Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sweet Passover Dessert

This Passover, I'm a guest, not a hostess. My cooking contributions include a slightly modified version of the greens quiche I made last spring (this time, with green garlic in lieu of leeks!), as well as a simple and special dessert: date/pecan/raisin balls.

It is a very simple and easy recipe, and there are countless versions, of course; you could add a bit of wine (port or sherry would work really well), and any sort of nut or dried fruit. I like the spices in this combination, and it looks quite pretty in its little "home" -- a pod-shaped Tunisian serving dish.

25 medjool dates (the meaty, squeezable kind)
a big handful of dark raisins
a big handful of raw pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup grated coconut

Pit dates and place in food processor bowl. Process until smooth (it will become sort of a soft ball after processed).
In the meantime, chop pecans to little pieces.
Place date ball on a cutting board, and work pecans and raisins into it.
Add spices and keep working the "dough".
Make little balls from the mixture.
Roll little balls in coconut.
Place in refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Happy Spring, and Happy Freedom Holiday. May it bring freedom to many people of the world who are in bondage as we, fortunate enough, get to enjoy a meal with our relatives and friends.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Split Personality Spring Soup

Is it a sweet root vegetable soup? Is it a green soup? None - and both!
Lots of new vegetables at the farmers market today. One vegetable whose arrival I particularly welcomed was green garlic, which has a very short season. I was excited to see it in San Francisco, because Israeli markets host green garlic this very same season; they come out right in time to smile at everyone for Passover.
Also, today was the first day I saw sweet potatoes of all colors and ilks lying around. So, I had to get some.

The soup I ended up making will accompany my mejedderah these coming weeks, because I am inundated with work and will be happy to come home to something warm and homelike to eat. So, I made a large pot. It isn't too hot yet for eating soup, and spring nights here are still somewhat chilly, especially when one feels a bit alone and homesick, as often happens to me when I'm far away on Passover.

So, here goes:

6 carrots
2 yams
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup caramelized onions (see Barbara's instructions and make tons - they're very useful)
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup chopped gai-lan, or other greens
2 heads of green garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley

Slice up all vegetables any way you like.
Place caramelized onions and chopped green garlic in bottom of pan. Sautee with a bit of olive oil. When they become fragrant, add all other vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes.
You could, I suppose, use a stick blender to puree this, but I kind of like the vegetable chunks and the aromatic broth. Enjoy!

The Perfect Mejedderah

Hi all,
I've finally found the secret to a great mejedderah (a traditional Middle Eastern rice and beans dish), very similar to the one my grandma makes.
My grandma used to make this very often, and we'd be thrilled when we smelled it from outside their home. Her version had white rice, whereas mine has brown long grain rice, but other than that, it's very much like hers.
Which is wonderful; because I don't know about you, gentle reader, but my memories from home and childhood are very much memories of scent and taste. Shabbat lunches at my grandma's were a delight; she is a wonderful cook, and though she hosts less than she used to, she still has a touch for everything edible and an amazing combination of creativity and order.
The other place I enjoy eating mejedderah is in a small restaurant in a gas station near my parents' home. Theirs is very brown and delicious, but not like my grandma's. I suspect their spice palette is different.
Anyway: I've been making mejedderah ever since I started living on my own, and something wasn't quite right. Ever. And I just figured out what it was.
My onions weren't caramelized enough.
I'm so glad I realized this, because now I'm eating a nice bowl of mejedderah as I work, and thinking of grandma. The technique for browning them properly is well-explained by my dear pal Barbara, right here, and I strongly recommend you make plenty, because they are so useful for quite a variety of foods. I combined them today in my split-personality-spring-soup, made with various sweet roots and spring fresh greens.

2 large yellow onions
lots of olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup brown lentils

Slice onions thinly and brown them in a heavy onion skillet, according to Barbara's instructions.
Place about half the browned onion in a pot with the rice and the lentils. Over a high heat, swish around rice, lentils and onions, until everything is glossy and shiny and happy.
Then, add 3.5 cups of hot water. Wait for a boil, then lower the heat to a medium flame, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover the pot.
When all rice and lentils are ready, mix them with the remaining caramelized onions.