Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chef - The Movie

So my better half and I watched Jon Favreau's "Chef" yesterday. A lot has been written about it online already so I won't bore you with details, but it was very enjoyable - particularly, recognizing a lot of my personal mannerisms in the cooks on screen. (Is it good? Really? Are you sure..?)

Anyway, I left with a hankering for Latin American food.
Since I'm studying for a big exam, I won't burden you with words this time:

Sweet Corn


In the oven, with olive oil.

skirt steak


add the corn and chili peppers.


When charred, bring back the steak with its liquids. 
Pour hot over diced mangoes, top with avocado, coriander and pickled onions.
Add a few generous squirts of lime juice.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Faqus Salad

It's not often that I come across an ingredient that I've never heard of before, let alone one that is considered local.
Reading Alma's wonderful post on Jerusalem (Warning: Hebrew), I became intrigued with the vegetable she called "Faquz".
After some Googling, it appears that what Jerusalamites call "Faquz" or "Faqouz" and the rest of Israel calls "Faqus", "Arabic Cucumber" or "Palestinian Cucumber" is a local version of the Armenian Cucumber, and that it's in season now.

It being exam period in Tel Aviv university and my having a big exam two days from now, this was the perfect excuse to procrastinate, so I got up and went to the Carmel market to see if the produce stalls have any in stock.

When I got there I headed for the Arabian stalls next to the Carmelit and was informed by the local stall owners that they're fresh out and that I might have better luck closer to Nehalat Binyamin. The stall owners there told me they don't carry Faqus but that maybe closer to the center of the market I might find something.
As I slowly honed in on one specific stall I also bought some figs, mint and, to my surprise, lime. It's either suddenly in season, or just that I've never noticed it before, but I was really happy to find some. And if there's lime, there's calls for ceviche, so I also bought a small trout.

Anyway, after touring up and down the Carmel market, passing several Taglit groups that were simply fascinated by the plastic junk gizmos and the stupid tourist t-shirts on sale, old women arguing with fishmongers and the Davka Gourmet cheese shop (which I don't buy at after seeing they label their Gruyere cheese as French in origin)  I found these babies nestled between some cucumbers and sweet corn:

It's difficult to see in this image, but they are slightly fuzzy and have a more rotund figure than regular cucumbers, besides the obvious differences in color.

Taking my loot back home, I examined the Faqus in more detail.

Ooooh, you touch my Tralalala

Besides the obvious similarity between the Faqus' seeds and The Mouth of Sauron's teeth its was very firm, slightly sweeter than a cucumber, and its outer skin (after I've washed and toweled it off to get rid of the fuzz) reminded me of a very thin layer of melon rind - but in a good way! All in all it was very tasty.
I cut it lengthwise and then into thin slices, and mixed it with the figs, mint, some lemon juice, olive oil and sumaq. 

The resulting salad was astonishingly good.
The sweetness from the figs mixed with the coolness of the Faqus and mint, alongside the acidity and tartness from the lemon and sumaq created a super refreshing salad which was a huge pleasure to eat. 
Served alongside cubed trout fillet in a quick salt and lime pickle, this was one of the better (and easier) meals I've treated myself to lately. And so should you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Ceviche

Hot town summer in the City
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the City
All around people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head 

I love this song, and this version especially. Something about it manages to convey the sweaty, humid fatigue of deep summer days and the throbbing aliveness of the nights.
At times like these I crave cool, refreshing foods. Recently I've been living off of practically nothing but prickly pears, mangoes and water, with the occasional slice of industrial pastrami snuck at night straight from the fridge, but the fact that we've finally received our city parking permit and are able to park the car close to our apartment makes it harder to find an excuse not to leave the house and get some quality ingredients.

One of the cool things about Israel is that it is both very small and very geographically and climatically diverse, which means we can get excellent fresh produce of all kinds easily.

I let my mind wander for a bit, thinking about what I'd like to eat, and kept on returning to the tastes of Vietnam. The bright, fresh, acidic and spicy flavors and textures were exactly what I needed to cut through the heat, and so I headed out to the market to buy some coriander, basil,  ginger and cucumbers, with the intent of making a simple cucumber salad with sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red onions and garlic.
But when I arrived at the market the produce practically cried out to me. Mouth-watering, bright red Italian plum tomatoes, deep orange mangoes and ripe avocados all winked and beckoned. Of course I bought some. And then I bought a fish (a Meagre). And then I realized what I was going to make was no longer even remotely Vietnamese - it was South-American with East-Asian influences, at best.

No matter! It's still delicious.
You can easily switch out the raw fish in this recipe with cooked, (I'd recommend pan seared or deep-fried), with other animals such as shrimp or chicken, or even leave out the animal protein altogether. It won't be a ceviche anymore but it will still make a great, refreshing summer salad.

For the Salad

  • 1 Italian plum tomato (or any other tomato you like), diced
  • 3 medium-smallish cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and then halved again lengthwise, then sliced as thinly as possible
  • A generous handful of coriander leaves and another of basil. Use Thai basil if you can get it.
  • 1 Mango, diced (I used the Maya variety but any will do.)
  • 1 mediumish avocado, diced.
  • One small red onion, sliced into fine slivers.
  • 1 fresh fish fillet, cut into bite sized pieces.

For the dressing:

  • Juice of 1 small lemon, or two limes if you can get them (I couldn't).
  • One large clove of garlic, minced or crushed to a pulp in mortar and pistil. 
  • About three cm of ginger root, minced finely.
  • About a spoonful of sriracha sauce
  • About 3/4ths of a spoonful of sesame oil
  • About 3 spoonfuls of canola or other neutral tasting oil
  • About a spoonful of white sugar
  • About a third of a cup of distilled vinegar
  • About a spoonful of white rice vinegar
Shake well in a sealed jar to combine and pour over the salad.
I suggest cutting and adding in the fish and avocado last, just before adding the dressing, so that they don't oxidize too much.

Serve in a tortilla, in rice paper rolls, or as a salad, and enjoy!

And just because I really like how this photo turned out..