Zucchini-Cheese “Falafel”

20150509_123855I was inspired by some ripe zucchini that I purchased. There is a Greek recipe for chickpea-free “falafel.” I decided to prepare it.

Zucchini-Cheese “Falafel”

  • 6 ripe zucchini
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 9 oz. grated Feta cheese
  • 8 oz. crumbled blue cheese
  • olive oil
  1. Wash and grate the zucchini in a food processor.
  2. Place the zucchini in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover with a lid or plastic wrap.
  3. Steam the zucchini in the microwave for 6 minutes.
  4. Check if it is tender.
  5. If necessary, steam for an additional minute.
  6. Set the zucchini aside.
  7. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, flour, and cheese.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
  9. Mix the zucchini into the cheese “dough.”
  10. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan over medium heat.
  11. Moisten your hands and pinch a walnut-sized piece of zucchini-cheese “dough.”
  12. Fry until the “falafel” ball is golden-brown.
  13. Transfer to a casserole dish covered with paper towels to absorb the oil.
  14. Keep the zucchini “falafel” warm in the oven until ready to eat.
  15. Serve with Tzatziki sauce.

4 Creative Foods to Roast on a Stick for Lag BaOmer

— by Ronit Treatman

Lag BaOmer is a celebration of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 132-136 CE. The Roman troops used bonfires as military signals on hilltops, and so the Jews were not allowed to light them. In Israel it is traditional to light the once-forbidden bonfires and to roast delicious snacks over them.

(Don’t know how to light a bonfire? Find out at Survivaltek.)

Four bonfire ideas after the jump.
1) Halloumi Cheese

This Cypriot cheese is made from sheep’s milk. It has a high melting point, which makes it perfect for roasting. The fire gives this cheese a delicious, crackly crust. It maintains its firm texture when it’s grilled. Its charred, salty flavor is very satisfying.

2) Bread

Prepackaged dough makes roasting bread on a stick effortless. Just place the raw dough on a stick, and cook over the heat of the flames. The fire gives it a distinctive smoky flavor.

3) Kosher “Chorizo”

Chorizo is a type of sausage from the Iberian Peninsula. Smoked red peppers are mixed with raw meat and then placed in a casing. This is what  gives chorizo its special flavor.

4) Apples

Apples roasted over a fire are called “singing apples.” This is because they make whistling noises while they cook. The heat caramelizes the sugar in the peel, giving them a beautiful bronze color. These apples taste like apple pie on a stick.

Passover: Haroset Leftover Heaven

— by Ronit Treatman

Haroset, the fruit and nut paste symbolizing mortar, has a cameo role in the Passover Seder.  This is usually the first and last time that it is consumed all year.  I am very enthusiastic about preparing home-made haroset.  I make a Sephardic, an Ashkenazi and another haroset for the Seder.  I always end up with way too much.  In order to make use of my leftovers, I have found that it is possible to create a whole meal around haroset.

More after the jump.
African DinnerThe appetizer course is a cheese platter, served with Indian halek (walnuts with date syrup) and matzo crackers.  The haroset complements many types of cheeses such as goat cheese, sharp cheddar, and blue cheese perfectly.  

A wonderful main course that incorporates haroset is a Moroccan tagine.  Tagine is meat or chicken that is slowly braised with dry fruits and nuts.  Adding the haroset just cuts back on a few steps when preparing your tagine.  

Chicken, Beef or Lamb Haroset Tagine

  • 2 pounds of chicken, beef or lamb cubes
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Sephardic haroset
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the meat, onion, garlic, and spices.
  3. Fry over medium heat until the meat browns.
  4. Add 2 ½ cups water and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the cilantro.
  6. Cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 2 ½ hours.

To serve:

  1. Heat the haroset in a microwave safe glass bowl for 3 minutes.
  2. Place the meat on a large serving platter.
  3. Spoon the haroset over the meat.

Such a stellar main dish requires something really special to be a fitting dessert.  A haroset Souffle is up to the task, inspired by the traditional French dessert.

Haroset Soufflé

  • 1 cup haroset
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff and smooth.
  3. Fold in the haroset.
  4. Coat the inside of soufflé ramekins with vegetable oil.
  5. Pour the batter inside the cups.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the soufflés, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  8. Serve immediately.

Sephardic Hanukkah: A Dairy Celebration of Daughters

Judith kills General Holofernes. Painting by Vincenzo Catena.

— by Ronit Treatman

The story of Hanukkah is often portrayed with images of brave, muscular male warriors, such as:

There were Greek-Syrian soldiers, fighting on behalf of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Greek-Syrians looked fearsome in their armor, and heavy metal swords as they deployed their weapon of mass destruction, the war elephant. The Maccabee men fought back, using homemade slings and maces, and guerrilla tactics.

The Maccabees were victorious after seven years, and Hanukkah is the celebration of this victory. Hanukkah means “dedication”: The Second Temple in Jerusalem was purified and rededicated once the revolt was over.

However, it is acknowledged that the Maccabee victory would not have been possible without the support of the brave Jewish women. It is the tradition in parts of the Sephardic world that the seventh day of Hanukkah is reserved especially to celebrate the women and girls of the community.

Sambusak recipe after the jump.
Hannah (Second Book of Maccabees 7:1-41) is honored for losing her seven sons, and her own life, for not worshiping King Antiochus’ idols.

In some Sephardic communities, the seventh night of Hanukkah is called chag habanot (festival of the daughters). On this night, women get exclusive use of the synagogues to study Torah, bless their daughters, and celebrate. The men take care of the children, and prepare dairy treats for the women.


Sambusak.

It is customary to eat dairy foods because of the heroism of Judith. Judith was a beautiful young widow, who lived during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar (400 years before the time of the Maccabees). She caught the eye of General Holofernes, who had been dispatched to besiege the fictitious city of Bethulia (probably Jerusalem).

When Holofernes tried to seduce her, she plied him with salty cheeses and wine. He became so inebriated that he fell into a deep sleep.  Seizing this opportunity, Judith cut his head off with his own sword.  

When she displayed the severed head to Holofernes’s soldiers, They were so terrified that they fled, ending the siege. Over time, Judith was believed to be an ancestor of the Maccabees, and this narrative was associated with Hanukkah.  

Sephardic men pamper the women during chag habanot by preparing a special dish called Sambusak.  

Sambusak is a type of hand pie, which originated in Persia. It is made of pastry or yeast dough, filled with a combination of several types of cheese, some of them very sharp. These flavorful cheeses are a reminder of General Holoferne’s weakness, skillfully exploited by Judith.  To save time, many cooks use frozen puff pastry.

Below is a recipe from the Jewish community of Baghdad.

Sambusak B-Jibbin (Cheese Sambusak)
Adapted from Mrs. Lamaan Heardoon

For the dough:

  • 3 1/3 cups of unbleached flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons quick-acting dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  1. In a bowl, place the water, yeast, and sugar. Mix well, then let rest for 15 minutes.  
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, and knead the dough.
  3. Cover the bowl with a clean towel, and place in warm spot. Allow the dough to rise for 3 hours.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup grated feta, kashkaval, kasseri, or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • ground white pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  

Assembly:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Pull off a walnut-sized piece of dough. Roll it out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
  • Place a teaspoon of filling at the center of the rolled-out dough.  
  • Fold the dough over into the shape of a half moon. Pinch the edges shut.
  • Place on a cookie sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden-brown.

Parmesan and Potato Muffins for Shavuot

— by Margo Sugarman

Ahead of Shavuot, I tried out a recipe for potato muffins that my husband found in a local newspaper. Every now and again he shoves a recipe cutting at me to try out (he has a good eye for those). So with nothing on the menu for dinner last night, I decided to give these a go. As with all new recipes I try out, I am very critical and look to see how to improve on them. But as my family was devouring them rapidly, I realized that this recipe works very well as is, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find too much to change (I have upped the original cheese quantity, though).

Full recipe after the jump.
I love the combination of fresh herbs that give these muffins a really aromatic flavor. You can add the herbs you like, and you can increase the quantities as well. I tried to maintain a balance, so the kids wouldn’t turn up their noses.

One day after baking the muffins, I had them cold, and as delicious as they are warm, I think they’re even better cold. You can serve them as a substitute for rolls in a dairy meal.

Potato and parmesan muffins (Makes 18-20 muffins).

  • 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (about 1cm).
  • 1 large onion, finely diced.
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • About 1 tablespoon each of fresh chopped parsley and rosemary (you can increase these quantities to taste).
  • 3 large eggs ,beaten.
  • 200g/7 oz sour cream (about one container).
  • 100g/3 1/2 oz softened butter.
  • 150g (about 1 1/2 cups) grated Parmesan cheese.
  • 1 3/4 cups self raising flour.
  • 1 teaspoon salt.
  1. In a pot of salted water, boil the cubed potatoes just until they are soft. Drain the water and allow them to cool down.
  2. Saute the onions in the olive oil just until they are golden brown. Add the garlic, and saute for about another minute. Remove from the heat.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  4. In a medium size pan, combine the potatoes, onions, garlic and the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Fill your muffin cups to their 3/4. They will not even out in the oven, so you can smooth them out if you are concerned about appearances.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins start getting golden brown on top.
  7. Optional: Grate extra cheese, and sprinkle it over the muffins as soon as they come out of the oven.

Margo Sugarman is the creator of The Kosher Blogger, a website of keeping kosher and loving good food.

Homemade Goat Cheese For Shavuot


by Ronit Treatman

Mmmm Shavuot.  The sweet smell of cheese blintzes and the sound of butter crackling in the frying pan fill the house.  Bright red strawberry preserves are on the table, ready to be served with the delicious filled crepes.  Why do we have the tradition of eating dairy foods during Shavuot?  Shavuot is a celebration of the Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Israelites.  King Solomon described the pleasure of Torah as “honey and milk are under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11).  The first iteration of this celebratory meal was homemade goat cheese, sweetened with honey or fruit.  We can explore those primeval flavors as we indulge in the sweet study of Torah on Shavuot night.  
One of the first animals domesticated by early humans was the goat.  In Jericho, evidence of goats kept by Neolithic farmers demonstrates that they were part of the household between 8000 and 9000 years ago. Goats were the main providers of milk in Ancient Israel.  Milk, butter, and cheese were available seasonally, in the spring and summer.

Goat cheese has been made for as long as goats have been domesticated.  In Ancient Israel, raw goat milk probably curdled naturally. This process occurred thanks to two benign bacterial strains:   Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.  These are soil-based probiotics, which are often present in the milk.  The curdled milk was poured into a cloth bag.  The whey (residual liquid) was drained out of the bag, and the remaining curds were pressed into a soft cheese.  Equally old was the tradition of storing milk in goatskin containers.  Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are present on the skin of the goats.   These bacteria combined with the raw milk in the warm Mediterranean climate, causing it to ferment.  The milk curdled quickly, and was transformed into laban, a thick, sour milk.  A hard cheese was made with fermented laban.  The laban was poured into molds and left to harden in the sun.  Israelite shepherds accidentally discovered another way to make cheese.  When they heated the milk, they stirred it with fig tree branches.  Only a few drops of fig sap needed to get into the milk in order to coagulate it.  Fig sap contains ficin, an enzyme whose clotting activity in milk is thirty to one hundred times that of animal rennet.  The Mishna and Talmud describe using the sap of fruit trees to make cheese.  This process of making cheese was adopted instead of using animal rennet in order to comply with the prohibition of mixing meat and milk.  This recipe has been recreated at Neot Kedumim, Israel’s Biblical Landscape Reserve.

Ancient Israelite Cheese from Neot Kedumim

  • 1 Quart goat milk. You can buy goat’s milk at Whole Foods, or order it online.
  • 1 fig branch thoroughly washed.  Cut it right before using.

Pour the milk into a pot.  Squeeze 5 drops of sap from the fig branch, being very careful not to touch the sap.  Fig sap may cause a rash, like poison ivy.

Heat the milk until it boils, stirring it with the fig branch.  

Once the milk has curdled, allow it to cool.

Strain the curds through a cheesecloth.

Goats are very curious, intelligent animals.  Their favorite way to eat is to explore their surroundings, tasting weeds and shrubs.  They like to taste a variety of plants.  The plants consumed by the goats influence the flavor of their milk. If they eat bitter weeds, their milk will be bitter too.   Eating a variety of weeds gives their milk a more complex flavor.

Milk from goats has small, well-emulsified fat globules.  This means that the cream does not rise to the top as it does with raw cow’s milk, but rather remains mixed in with the milk.  As a result, goat’s milk does not need to be homogenized (mixed so that the fat droplets do not separate from the milk).  It is more similar to milk produced by humans than milk from a cow.  Due to this, goat milk is a good choice for young children, people who are ill, and anyone who has trouble digesting cow’s milk.  Goat milk contains 13% more calcium than cow’s milk, 25% more vitamin B6, and 47% more vitamin A.  

I learned how to make my own goat cheese from my friend Freyda Black.  Freyda bought her first Nubian goat from the partner of a chef at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York.  She taught herself how to make cheese.  When she took some of her home made chevre to the Moosewood chef and his partner to have a taste, they told her it was better than the award winning cheeses from France and Germany.  

Freyda Black’s Goat’s Milk Ricotta

  • 1-gallon goat milk (whole or skim)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking soda

Pour the milk into a very heavy bottomed pot, or double boil it over a low flame.  Slowly heat the milk to 186 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the milk is 186 degrees, pour in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar while stirring.

Stir until the milk starts to curd.  You should see large curds.  If it doesn’t start to curd, add more vinegar, one teaspoon at a time.

Put cheesecloth over a colander.  Pour the curds and whey into it.  

Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth, and drain for no more than one minute.

Pour the curds back into the pot and add one half teaspoon of baking soda.  This will neutralize the acid and stop the curdling.

Serve immediately.  

Freyda Black’s Goat’s Milk Queso Blanco

Repeat the process for Ricotta.

Omit the baking soda, and allow the Ricotta cheese to drain overnight.

This is a recipe that Sephardic Jews brought to the New World from Spain and Portugal.  They would pair the queso blanco with sweet preserved fruits, such as pears and quinces.  In South America, the queso blanco was also served with guava preserves.  

For an authentic Ancient Israelite Shavuot experience, flavor your homemade ricotta or queso blanco with raw bee’s honey, or Biblical date “honey,” available  online

Have fun preparing it with your family, and eat it while it’s hot!

If you would like to meet Freyda Black and her Nubian goats,  please come to Germantown Jewish Centre on June 5th, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.  She will demonstrate how to make fresh goat cheese.  There will be goat milk, cheese, and whey for everyone to taste.  Free!  Everyone welcome!