Friday, September 30, 2011

Rosh HaShonah 5772

Mather Street, OAKLAND.

 Erev Rosh HaShonah 2011

The first night of the year and the last night in Thymeless Oakland.  We wish you all health and Za’atar..


We convened the Mather Street Regulars to circle round the round Challah.
The Challah consoles us:
          time is cyclical /or/ at least we have butter, eggs, and raisins

Neal and Ann
Mikej, Alanya, Selim, Naveed
Cyrus, Rumeli, Sandriz

oh yes, and the stuffies

(who pretty much stayed in "stuffy territory"):

Round Challah and Wine

Salad alaHannalamode
Stuffing Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
Roasted Carrots with Sumac and Nigella
Turkish Green Beans in the manner of Sabahat’s sister Malek
“Apple and Honey Cakes” with two ice creams: Lemon-Ginger and coconut, and some Asian pears from Donna’s trees.


Inspired by: Hannalamode's New Favorite Sandwich of mustard greens and goat cheese on toasted French bread, I tossed mixed greens (couldn’t find isolated mustard) with little French bread croutons on which goat cheese had been spread.  Tossed in some Asian pears and used bottled Newman’s Own Balsamic Dressing (which Donna used with pears and toasted walnuts.)   

Verdict: Good, but not worth a repeat.  The greens were too “uncooked”.  (Yeah.  They were raw.)
Next time: cook the greens, top with croutons and drizzle with dressing.   Or just ask Hanna to make me a sandwich.


I used two different stuffings:  

1. Bread stuffing: sauté onions and celery in butter and add to stuffing mix along with vegetable broth and melted butter. 

Make a wet stuffing.   Stuff cleaned mushrooms.  Place in baking pan.  Pour hot water with some melted butter over it all and bake for half an hour at 350.  Or till mushrooms are cooked.

2. Cornbread stuffing.
This one didn’t call for onions, celery or broth,  Just water. I did pour butter water over it, as above.

My comments:  A plate-licker for sure.

Both stuffings were so good they didn't need a turkey because the portabellos were meatier than meat.   In fact, since both were good, next time maybe I’ll just do the corn stuffing mix.  Too easy!


Inspired by Rose at Avocado & Bravado, I decided to add Heirloom NigellaHeirloom because the original Nigella seeds were brought by Maya from Istanbul to L.A. and then picked up by Alanya and brought to Oakland.  A small bag went to Ray, who planted them and sent me seed pods to harvest.  Wow.

Naveed “hatched” all the seeds

then took a rest.

Chef's Thinking Cap is ON
The sumac'd and nigella'd carrots were gorgeous.  And everyone ate them up because, basically, they were gorgeous and  roasted and sweet and organic and carrots.
My Thoughts:  The sumac and nigella flavors did not come through.

Next time: honey roast the carrots in butter ! with nigella.  At the end, sprinkle with sumac and a bit of fresh lemon juice. (?).

Side Benefit:
Gorgeous carrots yield gorgeous compost.

                                       TURKISH GREENBEANS


This is a long time family favorite, made in the way I remember Istanbul Sabahat’s sister, Ankara Malek, making this for us in Oakland.

1 lg can good quality tomatoes
1 lg onion (or 1.5 med onions,) roughly chopped
olive oil
4-5 cups green beans, tipped and tailed.

"We all have personalities, you know.."

          ...OR YOU'LL NEVER EAT ANY.  
                                                                             TRUST ME.

I couldn't stop myself from picking up a few in my hand.. 

The first ones started to sing

Others were predicting the weather
None of these yakkety yakkers could agree on anything.
And these guys just took off.

The rest lost their personalities (and their heads) and went in to the pot.

Blend the tomatoes (with their liquid)  and onions on “high” till all are mashed together.
Heat in a large pot.
Add tipped and tailed green beans and about a quarter of a cup of olive oil.  More is fine. More is always fine. Proportions are not fussy.
Put some water in the blender and in the tomato can to get out all the juice and add.  The liquid level should look like it can take at least 2 hours of simmering.  But keep checking.

Simmer for a few hours. Yes. This timing is not a mistake.  The beans should be nice and soft.  Two hours minimum.

YUM to the Green Beans!
This dish is always wonderful: sweet, toothsome, satisfying, vegan, and goes with everything, even just bread for lunch or a bread and an egg (or eggs and yogurt ala Turka) for dinner.

And both girls turned out OK.
(So far.)
Turkish Green-beans are probably the only dish consistently
requested by Rumeli and Alanya.


Some day I'll get this right.
Honeycake is the Jewish version of Fruitcake (or v.v.) because everyone makes it but no one seems to like it.  However, I loved my grandmother’s honeycake; but even though I have her recipe (honey and coffee), I’m still trying to get it right: moist, dark, crusty.

This time, I added apples (good idea, but they should be canned apple pie apples) and made them into cupcakes. 

My Notes in Sum:
This was an easy to do in advance dinner, and inexpensive.

Thank you, Dreese, for doing the dishes..

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mor Mor "Sleep Over" Sugar Cookies Sept.25th

Mather Street, OAKLAND.

We always counted the days till sleepovers with baking at night and sweets in the morning, Mom and Dad being out of the way.   But hey!   How can you have a sleepover when you all live together?  So we managed to get rid of Alanya and Mikej for a full afternoon and hit the sugar.  

Selim was in charge of part 1:

Cream together
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup soft butter
1 large egg
1 Tb real vanilla extract

Naveed was in charge of part 2: 
Sift in
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
Mix well

Mor Mor did wrap-up [and clean-up] :

Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 F
Roll (using powdered sugar on the rolling pin and surface)
or form into drop cookies.
Decorate and bake on parchment lined baking sheets.

Selim looks like he's concentrating on his cutting, but he's actually concentrating on listening to the Giant's Game.  They lost, but at least we had the cookies....

San Francisco Giants catcher Chris Stewart, right, tags out Arizona Diamondbacks' Miguel Montero in the first inning of an MLB baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, in Phoenix. Photo: Paul Connors / AP 

Selim's first cookies were cut outs.

So were Naveed's

 But then Naveed went into free form and flattened hunks of dough into circles.  Chocolate chips or mini marshmallows were the decorations. 
He didn't have as many cookies as Selim because he ate most of his dough.

Selim decided this was a good idea, and made an even bigger one.

Tasting was taken seriously, 

but the verdict was a solid yum.

In fact, the returning parents couldn't keep their hands out of the cookie jar.  (Not that we have one.)


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 2 Shabbat: Za’tar appears for a split-second --along with some new signs.

Mather Street, OAKLAND.

"Thyme for Thyme" I thought, and took some Za’atar out of its bag in the Frig.  I had wanted to wait till Chicago to start my Za’atar adventure because that’s where my fresh and authentic stash of Lebanese Za’atar is waiting, "snuggled" in by Beiruti John.

Beiruti John
  But I jumped the gun because I had had what turned out to be a False Epiphany.  In other words, a brilliant idea that didn’t brilliate, no doubt because its time had not come. i.e.,  a really fabulous idea …..that turns out to still need some work.   (See Za’tar croutons, below. ) 

So, alas, this blog will not introduce Za’atar’s glory after all. 

However, although I did not have a true Epiphany, I did have a Realization: not every recipe needs to be published here just because I made it.   This would be Hubris (recipe follows).  Hence, only the successful recipes will appear, having earned the coveted Chef Happy Cap Award.

The recipes which, for various and confusing reasons are “not worth repeating” will be marked by the  Chef Bemused Cap symbol.  

But those that hold promise,  -- the epiphanies that just need tweaking (Alanya always says, just add butter, bacon or coconut milk) will be marked by an image of Chef Thinking Cap, meaning: Stay Tuned, I’m working on it. 

For example: I am still working on that Mint Lemonade al Bilad al Sham that failed in the August Shabbat posting.

• Happy Cap = YES!  This is a keeper.

• Bemused Cap = Naturally, I thought it would work, but it didn't; and it's not worth a second try.

• Thinking Cap = Stay Tuned!: this has great potential and I plan to make it right. Somehow. Ideas always welcome..please post them!

As you see, this blog is becoming more nuanced.  And hey! more symbols may come, as I am a very symbolic person.

September Shabbat:

Fred reading after working on Deck

Fred's project: 
Scrape, prime and repaint the old shingles.

Selim and Naveed's Signs from Giants (vs Cubs) game the day before.
(Aug 31: Giants=4  Cubs=0)

Flossie and Selim with baseball cards? Mikej snoozes..

Alanya and Naveed read on the couch

At 5 and 7,
Life is all about Baseball Cards

For Sandriz at 14 months it's all about emailing your girlfriend(s.)
Naveed is the PG.
At the Table:
Carel and Fred
Rumeli, Cyrus, Sandriz aka Dreese
Alanya, Mikej, Selim, Naveed

Rumeli • Manya/Noni lighting the candles • Fred

Flossie, Mikej and Naveed watch the lighting

Alanya and Dreese share Blessings

 Selim, too  but Cyrus came in afterwards


L'Chaim!  To Life!!
Flossie brought the Challah from La Farine.    I brought the 2 Buck Chuck from TJ’s
The Rocket Ship on the Deck is still being built.. 

Pappa al Pomodoro 2 
Kurdish Carrot Pancakes with Greek yogurt
Fattoush with Za’atar croutons  (salad is always wonderful, stay tuned re the croutons)
Fresh Peach Cheesecake
The menu was going to take off from Cousin Judy’s fab and seductive Pappa al Pomodoro 1, which she made for Mom and me in L.A.  

Cousin Judy preparing the pomodori..

But the fresh tomatoes that we had seen at the Fruit Stand as we drove up to Kings Canyon from Fresno were “out of season” as we drove back.

SO, I made Pappa al Pomodoro 2 using canned tomatoes.  

(However, there are  2 happy endings, see Pappa al Pomodoro 1, below.)

Preparing Pappa al Pomodoro 2

It was embarrassingly good, (but not embarrassing if you lie about using canned...)

This recipe follows the ingredients (but not the proportions) of  Ina Garten [].

A special thank you, Ina, for those consummately savory and porkly croutons.

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 lg yellow onions, chopped roughly
3 large organic carrots, unpeeled, chopped roughly
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 ½-2 cups)
4 large garlic cloves, minced or smashed
3-4 cups (almost a loaf) of cut up Ciabatta, Rosemary bread or Herb Focaccia.  I left on the crusts
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock or broth
¾ cup dry red wine (TJ's Shiraz..)
1 +cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
[Ina says: if you have rind from the Parmesan, drop it in the simmering soup.  I meant to and forgo

For the crouton topping:
3 cups (1-inch) cubed Ciabatta bread
2 or + ounces thickly sliced Pancetta, chopped
24 to 30 whole fresh Basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
(I forgot to add more oil. Ray's general advice is:
   1 lg garden fresh tomato per 1 gallon of fabulous olive oil).

And: Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
add the onions, carrots, fennel and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender.

Add the bread cubes and cook for 5 more minutes.

Place the tomatoes and their juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped.

Add the tomatos to the pot along with the stock, red wine, basil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and the cheese rind (if you have any and remember.)

Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

To be Vegetarian Friendly, half of the croutons are without Pancetta,
hence the tin foil divider..
preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle bread cubes with olive oil in a bowl and toss with hands to coat.
Place on a large baking sheet (or two. You want a single layer)
Lay basil leaves on top
Lay chopped (lg pieces) of pancetta over bread and basil.
Drizzle again with some olive oil

Bake, stirring occasionally after 10 minutes or more, until everything, even the basil, is crisp.

Serve soup hot, sprinkled with Parmesan and the croutons. 
Drizzle with olive oil if you want.  You do want.

My Thoughts:
The soup bowls were licked clean (But this was probably because no one spoke enough Italian to know that they were eating “Mush of the Tomato”)  
And as good as the soup was, the best part was the croutons. 
Worth their weight in bacon. 

[Part of!] Ray's Birthday gift to moi... Tomatoes like sunshine and grapes like wine. No kidding.
Farmer Ray, having hoisted the tomatoes into Bambi's trunk.
Lucky me, Ray brought me some (like a truckload of) tomatoes for my birthday, and I used some to try out Judy’s Original.

Pappa al Pomodoro 1 (Judy’s Original)

Judy used a tomato red pot to increase the gorgeousness factor, 
and actually did peel the tomatoes ..

1/3 cup olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
2 lg garlic cloves, chopped
4+ pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled
3/4 pound day-old bread, roughly cubed. I used Rosemary Focaccia this time
2 cups water
1 + cups (or more) fresh torn basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes, until onion is translucent. Squish the peeled tomatoes into the pan, with all their juices and seeds and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down, about 5 minutes. Add the bread and water. Continue simmering until all the bread has absorbed a lot of the liquid.  Stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add Croutons!
Make those wonderful pancetta croutons from Pappa Pomodoro 2, above.  I used the rest of the Rosemary Bread for them.  And, having run out of Pancetta, I used slightly microwaved bacon instead.  They were delicious.  Be generous with the basil.
My Thoughts: Perfect.  

Kurdish Carrot Pancakes

These were appreciated but were not what they should be.  I pretty much followed a recipe from Sarah Melamed, but since I can't bring myself to actually measure, maybe it was too oniony.  And then Fred, while cooking them, said they wouldn't hold together, so we added some flour, which may relate to the too much onion. See
for a recipe called  The Best Kurdish Carrot Fritters in the World.”
But they weren’t quite.  Not yet.  I knew this even though I have not tasted any others in the world and because I have ideas for improvements. I'm thinking butter and thyme. So Stay Tuned.  Ideas always welcome..please post them!

Fattoush  Salad

but with(out) Za’atar croutons

Fattoush is the Pappa al Pomodoro of salads because it’s also old-bread based (Fattoush means crumbled bread, so forget the puns you were going to make..)  Since it’s an Arab salad, the bread should be pita.

My epiphany was to make Za’atar Croutons because what can be better than French Bread dipped in olive oil and Za’atar?  Not much.

But the croutons were not special at all.  They didn’t even taste Za'atarly.   The problem may bave been the Za’atar.

But stay tuned because next time I will use fresh Lebanese Za’atar and Pita bread, not Ciabatta.
 (I’ve given some measurements, but they are guidelines)

Peeled, seeded and chopped cucumbers,  (3)
Chopped green onions, including some stems (5)
Parsley, chopped  (1/2 bunch)
Fresh mint, chopped (sm bunch)
Sweet tomatoes (2 handfuls of sweet 100s)
1 lg head’s worth of lettuces
            I use organic baby arugula, purslane (when I can find it) and Romaine… all torn or chopped rather small.

DRESS with
Juice and zest of 1 lg lemon.
Twice as much olive oil as juice

Forget about Za'atar Croutons till another post; instead toss in Toasted Pita, broken into bites  (about 2 pita, first split in half like bagels, slightly toasted.)

Sumac!!  Sprinkle about 2 Tb over the dressed and tossed salad, and toss again.

After you peel the cukes, cut them in half length-wise and then run a spoon down the centers to remove the seeds.  Eat the seeds.

My Thoughts:
Fattoush makes you feel fresh and healthy and virtuous and slightly exotic. Or it tastes like a Farm’s Springtime.  Ray could make this salad… It’s had to imagine improvement, but I still think that Za’atar croutons could perfect it.  Or, anyway, I think that there can be such a thing as the perfection of Za’atar croutons.  

Stay tuned. Ideas always welcome..please post them!

Fresh Peach Cheesecake
Is this a false Epiphany or just a failure?
Perfect Fruit Stand Peaches were whirled into a light cheesecake on a butter+graham cracker crust and topped with a fresh peach puree and vanilla sugar.   God that sounds amazing.  Wasn’t.

Well, Alanya reminds me that it was delicious as a cheesecake; it's just that no peach flavor came through.  Maybe I should have used peach flavoring....

Thank you for coming this far with me.  Stay tuned.
COMMENTS?  memories? connections?  YES!
Ideas for the recipes still in process?

I'd love them.
--and I'd especially like to hear if you actually do try these recipes.
But I'd rather not hear that you merely plan to try them or that you really want to try them. I'd rather that you wait till you do and then post your results.
xxx gtg.