Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Kosher Cheeseburger

I don't eat at McDonald's.

The only things their burgers fill me with is sadness.
Their meals are unsatisfying, and generally feel like a waste of bovine life.

It may therefore surprise some readers that once a year I make a pilgrimage to my local McDonald's and willfully order a McRoyal.
It may surprise you even more to read that that annual tradition is reserved for Passover, but hear me out.

First, a little background for the benefit of the uninformed.

As you probably know, bread is considered un-kosher during the week of Passover. This culinary law is due to the tale of the exodus and how the Hebrews did not have time to let their bread rise before fleeing Egypt. In memory of this anecdote, Jews can only eat unleavened bread during this time - hence the invention of Matzo bread.

As Israel is a Jewish country, there is a law prohibiting the sale of bread during the Holiday. This means that most businesses serve bread substitutes during this time. This includes major fast food chains like McDonald's, that serve their sad, grey patties on even sadder potato dough buns (not to be confused with American potato bread buns that contain some regular flour - these, to the best of my knowledge, contain either no wheat at all, or matzo flour) - tragic, chewy, foam-like abominations that barely feel digestible.

Why then, of all the days of the year, would I actually want to visit McDonald's on the week their food is even worse than usual?

To celebrate the absurdity of institutionalized religious tradition, of course.

Yes - it's possible to order a kosher (for Passover) cheeseburger.

When The System offers opportunities to openly mock it like this, I can't help but do so. Year after fucking year.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cherry Tomato and Strawberry Jam

It's the end of the strawberry season here in Israel, which is the perfect time for making jam. Prices are low, the fruit are beautiful and the farmers don't bother with pesticide.
Here's my take on red jam, in which I use hot chilis, ginger and tomatoes alongside the strawberries to achieve a more complex and somewhat surprising flavor. The resulting jam is sweet and at first feels like traditional strawberry preserves, but finishes off with a warm chili-ginger flavor.

  • Ripe strawberries - 750 grams
  • Cherry tomatoes - 750 grams
  • Apples - two medium sized apples, preferably a bit under-ripe, of a pectin-rich variety.
  • Fresh chili peppers - 2 to 3, depending on how hot you'd like the final result.
  • Ginger
  • White sugar - 1.5 to 1.7 kilograms

Thoroughly wash and dry your fruit. Cut the strawberries and tomatoes into a size that's approximately 3 times larger than the size you would like the eventual fruit chunks in your jam to be. 
Chop the ginger as thinly as possible - it will not shrink much during the cooking process. 
Cut the chilies down to small cubes. The more seeds and membranes you keep in your chilies, the hotter the final product will be. One chili is barely noticeable, three would make the jam almost chutney-hot. 

Pour the cut fruit and vegetables into a large pot, and add the sugar. Mix well until you can't see any dry sugar. As the produce sits, the sugar will draw out a substantial amount of liquid into the pot. 

While this is going on, cut the apples - make sure to leave their skins on, as they are the most pectin-rich part, and will help the jam to congeal - and add them to the pot. 
Stir well, and light a low flame. 
Stir frequently, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom, and let the mixture warm through and bubble.
What we're looking to do here is to reduce the liquids in order to thicken the mixture, as well as to cook the fruit and draw out as much flavor as possible from them.

The amount of time the cooking process will take depends on the size of your pot, the strength of the flame and the amount of liquid your fruit originally contained.
You can check if the jam is ready by taking a small amount of the cooking liquid in a metal teaspoon and placing it on an ice cube to cool the liquid rapidly. If the liquid has reached a thick, jelly-like consistency when it has cooled, your jam is ready. 

Take the pot off the heat and pour your jam into sterilized jars. Make sure to do this while your jam is still hot so that your jars won't crack and because it's easier to ladle out when it is still warm and runny.  
Store in a cool, dark place, or in the fridge.