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Miriam Kresh

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    Central Israel

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  1. Israel has plants I've never foraged (even the desert has edibles in season) - but there are many I routinely forage every year. Lessee. Winter: mallows, dandelion. Dandelions grow in cold, hilly regions like Jerusalem and the Galilee. When I'm up north I collect roots and leaves for dandelion beer; the green crown for frying in batter - minus the latex-filled stems. Dandelion flowers are too scanty here to collect for wine. We have taraxum syriaco, not the lush taraxacum officinalis of the US/Europe. Citrus still on the trees, at least in Central Israel where I live. Lots of abandoned gardens and empty lots that were part of orchards where oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, pomelos and lemons just drop to the ground. End of winter: more mallows - roots for soup, leaves for filling or in salad, flowers for tea, and fruit for noshing. Lots of nettles. Nettles go into everything - soup, omelets, pasta. Chickweed for salads and to dry as medicine. Chamomile for tea. Wild oatstraw. Pet birds love to eat green and dry oatstraw. I like it too, but as a soothing tea. Springtime, which in this climate lasts about 2 weeks: hawthorn, almond, and rose geranium flowers for steeping in vodka. Arak is better for the geranium flowers. Add sugar syrup and you have the most ethereal liqueur. Hawthorn flower liqueur or wine is excellent for calming down jittery nerves, besides being delicious. Citrus flowers. I like to gather a few handfuls for liqueur, or to flavor milk or rice puddings. 3 orange leaves will lend a delicate orange flavor to malabi, a well-loved Middle Eastern milk pudding. A few fresh citrus leaves in your bath make the water smell lovely. Not that we're encouraged to have tub baths in this dry country - it's the 2-minute shower for most of us. But sometimes I brew up a liter of citrus-leaf tea and just pour it over me last thing before exiting the shower. Then there are the greens that Arabs, Beduin and traditional Druze know about: Jerusalem Sage, akoub thistle, melochia. I buy those in open-air markets. Does that count as foraged? They are wild greens, hand-picked. Young plantain leaves (not the banana)are good pot herbs. I throw some into soup, mostly for the mineral and vitamin boost. Also good for lingering coughs and bronchial tsuris. Young hawthorn leaves are good in salads or just nibbled on as you're tramping around the wadi. Early summer: mulberries. There are 5 mulberry trees in my neighborhood. Good for WINE...oh, divine. Off-dry and fruity, mysterious and dark...people smack their lips over it but can't identify it till you tell them it's mulberry. The local mulberries are sort of chewy; making jam is a little too much work for me. For eating, I like them just raw. Then there are mulberry leaves, which can be stuffed like any dolma. Also a lot of work - I stuff mallow leaves once a year just for the folklore of it, and that's enough. Cyclamen leaves can also be stuffed but they must be pre-cooked to get rid of a mild toxicity. They are a protected plant here and my windowbox doesn't produce enough to bother with - no regrets about not stuffing cyclamen leaves. Another foraging vegetable is young grape leaves. These are quite lemony in taste, but must be cooked (or marinated in brine). Traditional recipes with grape leaves are beef or chicken stews with the chopped leaves and rice (and more water to cook the rice) added to the cooked stew. Green almonds on the trees now. The markets carry big bags of them, but there are plenty to forage in the hilly regions. Summer: the landscape looks dry and uninviting, but if you know where to look, there are still wild edibles around. The biggest one is purslane, which thrives in hot weather. I do like the slightly lemony taste of purslane, and prefer it raw, chopped into salads. Mulberry leaves still on the trees, but big and coarse now - good for drying and using for tea later on. The tea is said to bring down blood sugar. Don't know if it's true, but that's what they say. I dry a few and just crumble a little into my chamomile or other wild tea. Fig leaves are also said to reduce blood sugar, and they're also still on the trees. Fresh fig leaves lend their vanilla/cinnamon flavor to the sugar syrup you make for ice cream - especially fig ice cream. Just remove the leaves before making the ice cream. Late summer: figs. I used to forage for wild figs when I lived in the cooler north. Little, sweet ones. There are big cultivated figs in the markets now, but they're nowhere near as good as the wild ones that appear in late August/September. And wild grapes. You have to live up north to get those black grapes whose vines drape over old stone walls or climb up sturdy old trees. Hawthorn berries. They're tiny and full of seeds, but they make marvelous jelly and wine. Mostly I tincture hawthorns as a heart tonic, but when I'm out there picking them, I eat quite a few too. I also like to dry some for winter tea. Early winter, citrus comes in. As I said, especially where I now live there are plenty of trees gone wild. I lived on a street where there were two wild pomelo trees, with fruit as sweet as sugar. I made wine out of those pomelos. I hear that the abandoned property was sold and all the fruit trees knocked down to make way for an apartment building... There are other, smaller wildlings that I forage for medicine: fumaria, marigold, Shepherd's Purse, cleavers,inula (related to elecampagne)and others I don't remember offhand. Wow, this post got long. It was fun going through the forager's year, though. I'm now a grandmother myself. I'm the one taking the little boys out on foraging expeditions. Kids are great learners, and they love to forage. Their mom, my daughter, was interested as a child but less so now. I hope it sticks to my grandchildren. Young plantain: Stuffed mallows:
  2. I wish I could have participated this time. Chanukah week, with all the visitors and our annual family party, sort of did that in. There is an issue which overshadows my shopping habits: the threat of imminent war, which is always at the back of my mind. I feel obliged to maintain a stocked pantry for emergencies, which the government has advised all Israelis to do (although many don't. The food and water has to be consumed and re-stocked in order to have a viable supply at hand always. Most of them are foods that can be eaten with minimal or no cooking: canned veg, packaged soups, instant couscous, which requires less water than pasta. Some are staples: sugar, salt, flour, dried beans and grains. If a real emergency happens and the electricity goes, the first things we'd eat would be the perishables in the freezer (assuming there's still gas). So I don't keep a great amount of frozen meat or fish around - just what I think we'll eat over the next week. I do buy fresh produce, milk and dairy in small amounts, as needed - it's the way people usually shop here, where at least in the towns, markets are easily accessible even on foot. I'm sure that many readers here keep the same sort of emergency supplies. I remember well my mother's pantry in our Michigan basement, which we had recourse to every winter when we got snowed in. I would love to hear how folks who expect natural emergencies shop. I'm not saying that the week without shopping doesn't apply to Israelis or to me, or to people who stock for emergencies. I took the challenge last time and blogged about it. What I learned from it was that there's a difference between maintaining the emergency supplies and shopping out of habit. I started shopping more consciously: "If I buy those bean sprouts, I'd better cook them *today* because they spoil so soon. Hadn't I better sprout some myself? In which case, buy some fresh lentils and mung beans, forget the packaged sprouts." Of course I'm thinking these things as I'm pushing my shopping cart around, not saying them out loud. I hope. Half of the bottom line was that I spent something under $60 for the week. Not exactly a week without shopping - it was a week of shopping much less. The second half is the habit of conscious shopping, which is still with me, and which came from sticking to the challenge the best I could, given the reality of life here.
  3. This sounds fabulous. Can you get the recipe for halvah from your friend? I'd love to try making it...er, after this challenge.
  4. I think a hunk of halvah, a sharp cleaver and a chopping block will do the trick...having bought the shredded stuff, I see I could do it cheaper myself, that way. Halvah cookies?! Now THAT sounds very good. I just looked into my supply of flour, and see that if I'm to bake challah next Friday, I can't spare any for cookies right now. Makes me feel sort of like a pioneer woman, visiting her cellar and inspecting the apple barrel, eking the fruit out till spring...
  5. With the time difference, I was sleeping while you folks in the US were posting. I was translating literally from the Hebrew...from the package top I see that "shredded halvah" is the proper name. I also see that there's a "d" missing in there. It's used for filling pastries. Lessee if I can remember how to post a photo here.... Maybe I'll fill my Hamentaschen with shredded halvah. Needs something else, though. Chocolate chips? Or chopped dates.
  6. At this time of year I start using up long-stored food in preparation for the Passover cleanup. But I hadn't thought of going a week without shopping, just shopping less. OK, though, I'm up for it. I'll just have to run out for milk and eggs and maybe some lettuce at some point. Tomorrow's lunch: lamb chops, pasta with oyster mushrooms & pine nuts (goniffed the excellent roasted wild mushroom recipe posted by SobaAddict), lettuce, rocket and dried-tomato salad. Now what am I going to do with that box of halvah threads? Miriam
  7. Like others on this thread, I've cooked for my elderly parents in their home. Luckily their kitchen was always well equipped and their knives kept sharp. When I cook in my daughter's house, that's another story. I look at it as a wonderful opportunity to work on the discipline of keeping the mouth closed.
  8. For me, it's preserves and liqueurs. I can't resist overbuying beautiful fruit at the height of its season. As much as my family eats fruit out of hand, eventually I'll find the latest batch of peaches or apples sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to go bad. So I'll set up jam, chutney, or liqueur. I enjoy the work, too. It feels good to preserve seasonal produce, even if I don't have a garden. Problem is, none of us eat much sweet stuff. Thank goodness for holidays when I can give the goodies away to appreciative friends. One exception is apricot liqueur. I keep that all for selfish little Me.
  9. I just found this thread. As a new blogger, it's been valuable, although review and critique are not in my mind right now. Diner Girl's comments seem to have answered Chufi's question most completely. In fact, I have printed them out and kept them against the day I might need to think the issue over. Regarding Presenatrin's question on how one deals with plagiarism: I've had an online article appropriated and presented as an interview with me by an e-magazine I'd never heard of. I wouldn't have known except that once I indulged in the narcissistic pleasure of Googling my own name. I wrote and expressed my displeasure, but never heard back from them - of course. Once something goes online, is there any way to prevent plagiarism? I doubt it. Miriam
  10. I'm currently reading MFK. Fisher's "The Gastronomical Me", and a bit bored with it. Maybe I should have started with another one of her books. But it might get better once her memoir leaves childhood and that crucial awakening of her taste buds upon swallowing her first oyster. I'm also thinking of ordering this interesting-looking book: Jewish-Iraqui Cuisine, by Rivka Goldman. In fact the whole collection of cookbooks at Hippocrene intrigues me and conspires to weigh my credit down even further. Miriam
  11. Miriam Kresh

    Rosh Hashana

    That is just awesome, Scubadoo. I sometimes wish we were Sephardim, especially now that our family is reduced to four people in Israel (everyone else in North America). I see your grandmother, a"hs, started cooking 'way in advance - I was wondering how one woman could deal with all that single-handedly. Actually this encourages me; the only way I could see cooking for 6 meals was to freeze ahead. Now I feel validated. The Baharat recipe looks very good. Here I buy Baharat in the shuk or the supermarket, and put some in meatballs. I like making my own spice mixtures; think I'll try your family's! My gefulte fish came out sloppy. Tasty, but part of it disintegrated into the broth. Well, we'll eat the pretty ones and the other part, I'll have to think about. Tomorrow I spend the day baking challah, honey cake, and cookies. My late Dad used to put a shot of slivovitz in the honey cake. I'm thinking of getting a bottle of the stuff (ack!) and spicing up the cake with it in his honor. That bottle would last years; slivovitz is not my favorite. But it does add a certain zing to the cake. Hm. How would Slivovitz Chocolate Chip cookies go, I wonder. Miriam
  12. Miriam Kresh

    Rosh Hashana

    Well, I knew mulberry leaves are infused as a medicinal tea by the Chinese, but it never occurred to me to eat them. I stuff mallow leaves once or twice over the springtime, but mulberry...interesting. i guess this is the time of year to use mulberry leaves; they are big enough to stuff now, before they go yellow and fall off the trees. So what spice goes into the stuffing? Something like baharat? That is, where is your family from? And your photos are wonderful, Scubadoo. The food prep is fascinating, but I confess- I loved your mom and aunt, may they be healthy! Miriam
  13. Miriam Kresh

    Rosh Hashana

    Well, peoples, what's cooking for Rosh HaShannah? Looking back at my own contribution to this discussion, I was dismayed to realize that the menu I jotted down for this year looks very much like last year's. Why so unimaginative, Miriam? I go around saying that our family party is so small these days, nobody expects a blow-out meal anymore...but I secretly know that it doesn't need to be a blow-out or even very big, to be memorable. So far, this is the plan: go to the shuk and buy enough carp to have a kilo of ground, boneless fish for gefulte fish. I'll be visiting the shuk over and over again to stock up on the fresh veg and staples. Make the fish, freeze it. Bake 6 round challot: 3 whole-wheat, 3 white. Freeze 'em. Bake a honey cake: freeze it. Start assembling ingredients for noodle kugel, potato kugel, matzah balls. Make 'em and freeze 'em. Good thing my mother's freezer is always empty; I couldn't stash all this stuff in mine. And the menu for the 1st night so far: Before anything else, the simanim. A fish head, which my husband actually enjoys eating, apples and honey, carrot tsimmis, steamed leeks in agvolemono sauce, beets as a sweet/sour salad, black-eyed peas, also as salad with plenty of onion and parsley. Pomegranate. Have I forgotten any? (Probably.) chicken soup w/matzah balls chicken baked with onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and apricots noodle kugel, the one whose recipe I gave last year veg: more from the simanim, that is, we just have a taste of each after Kiddush, keeping the main part for serving with the meal. With the challah and the honey cake, that's going to be plenty. I don't even serve gefulte fish at the same meal with soup, because after that nobody has room for the rest. Tea for my Mom and me. Wine, probably the Merlot I made two years ago. Same story this year with the grapes: they'll be ready while I'm in the throes of making Yom Tov. It irks me to see the rest of the guys in the co-op taking this so casually, and then it occurs to me: of ourse they can afford to be relaxed; they're *guys,* and their *wives* are at home cooking! Well, there are advantages...they don't allow me to do any heavy lifting or shlepping. How about the rest of you? Miriam
  14. It seems that vinegar is for texture rather than flavor...and perhaps as a preservative, although I promise not to reveal Badiane's source to her Mom. Thanks, folks. Miriam
  15. Well, yes. It has to do with a rigorous climate with below-freeezing temperatures for much of the year. Our Ashkenazi ancestors lived through long winters when the only vegetables available were the sturdy root veggies and cabbages stashed away in the cellar. We read of the traditional Greek and Italian springtime dishes based on dandelions and wild chicory - but I'll bet those Russian and Polish women ran out at the first sign of sorrel and chickweed greening up and harvested as much as they could too. Those who could afford it had meat or chicken; those who lived by rivers had fish too, but the poor did not see beef except for the holidays, and perhaps not even then. Pickled and salted fish were to be had cheaply, though there were many who couldn't afford that either. It would be common for one shochet (ritual slaughterer) to make the rounds of several far-flung villages, starting his visits in the spring and ending when the winter roads became impassable. Then there would be chicken, or goose, or duck, if the family had the means to raise the more expensive fowl. Every precious scrap of kosher fat was saved and rendered for eating later, or for soapmaking, or for medicine. Like the Inuit, people needed lots of protein and as much fat as they could get. I used to wonder why Jewish visitors from the States demand so much beef - the Israeli way of eating doesn't emphasize all that meat protein. I understand that the "need" for brisket, stews, steak, and the like, is a culinary throwback to the traditions brought over from Europe: lots of meat equals healthy kids. Lots of fat equals warmth. Now I wonder what the greenhouse effect will be having on future worldwide culinary trends. Miriam
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