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Burekas

This is a Jewish Sephardic dish which is quite similar to the Turkish burak. Burekas can be prepared with various types of dough: strudel dough (thin leaves), rising dough or with types of prepared dough found in the market. This is a dish served on festive occasions, but also widely sold on Israeli street corners. To be tasty, it must be served hot and fresh.

Ingredients: 
Dough:
2 sticks margarine
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups self-rising flour
Warm water
Filling:
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 cup cooked spinach
3 egg yolks
Garnish:
1 egg yolk
Sesame seeds to cover
Directions: 
  1. To make the dough, melt the margarine and mix with flour and salt. Add warm water until able to roll it out. Roll it, cut a leaf, and cut circles with a cup.
  2. Mix all the stuffing ingredients together.
  3. To shape the burekas, put one teaspoon of stuffing on each dough circle. Fold in half.
  4. On top, spread yolk and sprinkle sesame seeds. Place on a well-greased cookie tray and bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350° F until golden. Serve hot.

Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant with Tahini)

In Israel, it is not unusual for guests to drop in for a visit without prior notice. In such cases, they are likely to get a light snack or impromptu meal. In anticipation of such contingencies, one such prepared dish is baba ghanoush, which can be found in virtually every Israeli refrigerator.

Ingredients: 
1 large eggplant
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 cup tahini
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon salt
dash of cayenne pepper
Directions: 
  1. Place whole unpeeled eggplant directly on a gas burner with flame set at medium, turning as the skin chars and inside becomes soft, or bake in a pan at 450° until charred and tender (about 30 minutes).
  2. Let cool slightly, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out eggplant pulp with wooden spoon (the wooden spoon preserves the flavor).
  3. Chop fine in a ceramic or wooden bowl.
  4. Grate onion on largest holes of a grater. Squeeze juice from onion. Chop parsley fine and blend with eggplant and onion.
  5. In a separate bowl, blend tahini thoroughly with lemon juice and garlic. Stir in small amount of water until white in color. Add to eggplant mixture, with salt and dash of cayenne pepper. More lemon may be added for extra flavor. Garnish with parsley.

Techina (Sesame Seed Dip)

A typical dish of the Orient brought to Israel by Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. Techina is a thick dip with sesame seeds as its base. It is often used as a topping for falafel and other dishes.

Ingredients: 
1 cup pure tahini (sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup water
dash of hot pepper (red)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
juice from 2 lemons
pickles
3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions: 
  1. Mix tahini, garlic, water, pepper, salt and lemon juice until you get smooth paste.
  2. Add water if techina is too thick.
  3. Serve as a thin layer on a small plate, with a drop or two of olive oil, garnish with pickles.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley or mix the parsley into the dip.

Hummus (Chickpea Dip)

Like techina, or sesame paste, hummus was brought to Israel by Jews from Arab countries, though today it is everyone's favorite. It tastes best when eaten with fresh, warm pita bread.

Ingredients: 
2 cups canned chickpeas
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons pure tahini paste or 1 cup techina
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2-3 tablespoons oil
Parsley (for garnish)
Directions: 
  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender; mix until chickpeas are smooth.
  2. Refrigerate hummus in a covered container.
  3. Serve well-chilled, with chopped parsley on top. If desired, reserve 1/4 cup unmashed chickpeas and sprinkle on top. More garlic may be added, if desired. If pita is not available, crackers or thick slices of French or Italian bread may be used.

Falafel (Chickpea Patties)

Falafel is sold on street corners in every city and town in Israel. Some call it the "Israeli hamburger." Its popularity can be attributed in no small part to the Yemenite Jews who have brought a particularly tasty version onto the culinary scene. Students living on a meager budget consume full-portion falafels in whole pitas on the sidewalks as their noon "dinner."

Ingredients: 
16 ounces canned chickpeas, drained
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup breadcrumbs or fine bulgur
1 teaspoon ground coriander or cumin
1 teaspoon dried hot peppers
1 teaspoon garlic powder
vegetable oil (for frying)
Directions: 
  1. Combine chickpeas with onion. Add parsley, lightly beaten egg and spices.
  2. Mix in blender. Add breadcrumbs until mixture forms a small ball without sticking to your hands.
  3. Form chickpea mixture into small balls about the size of a quarter (one inch in diameter).
  4. Flatten patties slightly and fry until golden brown on both sides.
  5. Drain falafel balls on paper towels.
  6. Serve individually with toothpicks as an hors d'oeuvre or as a sandwich filling with chopped tomato, cucumber, radish, lettuce, onion, hummus and/or tehina inside pita bread.

Summer Barley Salad

By: 
Tina Wasserman

Barley: The Original Passover Offering

Before 70 C.E.—the year of the destruction of the Second Temple—Jews associated Passover not with matzah, but with barley, as the holiday was celebrated as a pilgrimage festival at the beginning of the barley harvest. Newly harvested barley could not be eaten until the first sheaves of grain were offered as a tithe to the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of Pesach, which was then known as Hag Ha-Aviv (the holiday of spring). As Leviticus 23:10-11 states, “When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He shall elevate the sheaf before the Lord for acceptance on your behalf.” Barley then served as the mainstay of the Jews’ diet because of the plant’s adaptability in Israel’s different climates and its resistance to dry desert heat. With God’s blessing, new barley crops would survive bad weather and thrive, averting famine in the land.


Ironically, the rabbis later categorized barley as one of the five chametz grains (along with wheat, spelt, rye, and oats) that were not kosher for Pesach!

One summer I created this recipe combining herbs in my garden with store produce. To make the salad more substantial, I used pearled barley as a chewy base. The herb Mexican mint marigold tastes like tarragon and pairs well with tarragon vinegar. If these ingredients are not available, you can substitute basil and sweet balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients: 
2 cups of water or low salt vegetable broth
1⁄2 cup pearled barley
1⁄2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 medium cucumbers
1 medium crookneck squash
1 medium zucchini
2 scallions
Dressing:
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1–2 Tablespoons tarragon vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh tarragon, Mexican mint marigold, or basil
Finely grated zest of 1⁄4 lemon
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Watercress or arugula for garnish
Directions: 
  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and stir in the barley. Simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss the barley with the olive oil.
  3. Peel, seed, and cut cucumbers into 1⁄4-inch dice.
  4. Cut the squash and the zucchini into 1⁄4-inch dice. Blanch for 2 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain and run under cold water. Drain again.
  5. Trim 1 inch off the green ends of the scallions, then cut into 1⁄4-inch lengths.
  6. Mix the mayonnaise in a small bowl to make a smooth sauce. Add the remaining dressing ingredients, stirring to combine.
  7. Mix the barley, squash, zucchini, and scallions in a bowl with the dressing.
  8. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl. Garnish with watercress or arugula leaves and serve.

 
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • Blanching vegetables for a short period of time not only softens them slightly, but brings out their natural sweetness and color.

 

Spring Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon

By: 
Tina Wasserman

Barley: The Original Passover Offering (barley is one of the seven species eaten on Tu BiSh'vat)

Before 70 C.E.—the year of the destruction of the Second Temple—Jews associated Passover not with matzah, but with barley, as the holiday was celebrated as a pilgrimage festival at the beginning of the barley harvest. Newly harvested barley could not be eaten until the first sheaves of grain were offered as a tithe to the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of Pesach, which was then known as Hag Ha-Aviv (the holiday of spring). As Leviticus 23:10-11 states, “When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He shall elevate the sheaf before the Lord for acceptance on your behalf.” Barley then served as the mainstay of the Jews’ diet because of the plant’s adaptability in Israel’s different climates and its resistance to dry desert heat. With God’s blessing, new barley crops would survive bad weather and thrive, averting famine in the land.

Ironically, the rabbis later categorized barley as one of the five chametz grains (along with wheat, spelt, rye, and oats) that were not kosher for Pesach!

This recipe is more nutritious than typical risotto and has that same risotto consistency, plus the natural starch in the barley grain adds creaminess to the dish. The use of saffron mimics the classic Risotto Milanese, which some connect to the Venetian Jewish community.

Ingredients: 
2 3⁄4 cups vegetable broth or water and 1 vegetable bouillon cube
1⁄8 teaspoon saffron threads, slightly crumbled
10 medium asparagus stalks, tough ends removed
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced into 1⁄4 inch dice
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 cup pearled barley
1⁄2 cup white wine, Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
15 grindings of black pepper, or to taste
Finely grated zest from 1⁄2 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1⁄2–3⁄4 cup grated fresh Parrano or Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup toasted, slivered almonds (1 Tablespoon removed for garnish)
Directions: 
  1. Combine the broth and the crushed saffron threads in a 1-quart pot and bring to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus stalks on a diagonal into 1⁄2-inch pieces, reserving 11⁄2 inches
    of the tip.
  3. When the liquid is simmering, drop in the asparagus stalk pieces and blanch for 2 minutes, until they’re bright green and slightly tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a small glass bowl. Add the tips to the broth and cook for 1 minute, then remove from the broth and set aside.
  4. Keep the broth warm over low heat while you prepare the barley.
  5. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over high heat for 10 seconds. Add the extra virgin olive oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Mix in the onion and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Sauté the mixture for about 4 minutes, until the onions and garlic are slightly golden.
  6. Add the barley and stir to coat.
  7. Pour in the wine, stirring constantly until it is absorbed.
  8. Add all of the simmering broth, stir, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Stirring the mixture every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking and burning, cook for 30–35 minutes, until the barley is tender. If all of the liquid has been absorbed and the barley appears too hard and/or dry, add another 1⁄4 cup of water and cook for 5 more minutes.
  9. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the salt, pepper, and lemon zest until well combined.
  10. Gently stir the grated cheese into the mixture. When it is evenly distributed and melted, add the almonds and the reserved asparagus pieces minus 5 asparagus tips.
  11. Immediately serve the barley risotto in a dish garnished with the reserved Tablespoon of almonds and the 5 asparagus tips.
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • If you want an even richer consistency in any hot barley dish, add 1–2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter to the hot barley mixture before serving.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

By: 
Tina Wasserman

Strawberries grew wild in North America. Native Americans brought baskets of these berries to the new settlers. Although in the 1600s berries were used mostly in pies, pastries, and jams, the berry in this salad is a wonderful addition.

Ingredients: 
1 10-ounce package of fresh baby spinach
1 pint strawberries
..................................................................
DRESSING
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large leaf of fresh basil, finely minced
1 teaspoon grated onion
2 Tablespoons balsamic or cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Medium Amber Grade
1 teaspoon lime juice, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup croutons or honeyed sesame snack twigs (optional)
Directions: 
  1. Rinse the spinach leaves, pat dry, and remove any large stems. Place in a large serving bowl and refrigerate, covered.
  2. Rinse the strawberries and remove the stems. Slice the berries in halves or quarters. Place in a small bowl and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Combine the next 8 ingredients (through the salt and pepper) in a screw-top jar. Shake to combine. Refrigerate until you're ready to use.
  4. When you're ready to serve, combine the strawberries with the spinach and toasted almonds.
  5. Heat the salad dressing in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds, until it's hot.
  6. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Serve immediately, with extra dressing and/or sprinkled with croutons or honeyed sesame sticks if desired.

 

 
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • When cooking with spinach, opt for pre-washed baby spinach; there's no prep and no waste.
  • Strawberries should never be submerged in water to wash; they'll become too soft. Rinse them instead, then shake or pat off any excess water with a paper towel.
  • Warm salad dressing will slightly wilt the spinach and bring out the sweetness of the leaf.

 

 

 

 

1654 Barley Salad

By: 
Tina Wasserman

I created this salad in 2005 in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Jews in America. The gardening technique practiced in Plymouth, Massachusetts, inspired this salad. 

Small squares of land were cultivated next to the colonists' houses to provide food for the families. The Native Americans taught the pilgrims how to commingle different crops in one square bed to enhance the growth of all. A fish head was buried in the center of a three-foot-square. Corn was planted directly on top to absorb the nitrogen from the decomposing head. Pole beans were planted around the corn to protect and and fertilize the corn as well. Cucumbers or squash were planted around the perimeter because their rough leaves kept animals and playful children away from the vegetation.

Tomatoes were native to the Americas but not necessarily used in salads until much later. I have included grape tomatoes for the modern palate.

Ingredients: 
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
24 red grape tomatoes cut in half horizontally
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 teaspoon minced (or 1/4 teaspoon dried) fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cloves
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups frozen yellow corn, defrosted
1 cup frozen cut green beans, defrosted
3 scallions, finely sliced
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, jarred or fresh, diced
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup barley
4 cups water
Additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Directions: 
  1. Combine the first 11 ingredients in a large glass serving bowl. Let marinate for at least 1/2 hour at room temperature.
  2. Defrost the corn and the green beans. Discard any accumulated liquid. Have all of your remaining ingredients ready while you cook the barley.
  3. Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and then the barley. Stir to combine, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender but not mushy.
  4. When the barley is done, quickly drain it (without rinsing) and pour it over the tomato mixture. Toss with the remaining ingredients. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

 

 

 
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • The easiest way to peel a clove of garlic is to lightly smash it under the flat side of a large knife. The peel will then easily pull away.
  • When working with hot peppers, place your hand in a plastic bag while slicing to prevent the pepper oils from burning your skin.

 

 

 

Italian Marinated Roasted Red Bell Peppers

By: 
Tina Wasserman

The following recipe is based on the technique described in Classic Italian Jewish Cooking by Edda Servi Machlin. My use of balsamic vinegar gives the peppers a sweet taste. Jewish cooks have been preparing peppers this way for centuries.

Ingredients: 
3 very large sweet red peppers
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 very large cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, enough to cover
Directions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 550°F.
  2. Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet and roast them for 15 minutes or until the peel is blackened in spots.
  3. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with water and 8 ice cubes.
  4. When the peppers are done, immediately plunge them into the bowl of ice water.
  5. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them under water. Remove the stem and seeds and any interior membrane.
  6. Cut the peppers lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips. You may wish to cut the strips in half crosswise if the peppers are very long.
  7. Bring the vinegar and salt to a boil in a stainless steel or enameled pan. Add the sliced peppers and cook for 3 minutes, stirring with a soft spoon or spatula.
  8. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  9. Drain the peppers. Stir in the garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Place the mixture in a 1-quart wide-mouthed glass jar. Pour olive oil over the peppers to cover. Bang the uncovered jar on the counter to force any air bubbles to the surface--this will prevent mold from forming on the peppers.
  11. Close the lid tightly on the jar and refrigerate. The peppers may be eaten soon after, but for the best flavor wait 24 hours. Serve and enjoy.
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • Roasting peppers in a hot oven causes the peppers to blister but the "meat" of the vegetable does not burn. You'll preserve the flesh of your peppers far better this way than roasting them on a grill.
  • By far the easiest way to peel peppers is immediately after water submersion.
  • Any time you are boiling vinegar and salt, it must be in a non-reactive pan. Stainless steel, glass, or enamel are all okay. Copper, brass, and aluminum will react with the liquid and ruin your recipe.
  • Balsamic vinegar will turn the peppers a dark mahogany color. If you want them to look more natural, use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar instead.

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