Archive for July, 2009

no sriracha in sight

-022 sharp panorama

About six weeks ago, I started the following post draft as I was cooking dinner and got distracted before I could finish.

After a hedonistic feast in New York that I thoroughly enjoyed, I was happy to get home to some CSA veggies, simply prepared. I opened my fridge to see what had made it through the weekend. The lemon balm had seen better days, and I was not so sad, for after walking by a cleaning crew in the subway, I recalled what the smell was a not-so-subtle reminder of. The 2 remaining turnips were OK, not great, and their greens are fading fast. The chard and collard greens were going strong, and the baby bok choy and scallions were hitting peak. I had some tofu, so I figured a veggie stir-fry was in order.

I had planned to spice up my dish with sriracha (the brand I always buy is Huy Fong) but to my dismay, had none anywhere in my kitchen. This is such a staple in my home that when my neighbors were moving and cleaning out their fridge, offering me their half-opened bottle, I scoffed, saying, “I must have at least a bottle if not two upstairs.” Imagine my shock when I scoured my cupboard but it was bare, at least as far as sriracha was concerned.

So trek out to the mean streets of Cantabrigia, Central Square to be exact, at a few minutes to 8 I did, in search of this apparently elusive ingredient. Afterknocking on a few neighbors’ doors first (no one was home). Three grocery stores in a 5 block radius, I figured my odds were pretty good. I first tried Shalimar, my local Indian grocer and spice store because it closed at 9. No luck – they only had chili garlic sauce.

Next door, Harvest Co-op should have been a sure thing. I mean, a store that sells bulk spices and dried beans to the crunchiest of crunch? I searched every aisle and even asked the store manager, finally storming out of the co-op, exclaiming in a too-loud voice, “How do you NOT have sriracha? This is Cambridge, for G-d’s sake!”

Final stop, Whole Foods. Nope. They had one random brand that had fish extract in it – sorry, that’s not sriracha.

I returned home empty-handed.


A final knock on the same neighbors’ doors. My next-door neighbor was home, but poor guy, his wife and infant son were out of the country for a few weeks and he was a born-again bachelor, eating pre-frozen, labeled dinners. He opened his pantry and looked at it bewildered, letting me rummage around a bit. Still no luck.

That night, I had turned to Twitter, tweeting out my frustration, and got a few words of consolation after the fact (including an offer from @alizakaila at KosherGourmetMart to send me some sriracha). Before leaving my apartment, I had sent out an SOS message and here’s what the “tweetlog” looked like:

must return foodie status — about to make tofu stirfry w/ bok choi and spring onions from my CSA and I have no sriracha. off 2 store…7:55 PM Jun 22nd from TweetDeck

RT @sweetamandine Congrats to all involved. RT @steamykitchen FINALLY! I don’t have to keep this project secret anymore … www.goodbite.com 9:37 PM Jun 22nd from TweetDeck

scoured 3 grocery stores including my local Indian grocer – no Sriracha in sight. neighbors also turned up empty. back to basics…9:47 PM Jun 22nd from TweetDeck

You may wonder what that middle message is — it’s actually the most important one because it introduced me to Jaden Hair over at Steamy Kitchen.

Jaden and a few other bloggers that I had previously come across had just launched GoodBite — a compendium of the best of the food web, “delicious made easy” is their verbiage — and I was drawn in to Jaden’s site that I browsed through as I set my canola oil to heat, having already chopped up my veggies, garlic, and ginger, and checked on the tofu that I had cubed and pressed before leaving for the store.

Sweet serendipity!

I came across a post about cooking bok choy and with snappy rules like, “hot wokky, no stikky” – “cold wokky, very garlickky” and of course, “young grasshoppa, let me show you the way” (OK, that one was just a bit gratuitous, but I couldn’t resist), how could I not listen? I immediately commented on her post (wow … look at the time … I was really getting hungry!):

Zahavah says:

Just came across your site via a tweet from sweetamandine. And such serendipity – I am making a bok choy dish tonight and was heating up the oil. Turned burner off, letting oil cool, and will reheat with garlic and ginger. Beautiful pictures!

It was too late to re-chop my baby bok choy like Jaden’s pictures, but I did just as I commented. And the result was stellar. Even thought I didn’t cover the wok (ok, I don’t have a wok — we’re adding that to the list) to let the veggies steam and get brilliant green, I so loved what I made that I didn’t miss the sriracha at all.


And the reason for this post tonight of all nights?

Because I never went out to buy sriracha. And I made stir-fry this way a few more times, including tonight to use up more CSA baby bok choy and some gorgeous 8-ball zucchini that I bought at the Harvard farmers’ market a week ago …

zucchini at Harvard Farmers' Market

and had hoped to stuff and bake, but life got in the way and as some of my veggies are wont to go, they had seen better days.

Bok Choy Tofu Stir-fry


I picked up the cold-oil technique from Jaden/Steamy Kitchen’s bok choy recipe, but if you want your vegetables to be vibrant green, you should read her recipe and tips more closely. The rest is how I’ve been stir-frying for years. It might not be so authentic, but it’s how I like things. The quantities here are pretty approximate because I very rarely measure when stir-frying – this is a taste-as-you-go kind of dish for me, but this should give you an idea of how I pull everything together.

Serves 2. Or 1 with some leftovers for lunch (and to snap pictures in daylight). Or 1 very hungry girl.

You want to prep everything in advance so that when your wok is hot, you can throw everything in and cook it all up pretty quickly. Most of the time required for a stir-fry is the cleaning and chopping.

Cube and cut a package of firm tofu at least an hour in advance and press some of the moisture out between paper towels. I often place the tofu on a bed of paper towels in a colander, cover with more towels, and then place a plate on top, weighted down with a can of beans. Keep changing the paper towels as they absorb some of the tofu’s moisture – the idea is that the tofu should be pretty dry when you put it in the wok.

Prepare a whole lot of garlic and ginger – as much as you want…I used 2-3 cloves garlic and ~ 1.5 t ginger (a chunk about 2 thumbs wide) here. I chop my garlic pretty fine with a big chef’s knife (or often cheat with the stuff you get in a jar and keep in the fridge) and grate my garlic on a cute little fish-shaped grater after peeling. I usually keep ginger in the freezer because otherwise it dries out or gets moldy in the fridge. It defrosts pretty quickly.

Cut up your veggies. You can use whatever looks good to you. On the night in question (i.e., the one that I captured in photos), I used a few CSA veggies — 1 baby bok choy, 3 spring onions — and 1 can of straw mushrooms. Separate the bok choy leaves from the central stem and let soak in cold water to remove dirt, then run under cold water and remove any remaining dirt with your fingers. Cut perpendicular to stem into ribbon-like strips. According to Jaden, keep the little center intact – this is the nugget (how cute!). Clean the spring onions under cold water and remove the outer (sometimes slimy) layer and any clinging dirt (check the green tops, especially if they have separated because that’s where dirt might be hiding). Chop off the hairy ends and then slice rounds of white and light green. Drain the straw mushrooms.

Gather the rest of your ingredients: 1-2 T canola oil, 1-2 t sesame oil, 1 t hot pepper oil, 1 t ersatz chicken soup mix (yup – this is just that MSG stuff…but Jaden says she likes MSG…) dissolved in ½ C water OR chicken stock OR veggie stock, a dash of soy sauce/tamari, juice of ½ lemon (~2t), and 1 t corn starch (have this ready in its own little bowl).

Now, get ready to act fast. Pour canola oil in wok or large sauté pan (I use a Calphalon hard anonized pan) with the ginger and garlic over pretty high heat (medium-high or high). Keep moving the wok around and use a silicone spatula or fancy Asian tool if you have one (I don’t) to prevent the garlic/ginger mix from burning. When you can smell the spices, after about a minute or so, add tofu with sesame and hot pepper oil (to taste) and let it start to brown on all sides. Add the spring onions and then bok choy, for another minute or two (cover with top if you have one and let everything steam). Add the mushrooms last  because they only need to heat up. Pour in the stock and soy sauce/tamari, and squeeze the lemon-half over the wok.

To thicken sauce, add a few spoonfuls of the hot sauce from the pan into the bowl with the corn starch and mix well. The pour this sort of milky mix back into the wok and incorporate it into the sauce. Keep stirring the whole stir-fry with your spatula or switch over to tongs.

The whole process take me about 6-10 minutes — I’m not a fast stir-fryer. Also, my tofu always sticks to my pan. Perhaps my motto should be “anonized panny – major stickky!”

This is great served over rice, or plain.

-020 sharp

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no (e)scape from destiny


Updated photo: I made this pesto again this summer and took a few more pictures. (September 2013)

garlic scape pesto

Joining a CSA has really expanded my food repertoire. Kale. Hakurei turnips and chard. Last week, dandelion greens (hmmm…yeah, they’re still in the fridge). I was most excited about the garlic scapes that I got a few weeks ago because I had read about them in the foodblogosphere and had just recently seen a recipe for scape pesto posted on Dorie Greenspan’s website.

I had grand plans to make this pesto in mid-June, even offering to take scapes off the hands of fellow CSAers who might be befuddled by the strange scraggly curly creatures, but kept getting side-tracked by travel, life, an extravagant meal, and a friend visiting from Paris. All good things, but my small allotment of scapes sat lonely in the fridge, the ends slowly turning from their bright green to a sad pale yellow.


A “fleeting pleasure” according to Dorie with their short June season (we’re not really on a first name basis, but calling her Ms. Greenspan seems a bit formal…I hope she’ll forgive me this gaffe). Would their long sojourn in my vegetable crisper ruin their delicate flavor?

I put them on my counter, playing with their beautiful curves, snapping photos along the way, and these wiley creatures seemed to cry out to be used up, literally crawling into my mini-food processor.

scapes, crawling up

scapes, crawling in

Apparently, a scape can’t escape its destiny, and who am I to deny this little guy its inevitable future? So, scape pesto I made. With only 3 measly scapes, I cut Dorie’s recipe down appropriately, failed to use any measuring cups (par for the course in my book) and probably added too many almonds, liberally dousing the mix with a mild extra virgin (not that intense Unió because I wanted to let the scapes shine in all their glory).

The end result was light and fresh, though not as green as Dorie’s. Alas, those several weeks I so thoughtlessly squandered! Perched atop some perciatelli with lots of parmigiana, and then mixed in, the scapes seemed at home. Destiny delivered on a fork and a spoon.

scape pesto on perciatelli

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you had me at lamb

spoon lamb with brown rice

If you’re a foodblogger, do you sometimes find that you cook more for your blog than you do for your friends?

Well, I was clearly doing that on Friday.

What was I thinking? The below menu for two people? Please, feel free to laugh. That’s what I did! You can see what I planned and then what really happened.

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 baked it at 425º instead of 450º — recipe not yet perfected

Unió olive oil for dipping — this stuff is good enough plain (there’s a pic of it in my kibbutz herb salad) 

Roasted garlic forgot to serve

Warm za’atar olives forgot to make

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon-cumin sauce a hit!

Bean and walnut paté – recipe in the Ana Sortun link, not seasoned enough, a bit unctuous, and we didn’t even touch it despite its being on the table

Vic’s salad: Israeli-style salad with olivesdidn’t serve because I had made it earlier in the day and  it was not fresh enough for my Israeli friend’s palate…that’s OK, we had WAY too much other food

Green salad (maybe) nope

Spoon lamb (see below) – FABULOUS!

Couscousno couscous in pantry, made brown basmati rice with caramelized onions instead

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup (or a splash of lemon juice + mint) √ fresh from Harvard Yard farmers market near the Science Center

If I have time: Almond butter cookies with just almonds (no chocolate chunks)no time

Just in case: a slice of apple strudel and mini fruit tart from Catering by Andrew (the only place I know of around here to pick up good kosher patisserie) √ thank G-d for plan B, and the tart had a nice almond frangipane base


Ummm, in case you couldn’t quite follow that, here’s what we actually ate:

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Unió olive oil for dipping

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon-cumin sauce

Spoon lamb (recipe below)

Brown basmati rice with caramelized onions

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup

A slice of apple strudel and mini fruit tart from Catering by Andrew

While impressed with the variety and ambition of the meal, my friend said that I could have made only the lamb and tortellini, and he would have been just as impressed. And thrilled with dinner. I said next time, I’m just making spaghetti and meatballs…

But, honestly, this lamb was amazing. I’ve never made lamb before and this could not have been easier (most of the time is spent with the lamb in the oven). I was a bit apprehensive because I know that lamb is fatty, but this recipe came out not only exquisitely tender (hence the name “spoon lamb”), but the fat cooked off into the braising sauce, and you then skim it off after refrigerating. For a first attempt at a recipe, this was incredibly rewarding.

Ana Sortun’s Spoon Lamb

Spoon Lamb

The recipe is adapted from Ana Sortun’s Spoon Lamb in “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean,” as quoted in Julia Moskin’s NYT article entitled, THE CHEF: ANA SORTUN; Spices by the Handful, Not by the Pinch” (June 14, 2006). The main modification I made is that I halved the recipe, and have reflected that in my quantities here. I did however keep the amount of vegetables the same. Time: 3 hours plus at least 1 hour’s chilling.

Serves 2 with lots and lots of leftovers.

– 1T canola oil
– 3 lamb shoulder chops, 10 to 12 ounces each
– 1 1/4 cups dry red wine (I used an excellent Bordeaux)
– 2 t ground cumin
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
– 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
– 1 T pomegranate concentrate – I used Sadaf brand (RCC), purchased at Tabrizi Bakery in Watertown, MA (original recipe called for pomegranate molasses, sold in Middle Eastern markets)
-2 T cold unsalted margarine, cut into 2 pieces (original recipe called for butter, but I substituted margarine to keep the dish kosher)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 lemon, halved
– 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint (optional – I fogot this!)

Rather than using multiple pots and pans (the original recipe calls for at least one skillet and a roasting pan), I made the entire dish in a single large deep Calphalon skillet that went pretty easily from stovetop to oven. I covered the plastic-coated handles in aluminum foil to protect them in the oven.

Heat oven to 325ºF. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb chops and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes a side. Remove chops to a plate.

lamb chops in skillet

browned 4 mins, each side

Pour off any fat from skillet and deglaze with 1/4 cup red wine, scraping up browned bits.

Replace chops in skillet roasting pan and sprinkle cumin over lamb. Add garlic, carrot, onion, remaining 1 cup wine and enough water to reach halfway up chops (I always add a bit extra water, actually reaching about 3/4 up the chops). Cover with two sheets of aluminum foil and seal tightly with lid of skillet. Braise in oven 2 1/2 hours, until falling off bone.

after 2.5 hours braising

Remove lamb and carrots from pan. Strain juices (pressing remaining solids through cheesecloth) into a bowl. Refrigerate braising liquid until fat rises to surface and can be skimmed off and discarded, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Lamb and carrots can be refrigerated separately.)

090 sharp square
In a skillet big enough to hold lamb (I used the same one that I initially browned the lamb chops in), simmer liquid until reduced by about half and thickened but not syrupy (~7 minutes). Stir in pomegranate concentrate and margarine, and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in one lemon half. Taste and add more lemon and salt, if necessary. Reheat lamb and carrots in sauce over low heat, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with mint, if desired (I forgot), and with rice.

no knife or fork necessary

A special thank you to Anu from Swirl Savvy for some last minute wine tips, and the staff at the Butcherie for their assistance in choosing three beautiful bone-in shoulder chops for this dish, explaining how to identify quality cuts with a good ratio of meat, bone, and fat (beginning to redeem themselves via quality customer service, despite some of my initial reservations about their hours).

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Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the AMIA, the Argentina-Israeli Mutual Association (the equivalent of a JCC — Jewish Community Center — in the US), in Buenos Aires, claiming 85 lives (I’ve seen the toll at 86 also). I have compiled a few videos, pulling together the ones with English subtitles. In 2004, 10 Argentinian film-makers created a documentary-drama called “18-J” referring to the 18th of July, the date of the attack, containing 10 ten-minute vignettes and focusing on the universality of the tragedy (note, I have not seen the film; rather I am basing my commentary on what I have read).

The following TV spot, with English subtitles, was released a few weeks ago.

This is the full-length video that was, I believe, aired on national TV yesterday at 9:53 am showing pictures and reading the names of the victims.

This short 2008 TV spot is a tribute to the 85 terrorist victims.

Despedidas” 18J. English version

This video was made last year for the film “18-J” at the Cannes Film Festival and discusses how the Argentine community came together to raise awareness and commemorate the victims.

A few articles that I came across:

– This year’s tribute was cancelled due to the H1N1 outbreak, by which Argentina has been particularly hard-struck (with a high mortality rate, thought the overall incidence could be under-reported).

– The Forward published an opinion piece this week about continued vigilance necessary in efforts to thwart the relationship between Iran, especially given its current political and civil unrest, and Latin America.

Please share this post as appropriate and correct anything that I may have misinterpreted/poorly translated.

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sneak peek

Vic's olivey Israeli-style salad

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)

Roasted garlic

Warm za’atar olives

Spicy carrot tortellini

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: "falling off the bone"


Roasted asparagus

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’s Salad

Vic's Salad

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.

Veggies, olives, and 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.”

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le drapeau au port

Aujourd’hui, le quatorze juillet, ma mere m’a donné un petit (petit? bah non…grand!) cadeau. Une cocotte* ovale Le Creuset. Bonne fête à (pour?) moi.

Cocotte ovale (Oval French Oven, 6 ¾ qt. )

Cocotte ovale (Oval French Oven, 6 ¾ qt. )

Today, the fourteenth of July, my mom gave me a small (well, not so small … actually pretty large!) gift. A Le Creuset oval French oven (sometimes referred to as a “Dutch oven”). Happy Bastille day to me!

The Le Creuset Outlet near my parents was having a sale on all red enamel cookware, and when my mother called, they even offered to ship this incredibly heavy pot to me for free. It should arrive this weekend. I can’t wait.

For those who are loyal readers of this little project of mine, first off, thank you! Second, you might recall a little complaining that I’ve done about braising meat in a too-big pan without a cover and ending up with some extra, ahem, unintended caramelized crusty bits. I now finally have the right sized pot!

All that was exacted from me was a promise to make a brisket or some other meat in the cocotte the next time my parents visit. Ummmm … I’ll have to think about that one. Hello. I. Write. A. Food. Blog.

Fear not. The cocotte will be used. Many times.

Merci bien, mommy! Yes, I’m t****-something years old and I still call my mother “mommy.”


La Tour Eiffel, Juillet 2007

* I will adopt the terminology cocotte for my cadeau — much cuter than French or Dutch oven, n’est ce pas? It refers to a casserole or stewpan, but I like how it sounds a bit like coquette — let’s focus on its fun flirty nature, and ignore its insincerity and hope that my little (heavy!) cocotte treats me well.

Post script: the top picture was taken at the port of Nice, near the old city (vieille ville). For those who have asked or who are curious, this is also where my banner picture comes from. Contrary to some who have thought it is a random Caribbean island, it is not. If you walk from the port along the water in the direction of the main beach (towards the Promenade des Anglais), you’ll happen upon this concrete “beach” which I discovered on my last day in Nice and found strangely irresistible for some summer-end reflection and journaling. I’ll probably change my banner to a more foodie-appropriate one at some point, but for me, France — both Paris and Provence — holds special food and life inspiration.

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I’ve been back from vacation in Panama for several days and have just resigned myself to admitting that I will be backdating my blog posts for a while because I like having a chronological record of what I’ve been up to, but I can’t resist posting the new things that I’ve been cooking or experiencing. So, it’s cheating a little bit, but I’m admitting it outright…and I’m being fully transparent.

It’s my blog and I’ll backdate if I want to!

Ok, needless apology over, let’s move on.

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon cumin sauce

One of my favorite foodbloggers is Sarah over at FoodBridge. When I joined FoodBuzz a few months ago, she was one of the first “friends” I made and we have developed a consistent dialogue over our blogs and Twitter despite the physical distance that separates us. I’m always inspired by the food she makes, the history she collects about dishes and ingredients and her friends and neighbors, and her daily adventures in the markets, beaches, and nature in one of my favorite countries and its surroundings (and the recipes she discovers from friends made along the way). And her judo-attired son bakes cookies and cleans up!

I have been thinking about the Moroccan Carrot Ravioli with Lemon Zest and Harissa that Sarah made a few weeks ago, and last night was the night to finally make this dish. The main food I had in my kitchen was a bunch of CSA greenery (parsley, cukes, scallions) that would lend themselves nicely to a big Israeli-style salad when added to a few tomatoes and olives, garlic scapes (ooh, I can’t wait to make Dorie Greenspan’s scape pesto), and a pound of carrots (but no onions which I would have needed if I wanted to make a soup).

I also dug around and found some schug in the fridge (which I often substitute for harissa in a pinch because the commercially available schug in the US is very similar and made with red chili peppers though the authentic Yemenite version is made from hot green peppers and cilantro) and a package of wonton wrappers in the freezer. Given that my pasta maker is at my parents’ house and is too heavy to reasonably ship (yes, when I was in 6th grade and we had to prepare a meal for our families and write it up to learn how to give clear directions, I, the annoying over-achiever, managed to prepare steak, homemade pasta, and chocolate chip pound cake in comparison to classmates’ PB&J sandwiches…), the wonton wrappers would have to do. As a lazy and hungry foodie, I use wrappers all the time.

Now, Sarah incorporated her spicy harissa into her pasta dough, but I couldn’t since I was using wontons, so I decided to make a spicier filling, pilfered from Ana Sortun’s Oleana restaurant. If you live in Cambridge, Boston, or within a 100 mile radius, a visit to Sortun’s restaurant or cafe is de rigueur — check out what my friend and fellow blogger, Jess wrote about Oleana and Sofra over at Sweet Amandine.

Spicy Carrot Tortellini with Lemon Cumin Sauce

spicy carrot tortellini with lemon cumin sauce

The overall recipe and sauce are inspired  by Sarah Melamed’s Moroccan Carrot Ravioli with Lemon Zest and Harissa. The filling is just barely modified from Ana Sortun’s Spicy Carrot Puree in “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean,” as quoted in Julia Moskin’s NYT article entitled, THE CHEF: ANA SORTUN; Spices by the Handful, Not by the Pinch” (June 14, 2006). The filling is easy to make and most of the time is spent away from the kitchen as the carrots cook or letting the flavors co-mingle. Plus everything is made in one pot! Wonton wrappers when boiled allow the bright orange filling to shine through and the sweet-spicy mix picks up the acidity in the fresh squeeze of lemon in the sauce/dressing. This sauce was inspired by the lemon zest that Sarah put in her filling.

For the filling: (Note: I halved Chef Sortun’s recipe because I only had 1 pound of carrots)

This filling can also serve as a spread and makes 4 to 6 servings, or~1.5 C

– 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
– 3 T extra virgin olive oil, more to taste
– 1 T white wine vinegar
– 2 t schug or harissa (hot pepper sauce available at Middle Eastern and specialty markets; original recipe calls for harissa but I only had schug in my fridge; the brand I used is Sabra)
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
– Salt and pepper to taste

(NOTE: These directions were pretty perfect, so I kept them pretty much as is…)

Boil carrots until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return to pan, tossing over medium heat until dry. Coarsely mash with potato masher or fork.

mashed carrots

Stir in remaining ingredients and set aside for 30 minutes to let flavors blend. Season, transfer to bowl, drizzle with more olive oil and serve with crusty bread, if desired. Or, use as tortellini or other pasta filling.

Sortun's spicy carrot puree

For the tortellini:

Wonton wrappers (the brand I used is Nasoya)
Bowl of water

Once you get the hang of it, making the tortellini by hand is pretty quick and easy.You want to keep the wrappers from drying out so that they won’t crack, so only peel them from the stack one at a time and keep the rest in the packaging or under a barely moist paper towel.

Hold a wrapper in your hand and spoon ~ 1 heaping t of filling into center. Dip your index finger of the other hand into the bowl of water and moisten two edges of the wrapper.

filled and ready to fold

Fold wrapper in half diagonally, sealing the wet edges into a triange…

make a triangle

… and then bring the two long corners together opposite of the other corner, sealing with another dab of water to form a tortellini.

tortelllini formed

Repeat with the remaining wrappers (I made 10 for myself).

tortellinis and filling

Carefully drop tortellinis into salted boiling water, lower heat, and simmer for ~ 5 minutes.

Prepare sauce:

This is enough sauce for 1 serving – modify as appropriate. I’m not sure if it’s technically called a sauce if it’s not cooked … perhaps this is just a dressing.

Juice of 1/2 lemon (~1-2 T)
1-2 T excellent extra virgin olive oil
a few pinches cumin (~1/4 t?)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and pour over warm pasta.

I served the pasta with a simple salad of red leaf topped with hummus, za’atar, extra virgin, salt and pepper, and whatever lemon juice was left over from the lemon half that didn’t go into the sauce.


If you want to make your own harissa, check out Sarah’s recipe.

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