Whoever invented the iPad over at Apple is one son-of-a-bitch. (Was it Steve Jobs? Not sure.) I hope his home-wrecking invention causes his family as much trouble and stress as it has caused mine since my older son, Leo, got one as a present from his grandmother for doing well in school.
Before that motivation-killing gadget entered our home, our creative, social kids had a beautiful, rich life. Everything was exciting to them. Playing outside, having friends over, reading, drawing, writing, and fighting over toys (not over the iPad). Now all those activities are “boring.”
Until two days ago, the most popular question in our house was, “Can I play with the iPad?” and they wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. They would ask again and again until you snapped and yelled at them. Then they would throw a massive tantrum (worse than the ones they threw when they were toddlers). The older one complained how unlucky, miserable and boring his life is. The little one cries his lungs out as if he is two years old again. And I start to feel angry and nauseous. The question “Why can’t I play on the iPad?” pushes all my bottons. It makes me MAD.
My cousin Didi (Diane) is pretty lucky. Her husband, Avi, is the kind of guy who’s not only in love with good food, he also knows how to prepare it very well – especially meat. I’ve never left their house without an intense yummy sensation in my mouth. I got the same feeling when I had his mother’s stuffed onions and kube chamusta – she’s a Kurdistani Jew from Jerusalem, and a brilliant cook. Her food is to live long for. I already published a quick recipe for kale shakshuka – but Avi’s shakshuka is the real thing. He made it for us one morning while we stayed with them on our recent trip to Israel. Continue reading
Eighteen hours. That’s how long I am willing to travel to eat my mother’s food. It’s the time it takes to get from my house in Los Angeles to my mother’s house in the south of Israel. It is the food that gives me the most pleasure and comfort. It’s not just food – it’s medicine. I find it mentally and physically healing. I swear, it’s the ultimate healthy food. Always fresh and always made from scratch. Last month, after more than two years, we finally flew to Israel to visit our family and friends. We landed in Ben Gurion Airport and spent a few days in Tel Aviv before driving south to my mother’s house for the weekend. After all those years, the smell of Shabbat cookings is still the same as I remember, and the kitchen, as usual, is full of produce and pans and pots full of good things to eat. I would be lying if I said that my mother made all these beautiful dishes especially for us. Making tons of delicacies for Shabbat is a ritual, whether the kids come home or not.
Every few months I become vegan for a month or so. Currently I’m in a vegan month: no meat, no chicken, no eggs, and no dairy products (as usual, for allergy reasons). And no meat/dairy substitutes. I hate all those soy/tofu products! I can only enjoy the real thing. Instead I eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. Yes, I do look like a bird by the end of the month.
Usually the first two weeks are easy. There are endless vegetable dishes I can make. I have this magnificent book called Plenty, Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi – it’s all vegetable-based recipes. Written by Yotam Ottolonghi, an Israeli chef/restaurateur/food writer who lives in London, the book is highly recommended. When I go through the pages of this book I think to myself that I could easily become a vegetarian forever if not for my terrible craving for meat. I have nothing against meat if it’s organic and grass-fed, and eaten only once in a while, not every day. My body needs meat every now and then. No matter how much broccoli I eat or how many shots of wheat grass I drink, without meat my body feels weak, as if I’m about to faint. The best grass-fed meat in my opinion is sold at Whole Foods at a reasonable price.
This week I was enjoying all the vegetable dishes I cooked for my husband and me. (Both of my opinionated sons won’t eat cooked leafy greens and vegetables, such as chard and eggplant). Here are two yummy salads/dishes that I quickly made yesterday for lunch and served with quinoa. They can also be made as a side dish.
My mother has always been liberal and pretty open about almost everything, yet when it comes to food, she is as old- fashioned and conservative as an old lady. All through my childhood – and until this day – my mother has cooked every day, and everything from scratch. Until we moved to the big city of Tel Aviv, my mother even used to make amazing pastries and lavish birthday cakes, which made me and my siblings very proud and happy. Although my mother is Moroccan, and not Italian, her pizza recipe is my favorite. I am willing to endure my allergic reaction to dairy for a single slice. Her recipe is made with fresh sliced tomatoes (the beefy ones, like Roma tomatoes), a drizzle of olive oil mixed with sweet and hot paprika – instead of the usual tomato sauce. Then she tops it with onion rings, black olives and canned tuna! Even after all those years living in New York City, surrounded by excellent pizza, I still prefer my mother’s Moroccan Style Pizza. Continue reading
On Monday we celebrated Alex’s fifth birthday with my own version of a South American tres leches, which I had a feeling he would love, because this year he didn’t want a chocolate cake (?!?) And to make him feel even more pleased, I put my health concerns on the side and I put some (natural fruit-colored) jelly beans around the cake to make it colorful, just how he likes.
Upon the little sugar addict’s request, I also made meringue kisses, just like the ones he saw on the cover of the Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine. To make sure I didn’t change anything, he said,”Mommy, but the same!” Poor kid, he knew I would modify something in the recipe. As they say in India, “same-same, but different.” I made them the same, but a different color – because artificial colors are not an option and because I couldn’t find a natural yellow or orange at Whole Foods, plus the red one they have was pretty expensive, so I juiced my own fuchsia. Beets produced the most vibrant and beautiful pink-purple color. When Alex saw them he forgot all about the yellow and orange.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been eating and sharing a lot of sweet recipes. Unfortunately, when I overdose on sugar, my health gets compromised. So if I can’t make any sweet cakes, I’ll make different kind of cakes. Machamar is a Moroccan fluffy cake (pashtida in Hebrew) that my mother always makes. The basic original recipe is much more simple, but I like to play with it. It is an excellent vegetarian main dish. You can add all kinds of vegetables, like zucchini, leeks, peppers, sweet potatoes, or spinach – either mixed in, on top, in the middle, or on the bottom. Continue reading