◊ Get a Grip

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Dear mom,

Get a grip. Seriously. If you’re going through life desperately worrying about the invasion of inexplicable life altering tragedies, then maybe you have… like… a problem.

I worry too, but, as I explained in my previous letter, I’m tryna stick with things that are productive. I worried about getting to the airport with enough time to go on a fancy lotion sampling tour at Duty Free after security. It was a productive worry – it made me wake up to my alarm (and every hour for 3 hours before it). Now I’m sitting on the floor, charging my computer and waiting to board my flight out of Israel. My skin is all greased up with an estimated $50 of moisturizer (does anyone actually buy such expensive lotions foreal?).

I’m about to board the plane, but it doesn’t feel like I’m leaving.  I’m at ease. Maybe it’s because I’m in denial, or maybe it’s because I know I’ll be back. Maybe I’m actually a little ready for a break from constantly untangling my brain from the mess it absorbs from media, friends, family, cab drivers, vegetable-sellers, professors, twitter.

I know this mess won’t go away once I’m out of Israel… that it will become more intense as I’m expected to answer questions about rockets, airstrikes, tunnels, Bibi, #IsraelUnderFire, #GazaUnderAttack, Palestinian identity, Jewish identity, Jerusalem clashes, UNRWA, Shujaiyya, Sderot, soldiers, sirens. I’m happy to share my reflections, but please know that I don’t know anything. My opinions are few and my certainty is limited.

My certainty is limited to my favorite hummus places (Blue Bus and the place off Agripas with bright colored plastic boxes for seats), where to buy the freshest nuts in the shuk (the guy after halva king and before the cheap herbs on the left if you’re walking towards Yaffo  in the covered side), the best jogs (Tel Aviv’s Tayelet, Jerusalem’s Tachanat Rishon and Har Eitan), the tastiest salads (Orna v’ Ella in Tel Aviv, Nodir near Bezalel), most beautiful hikes (haaj from Jerusalem to Jericho),  and which professors to avoid at Hebrew U (will remain unnamed).

A walk from Jerusalem to Jericho

A walk from Jerusalem to Jericho

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My nut guy

Blue Bus hummus, Pardes Hana

Blue Bus hummus, Pardes Hana

They make it in a blue bus

They make it in a blue bus

View from my favorite jogging site, Tel Aviv's Tayelet

View from my favorite jogging site, Tel Aviv’s Tayelet

Orna V Ella, Tel Aviv

Orna V Ella, Tel Aviv

I’m certain that my gratitude for family who allowed me to really be family will be forever; that roommates can be family too; that my classmates provided more education than my professors; that Jerusalem attracts straight-up weirdos (I like them anyways); that friends are important; that feeling Shabbat is a special thing; that Jerusalem, for better or worse, is much more than a city and place.

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It’s been quite a year. Thanks in advance for preparing for my return with my favorite foods and clean sheets… In that sense, I guess your worrying is productive (or it at least works out in my favor). Can’t wait for a haircut, massage, hot bath and all the things that will help me restore energy to dive into another intense year of unknowns. I’m just four take-offs and landings away! Til then, hold yourself together. 

xo,

Shaina

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Today I will post two recipes – one dedicated to family: Nurit’s Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart, the other dedicated to friends: Zesty Sorrel Pesto.

As you know, the last month or so was a bit stressful and weekend getaways to family saved me. For the past two months, Nurit and the rest of the Pardes Hana family has nourished my soul, beached my body and washed and folded my laundry almost every weekend.  Several Shabbats ago, Nurit made an incredible goat cheese tart. Eggs, cheese and carbs – the perfect comfort food.  I re-made it with rye flour for a Shabbat that I hosted before I moved out of my Nachlaot apartment. It was a much needed indulgence.

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Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart with a Rye Crust

Prep time: one hour

Makes two pies: serves 7 – 8

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Crust:

  • 1 /12 c all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 c rye flour
  • 1 cup butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 tbs ice water

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium bell peppers (mix of yellow, red and orange), sliced vertically
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 medium eggs
  • tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until it crumblies to teeny balls. Add 4-5 tablespoons cold water and use your hands to mix it into a dough. Wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. With the dough, line a standard pie dish.  Press the pastry into the corners of the dish. Leave the excess overhanging the edge. Poke holes in the base with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with rice or beans to weigh down. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. 

-OR BUY A PRE-MADE PIE CRUST-

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté onions on low heat until fragrant. Add peppers and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.   Set aside to cool.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and basil in a separate bowl. Spread cheese along bottom of pastry crust and layer with onions and peppers. Pour egg and cream mixture on top. Scatter with remaining peppers and onions, and bake for thirty minutes until top is golden. Allow to cool before serving.

Zesty Sorrel Pesto

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Last week, some of my friends and I organized a food party to learn how to make Chinese dumplings.  I learned how to prepare them, but didn’t want to eat the meat… It was one of the few times I’ve hated my vegetarianism. The other time involved Bubbe’s kreplach, which is basically the same food as Chinese dumplings minus the added ginger. I guess I have a thing for dumplings. 

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My lame contribution to our cross-cultural food exchange was toasted pita with sorrel pesto, parmesean and almond/cashew pieces. My original idea was to do buckwheat blinis with sorrel pesto, ricotta and crushed hazelnuts but I didn’t get it together in time. I still can’t stop thinking about it though, so it will definitely happen in the future.

I made a big batch of  sorrel pesto about two months ago and kept it in the freezer (removing small lbatches into jars that lved in the fridge about twice a week or so). I found a huge (HUGE!) box of what I thought was spinach for just ten shekels at Machane Yehuda, so I took it home. Turns out it was sorrel! Instead of hitting my books, I went straight to the kitchen to prepare a big tub of pesto. In additoin to my master blini plan, this pesto is the perfect quick fix to add zest and rich flavor to simple salad of chopped veggies. Really, it’s a game-changer… especially when in a time and resource crunch (story of my life).

Zesty Sorrel Pesto

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: A lot

  • 10 ounces of fresh sorrel
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbs tahini or almond butter
  • 1 tbs good olive oil
  • juice and zest of 2 medium lemons
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • generous dash of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Wash sorrel and chop or tear into small pieces. Chop garlic roughly. Add spinach, garlic and remaining ingredients (except for walnuts) to food processor. Pulse until a thick, green puree forms. Once you have a paste, add walnuts and pulse until desired consistency. I like to leave the walnuts a little crunchy for added texture.

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♦ Luv Ya

Dear Shaina,
I clearly know how lucky I am to have you as my daughter. My worry doesn’t stem from my lack of confidence in you. My worry simply is. I worry about you wherever you are…Uganda, Washington, DC, Bolivia, India, Israel…and yes, I will worry about you in Berkeley, too. In fact, I’ve already started.

I worry about the safety of the world you live in and will hopefully raise children in someday. I worry about the randomness of birth and death and the day-to-day moments. I inherited that worry, that knowledge that the world, my world, your world, could crumble to pieces in an instant. I have spent years examining other people’s lives and families and marveling at those who have accumulated generations of personal memories…trying desperately to believe that it is possible to get through this life without some major inexplicable life altering tragedy. I just haven’t mastered that much security and faith yet.

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A transformation is coming!

You will be home in four days! My life is in total disarray with much less consequence than the disarray and disorder you are surrounded by. I am trying to maintain my perspective. I will have your room cleaned, your laundry done and your closet put back in some order before you get here. I will prepare your favorite foods and stock the refrigerator with organic yogurt and almond milk. I have Bubbe Knishes in the freezer and Dad bought beautiful heirloom tomatoes that will ripen to perfection by the time you get here.

Heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil

Heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil

I will indulge you in any way I can for the five days of transition you have allowed yourself before you hop on another plane and take off to Berkeley. I will stay calm. I will follow any orders you give me. I will leave you alone if that is what you need. And I will be ever so grateful to tuck you into your bed at night, to rehash the day and to kiss your freshly greased cheek good night. When you’re ready, I will flip the light out and respond to our well-rehearsed night-time refrain…Luv ya, See you in the morning. We will hold on to those seven words as if our lives depend on them. And they do. Love and the belief in a tomorrow is what keeps me going.

I am counting the minutes.

See you soon,
Love, Mom
xoxooxoxxoxoxoxooxoxoxxo

Alabama Summer Veggies for Shabbat

Alabama Summer Veggies for Shabbat

Basil Marinated Corn on the Cob

Dad bought some corn at the market and, as usual, brought home way more than we needed. After eating some cooked the traditional way for dinner, I decided to marinate the rest to serve cold for Shabbat dinner the next night. This is an easy do-ahead recipe and perfect as a cold summer salad dish. Norma-Jill gets credit for this one. She served it for dinner with salmon and all sorts of delicious salads and vegetables, all made ahead of time.

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  • 1 cup fresh basil chopped
  • 8 ears of corn steamed for 5-7 minutes

Marinade

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • juice of one or two lemons
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 TBL sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste

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Whisk all marinade ingredients together, except basil and corn.
Add basil and stir to mix.
Break or cut steamed and cooled ears of corn in half. Place in plastic container and pour marinade over top. Cover tightly.
Keep in refrigerator overnight.
Serve at room temperature.