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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted! The summer ran away from me. We were on vacation in Cyprus for two weeks, which was where I concocted this recipe (which is good for dessert but also makes a really decadent breakfast!)

It’s based on this verse of the Book of Joel:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall flow with waters; and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” (Joel 4:18)

It’s an interesting chapter of Joel, because one sentence,  a little earlier on, caused me to do a double take: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears; let the weak say: ‘I am strong.’ ” (Joel, 4:10) – We are so used to the other verse from Isaiah that states: “And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4) – but here in Joel, the prophet and God are calling people to take up arms! To fight! And that certainly resonates in a personal way with me – this past month has been a very difficult one for the People of Israel and the Land of Israel – a lesson that there are times for peace and times for war.

Being in Cyprus reminded me so much of Israel – Halloumi cheese originates there – which is such a popular dish here, and Greek yogurt is in abundance, along with fresh mountain honey, rich cold-pressed olive oil and wineries on every hilltop. And it made me think that there is so much that everyone in this region shares – milk and honey, wine and olive oil – foremost among the ingredients common to all of this region – Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. My only wish is that all the people of the region could see it that way.

This mousse is an explosion of flavor in your mouth – creamy and seductive, yet slightly spicy and richly decadent by virtue of the Port Reduction, and the grapes add a fantastic crunch.

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Honey Cardamom Mousse with Port-Silan Reduction and Fresh Grapes

Honey Cardamom Mousse:
1 tsp plain unflavored gelatin
1 Tbsp water
1 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup whipping cream

Port-Silan Reduction:
1/2 cup port
1/4 cup Silan (date honey)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon

Fresh seedless red grapes

Let gelatin dissolved in 1 Tbsp warm water. Mix together yogurt, honey, vanilla and cardamom. Add gelatin, whisking as you mix it in. Whip the whipping cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold the yogurt mixture into the whipping cream until combined, then portion out into individual serving dishes and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight. Mix port, silan, vanilla, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes until thick. Top mousse with seedless red grapes and port-silan reduction. Serve.

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This is not an easy post to write, for we are not living in easy times.

I try to keep politics out of the kitchen, but indeed it is the political situation in Israel right now that kept me from posting a recipe this past weekend. My family went up North (we had planned the vacation a long time ago as my in-laws came to visit) and we did not intend to cancel. In truth, we thought we would be safer in the North of Israel, considering what was going on in the rest of the country. We managed to evade many air-raid sirens, but even as we spent the weekend cocooned in apple and apricot orchards, Israel was attached from the North – from Lebanon. And then we drove to the Golan, again, thinking to take our family out of harm’s way, and then a rocket fell from Syria.

And indeed, though I am currently blogging about the Prophets, the only thing in my mind was a line from Psalm 27: “Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise up against me, even then will I be confident.” But it isn’t easy to be confident. And it isn’t easy to read the second chapter of Joel either.

I’ll give you a taste:

Heaven and Earth Potatoes 1

Joel 2:2 “A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, as blackness spread upon the mountains…”
Joel 2:3 “A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame blazeth…”
Joel 2:8 “Neither doth one thrust another, they march every one in his highway; and they break through the weapons…”

And this: (Joel 2:10) “Before them the earth quaketh, the heavens tremble; the sun and the moon are become black, and the stars withdraw their shining.”

And that is exactly what I feel like here, what we all feel like. Caught between heaven and earth, between rockets from above and tunnels from below, between the practicality of life here and our belief in God, and sometimes it feels like there is no hope, that there will never be an end to this conflict.

But in Joel there is hope, and this is a message to us all, even when we feel caught between heaven and earth: (Joel 2:13) “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God; for He is gracious and compassionate, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy…”

And finally: “Then was the LORD jealous for His land, and had pity on His people.” (Joel 2:18)

It is all we can do. Yes, there are armies and tanks and iron-dome systems down here on earth, but if we do not turn to heaven and trust in the Lord of this land, of all lands, then every army in the world will not save us.

This is a food blog after all, so please forgive me, but this is how I feel and I think how many of us feel. We would not live in this land if we did not have faith: a connection to the land, the very earth we live on, the Land of Israel, but also a firm belief in the heavens that protect us.

Heaven and Earth Potatoes

Heaven and Earth Potatoes 4

The traditional Dutch and German versions of this recipe call for a topping of both fried onion and bacon or sausage. The blandness of the potatoes and the tartness of the apples is supposed to represent the contrast between heaven and earth, the golden brown onions and the dusting of cinnamon also provide a heaven-and-earth type of color contrast.

3 potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. salt
3 apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. vinegar
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 onion, finely sliced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 7 minutes, add the apple slices and continue to simmer until both potatoes and apples are soft. Drain thoroughly, mash and add sugar and vinegar to taste. Fry onion in 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine and cook until golden brown. Season potato and apple mash with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with onions and cinnamon.

Heaven and Earth Potatoes 3

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So I continued reading  Hosea this week and I came across this verse:

“…even as the Lord loveth the children of Israel, though they turn unto other gods, and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)

Now, I figure that this verse can be parsed in a few different ways – either the children of Israel love cakes of raisins – or indeed the Bible is referring here to something that is called a “love cake” 0r a “love cake of raisins.” Well, as you can imagine I was immediately curious. What in the world is a LOVE CAKE??

Turns out there are traditions for “love cakes”  in quite a few cultures, namely: Portuguese, Sri Lankan, PersianItalian and British.

But it seems like the Bible is referring to some kind of cake that was used for idol worship – perhaps as opposed to the “cakes” that were baked for the holy temple and sacrifices, which certainly never included raisins and were a mixture of grain, oil and spices. The British version of Love Cake to me seemed like the closest type of thing that might be referred to here – small, basic, little cakes made of simple pastry and filled with raisins that could be brought to one’s beau in the field. But various sources seem to suggest that raisin love cakes might have been some form of candy confection, perhaps akin to Halvah or Turkish Delight.

I’m not advocating any kind of idol worship here, but when I thought of “love cakes of raisins” the thing that first came to mind was the British version of a cinnamon bun – a Chelsea Bun, and I’d been wanting to make Chelsea Buns for a long time. So I jazzed up my version of a “love cake of raisins” and gave it a Middle Eastern spin, combining some of the flavors of the Portuguese, Persian and Sri Lankan versions with a traditional Chelsea Bun. Hopefully it won’t inspire any idol worship. Though I have heard that cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and vanilla are aphrodisiacs, so…baker beware!

Middle Eastern Love Cakes with Raisins (Not Your Mother’s Chelsea Buns…)

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Dough:
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
pinch sugar
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp rose water (I use concentrated)
1 tsp. vanilla
7 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
4 cups flour

Filling:
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup demarara sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped apricots
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 Tbsp. apricot jam to brush on top

Topping:
1/4 cup cream or milk (non-dairy is fine too)
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Place yeast, warm water and a pinch of sugar in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes until frothy and active. Add milk, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, rosewater, vanilla. Mix. Add 7 Tbsp. melted margarine or butter, mix. Then add 2 cups flour, mix, then add another 1.5 cups, mix again, then add the last half of a cup until it forms a nice, soft dough. Let the dough rise in a lightly greased bowl for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

Prepare filling: melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine, mix with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, and apricot jam. Chop apricots and crystallized ginger.

When dough has risen to twice its size, punch it down and roll it out to about 1/4 in thickness in a big rectangle. Spread with filling and top with raisins, chopped apricots and crystallized ginger. Roll up into a big log. Close the seam well. Then slice the log into rounds. Place the rounds in a greased pan. Brush with apricot preserves.

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Bake at 350 degrees (175 C) for about 30 minutes or until the cakes are a deep golden brown on top.

When cakes are cool, mix cream or milk with powdered sugar and drizzle on top. Serve and enjoy!

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