Tag Archives: hummus

{Guest Post} My Jewish Journey – The Joy of Caitlin

18 Jul

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Hi Lovely Readers,

I am currently enjoying a trip of a lifetime with my family in Blue Sky, Montana so I asked two trusted foodies to fill in for me while I’m gone. The first post is from my talented sister-in-law, Caitlin, author of the parenting blog, The Joy of Caitlin. The second will be from one of my most favorite people in the world, Jackie. Jackie is THE person who introduced me to the concept of food as art, as something more than just to eat but something you can be passionate about. I am so excited to reflect on this Montana experience next week (gang, there was a food festival. It was epic). In the meantime, please enjoy the guest posts and I wish you a wonderful shabbat,

Whitney

I was on a first date with Mo, the cute guy from my public speaking class. I had been working at a natural bakery in our college town and I was telling an anecdote about a customer asking for some challah. I pronounced it the proper way, with the hard “ch” from the back of my throat, and I think that’s when he knew I was the one. The blonde, Irish, hippie girl could stick around. In a funny way I think Mo’s reaction to the correct pronunciation was the very beginning of my Jewish food journey. I realized soon that the cute guy I was interested in wasn’t just casually or culturally Jewish like my other friends, he was “Orthodox,” raised in a fully observant home, he kept Kosher, and didn’t drive on Shabbat. Mo was fully engaged in the secular world, wore regular clothes, baseball caps, and went dancing in clubs. Yet beneath that surface was a deep faith and commitment to values that I had never experienced before.

On our first road trip together, to visit my Grandpa in northern Vermont, Mo pulled over just as we left town. He had packed his siddur (prayer book) in the trunk and wanted to say the Tefilat HaDerech, “Wayfarer’s Blessing” as we embarked on our journey. I felt so special, so cozy in the thought that he had a blessing to say for this occasion. I looked through his bilingual prayer book to discover that there were blessings for literally everything. Every kind of food and drink had it’s own special words of gratitude. There were blessings for natural phenomena, for healing, I was amazed and smitten. I wanted these secret words woven in my life too. I began to learn about Judaism without discussing it with Mo, afraid he would be worried that I was just doing it because of him, unsure of what he would think.

I finally admitted to him that I was surreptitiously studying Judaism and he was both excited and wary. We went to a few Jewish Renewal services in New York together, and while I was enamored with the guitar playing and Bob Marley songs, he was a bit underwhelmed. We began to occasionally spend Shabbat together, and when Passover came I was sure that I needed to attend a seder. He still hadn’t told his family about our relationship, and to arrive in a car in the midst of the two day holiday would have been disruptive and fodder for much disapproval.

I went to a friend’s family’s seder instead, and I felt a deep sense of purpose, with an underlying sadness. I was sure that I belonged there, yet pained not to be with Mo. For some reason I decided that night to eat the chicken soup. I hadn’t had any meat in seven years, I had been raw vegan on and off for the past three. Something about the occasion, about my longing to belong, made me want to join in fully. It was the same cozy feeling I had experienced when I discovered all the blessings. That one bowl of matzoh ball soup brought me more into the world of Judaism through food, and kick started my interest in the possibility of really creating a Jewish life for myself.
A few months later Mo had decided to travel to Israel for a scholarship in a Masters program in Jerusalem. I was graduating with a degree in English literature and a major itch to get as far from New Jersey as possible. He left in July, I booked a ticket to visit him in October, and spent the summer roaming the east coast, visiting friends, preparing for my first trip overseas. When I finally boarded that plane I left my mom in the terminal with many tearful goodbyes, and set off for the unknown.

The first thing I saw in Israel were the orange trees, the first thing I felt was the heat as I walked through the bridge from the plane to the airport. I heard the guttural sounds of Hebrew and felt excited and lost. I found Mo outside of customs and we loaded my two bags with all my earthly belongings into the back of the airport shuttle. I felt nauseous on the winding ride, amazed at the sprawling rocky hills covered in gnarled olive trees and stone fences I imagined to be ancient. When the van dropped us off at Mo’s apartment I was surprised at the dirty dusty streets and the unfamiliar street signs, then felt nothing but gratitude as we descended into his tiny basement apartment where I collapsed on his futon bed and slept dreamlessly.

When I woke hours later it was the afternoon. I was hungry, thirsty, disoriented. I drank some water, threw on my sneakers and we headed out to meet Mo’s friend downtown to get something to eat. I will always remember my first meal in Israel, at a tiny cafe called Timol Shilshom (http://www.tmol-shilshom.co.il/en/home/default.aspx). We ordered bread with pesto, olives and labane, everything was fresh and bursting with flavor. Then came the shakshuka, the quintessential Israeli dish Mo and his friend decided I should try, eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce, eaten with crusty bread. I had spent my college days eating out in Manhattan, trying all different ethnic cuisines from Thai to Ethiopian, but this was a brand new experience for me. It was homey, bright, filling, surprising, and comforting, all at once. From that moment on I was in love with Israeli food, and my Jewish food journey began in earnest.

Read more of my story soon on The Joy of Caitlin!

Mo’s Famous Real Israeli Humus

Anyone who has joined us at the Shabbat table has savored the delicious, authentic humus that Mo makes every week. He developed this recipe after extensive tasting in Israel, and testing here in the states. It is one of the few dishes when I willingly give over the kitchen, and just get to enjoy. I hope you like it too!

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup Israeli tehina (can be found at Kosher stores or use regular tahini from any supermarket)
1/2 cup cold water
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
Cumin if you like!

How?
Place garlic in bowl of food processor, followed by chickpeas (reserve a handful to put on top at the end) and the rest of the ingredients. Process until very smooth, adding a little more olive oil or water if needed, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve topped with chickpeas, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of paprika. It makes a great dip for pitas or fresh veggies. B’teyavon!

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It’s the Simple Things

19 May
Costa Rican coffee under a palapa -- every morning for a week on our honey.  Pure bliss.

Costa Rican coffee under a palapa — every morning for a week on our honey. Pure bliss.

Hummus from Abu Gosh -- the best in the world!! (photo taken during an afternoon in Abu Gosh with my girl, Eva).

Hummus from Abu Gosh — the best in the world!! (photo taken during an afternoon in Abu Gosh with my girl, Eva).

Some days, it truly is the simple things in life that warm my heart and bring me back when I think I’m on the brink of tearing my hair out. School is winding down, which is WONDERFUL, but that just means the stress level is increasing as everyone is running around trying to make sure students are prepared for their finals while also coordinating the dismal task of informing students and parents of the potential of failing courses, and of course every other detail you can think of. It’s that time of year when everyone else wants their ‘important’ to be your ‘important’. So when the stress starts getting to me, I think about the little things that make me so darn happy. There are so many things that fit into this category. Admittedly, a lot of them are focused on the baby and her cute Dad but dang it a lot of the things on that list are edible too. There’s coffee; the coffee we drank under palapas in Costa Rica. There’s the lasagna, dripping in bechamel, served at the Little House in Baka in Jerusalem (so much of my favorites are from Jerusalem.  Don’t get me started on the hummus. That’s a blog post in and of itself). Then there’s ordering room service and eating in be while watching cable. I can’t explain why but ordering some kind of delicious pasta and eating it while watching whatever is showing on Bravo makes me so dang happy. High on that list of simple pleasures, right under room service and right before a glass of anything Bell’s Brewery has to serve is hors dourves. Good Lord in heaven, I love finger foods. Did you ever seen that early 90s Cher and Winona Ryder movie, Mermaids (if not, please watch it. I watched this movie over and over and over again as a kid)? Cher plays Winona’s unorthodox mom who can’t cook anything other than finger foods. Winona’s character abhors that in her mother. I would have been right on board with that. Seriously, if you can mix it up and put it in phyllo dough or a mini quiche, I’m in.

Ground Turkey Goodness

Ground Turkey Goodness

Mmm . . .

In the spirit of making a meal out of finger foods, and trying to use up some leftovers, I made a very simple but

truthfully, very delicious meal a couple of nights ago that I wanted to share. I think the recipe below would make Cher’s character proud, ifIdosaysomyself.

What’s on your ‘simple pleasures’ list?

The Assembly Line

The Assembly Line

Before Cooking

Before Cooking

The Final Delicious Product

The Final Delicious Product

Perfect Pockets: Ground Turkey and Tofutti Cream ‘Cheese’ Wontons

What!?

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound – ground turkey
3 green onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
Pepper
1/2 cup of non-dairy cream ‘cheese’ (herbed works best)
1 package of wonton wrappers

How’s That Now?

Heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the green onions and garlic and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the ground turkey to the pan and continue cooking until turkey is just about fully cooked. Season the turkey mixture the soy sauce and pepper and let cook for a minute or two more.

Next, add the turkey mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Once cooled, add the cream cheese mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. I like my mixture to be on the creamier side, so feel free to add more if you like. The best thing about this recipe is that it’s all up to your interpretation.

Preheat your over to 375 degrees.

Now, fill your wontons! Very lightly dust your counter top with a bit of flour. Place 12 wrappers on the floured counter top, and add a small dollop of filling just off-center of each dumpling. Run a wet finger around the rim of each wrapper, gently fold one side over onto the other so that it forms a triangle, and try to avoid trapping air bubbles in the dumplings if you can. Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling. Place the wontons on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush a little bit of oil into each wonton before baking. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until edges turn golden brown.

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