Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This is going to be a Blog about Thyme in My Kitchen

But in keeping with my improvisational nature, the Za’atar  (thyme) (زعتر ) not having arrived, and the spirit somehow seduced by a memory of Cherry Meatballs eaten after buying Za’atar from Café Garo in Burj Hammoud (Beirut), I’m starting this blog with what Mikej calls my “Thymeless Recipes.”

Mather Shabbat August 6th 2011

 Mather Street, OAKLAND.
The Menu
•Diva Jean’s Fennel Coleslaw
Cherry Meatballs (Kebab Kiraz) Burj Hammoud
Sirim (Anatolian Garlic-Yogurt and Flatbread)
•Guest Appearance: Micki's Vegetable Casserole (ask her)

My grandson, Selim + Challah
Challah (of course)
•Ottolenghi’s unmeasurable and also unmeasured Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake
(the measurements were British and my ingredients were different, so, after a careful review of how to make grams into ounces, I dumped what I had into the Vitameatavegamin Machine and turned it on.)
Three Pears 2010 Pinot Grigio (it was lovely) (It's also good in the lemonade.)
Mint Lemonade (still to be perfected)

At the Table.
Noni (Manya)(my Mom)
Micki (ask about her vegetable recipe) (Paul was on the road)
Noni and Micki and Ma's silver candlesticks (the ones without the candles), 
which my Mom's Mother brought from Kishenev.

Alanya, Mikej and Naveed Jones (Selim's picture is above)(but are they guests?):

My daughter, Alanya, at her house August 9th 2011. With the Architects.. Bruce and Collette
(Thus, the Joneses are living at Mather for the time being...beginning June 28th 2011...)

Uncle Neal and Auntie Ann

Uncle Neal

Auntie Ann and Noni

• And, of course: The Good Thyme Girl (MorMor) (Fred was in Chicago.  Rumeli, Cyrus and Sandriz were busy)

What I Learned from this first posting:
Blogs take up a lot of Thyme.

Diva Jean’s Fennel Coleslaw
Diva Jean at Waitrose's
Fennel Coleslaw

My favorite cook and Diva, Jean Davison (London) passed this on to me from Diva Cooking: Unashamedly Glamorous Party Food.  Of course, I changed the proportions.  It is subtly delicious and unsubtly memorable.

1 lb of small fennel bulbs.

1 small red cabbage

Slice the above with a mandoline.

(yes, I did too use a mandoline!) I used the one we bought in Riga. It was made by a man selling wooden implements outside the Zeppelen Hangar Market.
You can just use a knife.

Combine with:
1 small red onion, finely chopped

a lot of fresh dill (DON’T USE DRIED). I used half a bunch

grated zest of 2 lemons

3 Tb sugar

Real mayonnaise to bind it all.. I used about 3 Tb

2 TB cider vinegar

Taste it! :  Now you can add some Tabasco or Aleppo pepper paste along with salt and pepper (but I didn't).

Cover and chill before serving.
I served it on a bed of cucumbers with more dill.  Avocado slices would have been nice, too. 

Best of all?: it’s best made the day before

KEBAB KIRAZ (Sour Cherry Meatballs)

I settled on Anissa Helou’s recipe to play with as I tried to recreate the Armenian ones we ate in the Armenian Burj Hammoud area in Beirut at Restaurant ONNO. It's on Rue Aghabios, facing Al-Sabtieh church and run by Karnigue Nigolian. I think it was Ms Nigolian herself who cooked and served our meal. 

[Thanks Anissa, I love your blog!:

Waiting with Fred for the Kebab Kiraz at Onno

Cherry Sauce on the Left, Meatballs on the Right
The white stuff on the cherries is sugar. It was tasting rather tartish..

Serves 8

••FOr the meatballs (kabab)  
Mix and form into meatballs. I made them rather small, as in Beirut, but I think if larger they wouldn’t cook through when I browned them, allowing them to cook in the broth and be more tender
2 lb minced lamb (mine seemed to have no fat..)(I guess you could use Turkey...)
1 tbsp salt
2-3 teaspoons 7-spice mixture or allspice
 (Make a pilgrimage to Café Garo in Beirut or just use allspice and no one will know). 
 I actually used something similar,  from a shop near our hotel in Amman, but I lost the box).  It may be the  Baharat from below, as I remember it had cardamom. On the other hand, it smells just like allspice.

Brown quickly (do not cook through) in:
unsalted butter (be sure to use the best and the freshest. I used Lurpak)

Bring the following to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes till flavors combine.  Make sure it doesn’t dry out, as this is to be a sauce.

1 lb dried sour cherries soaked overnight (or for a few hours at least) in 3 cups water. 
OR Next time I will try 2+ lg jars of pitted sour cherries, with their juices
3 Tb sugar (depends on how sweet vs tart you like it)
3 Tb pomegranate syrup or pomegranate molasses

Cherry Sauce
Meatballs in Butter
Meatballs in Cherry Sauce

••Add the meatballs (and all the browned bits and the butter they cooked in) to the sauce and simmer 10-15 minutes or until meat is cooked.

••To finish:
In Beirut, this was served in individual small casseroles like this:
Line the casseroles with Pide quarters or with Lavash bread so that points stick up.

Drizzle some melted butter over the bread and sprinkle with allspice.

Toast in the oven to get the bread warm, or even toasted.
[I didn't serve this on bread because, at the last minute, I decided to use the bread to make Sirim (below.)]
Ladle in the meatballs.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley.  You can also add toasted (or sautéed in butter) nuts: pine nuts, almonds or walnuts.

Best of all? so simple but so exotic!  And making it the day before is just fine.

SIRIM: (Surum?) 
Anatolian / Armenian
Flat-bread with Yogurt Garlic Sauce

Clockwise from top:  Diva Fennel Coleslaw, Micki's vegetables with Feta, Sirim, 
Cherry Meatballs with Almonds.

I ate Sirim (for the first time) with Armen Aroyan and the Kharpertzi pilgrims in Anatolia at the Kayabaşı Restaurant.  This made a problem for me: which/whom/what did I love more?
Armen Aroyan

Overlooking The Golden Hills of Kharpert

Evening in Kharpert
(Thanks Charles for the fotos from 2008)

Lavash bread or flat bread, softened with water.  You can also use pide, pulled apart into two circles. Or large wheat (not corn) tortillas.
Whole yogurt, the best you can find or make
Soft Real butter, the best and freshest, and don't skimp
Fresh, smashed garlic
parsley AND red pepper or paprika or Aleppo pepper paste.

Sparingly (ish) butter the flat bread and roll it into a cylinder and then slice it into rounds as if for Aram sandwiches.  They should be about an inch high.

Place rounds in a buttered baking dish.

Mix yogurt with smashed garlic;  one good clove per cup.

Pour over rounds, but don’t cover. Let a bit of bread stick through to toast.

Drizzle lots of  melted butter over it, especially over exposed bread parts. 1/4th c butter, minimum, per cup of yogurt.

Bake at 350 till very hot and toasty.  10-20 minutes.

Drizzle again with butter, only this time have a bit of Aleppo pepper or Paprika or 7 spice or Baharat on top.  For color, mostly.
Sprinkle with Parsley.

(I made a plate of this without garlic for Neal and Ann. It does not compare, but they did not know that.)  I put some reserved, meatless cherry sauce on Micki's garlicky ones because she is "suddenly vegetarian". If I can figure out how, I'll link to her article in pdf: "Me a Vegetarian?" )

Caramel and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake


from Ottolenghi’s Macadamia Nut, Caramel (and Nutella?) Cheesecake
as first re-interpreted by Keiko, here:
and by Mackenzie, here:


Prepare a 8½ - 9” spring-form pan.  Butter and line with parchment paper.
Wrap the outside of the pan
in tin foil 
if you are worried 
about the seal.


One pack crushed HobNobs  (2 pkgs graham crackers should be fine)
4 tbsp melted butter (always use fresh and best quality)
            mix together and  press into prepared tin.  Flatten with your fingers.
(I brought my Hobnobs from London, but you can order them online.  Make the cheesecake as soon as they arrive, or you will eat them all and have to start all over again. Trust me.)

For the cheesecake

8 large free-range eggs.
1 lb good quality ricotta cheese, at room temperature
1 lb farmers’ cheese
1 Cup (8 oz) sour cream (I used only ½ cup, but I was sorry.)
1 cup sugar
3 Tb vanilla

Put eggs in Vegimax or large Cuisinart  and blend.  Then add the rest and blend.
Pour over base. Bake about an hour, perhaps longer. A skewer in center should come out with a slightly wet crumb.

Let cool on a rack and then CHILL for about 3 hours (or overnight, if you want.)*

*I mean, chill the cake.
For the nut topping 
1 1/2 cups  salted (free range) macadamia nuts
scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast at 275 F  for about 15 minutes, until golden. Do not eat them all now, or you won't be able to make the cake.

1 cup sugar 

Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Place the sugar in a saucepan with a very thick base (it is important that the layer of sugar is not more than 3mm high in the pan, so choose a large one).

Heat the sugar gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Don’t worry if some small bits of sugar don’t totally dissolve.

Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon.

When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set.

Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.  Again: do not eat them all up.

For the caramel sauce
½ cube of butter
¾ cup sugar
½ cup whipping cream

Put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, darkish caramel.

The butter and sugar may look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring.

Once the desired color is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigorously. Remove from the heat and leave to cool but not get cold.

To finish the cake,
Dust the edges and sides with plenty of powdered sugar.
Spoon the sauce in the center, allowing it to spill over a little.
Scatter lots of caramelized nuts on top.

The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

 Best of all?: It is made in stages, which can be advance stages, and each stage is really easy, even the nuts and syrup part. And the ricotta makes the cake taste almost healthy.  But you will need to chill the baked cheesecake for a few hours (or more) before putting on the topping.  You can then serve or re-chill for up to 3 days.

Mint Lemonade
(I need to find the secret. Even with my Vitameatavegamin Machine, the mint separated from the Lemonade.)

Thank you for coming this far with me.  Stay tuned.
COMMENTS?  memories? connections?  YES!
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. Could you wait till you do and then post your results? xxx gtg.