Wednesday, May 31, 2006

שבֿועות איז דער בעסטער יום־טובֿ

פּסח קאָן מען נישט עסן װאָס מע װיל; סוכּות קאָן מען נישט עסן װוּ מע װיל; איז שבֿועות דער בעסטער יום־טובֿ.
זעט אַן אינטערעסאַנטן עסײ ריבֿקה-לאה באָגזס דאָ.

Peysekh kon men nisht esn vos me vil; sikes kon me nit esn vi me vil; iz shvies der bester yontif

Passover, you can't eat what you want, Succoth you can't eat where you want; Shabuoth is the best holiday


I Am Wimpy in a Brilliant Fragrance to Let You Yearn for Berries

See this and many other cheering and diverting food-related ads and packages at

Friday, May 26, 2006

More About Methi

Methi at the San Francisco Farmers' Market

The herb on my mind this week is methi (menthi) or trigonella foenum-graecum, the fresh leaves of the fenugreek plant. I have been wanting to find out more about this plant since I first saw it last week at the Farmers' market in San Francisco.

I have not yet prepared any methi, but I feel confident in recommending methi dal from Mahanandi, aloo methi from Salt and Pepper, methi paratha from Cooking Medley, and methi vadi from Food in the Main with a hat tip to a similar recipe from One Hot Stove. I am really hoping to try all of these--probably the aloo methi first--oooh it looks so delicious. The common element running through all these recipes seems to be that the bitter methi leaves pair up well with rich starchy ingredients such as potatoes, dals, and breads (well, what doesn't?).

For this weekend's roundup of all things herbal, see Lucullan Delights

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shopping at the Berkeley Farmers' Market

For Harmonia's Midweek shopping list:

What the chocolate lady is contributing this week:

many wonderful kinds of salad greens,

Asparagus fatter than my thumb (we are a tad past the peak of the season out in California, but these were still so succulent),

wonderfully dense-fleshed artichokes,

and these adorable little baby cauliflowers. They were so delicious. We just steamed them and drizzled them with a little vinaigrette. They are even smaller than you can tell from this picture; the lovely young lady who agreed to pose with a cauliflower had very tiny hands. Thank you, greenmarket Cinderella.

I also got a bunch of leeks and some peaches, but could not make good pictures of them.

Visit the ARF-roundup at Sweetnicks.

The Midweek Munchies Blogroll:
Jess!, Webly, Sweet Pea, Mishka, Harmonia, Purl Princess, Leslie, Hayley, Kai, Vicki, Amy, Regina, Michelle, Catherine, Sarchan, Mal, Freedom, Julie, Gamin, Rift, Dori, VeganDoc, Ann, The Chocolate Lady, Michelle

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

G'day, Methi

Methi Leaves. Image from The Cook's Thesaurus.
Remember that mystery vegetable with the small oval leaves from last week? Indira has come to the rescue once again. The plant I saw in San Francisco is methi, or menthi, or fresh fenugreek. Can't wait to try this one. Among the wonderful blogs into which I chanced while searching for this herb are Salt and Pepper, Kitchenmate, Cooking Medley,and Food in the Main. Thanks, folks! There is so much talent out there. I am at once delighted and intimidated.

My Vacation

The following exchange, or something very close, has occurred more than once in the past few days:

Solicitous Californian: So Chocolate Lady, you seem to be experiencing some severe culture shock.

Chocolate Lady: What? I didn’t say anything! What did I say? I love it here!

Solicitous Californian: (chuckles wickedly).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

In Which the Unlimited Range of Pizza as Any Kind of Device is Recognized

This miniature for the month of January, painted c. 1415 by the Limbourg brothers for the Duc du Berry, is part of the Louvre Exhibit here at UC Davis
I am bewildered by this sentence by Janet Maslin in today's paper:

An amazing number of episodes involve pizza, despite the limited range of pizza as a literary device.

What could she have been thinking?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sweet Yellow Limes and Loquats

Details will have to wait until I get home, but for now I will say that I quite understand the warm sentiments California inspires in the hearts of her young.

I saw a vegetable at the United nations Plaza Farmers' market I had never seen before. It is called "meyti" or "matee" or something like that. It has dark green, olive-shaped leaves on long stems. Anyone know about this?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Abbie's Gefilte Fish

Mad love to Haverchuk for linking to this amazing movie of Abbie Hoffman z”l preparing gefilte fish on Christmas Eve 1973. I wrote about this film in Yiddish here, but I wanted to make sure all of you get a look at this. This movie is so rich I hardly know where to begin, buthere are some things to note:

Abbie jokes about language, and many other things, but he is entirely serious about Jewish cooking. This is rarer than you might think, especially when people are talking about gefilte fish. Note the phrases “Best thing I ever made,” and “so pure and unpolluted.”

The horseradish is “the real thing” because it was ground t at a restaurant where they only speak Yiddish.

He reaches off camera to point to the grinder, but we never see the grinder, or how the fish gets ground.

He uses Streit’s matzo meal! "Baked with pride on the Lower East Side!"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Midweek Marketing

For Harmonia's Midweek shopping list:

What the chocolate lady is contributing this week:

A bunch of asparagus from Maxwell farm,Spring onions from Yuno farm: These are not leeks or scallions; they are the immature bulbs of actual onions, a preferred ingredient for La Vignarola, about which details to follow,

A bunch of asparagus from Race Farm, because I could not bear to let them feel left out,
some sweet chunchy cucumbers from Yuno farm,
a bunch of red-stem spinach (I've seen all kinds of red "greens," but never spinach until today. Is this gorgeous? It is very sweet and delicious. I will try to make some Sephardic spinach--which we call Sephardic Sephinach-- for Mothers' Day),

teenage collard greens (bigger than baby greens) from Maxwell farm.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

װעגעטאַרישע געפֿילטע פֿיש

„פֿיש“ פֿון מאַרק רובין

פֿאַר משה'לען און אַנדערע װעגעטאַריער װאָס האָבן אַן אינטערעס אין געפֿילטע פֿיש, האָב איך געפֿונען עטלעכע אַלטע װעגעטאַרישע געפֿילטע פֿיש רעצעפּטן פֿון ייִדישע קאָכביכער. װעל איך זײ אָנבלאָגעװען װען נאָר איך קאָן, בלי־נדר.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

In Which the Chocolate Lady's Soundness is Interrogated

I was in the library returning a book this morning, when I ran into a colleague. Before I even had a chance to say hello, she shouted “Are you out of your bloody mind?” She was not referring to my willingness to part with Stone’s Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible (It was recalled; I had no choice), but, as the careful reader has already guessed, to my decortication-related confessions of the weekend. You think I’m barking now? Hu-ha. Wait until you hear about the salt-rising bread.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yet More Khumes

I Insist that the universe needs yet another khumes recipe. Two details of this recipe are learned from my friend Gil, who decorticates every chickpea (Or gets his children to do so) and uses brine from hot Hungarian cherry peppers instead of the traditional lemon juice. I throw one of the cherry peppers in as well.

I relieved the cooked chickpeas of their coverings by scooping up a handful in my right hand, and then pinching each one gently between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand, catching the decorticated pea in the fingertips of my right hand and moving it to the done pile, and dropping the seed coat from my left hand into the peel pile. You will understand that I am unable to provide a photo. You can skip this step and still have some wonderful khumes; I usually do. I just had to try it once, that’s all. Oh, whom am I kidding? I’m gonna decorticate the little blighters every time from now on. It’s a slippery slope, folks.

Yet More Khumes

¾ cup dried chickpeas
salt, about two teaspoons
5 cloves garlic (more or less)
½ - ¾ cup tahini
½ - ¾ cup brine from a jar of pickled Hungarian cherry peppers or other hot peppers (Traditional recipes call for lemon juice)
1 pickled hot Hungarian cherry pepper, stemmed and seeded
Several tablespoons of your loveliest olive oil
A dusting of sumac, and a dusting of paprika or Middle Eastern red pepper

Place the chickpeas in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for two minutes. Drain the chickpeas and discard the water. Pour fresh cold water over the chickpeas and set them to soak in the refrigerator overnight or up to twenty-four hours. If you need to leave the chickpeas soaking more than 12 hours, give them a fresh change of water. When ready to cook, drain the chickpeas and discard the water. The alert reader will note that we have now discarded two or three batches of water. Place the soaked chickpeas in a slow-cooker or saucepan with three cups of fresh water. Set them up to simmer for two to five hours—chickpea-cooking times vary widely.

When the chickpeas are very tender remove them from heat. Drain the chickpeas but this time reserve the liquid. You will have about two cups of cooked chickpeas. If desired, decorticate each chickpea.

Drop the peeled garlic cloves into a processor or other device and grind or mince fine. Add salt, pepper brine, a stemmed and seeded pepper, and the tahini. Blend everything well. Last of all add the chickpeas and their cooking liquid. If you have decorticated the chickpeas, you might not need all the liquid. Blend to the desired consistency, bearing in mind that the khumes will thicken further as it rests.

Turn the khumes out onto a shallow plate or platter. Use the back of a spoon to swirl eddies and ridges in the center and drizzle olive oil over all. Dust with sumac or paprika or both.

Head to Weekend Herb Blogging for more delights and curiosities of the garden.

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אַבי האָפֿמאַנס גפֿילטע פֿיש

איך װײס! עץ װילטס פֿריער װיסן װאָס איז געשען מיטן זאַלץ־הײװן ברױט און חומוס, און איך גײ ענק באַלד זאָגן, בלי־נדר, אָבער פֿריער מוזטס אַ קוק טאָן אױף דעם װונדערלעכן פֿילם אין װעלכן אַבי האָפֿמאַן ע“ה מאַכט געפֿילטע פֿיש אין אַ ניטל־נאַכט. אַ שײנעם דאַנק האַװערטשאָקן, בײַ װעמען איך האָב דאָס ערשט געזען. דער פֿילם איז געװאַלדיק אינטערעסאַנט פֿאַר זיך בכּלל. צװײ ענינים אינטערעסירן מיר בפֿרט׃

שפּראַך ענינים

  • איך האָב געמײנט אַז האָפֿמאַן אַלײן איז יאָ געװען אַ ייִדיש־רעדנער, אָבער אינעם פֿילם זאָגט ער „זײַ געזונטערהײט“ צי קען מען דאָס זאָגן אױף ייִדיש? קאָן זײַן אַז אַבי פּלאַפּלט און װיצלט נאָר, נישט טראַכטנדיק אין דעם מאָמענט.

  • שפּעטער אינעם פֿילם זאָגט אַבי אַז דער רעסטאַוראַן װוּ ער האָט געקױפֿט כרײן איז „די ריכטיגע זאַך“ װײַל זײ רעדן דאָרטן נאָר ייִדיש.

  • האָפֿמאַן רעדט מיט זײער אַ שטאַרקן באָסטאָנער דיאַלעקט. צו מײַנע אױערן איז דאָס דער נישט־ייִדישסטן דיאַלעקט פֿון אַלע װאַריאַנטן פֿון אַמעריקאַנער ענגליש; אָבער אָט רעדט האָפֿמאַן–זײער באָסטאָניש און זײער ייִדישלעך.

קולינאַרישע ענינים׃

  • אַבי װיצלט װעגן שפּראַך, אָבער נישט װעגן עסן. װעגן געפֿילטע פֿיש איז ער אינגאַנצן ערנסט, און דעם אמת געזאָגט, מײן איך אַז דאָס איז אַפֿילו זעלטנער.

  • ער נוצט אַ ביסל צוקער אָבער „נישט צו פֿיל!”

  • די באָבע פֿלעג זאָגן נישט אָרױסצוּװאַרפֿן די גאָר קלײנע פֿישעלעך װאָס זײ האָבן געפֿאַנגען.

  • ער האָט טאַקע ליב געפֿילטע פֿיש, און ער קאָן באמת קאָכן. קאָכנדיק זאָגט ער–„די בעסטע זאַך װאָס איך האָב געמאַכט“ , און „אַזױ רײן און זױבער“. אַ סך ייִדן שעמען זיך װעגן ייִדישע עסן און מאַכן װיצן װעגן װי „שװער“ עס איז. אין קאַרען סילװערסטינס פֿילם „געפֿילטע פֿיש“, רעדט די בעל־הביתטע ( װאָס זאָגט אַז זי האָט ליב געפֿילטע פֿיש) שטענדיק װעגן װי דער ריח איז איר שלעכט, און װאָס פֿאַר אַ שװאַרצע אַרבעט עס איז צו מאַכן.

נאָך געדאַנקען׃

  • דאַכט זיך מיר אַז האָפֿמאַן האָט דװקא געװאָלט טאָן עפּעס ייִדישלעכס אום ניטל. ער זינגט סײַ װי סײַ אונטער ניטל־לידער אױך.

  • ער רײכערט אין קיך? פֿע!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Salt-Rising Bread Progress

The dough smells wonderful--earthy and slightly cheesy, just as it should, but so far there has been no discernable rising.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Zen and the Gentle Art of Chickpea-Decortication

Well, that wasn't too hard.


Click image to compare the actual-size chickpeas

These chickpeas all came from the same bin, but there seem to be two kinds mixed together: the familiar lumpy chickpea and these tiny little smoother guys, just half a shade darker. Can these possibly be the baby chickpeas used to make the Musbacha raved about in Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Grains and Greens? Can it be that while every other person on earth is searching for these fellas in all the world's hidden corners I get them by accident? Well, I suppose there are all kinds of chickpeas out there.

I am going to try to decorticate all the chickpeas (I just learned the word decorticate from the USDA chickpea website), because my friend Gil, who makes the best khumes on the planet, suggests that this step is worthwhile. Wolfert confirms this, but admits that she does not do so herself.

The larger seeds are surrendering their seed coats fairly willingly, but the little ones are a bit more difficult to peel.

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On the Fire

Currently on the stove: Two kinds of chickpeas for khumes.

Currently on the oven floor: Starter for salt-rising bread.

Ooooh, I'm so excited.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I'll fry anything once

Anybody planning to try the avocado fries in today's paper?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Long-Stem Purple Artichokes

I was thrilled as a matzo ball in butter to find these bodacious long-stemmed purple artichokes at the supermarket, and really, I wanted very much to make something that would show off their most excellent stemminess. I was thinking of maybe splitting them down the middle and filling the choke-cavity with maybe a walnut, leek, and Parmegiano-Reggiano stuffing, or trying to make the artichokes in champagne sauce pictured below. This is a detail of a photo is from Art Culinaire 26 (Fall 1992). The recipe for artichokes cooked in champagne and served with a champagne sabayon is by Mark Franz.
If the there is a photo-credit anywhere, I could not find it. Thank you, mystery photographer! This recipe has been haunting me since 1992, and I really wanted to make it, but it was the middle of Peysekh, and I was just all in. I’ll try again next year.

What I did make was this very comforting matzo pie with leeks and artichokes. I would want to eat this at anytime of year.

Artichoke and Leek Matzo Pie

Edible parts from 2 or 3 large artichokes: hearts, cores of the stems, whatever you can scrape off the leaves
4 matzos (generous 4 ounces)
5 leeks
Olive oil
A few sprigs parsley (about 2 tablespoons minced)
1 bunch of dill (a scant cup, minced)
8 eggs, extra large
1 package (7 ½ ounces) farmer cheese
½ pound syrian cheese (or muenster or feta work well)
salt, black pepper, paprika

If you are starting with whole artichokes, wash the artichokes and cook them until tender, about forty minutes. Pull off the leaves and use a spoon to scrape the succulent bits of pulp off the leaves. Scrape fuzz off the heart, and cut the heart into small pieces. Pell the rough skin from the stems and cut up the stems. Break up the matzos and place them in a colander. Pour boiling water over the matzos and allow them to drain. Press them a little to express excess water, but don't wring them out. Slice the leeks into thin circles and submerge the circles in water to rinse out all particles of remaining sand. Heat oil in a skillet and cook the leeks until tender. Add the artichoke bits and cook a few minutes more. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly. Beat together the eggs, herbs, cheeses and seasonings. Add the matzo and cooked vegetables. Turn the batter into an oiled baking pan or the skillet in which you cooked the vegetables, and bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes.

See Sweetnicks for other anti-oxidant offerings.

איך שמעלץ זיך װי אַ קנײדל אין פּוטער
I am melting like a matzo ball in butter; I am utterly delighted

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