Chestnut Souffle

  • 4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp gelatine
  • 6 tbsp rum
  • 1 c sweetened chestnut puree
    (if you are using unsweetened, adjust amount of sugar)
  • 1 c heavy cream whipped until stiff

Have ready a 3/4 litre souffle dish with a standing collar made from silicone or waxed paper

Dissolve gelatine and rum over hot water, let cool while you beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until very thick and pale (at least 10 minutes)

Beat the cooled rum mixture quickly into eggs, then add the puree slowly, so as not to lose air.

Gently fold in the whipped cream, then scrape the mixture into the souffle dish (don't forget to put the collar on first!). Run a knife carefully through the mixture to get rid of any big bubbles, then chill thoroughly until set (6-8 hours)

My mom's original recipe said to serve this decorated with whipped cream rosettes and glaceed marron halves before carefully removing the collar. But I always remember this being served in a beautiful Orrefors crystal bowl with nothing more than a circle of whipped cream piped around the edges.

This is just another gratuitous picture of the chestnut puree...
in anticipation of the souffle.

Friday, November 17, 2006


My favourite day of the week.

Everything was so bright and cheerful at the Carmel Market, even the tomatoes seemed to be on parade today. I didn't get alot - I don't really need anything, what with my organic CSA delivery on Mondays, but it is always fun getting little extras. Todays treat was a tiny container of gorgeous, bright orange ikura - Russian style salmon roe to be eaten on a bowl of steamed rice with some shredded Nori. My version of almost heaven.

I got a few vanilla pods too. I paid 12 shekels (about US$2.75) for one, and then I found somebody else doing a 2fer, so I got a pair from him. One of them already has a destination - my creme de marrons. The others have a fate that varies from minute to minute. In other words, I don't have the faintest clue what I will do with my bounty of beans. Last of my purchases were a pair of alligator pears - Hass, my favourite.

Dinner tonight was a chicken and chestnut soup with some fresh The Bread..
Simple and satisfying.

Home Alone

Well, actually, I was stood up by a blind date...

Which wasn't such a bad thing, to be honest, the guy is only about 6 years older than me but sounded older than my grandparents. No spice, no zip. I've been previously traumatized by bad dates - honestly, who considers McDonald's coffee the zenith of bean culture???, so I am a sceptic when it comes to other people's choices for me. But it doesn't help that I am also a sceptic when it comes to my own choices... I have lousy taste in men!

But I ended up spending my time wisely - I blanched a kilo of this seasons sweet chestnuts, and then for the next 3 hours peeled them (next time I will give them 10 minutes in the boiling water, before I start to strip them down.

The peeled chestnuts went into a bath of cream and simmered away for about an hour. They are now cooling and I have a world of possibilities open to me for playing with my food this weekend.

Creme de Marrons anyone?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Actually, I don't know if this is the right name for dinner tonight...

But it sure was good.

When I worked in Japan Katsudon was one of my favourite meals. What was I doing eating dinner in Japan? Well, the long and the short of it was that I worked for a major American TV station that was there to broadcast the Olympic Games held in Nagano in 1998.

This sounds far more glamorous than it really was...

I was employed by an Australian company who were hired to provide a muli-national, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual staff for CBS. My job description was runner with an 'A' class accreditation. The rating meant that I could go anywhere within the Olympic grounds, including the athletes village and behind the scenes at events, in fact the only place that was off limits to 'A' rated staff was the drug testing facilities... My duties were far more mundane than my rating. The runner bit had nothing to do with competition (this was winter after all). Basically I helped set up and break down the temporary studios that were built especially for CBS. And during the Olympics I made coffee and popcorn, ran errands, swept floors and cleaned the 2 bathrooms (with a total of 6 toilets) that were used by the staff of almost 1,800.

But there were perks, which included getting to tell Martha Stewart how much my mom loved her show... Hanging around with moderately famous celebs, getting to see Eric Lindros up close and personal, chatting with Wayne Gretzky's parents on a train, and then sitting 3 seats away from the Team Canada bench during the quarter finals (we love you Wayne!) and watching them lose, and getting to hike up the luge track with one crampon keeping me from slipping all the way back down the hill (we had a pair between 3 of us... hmmm how did we do it?) and then blinking every time the sled zipped around our curve.

But the most memorable and moving thing to happen while I was there was having my boss call me into his office after a 12 hour night shift and hand me a ticket for the opening ceremonies that were taking place that morning. Talk about a rush of adrenaline! I wandered around town for a couple of hours laughing and singing to myself, beyond exhaustion and punch drunk with it! Having been dropped at the Olympic stadium by one of the hundreds of buses that gave free rides to ticket holders, I discovered that I didn't have enough film (though I did have my camera). Fortunately, right at the other end of the parking lot was a gigantic hardware store.

So I waltzed in, only to realize that they hadn't officially opened yet. All of the staff members were lined up in front of me, pledging allegiance to the company and singing the official company anthem. Or rather, I presumed that is what they were doing, because I didn't understand a word they said. Of course they couldn't stop mid-oath to tell me to leave, so they just smiled and continued while I stood there feeling rather foolish for not joining in. At the end, they all bowed to me and shouted Irashaimase! So I got my film and went to line up for the cavity search they seemed to be putting everybody through.

When my turn came, the guard took one look at my 'A' tag and waved me through, not checking my pockets, not looking in my bag, just a big smile and a deep bow, pointing me towards the stadium. So traipsing and floating along in spirits as high as the clear blue skies, I went looking for my seat. I finally clued in that I wasn't at the right place when I saw all kinds of costumes and props lining the corridor leading into the grounds of the stadium. I peaked out, and then was hailed by an official of some sort who saw my tag and did the smiling bow thing and pointed me back the way I had come. So there I was, outside the inner sanctum, watching a pair of obviously Sumo wrestlers having a smoke and chatting away merrily. Not at all the serious side that you see when they toss each other around the ring. I finally found a signpost with seat numbers on it and realized I had to walk halfway around the stadium to get to where I needed to be.

Eventually I made it to my seat, but then had a 1 hour wait before the ceremonies started. This gave me a good opportunity to look around and see the crowds filing in, the different sections reserved for different groups (CBS had their staff colour coordinated, the lowliest of us had orange and black or orange and blue Nike uniforms, while the more important staff had all black uniforms. VIPs had turquoise and purple.) My seat was up at the top of the stands, just below the broadcast booth and right beside the press photographers with their forest of ultra large zoom lenses. Question, why are professional zoom lenses white and black while regular everday people have plain black?

When the ceremonies finally started Ode to Joy was sung simultaneously in all 6 continents as well as by the crowd in the stadium. There was such a sense of unity, such a sense of hope in this song written by a deaf man, that I got a lump in my throat and tears came to my eyes.

This was one of the highlights of my life, and something I will remember forever.

Afterwards, I went back to the hotel, had a bowl of katsudon and slept for a few hours before going back to cleaning toilets...

So not only do I love katsudon because it is so tasty, I also love it for the warm memories it brings back to me.

Well, tonight I didn't have any pork chops, but I really felt like katsudon, so I figured "why not make the basic flavour", and that is what I did.

Tamago-don Aja Style (serves 1)

  • Onion sliced into 1/2 rings 1 medium
  • Oil - sunflower, canola, corn (but not olive) 2 tbsp
  • Mirin 1 tbsp
  • Sherry a good glug
  • Soy sauce (Japanese, not Chinese or Thai) 3 tbsp
  • Egg 1
  • Rice (pre-cooked and re-heated) 1 1/2 cups
  • Furikake (Japanese sprinkles - I had wasabe and salmon flavour) to taste

Sautee the onion in the oil until golden brown. Add the sherry and try to burn off the alcohol. Add the mirin and the soy sauce. There should be enough liquid 1/4 cover the onions, and almost, but not quite, float the egg.

Bring to a simmer, crack in the egg and gently stir the white only into the surrounding onion/liquid, leaving the yolk to heat up, but not cook, in the center of the pan.

Gently pour over the hot rice, trying not to break the yolk. Sprinkle with furikake and enjoy.

I ate this with a simple salad of mayo (home made of course) really ripe tomato, romaine hearts and a creamy, rich blue cheese sprinkled on top. It actually worked well together!

And now I sign off with happy thoughts running around my head...
and memories of little Japanese girls screaming hysterically at the top of their lungs


and I giggle.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Going Potty

This means going crazy in British English, so please don't get me wrong!

Israeli drivers have to be some of the worst I have ever encountered. They make the drivers I encountered in Cairo, Kathmandu, Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and New York look polite, considerate and law-abiding. The number of times per day that I have some maniac yell at me after I point my finger symbolically and shoot them dead, is ridiculous. After all, they have just cut me off not once but twice, wavering across the road and driving in 3 lanes at once. They think that they have the law on their side (which they don't in theory, but in practice they do because the cops never ever stop them or ticket them) and they act like I am just some little scooteriste who has no right to be on the road.

And on rainy days, like today, they are even worse - either driving at 10km/hr or at 140 in a 40 zone... I have no clue how they got their licenses, but in the majority of cases I am confident in saying that baksheesh passed hands. So that is one reason why I am going potty today.

At the urging of Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups and Lindy of Toast (whose blogs are most excellent and if you haven't already, you should go and visit them) I am going to attempt to make an oval casserole for The Bread.

But I need to practice first and make a couple of regular ones; refresh my memory on how to make the lid fit properly, getting the height right, what kind of handles, etc. So tonight I started and have 2 on the go: one full sized one and one half-sized (for single people loaves or pots au feu). Progress reports will be posted...

And that is the other reason...

Monday, November 13, 2006

3 Variations on a Theme

Today is CSA Monday - Hooray

What arrived today?

  • Curley Parsley
  • Kholrabi
  • White and sweet potatoes
  • Romaine lettuce (huge)
  • Dill
  • Spring onions
  • Clemintine oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Rocket
  • Cucumbers
  • Young lubia beans (like cowpeas or asparagus beans but sweeter)
  • Young beet greens

Having concentrated on bread this weekend, I had a bit of a surplus of greenery and I thought I would try variations on the theme of Chinese style greens.

First up was snowpeas with dried shitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, dark soysauce, sesame & chili oils. The sweetness and crunch of the peas nicely counterbalanced the salt of the soy and the chewy texture of the reconstituted shitakes, and were a huge treat, not having had snowpeas in years - they are not easily found here, and when you do find them you need a mortgage to buy them.

Next up were the lubia. Stirfried with ginger, garlic and szechuan pepper, doused in wine and then drizzled with oyster sauce and sweet soy and topped with coriander. These were meaty, crispy and oozing with wok hai.

Last on the list was Swiss chard with ginger, garlic, oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce, sesame & chili oils. Swiss chard seems to be my new favourite vegetable. These were succulent, spicy and salty-sweet, I managed to obtain not only wok hai by seriously heating my pan but an amazing case of umami, without having any meat. Of the three different stirfries, this combination is the one that I am planning on making again, and very soon...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Saturday's Sunday Brunch

As I may have said before, Saturday is my Sunday...

This doesn't mean that Sunday doesn't exist, it just means that while the rest of the Western World is enjoying their Sunday brunches, I am busy beavering away at work. So I enjoy my brunch on Saturdays...

This particular Saturday I hankered for a genuine brunch. The smoked salmon and cream cheese, the crepes, the spinach salad... What I ended up making pretty well satisfied that craving.

Admittedly I cheated and used something called malawach, a Yemenite bread that is usually pan fried until it puffs up and is crispy and golden brown. Like a croissant or puff pastry, it can be torn apart into very thin layers. This is easily found in the freezer section of almost every corner store and every major supermarket in Israel. If you can't get malawach, use frozen puff pastry instead.

Seeing as this was my Sunday, I was too lazy to look into any cookbooks for exact recipes - I followed my instincts and came up with this:

Swiss Chard Quiche with Smoked Salmon

  • Malawach defrosted 1
    (or puff pastry enough to make a 9 inch quiche shell)
  • Swiss Chard leaves chiffonade (finely shredded) 3-4 loosely packed cups
  • Onion finely diced 1 small
  • Olive oil 1 tbsp
  • Feta, Tsfatit, Neufchatel or similar cheese sliced or grated 150 gr (or more if desired)
  • Smoked salmon - 4 slices
  • Eggs 4
  • Heavy cream 75-100ml
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste (be cautious with the salt, both the salmon and the cheese, especially if using feta, are already salty, better to undersalt alot than oversalt a bit)

Over medium heat sautee onion in oil until golden. Increase heat and add chard. Cook until most of the juice has evaporated, add liberal quantity of nutmeg and pepper (freshly grated/ground if possible) and a bit of salt. Turn off heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350f/170c. On a floured surface or between pieces of silicone paper roll out malawach until slightly bigger than the quiche tin. It should be thin, but not transparent. Put a piece of silicone paper on bottom of tin (or flour lightly) and lay the dough into the tin and trim edges leaving a bit of a margin for shrinkage.

Blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes, using beans or pastry weights to keep the bottom from rising up and bubbling. When it is lightly golden, remove and let cool.

Beat eggs and cream together with a fork until mixed but not frothy.

To Assemble

Rip salmon slices by hand and lay in a spoke pattern on the bottom of the pie shell (this makes it easier to cut). Add about 3/4's of the cheese and then the chard, making sure each layer is fairly evenly distributed. Pour over the egg mixture and then add the rest of the cheese on top.

Put into the oven and turn heat down to 325f, bake for about 25 minutes. If the edges of the crust look like they are getting too dark, cover them with foil, leaving the center of the quiche uncovered. Remove from oven when jiggly but not sloshy, and the sides are medium firm. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

This can be served warm, room temperature or cold, and with a salad will serve 4 hungry people, or makes 8 nice slices for part of a brunch buffet.