Orange confetti and cardamon speckled creme brulee

An elegant New Year's Eve dessert, a fusion between exotic but familiar flavors of cardamon, images of sunshine,orange blossoms and citrus groves.
I am generous with the orange zest and cardamon, do not be tempted to add more sugar to custard, the carmelized sugar on top will add sweetness to the brulee.  I use sugar in the row for carmelizing. Instead of finely grated orange zest I zested strands, either one will work out.
Adapted from 'Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee and Other Custard Desserts' by Debbie Puente

Orange cardamon creme brulee:
6 egg yolks
4-6 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cardamon seeds, finely crushed in mortar ans pestle
1/4 cup sugar in the row for carmelized tops (about 2 tablespoons for each custard)

Preheat oven the 300F.  Boil some water in a pot on top of stove and keep it hot.  Whisk egg yolks and 4-6 tablespoons of sugar and beat until light yellow and firm. Add whipping cream, orange liqueur, orange zest, vanilla and cardamon and mix with a spatula gently, in folding motion, until mixed well. Consistency will be liquidy. Line a deep baking dish with a paper towel, place six ramekins inside on top of paper and ladle mixture evenly between ramekins. Pour water into baking dish as a warm water bath for the custard, halfway up the ramekins and place in the middle rack of the oven for 40-50 min.  Edges should be firm when done, but middle should be wobbly.  Take out and let cool outside in water.  Refrigerate.  2 hours prior to serving, place ramekins in ice bath, add 2 tablespoons on top of each custard and carmelize in broiler mode until sugar bubbles.  Can carmelize with a torch but be weary of the alcohol in the dish, so use extra caution.  It is recommended to eat this custard within three days, but I like it the next day the best.

Look closely at the creme brulee pics and you will see the cardamon speckles and orange peel confetti!!

Amish beet pickled deviled eggs and old wives tales

New Year's Eve continued, Apparently if you frequent Pennsylvania bars, you will see these brined pickled eggs displayed in jars lining the shelves....I was fascinated with this recipe when I saw it at, mostly because of the natural dye of beet and the possibilities it presented me for future experiments with the beet dye.  I was never one to use food coloring even in the days when eco friendly, health food and organic did not even cross my consciousness. Food colorings seemed fake and unhealthy to me and the couple of ventures into unnatural dyes failed miserably and put an end to that phase. We obviousely need to be conscious of what we eat to keep healthy but a little luck, maybe?! Which brings me back to New Year's Eve, recently I've read about lucky foods for the New Year's and unlucky ones we should avoid eating on New Year's Eve. One surprising discovery I made, never heard of it before, to avoid eating chicken, so that your luck won't fly away. Jonathan says chicken don't fly, but still, here goes the chicken skewers I was planning on serving, the duck and any other fowl that was on the menu.  Heard before of fish as being a lucky food, although theoretically could swim away, but not only in Jewish tradition but also in oriental and other cultures fish established itself as a lucky food.  For us fish head, although have never seen a fish head on an American Jewish table, symbolizes being the head and not the tail, being a leader and not a follower. In other cultures there are other interpretations to this custom.  I altogether decided I am sticking to fruits and vegetables they are deep rooted in the soil and our luck won't fly away for 2010!! Can't shake that deeprooted superstitious Indian upringing of mine!!

For the brine:
3 cups water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
1 shallot, diced
1 small beet, peeled and sliced

For the eggs:
12 hard boiled eggs,shelled
up to 1/3 cup mayonaise
2-3 pickles diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Dill for garnish (optional)

Put all brine ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, turn down once hit boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes.  bring to a complete cool and move to large air tight container.  Add hard boiled eggs to brine and move eggs gently every couple of hours for even dying. Keep refrigerated.  I hard boiled the eggs and kept them overnight in the fridge, the next morning it was picture perfect. I suggest, make brine the night before and add eggs the morning of New Year's eve.  Devil the eggs and hour prior to serving. Half the egg, take egg yolks out and mix with Mayonaise, diced pickles, salt and pepper slightly.  You can add fresh dill into the mixture or as a garnish.  You can devil the eggs million different ways!!

New Year's Eve mock salmon cake

This mock deep salmon colored cake is's all vegetarian sweet potato pancake toppped with a touch of Meyer lemon jam and a fresh mint leaf.   Perefct, smart and sophisticated  for a small New Year's Eve bite and entertaining.  As you can see many recipes can be modified easily and once you make sauces,
spreads and jams, they can become handy, take a new, refreshed and vibrant look every single time.To beautify the plate drop three drops of Meyer lemon jam with out strands of Meyer lemon peel, on the plate in a circular pattern around the cake, as illustrated in photograph above.

This is an identical recipe from  'A tale of parsnip pancake' of Dec. 9.  Substitute parsnip with sweet potato, bake at 400F as directed. I now always bake these cakes instead of frying.  The Jam recipe is from the post 'Meyer lemons and other citrus in the snow' of Dec. 1.

Perfect Holiday Brunch, Indian twist to French crepes, pancakes the theme continues....

This is our ritual Sunday morning brunch if we are around, but perfect for a lazed opening presents snowy mornings.  Hot chocolate and crispy at the edges French crepes filled with mini chocolate chips, maple syrup, homemade clementine or Meyer lemon jams (see Dec. 1 Meyer lemons entry), or just dusted with confectioners sugar.  Some citrus compote, citrus salad, or halved grapefruit and orange juice on the side. Sunday morning French crepe brunch makes grand memories for a small family like ours and hopefully brings some warm memories to yours. For those of you who opt for Chinese take-out Christmas Day it's about time to start a new tradition!! This recipe is adapted from a vegetarian cookbook I bought years ago, The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine by Rose Elliot (1988). Just looked it up on Amazon and saw the new revised version of 1996. I must admit, although I am certain there are many great recipes in this cookbook, page 299, pancakes, is worn out due to repetitive use. I double the recipe and use only three eggs instead of four when doubled, otherwise it tatstes too eggy.  I also use only half a teaspoon of salt for the doubled recipe instead of a full teaspoon.  I add sugar to the batter according to taste for sweet crepes. If deciding on making savory crepes do not add sugar to batter.  My mom makes very similar Indian crepes at home but she has an Indian twist to greasing the pan, I absolutely savor the dimension it brings to sweet or savory crepe, only if my guys would agree....My mom halves an onion, unpeeled, with stem, spreads margarine (margarine?!, explaination follows) at the bottom of the stemmed halved onion, holds on to the stem of the onion, and rubs the onions inside the hot frying or crepe pan to grease it, it will sizzle!! Use papertowel to rub off excess oil from pan. It's absolutely divine served with sprinkled granulated sugar inside and dusted with confectioners sugar outside, that is still to this day the way I like it!!  My mom also uses a cup of orange juice instead of milk in order to keep the recipe parve, which brings me back to the margarine, which is used for the same exact reason instead of butter or ghee (Indian clarified butter). After years of making French crepes my mom's way, just like at home growing up, the guys, especially Sagie nudged me gently to cease with the onion rub. I still feel my mom's method is the best!! One last tip, do not overwork the batter, it will toughen up.  Best to beat with a whisk and strain through a sieve for a smooth lump free batter. Oh, forgot to mention that the first pancake, feed to the dog, it won't come out perfectly, trust me!!

French crepe ingerdients (doubled already):
Makes 12-14 crepes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2-4 tablespoons sugar or according to taste
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup milk
1 cup water
Canola oil, or melted butter for greasing pan
Nestle's mini morsels chocolate chips
Homemade celementine and Meyer lemon marmalade
Confectioners sugar and granulated sugar
Maple syrup grade A medium
Mix first seven ingrediens, flour, salt, eggs, sugar, canola oil, milk and water.  Beat with a whisk, keep strokes to 10-15 strokes until blended well, or put seven ingredients in food processor for a quick whizz. Strain through a sieve.  Heat up a non stick pan or a crepe pan on medium, grease pan once hot, shortening should sizzle, and ladel batter. twirl batter around pan for a thin layer. Gently pry edges with a knife around the pan. Cook until golden and flip with a spatula, see bubbles in picture, once flipped. It takes few seconds only to cook after flipping crepe.  Once you take pancake out, while still warm, sprinkle mini chocolate chip morsels and fold.  The heat will melt the chocolate morsels. See two folding methods I used in photographs,  to distinguish the plain crepes from the chocolate chip filled ones. Serve with Maple syrup, jams, confectioner's sugar, granulated sugar, chocolate chips and more.  Can make a day ahead and reaheat at 350F oven until warm.  In that case, add fillings after reheating. Enjoy!! Wishing you a Happy and Tasty Holiday Season!!

REMEMBER: first one will come out 'messed up' not despair, the rest will be perfect!! I feed the first to Wizard.  Pancake is one of his much varied vocabulary, Jonathan is doubtful and questions Wizard's intellectual abilities!!
Variation: dessert crepe suzzette, recipe coming soon!!
Must admit the pattern of golden in the pancakes today came out picture perfect!!
Allergy note: Even chocolates which do not contain nuts might be processed on the same equipment as chocolates made with nuts.  Luckily labelling in the Unites States is strict. Cocoa powders are one, Hershey's chocolate chips are another as well as Nestle's real semi sweet chocolate mini morsels. Always, always check labels, things can change from day to day!

Parve suggestions: Substitute orange juice for milk and use canola oil or margarine for greasing pan instead of butter.

Indian, pancake and salsa?!

This Indian onion bahdgea (pancake, latke) and mango chutney are my mom's recipes. My mom was born and raised just south of Mumbai, India.  In the 1960's about 60,000 of India's Bnai Israel Jewish community emigrated to Israel.  There is a very good book titled "Who are the Jews of India" by Nathan Katz, which covers the subject well. I have read few books on the subject and feel this one is by far the most authentic and true to source. My mom is gifted with that touch only few posses.  Even her sisters come to her for advice, and when they marry off their daugthers, they pre-order all the traditional dishes of Indian goodness, only few world artisans are capable of duplicating.  Fortunately, I am one of four sisters carrying on the tradition and has the recipes for safekeeping.  Although I do not have a daugther, I am fortunate enough to have a son who appreciates these heirloom recipes, hopefully for generations to come.
Chickpea flour in recipe can be found in many ethnic isles of your local supermarkets or local Indian grocery stores. At least in the metro Washington area, MD, DC and VA you can find Indian grocery stores sprinkled throughout the suburbs. Also, use spices according to taste, this is just a guideline and make this recipe your own!!

Indian Bahdgea (pancake, latke) ingredients:
Makes about 12-14 pancakes (depending on size of onions)
3 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin
1-2 jalapenos sliced thin
1/3 bunch cilantro leaves chopped
1/2 cup plus chickpea flour (called gram flour)
1 egg
1/2 plus teaspoon Salt according to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
4 plus tablespoons canola oil

Take 1/2 cup chickpea flour and add some water and mix until it's thick batter consistency. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and beat lightly, then add to Chickpea flour mixture. Add turmeric, cumin, red pepper and salt to chickpea flour mixture. Peel onion, half and slice onions very thin, add sliced jalapeno and cilantro to onions and add to chickpea mixture. Mix until batter mixture coats onions well, add flour and water if necessary. Heat up oil, spoon batches of pancakes batter into oil and fry in oil until deep golden on both sides. Remove from oil and put on paper towels lined plate.
Serve warm but surprisingly tastes very well next day as well. Can reheat in the oven at 350F.

Mango Chutney (salsa) ingredients:
1 green mango, peeled and diced
1/4 of large red onion diced
1-2 minced garlics (optional)
4-8 fresh mint leaves chopped
Handful cilantro leaves chopped
1/2-1 seeded jalapeno, diced
Touch of lime juice (1 tablespoon or more according to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Coconut flakes (optional)
1-2 tablespoons oil if keeping for few days in fridge

Directions: My mom puts all ingredients once or twice through a meat grinder.  The consistency with the garlic, jalapeno, coconut and the rest of the ingredients is unparalleled but a food processor or mortar and pestle are other options as well. I like the consistency of a salsa for an updated  look.  In the salsa version I mix all ingredients but the coconut flakes and garlic. I do add coconut flakes and garlic if I use my mom method and run the chutney through a meat grinder or mortar and pestle. That make more of an authentic Indian chutney. Can interchange garlic, red onion or shallots according to desire. My mom uses garlic.

A tale of a parsnip pancake - from a Thanksgiving appertizer to the Chanukah table

This parsnip pancake was the first bite I had this past Thanksgiving dinner. It was such a pleasantly surprising, dainty, delicious bite, that even if that would have been my first and last bite that evening, I would still deem that holiday dinner gathering a great success!! Don't want to set up your expectations too high since I came with none and discovered a treasure. Try it for yourselves and hopefully you'll get as much enjoyment out of it as I did. My friend Geri found this recipe somewhere out in cyberspace and instead of cooking parsnips in water, she microwaved them. At the risk of losing some of the goodness and vitamins in the parsnip, I would still suggest boiling them. She also mashed them which gave it a nice creamy consistency, but for those who like texture, grate!! Either way works out well. I personally eat my pancakes plain, no sour cream, no apple sauce, with one exception....if you happen to find the apple mango sauce Trader Joe's carried for years, and to my disappointment disappeared this year, buy it!! It will be a great pairing with any pancake. As you can see this particular parsnip pancake can make a journey into any Holiday cocktail party as an appetizer and the center of attention at the Chanukah table!! Enjoy!! BYW, for those of you who do not know a parsnip, it looks like an extremely pale carrot, not a tinge of orange in sight, but wonders of flavor (see pics).

Parsnip pancake/latke:

2 lbs parsnips (peeled)
1 teaspoon salt (can even do without, a first for me!!)
1 medium onion grated
1 egg beaten lightly
up to 1/2 cup flour (do not want the pancake to be too cakey).
2 tablespoons plus chopped chives
4 plus tablespoons canola oil

Peel parsnips and add with 1/2 teaspoon salt to a pot full of water. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to a medium, cook parsnips until soft but not mushy. Grate (I like texture) or mash parsnips. Add salt (remaining 1/2 teaspoon), grated onion, egg, flour and chives. Heat up oil in a non stick frying pan and drop small or medium batches of pancakes according to desire. I keep them small 'cause' they are surprisingly sweet but dainty in flavor and a small bite suits it!! Cook in oil until golden on both sides and drain on paper towels. Serve warm with a dab of sour cream, and a dab of apple sauce immediately on top of the sour cream. Garnish with extra chives on top.
I used more than 4 tablespoons oil but for a real low fat, practically oil free version, two options:
1. Geri used an electric frying pan, coated it with thin layer of PAM spray and fried it until golden. I never ever use PAM, don't intend to, but honesty speaking Geri's came out grease less and delicious!!
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush parchment paper with a layer of canola oil. Form pancakes, line on parchment paper and brush lightly with canola on top. Bake at 400F about 30-45 minutes until golden and flip, takes shorter amount of time to golden on other side, once flipped. For the last night of Chanukah this year, I made a batch in the oven to bring over to a friend's Chanukah party. The golden sheen was so beautiful that you wouldn't even know the pancake wasn't fried.
Variation, potato/parsnip pancake:
Second batch I made, I had only 1 lb parsnips left, I peeled two medium potatoes, added them to water with peeled parsnips, cooked, drained and mashed them together with parsnips. Most definitely add salt to this version, and follow rest of ingredients and directions from original recipe.

Meyer lemons and other citrus in the snow, or Food Wanderings: jelly, jam, confit, pickle, preserve or marmalade?!

Right at this moment I have an abundance of citrus in the fridge. Clementines, grapefruits, Pomelo, limes, lemons and Meyer lemons. Jonathan and Sagie in Phoenix until Tuesday night, there is no one around to cook for. It's snowing outside (December 5, 09), for the first time this Winter, not many friends will be venturing off in the snow to come and taste my cooking, so I have decided on a very befitting, Winter weekend citrus preserving, one person extravaganza. Sweet jams and Moroccan preserved (pickled) lemons, with a touch of bay leaves and peppercorns. I find the flavor of regular Moroccan preserved lemons to be sharp when adding to Moroccan dishes. I can already tell when slicing Meyer lemons and tasting them that they will give the preserved lemons a more delicate sophisticated flavor. Skipping on paprika, but adding couple of bay leaves and few peppercorns, keeping end result as pure as possible.

Clementine jam:
2 lbs Clementines (can substitute clementines with oranges, grapefruit, lemons, any citrus, always use with peel as it extracts pectin for gelling).
Juice of one lemon
2 lbs sugar
Directions: Wash Clementines, half and squeeze juice into a glass dish and keep in the fridge, discard the seeds. Boil clementine peels in boiling water for 20-30 minute and scoop to cold water bath. Keep for two hours to overnight to get rid of bitter taste, can replace cold water 2-3 times. Take pulp out of the peels and sliver peel to thin strips. In a pan add slivered peel, sugar, tangerine juice and half the lemon juice. Cook for 1/2 -3/4 hours while mixing occasionally, add remainder of lemon juice, mix and turn of heat. Let cool slightly and pour into canning jars and top when cool. Seal jars according to directions of canning jars for storage outside or keep in refrigerator.
Can use Clementine jam/marmalade for desserts, as a breakfast or brunch jam or holiday gifts (mine fit into five 8oz jars).
On a side note: got many compliments on the clementine marmalade, it's absolutely DELISH but the Meyer lemon one I made is my absolute favorite! Just to die for!! They are now officially entered and have a place of honor on my FOOD for ROYALTY list, among Pomegranates and figs and now....Meyer lemons

Meyer lemon preserves:
2 lbs Meyer lemons
3-4 extra Meyer lemons, juice only
4-6 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup canola or olive oil to seal top
2 bay leaves
Few peppercorns
Directions: Wash jar in dishwasher or bath of boiling water. Wash lemons, take tips off and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Salt lightly and layer in a jar, squeeze 3-4 lemons until juice covers slices. Add bay leaves and peppercorns and pour oil on top to seal. Keep in a shaded cold corner in the kitchen. Preserves will be ready in a month. Once opening jar keep it in the fridge, pickles will last for a year. I went easy on the salt since I want to use the lemons for cooking Moroccan dishes, but feel free to use more salt and keep jar in a cool place outside or use salt as directed in recipe and keep it in the fridge. You can also use pickled lemons as a layer in sandwiches, appetizers. Also can use in 8oz jars as holiday gifts!!

Last minute Thanksgiving...

The title couple of weeks ago would have been 'Who wants breakfast for dinner anyways, a Thanksgiving family recipe feud' :)....but time have past, and this morning while all he wanted to do is sleep in, Jonathan found himself at 8am, waiting in line, outside the front door of the 'Pie Gourmet' in Vienna, Virginia. There are few things you don't mess with when someone else perfects them, one is a Pie Gourmet's coconut cream pie. They were sold out, but we were lucky to come out with a banana cream pie, we, as in Jonathan. Honestly, until the 'Pie Gourmet' I haven't cared for pies much. Had an excellent, complex recipe for it, but Sagie said why make it when someone else makes it so well....he's got a point !! In the category of don't bother to make it cause someone else makes it better, falls Whole Foods corn bread and cheddar jalapeno bread, and these mini cocktail samosas I find in local Indian grocery stores. This year is the first year in ten years I am not hosting Thanksgiving in my house, our long time friend Geri is hosting it at her house. Since another friend of hers is making stuffing with sausage, I was assigned to make an alternative sausage-free version. I might add, we are the trouble makers who do not eat sausage. There are many Thanksgiving stories including the one of my first year roasting a turkey, we ended up eating at 9pm that holiday, or Geri's new method of roasting this year at 500F with cheese cloth, I will let you know about that one....but need to wrap up and give you my recipe for stuffing. This time I did not have a bird for stuffin' but normally I would.


1 whole baguette
2 medium onions diced
3 ribs of celery with leaves diced
2 tart apples peeled cored and diced
2 pears peeled cored and diced
Handful or more dried cherries
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 bunch plus of parsley chopped
3 stems of fresh thyme leaves only
Fresh black pepper
Canola oil
Maple syrup
2 cups plus chicken stock (can use more stock for more moist stuffing)

1. Cube baguette spread on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle canola oil, salt and pepper and toss together. bake in a 350F oven until golden. Remove to a large bowl and add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, toss together.
2, In a large skillet saute onion, garlic and celery in canola oil until soft, add apples, pears, parsley, cherries and thyme and cook until pears and apples are really soft. Salt and pepper and add a touch of maple syrup or according to taste. Add remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock and cook for few minutes longer. Turn off heat. The cooking in canola oil plumps the cherries, saves you a step of immersing cherries in warm water prior in order to plump them. Make sure not to overcook them so that you don't lose the bright sheen and color of the cherry.
3. Add skillet ingredients to bowl with baguette mixture and mix.
4. Pour to a baking dish, this time I baked in a pie dish, sprinkle on top with some of the drippings from the turkey, and bake at 350F for 10 min, or until golden on top.

Chestnuts and wine:
To make this recipe a Thanksgiving must add chestnuts, broken into pieces....and make it a day ahead. You can find shelled and roasted chestnuts anywhere these days. Also a touch of red wine enhances the flavor. If adding wine you might want to exercise some restraint with the maple syrup or skip it altogether. Stuff the turkey to gain the delicious drippings.

Stuffin' muffin':
Alternatively, let the combined mixture cool down, add an egg, mix and scoop to greased muffin tins for stuffin' muffins. bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden at top. Let cool and remove from tins.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Pie Gourmet
507 maple Ave. West
Vienna, VA

Pre-game-day carbs

Simplicity, the theme continues........Perfect for pre soccer game day carb intake. Every time I served it to Sagie and some of his friends before games, they won! I take full credit for their victories!! As surprising as it may sound pasta sauce was my achilles heel, I think the right tomatoes are key here, the proportions are key and keeping a light handed attitute is critical. In the past I did not stop at garlic and tomato, it takes some expreience, confidence and restraint to have that right touch, just so. After years of playing with different versions of pasta sauce recipes, whether adding artichokes or mushrooms, paprika or Roma tomatoes, sometimes canned crushed whole tomatoes or onions and an assortment of herbs, I came to this perfection of a sauce. The purest, tastiest, what's left is to jar it and give it away!!

1 lb pasta
4 tomatoes medium to large (on the vine), grated, with a knife make a cross at bottom of tomato and grate, discard skin
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (I use Hunt's regular, careful not to pick salt free or with herbes/garlic accidently)
One head of garlic peeled, minced
Canola oil
Red pepper flakes (optional especially pre game day)
Fresh black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or according to desire

1. Boil pasta with a bit of salt as directed on box al dente, drain
2. Sweat, cook garlic in canola oil, make sure it's really soft and cooked, add grated fresh tomatoes and cook for few more minutes, add canned tomato sauce and keep cooking on medium, add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.
3. Add drained pasta to sauce gently to avoid a splash, , add Parmesan cheese and fold pasta, sauce and cheese gently and let sit for about 10-20 covered with a lid so that the pasta will absorb (drink) the sauce.

String beans for pre-game or for Thanksgiving:
1/2 - 1 lb fresh string beans, ends snipped, rinsed and drained
1/2 - 1 head of garlic peeled and crushed with the handle of the knife
Canola oil

In a frying pan put bit of oil, string beans, crushed garlic and some salt. Cook on low/medium and stir ocassionaly until string beans are soft. Make sure garlic turns soft and does not burn, at most turn golden, see pic!

Shoshi's twenty minute whole trout

Photos: Asian market two bottom pics, Mackerel and Bok Choy. Top two pics -Trout

It's funny how I am fond of slow cooking, and complicated methods, all I am posting in this blog are easy and quick recipes. Over the years came to the realization that simplicity is an art form by itself. Sometimes less is more as in this fish. Been to many fish restaurants and often came out so disappointed, just wished for a simply grilled fish without the crab cream sauce on top, just the purest, perfectly grilled or baked whole fish, the perfect moist flaky morsel of a bite with a touch of garlic and lemon. But there was some hope, in the form of Jaleo, a Tapas restaurant in the DC area who has a seasonal item on their menu that reminded me very much of the Mediterranean restaurants back home. The Old Jaffa fish restaurants on the beach just south of Tel Aviv, opening a table with a sea of mezzes and the one, Idi, further south on the Mediterranean, nestled in an industrial area, in my hometown of Ashdod. When you have a pilgrimage from Tel Aviv to Ashdod then you know the restaurant and the fish must be's sort of crossing the American Legion Bridge from Maryland to Virginia for a beltway metaphor or for a historical reference the Mason Dixon line. Look for the the seasonal Mediterranean sea bass at Jaleo and you will understand!! Never mustered the courage to cook a whole fish although had many recipes for it. Felt that I will do it injustice, until my friend, Shoshi nonchalantly baked it almost every Friday and gave me the push to experiment with it. First try was a huge success, I can actually make it, in fact made it twice in a row!! Of course it was baked, perfectly moist in twenty, did not make sense, only twenty?! at risking perfection I kept it in for five minutes longer. Sometimes I just can't help myself!!

2 whole butterflied fish (whole or can ask for guy at the counter the take head off)
Few fresh garlic cloves minced
Freshly grounded black pepper

1. Rinse Fish and pat dry with paper towel. My sister, I don't, squeezes lemon on it and lets it sit for few minutes in the refrigerator to take all impurities and smell out, and then proceeds to rinse and pat dry. My sister's process actually cures the fish on the way.
2. Salt and pepper and squeeze some lemon inside out.
3. There are two options with the garlic, whether to spread minced garlic inside the fish prior to baking, or sweat garlic in a frying pan in a bit of oil until cooked, add squeezed lemon, salt and pepper to make a garlic sauce, let cool for couple of min. and pour inside the fish prior to baking. Reason is, first time I spread the garlic inside the fish prior to cooking, it cooked perfectly. the second time, the garlic did not cook thoroughly and it had a raw sharp edge to it.
4.Wrap fish individually in a foil envelope and bake for twenty minutes at 400F. Open the top of the envelop to expose the fish and broil for 5 minutes longer unwrapped, to get a golden, bit of a crisp on top, although crispy skin is not the signature of this preparation. Squeeze some more lemon, adjust for salt, and serve right out of the oven. Enjoy the delicate tender flavor of the fish.
Garlic freshness tips:
I think the fresher the garlic is the more tender is its flavor and it will cook beautifully inside the fish, but the less fresh the garlic is, the sharper the flavor will be, and won't necessarily cook inside the fish well. There are two signs the garlic is fresh, when you see purple coloring on the peel and when mincing it's translucent.

Fish freshness tips:
Shoshi is an avid HMart, Asian market shopper. She says that by shear numbers of the seafood consumers at the market, the turnover is immense and therefore insure the freshness of the fish. She's got a point!! It's quite an experience to go to the Asian market, I highly recommend it. Don't be shy to ask to smell the fish, I ask even at Whole Foods to the other shoppers curiosity and the fish counter guy's smirk and giggle.
In DC, there is a Fish Market by the water at 1100 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024. It's worth the trip downtown.

Shoshi's whole trout variations:
1. Add Italian (flat leaf) parsley or any other fresh herb you have in the fridge (rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.), in addition to the garlic, lemon, salt and pepper, inside and outside the fish cavity prior to baking.
2. Smear the inside the fish with store bought or home made pesto in addition to the garlic, lemon, salt and pepper.

I do not use pine nuts in my pesto due to allergies.

Pairing: Goes well with Orzo and mushrooms dish, in previous entry 'Mushrooms two ways and fish along the way'.

Mushrooms two ways..........and some fish along the way

The simplest of meals. I like to use portabella mushrooms for their meatiness, texture and taste. portabellas have a lot of substance especially in meatless meals...although the first recipe, orzo and portabella dish is not a substitute for proteins, and especially meaty proteins, it feels as fulfilling as one. You can absolutely use any assortment of mushrooms in this dish. Apropo proteins, we like this dish with simply seared white fish fillets....see recipe at the bottom. Mushrooms and eggplants are two of our most favorite vegetables. I should take it back, until this past Summer, it is at the Ferry Building Farmers Market, by the water in San Francisco, that our son acquired the taste for mushrooms. Thanks to his friend, who bought some mushrooms at the market, and to my son's amazement was eating them raw. Our son does eat radishes and bell peppers, string beans and asparagus, mangos and lychees among many many other vegetables and fruits. Bananas, avocados, raw tomatoes, mushrooms and eggplants he was not too fond of. Bananas and avocados we conquered at different stages over the last several years, mushrooms this past Summer in San Francisco. We have yet to see about eggplants, that is a tough one, and lastly raw tomatoes. At the bottom you can find my son's favorite mushroom dish made with baby button mushrooms, you can use it as a small dish if having tapas inspired dinner, as an appetizer or just accompany a meal as a warm side dish.

Orzo and mushrooms

1 lb orzo
Canola oil
2 large portabella mushrooms, or any other assortment of mushrooms, sliced or cubed
1 large onion diced
Fresh black pepper
Chopped parsley as a garnish

Cook Orzo as directed on box, like pasta in salted water, al dente, and drain. In a frying pan saute onions first, until soft, then add sliced mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are cooked. Salt and pepper the mushrooms onion mix. Add the two mixtures together and adjust for salt and freshly grounded black pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Taste excellent at room temperature and the next day as well. When reheating the next day, just heat to room temperature or warm.

Goes really well with seared fish fillets. Bit of canola oil, few minced garlic, let garlic sweat. Add the fish and sear few minutes on each side, salt and pepper both sides. Squeeze lemon on top and stick in oven at 350 for final cooking if needed. Garnish with parsley.

Sagie's favorite mushrooms recipe:

1 package baby button mushrooms
10 minced fresh garlic cloves, sometimes I will use a whole head of garlic, minced
Canola oil
Lemon, freshly squeezed

In a frying pan pour little canola oil, add garlic and sweat. Really important to be patient with the garlic on low medium heat to make sure it soft and cooked. Add mushrooms whole or halved and cook in garlic, add lemon and salt. Cook the mushrooms, I like the mushrooms cooked throughout but make sure not to overcook and shrivel them. If the garlic lemon sauce reduces too quickly add a some water or more lemon juice. Serve Immediately!! Really delicious with baguette, dip into lemon garlic sauce.

Variation, NOT Sagie's favorite:
Add fresh thyme leaves to button mushrooms dish for a lemon garlic thyme sauce to dip in.

Indian inspired mung bean salad

This salad tastes great same day but even better the next day when flavors sit and blend in. Mung beans are these small green capsules that are rich in fiber and protein among other nutritional values. Big in South East Asian cooking, and as I recently discovered, they can be used as a savory as well as a sweet dish. I am only familiar with Indian savory mung bean dishes. I remember my mom making a very dried, almost smokey version of it with some garam masala, and a side dish of green mango chutney or salsa. This recipe is incorporates some elements from both the mung bean masala dish and the chutney. Recently, I have been having it often for lunch. Mung bean can be bought in the bulk section of Whole Foods, local Indian grocery store or pre-bagged in any other grocery store. You can get the garam masala or curry at a local Indian store or at any local grocery store's spice isle. Use this recipe as a guide....adjust flavors to your liking. Some add basil leaves, some seeded and cubed tomatoes. Enjoy!!

Mung bean salad

1/3-1/2 lb mung beans
1 green mango peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper cubed
1/2 medium red onion cubed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-2 jalapeno peppers sliced into thin rings
1 teaspoon plus garam masala or curry powder
1/3 bunch of cilantro leaves chopped
1-2 limes
5-10 plus fresh mint leaves chopped
Canola oil

Rinse mung beans in cold water. Add fresh water to a pot and cook mung beans in water until soft. Bring to a boil and reduce to low medium for about twenty minutes. You have to watch that the water won't overflow when cooking, so a quick stir now and then is suggested. We want to keep the capsules whole but soft, if overcooked they will turn to mush. Drain and let cool a bit. Add cubed green mango, cubed bell pepper, and cubed red onion to mung beans. In a frying pan toast cumin, mustard seeds and sliced jalapeno in oil until all the flavors and aromas are released for few minutes. Add seeds and jalapeno mixture to mung bean mixture. Add chopped mint, cilantro, lime juice and garam masala or curry. Mix and adjust lime, salt, garam masala and herbs according to taste.

You can smoke garam masala a bit, prior to adding to salad, if you wish. In a heated pan with NO oil in it, put the spice, and let it realease it's oils and aromas for couple of minutes, add to mung beans. Makes the flavor more vibrant!

Arugula addiction

Arugula is an acquired taste, but addictive once you acquire it. Today, I am obsessed!! I can't bring myself to make salads with different leaves. I have the arugula with the same mustard maple syrup vinaigrette, but dress it up for different occasions. Must credit to my friend and neighbor, chef and caterer, Sandra, who has the most exquisite of tastes, for getting me into the 'habit'. She is now living her dream life in Paris for the next four years. Sandra introduced me to arugula with her balsamic vinegar dressing. The baby arugula leaves are at best in the Fall and the Spring when weather is somewhat cooler and moderate, I would drive around different markets to find the most beautiful, perfect leaves. Can't really say tender since it has a peppery bite. Today I will share the recipe for arugula with strawberries, bell peppers and shallots, I have had often for the last ten years. In the Fall especially, when pomegranates and figs are in season, make arugula with pomegranates, or baked figs, stuffed with cheeses and traditionally walnuts on top of the stuffed figs. My son has severe tree nuts allergy, so at our home I never cook or bake with nuts. In the future I will post how I got into organic food, what do we substitute for nuts, and give a tree nut free power bar recipe. But, I digress, this allergy matter deserves a whole new entry on its own. Going back to the figs, this past September, I was hoping to get some figs from a soccer mom friend, who has a fig tree in her yard. She had the most beautiful, juicy and plump organic figs, I have ever seen. I was execrcising some restraint, when seeing figs at grocery stores or markets, looking forward to having Diane's. Unfortunately, with the cool Summer and colder weather coming upon us earlier, her figs never ripened. Looking forward to next year though!!
Arugula salad

2 Plus handful bunches of baby arugula
1 shallot diced
1 bell pepper diced
Few strawberries sliced
Seasonal: Pomegranates or stuffed figs

4 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 plus teaspoon country dijon mustard
2 teaspoon plus maple syrup
Fresh black pepper

Arrange salad in a serving bowl, with strawberries, bell peppers and shallots on top of greens. Toss in all Vinaigrette ingredients in a separate small bowl and emulsify with a small whisk. Toss into greens before serving. Always taste vinaigrette and adjust to your liking.

Arugula wilts easily so the salad needs to be tossed moments prior to serving. Also, even if you dress up the salad with different ingredients, always, always use the shallots, they are a key ingredient for the flavor reached with this vinaigrette. A little portion of vinaigrette takes you a long way.

Again, use this recipe as a guideline, some say that oil to vinegar proportions should be 3:1, I like it more acidic, and the maple syrup cuts the acidity for balance. Some might like more mustard in it. I do use certain products like Grey Poupon Country mustard and Terra Medi red wine vinegar. I also used a murky (as in good murky) cold pressed , reasonably priced, olive oil I found at Trader's Joes, but haven't seen it in awhile. The one is in the picture is another one I picked up from the shelf. I was first introduced to Terra Medi red wine vinegar at Wegman's but have not seen it there in months, Whole Foods carries it. It's pricey in my opinion, but this sort of addiction I do not wish to shake!! Now that I gave a shout out to almost all the grocery stores around, in all seriousness any brand will work!

This salad has been a huge success!!

Shakshuka, for every college kid's hot plate

I was debating what should be my inaugural recipe and post for this blog of mine. Should it be my Arugula salad with baked stuffed figs and a homemade vinaigrette?!, should I share one of my mom's traditional Indian recipes?!, or my all time favorite recipes from two of my favorite cookbooks?! There will be plenty of time to share all of that, but this post will be dedicated to a discussion we had at home, with my son, about his college culinary life. Some of his friends from his high school varsity soccer team, who graduated, try to lure him to come to their college, by saying, you know when you are in college, the one thing you can't wait for is to come back home to your mom's home cooked meal, but here, the food is so good, that thought won't cross your mind. Another friend who graduated Facebooked him that the down side of his campus is the lack of Chipotle, but rumor has it it's coming next year. These boys know FOOD and as odd as it sounds, do think about it when thinking about their college life. Our son, now a senior, is on a mission to collect some recipes for his hotplate in his dorm room. Something simple, something to share, extremely filling and delicious. This is the first of his collection.

This recipe is a guideline you can adjust according to taste. We, for example, like a bit of a kick in our food but not everyone can handle it.


2-4 garlic cloves sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeno sliced
Canola oil or any vegetable oil (few tablespoons)
4-6 med./large tomatoes (diced roughly)
Tomato sauce up to 8 oz - small can (instead of tomato paste)
8 eggs
1 teaspoon plus paprika according to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper
Fresh cilantro leaves (chopped or whole leaves) to garnish (optional although gives the dish another layer of flavor)
Fresh baguette, or any other fresh loaf

In a deep frying pan sweat garlic, onion and Jalapeno in a bit of oil on low to medium. Do not brown or burn garlic, it will turn bitter. Add tomatoes and cook for about ten minutes on medium, add tomato sauce, paprika, salt and fresh black pepper according to taste. Crack eggs and drop gently one by one into sauce, next to each other in the pan and cook on low/medium according to desired level of doneness. You are sort of poaching the eggs in the tomato sauce....traditionally the yellow of the eggs should be runny when serving. If more firm eggs are desired cover the pan with a lid. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves but not a must. Can break bread and eat directly from the pan as a communal meal, or can be served individually.

Can cube  red bell pepper and sweat/fry it with garlic and sausage possibly too. We use merguez spicy Moroccan lamb sausage or turkey sausage, but any sausage will be fine.
If adding other vegetables, always, always cook with garlic,onion and oil as a first step to cook/soften them.
Improvise, be creative, use your imagination!!