◊ Bag Lady Luxury

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Dear Mom,

I’m out of India and savoring the small luxuries of familiar territory.

IMG_1731During the bus ride from Copenhagen to Hamburg, I enjoyed a 45 minute ferry ride into a farm of windmills lit by the setting sun. And then Hamburg and Berlin… wow. The air was crisp and smelled like flowers and the sun shined until 10:30 PM. Cars stopped for pedestrians and the huge, green parks around every corner were packed with people eating ice cream and soaking up the sun. All week long, I walked around in my short shorts eating brown bread and feeling so free.

Beautiful breakfast in Berlin

Beautiful breakfast in Berlin… breadbasket full of korns!

Leider Frau Carolyn reminded me why I love spinning so much

Leider Frau Carolyn reminding me why I love spinning so much

Vegan currywurst.... So odd.

Vegan currywurst…. So odd.

I’m now in New Jersey with you and all my stuff. Tomorrow, I’ll be schlepping it back across the Atlantic to Israel.  It’s crazy how  time flies when we busy ourselves with important errands like pedicures and sandal shopping.

In India, ovens (our definition) are extremely rare. I’m not a baker per se, but during my last few days in India I daydreamt about the possibilities – fluffy breads, dense muffins, beautiful cakes. And when I got to Germany, the bread omg. Teresa introduced me to the typical German brown bread with volle korns (whole grains) when I got to Hamburg and I munched away non-stop. I want to grow a sourdough starter. Brown bread with so many grains… korn an korn an korn an korn – grain to grain to grain… inspiration.

Larry and his bread machine

So I prioritized baking (up there with a pedicure) during my short visit to America. Larry and I made delicious rolls together that were inspired the volle korns of Germany. Aside from challah, this was my first bread making experience! Luckily, Larry is an experienced bread master with a bread making machine to make it easy.

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Despite the simple luxuries (and delicious breads) of Europe and America, I remain a bag lady… or a stadtstreicherin as Carolyn would say. And though it’s been really really fun, no matter what part of the world I’m in (and how easy the livability seems), living out of bags is not easy. I adapt well to new spaces — as you see, I have no problem hijacking laundry rooms and taking over kitchens that are not my own — but I can’t wait for clothes hangers, cupboards stacked with my jars/experiments and my own pillow.

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I need to go re-stuff my bags for my trip to Israel in the morning.

Love,

Shaina

 

Chocolate Bundt Cake

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I’ve been wanting to make this cake from the 101cookbooks.com for a long time, and it turned out even better than I could have imagined. It is ridiculously moist, barely sweet, and deeply, darkly chocolately. The texture is almost like a bread pudding. I know it’s not as sweet as your gooey brownies, so it may not please a dessert hungry sweet tooth, but it would be great for a brunch and it’s even almost healthy…?

 
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  • 2 cups beer (the recipe calls for chocolate porter or stout beer, but I used Brooklyn Ale – just what I had on hand)
  • 
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 
1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup  dark brown sugar
  • 
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 
3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 
3 large eggs
  • 
1 1/2 cups plain whole yogurt
  • 
3/4 cup maple syrup

 

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IMG_8554Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.
photo 3(1)Simmer the beer to 1 cup in a saucepan and add butter until melted. Stir in the cocoa powder and set aside to cool.

In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, yogurt and maple syrup. Whisk until smooth and then stir in the chocolate mixture until blended. Add flour mixture and fold until blended.

 
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 – 45 minutes (insert knife on sides to make sure cake can be pulled apart from pan without it falling apart). Let cool for 10 – 25 minutes and flip upside down onto a plate.

 

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photo 4(4)photo 3(5)There’s a beautiful buttermilk frosting recipe for this cake on 101cookbooks, but I didn’t want to mess with such a beautiful cake. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds n Nuts n Whole Wheat Lemon Rolls

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…A tribute to Carolyn Kerchof and Teresa Kleinschmidt… Korn an korn an korn an korn I just can’t stop.

This recipe was a winner with the fam – densely packed with nutritious seeds and nuts and grains. And the kitchen smelled like lemon and yeast all morning. I started with a basic whole wheat honey bread recipe and added German inspired seeds and nuts for extra crunch and protein.  IMG_8573

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 
1/2 oz dry yeast
  • 
3 teaspoons salt
  • 
2 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 
grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 – 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 c poppy seeds
  • 1/4 c flax seeds
  • 1/3 c pumpkin seeds/pepitas
  • 1/3 c crushed walnuts

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Thanks to Larry’s wondrous bread machine, this was a cinch. We just dumped the ingredients in the machine all together and waited two hours for the dough to be mixed and rise. Then, I separated the dough into rolls, stuck them into the fridge overnight, and baked them the next day at 400 degrees with ice on the bottom rack of the oven to create steam.

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The real instructions are a bit more complex:

First, add all purpose flour, yeast, salt, hot water, honey, butter and lemon peel into a food processor and pulse until a dough forms.  Then, add the whole wheat flour, seeds and nuts.Knead the dough for a minute until it is light (but still sticky) – cover your hands with all purpose flour as necessary. Kneed for 10 – 15 minutes.

Mold it into a mound and cover with wax paper for about 20 minutes. After it has risen, knead the dough for 30 seconds to release air bubbles. cut of pieces of dough the size of a golf ball and roll into balls. Place on parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Brush rolls with oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap (to allow the rolls to rise). Place in refridgerator overnight.

photo 5(1)Remove from fridge and allow for rolls to reach room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrease.

Fill two pans with ice and uncover rolls. As soon as you put the rolls in the oven, put ice trays on the bottom shelf of the oven to form steam. Close the oven door and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until rolls are brown on top. Enjoy with butter or a thick slice of cheese and veggies.

In Germany, I ate so much brown bread densely packed with crunchy, chewy whole grains. Volle korn an korn (whole grain to grain) an korn an korn until my intestines exploded.

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♦ Counting the Hours

Dear Shaina,

This will be a short letter since we will be seeing you very soon and I have a few things to do to get ready…laundry, packing and pesto harvesting.

It rained all day and night and I swear the basil grew an extra crop of leaves overnight.  It is prime for picking and I am afraid if I wait until we return, it will be past the point of perfection. Image

Armed with my kitchen scissors and grocery bag, I chopped all the Basil down and am settling into the kitchen for a morning of trimming, washing and prepping to the background of TED talks and CNN news.  Image

The kitchen smells like fresh cut basil and garlic (my favorite odors)… and I am so happy…mostly because I will be seeing you in a few days!  I will be bringing plenty of fresh pesto in case you want to sample some and there will be even more in the freezer waiting for you when you return from your travels…ready to be taken wherever you decide to call home thereafter.

I am cleaning out the fridge before we leave, so this letter, as far as food goes, is about using up stuff that is about to go bad or just can’t be finished by the time you go on a trip. I took the Campari tomatoes that were getting a little wrinkly and roasted them (with a little salt) in the oven for a batch of tomato pesto.

Roasted Tomato & Garlic

My excessive stash of garlic also needed to be used up pronto so I left some raw…perfect for my pesto and my newest favorite home-made half sour pickles…and roasted the rest for roasted garlic (with a little olive oil and salt) paste/pesto.

Pickles

I used the mini cucumbers that I love so much,but just couldn’t finish, for the pickles which are simple to make.

Just for fun, I made a batch of one bowl brownies with chocolate and peanut butter chips (Dad’s favorites) to bring to New Jersey.  There is nothing like a classic brownie to bring you back to the reality of being back in America.

Dad and I have been playing a lot of mahjong with another couple.
It just goes to show that there is no end to the fun you can have with the person you marry…even after all these years! I won a super hard hand the other night..all pairs.  I know that doesn’t mean anything to you, but it’s a big deal in the mahjong world.  Maybe we’ll teach you while we’re in New Jersey…and make it a family game!

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I really am counting the hours until I see you. The sporadic emails and calls and brief conversations just aren’t enough for me to get the real feel for what is going on in your life and your heart. So if I stare at you and sit real close and want to be near you for an annoyingly long time…just put up with it!

It’s the least I deserve for all that packing and schlepping …and letting you go so far away from home…with my blessings.

Love,

Mom

oooxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxo

Pesto Tips

Although I have already posted my pesto recipe, here it is again with a few variations.  It is very forgiving and the amounts of basil and garlic vary every time I make it.

Basic Basil Pesto

  • 4 packed cups of washed and dried fresh pesto leaves
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until chopped finely and well blended. This Basic Basil Pesto may be frozen, as is, in airtight containers for future use.

If you like to add nuts to your pesto, roast 1/3 -1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts and add them to the processor with the other ingredients and process.

Parmesan cheese can also be added if desired.  I leave the cheese out and add it later if my recipe calls for it.  Pesto made with nuts or cheese can also be frozen for later use.

I also added the roasted tomatoes to a small batch of my pesto in the processor for a Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto. Sun dried tomatoes can be substituted if you don’t have any fresh tomatoes that you need to use.

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My freezer now contains three variations of the Basic Basil Pesto. For  a dairy-free, nut-free option to use in any recipe calling for basil and garlic, I have plenty of Basic Basil Pesto. I also have some Basic Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts for pastas and sauces.  I always add more pine nuts when preparing those dishes.  I made a small batch of Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto just for a little variety.  All can be used for sauces and soups and to make dips and cheese spreads.  Any variety of Basil Pesto makes a delicious savory topping for Brie as an alternative to some of the sweet toppings on baked Brie.  This basic Basil Pesto can be diluted with olive oil and flavorful vinegars for pastas and salads.

Roasted Garlic saladDon’t forget the roasted garlic.  It is delicious as a spread for garlic bread mixed with a little butter, as a dip for fresh bread mixed with olive oil and a little basil pesto.  Squeeze fresh from the clove onto an arugula salad with pine nuts and parmesan cheeses and a little oil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a sweet garlicky treat.

One Bowl Brownies (with a little extra)

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Yield: About 3 dozen

  • ½ cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
  • 2 cups (12 oz package) Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or 1 cup peanut butter chips

Heat oven to 350 F.  Grease 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan.

Place butter and 1 cup chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 to 1 ½ minutes or until chips are melted when stirred.

Add sugar, flour, vanilla, baking powder, salt and eggs and stir until batter is smooth.

Stir in remaining 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.

Spread batter into prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle walnuts or peanut butter chips over top. If you would like to use both, cut the amount of each by ⅓ and sprinkle evenly over the top.

Bake 30 minutes or until center is set.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

◊ Jaldi hai

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Dear mom,

In just one day I said a sweaty goodbye to Bombay, cooled down with a walk by the sea in Istanbul, and cozied up to a cup of coffee in Copenhagen. Today I am in Hamburg with sore arms and bags chubbed out with jars of pickled mango and Indian snacks. Tomorrow I will be in Berlin. I am delirious and what is time? How does it happen and where does it go and why is it cold outside?

I need new shoes.

Time. I don’t know what to say about it except that I’ve spent so much of it in kitchens – rooms that harbor much more than space to cook. I am grateful to all of the women in India who invited me in… The space below my recipes is dedicated to some of their kitchens.

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And to initiate my transition out of India I’ll share the recipes that have sustained me for the past four months: vegetables and chai.

IMG_3499First is a base recipe for Indian vegetable dishes. Each vegetable I ate in India was unique to its region and its cook, but was similar to others in its underlying flavors.

Almost all of your vegetable dishes start with a base of garlic, salt, pepper and onions. In India, most vegetable dishes begin with a fragrant combination of mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric, chili, and cumin. Other common flavors in Indian vegetable dishes are curry leaves, ginger, onion seeds, anise, fenugreek, fennel and cardamom. Similar to your salad creations, once you’ve got the basics down, the variations on the Indian vegetable experience are endless.

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Second is hot chai chai chai chai CHAIIII – I can hear the chai walas belting out their song. I’m addicted… Just like all the other Indian professionals I know, I can’t function without it. Chai is simple – black tea, milk and sugar often spiced with ginger and cardamom. Sipping piping hot milky tea on a piping hot humid day doesn’t sound as fun as it is. I promise it’s necessary.

See you so soon I can’t believe it.

Love,
Shaina

Ps. I must reiterate that the the two basic vegetable recipes below are just starters –  you can use any vegetable combo you choose and add or subtract spices for variation.

Bhindi Masala
serves 4-7 people as a side dish

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I’m coming home and I’m thinking about okra. I’m imagining the markets in Birmingham chock full of fresh okra waiting to be chopped up, deep fried and served next to mac n’ cheese and greasy cole slaw. Hopefully the recipe below can help mix things up – the Indian version of fried okra is much tastier, in my opinion.

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  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 5 cups raw okra, cut into thin discs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup potatoes diced into 1 inch slices
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 5-8 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • fresh coconut, shredded for garnish (optional)

Heat oil and cut okra in small pieces. Fry okra on medium heat for 15 minutes until okra pieces lose their mosture.  Remove okra from pan and keep aside.

Add onions, tomatoes and potatoes to the leftover oil along with ginger, garlic and remaining spices. Cover and cook on medium heat until potato is soft, stirring every 2 minutes. Then, add okra pieces to spice combination and stir. Cook over low heat for three minutes. Eat plain, with yogurt, over rice or flatbread.

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Mixed Vegetable Masala
serves 4-7 people as a side dish

  • 3 tbs vegetable oilIMG_3493
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 4 whole cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 cinamon stick
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 medium eggplant, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)

Saute tomatoes, onions and spices in oil over medium heat in a deep pan until onions are translucent. Then, add chopped vegetables, raisins, water and whole spices. Cover pan and simmer for around 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Garnish with cilantro and eat over rice.
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You can modify this recipe to include vegetables of your choice.

Chai

Makes 7 – 9 small cups

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  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 4 tbs of black tea
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (or soy) – it’s best with whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey, sugar or agave syrup to taste

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Crush the star anise, cloves, ginger and cardamom. In a deep pot, bring tea leaves, spices and water to boil.
Then, add milk and sugar and simmer. Stir occasionally for a few minutes. Strain the tea leaves from the mixture. Take a breather. Enjoy with your favorite biscuits or cookies.
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Kitchens:
Thank you for sharing with me.  I love the way that you store your spices and how you stack each of your plastic, steel and bronze vessels like a prize. Holy. Your kitchens have inspired me to decorate and preserve and use. Thank you for inviting me in.
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Ajrakpur, Kutch, Gujarat

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Tumling, West Bengal

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Ajrakpur, Kutch, Gujarat

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Salt Lake, Calcutta, West Bengal

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Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra

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Bhuj, Kutch, Gujarat

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Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra

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Ajrakpur, Kutch, Gujarat

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Nootan Society, Bhuj, Gujarat

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Kutch, Gujarat

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Tumling, West Bengal

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Kutch, Gujarat

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Singalila National Park, West Bengal

♦ Love Endures…Time Flies

Dear Shaina,

I am so sorry that I haven’t written in a while.  With two back-to-back out-of town weekend weddings and a camping trip to a music festival over Memorial Day weekend, and lots of mahjong (your Dad has become a mahjong fiend) in between, my head has just not been into the computer or the kitchen.  But it has been fun! Image

I reread your last letter and love your take on collecting (hoarding).  I am working on acceptance while also trying to purge my life of the burden of too much stuff.  Dad and I had a few extra days at the beach where I am always reminded of how little stuff I actually need…and how good that feels.

We spent time with friends at the wedding and celebrated Mother’s Day and our 29th anniversary at a fabulous restaurant at the beach. It’s hard to believe that we have been married for 29 years! The number of years doesn’t do any justice to the reality of time flying by.  I want to put the brakes on, slow it down a bit…make it last a little longer…but life just keeps on zipping by.

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When you get to our age (not old, just beyond middle age) you really get it…the time issue…how brief even a long life is.  It propels you to enjoy it all, do it now and not sweat the small stuff.  Dad and I are embracing this understanding.

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Camping out at a Music Fest…A first for us!

I just bought a new car…a Prius! The color is Sea Glass Pearl and it reminds me of the ocean at the beach…and you know how much I love the beach! I also met with two architects to talk about redoing our master bathroom.  If not now, when?  Besides, it will force me to empty out our bedroom and only keep the things we really need. That’s one way to deal with my stuff issues.

The wedding in South Carolina went off without a hitch.  Everyone pitched in to help with food and decor.  It was at a beautiful farm overlooking a lake. Image Although there was a threat of rain, the sun came out in the end and provided a beautiful backdrop for the event. Julie and Megan were neck in neck when it came to catching the bouquet, validating that the hope and desire for lasting love endures beyond all obstacles, barriers or circumstances.  Megan won out on this one!Image

Summer has arrived in Birmingham, although it hasn’t gotten brutal yet. I have been enjoying some old …and new…summer salad recipes. I am sending a potato salad recipe that a friend made for the wedding shower.  It was delicious and a little lighter than my usual mayonnaise based one.  I am also including my new salad favorites…an edamame and corn salad (from the same friend) and a fennel salad. Both are easy to make, healthy and delicious.

I am counting the days until we see you in NYC.  I have to admit that I am feeling a little anxious about this last leg of your travel.  I will just be glad to see you and be with you for more than a brief email or intermittent Skype call. I try not to worry…but I am, after all, your mother.

I am even looking forward to the unpacking, washing and repacking process that is sure to unfold a multitude of tales.

Love,

Mom

xoxooxoxooxoxxoo

French Potato Salad

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I used purple and golden potatoes.

  • 2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small red potatoes (or any good potato)
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T sherry vinegar
  • 1 small shallot minced (2 Tblsp)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 small red onion sliced
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I added some chopped fresh basil and green onions from the garden.

Boil washed whole potatoes in water with a little salt until just done.  Rinse and cool cooked potatoes. I rinse them with cold water and cover them with ice so they don’t continue cooking and get mushy.

Cut potatoes in small bite-sized pieces and put in a large mixing bowl.

Blend together oil, mustard, vinegar, chopped shallots and thyme for the dressing.

Pour over the potatoes. Add chopped parsley, sliced red onions and salt and pepper . Mix together thoroughly.

To vary, add other fresh herbs and green onions.  I like basil or tarragon for a little different flavor.

Edamame Salad 

  • 16 oz bag of frozen shelled edamame (cook according to directions on bag)
  • 16 oz bag of frozen sweet corn
  • 4-6 radishes (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 c cilantro cut up (or more if you like a lot of cilantro)
  • 1/4 c scallions cut up
  • 1/2 c rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp veg oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 Tblsp wasabi powder
  • 1 tsp garlic (I used fresh)IMG_1084
  • Salt to taste

Cook edamame according to the directions on the bag. Rinse and cool.

Place cooked edamame in a bowl with corn and mix together.

Add sliced radishes and cut up cilantro and scallions to corn edamame mixture.

Blend oil and vinegar and seasonings together and pour over combined veggies and mix thoroughly.

Adjust seasonings to taste.

This dish can be eaten immediately or made the day before for an even better flavor.  

Israeli Fennel Salad

As simple as this recipe is, it is amazingly tasty and refreshing!

  •  2 Fennel Bulbs thinly sliced (the thinner the better)
  • 2 fresh lemons juiced (you can add a little lemon zest if you like)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley (I like Italian flat leafed parsley)
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

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Wash the fennel and remove all stalks. Use fennel bulb only and slice crosswise thinly.

Pour juice from 2 fresh lemons over the sliced fennel. If you like, add a little lemon zest from one of the lemons.

Add the olive oil.

Chop the parsley and mix into the salad.

Add salt and pepper to taste and it’s ready to eat!