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Archive for the ‘no recipe’ Category

on to the finals

About six weeks ago, I wrote about one of my favorite duets representing Israel in the Eurovision contest in Moscow.

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085211.html

Noa and Mira Awad after performing in the 2009 Eurovision Semifinals (AP)

Well, Noa and Mira Awad made it to the Finals last night and will be competing on Saturday, May 16th against Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Finland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Armenia and Iceland.

Good luck, ladies!

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Is it really the thought that counts? I sure hope so, because my little mother’s day gift this year got somewhat thwarted. I baked two cute zucchini loaves, one to send to my own mother and one to send to my good friend, Reva — the first friend of mine to become a mother.

2 little zucchini loaves

Reva is an amazing mother to her two adorable, smiley, fun-loving sons. I could talk about Isaac and Ely (to whom I am Tante Gayle), but today is all about celebrating how amazing their mom is. Because Reva’s birthday always falls close to Mother’s Day (and that of her kids), I wanted to make sure that she gets the full attention she deserves.

Reva with Yitz and Ely

Reva and I met during the first few weeks of medical school and became fast friends. I mean, come on, we met on a train traveling from Philadelphia to New York! The most telling story I have about her is that she was the only person to be honest with me when she didn’t like one of my boyfriends. It take real guts to tell someone something she doesn’t want to hear.

little gift for Reva

little gifts for mommy

So, I packed up my little zucchini loaves in wrapping appropriate for each special woman – wax paper and black tulle for Reva (she’s always been a bit of a health nut, which for some reason I associate with wax paper; and black for NY); green for my mom because it’s one of her colors and a little extra box of notecards that match.

And I went to the post office to overnight them on Friday, excited for the surprise each would receive on Saturday – Reva on her birthday, my mom one day before mother’s day. Alas, I was the one who was surprised with 2 notices on my door Saturday afternoon letting me know that both packages were attempted to be returned to me. I could not clear this up on Saturday because though the notices said that the packages would be available after 5:30, the post office closes at 5. Yup – our tax dollars at work, ladies and gentleman.

Off to the post office I trotted today to fix the dilemma. Turns out the two packages were returned for insufficient postage (I inadvertently used the flat rate for flat envelopes rather than the flat rate for small boxes <sigh>). I had to double my expenditure to send my packages again and hope that the loaves will arrive fresh and not moldy.

Well, ladies, my apologies. Next time I’ll hand deliver. Clearly a trip to Maryland is due.

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I’ve got mail!

With email and vmail and FaceBook and Twitter and all the information overload, it’s always a big surprise to get something real in my mailbox.

And by real, I mean not an unwanted catalog. Or some academic institution asking for money. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few things that I do look forward to receiving on a regular basis. All my NY-centric weeklies. And the cooking magazines that I still like to read in print. And then there are the cards that I cherish. Especially the birth announcements, child-laden holiday cards, and wedding invitations. And of course, birthday cards and the ever-so- special, “just because” cards.

But today, I unlocked my mailbox to reveal a package that felt like true validation that I am a foodie. I received my first (kosher) product to try and review! Granted, I found out about this product on Twitter (no comment about the date I was on the other night with a guy who found out that I tweet and asked if that makes me a twit…) and I knew it was arriving. And I was forewarned because I received a call from my “postal delivery person” (her terminology, not mine) asking if anyone named “Zahavah” lived as my address. Since I mainly use Zahavah for food-related things, I knew that this mail was going to be out of the norm.

Holy Cow! Kosher Beef Jerky

I don’t know about you, but receiving kosher beef jerky in a sealed envelope from across the country is not the norm for me. (But buying it in NY and eating it in one sitting sometimes is).

I can’t wait to try my jerky. This time, I will share… my samples with local friends interested in tasting and my opinion with the company.

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stalled

My dishwasher is broken. And I have no idea when it will be fixed.

It had not been cleaning very well for the past few weeks and I have had to half fill a newly emptied washer with recently “cleaned” dishes too many times after a thorough hand-rinsing of caked-on grit. And every time I would roll out the bottom rack, the spinning propeller that spits out water (does it have a real name?) would pop out. Is this supposed to happen? Not sure, but I have been diligently re-snapping that spinner back in every load and trying to rinse off the little screen thing when I can see gunk in it. Fed up this morning, I decided to run the “sanitizer” cycle with the dishwasher empty hoping that any little lurking buggers would be whisked away. I had sanitized in the past with great success.

So sanitize I did.

Steam poured forth from the vents at the top of the appliance. Yeah, I remember that happening in the past – the sanitizer cycle is quite hot.

And then, the smell. It didn’t remember that.

Burning plastic. At first, I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. By the time I got to my dishwasher, it was too late. The bottom spinning piece had popped out and melted on the heating element. Yes, melted. Through and through. One of the propeller arms without a hand. A white powder sloughing off on my fingers as I removed the cooling plastic.

In the grand scheme of things, not a tragedy. But given the photo hanging above my sink that largely epitomizes my philosophy on dish washing (and taking out trash), this could be a major stall in food exploration.

Photo by Veronica V - taken on a camping trip

Photo by Veronica V - taken on a camping trip

That being said, I did manage to make an almond-macadamia cremolata inspired by Ana Sortun’s veggie friendly  restaurant Oleana and sesame noodles this evening. But my sink is mighty full and begging for a bit of attention.

My super is supposed to be here first thing tomorrow and a repair man will hopefully soon follow.

Wish me luck – I need it.

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kosher french chorizo

Yup. You heard me right. It’s like a whole bunch of oxymorons rolled into one.

Let’s just start from the end and work our way backwards.

Chorizo, a pork sausage. Recipes for homemade chorizo abound, but the image that most often springs to mind is spicy sausage, encased in I don’t even want to know what. Usually spiced with a combination of garlic and peppers, this sausage has its local variations and can be purchased fresh (requiring cooking) or fermented and cured, the former more often in South America, the latter most often in Europe. Mine is from France (and I can’t tell you how I got it!), so it’s the cured version. And meant to be sliced for sandwiches (or thrown atop salads). Clearly my kosher variety is made with beef instead of pork.

For no good reason, I have been holding onto this lovely quasi-contradiction in my fridge for a few months (as a cured meat, it can last quite a while). And then…something struck…and I had to eat some meat (this might sound a little familiar) and I had to have it right then.

Eager to taste this rare delicacy (rare in the kosher world, that is) that I had heard so much about, I dug in with my knife and made a little dinner. I found that, lacking a deli slicer, my bread knife was the next best option. Thinking about cinco de mayo next week, I threw together a quick guac of avocado, grated onion, grated tomato, fresh cilantro, lime juice, salt, and cumin, slathered it on some lavash, added baby greens, spread out my treasured chorizo, and rolled everything up.

quick Mexican-inspired wrap for my chorizo

I ate the wrap standing over the cutting board. No plate. No napkin. Nothing. But you’ll keep my little secret, right?

I heart meat

Mmmmmmmm. I heart charcuterie.

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zipping around the hood

I looked around my kitchen and noticed that my cupboard was bare. Actually, more pathetically, my fridge was bare. My fruit bowl was bare. Everything. Bare  bare bare. And with the beautiful weather approaching this weekend, I wanted to have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.

Friends and family (and some of you) know of my trials and tribulations (and kvetches) grocery shopping in Cambridge/Boston without my own car, my preference for finding kosher goodies in NYC, and my frustration at not having a driver’s license for weeks on end after my wallet was plucked from my purse (long annoying story!). Well, with temporary license in hand, replacement ZipCard at the ready, and a few local foodie recommendations with directions printed, I was ready to set out exploring.

Since Earth Day was this week, I rented a (somewhat less expensive) hybrid for my 3-hour tour. Once you get past having to press a “power button” to start the car, most of the features are similar to a normal car, thought it is not quite as much fun to drive as my old convertible!

My first stop after picking up my fixed computer (yeah computer!) was Tabrizi in Watertown – a Persian (Iranian) bakery that happens to be under supervision by the Boston Vaad.

tabrizi bakery - mararoons, baklava

They also have a good sized selection of packaged food – nuts, teas, and specialty items. I stocked up on rose water, orange blossom water (which I use with many almond recipes, both sweet and savory), and pomegranate concentrate. The owner, Mohammed, was quick to remind me that the pomegranate concentrate is not for drinking, but great for marinating poultry and meats, and can be mixed with balsamic vinegar for a unique sweet and sour flavor (Pomi can be used to substitute but is not as rich). Of course, I could not resist a few freshly baked sweets – walnut and almond macaroons and Persian baklava (made with cardamom) – and soft pistachio nougat.

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A word to the wise — when you go to Tabrizi, bring quarters for the meters. As an infrequent driver, I forgot about this and parked across the street in a small lot near a dry cleaners. Though I was only in the bakery for 15 minutes, the evil looks I received from the not-such-gentlemen loitering and watching me from their truck as I left my hybrid and swiftly crossed the street, muttering out loud that I hoped I could park here for just a few minutes — followed by the bright yellow tow truck that was just pulling into the lot as I was deftly backing out of my spot leads me to believe that Watertown does not take kindly to interlopers. In my meager defense, I will say that there were no signs saying that the lot was for that side of the road only. I’m just saying.

(Largely) unfazed by the tow truck that then followed me out the little lot, with only minor thought of “what if this guy follows me for the rest of the day?,” I made my merry way with only a mere three U-turns before I arrived at Russo’s.

The focus at Russo’s is beautiful produce at great prices. Yes, there are flowers and plants outside, and a lovely bakery in the back, and bottles of oils, bags of pasta, bars of chocolate at knee level. But, the gems at Russo’s are fresh from the farm, sometimes still clinging to the earth where they were born, often smelling of their luscious juices inside.

Upon walking into the store, I immediately called ZipCar to find out if I could extend my time because I realized that I would be unlikely to be able to return the car in my allotted 3 hours. Alas, someone had reserved my car and I had no choice but to return the car at the previously agreed-upon hour. I had to be very disciplined. No meandering. No exploring. Just the basics. I had to be back in my car with the power button pushed before 6 pm to make it back to the garage in time. This would be difficult, but I reminded myself that I could always return.

I felt like a heathen as I zipped through the piles of fruits and vegetables rather than strolling. In grocery stores and markets, I am definitely a flâneur, so I felt quite a pull. I did stop to breathe for a moment when one of the men unpacking fruit offered me a taste of mango. I initially turned him down in my rush, as I said (with my best NY strictly business attitude), “thank you, but I know I’m already going to buy the mangoes, so don’t worry about giving me a taste.” The gentleman scolded me, plucked a fruit from the top of the mound, sliced it open, cubed it down to the flesh, and handed it to me. Delicious. He then handed me the second half, happy to see me happy.

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My cart filled with zucchini (so cheap that I could not resist…zucchini bread, here I come), dark purple eggplants and  beets, bundles of fresh herbs, several mangos, a few tomatoes, blood oranges, lemons and limes, and La Tourangelle grapeseed oil (“huile de pépins de raisin,” strangely, the La Tourangelle roasted walnut oil they had was not kosher… see Resources), There was almost no line line, and I made it safely to my car with my now very full French re-usable bag in tow.

I did get stuck in traffic and made one wrong turn, so it was a race to get the hybrid back to the garage. I made it. Well, just barely.

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agir aujourd’hui

Good morning, sunshine.

That’s what I thought when it was so bright outside before 7 am that I was dragged out of bed well before my alarm went off. And, my bedroom window faces north, so there are no direct morning rays to heat my covers and tickle me awake as when I lived in a converted warehouse with 20-foot ceilings, windows as high, and an unencumbered Eastward view of the Schuylkill River and Center City from my perch in West Philadelphia. And I never closed my shades (then or now) to encourage as much natural light to hit my skin and improve my mood.

Needless to say, today has been a much better day on all fronts than the past two dreary, grey, rainy ones. So, while a few weeks ago, I took the time to praise G-d for nature, today’s welcome sunshine is a great reminder to thank and take care of our planet. It doesn’t hurt that it’s Earth Day.

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Living here in Cantabrigia, I’ve grown accustomed to the evil looks received when I arrive at a check-out counter without a cloth or recycled bag to in which to pack my own groceries. I now have a sizable collection that grows every few months when I decide on a spontaneous grocery trip and can’t fit everything into my purse and feel guilty when asked, “paper or plastic.” And at least around here, you get a small Woolworth-sized rebate when you supply your own.

Of course, other parts of the world lead with a stick, and I have heard that cities in the US have threatened to do the same (Bloomberg threatened  a $0.06 tax on plastic bags last year). 2 years ago when I spent the summer in Paris and Nice, I found that many grocery stores did not even offer bags (nor did they have baggers to help you out). Of course, the French have a long history of carrying their own groceries away from their daily markets in a filet, a cotton mesh bag, or pannier, a basket (a classic French image being a little boy riding home from the bakery with a fresh baguette or two in the basket of his bicycle).

So, eventually I bought one of those re-usable bags, and it has turned out to be one of my favorite purchases in Nice. (Aside from the clothing and my provençal tablecloth, of course). It has stood by me for 2 solid years. It carried overflow stuff when my suitcase exploded and accompanied me on the airplane. I shop with it all the time here in the US and feel uber-chic because, of course, it’s French. And I think I’m French. And it prompts people to speak to me in French. And I love that. And, I fit in with my hippy dippy neighborhood because it’s quite beat-up and worn with use.

Importantly, its message is as green as its color. Agir aujourd’hui pour mieux vivre demain – Act today to live better tomorrow.

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sac de Carrefour - Agir aujourd'hui pour mieux vivre demain.

As opposed to most of the bags that I’ve seen in the US, not only is the bag re-usable, but I believe you can return it to the store and exchange it for a new one (“Sac réutililisable, échangable à vie” – Recyclable bag, exchangable for life).

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"Sac réutililisable, échangable à vie" - Recyclable bag, exchangable for life

Clearly I need to return to France to check on this policy. I will make any excuse to travel!

Happy Earth Day! Bon Jour de la Terre!

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springtime in manhattan

I was back in New York for less than 24 hours this week.

I was there for the annual reception that the non-profit on whose advisory board I sit has been holding for the past two years to honor community leaders’ work in ending family violence. Before heading home the next day, I wandered around my old haunts and in addition to the weather, about 20° F warmer than in Boston, there were some of the familiar tell-tale signs that Spring is hitting Manhattan.

First, the construction. I’m not talking about the UES falling cranes-type of construction to erect yet another east-of Lex monolith cookie-cutter apartment building that had the Times proclaiming the Fifth Mad Park once tony neighborhood one of the cheapest places to live (ahem…Yorkville anyone?). That, I’ve never had the patience for.  But, there is something strangely soothing about the life that “MEN AT WORK” orange signs, on-the-ground, public works construction lends to a city. The idea of renewal. Spring cleaning all around. Paving the roads after a long winter that someone had decided is over.Fixing the potholes.  Do you hear that, Boston? I repeat, Manhattan is fixing its potholes!

Then there are the flowers, struggling in their little urban gardens. Granted, I didn’t make it to Central Park where the trees blossom around the reservoir just a few weeks after cherry blossoms grace Washington, DC. But I did spy a few little blooms peeking out from their 2X3-foot cell on the sidewalk near the parked cars.

first spring blossoms in NYC urban garden

But, the true sign of Spring for me in Manhattan is when the fruit (and vegetable) guys return.

corner fruit (and vegetable) stand

Adorning (or shall I say staking their claim on) nearly every corner in my neighborhood and across much of Manhattan are fruit vendors. Some sell vegetables, like this guy above, but it’s the fruit that I’m after. Nothing fancy. Not much organic. No farmers’ market here. This is just how I would pick up some fresh fuit almost every day on my way home from work. Everything in the City is about convenience, so sometimes I would take a different train so that I would make sure to pass Rana, my fruit guy on my corner, because once I passed my apartment, I wouldn’t go back out to just grab some fruit. Rana knew I was loyal — I only went to the guy across the street when he was out of something I needed — so, sometimes he’d spot me an avocado or two on Saturdays on my way back from synagogue because he knew I didn’t carry money on the sabbath. I was always sad when Rana and the other fruit guys packed up when the temperature dropped, but like clockwork, they always returned with the sunshine.

corner fruit stand, extra inventory in the car

extra inventory in the car

One more image that I can’t resist sharing. Two gentlemen in Highland dress (not quite complete or formal, but a version of Highland dress nonetheless) also enjoying the Spring weather.

Highland dress

On the T back in Boston, I saw a man dressed like a yellow cow, or a “cowpie” to be exact, on his way to attend a Bruins (hockey?) game. He wouldn’t let me take his picture. But he wasn’t showing any leg.

Manhattan 1. Boston 0.

But who’s keeping score?

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Last night I meet a new friend, Katie, for drinks at Garden at the Cellar on Mass Ave between Central and Harvard Squares. We were given a wine menu, but I immediately flipped the menu over to search for cocktails. Two immediately caught my eye, and with my penchant for fresh herbs, I’m sure you can guess which I ordered.

Garden at the Cellar - Cocktail Menu

The bartender, Heather, was nice and friendly, without being overbearing. You could tell that she really enjoyed her work and created the unique concoctions that I was so excited to imbibe. 

Heather, ready with a smile and a drink

Heather, ready with smile and drink

Heather explained that the Lavender Cosmo is a simple syrup *infused with lavender* (sound familiar?), vodka, in this case, Svedka, a dash of cranberry juice, and a sprinkling of dried lavender. Shake, drain, and pour into a chilled glass. She was kind enough to make a little extra for Katie to try.

Lavender Cosmo - Garden at the Cellar

Unlike most cosmos, this one is not too sweet. It’s like the “Sex and the City” ladies all grown up, maybe moved to Cantabrigia. A little more sophistocated, a little more intellectual. No more Peter Pan syndrome. We’re ready for real life here, but with a hint of Paris …well, maybe Provence. One can only take a SATC analogy so far.

My one critique of the Lavender Cosmo is that while absolutely beautiful, the lavender buds are difficult to drink around and I did find myself having to … how can I say this delicately?… dispose of them in my napkin. I guess, like high heels, sometime aesthetics win over practicality. Even in Boston and Cambridge with all those cobblestones, I usually just walk on the paved streets (no Manolos, but some pretty rocking heels nonetheless) and avoid the cars driving by…

Katie soon enough ordered the Basil Lemon Drop. Fresh basil leaves (when available, which they were in this  gastropub adorned by an edible potted garden) were muddled before us into a simple syrup (or otherwise would have been infused into simple syrup, as with the lavender), shaken with Stoli and lemon juice, and then poured into a glass whose rim was dipped in a mix of sugar and minced basil. The drink was then further garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of basil flower. And not the flower of just any basil plant. The flower of a Thai basil plant. Thai basil is purple. And so are its flowers. (By comparison, my own large leaf Italian basil plant has white flowers.)

Basil Lemon Drop - Garden at the Cellar

Stunning as my (Philadelphia) Bubbie would say.

Again, Heather poured a little extra into a small glass for me to try (probably since I was snapping so many pictures!). This green and purple beauty was a little sweeter than the Lavender Cosmo, given its sugared rim, but still not overwhelmingly sweet like you might expect from the lemon drop shot that its name suggests. I’d call this drink the ultimate in sophistication … this one is Paris, sitting outside a bistro at 10 pm in November under the heating lamps and canopy as it gently rains outside and friends, new and old, keep dropping by to say hello.

I had to run off to a fundraiser, but Katie promised to let me know what  food she ordered and whether it lived up to the high expectations set by our drinks.

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I try to listen to my body. So when I wasn’t feeling well and craving meat, knowing that I’m often anemic, I didn’t waste much time. Because when I’m hungry, I need to eat!

Without easy access to a (kosher) butcher or deli here in Cambridge, I don’t have many options. Granted, my options were probably a bit wider than most given the, er, interesting way I shop for food. In my fridge is meat that I have from France – some saucisson sec and beef chorizo - and a bag of beef jerky that I found in the Kosher Marketplace on my most recent trip to NY. The beef jerky won because … well … I felt the French meat deserved to be shared.

I ripped the bag open and took a tentative first bite. See, I’m not typically a jerky kind of gal. I have been known every once in a while to make mac and cheese from a box (much to Ellie/the Baking Architect’s shock and chagrin), but for the most part, I’m a fancy little lady.

The jerky was chewy and tough – just like a cowboy would want to snack on during the day. Not too salty, not spicy, not overpowering. Just dried meat. I reached my hand back into the bag.  Maybe I would save some  jerky to throw on top of a salad. A couple bites. Spinach with tomato and avocado. The picture would be nice – the thin brown pieces atop the green leaves. A few more pieces.  Maybe a lemon vinaigrette. Keep chewing.

Before I knew it (and you saw this coming), the bag was empty. I’ll have to buy some more — luckily the company offers free shipping in the continental US!

beef jerky

The jerky is made by RJs and supervised by the RCC (Rabbinical Council of California). Ingredients are pretty simple which is probably what makes it good quality — beef, low sodium soy sauce, brown sugar, liquid smoke. Each bag is 3 ounces (3 servings) and pretty low in fat, high in protein, and high in sodium. Nutritional information is available on the website.

If only they made South African biltong or boerewors … because Kosher Heaven is no longer anywhere to be found on the web!

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