◊ One hundred percent

Dear mom,

You abandon the blog for over a month. You call your Mahjong game an obligation. You amount your bathroom renovation to chaos.


It’s not hard to send me a recipe. Playing games with your friends isn’t a thing. Having a messy bedroom and beautiful bath does not = disaster. Why are these things consuming you?

I’m annoyed because what do you do?

(Laundry isn’t a thing.)

I’m annoyed because I get it and it worries me.

I think I was in 6th grade when I decided that I wanted Puma sneakers. We took a trip to New York to visit family, and you and I spent the first three days fiending for shoes. We mapped out every store in the city that carried Pumas and walked all of Manhattan. At the end of the three days, we found THE Puma factory store, which housed every model in every color. I cried there. The search commenced with a dark-grey suede pair of shoes with red stripes (not cute). They are still sitting in my closet… I maybe wore them twice.

It’s a good thing dad is tolerant of high levels of crazy.

You give 100% every time. It’s a trait that I admire, and a trait that, in my own life, I try to keep in check. It’s too easy to get sucked in – to be totally consumed — by the small things.


classic family portrait

Pumas in New York, beads in Vancouver, hair-wraps in New Orleans, sweatshirts in San Fransisco, antiques in DC, textiles in India, hermit crabs at the beach. Our family vacations were driven by searches for things that we couldn’t find in Birmingham. My memories make me nervous that we … I… do not know how to enjoy time without something driving me towards an end goal (which has usually amounted to nothing).

Our search for Pumas was torture, but it was fun. The shoes were a catalyst of exploration and togetherness. We walked all of Manhattan and saw so many new things … together.


Now that you’re retired, your vacation is permanent. Laundry is a thing; Majong is a thing; bathroom renovations are a thing. I ask for help making desserts for Cari’s wedding and you bake, decorate, wrap and deliver 100 individual cakes. It doesn’t surprise me. Even Bubbe, without child-rearing obligations or a proper job, found reasons to wake up at 4 AM. She had to bake hundreds of knishes for … you know …  people.

You enter the most confusing stage of motherhood and ask questions that, in my opinion, are not worth thinking about. All I can say is that the situation is not so confusing. You have time to dwell, so you dwell. How much space defines a close mother-daughter relationship? Ain’t no one got time to decipher that. Except for you.




I just moved to a house closer to campus. In shifting pantries, I found one milllllion baggies of different seeds and nuts. Instead of re-organizing all the bits and pieces in my new house, I dumped them all into these biscotti and started fresh.


Honey Orange Whole Wheat Biscotti with Dates and Almonds/Pumpkin seeds/Pistachios

Prep time: 1.5 hours

Makes 3 dozen cookies


  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of two full oranges
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c dates, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 c shelled, raw (unsalted) pistachios (optional)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the honey, eggs, oil, zest, orange juice and vanilla until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts (you do not have to use every variety of nut listed here – I suggest choosing one). Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.


Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 


Buckwheat and Rye Biscotti with Fig, Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chunks

Prep time: 1.5 hours

makes 3 dozen cookies


  • 1 c  dark rye flour
  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 1/2 c dired figs, finely chopped (8-10 figs)
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces (small!)
  • 1/3 c good dark chocolate chunks/chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the sugar, eggs and oil until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts, figs and chocolate. Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 


◊ The Grain of My Ancestors


Dear mom,

You sent your veggie chili recipe just in time.  We’ve experienced a blizzard over here in the Middle East. The roads are ice and yesterday’s white Jerusalem is melting gray. School has been cancelled since Thursday and my toes have been freezing-thawing-freezing-thawing since.

IMG_1152 IMG_3099


And I’m getting antsy. You and dad see my life as exciting. It is. But my schpilkas syndrome isn’t always a positive thing. Right now I’m walled in by snow and slush and I’m about to freak out. The stillness. I can’t.

So I move.

I hop around to fill my life with beautiful views, weird produce, scraps of new languages and cultural mishaps at which I retrospectively laugh. My life is full and I’m glad that you appreciate its pieces. But sometimes I don’t know what I’ve really shared with you because I still feel a big old hole of empty. I think I’ll need to slow down if I want to figure out how to fill it.


Once in 3rd grade I was walking from class to the carpool line and my teacher called me a turtle over the intercom. I left the building in tears and the name stuck. I was turtle… slow, slow, slow in all ways until one day I started to move fast. I don’t know when it happened… if it’s bad or good or neutral. But I think the compulsion that drives me to move fast stems from the same apprehension that held me in slowness. Careful and careless might be twins.

I risk losing me while I’m moving fast. Why do I write to you here? Because when I’m whipping across the globe at this pace it’s important that I stop to tell you what happened.

I don’t buy that you and dad’s lives would be boring without me. Between the two of you, you’ve built (from scratch) a farm with cows, a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and aquariums with tropical fish throughout Alabama; you’ve managed a 501C3, psychiatric wards, 70 person + dinner parties and god knows what else; you’ve sat in your very own office chairs, tractor seats and piano benches.

The things I’ve introduced you to  – like la hoja de coca and indigo fermentation – are superficially weird (exciting, eclectic, whatever). But you two are the real thing.


You’re the ones.. the real weirdos… who inspire me to fill up.



My people’s grain:


Israel’s recipes are infused with Mediterranean ingredients and Middle Eastern spices, but there’s still plenty of flavors that link me back to my Ashkenaz roots. As I think about my sense of self while hopping around at lighting speed, I am reminded that there’s no other food that speaks to my soul more than kasha. I can still smell the sticky fried onions and mushrooms that Bubbe made en mass to mix with kasha and farfel (like this recipe). It brings me back to me in an instant. Buckwheat: the grain of my ancestors.


Below are three buckwheat-based recipes inspired by my current place and purpose.

Sweet Buckwheat Porridge, Raw:

Adapted from my new favorite recipe blog, GreenKitchenStories.com



  • A portable post-swim snack

    A portable post-swim snack

    1 C raw buckwheat groats + water for soaking

  • 1 C raw almond + water for soaking
  • 4 dates + water for soaking
  • 1pear
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • chopped apricots
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla

Soak RAW (much of the buckwheat you find in stores is Kasha, which is roasted) groats, almonds and dates in water seperately for 4 – 7 hours or overnight.

In the morning, add all ingredients to a food processor (I used a stick blender) and blend until smooth.


Topping treats! I garnished my first serving with pomegranate seeds, chopped apples and persimmons, pumpkin seeds and drizzles of tahini and date syrup. It was luxurious. I also recommend any fresh fruit you have on hand, raisins, cocoa powder, date syrup, coconut flakes, honey, almond butter or your own favorite indulgences.


It’s also perfect for a breakfast-to-go or in-between class snack.


Israeli Buckwheat Salad:


  • 2 cups roasted buckwheat groats (Kasha)IMG_0795
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 orange, red and/or yellow bell peppers, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced into slivered chunks
  • red onion, thinly diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbs crude tahini
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs ground sumac (or lemon zest)
  • 1 large bunch of parsley
  • 2 ripe avocados



Bring water and salt to boil and add buckwheat. Simmer for 10 – 12 minutes until tender and fluffy. Remove from heat and allow buckwheat to cool for an additional 5 minutes. Then drain any extra water and spread onto baking sheet or large surface to prevent clumps.

Dice all of the vegetables very thinly. If you have other veggies in the fridge you need to get rid of, this is your moment.

In a saucpan, heat olive oil and add turmeric, cumin and coriander. Stir for 1 – 2 minutes until fragrant. Pour mixture into bowl and add tahini, vinegar and sumac. Stir well.

Toss buckwheat, veggies and dressing right before serving. Top with chopped parsley and avocado. Serve cool or room temperature.


Orange Glazed Tempeh over Soba Noodles with Avocado:

Tempeh preparation is adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Yes, Soba Noodles are made from buckwheat!


  • 1 package (12 oz) dried soba noodles (I like to use 100% buckwheat, but they can be hard to find and expensive. More common is a buckwheat + spelt or wheat combination.)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, date syrup or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 ounces of tempeh (or tofu)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • cilantro to garnish


Cook the soba noodles in well salted water, drain, rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Mix orange juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic in a bowl and set aside.

Cut tempeh into thin slices. Heat olive oil in pan. Once hot, add tempeh and pan-fry for 5 – 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Pour the orange juice, etc mixture over the tempeh and simmer for 10-15 minutes (flip tempeh piece 3 or 4 times during this time to allow all sides to absorb sauce) until sauce becomes thick and sticky.

Place tempeh over soba noodles and top with remaining sauce, black sesame seeds, squeeze of lime, cilantro and avocado.

♦ From Down the Hall

Dear Shaina,

It is really odd to be writing a letter to you when you are just down the hall and we are crossing paths in the kitchen, preparing lists for almost daily grocery store excursions, merging dirty clothes in the washing machine and…exchanging words (not always so nicely) face to face.


So here I sit struggling to do my assignment, “mom, do ur blog” instructions in a text from you, following a text that said, “having din w friends, will b home later.”

Parenting is not an easy business at any age…of any aged child. It is perplexing and daunting and evokes anxieties and insecurities from the depths of your core. Shaina, lest you think this is about you, believe me, it is not! You are, and have been, a relatively easy child. I do know how fortunate I am to have the privilege of being your parent.

I am immensely proud of your accomplishments, your bravery and self-awareness, your independence and your many ever-emerging talents.  Not to mention the bonuses of having a child who travels to exotic places, always has another exciting option up her sleeve and provides us with never-ending tales to share with family and friends.


The challenges of parenting are not about you, or any kid, I suspect.  It’s about what and who we bring to the game. You think you’ve escaped the ghosts you tried so hard to release in your own life…and all of a sudden, you have become your mother…and those shreds of familiarity are chilling.


There were so many things that Bubbe and Zayde did intuitively, as parents, that were right. They had no expectations of who we should become.  They only wanted us to be healthy and happy and able to take care of ourselves.  They insisted on the absolute importance of love and family.  I think that was it…and all that flowed from that. Any screaming and arguing was just another tactic to ensure those principles.

I think it worked, but with it came the whole package…the sense of obligation, the persistent quest for happiness, the need to leave home and find my place in the world.  I did that in my own way.

I know some parents who think their job is to control their children in an attempt to produce the desired product.


My understanding of parenting is more about powerlessness and staying out of the way of the inevitable. Neither approach is easy or foolproof…and I have made errors on both ends of the spectrum.

Having you home brings all the players out of the closet…yours and mine.  All in all, I think we are okay. You are a child any mother would be proud to claim…as I am.  We are just both doing what we both need to do…hanging on and getting away!

Thank God for food…the grains that bind us!  I have learned so much from you, although I am not sure I will ever be able to replicate your style. You prepared an amazing Indian feast for Shabbat dinner…dishes that even our Indian guests loved!

Watching you create recipes for a friend who is undergoing chemo has made me appreciate what a unique gift you have.

sss & es in kitchen 072313

Your food is creative and delicious, elaborate and healing…and remarkably beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Indian dishes.072313.sss

I am also impressed at how much your kitchen maintenance has improved! Thank you!

I don’t know how long you’ll be here, but I am glad to be in these moments with you. My wishes for you are simple…to be healthy and happy…to remember the importance of family…to find your place in the world and…to be safe.




Browned Butter Halibut
Although I am intimidated by your creations. I still have to cook dinner occasionally,at least when I am not throwing together all your tasty leftover morsels into a humongous salad. This is a very simple fish recipe that Dad really enjoyed.

Add a simple green summer salad and baked sweet potatoes, plus the dessert below,  and you have a satisfying quick and easy dinner.


Yield: 4 servings

  •  1 – 1½ pounds of fresh wild caught halibut (4-6 ounces per person)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, garlic to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and zest from one lemon (or lime juice and zest)
  • Garnish with fresh chopped dill, parsley or tarragon and lemon wedges if desired

Salt and pepper fish generously on both sides. Add fresh finely chopped or thinly sliced garlic.

Lime Juice and zest...a great substitute for lemon.

Lime Juice and zest…a great substitute for lemon.

Marinate in lemon juice with zest plus 1 teaspoon olive oil for a half hour.


Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold all the fish over medium heat.

Put oil and butter in the pan and heat until lightly browned.   Add fish immediately to browned butter and cook 3 – 5 minutes (depending on thickness of fish) on each side.  Fish is done when it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with lemon wedges. Add salt, pepper and fresh herbs to taste.  Serve immediately.


Blueberry Oatmeal-Buckwheat Crumble

This lightly sweetened blueberry crumble recipe is inspired by your healthy crunchy-grainy approach to food…and all those gallons of late summer blueberries we picked.


Blueberry Filling

  • 5-6 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch or corn starch
  • Zest and lemon juice from small lemon
  • ¾ cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs, raisins or any dried fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar or to taste (agave or honey can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Wash blueberries and place them in a pot with the next four ingredients for the blueberry filling.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally throughout the cooking process.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about forty-five more minutes or until blueberry mixture is slightly thickened and reduced by half, but still liquidy.  Add the almond extract and stir.  Cool slightly.

Oatmeal-Buckwheat Crust and Topping

  • 1¼ cup uncooked rolled oats
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter, melted (margarine or coconut oil can be substituted)
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 T raw sugar or agave

IMG_1319While berries are cooking, prepare crust by whisking together the oats, flour and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter or margarine to the oat mixture and stir until crumbly. Reserve ¾ cup of this mixture in a separate bowl for the topping.

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease an 8” x 10” baking dish and pat the remaining oat crumb crust mixture onto the bottom of the baking dish.

Prepare the topping by adding ¾ cup of chopped nuts and 1 tablespoon of raw sugar to the reserved oat mixture.  More sugar can be added if you like a sweeter topping.  Mix thoroughly.

Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes or until oats and nuts are lightly browned and blueberries are bubbling.Pour the slightly cooled blueberry filling over the crust in the baking dish.  Sprinkle the oat-nut topping mixture evenly over the berries.


Eat warm with ice cream or serve cold as a fruit snack or breakfast treat.