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Gefilte Fish, the Good Kind

20 Apr
Gefilte Fish, the good kind. By Alexandra Hanso-Harding, April 2017. P

Gefilte Fish, the good kind. By Alexandra Hanson-Harding, April 2017.

Tonight the husband served me some delicious gefilte fish. The good kind. You may ask, what is the good kind? Is it Rokeach? Is it Manischewitz? Yehudah? Mrs. Adler’s? Is it what? The answer, my friend, is something I found out by accident one year when I went to a kosher supermarket in Passaic, New Jersey, and couldn’t find any jars of gefilte fish at all. I don’t know why. I wasn’t looking in the right place, or they were sold out, or maybe the fact that it was just before Pesach and it was as crowded AF with harried mothers who had about 8 kids each in tow (I am in awe). But I did find something intriguing I’d never seen before: Frozen gefilte fish in a log, wrapped in white paper. It looked . . . less gelatinous than your everyday gefilte fish, which to my mind was a good thing. While I enjoy the taste of the gefilte, the nebulous edges of the jarred beast unsettle me.

I brought home a mighty log of the gefilte fish and my husband said, “What exactly do you do with that thing? It’s frozen.”
I hadn’t exactly thought of “reading the directions” at that point. “I don’t know, just warm it up, I guess,” I said.
“Hmm,” he said, squinting at the side of the package. “It says here that you have to simmer it in a broth of two quarts of water, carrots, onions, salt, and pepper for an hour and a half.”
“My point exactly,” I said with a glare. “I was already going to do that.”
I thumped around and actually followed the directions–you put the log of gefilte fish in the water still wrapped in its inner paper wrapping, and let it bob around in the pot with the carrots and onions. And it comes out making the whole house smell nice, with a faint sweet warm fishy-in-a-nice way, carrot and oniony smell. The gefilte fish has a sweetness and a firmness that is just right with some lovely horseradish with beets, for instance, to give it a little bite, and it truly just was the good kind, and now that’s the kind we always, always get.

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Andalusian Fish

24 Mar
Andalusian Fish. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding 2017.

Andalusian Fish. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding 2017.

I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things #2

15 Nov Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding

 

I’m eating oatmeal while  child #2, the chef, is saying, “You know what would be delicious? Pancakes. You know what I want? Pancakes. You know what I wish someone would make me? Pancakes.” Father says, “There’s a package of pancake mix on the top shelf.”

“Pancakes pancakes pancakes.” says child. “Pancakes with a capital P. I want twenty tiny little pancakes that look like cereal but aren’t.” The rain is pouring down and he has a long nasty wait for the bus ahead of him to get into the city. It makes me sad, thinking of how many years I spent waiting at the same bus stop, rain pouring down the back of my legs, into my shoes. I’m more sorry for myself than the annoyance running around the kitchen.

“If only there were someone in this house who could cook.” I say. Child cooks at top restaurant in Manhattan. The other day when he was less annoying, he cooked us breakfast. Poached eggs that were lightly toasted in Panko and Afghan lamb spices, then fried, and served on top of sauteed brussel sprouts. “Poke the eggs so they go right on the sprouts,” he said.

How do you fry poached eggs? It’s like frying air. But they were delicious.

Okay, he started making the pancakes. He puts the mix into a small plastic bag, then cuts off the corner. “Piping bag!” he says. So fancy.

Husband says that he has to drink coffee or he’ll have organ failure. He read it in an article and it’s science.

“Big coffee’s feedin’ you a lie,” says child.

Child finishes his pancakes. They are the size of a quarter each.

So, a week ago, I woke up very confident about the state of this country. It was a beautiful Tuesday. September 11 was another beautiful Tuesday. The rain is drilling into the skylights.

Right now it seems very hard to want to leave this cozy little house with these crazy little people.

 

 

My Grim Gluten-Free Future

24 Feb Goddess Ceres, wheat, France, gluten
Goddess Ceres, wheat, France, gluten

Back in like Ancient France or whatever they weren’t beeyotching about wheat, oh no, they were like, oh thank you Goddess Ceres, here, we’ll make an awesome picture of you with gold leaf in it just to say how awesome le baguettes and la croissants and je ne sais quais else that’s made out of wheat is. But here in America? Non. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain).

You know what’s better than a piece of freshly-buttered sourdough toast? A piece of freshly buttered sourdough toast with a Belgian waffle and an everything bagel on it, that’s what. But now two (2) doctors have nagged me sufficiently to throw up my hands and say ALL RIGHT, I will TRY your stupid “GLUTEN FREE” diet even though I had an endoscopy and it did NOT show that I had celiac disease and I don’t even believe in gluten free anything and I hate the idea of being that “special” person who has to have that “special” thing at the restaurant and ask how everything is prepared. I know, I know, that’s just a form of snobbery on my part. Why shouldn’t I care what I eat? Food is life’s fuel. And, honestly, I generally eat pretty well. Much of that is the husband’s doing. He grows a fabulous garden each year and it’s always a race to stuff in as much produce into each meal as possible. He also has made me much more willing to give up on the super-cheap deals on chicken and beef in favor of the painfully expensive organic cuts where each cow has its horns hand-rubbed each evening and each chicken is knitted a pair of leg warmers so it doesn’t get cold as it roams freely over the acres and acres of Happydale Farm. Yeah yeah, I love the planet. But now I’m going to have to hunker down and do the walk of shame in Trader Joe’s and look at that package of oatmeal to see if it’s Gluten Free. Why shouldn’t oatmeal be gluten free? I guess some places, wheat hangs around the oat schoolyard and acts as a bad influence on the virtuous oat students, contaminating their virtue. So you have to make sure that they are kept away from each other. Sigh. There’s so much I have to learn. Another thing I’m confused about is that one of my doctors wants me to give up dairy and the other wants me to give up sugar. I guess it makes sense to give up sugar–even more than wheat, really. But does that mean maple syrup and honey, too? And isn’t something like organic Greek yogurt actually a very healthy food? Does anybody have any advice about how I can survive the next two heinous months?

Writing Prompt: Help a gal figure out how to go gluten free–I beg you.

Chef Jacob Dishes on making irresistable Israeli food –Shakshuka and Israeli salad

3 Feb Jacob and his finished Shakshuka. Yum!

My foodie son Jacob first got interested in making shakshuka, which he describes as “a dish made of poached eggs in a spicy tomato stew with feta cheese on top that you eat with pita,” when he was in Barnes and Noble one day, reading a book about food photography that featured Israeli food. (As I said, he is a foodie.) Luckily for me, after he and his dad went on a nice, brisk winter hike yesterday, Jacob was inspired to try out the warm and homey looking dish for himself.

I asked Jake what appealed to him about making shakshuka. Jacob said, “In the book, it was talking about how Israelis value freshness and healthiness. It’s a little bit like Italian food—they’re both Mediterranean—but Italians value the fatty good stuff more. Israeli food has more Greek/Middle East/North African influences. It’s actually a Tunisian dish. But Israelis eat it all the time.”

How does the young chef make shakshuka? “You need a twelve inch skillet that’s flat on the bottom and high on the sides, like a cake pan. Then you get the onions diced, and get the jalapenos or other spicy pepper cooking in the pan with a quarter cup of olive oil until the onions are translucent or golden brown. I did translucent because Dad was really hungry.”

“You have to be patient, stirring it occasionally, then it’s done. Then add cumin, paprika, and five cloves of crushed, diced, garlic. With that, you have to stir it constantly for one to two minutes, until the garlic is soft and cooked. It smells amazing, like the most fantastic thing in the world, at this point. All that stuff mixed together in the oil smells heavenly.”

“Then you take a 28 ounce of whole tomatoes, pour the liquid into a large bowl, and crush the tomatoes with your hands. You add the crushed tomatoes and the liquid back together, and add half a cup of water. Pour it into the skillet with a half cup of water, stir it and keep the heat a little to let it simmer. Let it simmer until the sauce is thick. The directions said fifteen minutes, but it was actually ready after eight.” Add salt and a little bit of ground pepper.

While the sauce is thickening, he said, it’s time to get some pita bread, wrap it in foil, and put it in the oven at low heat. And it’s also time to make up the Israeli salad. “The base salad,” he said, “ is cubed English cucumber, roma tomatoes, or whatever kind is the freshest, green peppers, and red onion. You core the tomatoes, slice them horizontally, and dice the sections. The cucumbers and onion also get diced. Then, add half a cup of feta cheese. The recipe said add one and a half tsp. of sumac, but we didn’t have it. So we just used lemon juice and I cut up lemon slices to put into the salad. I used lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and it was just killer. The lemon juice captures the Mediterranean feeling. You could put in other pretty looking vegetables if you want to make the most vibrant, popping salad. It said to use olives, but we didn’t . You could add some salty capers or olives if you want, but the salad was salty enough with the feta. If you use olives, you want to slice them. I would choose black olives for contrast and to give it that Mediterranean look. But green would be okay. Toss it. If you have too much liquid, drain it with your hand.”

preparing to add the eggs

preparing to add the eggs

But now, it is time to turn tomato sauce into a meal—and that means adding the eggs. “At this point,” Jacob says, “you take out the eggs, set them on the table, get more feta cubed, and prepare a tablespoon of parsley leaves. Eggs will go bad really fast if you leave them out, so wait till the last minute. What you do at this point is, you take six eggs, and you crack them one by one around the skillet, and drop them strategically on the skillet on top of the sauce. You will immediately see the egg whites starting to turn opaque. Basically, the eggs will get poached in the tomato sauce. Put them around the perimeter and the inside–Get the most area with the eggs. Also note that an egg is one serving with the sauce around the egg. So space them out. Once you crack those six eggs on top of the sauce, you cover it with a lid for five minutes. You’re still on medium low/medium, whatever the simmering temperature is. You might want to do this for even less. We got some harder centers and some softer. But five minutes was fine. It sets.

Jacob's Shakshuka, almost done.

Jacob’s Shakshuka, almost done.

“Then, take off the lid. You baste the eggs slightly by dripping a little bit of tomato sauce on them. Then you sprinkle a half cup of cubed (or crumbled) feta on the top and parsley and sprinkle it on the top.”

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After that, serve the eggs and pita and salad. Between Jacob and his hungry parents, there was nothing left by the end of the meal—we had savored every delicious bite. It was surprisingly filling, too. So if you’re looking for a really healthy, tasty, exotic and beautiful-looking meal, just get Jacob to make Shakshuka for you. Hey, it worked for me! One more piece of advice: “Before you make it, read ALL the directions first.”

Jacob and his finished Shakshuka. Yum!

Jacob and his finished Shakshuka. Yum!

Writing Prompt: What’s something delicious you’ve made lately? How did you make it?