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Recipes from our mothers

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Maya’s Shakshuka

Last month Paul-Jean and I spent two weeks in Israel. I hadn’t been back since I was 17 — and that was 17 years ago! It was Paul-Jean’s first time. He’s heard me talk so much about the time I spent in Israel when I was growing up, and with a baby on the way we decided it was time for us to finally make the trip back. 

I have a ton of family in Israel from my mother’s side, and my best friend Shir from elementary school lives in Tel Aviv. While the food was definitely what we shared most on social media, the highlight of the trip was (by far) reconnecting with peeps. Hanging out with Shir was like rediscovering my soul sister. We’d been incredibly close in elementary school in Vancouver, then lost touch as we grew older and we both moved away. This past summer Shir visited New York and we reconnected after years of not seeing each other. So of course when Paul-Jean and I were in Israel we spent as much time as possible with Shir and her husband, Amir. 

Shir and Amir invited us to their apartment for dinner a couple nights after we arrived, and Shir made an absolute feast. I’d forgotten how meals in Israel tend to be more than just a main dish and a salad. Shir put out a spread. She had two salads, an assortment of breads and cheeses, an almond olive dip she’d learned from Amir’s aunt in Spain, stuffed eggplants, roasted cauliflower with tahini, and of course, the Israeli staple — shakshuka. 

  

Shakshuka is one of my favorite things in the world. When people ask what I’d have for my last meal, I usually say shakshuka. It’s a relatively simple dish of simmered tomato sauce with poached eggs, but each household in Israel has their own variations that can get pretty involved. Shakshuka originated in North Africa, but Israelis have embraced it thoroughly and it’s become a culinary staple in the country. 

As I was conveying my love of shakshuka to Shir and describing my personal recipe, she reminded me of this blog, which I’d started when I moved to NY, promptly (well, after 4 posts) let slide and eventually forgot about. “What if we revive the blog together?” she asked. “We could start with our respective shakshuka recipes and go from there”. Genius. So here we are, two years after I started and abandoned this baby, back with a new recipe and a new blog sistah. 

An Israeli feast

When we got back to NY, we hosted our monthly family dinner with friends and shared our trip via a typical Israel spread. I made my classic shakshuka, tried out a new hummus recipe, and made a meal that would make my Israeli compatriots proud. 

  • Hummus from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem
  • Moroccan beet salad
  • Charred whole eggplant with tahini from Eden Eats
  • Shakshuka
  • Rice pilaf (with a nut, spice, and dried blueberry blend we got at a spice stall in Jerusalem. I wish I had asked what was in it)
  • Israeli salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley, diced finely and dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt)
  • Plus bread, olives, a variety of cheeses, and bamba — my favorite Israeli snack 

Today I’m sharing my shakshuka recipe, and for our next post Shir will share hers. I’m a shakshuka purist, so this recipe is as simple as it gets. You may look at the ingredients and wonder how a few simple things would make it to the top of my last meal list. But together they transcend. 

Maya’s Shakshuka

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced 
6 eggs
1 tbs olive oil
salt to taste
Pita or crusty bread, to serve

Directions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat
  2. Saute onions until soft
  3. Add tomatoes and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover
  4. Simmer tomatoes for at least 10 minutes, until they reach a sauce-like consistency. I often cook them on very low heat for up to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cooking it a little longer brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes, but you don’t want the sauce to be too dry. 
  5. Uncover, make a hole in the sauce with a spoon, and break an egg into the hole. Repeat with all six eggs (make sure to space them out evenly).
  6. Cover and simmer for another 6-10 minutes, depending on the level of doneness you like your egg yolks. I like mine on the runny side. 
  7. Serve with a side of pita or crusty bread to sop up the eggs and juices

Tahini quinoa shortbread cookies

tahini-quinoa-cookies

Well, let me start out by saying that maybe the 1 recipe a week goal was a little ambitious. Adjusting to NY living has taken longer than I thought, and it’s only now that I’ve finally managed to get a schedule down where I’m going to yoga several times a week and actually cooking at home. That’s partly also because the glow from eating out every night at all the incredible restaurants has slowly faded as I started to crave the comfort of food from my own kitchen. There’s something about cooking that grounds me. It’s familiar, it’s nourishing, and I love the food I make. Definitely my mother’s daughter. 

The recipe I’m sharing today is one I made over the holidays. Yes, that was almost two months ago, but trust me, you’ll be glad I got around to posting it. These cookies are ones my mom made when we visited her over the holidays last year. They’re gluten- and refined sugar-free and taste very much like halvah, one of my favorite desserts, with a little nuttiness from the quinoa. I hadn’t eaten halvah in ages since I hadn’t come across any with no refined sugars, so these were a real treat. The recipe is adapted from the Israeli food magazine Al Hashulchan. 

tahini-quinoa-cookies-2

This year we spent the holidays in Calgary at my aunt tomiko’s place. Just like Paul-Jean and I tomiko stays away from refined sugars and always has me bake up a storm when I’m visiting. She’s the one that usually whips up all the treats, so it’s a pleasure to give back in whatever way I can, which this year meant making batch after batch of gluten free, refined sugar free cookies. I made this particular recipe three times it was so popular. Try it and you’ll see why. 

Tahini Quinoa Shotrbread Cookies

1.5 cups quinoa flour
7 tbs unsalted butter, cold, cut in pieces
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
sesame seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 325.
In a food processor, mix quinoa with butter, pulsing. When it resembles a coarse meal, add the tahini, coconut sugar and vanilla, pulsing to mix. 
Line a cookie pan with parchment paper.
Make 1-inch rounds and flatten. Press top into the sesame seeds, if using, and place in the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cookies are golden brown. 
Remove from pan and cool.
The cookies come out soft and harden as they cool.

 

Cabouli salad

cabouli

I’m not a fan of raw cauliflower. It’s the vegetable (along with raw broccoli) that I always avoid on veggie plates. It doesn’t matter how much ranch or hummus or garlic aioli you smother on it, I just don’t like it. Cooked cauliflower — or even better — roasted cauliflower, I’m all over that.

So when my mom made us this salad when she was in town to help us move in, I was really surprised. When grated, mixed with fresh herbs and a tangy dressing, cauliflower transforms into something else entirely.

cauliflower-pomegranate

Tabouli is a traditional Lebanese salad made with bulger, mint, parsley, and tomato. This ‘cabouli’ (which my mom originally sent as ‘cauli-bouli’ but was worried that was too cumbersome and confusing — so cute to see her play with recipe names) is definitely a departure from the original, but has the same fresh, herby flavor balanced with a nutty grain.

This is the perfect holiday potluck salad. The pomegranate seeds give it a jewel-like festivity, it stores well, and the nuts and seeds make it heartier and more substantial than lettuce salads. You can switch out the pomegranate with dried cherries or cranberries if you’re so inclined. Pomegranates take a while to peel but they add such a lovely tartness and sweetness I think they’re worth the effort. I also used black sesame seeds instead of white for a nice contrast. You can find black sesame seeds in Asian foods stores.

Cabouli Salad

Raw cauliflower tabouli

1/2 cauliflower coarsely grated
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix grated cauliflower, quinoa and herbs.
Dry roast seeds and almonds in a skillet over medium heat, until golden, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool.
Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and toss. Add nut mix and pomegranate and mix.

To speed up the preparation process, you can use a food processor to chop the herbs, pulsing. Use the grater blade to grate cauliflower.

Enjoy!

cauliflower-tabouli

Moroccan Harira

Moroccan-Harira

Earlier this week I received this email from my mom:

I’m planning to make Harira soup today, it is a hearty legume soup from North Africa. My mom used to make the soup to end the Yom Kippur fast. I make it whenever the weather calls for it, either with bite size lamb or vegetarian. It calls for chickpeas, one can go the lengthy process of soaking the chickpeas over night and then cook them for an hour or so before adding it to the soup or simply open a can. What version would you prefer?

I asked her for both versions. Here’s her reply:

We just finished eating the Harira I’ve made today, it came out so good that this is the recipe for this week, just as I prepared it.
I prefer to soak and cook the chickpeas, however, it requires planning.
Omit the meat for a vegetarian version.

Moroccan-Harira-ingredients

A few things:

This stew is very lamb-y. If you’re not totally into lamb, I recommend leaving it out. We’re both big fans and licked our bowls clean. Paul-Jean loved this stew and remarked several times how excited he is about this blog. About the soup, he said (and I quote) “it warms my very soul”.

This is a time-consuming recipe. It’s wonderful and worth it, but give yourself at least 2-3 hours on a relaxed day.

Dried chickpeas typically take 1-1.5 hours to cook if you soak them overnight. I learned today that if you have chickpeas that have sat in your cupboard for 7 years(!), you can cook them, but it’ll take over 2.5 hours, and some will still be a little crunchy. Note to self, don’t do that again. Cooking chickpeas was surprisingly easy, so I’ll definitely need to try making them from scratch with fresher chickpeas.

Moroccan-Harira-sauteing

Moroccan-Harira-cooking

Moroccan Harira

Serves 6-8

1 cup dried chickpeas soaked over night or
1 14oz canned chick peas
1 lb lamb, grass fed preferably (I used shoulder) cut into bite size
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 ts. ground ginger
1 ts. turmeric
1 3” cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 celery stalks coarsely chopped
1 med. carrot coarsely chopped
6 cups water
1 cup small brown lentils (soaked for about 1 hour)
2 med. ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
sea salt and pepper to taste
zhoug or harissa (optional)

If using soaked chickpeas, drain and transfer to a saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook until tender, from 40-90 minutes, depending on chickpeas.
Combine the meat, onion and oil in a large heavy duty pot. Saute over medium heat until meat is brown and the onion is golden. Stir in the ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon.
Add bay leaf, celery and carrot and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour or so, until meat is tender.
Add drained lentils and tomatoes to the meat and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
Divide the chickpeas. Add 1/2 to the pot, place the other half in a blender with some soup broth and puree. Stir the pureed chick peas into the soup, add salt and pepper and mix well. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the cilantro and serve immediately, adding zhoug or harissa if desired.
I like adding a couple tablespoons of cooked brown basmati rice to my bowl.

Carrot & red lentil soup with lima beans

red-lentil-carrot-soup

Six weeks ago I moved to Brooklyn with my husband, Paul-Jean. He got a job in Manhattan so we upped and moved from the heart of Illinois right to the Big Apple. The main thing I’ve noticed since living here is how easy it is to eat out. We have a tremendous amount of excellent food within a few blocks of us. It’s just so easy. And as someone who loves food (like, really loves food), I’ve been having a field day.

The thing is, it’s not cheap. While Paul-Jean and I tend to split a main and an appetizer, it’s still a tremendous amount more than we’d like to spend. Plus there’s nothing like home cooking at the end of the day. At least home cooking in our household.

I grew up in a home where my mother cooked daily. It’s been a passion of hers her entire life. Our dining room perpetually had piles of Bon Appétit magazines in random, precarious stacks.  At one point she had almost 20 years worth of them and knew exactly which recipe came from which issue.

Clearly, we love food in our home. So in the spirit of coming back to home cooking after six weeks of pure gluttony, I asked my mom to send me a recipe a week. Both to catalog her cadre of incredible recipes, and to have an excuse to make something yummy and nourishing and homey.

My mom grew up in Israel to parents who hailed from Turkey (my grandmother) and Greece (my grandfather). They both spoke Ladino growing up, the language of pre-inquisition Spanish jews, so our roots go back to Spain, and probably North Africa before that. My grandparents met in Spain, and once World War II hit they took a long trek to Israel via France, Morocco, and Tangier. My mother has three sisters, each born in a different country as the growing family made their way to safety.

The food I grew up with is clearly influenced by our Mediterranean roots. We have a love of simple, clean flavors and lots of fresh, gorgeous veggies.

The first recipe arrived this weekend. Red lentil soup and carrot soup with lima beans. It’s one of my favorites, and Paul-Jean and I enjoyed it tremendously! It was the perfect warming, nourishing food for the first really cold day of the year. I served it with crusty rye bread and roasted broccoli and romanesco.

red-lentil-carrot-soup2

From my mom:

Anyway, today I made the red lentil and carrot soup with lima beans. Normally I add ginger but I ran out of it, instead I added a handful of fresh mint that I bought in today’s farmers market. Turned out really good. I squeezed fresh lemon juice and a bit of zhoug into my bowl , yum yum.

Enjoy!

red-lentil-carrot-soup-ingredients

Carrot and red lentil soup with lima beans

serves 4-6

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup red split lentils
1 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
6 cups water
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

I like to soak the lentils in water for about an hour, rinsing before adding to the pot.
Sauté the onion garlic and ginger in oil over medium heat, just until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add carrots and continue to cook until crispy soft.
Add water, lentils and lima beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until lentils are tender. Stir in salt and pepper.
Just before serving add the cilantro and stir.

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