Spicy braised chickpeas with amaranth grains

January 27, 2015

012115_7578012115_7557

There’s a traditional Moroccan fish recipe that my mother, and the rest of the Moroccan Jews around the world, without exception, make every Friday for Shabat dinner. It’s basically a whole fish (such as branzino or sea bass) cut into pieces, braised with garlic, spicy peppers, cilantro, and oil mixed with paprika. I’ve never met any person who grew up in a Moroccan home that doesn’t get nostalgic about this dish. And they all think that their mom makes it the best. I don’t think my mom makes it the best; I know she does. Sometimes they add carp roe to the dish. As a kid, I loved the tiny eggs more than I liked the flesh of the fish. As any tiny fish roe, like caviar or tobiko (flying fish roe), they have a delicate, smoky flavor and a crunchy texture, even when cooked. Continue Reading…

Quick, fancy herb omelet

January 8, 2015

Herbs“No iPad today.”

“But why not?”

“Because you don’t use your brain anymore.”

“Yes I do.”

“Not enough.”

“Okay, so can I use the computer?”

“No, Daddy said no electronics today.”

“What if I clean my room or take the garbage out, can I use it then?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I told you already.”

“It’s not fair! It’s so boring, there’s nothing to do.”

“I don’t want to hear any complaints. You didn’t want to go to the library or to the beach.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to stay home.”

“So stay home. But I don’t want to hear anything about you being bored.”

“But I am bored.”

“Play outside, make a comic book, write a poem, cook something, just stop complaining, it drives me nuts.”

“Okay, I’ll cook something.”

Goddamn you, electronics! Continue Reading…

Persian style rice bowl with swiss chard, barberries and pistachio

December 10, 2014

051514_2907

Before I say anything about this rice bowl/salad, I want to confess.

Hi, my name is Shelly and I am addicted to TED talks.

It started after I turned forty a few months ago. I didn’t mind turning forty, not at all, but my mind did. It started to feel foggy and confused. It asked a lot of questions and was worried about the future, more than usual.

To deal with the overwhelming thoughts and doubts, every evening I turn on the Roku and watch people talk about their powerful inventions,  journeys, research & discoveries; about the universities and schools that they founded; about the art projects around the world that made a difference; about education revolutions, and more.

After I watch five talks (and sometimes more), I feel high, and extremely motivated. I think to myself, “You can change the world, too!” But then, at night, in bed, I ask myself, “But how? How exactly are you going to change the world?” Then I fall asleep with a burden in my throat.

I think I’ve watched every single talk about education and creativity. They’re my favorite. When I hear a good talk, or if I am impressed by a speaker, I applaud the TV in envy and say things like “Well done, girl!” or “Bless you, mister!”

When I told a friend of mine about my obsession with TED and my desire to be one of those people that make a difference, she said something very sweet and comforting. She said: “Your food makes a difference. Look at me. Since I met you, I eat so much better.” She also reminded me that I do make a difference in the lives of my children and husband. I felt better.

For now, I quit watching them. I decided that I don’t need more motivation. I need to do. (I still hear them sometimes on KCRW when I’m driving.)

By the way, one of my favorites talks is by Geena, a courageous model from the Philippines, whose story is beautiful and inspiring. (I’m not telling you about her story; I don’t want to spoil it for you.) Continue Reading…

MEXICO, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

November 3, 2014

IMG_3532
The first time I visited Playa Del Carmen was fifteen years ago (f&#$ I’m getting old!). After I moved to New York and lived there for six months, I had to leave the country and come back in order to extend my stay (I was on tourist visa). In New York I met an Israeli girl who had just gotten back from a month in Playa. She said it was an inexpensive heaven. She also mentioned that her friend Natalie is still there and that it would be easy to find Natalie because Playa is so small, if I am interested in going.

The next day, I walked into an STA travel agency (remember travel agents?) and booked a roundtrip ticket to Cancun (which is about a one-hour drive from Playa).

Old hotels Playa

The shit-hole and the upgraded bungalow

In my first night in Playa I stayed in a cheap hotel, an ex-brothel – the one that the Israeli girl had stayed in and recommended but neglected to mention that it was a complete shit-hole. The next morning, I left the zero-star Blue Water hotel and looked for something more “fancy”. Back then there was only one four-star hotel in town, which I couldn’t afford, or cheap, extremely basic hotels. The bungalow I found in Zula hotel was ten dollar more than the first shit-hole, but ten times nicer and was actually charming in its own humble way. The bed was like a giant swing, it hung from the ceiling on heavy ropes and was covered in a mosquito net. The only bummer was the shared bathrooms that were inconveniently located outside of the room, but the charm and tranquility of Playa made this a trivial detail. After I moved myself to Zula and had breakfast (don’t remember what I had, probably some tropical fruits), I began to look for Natalie.

Natalie couldn’t be found! Instead, I found Brian, a sweet and handsome American boy, who was at the end of his six-month trek through Central America. Brian jumped at my offer to sleep at my “fancy” bungalow and act as my bodyguard/boyfriend for the next five days. Fifteen years ago, people knew how to rely on their instincts – I didn’t need to Google Brian to know that he was one of the good guys.

Eventually I did bump into Natalie, who had been partying in Tulum, but we didn’t click like I did with sweet Brian. Who needs a Natalie when you have a Brian?!?

iPhone_20130916_0328

Fifteen years later, I came back to Playa with my more handsome (than Brian) husband and sons and my best friend (Gab), who came from Israel with her husband and two sons. We all stayed in a cozy, five-star house in Playacar (PaseoUxamel) that we rented through god-bless-you-Airbnb.

Playa is no longer the small, humble town I remembered, it’s a big, fat city now, still charming, though. It’s definitely more expensive now than it was back then. I felt like my wallet was being milked all the time,  we were constantly accosted by people who wanted to sell us something. Nevertheless, we had amazing time together. Continue Reading…

DATES STUFFED WITH WALNUTS DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE

September 14, 2014

082114_4443082114_4449

Would it be terrible idea to send you dates stuffed with walnuts in your lunchbox?

Beyond terrible! Dates look like cockroaches.

No they don’t! They look like a dried fruit. Wait… but what if they are covered with chocolate?

No, it doesn’t matter, they’re still dates. Dates are embarrassing!  

I can’t argue with that. If my mother had tried to send me one of those Moroccan marzipan-stuffed dates in my lunchbox, instead of the ever-popular choco (Israeli chocolate-milk-in-a-plastic-bag), I would be absolutely mortified.

Did I really think that covering the dates with chocolate would make them look less hostile and more appealing to my kids?!? The only way to make snacks more appealing to store-bought-snack-deprived children would be to commercially package them in some kind of noisy wrapper. They always claim that they are the only kids in school, who don’t have a real snack. A “real snack,” ironically, means “in a crinkly bag,” like potato chips, Doritos, or a yucky, overly-sweet granola bar.  Continue Reading…

VEGGIE FRITTATAS WITH GREEN CABBAGE AND HERB

August 19, 2014

081214_4095

Yes, I am alive, and today, after six hectic months, I can finally say, “alive and well.” I survived the move from our two-bedroom – and only one bathroom! –  townhouse to a three-bedroom – and three bathrooms!!! – townhouse. Two-and-a-half bath, technically. Now, we each have our own bathroom, almost.

I survived middle school madness. If you live in LA, you know exactly what I am talking about. Here, if you don’t live in a zone that has a good middle school, you are basically screwed. Unless you get lucky, like we did. Thanks to the universe, Leo ended up getting accepted to the SAS (School for Advanced Studies) program at our local middle school, which is considered to be good, and he also won two lotteries for two good charter schools. We chose to send him to the smaller and closer charter school.

I also survived the twenty-four-hour flight to Mallorca and back. Every time I fly, I swear I will never fly again. Then three months later I find myself again sitting, uprigh and tightly, in a crappy economy seat, cursing my inability to remember how horrible it is and the ants in my pants. I forget how much anxiety and exhaustion a few moments of air turbulence can cause. I know flying is safe (if you don’t fly over Ukraine.) “Safer than driving,” etc., etc. I get it. But somehow when the plane starts shaking and making scary crashing noises, I can’t get away from my terrifying images. (One of them is that my kids are in the middle of the ocean, trying to survive a pack of hungry sharks. And I can’t help them because I am already dead from the heart attack I suffered two minutes before the crash.) Continue Reading…

CHOCOLATE DISCS WITH HAZELNUTS, ROSE PETALS AND MORE

February 4, 2014

IMG_6416 IMG_6348   The inspiration for these rich and flavorful chocolate palettes (rounds) came from a very chi-chi restaurant cookbook called Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook. I’ve never eaten at the restaurant, but I heard from the friend who gave me this book as a present that Eleven Madison Park is one of the most extraordinary, upscale restaurants in NYC. You can tell that the food is exquisite just by looking at the stunning pictures in the book. Next time I’m in New York, I will have to eat there (and take Alex, too; he adores this book even more than I do.) This cookbook is neither typical nor practical. Quite the opposite: the recipes are fancy, exotic and sophisticated. It’s beautiful and inspiring. I actually find it very useful. I have never actually cooked any actual recipe from this book, “by the book,” but I’ve concocted many dishes influenced by the brilliant food combinations, unique flavors, and professional techniques. For me, it’s enough to read the recipe title and scan the picture of the dish to lead me to create my own, simpler version. You could say that simplifying recipes is my specialty. It’s something that I really enjoy about cooking: taking old-fashioned, traditional dishes, then modernizing and simplifying them. Or the opposite: taking a modern, sophisticated dish, and turning it into an easy-to-make, home-cooked dish. That’s exactly what I did with these fancy chocolate palettes.

Continue Reading…

DAIRY-FREE BREAD PUDDING WITH WILD BERRIES

January 27, 2014

2014-01-25 11.58.46

Leo: Mommy, I feel bad saying that my french toast is delicious.

Me: Why?

Leo: Because I don’t want you to feel bad that you can’t eat it.
 
Me: Thank you, motek (sweetie), but don’t worry, I don’t feel bad at all. I’m extremely happy with my baked french toast. It’s probably better than your french toast.
 
Daddy: It is.
 
While my husband made a classic  french toast for the kids and himself, I baked myself a dairy-free french toast, a.k.a. bread pudding. I just discovered that bread pudding doesn’t need milk or cream to be fluffy and delicious and puddingy – just eggs and some liquid. Continue Reading…

DIY HERBAL TEAS

January 6, 2014
110913_1368
 
Last night, while gazing at my screen and trying to describe my tea rituals, I heard my husband very loudly threatening from downstairs that if I don’t cut Leo’s hair right now, he’ll do it himself. With clippers. Normally I don’t get threatened  easily but this time I was. I immediately stopped doing what I was (or wasn’t) doing. I walked straight to the bathroom and yelled to Leo to come right away before Daddy does something irresponsible.
 
When it comes to Leo’s hair – which, like my father’s,  is thick enough to cover five full heads – there is too much risk in cutting it short. Our Leo, just like his biblical ancestor, Samson, believes his strength is in his hair. Chop his hair and you chop his power. And he isn’t the only one who believes in the power of his hair. His grandmother (my mother-in-law) also believes that males (at any age) with long hair are powerful. She would be devastated – literally – if we cut off more than one inch of Leo’s mane.
 
I like his full, shiny hair. I think it’s charming, but that’s not the reason I neglect to trim it, not even an inch off his bangs, which cover his eyes and force him to tilt his head back in order to see anything. The problem is I just can’t stand being trapped in our 3′ x 3′ bathroom with a wriggly worm that growls at me like a bear. “What’s the point of cutting it? It’ll just grow back!” or “You always say five minutes, and then it takes you an hour!” or “Ugh! This hair! It feels like someone taped a sheep to my face!” Now, it makes me smile, but yesterday I was ready to put him on a plane to Israel to live with my mother or father. Or next time let my husband shave it all off!
 
Now – always – is a good time for a cup of tea. Continue Reading…

PARIS & PASTA

December 23, 2013

Paris-and-Pasta

Long time, no write!

Two days ago I arrived back from a stunning week in Paris – a trip my mother, older sister and I have been dreaming about for years. Aunt Shuli tagged along. For my mother and sister, it was the first time so you can imagine how fun it was just to see their reactions. Well, we had the best time of our life until the sixth day of the trip.

photo (12)

While I gather my thoughts and all the notes I took about my favorite places to eat, I will first share the one “non-magical” moment that almost managed to spoil six euphoric days. Just so I can get out of my system. Perhaps I need to warn you before you visit in Europe.  Continue Reading…