Wednesday, February 28, 2007

mizrachi-style mohn cookies

this is a great recipe for the upcoming holiday of purim which commemorates the triumph of the jews of the ancient kindgom of persia over an edict to annihilate them set forth by the evil vizier haman. the date of the proposed demise of the jews was chosen through the drawing of lots (lottery) or "pur-im" with different dates on them and explains why this holiday is called the feast of lots. what? you didn't think there'd also be "lots" of food involved? think again! this is both feast and festival.

luckily, this plan was foiled and the jews of what is now modern-day iran and environs were saved due to the valiant efforts of the heroine of the story, queen esther. every year, we listen to the recorded history in the often elaborately decorated megilat ester [scroll of esther] and make noise and a ruckus when the evil haman's name is mentioned. both children and adults dress up in masquerade to commemorate and celebrate this happy holiday. it is a major celebration in israel and perhaps the happiest one of the jewish calendar of holidays. it's also the one time when jewish adults are "encouraged" [responsibly, of course] to drink alcohol in copious amounts.

the following recipe comes from another friend of mine who actually escaped from iran, alone as a teenager, in the 1980's making his way first to israel and then to canada. it is a cookie both he and his family eat at jewish holidays and is a mizrachi (middle eastern) version of the popular ashkenazi mohn [poppyseed] cookie. it only seems appropriate to post something from the part of the world where the whole story of purim took place centuries ago. it is also perfect for those people who cannot consume flour; it is completely gluten free.

poppy seeds are very popular in many cakes, cookies and pastries for the purim holiday and these are no exception. this particular cookie is often likened to a type of shortbread and can be made with margarine or butter, or even oil. traditionally, they are made with rose water and cardamom. my friend's mom even adds a tsp or so of crumbled dried rose petals sometimes. dried rose petals for cooking are available at iranian or middle eastern stores. i prefer these cookies the way i show below, however. it is possible to flavour them the way you prefer — you can use lemon juice and zest as one option, too, if you don't like or have orange flower water.

rice flour poppyseed cookies
naan-e berenji


1 stick margarine or butter (1/4 lb), softened
2 eggs
2/3 c *sugar

2 tsp orange flower water [try to use it; it makes a big difference]
3 tsp water
1/2 - 1 tsp poppyseeds
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded

2 1/2 - 2 3/4 c **rice flour (i use bob's redmill)

1/4 c poppy seeds for rolling cookies

*you can use just regular white sugar but my friend's mother says to measure it and then put it in a processor or blender and grind it finer for a few minutes. some naan berenji versions also use confectioner's/icing sugar.

**no rice flour? you can grind your own in a coffee grinder; just make sure to sift it well. it should be very finely ground.


cream the margarine or butter and sugar until it is well blended. grinding the sugar helps with the incorporation.

add the eggs and blend well. it will look curdled after this addition.

mix in the salt and the baking powder. also add the water and orange flower or rose water.

add the and poppy seeds and mix again.

now blend in the rice flour.

it should be very thick. take note that it is still a soft dough and delicate. doesn't it remind you of vanilla ice cream?

measure out 35 portions of about 2 tsps each. at this point you can continue if you are comfortable working with a softer dough or you can refrigerate them for about 20 to 30 minutes. i like making them right away as i find the edges tend to crack after they've been refrigerated. also, measuring out the portions helps to make the shaping go faster and lets them chill more effectively. it is worth the few minutes preparation.

heat the oven t0 350F.

fill a small dish with the 1/4 c of poppy seeds and set it next to you. take a small ball and roll it so it is round.
now dip the top half into the poppy seeds.

place this on a parchment lined baking sheet or lightly greased one.

press down on the ball with your fingers gently to expand it to make a round which is about 1/4 inch thick.

do this to the rest and leave space between them (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches).

bake them for exactly 20 minutes or until they are very lightly browned at the edges.

place them on a rack to cool. they are still somewhat delicate at this point and need to cool fully before eating them. they will firm up further when completely cooled.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

marbled mandelbroit

mandelbroit, or komishbroit, is derived from the words mandlen and broit from yiddish which translates to almonds + bread, respectively. i guess these could be considered the jewish version of biscotti. they are typically always parve [no dairy involved] so that they can be eaten with anything and were no doubt popular because they could be kept for long periods of time without deterioration of texture or taste.

having tried quite a few recipes over the years, this mandelbroit is quite decent in that it doesn't leave you with a cracked tooth after biting into it! the version i am showing here is a bit different from the typical one in that it involves removing part of the base dough and flavouring it with both strong coffee and chocolate. this is then reintroduced in two different ways into the main batter which is studded with bright green pistachios and redolent of orange flavours from zest, juice and extract.

pistachio-ed chocolate & coffee
marbled mandelbroit


3 large eggs
½ c vegetable oil
1 c sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp orange or almond extract
1 tbsp fresh grated orange rind
2 tbsp orange juice or vanilla soymilk

2 tbsp dark cocoa powder, sifted
1 rounded tbsp turkish coffee or extra finely ground espresso (not instant)
2 -3 tbsp liquid (use either sabra, orange juice, or vanilla soymilk)

1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 c all purpose flour

1 c whole pistachios or chopped almonds
½ c chocolate chips, optional


mix eggs, sugar and oil together until well mixed and thick.

add the extracts, orange rind and juice or soymilk. mix again.

add the the baking powder and salt and make sure it's all blended.

blend in the flour and stir well. don't add the nuts until later on!

remove 1/3 of the mixture to a small bowl and add the cocoa, coffee and liquid and mix until uniform. add more liquid if necessary; it should still be very thick and not liquidy.

add the nuts to the white portion of the dough and mix well. this will thicken it more. add the chocolate chips, if using.

either grease a large cookie sheet or line with parchment and set oven to 400 F.

divide the white portion into thirds. it is easier to use a well greased spatula so it doesn't stick. place 1/3 of the white dough on the far end of the sheet (do this in the horizontal sense of the cookie sheet). oil your hands and shape it into a long 1/2 to 1 inch oval block. it will probably be closer to one inch thick.

with the side of your hand make a deep depression from end to end. divide the chocolate dough into three portions and add 1/3 in the depression a spoonful at a time.

now with your hands, press the sides to give height to the dough and shape it better. it should be sort of like an elongated football.

if you like you can do all three this way or you can marble it by adding one portion of chocolate and vanilla together and only slightly mixing it together in the bowl. don't be heavy handed about it.

place the dough carefully on the pan and shape it with greased hands. do not place them closely side by side as they expand. leave a good 2 to 3 inches in between. you may need two sheets.

bake the mandelbroit for 25 minutes. it should be moderately golden brown. the dough typically cracks, so don't be alarmed when it comes out of the oven.

remove them from the oven and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. lower the temperature of the oven to 300 F.

with a serrated and very sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch slices on the bias.

return them to the oven for about 45 minutes or longer to dry out. they will dry further as they cool. cook's tip: i place them on the cookie rack on the cookie sheet and place that in the oven. this allows the hot air to dry them from underneath at the same time also. take note that you may have to turn them part way through the second cooking.

let cool completely and store. they will harden up as they cool down and will be good for a month or two well covered. also makes a nice gift.


Friday, February 23, 2007

a friday video or two

weekend's here. enjoy some fun videos.

wanna make some?

for a butterscotch version, check here and more traditional ones, here. spice up your weekend and make some. most of all, have fun biting off their heads!

while on the same subject, i also really like the way this very short youtube video was made:

and if all that made you hungry, try watching the following crazy video. bet you'll just wanna run and make what you see in this one!! it's actually a pretty good parody on an american favourite! oh, jolene you're not just eyebrow bleach anymore. ;P

enjoy watching!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

a list long overdue.....

i have to admit it has taken me a long time to come up with a list of odd food-related facts about myself since i was asked/tagged by trinigourmet several weeks back. i guess i wasn't even sure if i even had any weird food facts about me to divulge to the public at large. after all, it's not like i'd eat stuff like this .... now that's weird. anyway, you can read on and decide for yourself. all things being relative, the question remains ....... just how weird are you?!

6 weird food facts about me:

1. i am obsessed with ACCURACY, especially in the arenas of measurement and size. when it comes to cutting and shaping things, i can spend inordinate amounts of time with my best friends in the kitchen — my ruler and uber sensitive & accurate scale [which, by the way, was one of the best purchases i've made]. ok, admittedly, i am not ready yet for a hospital program since i will forgo measuring and weighing things if they agree with the "eyeball" method. still, things look better when they are uniform and the same. errrr, most of the time, that is.

2. i rarely eat at other people's homes. this has been an item of contention for many years and made me either flatly turn down offers or find inventive ways out of eating at another person's home. i think my neurosis began with my experience of eating at a friend's home and finding dried food on the plates and then more on some of the serving utensils, including dog hair. i think i nearly barfed on the spot.

the fact is that you really never know how clean someone (you don't really know) is or what goes into the cooking of things. i also know people who have no problems with this, so maybe i am just weird! lol. my favourite thing is what i call "the microwave/oven" test. i always try to sneak a peek at the insides of the microwave (or oven) to see the state of it. if it's not clean, i definitely "ain't" eatin' your food.

3. glutinous and bitter foods are not my friends. anything which involves stringy mucilage is vorbotten and literally makes me wretch. foods like okra and natto come to mind when i think of goo. melted cheese, however, is not mucilage and is therefore 100 per cent fine by me in terms of goo. bitter things are also not items which please my palate. i have never understood people who actually say they enjoy things like rapini, radicchio, hilbeh or bitter gourd. i might as well use buckley's as a condiment if that were the case.

4. i only started eating dried fruit in my 20s. i have no clue where that came from but i refused to eat or even use it in my cooking until the recent past. i felt tortured as a child to continually find those damned little red boxes of sunmaid raisins in my lunches or given them for snacks. even to this day, i will not eat raisins though i have eaten the golden ones and will use only those kind in small amounts in cooking. owning a rabbit as a child reinforced my distaste for small dried black things. :O

5. i probably have 3 more sets of dishes, utensils, kitchen towels, etc. than you do. keeping a kosher style kitchen means separate everything (well, almost) for preparing and eating meat, dairy and pareve foods (anything non meat or non dairy). that's a 'hell-a' lot of stuff. i also have a whole set of everything again just for passover use but that is strictly for meat/pareve use (think whole kitchen's worth). no wonder i hardly have any space for all of my wares.

6. i love cutting up chickens. ok, that's definitely weird [and no, i'm not a hannibal lechter but i do own very sharp knives, so watch out!]. i just like being able to know that all parts of what i'm eating came from the same bird!! do you even have any idea that those chicken parts you're buying came from 20 different birds??? cutting my own chickens also means i can get the sizes and pieces i want but, of course, i have to use disposable kitchen gloves cause it's a dirty deed.

and as an added extra, since 7 is a lucky number:

7. sugar is a food group all on its own. i love sugar in all its forms. i mean i REALLY love it. my favourite sugar high is to toast [challah] bread, shmear it with lots of butter and then pack on a good 1/4 inch of brown sugar. oh baby.

weird, eh?

as this is supposed to be tag, i wanna know what oddities are behind the personae of:

*rosa [still workin' on your list!]
*aria [oh, for sure there's some good ones there!]
*beenzzz [c'mon, i know you wanna spill the beenzzz]
*topchamp [i can only just imagine!]✓
*pammie [i know you have more than 6! lol]
*tschoerda [tell me yours, my little gugelhopf ]
*emily [oooh, can't wait to read what the scientist reveals!]
*you [-> e-me if you want to do yours!]

note: feel free not to do this; it's just an offer for a fun post. [if i haven't mentioned you, take no offense, was thinking of those who have done memes in the past or i though would be inclined to try one].

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

finally, a recipe!

so, i guess it's about time i finally posted something about one of my favourite snacks and visually explained what exactly a bureka is, especially considering it's in my blog title and also my moniker ..... this, then, is also for a few people who have asked or emailed me about posting something about it.

ok, so it's not a secret that jewish people are a little concerned with food. what would life be without good things to eat? whatever the occasion may be, we eat. it's also no surprise that every single celebration involves shoving food in one's mouth. many of the most amazing items central to jewish table are carbohydrate based — now seen as enemy number one — and burekas are no exception.

the bureka (boo-ray-kah) is really the sephardic equivalent to the ashkenazi "knish" and is as integral to the sephardic table as knishes are to the eastern european (ashkenazi) one. it's also a bit of a term of endearment for something small and good.

burekas are different things to different people and can go by other names depending upon who is eating them. they can be found from such diverse areas as north africa to the mediterranean and further to central eastern europe. while they look like miniature spanish emapanadas, the origin is said to be the borek, a turkish filled [often] savoury pastry. the jewish sephardic version is obviously linked to its spanish pre inquisition past.

in short, this snack item is some kind of dough shaped in a variety of ways to envelop either a meat, vegetable or cheese filling. the dough can be made in one of three ways: an oily flaky dough, a puff pastry type dough or filo. the traditional way is with either the oily one or filo. those made with puff pastry are easier and faster to make with a preprepared, often frozen, product. they are extremely popular and often their shapes are a give away as to what is you'll find inside. they can also be known by other names like bulemas, boyos, or filakos and filled with gooey and luscious melted cheese[s], spinach or eggplant. i'll eventually post the different ways to make some of them with the other doughs and filling variations.

the ones i am showing here are the standard plain kind and have been made the "homemade" traditional way as was/is done on thursdays or fridays for the sabbath [though they are commonly kept in stock as an everyday snack]. it also helps to have extra hands available to speed up the tedious cutting, rolling and stuffing process. usually these things are made in batches of 100 or so! why make 24 when you can make 240? you know you'll eat them all :-O

potato and cheese burekas

dough ingredients:
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt, heaped
1/4 c + 1 tbsp veg oil
~1/2 c very hot water
1 tsp lemon juice

[gomo] filling ingredients:

2 very large potatoes [floury kind, not waxy]
feta or drained ricotta (about 1 1/4 c)
2 tbsp parmesan or romano cheese, optional but use if adding ricotta
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

*n.b. that these can made parve for shabbat by using only potatoes; just substitute 1 1/4 c or so of fried onions in place of the cheese, or use cooked chopped spinach plus and 1 egg, and increase the amounts of pepper and seasonings. they can also me made vegan by omitting the egg and dairy components [replace ricotta with crumbled tofu and use soymage for parmesan & some nutritional yeast]; use soymilk or enerG to coat the pastries.

1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water
sesame seeds

makes approx. 2 dozen


place flour and salt in a bowl and mix well.

add the oil and then the very hot water, 1/4 c at a time to the flour and mix to make a shaggy dough. you may need the full 1/2 c or a little less. once formed, you are aiming for a soft dough which is also firm.

knead the dough for a few minutes without flour and set it aside well covered. it must rest for at least one hour.

don't skip this step or you'll have problems rolling it out as the gluten needs to fully relax. at this point, make the filling.

boil the potatoes in their jackets and let cool until you can safely handle them. they should still be very warm. peel them and then mash well. they should have a bit of texture. use floury potatoes and not waxy ones. place them in a medium bowl.

mash the feta and add it to the potatoes. if you're using ricotta, strain it if watery and then add it to potatoes. add the parmesan or romano and spices and mix will.

using a tablespoon, measure out 22 or 23 portions. set this aside.

now take the dough out of bowl and cut 23 or 23 portions of dough about the size of a very large marble [like a big rounded tablespoon]. the dough will feel oily — this is good. it will sometimes have whitish pock marks on it. that's fine (i think it's a reaction with the starch in the flour).

working with one or two pieces of dough at a time (keep the other ones covered so they don't dry out), flatten them to a round with your fingers.

take a good rolling pin — some people even use a strong walled drinking glass, and roll out the dough to a thin circle about 2.5 or 3 inches. you do not use flour here as the oil will prevent it from sticking.

fill a small dish with water. put half the filling in the middle and take your finger and shmear water all along half the bottom edge like you are making a happy face. wipe it back and forth several times to work up the starch so the edges will stick better. it will turn whitish.

fold the top half over and press down well for the first sealing.

now take a fork and press down really well to seal for the second time.

set these aside as you make them. don't forget to cover them.

if you want to make fancy edges, i hope you have time and patience :) we always made them this way but it's a lot of work. {note that you need a good 3/8 to 1/2 inch to work with so don't overstuff the burekas if you're trying this or they'll most likely open up when they bake; mine was a bit short here in the picture. and don't be discouraged as it takes practice!}.

here's how: make the first seal.

now, make the first fold over the top right edge.

then right over it, fold again and continue all the way around.

you need a thin edge to get this to work properly and adept fingers. good luck, if you try them this way.

fancy, eh? (lol)
preheat oven to 350F.

once they have all been formed, make your egg wash and get a pastry brush.

at this point, you can prick them with a fork 3 times before the egg wash. i do it after but it can be tricky as the egg makes the dough a bit sticky. either way is fine. do not skip this step as the steam inside needs to escape or the burekitas will open up.

egg wash all the pastries and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.


bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

they can be served warm or at room temperature. keep in the fridge.