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Friday, March 30, 2012

Cyber Seder 2012

Historians Uncover Lost Fifth Passover Question:  Why is a cyber Seder different from all other Seders? The answer is when six separate food bloggers graciously offer a complete Passover Seder menu, each recipe a personal favorite, representing diverse family backgrounds and dietary preferences, that's new version Passover 2012 - Internet style.  This Passover potluck demonstrates how any type of community can come together for this special holiday meal to share the effort and share of themselves. We're so glad you could join us.


I grew up in Chicago, with a father of Eastern European descent and a mother from North Africa.  This was my good luck in general, but especially for Jewish holidays when each culture's culinary traditions were enjoyed in at least one meal or another.   

My contribution to Cyber Seder 2012 is the soup course, and while matzo ball is classic and much beloved on most Ashkenazim Seder tables, it's my mother's Sephardi fresh fava bean and potato soup that represents the holiday and season best to me.  It turns out our ancestors were ahead of their time when it comes to seasonality.

After I became a vegetarian, my mother easily replaced the meat-based soup stock in the original version of her soup with a veg-friendly one, and my Seder continues to be off to a very good start.  After the prayers of course.

Marie's Fresh Fava Bean & Potato Soup
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
Faux Matzo Balls aka baby potatoes
1/2 cup fresh celery, diced                                                              
olive oil for sauteing
2 cups medium white or yellow potatoes, peeled, cut in half
1 1/2 cups fava beans, peeled/shucked
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. saffron
1 32 oz. container Wolfgang Puck All Natural Vegetable Stock
2 cups water
Seasalt & fresh ground pepper
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1.  Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a stockpot, and when it's hot add the onions and celery.
     Saute until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes or so.  Add the turmeric and saffron and stir to coat.
2.  Pour in the stock, water, potatoes, and fava beans, bring to a boil, and then turn heat to medium-simmer.
3.  Cook for 30 minutes then test potatoes for tenderness.  What you want in the finished soup is some potato chunks and some mashed.  Adjust seasoning, and continue cooking until potatoes reach the right consistency.  The longer this soup cooks the better it tastes. 
4.  Towards the last 2 minutes of cooking add the fresh cilantro.  


The other courses for Cyber Seder 2012 are provided by my blogger pals in the links below.  If you feel you'd also like a salad (which is a must at our dinner) please use this link to my last post.  This salad would make a beautiful addition to any Seder table, with or without the garbanzo beans depending on your own cultural traditions.

Please visit my blogger friends for the rest of our Cyber Seder dinner:
Roasted Spring Vegetables
Charoset & Sweet Potato Latkes with Apple Butter
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Claire's Briscuit
Matzo Strata with Zucchini and Tomatoes

I'd also like to send a very special "Happy Passover" to my friend Faye Levy, who with the help of her husband Yakir, has inspired and brought so many wonderful, meticulously researched and thoroughly tested recipes to aspiring and seasoned chefs everywhere.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pixie Tangerine and Massaged Kale Salad

With bags of glorious Ojai Pixie Tangerines from Melissa's perched on my kitchen counter I put on my thinking cap on how to best present these to the world.  Not to be lazy, but seriously these little balls of sweet tangerine juiciness are best eaten au naturale, i.e., peel + eat.  But since that doesn't make a very exciting food blog post, I turned back to my 1/2 Mediterranean/Middle Eastern roots and decided to do a contemporary twist on a classic salad combination of oranges, black olives, and red onions.  With massaged kale....

Another massaged kale salad recipe?  Really?  Actually, no, not just another m/k/s but the first one I've ever made myself.  Like you, I've eaten many m/k/s's and marveled at how delicious they were, every one of them, mainly due to the perfect texture and eatability of the kale. Well the secret to that tasty tenderness, as many of you already know, is to give your kale a brief, Swedish-type massage prior to composing your salad.

Basically you put your kale, de-ribbed and torn to small pieces, or use the Earthbound Farms organic mixed baby kale that I found FOR 99 CENTS AT THE 99 CENTS STORE, OH NO YOU DIDN'T, in a bowl.  Lightly drizzle with oil/citrus/seasalt and massage with both hands for about 2-3 minutes (baby kale goes limp pretty quickly).  Then place the relaxed leaves in a serving bowl to await the embellishments.

(For your musical pleasure while massaging your kale, here's Tommy Dorsey & his orchestra::

Pixie Tangerine & Massaged Kale Salad
4 cups baby kale
11/2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs. pixie tangerine juice (these babies are super juicy)
2 pinches seasalt
2-3 pixie tangerines, peeled and sliced into circles
4 red pearl onions, blanched, peeled, cut in half
1/4 cup raw, blanched, slivered almonds
1/3 cup roasted chickpeas* (optional)
additional dressing:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. pixie tangerine juice
pinch of seasalt
2 pinches ground cumin

1.  Massage your kale as instructed above in paragraph 3 and place in serving bowl or platter.
2.  Embellish kale with juicy slices of pixie tangerines, sliced salty black olives, and red pearl onions.
3.  Sprinkle almonds and chickpeas, aka faux croutons, over the salad.
4.  Drizzle with additional dressing.

* Roasted Chickpea recipe: 

P.S.  I sure hope all my links work.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Food Shopping with Faye

Faye & I Strategizing
My friend Faye Levy is not only an award-winning food writer and cookbook author (, but she is also the best source for the best prices on the best food products sold in our local supermarkets. On a recent shopping excursion, Faye found us 4 lb. (64 oz.) containers of grade A, low-fat, plain yogurt, with all the desirable live and probiotic cultures you'd ever want, for the ridiculously low price of $3.69!

Parfait du Jour
So with this abundance of creamy, culture-rich goodness I decided to finally try making yogurt cheese, with plenty of yogurt left over for morning parfaits du jour, etc. Now I know this isn't really "cheese" but more like a smooth, thick, spreadable Greek-style yogurt substance, though cheese-ish in its ability to accept sweet or savory embellishments whilst sitting on crackers, bagels, or other edible platforms.

Yogurt Cheese
3 cups plain yogurt
cheesecloth or coffee filters
plastic wrap

1.  Place the strainer over the bowl and line the strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth or coffee filters.
2.  Put 3 cups of plain yogurt in the lined strainer.
3.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours (I did mine for 48).
4.  Lift strainer from the bowl (excess liquid from the yogurt will have drained out) and put the yogurt "cheese" in a storage container to await flavors, savory or sweet, e.g., herbs, spices, marmalade, chutney.

I took some of the cheese and blended it with Melissa's Sun Dried Tomato Pesto to make a creamy and tangy sandwich spread.  Along with some fresh arugula, on 12-grain bread, garnished with sliced almond "nails", these fun, finger sandwiches were the perfect complement to my teapot sugar cookies at a recent get together with my artsy, craftsy gal pals.

Thanks again Faye for your shopping expertise and culinary inspiration!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Potato Potluck

Our Los Angeles Food Bloggers group recently met to talk about and enjoy everything Idaho potato with Don Odiorne.  Don is VP Food Service for the Idaho Potato Commission and a very good friend of food bloggers everywhere.  For the potluck we were asked to bring a dish including potatoes and the only problem was trying to narrow down which recipe to make because there are endless potato possibilities as all you potato lovers out there know.

Since it's Spring I decided to make a big, beautiful, fresh, and filling salad, with Melissa's Gemstone Potatoes as the star.  First I washed and cubed the potatoes, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, drizzled olive oil over them, and roasted them in the oven at 325 for about 15-20 minutes.  Then I set them aside to cool to room temp.  Next I took a pile of fresh fava beans, rinsed them off, took the beans out of the pods, then steamed them for about 25 minutes until tender.  Set these aside too.  Some cubed Melissa's Ready-To-Eat Beets were the last of the main ingredients.

In a very large, wooden salad bowl I laid in a bed of Spring mix along with some arugula.  Then I placed the roasted potatoes, steamed beets and fava beans over the greens.  To really bring Spring into this salad I snipped in a handful each of fresh mint and fresh cilantro.  Over all of this green goodness I poured a preserved lemon vinaigrette made with minced preserved lemons, some evoo, a couple of sprinkles of seasoned rice vinegar, and lots of fresh pepper.

The salad was so good I'm making it again tonight, exactly the same way.  But feel free to mix it up where the greens and veggies are concerned.  Just don't forget the taters.

Spring Salad Supreme 
1 pkg. Melissa's Gemstone Potatoes, cubed, roasted
1 pkg. Melissa's Ready-To-Eat Beets, cubed
pile of fresh fava beans, de-podded, steamed
fresh mint
fresh cilantro
big mess of Spring mix and arugula
preserved lemon
seasoned rice vinegar
fresh ground black pepper

Please check out other recipes from our Potato Potluck:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Attention Internet Shoppers

Some of the best deals online are the offers from Groupon and LivingSocial.  A recent LS deal gave me $40 worth of food & drinks at Border Grill in Santa Monica for the price of $20.  Just the incentive I needed to revisit this Two Hot Tamales' classic and to be reminded how good it is.

From the freshly fried tortilla chips with 3 outstanding salsas through the mini churros for dessert, I enjoyed every bite, and the service was 4-star too.  My favorite dish was the Quinoa Fritters with cotija cheese ( and aji amarillo aioli  I'm not sure what aji amarillo aioli is but as long as it's not armadillo aioli I'm good with it.

(I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the quinoa fritters!)

To finish my meal I savoured (no, I scarfed) the Churro Tots, little baby churros infused with dulce de leche, dredged in cinnamon sugar, and served with dark chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and fresh whipped cream.  Wait, don't you want to finish reading my post before you run over there?

To make the fritter recipe at home you'll need Quinoa, one of the "it" grains, and you can find it at most markets or order it online from Melissa's -  Another good example of smart Internet shopping.

Melissa's has Red Quinoa too!