Posted by Rob Eshman
The 12 days of Christmas. The 30 days of Ramadan. The 8 days of Passover. Holidays that come with built in sequels present major food challenges. All the anticipation and excitement over the special foods, the familiar smells, the favorite recipes, plummets along with your appetite after you overindulge at that first celebration. Specialness breeds contempt.
Now, just at the Passover hump, the glow is waning. The holiday of freedom is beginning to feel a bit confining.
One solution is to cook better. That is, really enjoy and explore the foods that Passover allows you to focus on, rather than bemoaning all the ones you are forbidden.
Passover it turns out is perfectly in tune with the season. Long before seasonal and local were buzzwords—about 3000 years before—Jews celebrated the Passover by making sacred what was seasonal and local—greens, eggs, lamb, wild gefilte fish….
Okay maybe not the last one.
So as Shabbat nears and the holiday crosses to halfway, I have some ideas for cooking the rest of the week. If you cook with the season, you’re doing holiday cooking.
To come up with them, I had two kinds of help. First, a visit to 51Lincoln, a restaurant in Newton Center, MA, whose wonderful chef, Jeffrey P. Fournier, does the seasonal local thing without any pretense or self-righteousness. It’s a little neighborhood place, elegant, but relaxed and easy-going (like Fournier). The vegetables are local (our waitress was moonlighting, by day she runs a farmstand just at the edge of Boston); the charcuterie made on premises, and the chef is installing a rooftop kitchen garden this spring.
Fournier, a native of Ainsbury, MA, grew up in a French-Armenian home, moved to LA, where he spent years at Café Montana and cooked with Hand Rockenwager. (He started his career as an artist—the restaurant’s walls are lined with his paintings).
Here’s what we ate there: you can make it yourself to help enjoy the end of the holiday: Steamed Asparagus with Homecured Salmon and Hollandaise, Cod with Herb Emulsion and Mashed Potatoes, Pan Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Beet Aioli.
I’ll post some recipes and photos after Shabbat.
As for the second way to keep enjoying Passover, that comes from my mother-in-law, Ruth Levy. Every Passover she made us Popovers, airy puffed-up concoctions that are as close to sandwich bread as you get this time of year. She baked, I watched. After they were puffed and light brown, I slit them open and slipped in a piece of good cheese and perfectly ripe avocado. An ideal Passover lunch.
Thank you, Bubbie.
(adapted from Ruth Levy and Joan Nathan)
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for baking sheet
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup matzo meal
(or half matzo meal, half matzo cake meal)
1/2 tablespoon sugar (or, to taste)
1 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2 Brush a baking sheet with oil; set aside.
3 In a medium saucepan, bring oil, 1 cup water, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat.
4 Stir in matzah meal (or matzo meal/cake flour) until sticky, remove from heat and let cool completely.
5 Add sugar and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
6 Fill a large bowl with water.
7 Dip your hands in the water and then form dough into a ball about the size of a tennis ball.
8 Place on prepared baking sheet.
9 Repeat process until all dough has been used.
10 Transfer to oven and bake until popovers are puffy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
11 Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until golden brown, about 40 minutes.
12 Serve immediately.
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April 7, 2011 | 7:09 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
This past week in Israel I stopped in Abu Ghosh, an Arab town a few miles west of Jerusalem off Highway 1. Abu Ghosh is famous for its hummus. The Guiness World Record for the largest bowl of hummus was claimed by a chef in the town a few years back. There are several restaurants that advertise on large signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew, “The Original Abu Ghosh Hummus.” In my experience you can’t go wrong at any of them.
But I had read and heard that the best is Naji. It is a relatively small place tucked onto a square which doubles as a chaotic (this is Israel) parking lot. On the same square is Naji’s Butcher Shop, which locals say is the best source for meat in town.
Naji’s Restaurant serves that meat grilled—I watched lamb chops cut as thick as fists go onto the flames. But the specialty is hummus, which comes in delicate ceramic bowls, topped with warm soft garbanzo beans, olive oil and lemon juice. This hummus has NOTHING in common with even the best Costco or supermarket brands. It is soft, melt-in-you-mouth dip, with a texture of clotted cream.
You can also order their other appetizer salads, all of which are standard-bearers: delicate baba ganouj, cabbage salad with a strong lemon dressing, and a house specialty, roasted squash blended with tahina.
Afterwards, you can walk, full and satisfied, to Abu Ghosh’s Crusader-era monastery. The grounds are peaceful, the structure among the best preserved in the world. When we walked in the monks were singing Psalms in the original Hebrew in the cavernous, echoey space. All in all, a day of religious experiences.
Al Naji Hummus [SLIDESHOW]
April 7, 2011 | 3:46 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I promised people who read my story on Michal Ansky that here on the blog they’d find a list of her favorite restaurants in Israel. Here’s the beginning of my piece:
Here’s the first thing you notice about Michal Ansky: She’s beautiful. Tall, with long black hair and a strong, lean Israeli build. In the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, where we meet, people do double takes. She’s not quite famous here yet, though Fox TV selected Ansky from among all the cooking experts in the world to be one of three judges on its hit program, “MasterChef.” Padma Lakshmi, watch your back.
In Israel, however, Ansky is a major food celebrity. She was a judge on the Israeli version of “MasterChef,” one of the country’s most popular shows. She hosts a popular show on Channel 10, “Fresh Cooking.” And most significantly, she, along with Shir Halpern and partner/husband Roee Hemed, founded Israel’s first true farmers markets, giving Israelis direct access to farmers’ fruits, vegetables and products of the land.
I came to talk to Ansky about Israeli food, not the TV show, and about Passover. She is not religious, but she does revel in the tradition of the holiday — it’s part of the land, and it’s part of her roots.
“We live in a cynical age,” she said. “There are no surprises. One day is like the next. But I think it’s very important to have tradition that makes certain times special, and I don’t take it for granted.”
For Ansky, Passover also means the first strawberries, the first greens and herbs, the early peas.
The truth is, I wasn’t that familiar with Ansky before meeting her—as I wrote before, when it comes to TV, I’m mostly an Anthony Bourdain guy these days.
But once I had her, Ansky proved to be passionate, learned, opinionated, and an expert on all foods Israeli. I had to ask her to reel off her favorite places to eat in Israel, especially as I was leaving for a visit there the week after speaking with her. Ansky was jet-lagged, post-partum and a bit harried when we spoke, so she admitted to not having all the names on the tip of her tongue, but here were some of her favorites, in no particular order:
Yoezer Wine Bar
“One of the best.”
Open: Sun-Thu 12:30-1:00, Fri-Sat 11:00-1:00
Address: 2 Ish-Habira St. Jaffa (near the Clock’s Square).
Tel: (03) 683-9115
Pizza Tony Vespa
“Reminds me of Italy.”
267 Dizengof St., Tel Aviv
“For molecular gastronomy.”
4 Heychal Hatalmud. 03-510-7001.
Chef Eyal Shani is one of Ansky’s co-hosts on “MasterChef.” He has a new restaurant as well, Miznon.
8 Maavar Yabuk. 052-703-5888. Open Wed and Thurs evenings.
Beit Thailandi (Thai House)
Ansky raved about the Thai food here, placing it well above most places outside Thailand. The proprietors have their own farm for hard-to-find ingredients.
8 Bograshov , corner of Ben Yehuda , Tel Aviv
Abu Hassan Hummus
1 Dolphin Street
+972 03 682 0387
Sun-Fri 7:45-14:45 (or until the hummus is finished)
Erez Kamorovsky Cooking School
It’s on the Israel-Lebanon border and the site is in Hebrew.
“He has magicians hands,” said Ansky, “and he’s one of the popel who is changing the food reality in Israel.”
Farmer’s Market Tel aviv Slide Show: