I am no good at surprises. I come home from a trip with presents for family and friends, and I can barely get off the plane before I’m calling them up to say, “I’m home, guess what I brought you…No, don’t guess, let me tell you!” I have blown surprise parties. For real. Just don’t tell me about them. Or if you do, make sure I know it’s a surprise. And remind me that means I’m not supposed to tell the guest of honor. And that it means I have to show up on time (or in my case, early…or very very very late to avoid walking in with the guest of honor and saying something like, “How fun, I’m so excited for your birthday party…” as s/he reaches for the doorknob).
Yes. I’m that bad.
So, since I’m making dinner tonight for a friend, I can’t resist. Here’s the menu. And a sneak peek at one of the dishes since I made a test run earlier this week and I liked it so much, I’m repeating it. And, oh guest of honor, if you happen to check out my blog today, well, the surprise is ruined!
Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, as reported by Mark Bittman in the NYT and as brought to my attention by Jess at Sweet Amandine
Unió olive oil for dipping — this stuff is good enough plain (there’s a pic of it in my kibbutz herb salad)
Warm za’atar olives
Bean and walnut paté
Vic’s salad: Israeli-style salad with olives (see below)
Green salad (maybe)
Spoon lamb – a sneak peek, after braising, before sauce:
Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup (or a splash of lemon juice + mint)
If I have time: Almond butter cookies with just almonds (no chocolate chunks)
Just in case: a slice of apple strudel and min fruit tart from Catering by Andrew (the only place I know of here to pick up good kosher patisserie)
Vic and Joe (and the adorable Jackito) were my gracious and amazing hosts during most of my time in Panama City. Not only did Vic make a decadent “chocolate explosion cake” that we took on our Santa Clara private beach picnic, but she shared this version of an Israeli salad of tiny chopped tomato and cucumber, salted with olive juice and seasoned with parsley. It became an instant favorite and I’ve been making it since I came home.
Makes 3-4 servings
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 small kirby cucumbers
- 3 scallions
- 10-15 kalamata olives (pre-pitted is easier), liquid reserved (don’t throw it out!)
- flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon
- 2-3 T olive oil (to taste)
- freshly ground pepper to taste
Finely chop tomatoes and drain some of liquid in colander while chopping remainder of vegetables. Finely chop cucumbers (some remove seeds and peel, but I don’t bother). Slice white and light green parts of scallions. Slice olives into ~4 pieces each.
Mix vegetables together and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Season salad with juice of 1 lemon, 3-4 T of olive juice, 2-3 T olive oil (I used Unió — this oil really tastes like olives!).
Serve right away.
And of course, as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been listening to tons of music, including a favorite artist that I happened upon about a year ago: Hadar Manor, an Israeli who found her way to London and began busking in the Underground. I bought her eponymous demo CD that arrived over the Atlantic with a handwritten note and demos for her upcoming album, “Crossing London” which has recently been released. Some of my favorite songs, such as “Ir Miklat” didn’t make it to the album, so I feel like I have a secret stash, and other faves like “Cook a Man” did. One that I don’t (yet) have and would like to share with you is called “Queen of the Underground.”