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Hagarita -  the love of cooking and sharing food

Vegan Gratin, purple potato,

Two years ago I published a recipe for a Jerusalem and chestnut gratin, it is one of my favorite recipes and a go to whenever Jerusalem artichokes are in season. This year I had a new challenge, as my friend became vegan I decided to make a different version of this fabulous gratin.I used purple potatoes, for their beautiful color, Jerusalem artichokes (also known as Sunchokes), shallots and pre cooked and packaged chestnuts. To replace the milk, cream and cream fraiche I used my new favorite creamer: Cashews! For the best cashew cream I soak them over night in water, and then puree to a smooth "milk", but if you are pressed for time place a handful (about 1/2 a cup) of raw cashews in a bowl of hot water, replace the water as they cool down, or keep on a low simmer for an hour - two. The nuts are ready when they are soft and juicy, then you can puree them in a blender. start with a little water and add more if needed, you want it to be thick, not runny.

ingredients:potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, chestnuts (cooked and peeled), shallots, thyme, cashew cream, paprika, salt, pepper, juice of half a lemon and bread crumbs 

 

pre heat the oven to 375 start by slicing all vegetable as thin as you can, then mix all ingredients but bread crumbs  in a large bowl.adjust seasoning and layer in the dish you intend on using for baking.  if you want to make distinct layers, you can mix the cashew cream in as you layer the vegetable, make sure it gets all the way in between the pieces and layers.sprinkle crumbs on top, cover and bake for 35 min, remove cover and bake about 15 min more or until golden in color.let the gratin cool down a little before digging in. 

enjoy!

 

 

Ramps and kumquats

Its Spring (!!!) and with it comes a lovely selection of fresh fruit, vegetable and herbs. Just like these beautiful ramps. Ramps are wild leeks, they look a lot like a scallion with a strong garlic flavor and have a very short season, about 3-4 weeks a year. I had to get some, not really knowing what to make with it. kumquats are delicious tiny citrus, that has a tangy and sweet flavor. I have just bought both, without a plan on how to use them, along with a beautiful rack of lamb... Perhaps a chimichurri style sauce to accompany the lamb?

I Started by coring the Kumquats and dicing them small, then chopping up the ramps the same way, including the white bottoms.

Add garlic, lemon and orange zest and a little of their juice, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and olive oil.

I then made a critical mistake, trying to get the mixture to be finely chopped, I put it in the blender, that wouldn't be so bad if I was holding back on the olive oil but I didn't, and once I turned on the blender the oil emulsified, resulting in a creamy sauce rather than a chimichurri... it was still delicious, but had a completely different look and texture from what I was going for.

It looked a lot like Guacamole.. but had a wonderful taste of a the green garlicky ramps, with a nice side kick from the kumquats.

Cooking with my father

My father is an amazing cook, he's been a culinary inspiration to me for years. His cooking skills always amazed me, he taught me some tricks that are the direct result of him being an inventor and is the only person who I allow alluring me into eating foods I wouldn't dare considering.One of my favorite food games is asking him for one of his recipes. The ritual, is, with slight circumstantial changes, the same every time. It usually takes place over the dinner table, as I am wolfing on one of his delicious creations, I then, with a mouth full of food, ask him for the ingredients and he refuses to tell me what it is that was happening in his pots. then I ask again, and he, once more, says no. Then I give it a few minutes, just staring at him with anticipation. I can tell I'm getting close to breaking him down and so I ask once more. Usually that's where he tells me what he did and how, unfortunately I can rarely duplicate it. Last weekend was a whole different story though. I came home to spend the weekend with my family and had the extreme pleasure of watching him in action. We are so far away from each other, that those moments are truly rare and fill me up with joy. He was slicing beef fillet to about a 1/4 inch thick slices, then in a mortar he made a paste from Rosemary, sea salt, pepper and olive oil. The meat was then rubbed with the paste and set aside.

A heavy grilling pan was then wrapped in foil to avoid a ridiculously dirty stove top and the searing began. The meat goes in for a quick minute or two, on both sides and then comes out. Once all the meat is done he starts the sauce.

Now you might ask yourself why am I about to give out a recipe of a man who so strictly protects them, here's why: 3 months ago, just as I returned home, my father made this very same dish, he asked that I'll go get Moscato, and I did, only I got the bubbly version... He made it anyways, using the bubbly wine instead and that would have been it if it wasn't for the next time he decided to make it, this time using the wine he initially planned on using, the sauce came out different, something was missing, those bubbles did something to the flavor that didn't come through using the flat wine. Ha, what an incredible turn out to my little mistake! And so now I claim this recipe to be partially mine, and therefor can share it with the world. (also, i asked and he said it's fine...)

Back to the sauce now, on the same cast iron pan he used to sear the meat he now pours the wine, let it release all the flavors and adds butter, cream and lots of black pepper, if salt is needed it will be added a well. The meat goes back in for a quick second and then served.

8 balls for our independence

Tuesday was Israel's independence day, a day of joy and celebrations, one that comes immediately after the saddest day of the year, memorial day.
Independence day was always close to my heart, as a child it involved putting flags up on our house and car, performing on the main stage, watching the fireworks, folk dancing and partying into the night. it is also THE day for BBQ, every corner, every tiny piece of grass turns into a spot to place your burning coals and barbecue. it's a huge meat-fest, all over the place. Since I am not much of a steak eater I made a quick stop in Yafo the day before and bought some veggies, walking through the small market I spotted these beauties. Score!!

To fill the need for some meat on this glorious day of beef eating I stuffed them with rice and beef, some pine nuts and parsley, and spices (salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, cinnamon). To avoid undercooked rice make sure you cook it beforehand. the ratio of meat and rice depends on your liking, I used 1lb of ground meat to about 2 cups of cooked rice, 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts, fried onion and garlic.

Empty the inside of the zucchini with a small sharp knife and a teaspoon, make sure not to cut too deep into the skin, try to leave at least 1/4 - 1/2 an inch of meat on the inside, then stuff them but don't press it in too much, so it remains airy.

Then place them all in a pot with tomato sauce, start with garlic and onions, add tomatoes, a bay leaf or two, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, spicy paprika, tomato juice and a little parsley. bring to a boil, them simmer for about an hour and a half, I sometimes finish it all in the oven for an hour.

Served with some sour cream, Israeli style, thick and full of flavor, and some tasty bread.

There is nothing I like cooking better than stuffed 8 balls. Nothing. Enjoy.

Gimme some Kobe... beef

On our way from Hiroshima to Kyoto we decided there is no logical reason why we wouldn't stop in Kobe for lunch. Sure it's raining and cold, it's out of our way and the lunch special is more than $50, but it's Kobe we are talking about, Kobe, as in the place where people massage cows to keep their meat perfectly marbleized. oh,  it sure was...Our chef started by grilling some garlic on the skillet in front of us, then set up our plates so they were directly on the skillet to keep warm.

Next came the beef, and my, was it beautiful..

Starting by rendering some fat to grease the skillet and slicing the meat into pieces according to fat content, our chef was a skillful and accurate man, and we were salivating with our mouths open. Really.

Since $50 only gets you so little beef we had some tofu and vegetable grilled along side it, as well as some delicious fried rice that was made last, so it fills up only the little spaces in our stomach, those tiny cracks between the chunks of meat.

Both the rice and the sprouts were grilled in some fat, and to add some flavor he used all the access fat that was cut off the meat at the beginning. fried rice with tiny cubes of Kobe beef fat. Delicious!!

This was by far one of the best meals I had in the last month.

My friend Ben

My friend Ben cooked dinner last night, and I am so happy I got to eat it!Aside from being a talented chef, he is also one of the funniest people I know, an amazing LSAT teacher and all together a pretty awesome human being. Thank you, friend, for sharing your food with us.

Pasta with home-made mix herb pesto and lemon sauce, lamb meat-balls, sautéed spinach and arugula salad. oh my...

french lentils soup

I promised Debbie about a month ago that I will make some lentil soup and put the recipe up, but this entire time I just wasn't inspired to cook any lentils, then I saw these green french lentils at the coop and knew that today is the day.

Like other legumes, lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, but they have the added advantage of cooking quickly and they don't require any soaking. Green lentils are usually the ones I go for, the french ones are more delicate and take longer to cook. all lentils should be rinsed and picked through for stones before cooking. Oh, and by the way, they will take longer to cook if they are combined with salt or acidic ingredients, so add these last.

for the soup you will need: 1 medium onion, diced 5-6 cloves of garlic 1 medium carrot, sliced 1 stick of celery 1 small turnip 1 large potato 1 1/2 cup of lentils, picked and rinsed 5-6 cups of chicken stock or water 1 tomato, chopped 2 tablespoon cumin 2 tablespoon paprika 1 bay leaf salt and pepper 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice chopped parsley for garnish

start by sweating the onion, carrot, celery and turnip in 2 tablespoons of oil, add black pepper and a pinch of salt just to get some liquid out of the veggies, add garlic, potato and lentils. Add liquid, cumin, paprika and a bay leaf. bring to a boil and lower to simmer. cook for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the lentils you are using. Keep checking that there is enough liquid in the pot,  the lentils soak up a lot of liquid as they cook and the soup will slowly turn thicker, its up to you to decide how thick you want it to be. Taste a few lentils after the first 40 minutes and see if they are completely cooked and soft, make any adjusting to the flavor if needed, if the lentils are ready add the lemon juice, salt and the chopped tomato, cook for 5-10 more minutes discard the bay leaf and serve, garnished with chopped parsley.

mouth watering layers of meat sauce, ricotta and pasta, or as some call it : Lasagna

When it comes to pasta I must admit, I am pretty spoiled. Ever since I got a pasta maker as a birthday gift a few years back I had a really hard time going back to the pre-packaged dry version. Now don't think that every time I want pasta I pull it out and start rolling, but I definitely prefer buying fresh pasta if I'm too lazy to make my own.Lasagna is one of those wonder dishes that allows you to, pretty much, put whatever you want in it, and know that it will come out delicious. Today's Lasagna was constructed from a spicy lamb meat sauce, ricotta bechamel, kale and some Parmesan-Gruyere to top it off.

I use fresh pasta sheets, ground lamb meat, kale and half and half, you can change those basic ingredients and still follow the recipe.

In a sauce pan cook 1 1/2 cups of half and half with 1/2 an onion, 1 bay leaf and 2 cloves, simmer for 15-20 minutes, don't let it boil! While the cream is cooking dice 1 big onion, and 2 chopped cloves of garlic, in a cast iron or your favorite "meat sauce making" pan, sauté the onion and garlic in some oil (I like a combination of high heat oil, like sunflower oil, and some bacon fat) for 2-3 minutes, add 1 T salt, 1/2 T fresh pepper, 2 T paprika, sweet or spicy or both, 2 T dry oregano and a bay leaf or two. Cook for 1-2 minutes then add the meat and break into small chunks with a wooden spoon, cook for a few more minutes. Add 1/3 Cup red wine and cook for 8-10 minutes until the alcohol is cooked off.

Add 1 cup of diced tomatoes, either fresh, blanched and peeled or out of a can, 2 T of tomato paste and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Wash the kale and saute it in a wok for a few minutes until soft.

Remove cream from heat, discard the onion, cloves and bay leaf. In a second sauce pan on low heat melt 1 T butter add 1 T flour and whisk together until well blend, slowly add the cream, whisking constantly until all incorporate, remove from heat. Add 1 cup of ricotta, salt, pepper and a few shaving of fresh nutmeg.

Assemble the lasagna (yum): Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Pick a deep, large baking dish, first layer should be meat sauce, not too much, just a thin layer at the bottom, follow by a layer of pasta, then kale, ricotta sauce, another layer of pasta, some meat sauce, etc. The order is completely optional, just make sure to start with a layer of sauce before the pasta, or else you might have a dry bottom. I never boil my pasta before layering it, not the fresh nor the dry. Top the whole thing with some grated cheese, Parmesan and Guryere are my choices. Stick it in the pre-heated over covered with baking paper and topped with foil for 20-25 minutes if using fresh pasta, 10-15 minutes longer if using dry pasta, then remove the foil and baking paper and cook for 10 more minutes or until the cheese is nicely crisped and golden in color.

Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes, its hard, I know, but you can do it. I find that taking it out of the oven before sitting down and then starting with some soup or salad is usually enough time, but it is most delicious the next day (like I can wait...)

Enjoy with some fresh arugula and red onion salad.

Chicken with Chestnuts and Couscous

When food that I love is in season I buy it all the time and I try to cook all sorts of dished with it. Chestnuts, as I mentioned before, are high up on my "favorites" list, they are great in savory dishes, desserts and also just roasted with nothing but salt. Their rich and creamy texture is delightful and when I have some around I can't stop eating them. For the last few weeks I have been buying them in abundance with the intention of roasting, peeling and freezing them so I can have some even when the season is over. I say "with the intention" because the truth of the matter is that I have been cooking them more then I have been saving them, and there is nothing wrong with that, especially if the result is dishes like this one. This recipe comes from a book by the Israeli chef: Israel Aharoni.

Ingredients: serves 6

  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 6 chicken legs, separated to thigh and drumstick
  • 1 onion, diced roughly
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • fresh ginger about 1 inch long, chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • 500 gr Chestnuts - in the recipe he uses jarred chestnuts, I used them fresh, roasted for 30 minutes and peeled.

Directions:

  1. In a wok, heat up the oil, Sautée the chicken and brown it nicely on all sides. Remove from wok and put aside
  2. add the onion, garlic and ginger to the oil and Sautée for 5 minutes
  3. place chicken back in the wok and add soy sauce, wine, sugar, salt and pepper, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer
  4. cover and simmer for 30 minutes
  5. add chestnuts, stir and cook for another 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the chestnuts are soft

Easy and delicious.

You can serve this with rice or quinoa, I used couscous, hand rolled by my grandmother, Miriam, who I believe is one of the only people that still hand roll their couscous. It is a long, long process but you will never hear her complain, and I won't complain either, it is the best couscous one can eat, and I am thankful to still have 1/2 a pound in my freezer.

Bon appetit!