Lite Chocolate Date Nut Cake

One chilly evening, ten years ago, I sat in a cafe in Jerusalem with my parents and brand-new husband, taking a quiet night off from sheva brachos celebrations. When the waiter, dressed in crisp black and white, glided over to our table with a tray piled with full dishes. “You do such a good job of balancing all that,” my mother complimented him. The experienced waiter dismissed her praise with a wave of his hand and proceeded to deliver a short speech about the importance of balance in life. These words of wisdom from the waiter still reverberate today.

Throughout life, we are always looking for the balance between the ideal and the real. This site is called Israeli Salad. I love salad. My third post on the the blog was a recipe for my favorite breakfast, the fruity power breakfast bowl. Chopped fruit topped with plain, low-fat yogurt and seeds is a great way to start the day. Lately, however, I’ve really just wanted a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake for breakfast. Cake for breakfast? The mother who tries to convince her kids to throw out lollipops? The writer of a food blog named after salad? Such hypocrisy!

Chocolate date nut cake

chocolate date nut cake slice.jpg

Well, this chocolate cake, while not as healthy as fruit and yogurt, has no refined sugar and no oil. As far as cakes go, it’s right up there health-wise with No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie, Banana Muffins with the Works, and Granola-Crust Cheesecake Fruit Tart. All the sweetness comes from dates. With no added sugar or oil, this chocolate cake can definitely count as a guilt-free breakfast or a light dessert. It also holds together well and slices beautifully. Served as dessert, it can be dusted with powdered sugar, or topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

The lite chocolate date nut cake has a light, spongy texture. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. The walnuts and coconut lend both texture and flavor. The chocolate flavor, boosted by a spoonful of instant coffee and a splash of vanilla, is still dominant. Fruit, nuts, eggs, whole grains, and caffeine. Sounds like breakfast to me! If you really need balance, go ahead and have a Ratatouille-Inspired Mediterranean Grain Bowl or Beet Bulgur Salad for lunch. chocolate date nut cake bite

Lite Chocolate Date Nut Cake Recipe

Ingredients

20-25 pitted dates (150 grams)
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
1. Pit, check, and halve dates. Place in food processor with regular knife blade.
2. Dissolve instant coffee in boiling water. Add to dates. Blend for about a minute, until there are not large chunks of date.
3. With food processor on, add vanilla and eggs. The continuous blending will help keep the eggs from cooking in the hot date mixture.
4. Add the flour, baking soda, shredded coconut, and walnuts. Blend until all of the dry ingredients and evenly combined with the wet ingredients.
5. Pour into a cake pan greased with cooking spray (or oil, if you prefer).
6. Bake at 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Do not over-bake.

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Six Tips for Successful Car Trips with Kids

“Aaaah! She’s bothering me!!” wails my son from back seat.

“He hit me!” follows instantly.

“What now?” I ask.

“She breathed my air!” the little one shouts back.

“There’s enough air for everyone,” I answer. “Let’s play a game…”

After over three weeks of holidays, I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to think about cooking. Luckily, in addition to plenty of kitchen time, I spent a large part of the last month on the road with family trips. Travelling with any number of children can be stressful. If the above conversation sounds familiar, the tips below may help you make the most of family fun time, unless, of course, the kids breathe each others’ air.

  1. Plan ahead.
    This includes knowing where you’re going and how long it will take you to get there, as well as packing up any necessary gear, hats, water bottles, and snacks well in advance of the time you want to be piling into the car. My husband was shocked that I managed to get out of the house for a day trip with five kids last Chanukah at 8:30 am. It was this trick that allowed us to get out efficiently, before the kids got caught up in the middle of a game at home or got hungry for a snack before everyone was ready to go. Part of planning ahead is also knowing your family rhythm and pace. If you know it will take you two hours to get out the door in the morning, no matter how much you pack up the night before, planning the impossible will only cause frustration. For young children who nap, if a whole day activity is too much, consider a half-day activity, leaving after lunch, at naptime, so the kids will sleep in the car and arrive at the destination refreshed and energized. Alternatively, leave early and end the outing with lunch, and allow the kids to sleep in the car on the way home.
  2. Send everyone to the bathroom as close as possible to leaving.
    Everyone includes the adults. Parents can sometimes be so focused on getting the kids ready that they forget about themselves. While they can usually wait better than the little ones to arrive at the destination, less personal discomfort means more patience for handling traffic jams and children’s squabbles in a calm and patient manner.
  3. Eat before leaving home.
    If you don’t allow eating in the car, this is crucial to starting the kids off in a good mood, unless they get motion sickness. Like Tip #2, this will give the parents the energy and patience needed to deal with cranky children squished into a metal box on wheels for an extended period of time. Don’t count on eating on the road. You will likely be too busy to eat properly. If you are the driver, eating while driving may also distract you from focusing on the road and driving safely.
  4. Have an arsenal of age-appropriate car games and songs memorized.
    One of the things that stands out the most clearly in my memory when I think back to childhood road trips was making up new, silly verses to “Down by the Bay.” That seemed to last longer than “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?” lasts with my kids. My favorite car game is now “I Spy,” which can be adapted to children’s levels by using colors, things that start with different letters of the alphabet, shapes, etc. or played backwards, with kids searching out the window for airplanes, animals, unusual-colored cars, etc. For mathematically-inclined children, license plate games can range from simply finding a license plate with a 2 on it to adding up license plate numbers. For older children, who know how to spell, the classic “We’re going on a trip and bringing apples and bread and a can of corn, etc,” adding items with the next letter in the alphabet, in turn. A similar game that does not require spelling but does require creativity and language skills is telling a story one sentence at a time, in turn. Songs and games involving everyone are especially helpful for keeping tired kids awake and preventing sibling fights via distraction.
  5. Arrange seating strategically.
    “Why do I always sit all the way in the back where the air conditioning doesn’t reach?” “I never get a window that opens!” “I want to sit next to the baby!” “Why am I always in the sun whatever direction we’re driving?” Deciding who sits where in the car can be as bad as deciding seats at the supper table. However, whereas many people have a rotation system at the table, you probably don’t want to constantly be moving car seats around. Plan your youth jigsaw carefully, taking each individual’s needs, as well as the family needs, into account. With our small seven-seater, we have two rows of kids to scramble.
    Seating factors include, but are not limited to: Who is the most likely to be bothered by the sun? Can you put up a sun-shade? Who is the most likely to fall asleep? Should the sleepers be in the least accessible seats, so they aren’t bothered, or in seats where it will be easy to take them out of the car without waking them? Will anyone need to get out to throw up or use the bathroom before arriving at the final destination? Who may need adult assistance in transit? We always make sure to have someone in the middle who is big enough to play with the baby and has long enough arms to pass things to the little ones in the back seats. Do some seats have less leg room than others? Decide whether you want to put the taller kids in the seats with more leg room or the smaller kids, with bags by their feet. Don’t forget the important factor of personality. Which kids are the least likely to fight if they are sitting next to each other? Take a deep breath (of your own air), and let the mapping begin.
  6. Give each child a water bottle and a quiet toy to occupy themselves in the car.
    Sun, air conditioning, and boredom all increase thirst. Even if you have Mr. Long Arms sitting in the middle seat and happy to pass water around the car, it’s much easier to just give each small child their own sippy cup or bottle to hold during the ride. If your child’s car seat has a cup holder, they will definitely want something to put in it. As far as toys go, you don’t want any traveler to have to rely on another for entertainment, especially if some are snoozing. Travel board games are great for packing, but those tiny pieces are not car-friendly. Stick to self-contained, personal toys like Rubik’s cubes, maze balls, action figures, fifteen puzzles, and (Don’t laugh at me; this is one of my kids’ favorite toys.) rubber bands.

Ready? Set? Go!

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Energy Bites, 3 Ways (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Fasting on Yom Kippur is one of the most widely-observed Jewish practices. Polls conducted in recent years have revealed that 73% of Israelis fast on Yom Kippur. Whether it is for religious reasons, or an affiliation with tradition and Jewish culture, this is a special day for Jews.

Many are planning what to eat before and after the fast to preserve their energy throughout the day and regain it when the the fast is over. Others, however, would like to be fasting but cannot for medical reasons. Those eating small amounts spread out over the course of the day face he question of what nutrient-dense foods to eat on Yom Kippur to give them energy to get through the day, one bite at a time. (A rabbi should be consulted for procedural details. I just have recipes.)

A friend of mine who needs to eat on Yom Kippur this year for medical reasons was looking for ideas for little things to eat. Suggestions included grapes, Cheerios, date halves, and squares of chocolate. Dates give her a stomachache. Squares of chocolate spike the blood sugar and then let it crash—and eating chocolate all day on a fast day just doesn’t feel right. Below are recipes for three types of nutrient-dense, no-bake energy bites, all without dates. These are basic recipes to which other types of seeds or nuts could be added. All of the energy bite recipes are full of fiber, protein, and fat. They are very lightly sweetened, with just a tablespoon of honey per recipe. Each energy bite is a tablespoon, 15 mL. If made with gluten free oats and maple syrup, agave nectar, or date syrup, they are both gluten free and vegan.

These delicious little bites are great for an energy boost before a fast, after a fast, or any time. Enjoy them in good health!

energy bites chocolate sesame

No-Bake Chocolate Sesame Energy Bites Recipe
Yield: 20 bites

Ingredients:

1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup techina paste (טחינה גולמית-the base used to prepare the techina sauce)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons honey or other liquid sweetener

Directions:

  1. Mix in a bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  3. Press into a tablespoon to form balls.
  4. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

energy bites chocolate peanut butter

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites Recipe
Yield: 16 bites

Ingredients:

1.5 cups quick oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey or other liquid sweetener

Directions:

  1. Mix in a bowl.
  2. Press into a tablespoon to form balls.
  3. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

energy bites coconut almond.jpg

No-Bake Coconut Almond Energy Bites Recipe
Yield: 22-24 bites

Ingredients:

1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey or other liquid sweetener

Directions:

  1. Mix in a bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  3. Press into a tablespoon to form balls.
  4. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

 

 

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Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Beets

Honey, sometimes life stings. Wherever we choose to live and work or study, whoever we choose to associate with, however we budget our time and money, there will always be a mix of advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes we get to choose between the good and the better; others times, we pick the lesser of two evils. beets and carrots roasted

The most popular traditional Rosh Hashanah food today is an apple dipped in honey. One reason the sweet apple was chosen over other fruits is a reference to the love between G-d and the Jewish people in the Song of Songs (2:3): “Like an apple among the trees of the forest…and its fruit is sweet on my palate.” Dipping the sweet apple in honey shows that we want a doubly sweet year. Honey is unique in a number of ways. It is kosher even though it is produced by a non-kosher animal. The sweetness of honey is stronger than the sweetness of regular granulated sugar, but when it is eaten in a large amount, it can have a bitter aftertaste. For this reason, some follow the tradition of dipping challah and apples in sugar instead of honey. Too much sweetness is bitter. Without the bad, we wouldn’t appreciate the good as much. When we recognize the bee’s sting, we are even more grateful for our honey.

beets and carrots raw

I like to use honey sparingly, for glazes and dressings. A little bit goes a long way. This way, you get the maximum flavor with minimum use. (It’s the same principal my parents used to explain how Kix cereal could taste sweet and have lower sugar content than higher-sugar cereals.) According to the National Honey Board, it takes 4.4 million bees to produce one kilogram of honey. No wonder it’s so expensive.

This roasted vegetable dish includes three traditional Rosh Hashanah foods in addition to honey. When we eat beets, we asked for our enemies to be removed. When we eat carrots, we asked for a good decree; as a bonus, carrot circles look like coins. I use both orange and yellow carrots to give this dish maximum color. Roasting the vegetables preserves more of their natural flavor than boiling. The honey glaze gives it a beautiful shine and jewel-like pomegranate seeds (that we should be full of mitzvot) used for garnish really make it look like a bowl of treasure.

Wishing you a sweet year!

Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Beets
Yield: About 3 cups

Ingredients
3 cups peeled, cubed beets
2 cups orange and yellow carrots, peeled and sliced in circles
2-3 T olive oil, divided
2-3 T honey, divided
2 teaspoons dried ginger, divided
1 T lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Directions

  1. Put on an apron. You are going to be working with beets. I know some people who actually feed beets to their toddlers. I am not one of them, as I am in charge of both cooking and laundry in my house.
  2. Peel and cuts beets and carrots. Put into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. In a small bowl or jar, combine oil, honey, and ginger. Pour half off to save for later. Add garlic and lemon juice. Mix, whisk, or shake to combine.
  4. Pour glaze over the vegetables and toss to coat.
  5. Spread the beets and carrots in a single layer in a roasting pan or baking dish, lined with parchment paper for easy clean-up. (Beets, remember?)
  6. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350F/180C for 30-40 minutes.
  7. Once the roasted vegetables have cooled, dress them with the reserved honey-oil mixture. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature.
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3 Ingredient Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

Taste can be a strong memory trigger. Even in our adult years, we find ourselves comparing drinks to medicine our mothers made us take as toddlers or reaching for “comfort foods” that remind us of home when we are feeling down. Many people remember meals from special occasions, like a first date, engagement, or wedding. When one woman I knew passed away in her eighties with a freezer full of her famous secret-recipe cookies, her children divided the cookies up evenly and savored a memory with each bite until they were gone.

peanut butter cookies 2.jpg

Two years ago today, mortality tapped me on the shoulder. A friend a few years younger than me passed away suddenly. Like I had done years before her, Sara had left her family in North America to move to Israel. Though she missed them terribly, she was starting her own life in the Jewish homeland. At the time of her death, she was engaged to marry an Israeli man. Even though she had a day job and MA studies keeping her busy, Sara was my kids’ (and my) favorite babysitter. Living with roommates just a few blocks away, she was also our most frequent non-family Shabbat guest. I enjoyed listening to her book recommendations and English-teaching adventures, and my children fought over who would sit next to her at each meal. It’s not easy to live alone, far from family. In Sara’s memory, please take a moment to think if you know someone lonely–a bachelor, a widow, a student, an elderly person, or anyone else who could really use some company–and consider adding them to your guest list for the upcoming holidays. The holiday season is an especially difficult time to be alone.

On one visit, Sara brought flour-less peanut butter cookies and introduced me to the concept. I didn’t get her recipe, but I played around with the basic ingredients until I got something I liked. These sweet treats have a chewy center and crispy edges, and they are super easy and gluten-free. Whenever I eat these, I think of my friend.

peanut butter cookies

Enjoy!

3 Ingredient Flour-less Peanut  Butter Cookies
Yield: About 30 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Thoroughly mix peanut butter and sugar, by hand or with a mixer.
  2. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.
  3. The vanilla and cocoa add a richer, deeper flavor to the cookies, but they are completely optional. If using them, add at this point.
  4. Drop spoonfuls evenly spaced onto a cookie sheet lined with baking paper.
  5. Bake at 180C/350F for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Do not over-bake. Cool completely before taking off the pan.
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No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie

The first time I tasted a no-bake fresh fruit pie was two years ago when I was visiting family in the United States. A guest brought my parents two fresh blueberry pies. Fresh fruit loses a lot of its nutritional value when it’s cooked or baked, but this pie was just a crust smeared with cream cheese and filled with fresh blueberries, with a very light glaze. We ate the leftovers for breakfast for most of a week because fresh fruit is totally guilt-free and healthy!

On my recent berry-picking excursion, I also picked fresh cherries and ended up bringing home almost two kilos (over 4 pounds) of them. As delicious as they, those are a lot of cherries to munch on! As I was pulling dusty, sun-kissed cherries off the trees and dropping them into my basket, I already began to envision this fresh cherry pie. Concentrated cherry taste with none of the fresh, delicious flavor baked out.

Searching for a recipe, most “fresh cherry pie” recipes I found were baked pies make with fresh cherries, and “no-bake cherry pie” gave me a lot of recipes for cheesecake with cherry pie filling. What I wanted was a pie that would just showcase, contain, and highlight the cherries’ natural sweetness, not mask it with creams and syrups. I wanted to recreate that blueberry pie in cherry form. Here is what I came up with:

cherry pie horizontal

 

The three parts of this pie are the crust, fresh cherries, and light glaze. For the crust, you could use your favorite basic pie crust recipe. I used the King Arthur no-roll oil pie crust, exchanging 80% whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. I baked it for fifteen minutes before filling, and its mild, slightly salty flavor complimented the sweet, fresh cherries very nicely. I call this a no-bake pie even though the crust is baked in order to distinguish it from traditional, baked cherry pies. The cherry-pitting is the most time-consuming step in this pie, especially if you don’t have a cherry pitter, but it is well worth it. The glaze I kept simple, with just some chopped cherries simmered with sugar, water, lemon juice, and vanilla while I filled the pie crust with the fresh cherries.

Take advantage of fresh cherries while they are in season. You will want to make this pie every year.

No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie Recipe

Ingredients:
Your favorite pie crust or this one from the King Arthur site:
2 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
7 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup cold water

Filling:
4-5 cups fresh cherries, halved and pits removed

Glaze:
1/2 cup fresh cherries, chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Crust: Mix dry ingredients. Then add wet ingredients and mix into a dough. Press evenly into a pie pan (9-in/23 cm). Make sure there are no holes. Bake at 180C/350F for 15-20 minutes, until slightly golden. Cool before filling.
  2. Put the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan on medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the cherries are cooked, stirring occasionally to avoid burning or sticking to the pot.
  3. While the glaze is simmering, cut up as many cherries as you can fit into the crust.
  4. Drizzle glaze over the cherries.
  5. Served chilled with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or on its own.
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How to Pick Perfect Berries

blackberries and raspberries

The wild blackberry bush on the border between our yard and the neighbors’ seems like it’s on the border between civilization and the wild. After all, it is beyond the fence. Clutching our little rinsed-out yogurt cups, my sister lifts the metal latch, too high for me to reach, and we follow the chain link fence to the grassy hill behind our house, the edge of the woods, the neighbor’s blackberry bush. Although we have permission from both the neighbors and our parents, it feels like a wild adventure to be pulling down thorny branches and reaching under wide leaves to search for hidden treasure: plump, juicy blackberries. We alight the cement stairs to the back door into the kitchen half an hour later with cups full of berries, scratches on our arms, and purple juice on our chins and fingers.

 

That was twenty-five years ago. I hadn’t gone berry-picking in over twenty years until last week. “Petel Bahar” (פטל בהר) in Gush Etzion opens its cherry orchards and berry bushes to public picking, for a fee, from mid-May through July. (This is an unsolicited recommendation. The opinions are completely my own. I am not being compensated at all for this post. BUT…if you happen to go, it won’t hurt to mention that you heard about it on my blog. ;-))  The staff gave us tips on how to pick the ripest, sweetest, juiciest blackberries and raspberries:

How to Pick the Best Blackberries

 

  • The berries that grow in the sun are sweeter than the ones that grow in the shade.
  • Blackberries should be completely black. If they are red, they aren’t ripe, and if there is even a hint of red, they may be sour, or at least not very sweet.
  • The best blackberries are plump and full of juice. They look like they will burst if you touch them. Sometimes they do!
  • Grasp the berry where it is attached to the branch and pull gently. It should come off easily. If it doesn’t, it isn’t ripe.
  • Wash as necessary.In the picture below, you can see that most of the blackberries are completely black. A few have reddish spots. Those are probably the least sweet.

blackberries

How to Pick the Best Red Raspberries

  • The raspberries here are shaped almost like strawberries, except they grow on bushes.
  • The darker the red, the better.
  • If the raspberry is fully ripe, it basically falls into your hand when you touch it. If it needs a gentle pull, it’s fine. If you need to tug, leave it. It’s not ready, even if it’s red.
  • The stem attached to the bush grows down into the raspberries, and the fruit slips right off, hollow inside. The stem stays on the bush.
  • Wash as necessary.

In the picture below, you can see the hollow spaces inside the red raspberries.

red raspberries

Raspberries and blackberries are rare in Israel, so I’m enjoying this unique opportunity!

 

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Lemon Veggie Baked Sole

Q: What do ladybugs and sole fish have in common?
Scroll down past the recipe for the answer.

The most popular choices for Shabbat fish dishes I hear about are salmon, gefilte fish, and sushi. Swimming against the tide, I have been trying out different budget-friendly sole recipes. Like most flat white fish, sole doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own. That makes it the perfect base for fun herbs and seasonings. This lemon-veggie baked sole is infused with flavor from the lemons and scallions, but it is still light. It is not covered in sauce, so it can be heated on Shabbat. It’s perfect for a summer seudah shlishit or weeknight supper. In the hot summer, I sometimes serve cold salads for lunch and heat fish, like this sole, for seudah shlishit in the late afternoon.

It is also very quick and easy to make!

sole baked

Baked Lemon-Veggie Sole Recipe
serves 4-5 as main dish, 8-10 as appetizer

Ingredients
8-10 sole fillets
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small lemon, sliced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. If using frozen fish, make sure it is fully defrosted and extra water is squeezed out.
  2. Heat over to 220 degrees Celsius/425 degrees Farenheit.
  3. Spread fish in a single layer in a shallow pan. The fillets can overlap a little, but don’t stack them.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fish. Add the chopped peppers and scallions so the fish is evenly covered. Place a lemon slice on each fish fillet.
  5. Cover with foil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Pour off liquid if this is an issue for heating it on Shabbat. Serve warm. Enjoy!


So what do ladybugs have to do with sole?

A: They are both named after Moses.
The seven-spotted ladybug is commonly known as פרת משה רבנו (Parat Moshe Rabeinu, i.e. Moses’ cow) in Hebrew.  The ladybug traditionally received nicknames in a number of European languages relating to various divine deities, likely because of its power to get rid of mites and aphids. The Hebrew is a translation of the Yiddish variant, relating the little red bug to Moshe. Why a cow? I haven’t seen an answer to that yet. If you know one, comment below!
I just learned today that sole is nicknamed in Hebrew דג משה רבינו (dahg Moshe Rabeinu, i.e. Moses fish). According to the folk tale, Moshe stepped on the fish while crossing the Red Sea, which is why it is so flat.

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Israeli Products Explained: Melon

*This is part 2 of a new series on common Israeli products. Post 1 is my explanation of the difference between couscous and Israeli couscous.*

Two melons were talking in the fridge.
“Honey, do you love me?”
“Sorry, can’t elope tonight. I’ve got to water melons.”
This is one of the punniest jokes I ever heard. Go ahead and groan. I’m joining you. It does, however, highlight what Americans consider the standard varieties of melon.

melon

When I lived in the USA, the three types of melon we usually bought were spherical, netted, orange-fleshed cantaloupe; smooth, oblong, green-fleshed honeydew; and, of course, watermelon. Every once in a while my mother would come home from the supermarket with something exotic-sounding, like a musk melon or Crenshaw, just for fun.

Since I moved to Israel, melons, which are in season throughout the summer along with watermelons, are sold simply as “melon.” Both in the supermarkets and in open-air markets like the famous Machane Yehudah Market in Jerusalem, melons are melons, or occasionally “honey melons” hawked by over-zealous vendors. I learned from experience that “honey melon” is not honeydew, just regular melon being advertised as “sweet as honey.” Plenty of times, I have bought a small, netted melon, expecting it to be orange cantaloupe, only to cut it open and discover pale green flesh. The opposite it true as well; smooth-skinned melons can be orange.

I know this guessing game bothers some consumers. They want to know what they are getting before cutting the melon open. I understand. People are naturally curious. If you are not a caterer arranging a fruit platter with a specific balance of colors, however, I don’t see the problem with a little surprise. Nothing is a secret in this day and age. We tweet what we’re thinking and feeling and Instagram pictures of everything we do to whoever cares to listen. I even heard a while back of a company that developed a pregnancy test that automatically posts a positive result on the user’s Facebook page. Is there no shame left in the world?

melon whole

very ripe melon

But if you really want to know about your melon….

  1. The melons that we mistake for cantaloupes that turn out to be green are probably Galia melons. The Galia melon was developed in Israel in the 1970s at the Neve Ya’ar Research Center of the Agricultural Research Organization, Dr. Zvi Karchi and named after his daughter, Galia. Galia melons, our local “green cantaloupes,” are fat-free, cholesterol-free, low in calories, and high in vitamin C, vitamin A, bioflavanoids, potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, and pectin. A sub-type of the Galia melon is the Arava melon.
  2. One of the parents of the Galia melon is the HaOgen melon, literally “anchor” in Hebrew, and also known as the Israel melon. The HaOgen melon is smaller than most melons, and it has stripes on its outer skin and sweet, green flesh and hints of salmon color around the seeds. It is nutritionally very similar to the Galia melon.
  3. The Ananas melon, meaning “pineapple melon” in Hebrew, may be the most common generic melon on the Israeli market. It is oval in shape, has netted skin, and weighs about two kilograms. Its flesh can range in color from white to pale green to orange. This is probably my melon in the picture above.

Now that we have so much sweet, delicious melon, what should we do with it?
We usually eat it plain or in fruit salad. This melon I served with cottage cheeses as a light lunch.

melon and cottage cheese.jpg
Come back throughout the summer for more melon recipes and ideas!

If you have an Israeli product you would like explained, please contact me.

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Red Lentil Fusion Curry

Fusion. It’s the rage in food these days. Instead of sticking to one ethnicity on our plate, we go for regional fusion. Taco pizza. Hamburger sushi. Latke sliders. I’m not sure if these experiments stem from boredom or extensive world travel and the globalization of everything. In either case, our tongues are often left with con-fusion. Sometimes, though, the dish just works.

red lentil curry.jpg

It’s another one of those days. 5:40 pm and I don’t know what I’m trying to have on the table at 6 other than cucumber sticks. The kids have already had pasta, eggs, and grilled cheese this week. Is there anything healthy I can throw into their diet for a little variety in just twenty minutes? Enter: Red lentils. One of the fastest-cooking and least bean-y legumes in my pantry. For some odd reason, I was thinking of making red lentil burgers, even though I knew there was no time. That idea morphed into sauce at some point between cutting an apple for one child and pouring a drink for another, with the baby tugging on my skirt while I was looking for a pot. I should just make supper at 11 am, right? 😛

Any good supper starts with sauteed onions and garlic. After I added the lentils, water and some tomato paste, I looked up a red lentil recipe to check how long to let it simmer, and a dahl recipe popped up. Two of the kids liked the photo, the same ones who liked the curry chicken I made a few weeks ago, so the lentils that were going to be in a tomato sauce became dahl, which became curry when I decided it needed more texture and might be more enticing for the kids with corn in it. This is rather old-fashioned of me–400 years old-fashioned, actually–but I still think of corn as a North American food, the American Indians teaching the starving Pilgrims how to plant corn and survive their first winter. So, even though there are recipes for corn curry, I still think of this dish as a fusion food. Especially because I served it on couscous, not rice.

P.S. Three kids tasted it, and they all ended up eating couscous with ketchup and cottage cheese. More left for the grownups! 🙂

Red Lentil Fusion Curry Recipe
serves: 8-10 as side dish, 4-6 as main dish
Ready in 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
100 grams tomato paste (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups dried red lentils
5 cups water
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried or freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 can corn, with liquid
fresh green herbs such as scallions, parsley, or coriander, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Sautee onion and garlic in oil about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add lentils, spices, and tomato paste. Stir for a minute until well combined.
  3. Add water. Stir. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, make couscous.
  5. Turn off stove. Add coconut milk and can of corn, with liquid. Stir and Let sit for a minute for the flavors to soak together while you dish out couscous and chop herbs, if you’re feeling fancy.
  6. Serve hot, over rice, or go fusion style and try it with quinoa, couscous, bulgur, or other grain of choice. Garnish with green herbs.

 

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