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Hagarita -  the love of cooking and sharing food

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.

Tahini and Silan cookies

It's been months that I have been planing on making these cookies. It all started after I had Thini cookies at Sugar-Daddy in Tel Aviv earlier this year. I was talking about making these cookies for so long that it seemed like it wasn't going to happen.After looking up recipes online and in my cookbook collection and not coming up with anything that seemed promising, I tried to improvise... The first batch of cookies was too hard, so I added some butter and replaced a 1/3 of the spelt flour with almond meal. And here you go, a winner recipe, the cookies came out tasty and crumbly, perfect served with tea or on their own. So good! Thini is basically ground up sesame seeds and Silan is a date syrup, the combination of these two flavors is unreal. First thing is making sure you are using high quality Thini paste, I prefer Thini that comes from the middle east, it just seems to be better than any local brand I tried. The Silan should be as natural as possible, and without preservatives. 1/2 cup raw Thini paste 1/2 cup date syrup 8 tablespoon of butter (1 stick) 1 1/2 cup flour, I used spelt and almond meal, 1 cup spelt and 1/2 almond. 1/4 cup chopped pistachio cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla and a pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 355 (180 Celsius) Start by placing the thini and butter in a sauce pan over low heat, mix until well combined. In a large bowl mix the thini-butter paste with the silan, chopped pistachios, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla extract, 1/2-1 teaspoon of ground cardamon and the salt. Slowly add the flour and mix by hand until a soft dough is formed. Using your hands, form small balls and place on a baking pan, since the dough is soft the cookies will spread, so make sure they are spread out.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until slightly brown and take out. Let cool before trying to move the cookies or they will fall apart. The cookies are extremely soft at first but they will harden as they cool down.

Cooking with my father - part two

Its bone marrow time!About a year and a half ago, just a few days before I started working at The Breslin, I had dinner there with my father. Both of us ordered the bone marrow onion soup. neither of us was overly impressed and then he made a promise, that in due time he will teach me how to make what he was calling "real bone marrow". The time has finally arrived, and for my farewell meal he shared with me his bone marrow roasting recipe. Bone marrow is something I was avoiding for years, for obvious reasons, I like to Believe. It's fatty content always seemed unappealing to me. Then when I finally had some, I wished I have done so years earlier. When roasted correctly, bone marrow is the perfect companion for a nice slice of bread, scooped out and spread on a toast. finger licking worthy.

Starting by pre-heating your oven to a medium-high heat, place the bones in a baking dish, marrow part up, and sprinkle some sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and paprika.

place them in the oven for about 20 minutes, watching closely to ensure they aren't going over and melting into oil. You know they are ready when the bone is nicely colored and the marrow looks like it starting to char.

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.

okonomiyaki, a very special "pancake"

While in Hiroshima we had to try the local specialty, Okonomiyaki. It starts as a crepe with a mountain of veggies and some meat on top, the vegetable slowly shrinks and then it's flipped and placed on a bed of noodles, then an egg and to finish it up, the special home-made sauce. Even better than the end result was sitting down to watch the long process of preparing this delicious food.

the udon factory

We are so hungry, driving through Fukuoka looking for a place to eat when we notice a spot that looks like it's popping, the parking lot is full, there is a line inside, this gotta be worth it.
An Udon factory, from start to finish, where they make the dough, cut the noodles, boil and portion, then you choose your size (Large please!!), get your perfectly soft-boiled egg and pick your deep-fried toppings from the buffet-like display.
Delicious, perfected udon, like no noodle I tasted before

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it's 5 am, let's go watch the butchering of a yellow fin tuna

It's 5 am, we have been singing karaoke since 11pm, our voices are done, our eyes are half shut. It's windy and cold and we really want to stay inside, but we said we are going to do it, so we did.Tsukiji market is huge, it supplies the majority of the world's fish and seafood, and though it is fascinating to walk through it and watch the men as they clean and slice, load their carts and speed through the narrow aisles, it also raises some serious questions about regulating fishing in Japan. It takes watching the amount of fish and seafood on display for one to ask themselves how long before there is no more fish to catch? And are we going to stop before it's too late? I would be lying if I said I wasn't standing there mesmerized by the colors and admiring the precise cuts and clean technique of the working, rushing men of Tsukiji. We spent about an hour and a half walking through and watching, there wasn't much talking, if anything an occasional wow! or ooohhhh... Handling fish is definitely an art form, especially when it comes to giant 100-150 lbs tuna, 5 minutes from start to finish, with a knife that is longer then my legs and is sharp as sharp can be, one cut length wise, two cuts to separate the spine, and voila !!!

These are some pictures from the butchering of yellow fin tuna in the biggest fish market in the world. As my jaw drops in admiration I make a little prayer that these sights won't be just a tale to tell our kids and grand-kids.

yakitori, everything one can wish for, grilled, on a stick

After a few hours of shopping at Kappabashi (restaurant supply and knife galore district) and a few more hours spent at ishimori (the #1 saxophone shop in japan) we met up with some friends for yakitori. Yakitori is marinated,grilled, everything you can dream of, on a stick. These pictures tell the rest...

kampai

fried octopus

scallions, peppers and yellow beans

squid legs

beef fat and onions

chicken meat balls and beef hearts

tofu

shiitake

sukiyaki, or, an endless pot of unbelievable deliciousness

After a not so long, yet tiring day of walking around Kamakura and visiting the shrines and statues we came back home to the best meal I had in Tokyo so far. Sukiyaki is made by placing cast iron pot in the center of the table. Into the pot goes some fat... as it renders you add some onions...

sake, sugar, soy sauce and some water.

The broth is now ready and we can start adding in the goods; tofu, shiitake, enokitake, greens, potato noodles, scallions and beef. Cook it all together and as you pick your food out of the pot you dip it in raw egg then eat it. It is so good!

I want to eat skuyaki everyday!!!!

As food come out of the pot and into our stomach fresh food goes into the broth, more and more and more until you think you are done, then, a little more and we are done.

With love (and appetite) from Japan

I'm in Tokyo and I can't stop eating. Unfortunately my stomach is not as big as I sometimes wish it was... But don't worry, luckily I'm accompanied by a man who loves food and for the most part always help me to finish my plate off.For our first meal we had ramen in Ikebukuro, the noodles were served it a thick pork broth, with a mountain of scallions and a perfectly cooked egg. We didn't know that Ikebukuro is famous for a certain type of ramen, where the noodles are served on the side and then dipped into the broth, oh no, it looks like we gonna have to eat ramen again... So incredibly delicious...

Later that day we met up with our friends Emi and Bill for dinner in Asakusa, after a quick visit to Sensō-ji, a beautiful Buddhist temple, we walked down a street filled with small cozy eateries, and had Emi choose the spot for dinner. Let me just say, she did not do us wrong, The food was unreal. We had some tofu in kimchi broth and slow cooked beef (both were cooked in a continuous broth - as they take soup out, they add stuff in, so you have a never-ending pot of goodness), asparagus and butter, seaweed and ginger salad, tuna sashimi and sapporo. a lot of sapporo.

Stay tuned, there is so much more to come..

oh my god, these are the yummiest little things!!!

Amy B was here this weekend for a very short minute, and that was a great reason to cook and celebrate. On Sunday as a part of our way to convince Roi to come and help us with an ongoing bathroom renovation, and since Amy was in town, I cooked an elaborate brunch featuring these little cheesy puffs, called gougères, savory cheesy pastry puffs. oh my, they are so delicious.Being the gruyere lover that I am its sorta hard to be objective about any food that has this fantastic swiss work of art in it, but pairing these little yummies with some poached eggs was simply delightful, and it didn't require too much work either (it is rare for me to go for recipes that do...). It doesn't require using a mixer, nor it won't break your hand mixing it.

makes 8-10 servings

1/3 cup (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper pinch of cayenne pepper 1 cup (5 oz/155 g) all-purpose flour 4 large eggs 3 + 1 for brushing 1 1/2 cups (6 oz/185 g) shredded Gruyere cheese

pre-heat oven to 425°F (220° C), line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, salt, white pepper, cayenne, and 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water and bring to a boil. cook, stirring, until the butter melts, 3-4 minutes. Add the flour and, using a wooden spoon, mix vigorously until a thick paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. remove from heat. break 1 egg into the pan, using the wooden spoon, beat it into the batter until combined. repeat with additional 2 eggs. whisk in 1 cup (4 oz/125 g) of the cheese.

dip a teaspoon into a glass of cold water, then scoop up a generous teaspoonful of the batter and push it onto the prepares baking sheet with a fingertip. repeat with the remaining batter, spacing them 2 inches (5 cm) apart and dipping the spoon each time to prevent sticking. brush the tops off with an egg and sprinkle with the remaining of the cheese.

bake for 10 minutes, reduce oven temp to 350°F (180° C) and bake until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes. remove from the oven, pierce each one with a wooden skewer, and then return to the oven. turn off oven and leave the gougères in the oven for 10 minutes. serve at room temperature

Bon Appetit!

french cherry clafoutis.

A few days ago as we were eating some cherry pie, Tacuma asked: "when are you gonna make some cherry pie?"when cherries are in season, I said, thinking it won't be before summer, two days later while walking through Chinatown I saw a women selling cherries, and though I usually prefer using produce in its peak season I couldn't resist and bought 2lbs of tart cherries.

Looking for a good cherry pie recipe I learned about Clafoutis. Clafoutis is a custard that is made from cream, flour, eggs, spices and cherries. Being the custard lover that I am and with Nitzan alongside me salivating over the pictures in the book, we decided to go for it. since I had already thawed some crust dough I had saved from my last pie, I decided to add it to the mix. Could have done just fine without it, and most likely will next time, but it was still delicious. You start with pitting the cherries, a task that is a bit tedious, but in my opinion has to be done. According to this french cook book, traditionally you leave the pits in, that's fine as long as you make sure you warn your guests before they start eating. Since we ate many of them in the process of cleaning we ended up with one pound of  pitted cherries. Just enough. place the cherries in a baking dish, including any juice that is left after cleaning them. pre-heat oven to 375°F (180°C) In a bowl whisk together 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until well mixed and slightly stiff. add 3.5 oz (100 gr) of almond meal, 2 tablespoons of AP flour, 2 cups of cream or half and half, cinnamon and vanilla extract to taste and mix well. Pour mixture over the cherries,  and into the oven it goes...

After about 40-45 minutes poke the center and check if the custard is set, continue cooking until nicely golden on top, if the center is still a little soft don't worry, it will set as it cools down.

Dust with some powdered sugar before serving. Enjoy !

blueberry french toast

I learned this one from Jules, shortly after he had learned it from Matt and Kayla. This delicious variation of a french toast is simple and doesn't require frying, it's perfect if you are having some friends over for brunch.

You will need: 1 loaf of challah bread, sliced the night before and left out or lightly toasted in the oven - this step is important to help the bread soak up as much liquid as possible. 4-5 eggs, scrambled 2-3 cups of milk 1 pint of blueberries 2 Tbsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp cardamon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pinch of salt powdered sugar for dusting maple syrup

baking dish, buttered

pre-heat oven to 400° in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and spices, cut the bread into pieces and soak in liquid, mix it with your hands to insure the bread is completely soaked. Mix in the blueberries, I like to use a lot of berries, about 3/4 of a pint. transfer the mixture into a baking dish, fluff it with your fingers and sprinkle a few more berries on top. place in the oven for about 30 minutes, covered, then remove cover and bake for 10 minutes more or until lightly golden in color. finish with some powdered sugar.

serve warm with pure maple syrup.

Brussels love

Last week while making brussel sprouts I was wondering how come I never tried to recreate my favorite brussel sprouts dish yet, that one I have every time I go to Alta, charred sprouts served with apples, pistachios and creme fraiche.Well, luckily It's still the season for brussel sprouts!

You will need about a pound of brussel sprouts, an apple (I like to use Fuji), 1/4 cup of apple cider, 1-2 tablespoon creme fraiche and a 1/4 cup pistachios, I used almond since I didn't have any pistachios. pre heat oven to 425°F Cleaning them is simple, if you cut the bottom part of the leg and therefor the bottom of the top few leaves they will come off easily. Then, cut them in half, length wise and add to a very hot cast iron with about 1 tablespoon of oil, a little salt and pepper, toss them around and place in the oven. I like to burn them a little, I find that it adds sweetness and a much-needed crispiness to this veggie. In the mean time, over a medium heat in a small sauce pan, reduce 1/4 cup of apple cider to about 2 tablespoon worth, slice half an apple to thin slices and cut to desire size and chop a hand-full of almonds.

Once the brussel sprouts are out of the oven arrange them in a serving dish, sprinkle the almonds/ pistachio over, mix in the apples and drizzle the apple cider reduction. top it off with some creme fraiche and that's it! enjoy this delicious treat.

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.

eat your sprouts

As a kid, just like many, I didn't eat brussels sprouts, I'm not sure if it was the smell, the look or simply the name that made me abstain from it, either way it wasn't until recent years when I started eating it. One of the first times I truly felt like we might have a future was at Alta restaurant in NYC a few years ago, they were roasted and served with apples, pistachios and creme fraiche, as I'm writing these words I am wondering "how could it be that I have never tried to duplicate that dish?" Brussels sprouts get a delicious sweet flavor when caramelized and even slightly burnt, I like starting them in a hot pan and then finishing it in the oven.

There are many ways to roast these little green beauties, some include the addition of bacon, pancetta, chorizo or other cured pork products, it sure does add some fatty goodness to the dish and if you chooses to use any of the above, start by rendering the meat for a few minutes to get some of the fat melted in the pan, then add to the same pan your cleaned and washed sprouts, cut in halves or quarters. If you chooses a vegetarian dish, heat up some oil and/or butter and throw them in on a medium-high heat, then add salt and pepper and cook for a 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place pan in a pre-heated over, at 375° F, for about 10-15 minutes, or until brussels sprouts are soft and nicely roasted. you can add some roasted nuts once out of the oven, my favorite are sliced almonds but if I don't have any I'll use pine nuts instead. This simple dish can be easily adjusted to your liking, you can spice it up with some chili or serve with fresh granny-smith apple slices and some lite drizzle of honey or reduced apple cider.

Either way its hard to go wrong.

A two years old cake, goes up in flames.

On Christmas day I was invited to the Pacheco's to take part in their traditional Christmas feast. Soon as I walked in I was handed a glass of bourbon and egg-nog ,I was expecting a delicious meal and so I wasn't surprised to see turkey and ham, brussel sprouts, mashed potato, home baked bread and some stuffing on the table, but nothing would have got me prepared for dessert. A brown, mountain shaped cake was placed in the middle of the table, so far nothing extraordinary,and then our host started pouring whiskey right on top of the cake, now we are talking A LOT of whiskey, so at this point my attention was only on this cake.

As expected, after the liqueur came the match

Now let me tell you a little about this cake; it is at least 2 years old (no joke) and was made by the sister of our host, this cake is made of different fruit, plump up with whiskey and/or rum, steamed and then left to age for a few years, it was sitting in her fridge for at least 2 years and according to her "these will last forever". Oh wow, all I know at this point is that my taste buds are ready!

The cake was delicious! It was moist and fruity with a strong yet not over-powering flavor of the whiskey and was served with a light home-made cream.  I don't have the recipe since it was made in Ireland by a relative of a family I only pretend to be related, but it is might mean I have to join them on their next trip over.

happy holidays, braised fennel

fennel is one of the earliest food i can remember, it seems like it was always on our dinner table, for the most part served chopped, raw in a lemon dressing. i always liked the flavor of fennel and its hairy leafy part as well, it has that anise like flavor, and though i'm not at all into licorice i am very much into fennel.there are many dishes you can make with fennel, i have been dreaming on fennel ice-cream ever since someone at the coop was telling me about her experiments with an ice-cream maker, but on my plate today, something a little less time-consuming: braised fennel. braised fennel is delicious, charring it before you braise it will bring out some hidden sweetness and will take it to a much happier place.

i start by taking the tops off, saving the leafy part for garnish, then slicing it length wise in order to keep the bulb sort of intact, then i gently toss it in olive oil, salt and pepper and place it in a hot cast iron to grill it, flipping about 4 minutes in or when it turned brown, for a total of 8-10 minutes. if you need to work in batches do so, don't over-crowed the pan.

once all pieces are nicely charred place them back in the pan and add about 1/2 cup of white wine, let it boil for a minute or two and add equal amount of chicken or veggie stock, salt, pepper, some chili flakes, a few threads of saffron and the juice of half an orange or 1 meyer lemon. cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes until fennel is soft.

garnish with some beautiful fronds.