Archive for the ‘fruit’ Category

say it out loud

It’s apple picking time!Would you believe that I’ve never been? Yup, it’s true. I am an apple picking novice. But no longer.

With a group of friends, some old, some new, I drove about hour outside the city to the North Shore, passing farm stands along the way. It was actually so beautifully sunny that I got a sunburn. These days, I welcome any sunshine and color I can attract.

At the orchard, we forewent the hay ride and took the 15 minute walk (hike?) up to the orchards. On the way, we got in trouble for picking  bosc pears. After I snacked on one and stuck two in my bag.

Ten pounds of apples in a bag, I rushed home to make strudel.

Correction – apfelstrudel. And you have to call it apfelstrudel with a German accent. Roll the Rs in back of your throat. Ap-fel-shtroooodel. Say it out loud.  A few times. It’s fun.

Apfelstrudel with cinnamon caramel

I asked my German friend, Melanie, how she makes apfelstrudel. She laughed. She said she loves it, but have never made it. Even so, she had some important guidelines, er, taste preferences. Luckily our taste buds match up pretty well. Her main recommendation was not to add raisins. Another friend of mine seconded those instructions and, as a frequent strudel maker, gave me a few more tips. Add a little flour to the apples to help thicken the liquids. Cut the apples into larger chunks so they don’t get mushy when they bake. Make sure to stretch the pastry taut over the apple chunks so you can see their shapes through the dough. And use an egg wash over the top before baking. Try adding some toasted pecans or walnuts to the apples. 

This recipe makes 2 apfelstrudels. It’s a great last-minute Rosh Hashanah dessert, but you might have to double this recipe  (you can always have leftovers for breakfast). I held off on the pecans until the next batch.

– 1 box / 2 sheets puff pastry (I generally use Pepperidge Farm)

– 5 large apples – I often use a mix of firm sweet and tart apples – this time I used Jonagold and Granny Smith

– 3 T lemon juice

– 1 C sugar

– 1 T  flour

– 2 T cinnamon

– 1 egg

– confectioners sugar

Thaw. Thaw the puff pastry – don’t unfold it (I find that the pastry can crack at the 2 folds). Thawing takes about 20 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat. Preheat oven to 425º F.

Peel and chop. Peel the apples. Cut them into ~1/2 – 3/4 inch chunks. Not too small.

Mix. Add the apples to a big bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Sprinkle with flour, sugar, and cinnamon and mix.

Roll. Keep the puff pastry folded and place on a floured sheet of parchment paper (the same size as your cookie sheet.  Roll out the puff pastry pretty thin into a rectangle nearly as long as your cookie sheet.

Stretch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the apple mixture to the puff pastry in a line a few inches from the long edge. Spread the apples evenly end to end. Try not to get too much liquid onto the pastry – save this liquid in the bowl for later. Take the edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples. Take the opposite edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples (this is a little easier than rolling the apples). If you have extra pastry, keep stretching and rolling a until the seam side is down. Tuck the ends under.

Brush. Transfer the parchment with the strudel to a baking sheet. Whisk together the egg and some cold water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the strudel. Using a sharp knife, make a few diagonal slices in the dough. This mostly looks pretty.

Bake. Bake the strudel for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and shiny. Cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

Boil. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice – sugar – cinnamon mixture to a  boil. It will thicken into a loose  caramel.

Serve. Once the strudel has cooled, serve slices dusted with confectioners sugar and a side of cinnamon caramel sauce.

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he grabbed my hand

For the past 3 years, I have walked by my neighbor’s house nearly every day, staring at their carport. No, they don’t have a car that I covet. They have grapes that I covet. Big fat juicy concord grapes. I covet concords.

As I walked by their carport this morning I stared up at the vines normally heavy with grapes, and I saw … stems.

A father-son pair stood beneath those naked vines, hosing down the carport. “Good morning,” I said. “What happened to the grapes?”

“We just harvested them,” replied the father.

“Wanna see?” asked the son.

He grabbed my hand and scampered up the stairs. “We just picked boxes and boxes of them. I’m Noah.”

“I’m Gayle. You must really like grapes.”

Noah nodded.

“Are you gonna eat all of them?”

“No. Grampa makes jelly.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of jelly.”

Noah nodded.

“Do you know what I would do with all these grapes?”

Noah shrugged.

“I would make sorbet – it’s kinda like ice cream.”

Noah licked his lips. “Yum!”

“Would you like me to make some ice cream for you?”

Guess who brought  home a big bag of grapes!

The bunches climbed into a colander and took a few cold showers. The grapes said goodbye to their stems and assorted brethren – the travel weary, the old and wrinkly, the young and green.

The best of the crop took a dunk in the hot tub. A long dunk.

When they started to shed their skins, they knew they were done.

They left their skins and seeds behind, and, without a single glance back, dove right in to join their skinny dipping friends.

They then cozied up to a bar for a few cocktails, picked up some sweeties, and puckered up. (I added to the juice vodka, sugar, and lemon juice.)

Now, now, boys. It’s time to cool off. You’re gonna spend the night in the cooler.

These hooligans clean up nice, don’t they?

There was only one casualty.

I’m not sure there’s gonna be much left for Noah. But don’t feel bad for him. He has jelly.

Concord grape sorbet

I found inspiration for this sorbet in a few places. It seems that Gourmet, New York Magazine, and David Lebovitz all discovered and shared this gorgeous concoction in Autumn 2008 and 2009. I’m two to three years late here, folks. I guess that’s better than four years late. I always add some alcohol to sorbet so it keeps a smooth consistency and doesn’t get icy. I liked the NY Magazine version’s addition of a little lemon juice as well. I suspect you could make this with good pure grape juice (but what’s the fun in that?).

To get a smooth, silky texture that’s not icy, I use alcohol and an immersion blender. The alcohol (vodka here) prevents the sorbet from fully freezing. The immersion blender aerates the sorbet and this incorporated air helps with the texture. I happen to have the canister left over from an old Donvier ice cream maker — I keep it in the freezer to quick chill white wine — so that accelerated the process a bit. If you want the sorbet firmer, use less or no vodka. You can also adjust the suger based on the sweetness of the grape juice – as a general rule, sorbet should be a little bit sweeter than the juice (this is the case of all sorbets).

This recipe made approximately a quart (4 cups) of sorbet.

– 3.5 lbs grapes, straight from the vine, or 2.5 lbs grapes only (rinsed, de-stemmed, and yucky ones removed)

– 1/4 C water

– 1/4 C sugar

– 1/4 C vodka

– 2 T lemon juice

Clean. Rinse grapes in cold water, and then sort through, removing stems and any grapes that are dried, split, or green.

Simmer. In a non-reactive pot (I used hard-anonized), simmer, covered, the cleaned grapes with water until the grapes get soft. By this point, the smell of grape juice will entice you back to the kitchen. Give the grapes a stir a few times to loosen the skins. This whole process took about 20 minutes.

Strain. Pour the grape concoction into a fine-mesh sieve in batches, and push juice out into a bowl beneath, leaving the stems and seeds behind. I used a wooden spoon to press out as much juice as I could. I ended up with about 2.5 cups of pure grape juice.

Mix. Add sugar, vodka, and lemon juice to the grape juice and whir a few times with an immersion blender to dissolve the sugar. You’ll use the immersion blender again later.

Freeze and aerate. Pour the grape mix into a bowl, cake pan, or whatever you want and pop it into the freezer. The flatter the container, the quicker the sorbet will freeze. The more alcohol, the slower the sorbet will freeze. After about 2 hours, check on the sorbet. It should be about half frozen. Use the immersion blender to break up any icy bits. Return the sorbet to the freezer and repeat this every hour or so. If you forget and throw the sorbet in the freezer overnight, no problem – it will just take a few extra whirs with the blender to break up the solid mass the next morning.

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Do you know what these are?

They’re pibá.

Since it’s 6 am and I’m wide awake (did  you hear that? awake!) a full hour before my alarm goes off, I figure I’ll tell you a little about pibá while baking a cake (bread?) to pass the time. Since I can’t fall back asleep. Yeah…I’m wierd that way.

So, here’s the deal. Pibá is a fruit. In fact it’s the fruit of the palm tree. And it started our trip out to Santa Clara.

In case you don’t remember, two years ago, my friend Elvera and I went to Panama and stayed with our friends Joe and Victoria and baby Jack. We ate very very very well. We arrived on the day that a long awaited new road was opened in Panama City, and were some of its first passengers. Midway through our trip was a national holiday as President Martinelli was sworn in. Everyone was off work, so Vic, Elvera, and I prepared a picnic lunch (including some pibá), Joe packed up the car, and we all drove out to Santa Clara beach about an hour southwest of Panama City on the Pacific Ocean.

We stop along the Pan-American Highway at Quesos Chela – arguably the best cheese maker in the country …

… and kosher to boot.

After stocking up on a lot of dairy to supplement the cooked pibá and salads we packed, I settle down with a coconut. And a straw.

(Hold on, the oven is beeping. The cake is done.)

Twenty more minutes in the car, barely enough time for the cheese to reach perfect-for-eating room temperature, we drive up to a house.

We pull up alongside this bicycle.

We walk down a path.

We find our own private beach.

Look what’s waiting for us.

The weather quickly turns from sunny to overcast to downright stormy.

We pack up our bags and bid our oasis adieu.

(There goes my alarm. Time to get ready for work. Do you think my new colleagues will like the cake?)


Rinse pibá.

Drop into salted boiling water.

Boil for about 20 minutes until tender.

Rinse with cold water.

Let cool.

With a salt shaker nearby and a sharp knife, peel the orange skin and eat the white, starchy fruit. It tastes a bit like a dense potato.

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he said she said

He walked through the door, bearing gifts. A bag of groceries – cheese, chicken, lemons, nectarines, and wine. Foraging through the pantry and fridge, he gathered the meal.

Bread with cheese to start things off, with a little care in the kosher kitchen where milk and meat are kept separate. Cheese stayed at one end of the dining room table.

On the kitchen counter, an assembly line was set up. A bottle of wine was opened and poured.

He said, every Jewish mother knows how to make schnitzel. No, she said, every Israeli mother knows how to make schnitzel. She was neither. She watched him carefully.

The pans heated and the schnitzel stacked up. Avoiding the splattering oil, she moved to the dining room and gathered linens, continuing to observe at a distance.

The table was set. The limonana was poured.

The smoke detector blared. Its battery was removed and all the windows and doors were opened. The breeze chased out the smoke. They sat down to dinner.

There were leftovers.


I had fresh lemonade at Joanne‘s this past winter. She uses Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa Cookbook) ratio of 4:1:0.5 water-lemon-sugar, and who can argue with the recommendations of a woman with a lemon tree in her backyard? You can obviously adjust to your own preferences and I sometimes use less sugar. When you add mint, called nana in Hebrew, lemonade (limonada in Hebrew) becomes limonana.

– 4C cold water

– 1C fresh lemon juice (or, in a pinch, you can cheat and use bottled 100% lemon juice)

– 1/2C sugar (superfine is best, but I have great results with regular granulated sugar)

– handful of mint

– ice cubes

Throw the first 3 ingredients in a blender. That’s it.

Either add mint to the blender as well for a green-tinted drink, or add a branch-worth of leaves to lemonade right before serving to turn the lemonade into limonana.


Schnitzel is breaded, fried chicken cutlets that are incredibly moist beneath the crispy crust. I don’t have exact quantities for this recipe, but more of a formula.

Slice boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets into thin strips, cover with wax paper or plastic wrap, and pound flat with a mallet. If yours has a tenderizing side, don’t use it. We made about one and three-quarters of a pound of chicken (3 large breasts) which we sliced into 12 strips.

Prepare four plates. Sprinkle flour on the first plate. On the second, break and beat a few eggs (we used 4). Dump a big pile of fine bread crumbs onto the third (you can also use panko, but I find the coating to be too thick and bready). Coat the chicken in flour, dredge through the egg, and coat with bread crumbs. Stack onto the fourth plate.

It’s best to use two pans to make quick work of the frying so you can serve all the chicken hot. Coat two pans with vegetable oil and turn heat to medium-high/high. Cover a fifth plate in paper towels and have the rest of the roll nearby. Once the oil is heated, add chicken to the pans in a single layer. Step away from the pan as you add the chicken (or if you’re cooking in a pair, the better dressed one should just step out of the kitchen and set the table) – this will splatter and make a mess. I think that’s part of the charm.  After a few minutes when one side has browned, flip the chicken and cook for another few minutes until brown on both sides. Remove the schnitzel and lay over paper towels in a single layer. Add more paper towels between each layer to absorb the oil.

Serve hot, sprinkled with salt, and plan for 2-3 schnitzel per person.

If you have any left over, slice and throw on a salad the next day.

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I was struggling to tell this story for weeks on end. Until a good friend reminded me of the beauty of intense brevity with what some may call Hemingway’s best short story: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment…





… and then share my second day in Panama with you. You can fill in the details.

Fruit never before seen. Not tasted.

Chef rescue. Try fruit. Make friend.

New Year. Re-taste fruit. Shehecheyanu. Blessed.

Hemingway I am not.

But, as the (Jewish) holiday season draws to a close, I wanted to share with you my wish for a year of new experience, fabulous adventure, and friends to share it with.

On that note, in just a few days, I am heading to Tokyo (and Paris) for work for two weeks. And a few days of adventure.

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I told you I’d be doing a little bit of virtual vacationing, so here is my first installment.

Almost a year ago, I went to Panama with my good friend Elvera. We stayed in Panama City for about half of our vacation, relying on the hospitality of my business school classmate, Joe, and his family, including his wife and son, and his parents. Everyone seemed happy to welcome two single girls to Panama, but more on that later.

The best part of my mornings was waking up early with little Jack and sneaking him out to the porch with a bottle to give his mom a few extra moments of sleep. We would lounge on the hammock lazily lapping up the few rays of sun slowly peeking out above the horizon.

After our early-morning nap, I was sometimes greeted by a glass of fruit juice. Not ordinary orange or grapefruit juice. No, this is Panama. One morning it was papaya juice, the next watermelon blended with ice and served in a frosty glass.

When Elvera and did venture out to Bocas del Toro, our AM breakfasts always included the same fruit salad – a mix of papaya, watermelon, and pineapple. And a lot of coffee. So, when I returned to my home, with neither hammock nor little Jackito nor the coordination to make a frosty fruit beverage, I recreated my tropical mornings with the same salad from Bocas.

Panama Fruit Salad

Choose the ripest papaya, watermelon, and pineapple you can find. Scoop seeds out of papaya and cut flesh into bite-sized chunks. Cut watermelon flesh into bite-sized chunks. Cut pineapple into bite-sized chunks (leaving out the stringy core). Add a few splashes of lime juice. Mix. Eat in the sunshine.

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’tis the season

Hello there. I know that most of my neighbors are dodging snow storms on the East Coast. And I feel sorry for you, I do. But, it’s strawberry season here in Israel and I just can’t resist sharing some pictures from the shuk (market).

After a traditional Israeli breakfast — shakshuka, salad, and labne — on X-mas morning…

… I headed to Mahene Yehuda on Friday afternoon and was overwhelmed by the rows and rows and piles and piles of strawberries. Deep red, huge, and just oozing with juices. But for anyone who has never been to Mahane Yehuda, let me just tell you that it’s a zoo before shabbat. So much so that while I was able to snag a big bowl of berries, I didn’t dare snap a picture for fear of being overrun by the more serious shoppers. Luckily, a few days later at Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv, I was able to grab a few more berries and get some pictures.

Isn’t travel great?

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csa lunch box

Marinated white turnip and lemon balm over romaine

After a bit of hemming and hawing over the winter, I took the plunge and went with a CSA for the summer. I picked up my first share last week and it included several vegetables that were a bit foreign to me.

Heaven's Harvest CSA share

According to the Heaven’s Harvest website, the share this week consisted of: scallions, Hakurei turnips, summer squash, sweet potatoes, red chard, romaine lettuce, baby bok choi, collards, lemon balm, chives (boo – no chives for me!), and strawberries.

As I was heading down to New York for the weekend, I prepared a little lunchbox for my trip using the fresh bounty that I had.

I researched the white hakurei turnips and learned that they don’t require peeling. Recalling the first time that I made jicama cilantro slaw and inadvertently bought a large turnip (yes, this was well before I had developed into the sophisticate that I am today…I kept exclaiming, “my, this tastes quite earthy!”), I figured a modified slaw would work well with the delicate turnips. So, I did a quick 45-minute marinade of julienned turnips in lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin, and chiffonaded lemon balm, and then threw the mix over hearty romaine lettuce.

marinated white Hakurei turnips with lemon balm, romaine lettuce

I next prepared some chard, also chiffonaded, and then quickly sautéed in olive oil with salt and thrown atop a whole wheat wrap slathered in hummus.

sauteed chard with hummus on ww wrap

Finally, I rinsed and dried the strawberries and repacked them in their container.

And then I threw everything into an old salad greens container next to a bottle of water, and rushed off to South Station.

lunch box for my trip to NY

As I was heading down to New York, I prepared a little lunchbox for my trip using the fresh bounty that I had.I researched the white _____ turnips and learned that they don’t require peeling. Recalling the first time that I made jicama cilantro slaw and inadvertently bought a large turnip (yes, this was well before I had developed into the sophisticate that I am today…I kept exclaiming, “my, this tastes quite earthy!”), I figured a modified slaw would work well with the delicate turnips. So, I did a quick 45-minute marinade of julienned turnips in lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin, and chiffonaded lemon balm, and then threw the mix over hearty romaine lettuce.

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