Jerusalem -A Cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

August19

The 90 year old father of my friend was given a book.  He loved it so much that he gifted it to his son and daughter-in-law.  When I was in their home recently, they showed me their gift and when I returned home (they live in Toronto), I immediately ordered a copy for myself.  Since it has been mine, I have shared it with Sister #3 and more recently J2′s Mom.  Treasured books are often shared in this manner, in my circle at least, but rarely is the book a cookbook.  Jerusalem -A Cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is an exquisite collection of recipes as mysterious and fascinating as the city itself.  Consistent with my premise of food=love and the notion that food is a powerful force that can promote healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, the authors of this recipe collection make this bold statement:

Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place.  The dialogue between  Jews and Arabs, and often Jews themselves, is almost nonexistent.  It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogenous groups.  Food however, seems to break down those boundaries on occasion.  You can see people shop together in food markets, or eat in one another’s restaurants.  On rare occasions, they work together in partnership in food establishments.  It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it-what have we got to lose?-to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.

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I witnessed the huddling of persons into compact neighbourhoods myself when I traveled to Jerusalem many years ago.

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We had the unique perspective of walking on top of the wall of the old city and could peer over railings and into yards and lanes to see the subtle lines drawn in the sand and the boundaries between “theirs” and “mine”.

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In a manner of speaking, the food of Jerusalem has already worked in “unification” (not for the beautiful and complicated country of Israel) but for a group of old friends who spent this past weekend together, celebrating life and friendship surrounded by nature with games, laughter, hikes, sleeps, kayaking

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….but most significantly by cooking and eating together.

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Our Friday was heralded with welcome drinks and a simple but delicious meal of grilled sausages and a lusty Mixed Bean Salad with capers, cumin and coriander (from the cookbook).

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Although the evening and overnight had been warm and humid, the morning was cool enough for us to have our second cup of coffee around the fire (with croissants and muffins from Stella’s).

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Before heading out for our hike around the lake, the table was set for eggs.

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Of course, they weren’t just any eggs.  They were lovingly made by R who is the most patient cook I have encountered.  None of the high heat that I am always hurriedly setting under my pan was employed here.  With these creamy parmesan eggs, the blueberry pancakes the next morning and the grilling of sausages and chicken, he does everything the “hard” way: constant stirring, live charcoal, timed flips on the grill; while at the same time retaining that unhurried attitude of a confident cook.

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After walks and swims we assembled on the dock for Happy Hour (as if we needed to get any happier)!

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L had made my favourite dip of baba ganoush and a rich and creamy hummus.

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These Feta and Olive Chicken Balls were delectable and I would happily serve them as a healthy main with soft pitas and some greens.

Feta & Olive Chicken Balls
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8
 

Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ½ c fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T onion, finely chopped
  • ½ c feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ c green olives, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t Italian seasoning
  • ¼ c seasoned breadcrumbs

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven broiler.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything together.
  3. Shape into approximately 16 meatballs and place two inches apart on a baking sheet.
  4. Broil about 3 inches away from the heat until browned on top.
  5. Turn over, and broil on the other side.

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As the black silhouettes of the pines were illuminated by the dusky sky, we lit candles and sat down for our “Sabbath” meal together (observed in Israel on the sixth day at sunset).  This was anything but a “holy” experience in a religious sense and yet because “holy” also means a time or place deserving of respect or reverence, it was.  The setting was special, the time carefully carved out, the moments savoured……

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The recipe for the  Lebanese chicken was from a friend of R’s.  He and M marinated it all afternoon and then R painstakingly waited for the coals to be just right.  The tender meat was seasoned with fresh oregano and squeeze after squeeze of fresh lemon.

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Tabbouleh, we learned, probably hails from Lebanon and Syria and is primarily a parsley salad sparsely dotted with al dente bulgar wheat.

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This dish of Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs is the reason why I was so anxious to buy the cookbook and even if for no other reason, I am so glad I did.  We were concerned that the sweet potatoes were white and not orange and we think that they were a Caribbean style of sweet potato (that is, reminiscent of a plantain).  They were delicious in a subtle way allowing the fresh figs to shine.

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The figs were so exquisite that we enjoyed more dessert of them with honey cake, philo pastries, grapes, apricots and figs.  The ones in the dish were perfection with a drizzle of balsamic and pungent shards of cheese.

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The next morning we were up and cooking and eating again.

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But who wouldn’t want to spend time in the kitchen, with granite and the forest as your backdrop.

We eventually hit the road back to the city but not without pledging to be together again-hopefully in a more unified and peaceful world.

Kath’s quote: “If you want to find a good husband, you’d better learn how to chop your parsley properly.”-the mother of cookbook writer Sami Tamimi to his sister.

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

Ode to Bacon

August14

Bacon, how I love thee, let me count the ways……

August has been declared bacon month in Manitoba and in bacon’s honour I went back through my posts to see how often and for what occasions I cook with bacon.  (Writing a blog is a very helpful tool when you have a menopausal memory and a busy life).  Here’s what I came up with:

Warm Bacon Spinach Salad

Bacon Brussel Sprout Breakfast

Bacon Fritatta

Bacony Lazy Person Perogies

Bacon & Squash Pasta Sauce

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Meatballs

Bacon-Wrapped Sea/Chicken Bundles

We’re so crazy about bacon that when I tasted bacon jam for my first time, on a hotdog at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar, I just had to figure out how to make it:

Bacon Jam

We even search out bacon delicacies when we are on holidays in Mexico:

Bacon Bimbo Dogs on Isla Mujeres

and in our favourite city (next to Winnipeg):

Bacon Peanut Brittle in NYC

Winnipeggers will have a fabulous opportunity to check out the bacon and other pork offerings at this weekend’s Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival.  Bacon month culminates with a Bacon Party at Rudy’s Eat and Drink on August 30th, 2014. Manitoba Pork also has a draw where 20 lucky winners will get bacon for a year.  See the details at manitobapork.com/bacon to enter.  Bacon, how I love thee, let me count the ways….

Kath’s quote: “I’ve long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing.”-James Beard

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Love-that is all.

An Important First

August13

As much as my primary premise in life and in this space is that food=love, there are times when I will contradict myself and declare that the food was the least important aspect of an evening and that love was still satiating a time and space.  Case in point: yesterday morning I texted Boo (Daughter #2) to ask if she would be home for dinner.  I had been spending time recently at the Beach House and I was missing her.  She replied “no, but would you and Dad like to come over and share supper with The Frenchman and me at his apartment”?  Was she kidding?  Would we like to?  First-time apartment dinners are a mountain-top experience in the story of a family!  I clearly remember the first time I invited family members over to my Kennedy St. apartment while still attending university.  In those days my budget/culinary skills/epicurean tastes revolved around instant noodles, peanut butter and chicken.  But, I carefully set the beautiful thrift-store table owned by my roomie with the blue willow earthenware that I still have (although they have been retired to add some colour to my perennial garden).  As usual, I digress…  You get the picture: these first invites are a very big deal!

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Boo and the Frenchman carefully selected the location of Seb’s apartment together so that it could be their first home when they marry in October.  But because it is to the “their” apartment, not only a interim bachelor pad, they are unpacking and decorating it  together, slowly and with care.

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The item that holds the most significance for me is their kitchen table which was one of two kitchen tables in our family home of almost sixty years.  My Mom and Dad purchased it upon my advice when a friend of ours owned a funky shop in Osborne Village called Form and Function.  My Bestie worked there (now lives in TO but we are getting together this weekend) but I helped out on the busy Saturdays prior to Christmas.  The table top is authentic maple butcher block and has survived the years with beauty and grace and will continue to for many more.  The Frenchman is just going to give it a light sanding and a massage of olive oil.

My most distinct memory of the table is it being laden with brunch items for our annual Christmas get together as an extended family – a mere 35 of us!

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Supper last night was absolutely delicious: make your own taco salad or soft tacos.  Boo didn’t want me to make a “fuss” about what they were serving because it was such an impromptu get together (in my mind, the best kind).  Even still, the table was thoughtfully set and the variety of fresh veggies carefully sliced.  We got caught up a bit and then continued to discuss wedding logistics and plans.

As we made the short drive home, D and I chatted about the tradition, joy, anticipation and hope that surrounds Boo and the Frenchman and fills their future home.

Kath’s quote: “Whenever I get married, I start buying Gourmet magazine.” -Nora Ephron

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Photo credit: The Frenchman’s Dad

Love-that is all.

Tapastry by Amici

August12

Sometimes food bloggers mess up.  Case in point: I have been trying for so long to get to Tapastry by Amici because I have long admired the Amici creators headed up by Chef Heinz Kattenfeld.  I did not realize until I arrived out at the Niakwa Golf and Country Club that even though the Amici name is branded with the restaurant, the association ends there.  In spite of my confusion, I was staying put as the three sisters were together and out for dinner.  You might think that this occurs on a regular basis but you would be incorrect.

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Tapas is a derivative of Spanish word “tapar”, to cover.  In Spain a thin slice of meat was once offered to drape over a glass of wine, to keep the fruit flies out.  The custom became so popular that little dishes of delectable food offerings became the norm.  “Tapastry” is a perfect moniker for the restaurant’s tapas style dining gives one the opportunity to try a variety of little tastes.  I’m never squeamish about sharing food from a common plate and certainly not when I’m sharing with my two best friends who so happen to be my sisters.

Tapastry at the Niakwa Golf Club has a beautiful view of the rolling green hills of the course.  This evening was fair and there were golfers out on the comfy couches on the deck around a fire pit.  Ah, summer in Winnipeg.

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First up was an Italian Thin-Crust Pizza adorned with prosciutto, fig jam, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette and pea shoots.  Being a fan of sweet and salty combinations, I loved it. 

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With the pizza came Smoked Bacon Wrapped Prawns. 

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Tyrolean Bacon blanketed the prawns which were enhanced with a roasted tomato agro dolce and lemon garlic aioli.    

Now here’s another way that the food blogger messed up.  I have lost my notes that I took on that evening and I was hoping that their menu would be on line so that I could remind myself of the detailed ingredients.  This lovely dinner actually took plac at the very beginning of the summer and my old memory isn’t what it used to be.  I’ll do my best…..

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These pan-seared scallops had been perched atop of a variety of mushrooms, roasted corn and pork belly.  They were finished with a scallion pesto and marsala glaze.

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The delectable perogies came with a luscious pumpkin puree.  They were a definite highlight.

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This is when I am being absolutely transparent-I have no idea what these were.  I can only recall that by this time I was very full and feeling as if we had ordered too many items.

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I do know that our service was professional, polite and prompt and that our server poured us and the rest of the diners on that evening , a lovely desert wine to thank us for our patronage.

Tapastry on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.”-Charles Pierre Monselet

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Love-that is all.

 

Summer in the City

August8

My TO Brother-in-law graciously indicated that I could stay with them for a weekend last month with the proviso that they would be busy getting ready for a barbecue dinner party that evening.  I volunteered to help out and from the moment that I walked in their door, I was assigned my tasks.  I was so flattered that they respected my skills enough to have me pitch in.  They are both exceptional cooks and their dinner parties are notorious (at the very least, within their own circle of friends).

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We had everything laid out and ready to go by the time a couple of people that were hired to help out arrived.

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Included in the staff were these handsome bartenders, which was such a great idea.  With these gentlemen and another at the barbeque, they were able to relax and enjoy being with their guests.

This was their menu:

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Grilled Beef Tenderloin

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Grilled Pork Tenderloin

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Grilled Teriyaki Salmon

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Grilled Shrimp

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Kale and Asian Pear Salad and Quinoa Salad.  I have the recipes-if you want either (both exceptional), just send me a comment.

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Mushrooms Braised in Red Wine

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Grilled Asparagus, Peppers, Red Onions

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Fruit and Cheese

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Not much to look at but I contributed this sour cream, rhubarb and raspberry pie that I had purchased at the Farmer’s Market in Peterborough that very morning.  Holy, moly was it delicious!

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Neil had baked for a week and his Macadamia Nut Squares, pictured in the middle were to die for!  They were so amazing that I wrapped one up and took it in my carry on luggage home to D.

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The night was fair and the company was intriguing.  The conversation and imbibing went for a number of hours.  Summer in the city-at its finest.

Kath’s quote: “Summer cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of the fleeting moment.”-Elizabeth David

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

 

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