Quinoa Tabouli

Extremely easy recipe, and a good substitute for burgul, or, as Americans call it, “bulgur”. True, not the traditional main ingredient, so probably not for purists; but very tasty nevertheless. Simply mix the following ingredients:

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 fresh cucumber, chopped into teeny-tiny pieces
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
juice from 1 lemon

1/2 chopped tomato
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds and/or pine nuts

Then, put salad in fridge and let marinate for a while.

Squash Challenge

It’s Wednesday! Hurrah!

In a house that receives its weekly quota of fresh vegetables and fruit from Chubeza on Mondays, Wednesday is an interesting day. Gone is the excitement of Monday, when the box of new edible toys made its way to our living room, and when we had the freshest salad ever and had a few ideas what to do. Gone is also the laboriousness of Tuesday, when we executed one of those ideas (soba soup with greens – this time, not too exciting. Shame, shame, shame, amazing spinach and carrots gone to waste). What now? What now?

Well, as Chad points out, we do have squash.

Squash is a strange vegetable, to me, at least. It’s stringy, and it has a very tough skin, and it has a wonderful color. While Americans eat their squashes on a regular basis and make all sorts of wonderful things out of them, Israeli squash is often too watery-juicy (and not very “buttery”) and therefore, isn’t too good to mash. When baked, its consistency is more like zucchini. Thing is, it’s tasty.

So, I have a large piece of organic squash in my fridge, and while I *could* make some soup or stir fry, I’m not inspired. So I decided to open this up for discussion: What do you suggest I do with the squash?

Unusual Root Vegetable Dish

Here’s what we had last night with the mashed potatoes. It’s really tasty, and what’s funny – it all turns pink, because of the beets, which makes it funny, too. Also – for the Jewish mothers in the crowd – full of minerals, and warming, in Chinese Medicine terminology.

2 large beets
2 large turnips
3 carrots
1 big broccoli stem
4 onion cloves
olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large handful each: dill, parsley, cilantro

Prep: chop beets, turnips, carrots and broccoli into 1-inch cubes. Heat up a wok with some olive oil in it. Chop up garlic cloves and add to the oil. Fry up until a nice smell fills the kitchen.
Then, add the vegetable cubes, fennel seeds, and handfuls of herbs. Shift them around in the work until they all absorb the heat and spices. Then, add broth, cover the wok, and cook for about half an hour, occasionally mixing.

Serve on top of mashed potatoes, or in a bowl as a sort of stew. Makes a nice addition to veggie burgers.

Madison County in Tel Aviv

Stuffed peppers… not necessarily a romantic dish, isn’t it? When we think of romantic dining, some delicate, nouvelle-cuisine thing in delicate china comes to mind. Preferably something that is eaten sensually (and optimally fed to the other person, by hand). Stuffed peppers don’t exactly fall into that category. Or do they?

For me, they do. And the credit all goes to Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County. The book (for those of you who haven’t read it, and there can’t be too many who haven’t heard about it) is an amazing, tear-jerking story of an Iowa housewife who meets a National Geographic photographer. The two fall in love – an unpredictable, all-consuming, impossible love. And one of the exotic features about the photographer – who is so different from the housewife’s husband and all other men she knows – is his vegetarianism.

So, she makes him stuffed peppers. She stuffs them with wild rice and cheese. And it’s a lovely, romantic, fabulous dinner.

Now here’s why stuffed peppers are such a romantic food. First of all, they are extremely sexy. The contrast between their bold, colorful exterior and their comforting, nutritious interior is beautiful to see and fabulous to eat. Second, they are messy. Beautiful before touched, they require crossing a boundary when cutting into them and spilling their goodness on the plate. And third, they are soaked in good tomato sauce – the sexiest sauce of all, in my humble opinion.

The version photographed here (and eaten for lunch today by a hungry man studying for a university exam and his blogging girlfriend) is a bit unusual, and consists of cooked millet, leeks and dried tomatoes. You can be quite creative about the filling and many whole grains will do fine; the millet, however, tends to absorb flavors and liquids, sort of like couscous. Enjoy!

Stuffed Peppers with Millet, Leeks and Dried Tomatoes

4 large, nice, red peppers
2 leeks
1 1/2 cup cooked millet
3 garlic cloves
5-6 dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons rosemary, thyme, or (best) mixture of the two
2 1/2 cups good quality tomato sauce (or, if you’re in a hurry, make a quick sauce by quickly mixing, without cooking, tomato paste, water, herbs and crushed garlic)

Cut the top of the peppers and remove as many of the seeds as you can.
Slice the leeks into little circles. Chop up the garlic cloves, and heat up the cloves and leeks in a pan with a little olive oil. Add cooked millet, chop in the dried tomatoes and herbs, and mix with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce – until the millet’s “thirst” is “quenched” and it’s soft and moist.

Place the peppers in a baking pan so they stand firmly, and stuff each of them with the millet mixture. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the peppers (and make sure at least 1 cm of the baking pan is covered in liquid). Stick in a hot oven for about 35 minutes, or more if you want the peppers softer. If they get dry, add a bit of sauce and water on top.


Okra, or Bamia, as we call it in Israel, is a much maligned vegetable. It stands, right next to cilantro and buckwheat, on the love-’em-or-hate’em shelf of foods in our collective consciousness.

When I came to the US, I discoverd, to my surprise, that breaded and fried okra was a Southern delicacy. I’ve also had it in Indian restaurants as Bhindi Masala – which is how my dear friend and heart-sister, Barbara, makes it.

Here, in the Middle East, we like our bamia in tomato sauce, over rice. It’s an Egyptian recipe, apparently, and quite a favorite among those who like bamia. This week we were really fortunate to get a beautiful variety of bamia from Chubeza: it was dark burgundy, with a flourescent green stripe on the side. So, we set out to cook it.

Now, here’s the tricky part: the folks who hate bamia, hate it because it produces a strange, mucuos-like substance. Ick, indeed. But the trick to eliminating that part of the experience is lightly frying the bamia before cooking it in the sauce.

Bamia in Tomato Sauce

3 cups of fresh bamia
2 garlic cloves
1 large onion
2 large tomatoes
1 container of tomato paste
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of spices: dried dill, dried parsley, caraway seeds… or anything else you like with your tomato sauce (no basil this time, sorry)

Take the bamias and chop off their stem. Do not mess with the rest of the vegetable! Put them in a hot pan with some olive oil, and lightly toss them around for three or four minutes. Then, add chopped onion and garlic. After a couple of minutes, chop in the tomatoes, add the tomato paste, lemon, and spices. Simmer for about half an hour; add water if it gets too dry. Spoon over rice and munch.

Eggplant and Squash!

It was a tad – just a tad – less hot the last few days. So, we rolled up our sleeves (absurd – who wears sleeves in this weather?) and set out to cook. In fact, Chad set out to cook. And made this wonderful stirfry.

The eggplant worked really, really well counterbalancing the orange ingredients of the stirfry, which include carrots as well as a special squash called “dalorit”. Dalorit is a strange linguistic pun in Hebrew: it combines the words “dla’at” (squash), “dal” (less, not rich in-) and “calorie” (needless to explain). It’s a funny little squash, like a ball that has a zucchini extend from it. It can be cooked just like squash and comes out delicious every time.


Eggplant, Carrot and Squash Stirfry

1 medium-sized eggplant
1/2 – 1 dallorit, or a cup of squash, cut into 1/4 inch thick chunks
3 carrots
5-6 champignon mushrooms (optional but really good)
1 large onion
3-4 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of ginger
1/4 cup good quality soy sauce
1 tablespoon caraway or cumin seeds (trust me on this)
1 tsp black pepper or chili flakes
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley.

100 grams good quality brown rice vermicelli

Slice eggplants into 1/4 inch thick slices, salt and let stand for about twenty minutes. The eggplants will “sweat” out their bitterness. Afterwards, wash with waterr and pat dry with a towel. Slice into smaller pieces. Also, slice onions (quite thinly!) and carrots into rings. Chop ginger and garlic quite thinly.

Heat up some good canola or olive oil in a wok, and add garlic, onions and ginger. Let sautee a bit, until the kitchen starts smelling wonderful. Then add the carrots, squash and eggplant. The eggplant will tend to “drink” up all the oil, and you might have to add some. Now, add soy sauce, seeds and spices.

When vegetables begin softening, boil water and quickly cook and strain vermicelli. Add noodles to the wok with soft vegetables, and toss a bit, just until everything smells and tastes wonderful. Sprinkle fresh parsley and enjoy!

Vegetables and Olive Oil and Peace

This post is my contribution to Barbara’s “Fresh and Local Challenge” in Tigers and Strawberries; although all of what I cook comes right out of our Chubeza box, this one has summer vegetables in it, and is therefore very appropriate for this season.

The two dishes I have here feature a common ingredient which may not be exactly a spice, but is a very typical flavor in Middle Eastern cooking: fabulous olive oil from the Gallille. It’s not easy being cheerful in Israel Aviv these days, as many of you probably can guess from following the news; but cooking with olive oil is a reminder of the ancient, bountiful olive trees all over the north of Israel, which produce our superb oil, and which are now under missile attacks. May these dishes remind all warring parties in the world of the goodness in the Earth, and how living off the richness it offers shouldn’t be taken for granted. While many humans are hurt in our current conflict, there are also silent sufferers: plants and animals hit by rockets, forests that die in forest fires. When (if?) this is over, hopefully soon, humans will have to work not only on reconnecting with each other, but also on restoring some of the natural world that is so often harmed by humans fighting with each other. The vegetables, fresh from a field near Latroun, are a reminder of that world.

When you have good ingredients, there’s no need to mess with them more than necessary. The fresh flavors speak for themselves. So, while the two dishes I have here are cooked, they’re both cooked for a very short time and preserve the vegetables’ essence very well. It’s a double feature dish: Green Beans with Garlic and Roasted Peppers. The beans are sauteed in a small amount of light broth and, of coruse, garlic. The peppers are roasted on an old pot lid, then steamed in a plastic bag and served with a tiny bit of olive oil and, possibly, balsamic vinegar. This is proof that very simple things can make very festive dishes.

Green Beans with Garlic

4-5 handfuls of fresh green beans
3 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp good quality soy sauce
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth.
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 inch ginger, thinly sliced
1-2 tsps sesame oil

Prepping green beans is a funny task, because no matter what shortcuts you try to take, you *will* have to chop off their corners. I’ve stopped bothering with lining them up – they are never the same size and it doesn’t simplify things… so just chop their corners, will you? Then, slice the garlic cloves, heat the olive oil in a pan or wok, and add the garlic, the ginger and the chili flakes. When a nice garlicky smell fills the room, add the soy sauce and the beans. Stir gently to mix up , and when they’re all heated, add some water or broth – just enough so nothing sticks to the pan. Then, cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until beans get as soft as you like them, but retain their character. Remove from pan, drizzle a bit of sesame oil, and voila.

Roasted Red Peppers

4 large red peppers
1 old lid of a large pan
1 plastic bag
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

This works really well on my stove, which has open fire; folks with electric stoves are welcome to offer ideas on how to do this in other kitchens. Anyway, in my kitchen, I found the best method to do this in Shari Ansky’s fabulous book Vegetables. I changed it a bit, but it’s essentially the same.

Basicaly, what you do, is turn on the stove and place an old metal lid directly on it. Then, you cut the peppers into eight pieces each, lengthwise, and place the pepper slices on top of the lid. Move them around a bit, so they don’t get too burned on one side. You’ll start seeing black burns on the peel, which is absolutely fine.

When the peppers all get soft and burned (doesn’t this sound a bit like an inquisition method?), you turn off the stove, remove the peppers from the lid (careful! they’re hot!) and place them in a plastic bag. tie up the bag and let’em sweat for fifteen minutes (inquisition, indeed). Then, open up the bag: if you want to peel the peppers, this will be very easy now, but you don’t have to. You can eat them as they are. Put the peppers in a bowl, and drizzle some olive oil and, if desired, some balsamic vinegar on top.

It’ll be time to harvest olives soon, and my family will gather to pick them right off our olive tree in September. Then, we’ll be making olives off my grandpa’s secret recipe, and they will be good and bitter; a reminder of life in this region, which can be very good, but very bitter at times, and a reminder of the olive branches that bear this fruit, and a hope for peace.

Those Big Purple Things

Our two most recent deliveries from Chubeza contained a beautiful surprise: the season’s first nice, fresh, purple eggplants. What a thrill! Being a Middle Easterner means that I love eggplants a great deal, and have cooked them in many different ways. There aren’t many things that are as local as eggplants; Israelis love them almost as much as they love their tomatoes and eat them in every possible form, from baba ganoush to mousakka to quiches to simply roasted slices with goat cheese and olive oil.

Some people have a hesitant relationship with eggplants. This stems from two main reasons. First, eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which has been much maligned in relation to diseases like fibromayalgia. Some nutritionsts recommend avoiding nightshade vegetables altogether, a penalty inconceivable from the perspective of a Mediterranean person: that would mean giving up tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. Ah, the horror! Indeed, nightshades contain a certain amount of poisonous components, but these are, according to most nutritionists, ruined in cooking, and they have several nutritional benefits to offer. Eggplants, for example, contain several vitamins from the B family, as well as manganese, copper, potassium, and folic acid. Not in great amounts, but still, they are all there.

The second reason people fear eggplants is their capacity to absorb unbelievable amounts of oil. Many eggplant dishes are extremely greasy and, while eggplant itself is quite lean, with the oil it can become a bit of a fat trap, albeit a delicious one.

Here’s one pretty basic thing you can do with your eggplants. Eggplant salad is magnificent in sandwiches or as a nice dish garnished with vegetable sticks. Here, one finds it often in two combinations: with mayonnaise, and with the more common tchina as baba ganoush. This recipe is my (successful, hurrah!) attempt to recreate my grandma’s version, which uses neither, and showcases the eggplant in all its glory.

Eggplant Salad

2-3 eggplants
5 garlic cloves
juice from 1 lemon

Cut the eggplants lengthwise. Unlike other eggplant recipes, there is no need to salt the eggplants or let them “sweat” – the bitterness actually makes this better.
Place the eggplant halves, face down, on aluminum foil, and stick in a 200 degree celsius oven for about twenty minutes. You know the eggplants are ready when their peel becomes all brownish-black and charred.

After taking them out of the oven, we grab a nice spoon and scoop the eggplant’s meat into a bowl. This can be a bit tricky, but I urge you to scrape out as much as you can. If you’re crazy, like me, you’ll enjoy munching on the empty baked peels after you’re done.

The eggplant meat goes into the food processor with the lemon juice and the garlic, or, if you like your salad chunkier, you can mash it with a fork.

Excellent stuff.

Goats and Cabbage in the Desert

What you see in the somewhat dark picture, is a post-Shavuot dinnertime snack: tomatoes with basil, various types of goat cheese from the desert, and a really cool cabbage salad.

We spent our Shavuot vacation camping in the Negev, Israel’s southern desert area, and were very surprised and heartened to meet knowledgeable and idealistic people who use ecology and organic farming to make the desert a wonderful area for activism. Shavuot is a holiday of harvest and bounty, and a good opportunity to support small farms. In the last few years, several of these small farms have opened in the vicinity of Mitzpe Ramon, a town right next to the breathtaking Ramon Anticline, an amazing place to see Mother Nature at work. I suppose it is this beauty and magnitute of natural forces that inspired good people to come along and start small farms, growing all sorts of interesting vegetables which benefit from the desert climate, as well as raising goats and making excellent goat cheese.

We got to visit Naot Farm, where we talked to the farmworkers about the realities of raising goats in the desert and of making sheep. Apparently, the desert climate is rough, but not impossible, to work with, and the goats enjoy fresh pasture and desert plants. Eating the cheese, one can almost taste the different plants the goats have eaten.

Here’s a simple baking recipe I intend to use with the lovely cheeses we bought; it can be easily done with a twelve-hole muffin pan.

Shavuot Cheese Suffles

3 cups whole wheat or whole rice flour
1 1/2 cup milk, buttermilk or goat yogurt
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp olive oil (plus oil or spray for oiling the pan)
a rosemary twig
12 cubes of good quality goat cheese

Heat oven to around 200 degrees celsius. Sift flour into large bowl; slowly add milk and eggs and mix until uniform. Add oil and chop in rosemary. Carefully pour mix into muffin holes, filling them up to about 3/4 of their height; then, drop a cube of cheese into the center of every hole. Bake for 45 minutes, or until mixture has finished rising and is golden and fluffy. Delicious for breakfast.

Elsewhere, we were served a simple and nice cabbage salad, involving chopped cabbage, vinegar, oil, and lots of fresh dill. Which we then reconstructed at home with our Chubeza cabbage. By the way, we happened to read, in one of the places we visited, that the common association of cabbage with gas stems not so much from the cabbage itself, but from its interaction with common pesticides; organic cabbages are generally thought to be gas-free.

Yesterday’s Dinner, Today’s Fabulous Lunch

The nice black-bean-sauce dish we served Ilan over the weekend served us well this morning. We had cooked something like three pounds of azuki black beans, and froze them for future use.

That future was this morning, when I took five minutes to prepare us a great lunch, that can be eaten cold and is extremely tasty. The dish is inspired by (but quite different from) the neat salads in Benny Seida‘s cool salad book.

Black Azuki Beans with Goat Cheese, Tomatoes and Basil
2 cups cooked black azuki beans
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
100 grams goat cheese, crumbled
10 basil leaves
5 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for a minute or two and chopped
1 tsp pesto sauce

Mix all ingredients and enjoy.