Grilled Pizza For Dad

Celebrate Father’s Day with individualized grilled pizzas. This meal is very easy to pull together, even if you have young children. You may purchase refrigerated pizza dough. Set out bowls with different toppings, such as olives, mushrooms, sliced onions, minced peppers, etc., and let the whole family have fun making the pizza of their choice.

Grilled Pizza

  • Refrigerated pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato sauce
  • A selection of shredded cheeses such as: mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, Gruyere, Emmental, Edam, blue, or chevre
  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Rub the grates with olive oil.
  3. Flatten the pizza dough, and brush with olive oil.
  4. Place the pizza dough on the grill and cover.
  5. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the pizza dough from the grill and turn it over.
  7. Spread some tomato sauce on the dough.
  8. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the tomato sauce.
  9. Place the pizza on the grill and cover.
  10. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Israeli Cheesecake for Shavuot

Photo by Christian Guthier https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/

Photo: Christian Guthier

Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is also an agricultural holiday marking the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel. It is traditional to eat dairy products during Shavuot. Israelis celebrate Shavuot with an iconic cheesecake called Ugat Gvina (cheese cake). They can thank the German Templers for introducing the most important ingredient in this cake to Israel.

In 1868, the first group of these German Protestants settled at the foot of Mount Carmel. They established a colony there, followed by Sarona, near Jaffa, and the Valley of Refaim in Jerusalem. They were called “Templers” since they hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by facilitating the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Templers (no relation to the medieval Knights Templars) created the Jaffa orange brand and founded the first dairy farm with cows in Ottoman Palestine. Sheep and goats had exclusively provided milk up to this point. The Germans made one of their favorite dairy products at this dairy: quark cheese.

Quark cheese is a soft fresh cheese, traditionally made without rennet. It is popular throughout Northern Europe. Milk that has soured is slowly warmed until it curdles. The mix is strained through a cheesecloth, and then served. Quark cheese is lower fat than cream cheese. It has a lighter, drier, and grainier texture. The Vermont Creamery makes a kosher Quark cheese. This is the essential ingredient that gives Israeli cheesecake its light texture and distinctive flavor.

What I think of as “Israeli cheesecake” is really a German recipe introduced by the Templers.

Photo by kersy83 https://www.flickr.com/photos/kersy83/

Photo: kersy83

Israeli Cheesecake
Adapted from allrecipes

  • 18 oz. Quark cheese
  • 2 1/8 cups milk
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat a 9 inch cake pan with oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, flour, and baking powder.
  4. Press into the bottom and sides of the cake pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, mix the quark cheese, vegetable oil, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla sugar, pudding mix, egg yolks, 1 egg, milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Pour the mixture over the crust.
  7. Bake for 60 minutes.

Lag BaOmer Poike

Photo by אסף.צ https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%AA%D7%9E%D7%A9:%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%A3.%D7%A6

Photo: אסף .צ

Israel owes one of its most popular Lag BaOmer traditions to the Jewish community of South Africa. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the proudly Zionist South African Jews provided it with the most financial support per capita of any other community in the diaspora. Just as importantly, the South African olim introduced the potjie (pronounced “poike”) to Israel. This special pot, and the stew named for it, is an indispensable part of the Israeli Lag BaOmer celebration.

A potjie is a type of Dutch oven that was brought to South Africa by the Boer colonists from the Netherlands in the 1800s. This cast iron cauldron means “little pot.” It has three small legs and a wire handle. It can be nestled among the coals of a campfire or suspended over a flame.

To prepare the potjie stew, a little oil is heated in the Dutch oven. Then, lamb cubes are browned. Some alcohol is added for flavor, usually beer, sherry, or dessert wine. The potjie chef seasons the stew, usually very conservatively. Amazingly, garlic is not a popular ingredient. The pot is covered tightly with the lid, and the stew is left to steam slowly. It is not customary to stir the contents of the pot, so that when the potjie is ready, there are layers of flavors in the stew.

Photo By Chrstphr.jones (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Chrstpher Jones

Lamb Potjie
Adapted from Joburg South
4 pounds cubed lamb
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
1/2 lb. green beans, with the ends cut off
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin

Heat the pot over medium hot coals.
Combine the flour, salt, cumin, and coriander.
Coat the lamb cubes with the flour mixture.
Heat the olive oil in the pot.
Brown the lamb cubes.
Take the lamb cubes out of the pot and set aside.
Place the onions and celery in the pot, and fry them a little bit.
Add the lamb cubes to the vegetables.
Pour in the stock, red wine, fresh thyme, and bay leaves.
Close the lid tightly and allow to cook for one hour.
Add the potatoes.
After 30 minutes, add the carrots.
Cook for 15 minutes, and add the green beans.
Wait 10 minutes.
Serve with rice, noodles, or fresh pita bread.

Israeli Independence Day Cupcakes

David Ben Gurion declared Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948. In the Hebrew calendar, this is the 5th of Iyar. Yom Ha’atzmaut, the national day commemorating Israel’s declaration of independence, is celebrated on this date every year.

As the sun sets, an official ceremony is held by the Israeli government at Mt. Herzl to celebrate. Twelve torches, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel, are lit. When the ceremony concludes, fireworks illuminate the skies.

The next day, the International Bible Contest is held. High school students from around the world compete for a scholarship to Bar Ilan University.

Commanders and fellow soldiers select 120 IDF soldiers who have performed their duty to their country in an outstanding way. They receive an award from the president of Israel at his residence.

The Israel Prize, the highest honor that Israel awards, is handed out. It is given for achievements in the humanities, the sciences, culture, and lifetime achievement.

The celebrations include visits to IDF bases. Weapons are exhibited for the civilian guests.

Many people participate in a festive meal, which is usually a potluck picnic barbecue. This year, Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on May 11th. You may experience this festive tradition by hosting your own Israel themed dinner. A fun activity for your family and guests is to decorate their own Israeli Flag inspired cupcakes. You may buy or bake cupcakes. Then, decorate with frosting, sugar sprinkles and Israeli flag toothpicks.

Easy Vanilla Cupcake
Adapted from The Food Network.

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 12 tbsp. butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place cupcake liners in a muffin baking tray.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Spoon batter into each cupcake liner until it is 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes.

White Frosting
Adapted from MyRecipes.

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in a mixer.
  2. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
  3. Decorate with frosting, candy, and Israeli flags.

Freedom and Kitniyot For All!

Photo by By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35476067

Photo: Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization

In 1989 the Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel issued a responsum to the question Ashkenazi Jews ask every Passover: “Why are we not permitted to eat kitniyot (legumes), while Sephardic Jews are?” The Rabbinical Assembly concluded that this is a “mistaken custom” and that Ashkenazi Jews are permitted to consume kitniyot as well. This responsum technically only applies to people living in Israel. Ashkenazi Jews who live elsewhere, will need to clear this with their own rabbi if they would also like to change their family’s custom. Also this Passover season for the first time the Conservative movement has authorized Ashkenazi Jews to eat kitniyot.

If we go back to the source, the Torah has the following to say about chametz: First, we are told not to eat unleavened bread during the seven days of Passover, and to remove all leavened bread from our homes. Jews living in the diaspora added an additional day to make sure they complied with the observance of Passover on the right days of the Hebrew Calendar.

Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; howbeit the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:15).

Then the Torah instructs us not to have any leavened bread on our property or temporary place of residence during the seven (or eight in the diaspora) days of Passover.

Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses; for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a sojourner, or one that is born in the land.

The significance of Passover is summarized by Moses in Exodus 13:3:

And Moses said unto the people: ‘Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place; there shall no leavened bread be eaten.’

The rabbis who wrote the Mishnah (10-220 CE) ruled that five types of grain were permitted for baking matzah. These are wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. When these grains are mixed with water they ferment very quickly. They instructed that the dough must be mixed and baked in eighteen minutes or the matzah would not be considered “unleavened bread.” When analyzing rice and sesame seeds, these rabbis noted that when these were combined with water, they decayed, they did not ferment. Therefore, they were not considered chametz.

In the thirteenth century, the rabbis of Provence prohibited the consumption of rice and kitniyot during Passover. This custom spread throughout Europe. No clear reason for this new prohibition was ever provided. Some rabbis in other cities objected to this ruling, saying that it was a mistaken custom, a foolish custom, and an unnecessary stringency.

The question facing the rabbis today is, may they change a mistaken custom? They concluded that they may and they must. Doing away with this custom will return the focus of Passover to the original intent of the Torah. It will enhance the enjoyment of Passover by offering a greater variety of foods. The new ruling will make the celebration more affordable. One of the best results of this initiative is that it will lessen friction between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, who will finally be able to enjoy the same foods together at the Seder.

I am an “Ashkefardic” Jew, from a “mixed” family. The Passover battles of my grandparent’s generation are legendary. The preparations for the Seder always started with a fight, which wasn’t even about the relatives. The topic was the same every year: rice or potatoes. The end result was a lose-lose truce, neither rice nor potatoes. Matzah was the only starch served during the festive meal.

Thanks to this new ruling, there may be more shalom bayit, or peace in the home. Some of the kitniyot permitted by the Sephardic Passover Guide are “Anise, Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Buckwheat, Canola Oil, Caraway, Chickpeas, Confectioners’ sugar with corn starch, Coriander, Corn, Corn Syrup, Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek, Flax Seeds, Hemp, Kasha, Lentils, Licorice, Millet, Mustard, Peanuts, Popcorn, Poppy Seeds, Rice, Sesame Seeds, Snow Peas, Soy Oil, Corn Oil, Soy, String Beans, Sunflower Seeds, Tofu (from soy).”

This is a wonderful development for vegetarians and vegans. For the uninitiated, here are some of the most beloved recipes with kitniyot for Passover.

In the Jewish communities of Sicily, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece fava beans ripened just as Passover was celebrated. It was traditional to include a dish with fava beans at the Seder.

Photo by boo lee

Photo by boo lee

Braised Artichokes with Fava Beans (Anjinara con Aves)
Adapted from The Sephardic Kitchen by Rabbi Robert Sternberg

  • 8 artichokes
  • 1 pound fava beans
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, minced
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Place all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, and fresh dill in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and dill.

The Syrian Jewish community has a beautiful rice dish reserved for special occasions such as the Passover Seder. This dish is famous for the beautiful golden hue and rich aroma extracted from the saffron it is spiced with.

Saffron Rice (Riz w’Zafran)
Adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 3 saffron threads
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond, pine nuts, or pistachios
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the onion, and sauté over medium heat until translucent.
  3. Pour 1 1/2 cups of cold water into the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Season with the saffron, cinnamon stick, salt, and cardamom.
  6. Add the rice and bring back to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts when ready to serve.

Blood Orange Salad Sicilian-Style

It is the end of the orange growing season in Israel. The blood oranges are the last to ripen. Their deep vermillion hues are like the final brushstrokes of the setting winter sun. One of the best ways to feature this tangy citrus fruit is in a Sicilian salad, which marries the flavors of winter oranges with new spring herbs.

Photo by Erich Ferdinand https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/

Photo by Erich Ferdinand

Blood Orange Salad Sicilian-Style
Adapted from Tasting Sicily

Ingredients:

  • 4 blood oranges
  • Parsley
  • Green onion
  • Anchovy filet
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Peel and cut up the blood oranges.
  2. Chop up the green onion and parsley.
  3. Mash the anchovy filet.
  4. Mix everything together in a large bowl.
  5. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and olive oil.

The Vegetarian Queen

Photo by Kotoviski https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kotoviski

Photo by Kotoviski

Purim is a week away but I have already rolled, stuffed and pinched too many circles of dough into cookies, called hamantaschens, that sort of resemble Haman’s three-cornered hat. I will bake many more batches to fulfill one of the four Purim mitzvot — distributing mishloach manot (gifts of food) to friends and family. I might even get to the point of “cheating” and fill my goody bags with store-bought (gasp!) hamantaschens. This year, perhaps in support of my family’s effort to decrease our sugar intake, I’d rather sidestep the dessert and celebrate Purim with a healthy, savory dish. [Read more…]

Persian Purim Halvah

What do Persian Jews prepare for each other to celebrate Purim? I have always wondered about this. The Persian Jewish community is very insular, and I have never had the opportunity to ask. Thanks to the development of social media, it was possible for me to approach a group of Persian Jewish women to inquire. The special Purim treat of the Persian Jews is saffron halvah.

Saffron halvah is not like the white sesame halvah I am used to from Israel. A base of flour and oil is cooked, and then flavored with nuts and spices. Its consistency is more akin to that of a brownie. The resulting halvah has a deep golden tone, and is redolent of saffron and rosewater. The soft pastry is accentuated with the crunch of almonds and pistachios. It is a Purim treat that truly harkens back to Queen Esther’s palace.

Saffron Halvah
Adapted from the Iran Chamber Society

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup rosewater
  • 12 threads of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon almonds, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon pistachios, crushed
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Mix in the flour.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.
  4. When the dough thickens, turn off the flame.
  5. In a separate pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil.
  6. Add the saffron to release its golden color and aroma.
  7. Add the rosewater.
  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Pour the sugar syrup into the dough.
  10. Mix thoroughly.
  11. Pour the halvah onto a serving platter.
  12. Flatten the dough with a spatula or spoon.
  13. Garnish with crushed almonds and pistachios.

Eat like a Sabra

— by Laurel Fairworth

Shakshouka in sauceThe Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia (IFF) is celebrating an important milestone from March 12 through April 3, 2016: two decades of showcasing the best movies from Israel and the Middle East. The IFF is the only independent non-profit Israeli film festival in the country. What started as a passion project has grown into an eagerly awaited cinematic occurrence.

In honor of the IFF’s 20th anniversary season, Giovani’s Bar and Grill, at 15th and Chestnut Streets in Center City, has concocted a dish called the Israeli “Big Picture” Shakshouka. For every platter ordered, which includes pita and Israeli chopped salad, the restaurant will make a donation to the film festival.

Shakshouka, a traditional Mediterranean dish, is made up of a spicy tomato sauce with the Middle Eastern herb and spice blend za’atar. The dish also contains paprika, parsley, garlic, feta, olives, onions, hot peppers and of course, perfectly poached eggs. Simon Atiya, his brother Ami and his brother-in-law Haim Atias have been running Giovani’s for more than a decade, and are excited that Israeli cuisine is finally catching on.

“This reminds us of home,” says Atias. “The hearty stew-like meal is often served at breakfast, but can really be enjoyed any time of the day.”

The Israeli Big Picture Shakshouka is not on the menu at Giovani’s, but it is available during the Israeli Film Festival’s run from March 12 through April 3. The dish must be requested and will be made fresh on the spot. Says festival founder Mindy Chiqui, “Watching movies from the Middle East can whet your appetite for foods from the same region.”

“The Modern Kosher Kitchen” by Ronnie Fein

Recipes in The Modern Kosher Kitchen Book-Kosher-Kitchenby Ronnie Fein offer gourmet training wheels for the aspiring Kosher cook. In our lifetime a revolution has taken place in Kosher recipe books and cooking. The bland kosher recipe books on the shelves of all-too-many Ashkenazi parents and grandparents were also problematic due to high fat and sugar content.

For those unaccustomed to the pedal-to-the-metal spice revolution of our times, The Modern Kosher Kitchen offers opportunities to explore creative contemporary additions such as Siriracha sauce (a chili sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand), that helps kosher cooks to bridge the bland/sweet divide.

For example: White Bean and Vegetable Hurry-Up Salad

  • 1 can (15 oz or 425 g) white beans
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced thin
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup (130 g) frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup (24 g) chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste

Rinse the white beans under cold running water; let drain and place them in a bowl. Add the carrots, avocado, peas, onion, parsley, mint, cumin, and cayenne pepper and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss again to coat the ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Suggestions and Variations: Use chickpeas or black beans instead of white beans; use any cooked chopped green vegetable (such as broccoli, green string beans, thawed frozen lima beans, or edamame) instead of peas.

And secure many happy dining comments at your meal by making halibut or salmon on the grill and serving atop:

Spicy Marinated Pineapple

  • 1 whole pineapple
  • 3 tablespoons (60 g) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) siriracha
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice
  • Kosher salt or Maldon sea salt
  • Mint, for garnish

Cut the leaves off the pineapple. Remove the outer fibrous rind. Cut the peeled pineapple in slices about 3/4-inch (1.9 cm) thick. Set aside in a single layer in a pan. Heat the honey with the vegetable oil and siriracha in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the ingredients are well mixed. Add the time juice. Pour over the pineapple slices. Coat the pineapples slices on both sides and let marinate at least 1 hour (and as long as 12 hours). Preheat an outdoor grill to medium (or use a grill pan or the oven broiler.) Grill the slices for about 4 minutes per side or until well glazed and tender, brushing occasionally with some of the honey mixture. Serve sprinkled lightly with salt. Garnish with fresh mint. You can make these ahead and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature or reheat to warm in a pre-heated 350°F (190°C, or gas mark 4) oven for a few minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Serving Suggestions and Variations: Grilled, speed pineapple lens monumental flavor to mild main-course foods such as fish and chicken.

Your family and guests will delight in the evolution of Kosher cuisine, combined, as has been the case throughout Jewish history, with the elements of the cultures among which Jewish people dwell. I bought our sriracha sauce at an International Market while visiting family who live in Passaic and it’s available on line, too. The Modern Kosher Kitchen by Ronnie Fein definitely and deftly adds spice to life!