Sunday, October 26, 2008

counterparts — sweet roskitas (ka'ak)

the following sweet little rounds, roskitas dulses [or just biskotchos] as i know them, are a common sight in many sefardi homes, served at many an occasion or kept in a cookie tin just to have on hand for everyday eating. also known as sweet ka'ak or bracelets (in arabic), they are commonly found in middle eastern countries. they are also the counterpart to their savoury version which is also very popular.

while terribly easy to make, this recipe takes a little planning in terms of timing and you NEED to read through the whole recipe before starting. i also say that because you have to decide which flavouring you want (to see if you have the ingredients on hand!). these roskitas are very commonly made with anise which is a favoured taste by many people.

the dough for these particular cookies is different from standard cookie doughs in that it needs a full (8 to 10 hour) chilling in order to be workable and will seem a little strange at first in that it will feel a little loose compared to a regular dough. no worries, it works perfectly :) just follow the instructions below and you'll have great cookies. also, don't overcrowd them as they expand while they bake.

happy baking!

roskitas dulses (sweet ka'ak)
sweet sesame rings

makes approx 24 cookies


wet —

2 eggs
1/2 c sugar
1 pkg vanilla sugar (2 - 3 tsp)

1/2 c oil (light olive or vegetable)

dry —

2 c flour (AP)
1/8 tsp salt, heaped
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch ("maizena")
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

flavourings —

2 - 3 tsp mazaher (orange flower water) or raki*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract IF you didn't add vanilla sugar

*if using raki, add 1 1/2 - 2 tsp anise (seeds) & omit vanilla

3 - 4 tbsp medium coarsely chopped pistachio nuts (green part only) - optional - this was added if they were made with orange flower water & not anise.

coating —

~ 1/2 c sesame seeds (you can also add 1/4 c coarse crystal sugar)


in one bowl, mix the dry ingredients together and set aside.

in another medium sized bowl, mix the eggs & regular and vanilla sugar together. it is best to do this with a electric beater.

add the oil and beat again for a minute or two. it will take on a consistency of lemon pudding.

now add the flour in two or three portions and mix it until it is like a thick paste.

put it (covered) in the fridge overnight or in the early morning and make the cookies in the evening. you cannot skip this step or speed it up. remember: it won't look like a regular cookie dough you are used to seeing.

the next day or later that evening:

preheat oven to 325 F.

take 1/2 c sesame seeds and put them on a plate.

take 1 level tablespoon of dough and roll it out into a "finger" about 4 inches long. put the ends together (they will fuse when they bake) but make sure they are closed (i.e. sticking together). now dip one side into the sesame seeds and place it on your baking tray. i always use parchment paper.

make sure to leave space in between because they will expand!! the best way to do this is measure out 12 pieces and put the other half of the dough back in the fridge. also, if you oil your hands, it is easier but i never do it. as long as the dough is cold, it works well.

bake the cookies for only 18 to 20 minutes. they should only be very lightly browned. remove them and bake the next batch.

now put the oven to its lowest temperature (~ 150F) and bake them for another 20 minutes.

remove from the oven and let cool completely. they should be "duro" (crisp) - but light and crunchy!! these store well for several weeks in a tightly covered cookie jar or in a ziploc.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

partners in crime

the following "staple" dish was served at home, always usually on a sunday night, to go with bulgur pilav .... and for good reason: they go together excellently. of course, it can be partnered with rice or orzo pilav just as nicely, and alongside a salad, it makes for a nice light meal.

the recipe, written on a very old yellowed card by some relative, was like many (sephardic) recipes — totally unclear about the measurements. much of the time you'd see just the name of the ingredient(s) and it was kind of assumed you knew what to do unless, of course, there was something specific or special about what you were making. over the years, however, this one was deciphered and resulted in the following.

hope you like it — simple, uncomplicated and always good!

berenjena kon kyma (karne)
eggplant with ground beef

serves 3 - 4 people, easily doubled or tripled if wanted


1 medium eggplant
150 g (a little more than 1/4 lb) ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
6 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp (approx) salt
1/8 tsp black pepper (or more) - hot red pepper flakes, too, if you like spicy
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pomegranate syrup*
1 tsp red pepper paste, if wanted
3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

1 "kupa"/turkish tea cup = 1/2 c water

3 tbsp fried pinenuts & extra chopped parsley for garnish, if wanted

*if desperate or you can't get it, substitute 1/2 tsp molasses + 1/2 tsp lemon juice; it's not the same thing but close enough. try to use pomegranate syrup!


prepare the eggplant —

wash and dry your eggplant. then take a sharp paring knife and, beginning from the bottom end to the stem end, remove a 1/2 inch strip of skin. don't cut too deeply. repeat this every inch or so until you have a striped pattern.

cut the eggplant in approximately 1 inch slices (rounds).

place the eggplants in a wide bowl and sprinkle a lot of salt on them, on each side. cover with cool water and let sit for about 45 minutes.

after 45 minutes, rinse under water and squeeze them dry. repeat and place on a plate with paper towel.

fry the eggplant —

heat a [cast iron] fry pan (if you have one, it's the best way) over medium heat for about 5 minutes. add 2 tbsp oil and fry the eggplant on one side until it is browned. don't burn it. turn them over and add another 2 tbsp oil (or brush the oil on top of the eggplant rounds) and fry until the other side is browned.

place these on a plate and set aside to cool.

make the meat layer —

in the same pan, over medium heat, add another 2 tbsp oil and fry the onion until it is almost browned. add the garlic and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes.

add the meat and fry it for about 10 minutes or until it is cooked.

add the diced tomato and fry the mixture for 5 minutes.

add the spices and parsley and cook it for about 1 minute.

remove from the heat and let it cool a bit while you put the dish together.

assembling your layers —

in a pot with a lid that can accommodate ONE LAYER of the cooked eggplant, place the slices side by side.

add the meat layer on top of the eggplant layer and deglaze your pan.

take 1/2 c of water and place it in the fry pan you cooked the meat in. heat it up and stir it to release the flavours of what you just fried. important: if you burned anything, then just add the water straight to the finished layered dish; don't deglaze your pan or the final dish will not taste good.

add the deglazed liquid to the eggplant and meat layers.

cover the pot with its lid and cook the mixture for 30 minutes over medium low heat or until all the liquid has been absorbed. if you have a little liquid, that is okay.

once cooked, the top of it won't look so nice but once you serve it out, it will look fine :)

serve the finished dish with bulgur pilav or rice or orzo pilav. garnish with fried pine nuts and finely chopped parsley, if wanted.


more about bulgur (wheat)

.....forgot to add a link to my last posting.

to see the (comparative) differences in sizes and colours — and types— of bulgur wheat, look here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the other side of rice

unless you have grown up with it as part of the food your family ate, bulgur not "cracked wheat" with which it is often confused is most probably one of those food items you are not too familiar with. these days, however, it is becoming as popular as other commonly consumed grains like rice.

bulgur wheat can be used in a myriad of ways to produce many delicious recipes and has a very long history with those peoples who have originally used it as a staple. it is a healthy grain and is great for vegetarians and vegans as it can be used for innumerable meatless dishes.

before using bulgur wheat it is important to realize that it comes in different degrees of fineness, from coarse to medium to fine. often, they will be marked with only numbers such as "no#1", continuing with 2, 3 & sometimes 4. ideally, each is used in a specific way for the particular recipe you are making. not all supermarkets carry all the different grinds so you may need to make a trip to a store which specializes in selling items like this. note also that there is a dark kind of bulgur [most common] and a golden one. for the following recipe, you will need the coarse grind (brown or golden).

rice-like once cooked, coarse bulgur wheat is almost always exclusively used to make dolma (stuffed vegetables) and pilavs. here, i am using it the way we ate it at home; an excellent side dish and alternative for rice and couscous, bulgur pilav is very popular and goes well with fish and meat. it is really one of my favourite ways to enjoy bulgur wheat.

if you can make rice, you can make this pilav. you'll also make it again and again!

bulgur pilav


1 c coarse grind bulgur (medium is ok but coarse is best)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp margarine + 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sized tomato, chopped OR,
1 tbsp red pepper paste or tomato paste
1 1/2 c stock or water*
salt & pepper as need/wanted

*usually it is a 1:2 ratio of bulgur to water but here you want only 1 1/2 cups so the finished dish will be al dente.


melt the 2 tbsp of margarine in a fry pan or casserole which has a tight fitting lid.

add the chopped onion and fry it over medium heat until it starts to brown. at this point, add the garlic if using.

add the tomato and fry it with the onion (and garlic) for about 5 minutes. stir it every minute or two.

add the stock or water and salt and pepper. if the stock is not salted, or if you are using water, you will need more salt. it is usually around 1/2 tsp salt + 1/8 tsp black pepper. bring this to a boil.

add the 2 tbsp of olive oil and the bulgur wheat and stir. bring it up to a boil again.

turn down the heat to minimum and place the lid on the pan. cook it for about 20/25 minutes as you would for rice.

at the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and check to see all the water has been absorbed. stir the mixture and place the lid back on.

remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. it should be al dente and not mushy.

you can either place the bulgur in molds and press it in firmly, unmolding it on your serving plates or just serve as you would for rice.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

as we begin 5769 .....

Sunday, October 05, 2008

ayva del corte kipur

this is a sweet, uniquely sefardi, that we serve to break the fast for Yom Kippur which is 26 hours lonnnnng — an extended and knee-weakening haul where we eat no food, drink no liquids and spend from morning until just after sunset, in synagogue, atoning for our sins of the past year & praying that we our fates for an auspicious and healthy New Year be sealed in the Book of Life.

it's no secret (or joke!) that you want to rip somebody's head off run home immediately following the ne'ilah service, after hearing the final sounds of the shofar, just to get at that first cup of coffee or tea and maybe a few cookies or piece of cake. oops, did i forget to mention the tylenol to fight that "yom kippur headache"?? LOL.

besides the usual honey cake, there is often a sponge cake of some sort with which the following 'dulsé' is served. made from a simple sugar syrup perfumed by a few spices, its main ingredient is the quince. many things can be made from this special scented fruit which is similar to an apple. the difference is the quince cannot be eaten raw (well, it can, but you certainly won't enjoy it!). this fruit is always cooked in some manner, whether it be to make sweets or put in some kind of soup or stewed dish.

the interesting part of this is that, like apples, quince oxidize (turn brown) VERY quickly. while this is not really desirable with an apple, it is the opposite case here — you DO want the quince to turn brown. this browning of the fruit is only a temporary thing because as they cook, they take on a pinkish colour, something you are hoping will happen. if you put them immediately in the syrup, they tend to remain white.

to make this sweet compote, you need at least 36 hours advance preparation as it has to cook and sit overnight. it is refrigerated the next morning and sits there until you break the fast, when it is usually served out of a crystal bowl with a silver spoon. the recipe is made based on ratios - so, you usually have to figure out how many people are going to be arriving and estimate it's about 1/4 of a quince per person. not everyone will eat everything, so ...... make an educated guess. i say that because quince are expensive — here, they usually cost about $2 each, sometimes more. you don't want to make tons and have no one eat it! in any event, it stores well in the fridge for a good week or two.

ayva (bimbriyo) del corte kipur
poached quince in a light syrup


*quince (estimate 1/4 - 1/3 quince per person -- see method for explanation)
cinnamon & cloves
lemon peel

orange flower water or lemon juice, if wanted

*(ayva = membrillo/bimbriyo/quince); make sure to find fruit which is not blemished and soft. the fruit should feel very hard and hopefully have a perfumed scent to it at room temperature.



first make your syrup:

you need a 2:1 ratio - so, i use per quince: 1/2 c sugar to 1/4 c water.

you also need 1/2 stick cinnamon & 1 clove per quince AND strips of lemon peel from 1/2 a large lemon (peel strips lengthwise).

place the sugar, water and spices (not the lemon peel!) in a pan/pot large enough to accomodate the quince.

bring the mixture to a boil and lower the heat. cook it until the sugar dissolves and it is no longer foamy.

set this aside and proceed with the fruit. if you like, you can prepare the fruit and while it is sitting for the hour, make the syrup. it works either way....

prepare the fruit:

carefully wash your quince, removing any of the white fluff still on it and then dry the fruit. place it on a sturdy cutting board. quince is very hard and you have to be careful when cutting it so make sure you have a sharp knife.

after deciding how many quince you need, peel them with a peeler (paring them with a knife takes away too much peel). take a sharp knife and remove the stem and blossom ends.

cut the quince, carefully, in half.

core the quince and keep the cores (but remove the seeds - if there is any mouldy stuff near the seeds, clean it out). you'll add them to the rest of the fruit when they cook.

cut the quince into slices, fairly thick ones, approx. 1/2 inch thick. place them in a bowl and let them sit for 1 hour to dry and oxidize. they will turn brownish.

after one hour, place the oxidized quince and cores in the syrup and bring it to a boil.

now you need to add water (most probably) to have the liquid come up to the top of the quince. don't add too much water, however. add it bit by bit and judge if it is enough.

bring this to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium-low and cover the pot with a lid and let this cook for 12 to 15 minutes.

two hours later, bring to a boil again - turning down heat - and cook for about 5 minutes, not longer. now turn off the heat and let this sit, covered for 8 hours. *if you started this late afternoon, let it sit overnight covered and finish it in the (early) morning*.

after 8 hours, add the lemon peel.

cook the quince again for the final time for another 6 to 8 minutes (or even up to another 10 to 12 minutes if needed). the fruit should be tender, not mushy. this depends on the heat of your stove - you are poaching the fruit, not boiling it down to a jam!! the best way to tell is to pierce the fruit with and knife; if it goes through nicely, it's done. taste it also for texture. don't forget to remove the cores you added.

taste the syrup. it should be fairly thin. if you like you can add 2 tsp of orange flower water -- or if it is too sweet for you, add lemon juice buy only 1 tsp at a time. if adding lemon juice, you may want to bring it to a boil once last time but DON'T recook it.

let the finished product cool off the heat (uncovered). place it in a glass bowl in the fridge well covered until serving time.