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.
Last week, I was truly surprised by my mother-in-law Estee’s cooking skills. I knew she’s an excellent salad maker (she is Israeli, after all) and a master of small, light, beautiful, healthy meals that don’t require much effort — like Israeli roughly chopped salad as a main course served with some nice bread, olive oil, good cheese, and a few wrinkled black olives. I didn’t realize that this woman knows how to cook with fire! Using the stove in her house was always forbidden, she insisted to keep it looking brand new at all times.
Life sucks when you are intolerant to dairy. I have no doubt that my life could have been ten times better and sweeter if I could just eat some stinky cheeses or buttery pastries, without having to pay the price.
Creativity and improvisation in the kitchen are the name of the game when dealing with allergy restrictions and frustrations. (God, how I envy those people – like my husband – who can drink their lattes with milk, and can eat a big bowl of cereal, minutes before bedtime, then sleep through the night without snoring or going through an entire package of tissue!)
Three days ago, an amazing cake came out of my hideous frustration. I swear, you would never guess that there is olive oil in the cake instead of butter (NEVER margarine or any other poor substitute). I know olive oil sounds like a turn-off, but, believe me, it blends in very well. (So does coconut oil.) None of the people who ate this cake suspected that it’s non-dairy.
For a while now, I’ve been fantasizing about a real pear pie, with butter and cream, like Karin Goren’s recipe, but I know that it would cost me my health, so I give up. Luckily, this improvised cake came out just as good as the one in my fantasies, and managed to calm my taste buds and the frustration.
Again, Alex’s help made the cake magical and yummy. Just as good as the muffins he made two weeks ago. Continue reading
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.
Recently I discovered that not only I can cook I can also draw. It’s so fun and relaxing. I wish I had more time for my new hobby. Anyway, it was very flattering and exciting to discover that other people beside my husband and kids like my illustrations. As I mention at my last post, Nate & Salli at They Cook and Draw love them! Included my latest recipe for kids or anyone, who is new to the kitchen. Enjoy Toast with King Acavado. Check it out, http://www.theydrawandcook.com/recipes/toast-with-king-acavado-by-shelly-gilad