Category Archives: Vegetarian

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

 

 

 

Rigatoni With Brussels Sprouts, Leek, Parmesan & Lemon

in cast iron pan with serving spoons 625 sqAt this time of year I feel like I have one foot firmly planted in optimism about spring. However, the other foot is dragging quite slowly behind, unable to escape winter’s firm grip. We get a few warm days and the mountain of snow in front of my house melts a bit, and then wham, a mini blizzard.

This pasta bridges the gap between winter and spring perfectly. Representing winter we have  browned Brussels sprouts. In the other corner, leeks and lemon lighten everything up. Everything comes together to create a deeply satisfying dish.one black bowlTrim the Brussels sprouts and set aside the larger leaves that come off easily. Halve the sprouts, or quarter, if large.Sprouts leaves and halvesSlice half the leek into thin rings. Coarsely chop the other half of the leek. leeksThe leek circles and halved sprouts get browned in a pan. Place sprouts cut side down and leave them alone for 3-4 minutes, so they can get some colour on them. There’s flavour in the brown!browning sprout halves and leeksRigatoni is a great choice for this dish. Penne would also work quite well. Don’t forget to heavily salt the cooking water for the pasta. Just before draining the pasta, scoop off a cup of that starchy cooking water. You will need it to create the sauce for this pasta.rigatoni and saltAn extra drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of Parmesan cheese finish off this dish perfectly. A glass of wine is always welcome.rigatoni with a glass of wine 1

Click here to print recipe for Rigatoni With Brussels Sprouts, Parmesan, Lemon, And Leek.

3 black bowls

Israeli Couscous with Pickled Shallots, Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata

in green bowl 1 625 sqI have never understood the appeal of traditional couscous. It simply does not have enough texture or heft for me. Even when steamed and fluffed properly, so that the grains stay separate, it fails to satisfy me. I like my carbs with a bit of bite to them. Israeli couscous is more my jam. It is dense with a bouncy, chewy texture. I had always assumed that Israeli couscous was just bigger balls of regular couscous. I only recently learned the true difference.

Traditional couscous is actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina flour. It is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until teeny-tiny balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and steamed. Israeli couscous is also made from semolina flour, but the similarities end there. Israeli couscous is made by mixing semolina flour with water, into a dough. The dough is then machine extruded through a round mould, about 1 millimetre in size.  These tiny pearls are then toasted dry, which adds a nutty flavour. 

Traditional couscous has been around, some believe, since the 9th century, but Israeli couscous is just a baby. It only came into existence in the 1950’s. Following the War of Independence in 1948, many immigrants arrived in the newly formed country from all over the Middle East. Most of them relied on rice as a staple in their cuisine, but there were rice shortages. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked the Osem food company to develop something that they could substitute for their beloved rice. They created “Ptitim“. It was nicknamed Ben Gurion rice, since it was originally extruded in the shape of rice grains. They later introduced a round version which they called Israeli couscous.

This delicious salad is my adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I have only made a slight change. I substituted ricotta salata for the feta cheese they suggested. I prefer the drier texture and less salty taste of ricotta salata. Many Italian grocers carry it. Feel free to use feta if you like, or even some crumbled goat cheese, if that’s your thing.

Begin with pickling the shallots. Nothing too complicated here. You will need red wine vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and some thinly sliced shallots. ingredients for picklingSimmer vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Add shallots, turn off heat, cover pot and let macerate for 30 minutes. That’s it. I always thought pickling was so complicated. pickling shallotsTo properly cook Israeli couscous, begin by sauteeing in a bit of olive oil until about half the grains turn brown. Then add water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes. The ratio of Israeli couscous to water is 1:1.25.  (For every cup of couscous, add 1¼ cups water)toasted cous cousOnce cooked, spread couscous out on a baking sheet to allow it to cool before tossing with other salad ingredients. cooling couscousPrepare the dressing. The mild flavour of couscous can stand up to a bracing dressing of Dijon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and olive oil.making dressingThen it’s simply a matter of assembly. I thawed some green peas (no cooking necessary), drained the pickled shallots, washed some baby arugula and mint, toasted and chopped pistachios and diced up the cheese. Sugar snap peas or asparagus would also be excellent friends with this salad. ready to assembleI loved the combination of all these ingredients. Chewy, nutty couscous, bitter arugula, sweet mint, crunchy pistachios, salty cheese and the zingy pickled shallots. Each bite had me craving more. in white bowl

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Pickled Shallots Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata.

in green bowl 2

Crispy Salt and Vinegar Chickpeas

in bowl with wooden spoon 625 sq Salty, crunchy, tangy and just perfect for mindless snacking, these roasted chickpeas are addictive. I was introduced to these a few months ago by my friend Marla. She made them to serve with drinks at my house. They were quickly gobbled up by everyone.

While roasting chickpeas may seem like a new idea, they’re actually quite a retro snack, dating back to 1000 CE. Known as Leblebi, they are a very common snack food in Turkey, Iran and Algeria. Often seasoned with salt and hot spices, once in a while you come across candy coated ones. I’m thinking of trying a salt, cumin and smoked paprika variation next.

I used canned chickpeas to keep things fast and easy. Rinse and drain a couple of cans.draining in collanderTip them into a pot and cover with 2 cups of plain white distilled vinegar. You could be fancy and try apple cider or champagne vinegar if you wanted. Bring to a boil. Cover pot, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. adding vinegarThe key to getting the chick peas super crispy is to dry them very well. After draining them from their vinegar bath, I spread them out on a few layers of paper towels and let them air dry for about 30 minutes before coating with oil, salt and pepper. 45 minutes in a hot oven and they are golden brown and perfectly crispy.on baking sheetInspired by street food snacks in the Middle-East, I decided to serve them in paper cones. I fashioned them out of parchment paper and then dressed them up with a band of pretty wrapping paper.in bowl with bucket of conesI first learned how to fashion a cone out of parchment paper when I was in culinary school. We had to make them to use as a piping bag for decorative icing in our baking class. My fine motor skills are not the sharpest, so I had difficulty making them. I got the brilliant idea to bring in plastic disposable piping bags, but was promptly scolded by my teacher. He said that the plastic piping bags were for “housewives” and we were professionals! I practiced over and over again and can now make them in my sleep. Here is a great video tutorial. 

spooning into cone 1

Click here to print recipe for Crispy Salt and Vinegar Chickpeas.

Cauliflower Cake

a slice with saladHappy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Let me know what you’re determined to change or accomplish this year. Personally, I’m not big on goal setting. It makes me very uncomfortable. I fear the inevitable disappointment if I fall short of my target.

A good friend of mine resolved to express more gratitude this year. She wrote me a beautiful note, letting me know how grateful she is for our friendship. I was so touched. Yet, a small part of me felt like crap! Maybe I should be resolving to be a better person too. Or maybe I’ll just bake a cake, a vegetable cake. That counts as virtuous, doesn’t it?baked

with salad 625 sqThis lovely cauliflower cake is very slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty More.what you'll needcooking cauliflower and onionsRoastedmashed, or thinly sliced in a slaw, cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable. In this rendition, cauliflower gets boiled until soft and tender. Then it gets folded into a gossamer light cake batter, made with eggs, flour and baking powder. Basil and rosemary add a herbal freshness. Parmesan and Gruyere cheese add some gooey, nutty saltiness and the addition of turmeric makes this cake positively sunny. assembling 2ready to bake 2Topped with thinly sliced tomatoes and shallots, this is a very pretty golden cake indeed. on white plates

Click here to print recipe for Cauliflower Cake.on stripe plates