Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rubiya Update

Rubiya, also called loubia, or black-eyed peas, are among the vegetables listed in the Talmud for the eve of the New Year. The Aramaic word “rubiya” sounds like words for things like “multiply” and “plentiful.” I thought these Yin-Yang beans or calypso beans from Purcell Mountain Farm would be close enough. When the beans are raw, they are very striking. After soaking for a couple of hours they look like this:

And then after cooking another couple of hours their markings are still visible, but considerably less dramatic.
There's a recipe to come. This was good. May our good fortune be plentiful and our good works multiply in the coming year.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Karsi (Leeks)

To prepare Karsi, or leeks, for Rosheshone, I looked first in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. I found a recipe that seemed too easy to consider, but I was cooking many difficult things that night already, and I couldn't think of anything else to do with the leeks, and I thought I could allow myself this one indulgence. I am very glad I did. It turns out that leeks cooked in water with butter and salt are significantly better than a pointed stick in one’s eye.
Julia's recipe directs us to slice the leeks lengthwise and lay them sideways in the pan. I decided to cut them crosswise and have them standing on end because I thought that would be pretty. I also cooked the leeks on the stove, but did not finish them in the oven as directed in the original recipe, because I forgot that part. One thing I did not change from the original recipe was the prelapsarian quantity of butter. Julia’s braised leeks recipe uses six tablespoons of butter for twelve leeks. I made half that amount.
Karsi (Leeks)
Wash six large leeks and cut off the roots and green tops. Wash the leeks again, as thoroughly as possible, and cut them into 1 inch lengths. Now wash each 1-inch leek-nub carefully under running water telescoping the ends to make sure all of the sand between the layers is washed away.
You might want to remove some outer layers from the upper parts of the leeks. Place the leek-nubs on end in a shallow pan into which they can all fit snugly. Sprinkle with salt, and cut in three tablespoons of butter. Pour water into the pan so that it comes to thirds up the sides of the leeks. Cover the pan loosely and set over a medium fire. Cook the leaks for about 40 minutes, checking periodically to see that they still have enough water. When they are done, they will be very tender and just a tiny bit brown. Sprinkle some parsley over the top, and serve. That's all.

I like leeks plenty, but even I was amazed in the how delicious this was. The leeks become velvety and tender with the long cooking, but I think much of the credit must go to the handsome measure of butter.
The blessing for this vegetable in given in the 1887 Livorno Makhzor is:
יהי רצון . . . שיכרתו אױבֿינו ושׂונאינו וכל מבֿקשי רעתינו, תּרום ידך על צריך וכל אױבֿיך יכרתו.


Friday, September 22, 2006


יהי רצון . . . שירבו זכוּתינו, צדקתינו, ותלבֿננו

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sweet is The Mercy of the Lord. Sweet and Foamy

Wish these folks provided an ingredient list
I was just writing and dictating my Loubia/Rubia/Black-Eyed Pea recipe for this year, and I saw that according to my dictation software, you should cover the tofu with a teaspoon of crushed brown mustard seeds and a bottle of forgiveness. Now it so happens that a bottle of forgiveness is exactly what all of us should be adding to our recipes at this time of year, but the substance in which I am a marinating the tofu is in fact a bottle of Guinness.
See the peas in various stages here.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Teeny Tiny Garlic Cloves

Left: garlic bulbs and cloves from the scapes; Right: regular bulb and clove

The top of the mature garlic scape forms a second bulb on top. I am using these little whole cloves in ratatouille and other preparations. They are delicious, but very difficult to peel. Decorticationg chickpeas or almonds is a day at the races compared to this. The ones that stayed wrapped in the refrigerator don't require peeling.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I could almost repair my bicycle with these guys, couldn't I? I am loving the little stars formed by the ridges of this squash, identified by Elizabeth Schneider as Costata Romanesca, of the cocozelle variety of zucchini, but what really bakes my potatoes is the pattern of pale yellow speckles on the dark green skin. How do they manage to get every speckle in exactly the right spot? Surpassing wondrous are the works of the Lord.
These ridgey squashes are firmer that your garden variety zucchini, and they also have more liquid, so they will appreciate draining with some kosher salt before cooking. This batch will be going into the season’s second ratatouille. The recipe is pretty close to the one posted here. The only innovation for this year is that I am using the teeny tiny little garlic cloves from the tops of mature garlic scapes and leaving the cloves whole.
More shapely variation at Sweetnicks.
Zucchini are one of the five foods mentioned in the Talmud (Horayos 12a and Kerises 6a) as being auspicious for the Eve of the New Year. A possible reason for this suggested by Hai Gaon (939-1038) is that it is because the word for zucchini in Aramaic (or the word for what we understand to have been something pretty close to zucchini) is “קרא” or “kra,” a homophone for the word meaning to rip, and when eating the zucchini one can say prayer “May the evil decree be ripped away from us.” So the symbolic power of the vegetable is located in the word. You can see how this is just my cup of tea—the vegetables, along with the words of the blessing, go into the mouth.
There’s more—the Mordecai (?-1298) believed that the reason this vegetable was especially recommended for the New Year was because kra is also a homophone for the word meaning to read, and the appropriate blessing to recite is “May our merits be read before you.” So they agree that the culinary lexicography is the issue, but disagree on what the word evoked by zucchini might be.
The Yiddish commentary by Rabbi Avrohom Karp zt”l (Audio here) states that the five vegetables (zucchini, black-eyed peas, leeks, beet greens or chard (or spinach), and dates) are all plants that ripen quickly and are auspicious for that reason. He adds that in the Yiddish speaking world a sixth vegetable, carrots, is added because the Yiddish word for carrots, "מערן" or "mern" is a homophone for the word meaning "to multiply" or "to increase," and this is the only case he knows of ritual practice being based on a Yiddish word.
If not for a certain deadline, I would love to write something about each of these vegetables on each of the days between now and Rosheshone; oooh that would be so cool. I'll do what I can. A good, sweet, and blessed year to all In Mol Araan. Thank you so much for being here.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pink Potatoes with Lentils and Cilantro (Girgir Aloo)

I got these pretty little potatoes from my CSA a few weeks ago and thought they were just like any other pretty little pink-skinned potatoes, but they turned out to be vivid blushing pink through and through. I almost thought I should prepare them in a dish that would allow them to shine on their own, but I had already begun making my adaptation of Girgir Aloo, a recipe from the Hunza region of Northern Pakistan. The main ingredient for this recipe is lentils, and coincidentally, I had selected some whole masoor dal, demure and brown outside but stormily pink within, as the star. Nature may be red in tooth and claw, but she is pink in tuber and cotyledon. You've seen masoor dal, also called red lentils or pink lentils, in its split and decorticated form. The pretty pink cotyledons of the split dal turn yellow when cooked, but the whole masoor dal cook up looking pretty much like any other lentils.

Girgir Aloo (Adapted from Mareile Paley)

2 cups whole masoor dal (or other whole lentils)


3 large onions, medium to largish dice

4 ripe tomatoes

one small bunch of cilantro, about 1 cup chopped leaves

One dozen small pink potatoes (or a pound of any potatoes)

4 fresh chili peppers (I used one green jalapeno, one yellow surefire, one bright red surefire, and one purple pepper that turned a lovely deep crimson when cooked)

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons hot paprika or cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

Cook the lentils in 2 cups of water with half a teaspoon salt until tender. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, and cook over low heat until they begin to color. Scald the tomatoes in boiling water, remove the skins and seeds, and cut into pieces. Add the tomatoes and half of the cilantro to the onions in the saucepan. Cook for a few minutes and add the potatoes, the fresh chili peppers, and spices. Stir and cook for a few moments, and add a cup of water. Cook until the potatoes are done, and add lentils with their remaining water, if there is any. Give a stir and continue to cook for another twenty minutes or so. Before serving, stir in the remaining fresh raw cilantro leaves.

At first the turmeric will smell harsh, and you will think you have added too much, but as the lentils and vegetables cook, the turmeric will recede to a nice warm, woody background.

The recipe from which this is adapted appeared in Saudi Aramco World and was brought to my attention by the exquisite Cara De Silva. Here’s the article. Click on the box that says “view the recipes.” You can decide if you want to try my recipe or the original. I received Saudi Aramco World for several years. I don't know why they started sending me the magazine, and I don't know why they stopped. They did have some good food journalism every now and again. Let us draw the curtain of charity across the balance of their editorial content. But you see? Here is yet another case in which we see that amazing recipes are out there just everywhere.

Find more delights from unexpected sources at Weekend Herb Blogging, to be found this week at Piperita’s Kitchen Pantry.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

אלול פֿרישטיק סאַלאַט

This recipe appeared in English here.

דער רעצעפּט, װאָס דער ענגלישער נסח פֿון אים געפֿינט זיך דאָ, האָט לכתּחילה געהײסן „אױגוסט פֿרישטיק סאַלאַט“, אָבער עס פּאַסט זײער גוט צו אַן אלולער װעטשערע, אָדער װאָס עס זאָל נישט זײַן.

אלול פֿרישטיק סאַלאַט

1 פּאָמידאָר, זײער זאַפֿטיק און צײַטיק

אַן ערך 2 פֿערשקעס, מע זאָל האָבן אַ גלײַכן מאָס פּאָמידאָרן און פֿערשקעס

בריט'ס אָפּ דעם פּאָמידאָר און שײלט'ס אים אָפּ (מדאורײַתא), נעמט'ס אַרױס די זױמענס. בריט'ס אָפּ די פֿערשקעס און שײלט'ס זײ אָפּ (מדרבנן), נעמט'ס אַרױס די שטײנער. שנײַדט'ס די אױפּס אין שטיקער איבער אַ שיסל, אַלע ריח־ניחוחדיקע זאַפֿטן זאָלן זיך אַרײַנגיסן אין שיסל אַרײַן. גיט'ס צו אַ פֿאָדעם אײַלבערט־בױמל, אַ טראָפּן באַלסאַמישן עסיק, און גראָבע־זאַלץ אױפֿן שפּיץ־מעסער. פֿאַר צװײען.

און אָט איז פּסח נערודעס פּאָמידאָרן־אָדע.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Ground Cherries

I just read about ground cherries only yesterday in Willa Cather's My Ántonia, and serendipitously here they are in this week’s CSA delivery. Each one comes in its own elegant little five-paneled papery lampshade. The spherical berries are deep yellow and very sweet. To my taste, they are entirely unlike either cherries or tomatoes. Their flavor is more like caramel, even a little butterscotchy, with some lavender and maybe just the teeniest bit of citrus. There are some lovely recipes out there, but I don’t see how anything could be more fun than just peeling and eating each one. I would suggest making a nice cup of tea.

Here’s the passage from My Ántonia:

I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin. There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit. I turned back the papery triangular sheths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines. . . . I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. . . . I was entirely happy.

The Yiddish word for ground cherry is vinterkarsh (physalis peruviana) or khinezish lamterl (physalis alkekengi).

I continue to marvel at the abundance of culinary gems and surprises I am finding in children's literature of the nineteenth century Midwest.

More unexpected gems at Sweetnicks.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

In The News

There’s lots of alarming news in the New York Times this week. Winnie suffered some, shall we say, fundamental distress because of an article that compares folks who cook fresh vegetables to Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess. I was even more alarmed today to learn that the new mayor of Pittsburgh reports that he drinks twelve diet Pepsies a day. Now I sure hope you will not interpret my reaction as snobbism, reverse-snobbism, or double-dog reverse-snobbism, but oh my gawd, that is awful! Can somebody please make this poor, unfortunate gentleman a pitcher of iced tea or lemonade? Fer Cryin out loud.

The Situation

Because of a construction emergency in my apartment, I have had to move all my glasses out of their cabinet and stash them in temporary shelters. It’s a considerable inconvenience, yet I feel oddly festive. I just realized that this is because I feel like I’m getting ready for Passover. I hope I can stay in a holiday frame of mind for the duration, and that I get my kitchen back in time for Rosheshone.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

אַ בעל־הבית'טע איבער אַ הײפּטל קרױט

מע זאָגט װעגן אַן אָרעמאַן װאָס פֿאַרמאָגט זײער װײניק אַז ער איז „אַ בעל־הבית איבער אַ הײפּטל קרױט“ אָבער די בעל־הבית'טע איבער דעם הײפּטל קרױט איז אַ בעל־הבית'טע מדאורײַתא. דאָס בילדל, װאָס האָט געמאַכט מײַן חבֿרטע די סאַמע צפֿונדיקסטע ייִדישע, דערמאָנט מיך אין אַ מעשׂהלע װעגן אַ מײדל װאָס איז געװען זײער קלײן און איז געשלאָפֿן אין אַ רױז, אָדער אַ הײפּטל קרױט, אָדער עפּעס ענלעכס. זעט'ס נאָך בילדער פֿון אַלאַסקער געװיקסן דאָ.

אַ בעל־הבית איבער אַ הײפּטל קרױט
Lit: "Master of a head of cabbage." This phrase usually means one who owns very little, but clearly not in this case.

Lit: From the Torah. The real thing.

Hope she has a good coleslaw recipe

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Shopping With the Gefilte Mobile

For Harmonia's midweek shopping, this week the Chocolate Lady is contributing:

(Clockwise starting at eleven)
Flat leaf parsley
Purple radishes (so pretty!)
Sweet corn
(my handbag)
Bell peppers
(White bag with Oldwick Pecorino)
(Camera shy: some kirbies under the eggplants)

I wish I had more time to ride around town with my vegetables.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I think this cool peach soup is commonly known as meli-melo, but I have been calling it gaspeacho. I made this last week just before I left for Yiddish camp, from which we just returned. Traditionally you would be making meli-melo with only peaches, but I made this version with about half peaches and half apricots, because that’s what was around.

I always cook the stones along with the fruit and wine, but does anyone know if this really makes a difference, or is it purely a mystical gesture, like putting a light bulb in one’s guacamole?

Meli-Melo (Gaspeacho)

1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine, or as much as is left in the bottle, plus more water

1 cup water

½ cup sugar (you may reduce the sugar)

1-inch piece of cinnamon stick, optional

1 clove, optional (possibly more—I have some very powerful cloves)

½ of one bourbon vanilla bean, optional, but really nice

4 ripe but firm peaches

12 or so ripe but firm apricots

Pour the wine and water into a large saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the wine. Add the vanilla pod, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for ten minutes. The cinnamon stick will dance around Blanch the peaches and apricots in hot water and slip off their skins. Slice the fruit over the saucepan so you catch every drop of perfumed juice. Drop the slices into the saucepan, along with the stones. Continue to simmer for another ten minutes. Chill before serving.

If you do not have whole spices, do not use ground spices. This will be just lovely unspiced, but yucky and murky with powder.

More seasonal flavors at Weekend Herb Blogging

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Very Big Food

Photo by the Northernmost Jew

It seems the long hours of daylight in Alaska produce some enormous vegetables. My friend the Northernmost Jew is down from Deering to visit the balmier climes of Anchorage, where she beheld the biggest kohlrabi the world has ever known at the Alaska State Fair. Look at more giant food here. (Or see some teeny tiny food here).

Who knew you could grow all this stuff in Alaska? And have a look at the food guide to the fair--a perfect example 21st-century regionalism: Hawaiian this, Cajun that, and reindeer hotdogs.