Sabich

Sabbich ready to eat 2Falafel? Forget about it. Shawarma? So over it. This year I’m all about Sabich, a pita sandwich bursting with fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, shredded cabbage, hummus, Israeli salad and pickles. Drizzled with tahini sauce and pickled mango chutney (amba), this sandwich is a thing of beauty.

The origin of this sandwich is credited to Iraqi Jews who arrived in Israel in the 1950’s. Most of them settled in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. Since cooking is not allowed on the Sabbath a cold lunch of yesterday’s fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs was often served for lunch. Natural born entrepreneurs, the Iraqi Jews rolled these ingredients into a pita and started selling them as street food. Cheap and filling, these sandwiches quickly became the country’s version of fast food.

I had my first sabich at Sarona Market, the stunning modern new food market in Tel Aviv. If you have not visited Sarona Market but are familiar with the Shuk (Machane Yehuda Market) in Jerusalem, suffice it to say that they are polar opposites! Not to say that the shuk does not have its charms, such as being elbowed by sabras in a hurry to get their marketing done before Shabbat. Each market is special and unique and both merit a spot as a must visit destination on trip to Israel. Even if food is not your passion, the people watching at both markets are a fascinating window into daily Israeli life.Sarona Market

olives juice bar ice cream breadI didn’t really know what I was ordering. My daughter and I just pointed to this beautiful stuffed pita sandwich in the display case. It looked fresh and promising. We were hooked from the first drippy, messy bite. Crispy, crunchy, soft, creamy, tangy, and spicy, this sandwich is an amazing fusion of textures and flavours. The addition of hard-boiled egg surprised me. My daughter explained that this is typical in some Israeli sandwiches.sabich at saronaI knew I had to try recreating this at home. I have made it twice now since coming home. The first time I tried not to stray too far from the original. I was unable to find amba, the pickled mango chutney where I live. I could have ordered it online, but I was too impatient. I substituted in some pickled jalapeños for heat. I added some creamy avocado, which seemed like a perfect compliment.ready to assembleYou may be tempted to bake or grill the eggplant slices, in order to keep the calorie count lower. I beg you not to do that. Yes, eggplant soaks up a ton of oil when you fry it. But it is precisely that oil rich flavour and squishy texture you want in this sandwich and only frying can achieve it. Since you’re just tucking just a few slices into the sandwich, so don’t stress about it.

Green cabbage is thinly sliced and simply dressed with salt and white wine vinegar. Sour dill pickles add additional crunch. Tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil are combined in a classic Israeli salad. I jacked up my store bought Tahini sauce with some garlic, and lemon juice and added some hot water to thin it out so that it had the perfect texture for drizzling.

The second time I made it, I mixed up a batch of spiced ground lamb (cumin, coriander, sautéed onions and cinnamon) and formed mini lamb burgers that we grilled along side the fresh pita bread. The addition of the lamb sliders was a big hit at our table.Sabbich ready to eat 1

Click here to print recipe for Sabich.

Click here to print recipe for Spiced Lamb Burger Patties, if you want to add lamb to your sabich.

open faced

 

 

 

Grain Bowls

in a black bowl 2Happy Victoria Day to all my Canadian friends! Hope this long holiday weekend has left you feeling more relaxed and a pound or two heavier than you were last week! Even though it’s technically still spring, I think of the Victoria Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer. Here in Ontario, the weather co-operated and we had glorious heat and sunshine. We deserve it!!

We came up to the cottage and all three of our kids descended upon us for a visit. Nothing makes me happier than having us all sleeping under the same roof again. My oldest son brought his girlfriend and my daughter brought three friends, so it was a full house.

I had lots of help in the kitchen. My daughter and her friends planned and cooked dinner on Saturday night. We had a Mexican Fiesta complete with frozen lime margaritas. On the menu were fish tacos with slaw, sweet potato and black bean salad, mango salsa, grilled pineapple salsa and guacamole. It was all very delicious and I just sat and sipped my cocktail while they cooked.

For lunch on Saturday, I served grain bowls. These are perfect to serve for lunch for a large group of people. Everything can be prepared in advance and set out on a buffet. Everyone helps themselves and takes only what they like. Vegans, vegetarians and carnivores are all satisfied. ready to assembleI have provided a recipe but really, just use whatever is fresh and looks good. Just make sure you have a variety of colours and textures. I roasted some chickpeas with cumin and hot smoked paprika for a bit of heat. Sautéed corn and cherry tomatoes provided a bit of sweetness. Raw broccoli and shaved Brussels sprouts added crunch, while radishes added a perfect bitter note. Creamy avocado is always welcome at this party. Toasted nuts or seeds would also be a great addition. The dressing is a fresh and light combo of mint, parsley, lemon juice, honey and olive oil.

For grains, I used brown rice and farro. I have never had much luck cooking brown rice before. It always came out gummy. I recently tried Uncle Ben’s brown rice and it cooked up perfectly. The grains stayed separate and had a beautiful chewy texture. After cooking your grains, spread them out on a baking sheet to allow them to cool. That way, they won’t clump up and get gummy. Feel free to use barley, wheat berries, kasha, and ok, you can use quinoa if you must!

Store any leftovers in little containers, to keep all the ingredients separate and make a breakfast bowl in the morning, topped with a fried egg!

Click here to print recipe for Grain Bowls.

in a white bowl

Crispiest Ever Roasted Smashed Potatoes

on blue serving platterComfort comes in many forms. When you’re little, nothing soothes like a thumb or a well worn stuffed friend. MousieWhen you get older, solace for some can be found in a box of Milk Duds mixed with popcorn at the movies. Oh, perhaps that’s just me.

I think we can all agree that roasted potatoes top the list of comfort foods. The ultimate roast potato is a study in contrasts: the outside should be shatteringly crisp, crunchy and salty, while the inside is tender and fluffy.

Start with mini potatoes. Multi-coloured ones are pretty. Rosemary, garlic, olive oil and plenty of salt are part of the plan.ready to rollBegin by giving the potatoes a head start in a pot of boiling salted water. About 10-15 minutes should suffice. We just want the skin of the potato to be tender.boiled potatoesThen the fun begins! Drain potatoes and spread them out on a baking sheet. Use a potato masher or fork to gently break the surface of the potatoes. I love my spring loaded masher. Be gentle here. You are not looking to make mashed potatoes. You just want to break the surface of the skins and allow the flesh to to be exposed. You are essentially creating more surface area, more little nooks and crannies to be crisped up in the oven. gently smash potatoes

Click here to print recipe for Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes.

I like to think of them as the adult version of thumb sucking! Share if you must, it’s the grown up thing to do. potatoes for one

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake

topsy turvy 3When I watched Ina Garten and Tyler Florence collaborate on this birthday cake for Tyler’s 7-year-old son Hunter, two things occurred to me. The first being, what an odd and unlikely duo! How did Ina and Tyler even come together on this project in the first place? My second thought was, what a cool idea for a birthday cake. For some reason, I only associate stacked cakes with weddings. This off kilter, cake was perfect to help celebrate my youngest son’s birthday. He turned 23 at the end of April.1 slice cI didn’t use Ina’s recipe because I have a favourite go-to recipe. It was created by Noreen Gilletz, slightly adapted by me, and comes together in the food processor in a few short minutes. It is the moistest chocolate cake I have ever tried. Deep, dark  intense chocolate flavour with a fudgy dense texture. Half a cup of strong coffee enhances the chocolate flavour.cake mise en placeinto food processorready to bakeThe deep dark chocolate buttercream is the genius creation of Nila over at www.thetoughcookie.comchocolate buttercreamI had some leftover salted caramel buttercream from making macarons so I sandwiched the layers with it, and frosted the top and sides with the chocolate buttercream. If you don’t feel like preparing two kinds of buttercream, it is still fantastic with just chocolate buttercream.salted caramel buttercream between layersYou will need two round 8-inch, two round 6-inch and two round 4-inch cake pans, as well as some cardboard cake circles.ready to frosticing cake 2ready to stacktopsy turvy 1 625If the thought of building this Topsy Turvy cake makes you nervous, just make a double layer 9-inch traditional cake. It’s still very special and quite beautiful.Let's party 13 slices 2

Click here to print recipe for Topsy Turvy Chocolate Birthday Cake.

Click here to print recipe for Perfect Chcolate Birthday Cake.

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Buttercream 2.

2 slices 625 sq

Spring Chicken

ready to eat When spring finally arrives, most people don’t normally turn to braising as a cooking method. But you guys don’t read this blog because I’m like most people. I promise I will hustle out to the BBQ very soon, but this braised spring chicken recipe really deserves your attention now. Mindy Fox created this recipe for epicurious.com. I adapted it slightly.

I decided on using boneless skinless thighs for this to hasten the cooking time. Feel free to use bone-in thighs or breasts if that’s how you roll. Just promise me you won’t select boneless breasts. They are not meant for braising. I treated the thighs to a generous seasoning of ground fennel seeds, paprika, salt and pepper.seasoning chickenAfter an initial browning, the thighs are simmered gently in white wine and chicken stock. The proper technique is to have the chicken pieces only halfway submerged in the braising liquid. Don’t drown them.

Leeks are thinly sliced and slowly sautéed until meltingly tender. Fat spears of asparagus and green peas pretty much shout “SPRING”. I used frozen peas because fresh are still a few weeks away for us here in Ottawa. Mini yellow, red and purple potatoes seemed like a good idea so I invited them to this spring fête as well!slicing leeksThe braising liquid gets reduced and treated to a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Scatter chopped dill and lemon zest over everything and celebrate spring.pouring on sauce 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Spring Chicken.

ready to eat 2