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.

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