Whoopie Pies: Whoop! Here it is!

If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of opinions about food. My opinion about Whoopie Pie is, that it is good. But these, my friends, are great!

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

These can be made hamburger-sized, bun and all, but you can make them smaller if you are into mini things. Part of their charm, if you ask me, is the size, and are not necessarily meant to be delicate. But do as you will.

I say make them big and eat one for lunch.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

The soft, moist, fluffy chocolate cake will stick to your fingers, reminiscent of the cream filled snack cake in little plastic packages from your childhood, but fresh and homemade.

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

The cream is somehow very un-marshmallow-like and more the stuff that dreams are made of, if one were to dream about cream-filled dessert.

I do…

Dreamy

Dreamy

They are just about foolproof, so go ahead and mis-measure a little, sift or not, substitute here and there–it is entirely up to you.

The only few things I will insist upon, is that you must use vegetable shortening & butter when specified to get the proper texture of cake and cream; and it is the Marshamallow  Fluff  brand I recommend since both the brand and the dessert are classics.

This is the shtuff

This is the shtuff

So experience a little high, and get it on with these Whoopie Pies.

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the chocolate cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.
  3. Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes, you can just use a hand-held mixer instead), beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the milk and beat until completely combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop (sm, med, or lg), drop batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (1 Tablespoon for 2” cakes, 2 T for 3”, and 3 T for 4”).
  6. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes which will make 24 Whoopie Pies, or 36 three-inch cakes which will make 18 W.P.’s., or like I did, 24 four-inch cakes for 12 hamburger sized W.P.’s!

For the marshmallow filling:

  • 1 ½ cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing the medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble:

  1. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon put a large dollop in the center of half of the cookies. Top with another cookie and gently press down to help the cream spread. Eat right away or store between sheets of wax paper in a sealed container large enough to fit the Whoopie Pies.
Flour

Flour

Cocoa

Cocoa

The sifter

The sifter

Adding cocoa to the flour

Adding cocoa to the flour

Ready to sift

Ready to sift

Sifting in progress

Sifting in progress

Done sifting

Done sifting

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Creaming

Creaming

Vanilla

Vanilla

An egg

An egg

Mixin' it up

Mixin’ it up

Add egg and vanilla

Add egg and vanilla

Add half the milk

Add half the milk

Add half the flour mixture

Add half the flour mixture

Batter mixing

Batter mixing

Almost done

Almost done

Scrape down the sides

Scrape down the sides

Beautiful batter

Beautiful batter

Get the scoop

Get the scoop

Drop it

Drop it

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

All lined up

All lined up

Transformed

Transformed

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

All fluf

All fluf

Whip it

Whip it

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

Dreamy

Dreamy

A scoop

A scoop

Filling in place

Filling in place

Beginning to look like dessert

Beginning to look like dessert

Yum

Yum

Lookin' good

Lookin’ good

mmm...

mmm…

The topper

The topper

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

A small army of dessert

A small army of dessert

Heavenly

Heavenly

Whoopie!

Whoopie!

Yum

Yum

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

Happiness

Happiness

One Fish, Two Fish: How to Make Whole Fish

What dish is so delish? It’s a fish dish! So, if you have one wish, miss, wish for a fish dish as delish as this!

–My take on Dr. Suess

Dinner for Dr. Suess?

I grew up in a family that ate a lot of fish:

Ok, maybe not that much.  🙂

Before the world was heralding the health benefits of omega-3’s; before words like sustainable and over-fished were swimming around, my parents and I were dedicated fish eaters.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, when steak was king, we stuck true to our roots–not just fish, but whole fish, head and tail and all:

As sushi made its debut in mainstream culture, there was John Hugh’s The Breakfast Club to document it– Molly Ringwald brings sushi for lunch in a bento box. Judd Nelson taunts her, saying she “won’t accept a guy’s tongue in her mouth but she would eat that!”  That comparison made quite an impact on me at 14! It would be 7 more years before I would have the opportunity to try sushi, and no comment on the tongue!

Breakfast Club Lunch Scene, 1985, the first time I had heard of sushi!

But I digress…I am not blogging about sushi, which I also love, but about whole fish and fully cooked at that!

My mom would make more than one kind of fish at a  meal. This is eons before moms complained about being short order cooks to accommodate every whim, and saw it as necessity: whole fish for my dad, filet for my mom and me.

My mom would go to the local fish store, a magical place. It was icy and cold inside, kind of like the penguin house at the zoo (ok, not exactly). Truthfully, I am surprised my neighborhood even had a fish store considering we had AWESOME take-out–I mean who the heck was even eating fish in the Bronx in 1980 when the pizza from the local pizzeria was so damn good!

I will save pizza for another blog…

She would come home with bundles of small butcher paper packages, and our dinner would unfold.

My father would get the porgies,  with their light flaky meat, the eye white and bland looking, staring at you throughout the meal. He would put a few steaming forkfuls onto my plate. To fully enjoy my bites I would have to tune out his shouts of “Aura, be careful! The bones, don’t choke on the bones!” (I didn’t.)

My mom would make flounder seasoned with nothing but a dab of butter for me (probably Parkay margarine circa 1980 at my house). Filets, being boneless would calm my dad’s hysterics.

Now as a grown up I feel I must confess that when I order fish in restaurants I will opt for the the whole fish 9 times out of 10 if that is a choice, which it isn’t often enough in St. Louis.

One week-and- half- long trip home to New York to visit my in-laws in Brooklyn could yield in at least ten dinners out at amazing restaurants, two of which might be in Sheepshead Bay at Liman and Yiasou, which would mean, yep, you guessed it,two opportunities for whole-fish dinners!

I have become adept at navigating the fish comb skeleton, the tiny jaw frowning, under-bite and all, and delving into the delicious and tender cheek–a morsel so yummy I can never decide to eat it first or save it for last.

Since I haven’t been back home to New York lately, I need to be able to make it myself.

And as often as I can get whole fish, which isn’t often enough, it doesn’t really matter what kind– once drizzled with good olive oil, bedazzled with glimmering flakes of course  kosher salt, dotted with freshly ground pepper, stuffed with slices of lemon and slivers of garlic, sprinkled with handfuls of greens, and slipped into a hot oven– cooked like this–it is perfection!

One fish:

Two fish:

Roasted until the flavors of garlic and lemon permeate the fish, the bones infusing their meaty goodness into the delicate white flesh.

Aaaahhh…nice and opaque:

When dinner is served, it is man against fish, just the two of us, and concentration is necessary.

Moving aside the skin, eating the whole top side, peeling the whole skeleton, up and away in one slow but mighty swoop and depositing it in the trash. This reminds me of childhood cartoons, like Tom and Jerry where a roll in the trash wasn’t complete without fish bones and banana peels.

Now my garbage is complete:

And of course throughout dinner, my own words ring out, although softer and sweeter than my dad’s booming voice: “The bones! Be careful not to choke on the bones!” And my children, fascinated, eat dinner in silence, wide eyed and slightly gaping in awe like the fish on their plates.

Dinner is served:

Roasted Whole Fish

  • 2 whole fish, any kind (I used red snapper above, but bass would be m y first choice)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  •  freshly ground pepper
  • 2 sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • a handful of arugula or  parsley leaves, or any herbs you like
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Wash and dry fish, inside and out, patting with paper towels.
  2. Generously brush with the olive oil, inside and out.
  3. Seriously sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, inside and out–it can take it–it (possibly) came from the sea! ;).
  4. Open up the fish an place a  layer of lemons, slightly overlapping, into the cavity.
  5.  And then add slices of fresh garlic tossed here and  there (the more the merrier).
  6. And a handful or so of arugula or parsley leaves strewn about on top of the lemon and garlic inside the cavity.
  7. Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes and serve hot. But first, look it in the eye, if you dare.

Hamantaschen, The Ultimate Purim Schpiel, De-Mystified

Hamantaschen are classic Purim cookies.  Tradition says, large ones represent Haman’s hat; small ones represent his ear or his pocket, literally translating to “Haman’s pocket.”  Another story tells us that the three corners represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the founding fathers of Judiasm.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

If you ask me, I will tell you that hamantaschen represent the thing that really saved the Jews from destruction, and that my friends is this–Queen Esther’s, um, er, how to put this delicately, please tell me you know what I am going to say.
My very smart husband has cautioned me against using any overly-specific words in this blog, although I want to. If I write the word, my name will be forever linked to it, thanks to Google algorithms. My heart is pounding as I type this—I have waited years in which to come out with this and go public with such a shocking statement.
oprfuHH Hopefully by now you have figured out that I am referring to Queen Esther’s special pocket and not Haman’s.
Queen Esther!
The day I realized this, was the day my life as a Jewish girl ended and my time as a Jewish woman began. Stories are told to us as children are glossed-over versions of the real thing, packaged prettily to keep us innocent, and this is a good thing. Sometimes, a person has to come to their own conclusions when the time is right. And then they never look at things the same way again.
I am not alone in my belief–there are feminist Jewish writings on what the hamantaschen really means at websites such as lilith.org. The more you think about it, the more you know I am right. As shock wears off, acceptance sets in.
Sure, in medieval times it was the custom to make a pastry in the shape of your enemy and then to eat it to make the enemy disappear. And yes, this is what I will swear to publicly at any of my Purim-themed cooking classes, and anyone within earshot will be amazed at this fact because it is very interesting. But this is not the only reason we eat them.
It is un-Jewish to focus on war, violence, killing when it comes to holidays. Instead, we focus on food, playful traditions, and fun-filled folklore for children. No, the story of Hanukkah is not really about the miracle of the oil. It is a story about war and oppression, and one has to wait until adulthood to realize that the atrocities that go with any war also happened there. Same with the story of Purim—there are secrets within secrets as the plot unravels, some not to be revealed until we are ready to hear them.
The joke goes, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” Does this sound like a reason to make pastry in the shape of a triangle hat—he wasn’t a Colonial American, or a pirate, and not a wizard either. Pointed ears? Come on, Spock, Vampires, Elves of the Woodland Realm, yes, but a person working for the King of Persia, nope, don’t think so.
Try this recipe, my favorite, and as you are making your 10th hamantashen and filling it with poppy seeds or raspberry jam, you will start to have a moment of enlightenment. And by the time your 40th is done, you too will know my words ring true.
Here is to Queen Esther, who did what any good queen would do to save her people. The greatest power she had saved us all, and to celebrate, we eat it.
I completely understand if you can’t bear to look me in the eye after reading this one. Don’t worry, you’ll come around. So have that celebratory Purim drink, and be happy for goodness sakes, it’s Purim!
Queen Esther’s Hamantaschen
        ·       1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
·         1 cup margarine or unsalted butter, very soft
·         4 large eggs
·         1 tablespoon juice and all of the zest of one  orange
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         4 cups unbleached flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         Filling suggestions: seedless blackberry or raspberry jam, lemon curd, strawberry, apricot or blueberry preserves,  Israeli chocolate spread or Nutella, pie filling, pastry filling, any flavor you’d like, even poppy seed or prune if you are a traditionalist, which I am not.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one is added. Add vanilla extract, orange juice and zest, mixing well. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until a soft dough forms and all ingredients are incorporated, making the softest, most beautiful dough you have even seen.

3.  On a floured board, using a rolling pin, roll out a portion of the dough to approximately ¼ inch thick. If dough is too soft or too sticky sprinkle a little extra flour on the board and on the rolling pin. With a three-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Place a teaspoon of filling in center of each circle. 

5. To shape, fold up the left and right sides and pinch it together into a corner.  Fold up the third side and pinch the last two corners to make a complete triangle.

6. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool before eating if you can.

ALL HAIL KALE!!!

We live in a world where green+leafy=good, while white+ fluffy=bad.  So although cake, cookies, bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are quite possibly the most delicious things a person could eat, they have a reputation for being less than healthy. In fact, I have quite a few friends that hold up a hand in classic “stop” position and say, “No carbs.” Well, hi, my name is Aura, and I’m a carb-a-holic (but no need to pity another’s dietary choices.)

In fact when I do eat cake-cookies-bread-pasta-rice-potatoes (and that would be every day), I try to see them for what they are, and when I offer my family seconds I try to say “would you like more noodles?” instead of, “another helping of carbs, honey?” I envy other cultures on a carb-based diet (otherwise known elsewhere simply as “food”): China comes to mind—rice, the foundation for every stir fry if not the meal itself; and Italy too, with piles of fresh pasta on every plate. In fact, the gorgeous Sophia Loren has famously said, “everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” ‘Nuff said.
But the topic for today is both green and leafy, and more specifically: kale. Notice how I ramble on about “carbs”– like eating my veggies, I am avoiding the topic of kale. But it turns out I love greens, too. Even if my fork will first reach for the carb, uh, I mean pasta, before the broccoli, don’t hold it against me.  It is very European to end on the salad (but very French to end on cheese, but I will save that for another blog entry).
I have embraced kale as the sovereign of all greens. It packs a nutritional punch and been given the name “superfood.” It is hearty and will last in the crisper for days as I try to avoid making it for my family. But when I do we are all surprised every time how much we don’t hate it. We even like it. A lot.
Kale chips, although trendy, haven’t given me the kind of success I hoped for. High temp, low temp, no matter—they are always a combo of yummy-crunchy-crispy-flaky, burned-bitter-brown, and raw-chewy-stringy. I admittedly can’t get them right (if you can please message me the recipe immediately, although I have probably already tried it).
I have enjoyed a friend’s kale, stewed with large white beans and some kind of barbeque sauce.  I suppose what I’ve been looking for in a kale recipe is not something that masks it, or something that uses it as a healthy ingredient while making me feel like I have taken a dose of medicine (kale smoothie anyone?). I’ve been looking for the “Holy Kale” of recipes that will make me stand up and shout “ALL HAIL KALE, THE MIGHTIEST TASTIEST GREEN THAT EVER WAS!” and I have found it.
It is simple: you whisk up a very simple dressing (in this case I would even call it a marinade), you chop up the leaves, or shred them really, you combine the two and let it sit, 30 minutes , but even better the next day, as it does its own hard work of softening up in the fridge.
You can use any kale you’d like: Lacinato or dinosaur kale, or basic supermarket variety labeled generically “kale” (which could be curly or plain leafed). Just wash-dry-shred-marinate-eat.
It just sits on the kitchen counter for about ½ an hour cooking itself while you slave away at all of the other things you are preparing. Make it first before you make your pasta-rice-potato side dish and let it smugly wait it out. Let it sit while you roast your chicken or cook your fish or heat up those beans to go with your rice. In fact make it the day before, or even two, shocking as it may seem. While other lettuces will wither and wilt having to bear the weight of dressing too long, these greens only get better. Have it tonight for dinner, pack it tomorrow for lunch, and the next day as well. You can count on this salad to be waiting for you when you get home and won’t have to wash-chop-dress your dinner when you are tired. And if Popeye is any indication of what one is like after eating their greens then you will feel as strong as he after chowing down.
Put this out for company or bring it to a potluck—unlike cole slaw that cannot take a hot summer’s day out on a picnic table, this can. And guest will say, oh is that…kale?” And they will ask, “how do you make that—I hear it is good for you.”  And you will say,” it is, in more ways than you know.” 
“ALL HAIL KALE” SALAD
·         ½ pound kale
·         ¼  cup each shredded carrots and purple cabbage
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
·         ¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
·         1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
·         2 teaspoons sugar
·         2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
·         ½ teaspoon kosher salt
·         ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1.       Wash and dry the kale. Strip the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Shred the leaves into thin ribbons. Place in a bowl with the carrots and cabbage.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the kale salad.
3.      Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two days.
 
 

Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies

That’s right, you heard me. I wouldn’t in a million years share these with Cookie Monster. Now, before you jump to conclusions, wondering what kind of person would say such a thing, I can explain. 
 

Cookie Monster will eat ANY cookies. He does not have a discriminating palate and likes them all equally: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar cookies. He shovels them in with wild abandon and shows no respect for either the cookie or the cookie maker.  About now, you, the reader, are thinking that you have much more in common with Cookie Monster than you do with an elitist like me. Perhaps you think I am cruel to speak ill of the precious puppet that defined the eating habits of a generation. But stick with me.
Cookie Monster does not taste his food. Tasting involves biting, chewing, and swallowing, and he does none of those things. He is not, shall we say, a monster in the moment.
The cookies don’t make it far into C.M.’s mouth and make a mighty mess that I am sure makes his mother feel blue. Not to mention it is a waste of perfectly good cookies on the floor.
Now of course we can all relate to the joy he feels; the kid in all of us knows what this is like. But it can be done with dignity.
Even my four-year-old will take time to savor a cookie. And my eighty-three-year-old dad, who bears more resemblance to Cookie Monster than I should admit, in appearance, eating habits, and voice, who will tell you he came to America to eat cake for breakfast, appreciates when a cookie, these cookies in particular, are (in your best Cookie Monster voice) mmmmm…good!
Now, if you like fluffy-thick-cake-like cookies, these are not the ones for you. Although I will argue that you cannot help but love these too. These cookies, like me, try their darndest to make everyone happy: thin, crispy, chewy, chunky. When I eat them, I wonder how one cookie can be all things to everyone, but this one can.
And when you make and eat these, you will see that this is a simple cookie, and whether you eat one or one hundred and one, these are meant to be savored.
There are a few guidelines to making these, but they are very simple:
 First, have all ingredients at room temperature. The butter and the egg will not perform correctly if taken straight from the frigid climate of the refrigerator. It really is no effort at all to leave them on the kitchen counter for an hour or so while they keep each other in good company.
Second, use good quality ingredients. Sure you CAN use any flour, butter, vanilla, and chocolate but just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. Instead, and if you want to these to live up to my promise of perfection, then you must heed my words. European style butter, such as Plugria, will do wonders for the taste and texture of this cookie. The vanilla matters too—none of that imitation stuff here. Whether you use McCormick or Penzey’s, Nielson Massey or Watkins, just make sure it is the real deal. The flour must be unbleached, and preferably King Arthur, but Gold’s will do. And for chocolate, you are expecting me to say here that the better the chocolate the better the cookie, but instead I will tell you that the secret weapon is using a mixture of chocolate chips (pick 2): minis, chunks, chips, dark, milk, semi-sweet, and you will wow even the most jaded chocolate chip cookie eater. You might even make good ol’ C.M. stop in his tracks to taste this cookie.
The last couple of words of wisdom here: have all ingredients measured and close at hand. And while baking these, one tray at a time (none of that double rack rotating halfway through business), don’t leave the kitchen. Be there for your cookies to remove them right on cue.
So, stop and smell the cookies, but be sure to really savor them too.
For the cookie monster in all of us:
Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg, at room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup assorted chocolate chips (see above)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (pecans are my fave!) 
1.      Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and the salt.
3.      In a large bowl, place the butter and both sugars and cream together using an electric mixer for about 3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix well.
4.      Add the flour mixture and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix until just combined.
5.      Using a medium sized cookie scoop drop dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a couple of inches between them. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
6.      Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two and then remove them to a cooling rack. Eat them warm or cool, but for the love of cookie monster, eat them slowly.
 
 

We Go Together Like Orange-Olive Salad with Cumin-Garlic Dressing

When itcomes to recipes in cookbooks I am like a talent scout and can spot a starrecipe from a mile away. No, really. I can pick a recipe out of a cookbook like nobody’s business. And this recipe is a showstopper. You can see for yourself:

Photo by my friend Yana Hotter at Spoonful of Sugar Photography

I found it by accident. There was a cooking class I was scheduled to teach to promote the cookbook section at a local library and not 24 hours before, after all was planned, I received a phone call that we couldn’t actually “cook” at this cooking class, that the kitchen was not up to fire code. Well, what could I do but go back and look in the cookbooks for recipes that didn’t need “cooking” per se, as much as assembling.
 
Now, that being said I am a big fan of COOKING at my cooking classes, but I took a risk, without testing it, or ever having anything like it cross my lips, I made this at the class and like I told you, a star was born.
 
Since then I have made it many times, with run-of-the-mill thin-skinned brightly-hued navel oranges, with lovely sweet pink-fleshed Cara Caras, with gorgeous Valencias so heavy with juice I thought they would burst in my hand, and all were amazing.
 
The secret to this is the red wine vinegar which brings out the flavor of the oranges while taming their sweetness.
 
There is nothing like the surprise element of this salad, when you watch your dinner guests, take a bite of this and are expecting cloying sweetness, or the tang of olives, but instead see how well the flavors meld. 
 
They will think, “Garlic-cumindressing on FRUIT!!! No!” And then you will pull it off like a magic trick, you a sorcerer of taste, conjuring all of the magic you have to make this work.
 
But actually, it goes together like ramma-lamma-lamma-ka-dinga-da-dinga-dong (whatever the heck that means, thank you very much Danny and Sandy).
 
The only way to convince yourself and others is to spread the good word and to make this and eat it as often as possible with as many people as possible as often as you can.
 
Because baby, it’s a STAR!
 
MoroccanOrange and Olive Salad with Cumin-Garlic Dressing 
 
4 oranges, Cara Caras, Valencia, Blood Oranges, or Navel
¼ cup oil cured black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
1.      In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar,honey, garlic, paprika, cumin and oil. Set aside to let flavors blend.
2.      Remove the skin and pith of the oranges using a serrated knife: cut the ends off of the orange and then startingat one cut end, slice away the peel curving the knife around to the other end. Then slice the orange horizontally into ¼-inch rounds.
3.      Arrange orange slices on a serving platter and scatter with olives and parsley.
4.      Drizzle the garlic-cumin dressing over the oranges and olives sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. 
 
Note: This dressing is also delicious poured over couscous, chicken, and pasta. Just sayin’.

Rockin’ Shakshuka, Breakfast of Kings

This summer I went to Israel, lucky me. I stayed in the luxurious King Solomon Hotel.

And while my travel mates were gorging themselves on the chocolate rugelach for breakfast (and who can blame them), I was madly, wildly in love with the shakshuka.

Not only did I have fun eating it, but talking about it was pretty awesome too. Go ahead, say it. Out loud. SHAKSHUKA!!! *fist raised in air* There!
You are now so empowered that you don’t really need that second cup of coffee to get you going (have it anyway).
I’ve had shakshuka before and frankly it was either too spicy or had too many bell peppers for my taste, but this, this was bliss. At the King Solomon, there were big metal trays of chunky garlicky tomato sauce with eggs poached on top and fluffy pita bread on the side. Warm and nourishing, and like almost everything in Israel, healthy.

So I put the chocolate rugelach in my purse for later (my grandma would be proud), but for breakfast, only shakshuka!

Shakshuka, King Solomon Style
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (not from a jar)
¼  cup extra virgin olive oil
1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes (Muir Glenn is my favorite)
4 to 6 good quality eggs
Pita bread (if you live in The Lou I command you to go to Pita Plus and buy it there)
Optional: crumbled feta, chopped parsley

   1.      In a medium to large sized skillet warm the olive oil and the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until garlic is sizzling. Make sure to keep it moving in the pan and do not let it brown.

2.      Add the can of tomatoes, a pinch of kosher salt and 1/8 of a teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicier).  Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes.
3.      Crack desired amount of eggs on top, cover, and cook, 5 minutes for soft eggs, and 7 minutes if you like them cooked through.
4.      Scoop onto plates, sprinkling with feta, parsley, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper, which are all optional. Serve with warm pita bread, which is not. B’tayavon!

We Are What We Eat

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Brillat-Savarin

Ahem, hello?*tap*tap* Is anyone out there? *tap*tap* Is this microphone even on?

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about food?

We are what we eat. Such a cliche, and I don’t mean if you eat a carrot you are a carrot, although, maybe to some extent I do. 

We are defined by the choices we make. And as Americans in the 21st century we are lucky enough to have choices. We eat like kings all day, every day, all the time.

But we are also defined by what we don’t eat, whether due to diets, allergies, intolerances, preferences, political beliefs, or religion.

Maybe how we define ourselves as eaters also defines us in other ways too: vegetarian, vegan, organic, low-fat, kosher. Maybe you don’t eat dairy. Or gluten. Or carbs. Or pork. Or any red meat. Or processed foods. Or foods that have travelled more than 100 miles to get to your kitchen. Or maybe you eat everything (if so, please come over for dinner immediately).

Food has the power to make us feel good or guilty, energized or sluggish. It can bring us together or keep us apart.
In any case, we are driven by our need for and interest in food. Whether for health, sustenance, or pleasure–we are all in this together. And we are defined by it.
Aura