Poppy Seed Lemon Chiffon Cake

This Israeli iconic cook book, cakes for every occasion (time), was one of Jonathan's very few possessions when I met him just days after his surprise 20th birthday party.  He sported a jewfro (as the kids call it) and a vintage powder blue jacket (I know, right?!), or maybe was it a whole suit?! Retrospectively it was really cool although back then I was intrigued and (quietly) questioned  his choice. In addition his closet carried a pair of each worn out jean shorts and worn out long jean, a Boston long cotton t-shirt and a killer tan he carried himself! With the exception of couple more shirts that was the sum of his earthly belongings.

MeatLessMonday Medley of Cherry Tomatoes Salad

This Medley cherry tomatoes salad is always a departure for me, from the almost daily staple Israeli salad we have with every meal.  I make a hugh batch of this medley salad for parties, barbecues or just a small batch for intimate dinner gatherings.  It has a huge wow effect, even when you have scraps left at the bottom of the bowl (see pics:).  It is absolutely critical to have fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes.  As tomato season is approaching, ask the farmer at the farmer's market to taste one.

Fine Cooking rich chewy Brownies

Well how should I begin, even as a teen I was not really obsessed about or worshipped anything or anyone, maybe could not really afford the luxury (?!), but I surely was obsessed with Fine Cooking as I grew up. I had the magazine subscription rerouted to Israel when we lived there for couple of years. Some of the best recipes which are not mine or my mom's I got from Fine Cooking. I know in this day and age with dual professional household, not to mention managing our kids calendars can be a full time job on its own, we settle on shortcuts.

Worlds collide series: Risotto, Costco organic brown rice meets WholeFoods fresh peas

This post is long time in the making, an experiment...Years ago if you told me I would be taken by brown rice or risotto I would doubt that very much. Today I am courageous enough to incorporate those two in my never ending pursuit of healthy living and greening our lives. Although born and raised in Israel, our daily diet was, if not purely, then mostly Indian. I guess I know one or two things about rice but never taken by the brown kernels until some were scattered on the wooden plank at the Costco warehouse. You can tell from looking at the pictures why I couldn't resist and taken hostage by these beautiful grains, and healthy is just the extra bonus along the way. Fresh peas should appear in the farmers markets any day now. I have not seen them yet at farmer markets although I know season has begun. I got mine at Whole Foods. Keep in mind the smaller the peas the sweeter and more delicate they are, they tend to get bitter when large. Sort the smalls and mediums separate from the large. It is usually recommended to use Arborio rice for a risotto due to the high content of starch in the grain but any short grain should work well. The original recipe that inspired me recently used Farro which is a very popular grain in Israel. I am using a short grain organic brown rice and with my own interpretation of many recipes I've seen over the years. The brown rice will take longer to cook and will need more liquid than the average risotto. I also do not like the risotto floating in cream so I am using only the stock and the wine for moisture and add parmesan and possibly pecorino to the risotto

Organic brown rice risotto with fresh peas

1 1/2 cups organic short grain brown rice
1 medium onion, diced
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup white wine (good quality), room temperature
Cup of fresh peas
4 1/2-5 cups vegetable stock (*see note below), warm temperature
1/2 teaspoon plus salt to tasteFresh black pepper
1/2 Parmesan cheese (or combination parmesan and pecorino), grated
Chopped parsley for garnish, optional
Wooden spoon or excellent rubber spatula only
Heavy pot (Le Creuset and such)

Directions: On low/medium heat saute onions in oil until translucent. Add rice and saute for few minutes longer while mixing, salt pepper. Add a cup of wine to rice and mix occasionally, until wine is absorved. Add vegetables stock 1/2 cup at the time and let absorb while mixing occasionally. When adding the last 1/2 cup of water add the peas and keep mixing until all liquid is absorbed. Take off the heat and add cheese. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately. About 40 minutes plus cooking time. The brown rice stays al dente and nutty in flavor. If you add too much parmesan it will mask the nuttiness but the texture will definitely remain nutty and chewy.

Important note about Risotto:
For Classic use:
Chicken stock with parmesan (optional cream)
For Kosher use:
Chicken stock with vegan cheese
For Kosher and Vegetarian use:
Vegetable stock with parmesan cheese
For Vegan use:
Vegetable stock with vegan cheese

Gluten Free!!

Note on peas: The small/medium delicate sweet peas use for cooking, the large ones use for sprouting pea shoots , excellent for salads and stir fry.

Verdict on Risotto: I can understand the oohs and ahhs over risotto, although I sense it's somewhat trend driven. It's labor intensive, it's satisfying to see when the grain puffs so perfectly with every 1/2 cup liquid added and the constant stirring.  If I had to eat one again, I would make my own but still not a fan!!

Indian Basmati twist to Rice and (NO) Beans

Couldn't resist it but adding some more buds with this recipe. The Lilac was so stubborn to establish, see this post, that felt like the blooms last year appeared in the summer. I was just sitting on a bench by the lilac, as I raised my eyes to look at all the pollen showering me from the sky, much to my surprise I saw the buds, twice as many as last year.

Lambed out - Chicken cutlets

With the Holiday season, I was completely lambed out, and was looking for fresh, vibrant menu befitting of the warm temperatures and gorgeous days outside.  I watched yet another Israeli culinary icon, who has a TV show, and luckily again, I can access it on the internet.  The chef's name is Erez Komrovsky, he is a Tel Aviv native who opened many restaurants in Israel, and one day, years back, packed up left his urban life for nature, and moved to picturesque Galilee.  I wish one day to make it to one of his cooking workshop, where you pick vegetables right out of his organic garden and cook.  He is an intuitive cook that is a gift and a genius that cannot be taught. The chicken cutlets he cooked on a recent show came out delicious and moist.  I was fortunate enough, when grilling or cooking chicken breast, I never had instances of dried out chicken, and credit all lies within the tenderizing marinade. Combination of the mustard and coriander seeds reminded much of fragrant lime, lemon basil or Kaffir lime. 

Spring in our Garden

We are behind with yard work but first signs of Spring are already here.  The crocuses have come and gone, the lone surviving cherry tree in our yard is blooming and the salvaged wild azalea is budding.  My fantasies of a condo in the city are gone come Spring time.  Daffodils, bleeding heart, nandina's berries are drying and the yellow forsythia all are just a beginning of our garden coming alive.  To the hooting owl just outside our bedrooms window joined a whole orchestra chirping.  Every year a bird makes a nest in the paper delivery box right next to the mail box. I could tell you many stories of my transformation from a city girl, to what I call a country one.  I would like to share one.  The first two pics in this post are of a budding wild azalea that was salvaged from just up the street.  Actually around the street bend, pass the stream, down and then up the hill, A developer bought acres of land and flattened it, only to build big expensive houses.  These beautiful acres now barren.  With the initiative of my neighbor, who knows quite a bit about gardening and plants, we carried shovels and rolled wheelbarrows to try to salvage as many plants as we can, before the bulldozer comes.  Two crazy woman!  My two great successes from that adventure few years ago are, first the wild azalea, which almost died before rejuvenating and becoming a healthy big shrub, hiding modestly just behind the nandinas.  The second is a lilac, that in my northern exposure yard, was yearning for sun, reaching higher and higher towards the sky.  A stubborn one! Only last year, during the Summer, if only a few, but nevertheless fragrant blossom flourished on my lilac. My garden inspires me and makes me happy, I hope the glimpses of the photographs will make you happy too! Happy Holidays!