Help Me Please: Review my book on Amazon and Goodreads

Dear Readers.
I’m more than happy to continue offering free content, wonderful recipes, lighthearted essays and, lets face it, fair to middling photography, all in a spirit of good fun. Right now it’s time to give back. That’s right, you dear follower–I hate the lingo, it sounds so Orwellian, can help me the big blogger, fearless leader.
My book is floundering. That is how it goes, bobbing up and down in the big world and nearly drowning. It needs TLC, attention, so get a copy and write a review.  Jewish Soul Food. Carol Ungar on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes and Nobel, unreviewed, sad , neglected but you can change all of that now.

Thanks so much and be blessed.

Perfect Roast Chicken

With Shabbos followed by Shavuot, I wanted an easy  main course for Friday night so I went to my old standby–whole  roast chicken, whole. There’s a certain elegance to roasting the whole bird, . It can be carved and it makes a statement–it looks formal, Shabbosdig.

And it is delicious. Whole roast chicken perfectly done is fabulous. Like a perfect black dress, it doesn’t need much, a bit of kosher salt, pepper, paprika and garlic and you’re good to go.

But unless you’ve got an at home rotisserie,  roasting whole  chicken can be tricky. The problem s technique–how high a heat to use and for how long. If you pump up the heat and cook quickly, your bird may have juicy flavorful breast but bloody thighs  and hind quarters (ugh) . If you cook for too long, well the chicken will be done but the breast will be dry and tasteless. Ugh.

Recently,  I stumbled on what may be the perfect compromise. A medium high oven 375 fahrenheit for an hour, possible an hour and ten minutes to make sure the chicken is done. Preheat–always preheat your oven and tie the legs together–that helps keep everything together so that it stays juice.

Bake for a half hour at 375 first breast side down basting periodically. Then flip over–this is a tricky process so  work slowly and carefully., Then bake another half hour–ovens are idiosyncratic. If the chicken seems underdone, baste and give it another 10 to 15 minutes.. If the bird seems too pale  grill for 3 minutes–that’s the equivalent of a tanning salon–otherwise you’ll have burned bird. .

Oh and spicing. You’ve got lots of choices  Any barbeque sauce you like –brush on for the last 10 minutes of baking, or simply squeeze a whole lemon, stud a few garlic cloves in the cavity and add salt and pepper and za’ater if you can get your hands on some. It gives a wonderful Middle Eastern flavor.  Good Shabbos. Happy Shavuos. Enjoy

My Book: Order it: Lots of Copies

Dear friends,

I’m proud to announce the publication of my book Jewish Soul Food–Traditional Fare and What it Means. I used my real name, Carol Ungar. You can order it on or from Barnes and Nobles or through the pubisher UPNE (University Press of New England). If you’ve been reading this blog regularly a lot of it will seem familiar–the book is an outgrowth of the blog but it’s organized according to holidays, and it’s got wonderful illustrations and photographs.

It’s a great book to own, a basic text on Jewish food and what it means. A perfect gift for engagements, weddings, whatever you like.
If anyone wants to review it on Amazon, that would be WONDERFUL.

Be blessed and have a happy Shavuot.

Vinegar (Fake Sourdough) Rolls

The idea of adding vinegar to a recipe for rolls sounds,to put it mildly, unappealing but this recipe which has been floating around my building, migrating from my young Yemenite downstairs neighbor to my much older Ashkenazi next door neighbor is a winner. The open crumb rolls are light and airy, without even a hint of sourness and the nigella seed coating adds color and a note of sophistication.
That is the beauty of living in Israel– sharing. Back when I was growing up in Manhattan ties between the neighbors were formal and often close to non existent. Often the neighbors weren’t even around; they were out, working or shopping or museum hopping or simply or “away–” many of them owned vacation digs.
It never ceases to amaze me that that the people whose homes seem lifted from the pages of shelter magazines are so often away from them And, another strange fact, the people with the most gorgeous kitchens are often the one’s who don’t cook. At my old West Side apartment building, the elevator men spent their days ferrying a steady stream of pizza and Chinese food deliveries and then removing the remains.
Here in Israel, kitchens tend to be simple—most of us manage without hubs, built in ceramic cooktops and warming drawers but almost everyone cooks, which brings us back to these rolls.
Their flavor haunted me. I had to get the recipe, but when I approached the Yemenite neighbor, something went wrong in our communications. Could it be that my Hebrew is less fluent than I like to think it is and the results were underdone and tough, but I refused to give up. So I revised the instructions and relied on my own instincts and here it is.IMG_0308IMG_0308
Here are the ingredients
3 cups of tepid water
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons of sugar (you can add more for sweeter roles)
7 cups of flour, add slowly
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon salt
And here’s the surprise–one tablespoon of vinegar–no these rolls do not taste sour!!!!
Mix together and knead into a soft supple slightly stick dough.
Cover with oil (up to 1/4 cup)
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or cover with a kitchen towel. leave in a warm place to rise until doubled
Punch down, Form into rolls.
Brush with egg yolk (1 large yolk is enough for the amount of dough) and sprinkle nigella seeds on top (you can use sesame or combine the two)
Let the rolls rise for 1/2 hour
Preheat over
Bake at 200 C for half hour.
Freezes well
Makes 20 -24 depending on the size of the rolls.

For Passover or Not –Take your pick: Mexican or Morrocan Gefilte Fish

If you’ve been reading my blog devotedly, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of “potchke” cookery, that is dishes are unnecessarily complicated. In this spirit, I’d like to introduce Mexican or Morrocan Gefilte fish. The two disparate nationalities aren’t indications of identity confusion but simply variations on the same dish which is itself a variation on good old fashioned gefilte fish.
Gefilte fish is literally stuffed fish because in the old days, our potchke loving mothers and grandmothers stuffed the hand chopped fish back into the hollowed out carp. Today gefilte fish generally comes in frozen rolls. All you need to do is to boil up water, add carrots, onions and spices and voila, classic gefilte fish.
But say that stuff doesn’t do it for you– cold, spongy, and white equals ugh so here’s something else to do with gefilte fish rolls adapted from Matthew Goodman’s wonderful cookbook “Jewish Food.–A World at Table.”
This recipe is based on Mexican Gefilte Fish which Goodman learned from a lovely sounding Mexican Jewess called Raquelita. Raquelita must have had some time on her hands plus a crew of servants because Goodman reports that she made the gefilte fish herself. For harried cooks, I offer a shortcut–thaw out a frozen gefilte fish roll instead The nationalities refer to spicing options. The results? Well, see for yourself but this was my second straight Friday night of serving this dish and no left-overs. Good to the last drop
Mexican Moroccan Gefilte Fish
1 loaf of frozen gefilte fish, Ungars or A and B. Thaw in the fridge until soft.
Add enough matzo meal or bread crumbs or flour to make balls.(about 1/3 of a cup)
Heat up vegetable oil for deep frying (about one inch deep in your pan) . Wet your hands with cold water and form the fish matzo meal combination into balls. Turn and fry until golden brown all around. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels
Remove the oil from the frying pan, leaving only a thin film—then you’ll have fewer dishes to clean.
Now slice one to four garlic cloves and one red pepper . You can also add a hot pepper too. Saute until soft.
Then add one cup of tomato paste and two cups of water (add a bit more if it’s too thick). Add a handful of chopped parsley and/or cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.For the Morrocan version add a teaspoon each of cumin and paprika and a half teaspoon turmeric.
Let the sauce cook for 10 minutes.
Then add the fried fish balls and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Serves 8. I think you can freeze this although I havent tried.
Note:Ashkenazim don’t use turmeric and cumin on Passover.

Apricot Prune Hamentaschen

Pune Apricot Hamentaschen

Purne Apricot Hamentaschen

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of poppy seeds. Oh, I like them as a topping, that is sprinkled over a challah or a Kaiser roll but poppy-seed fillings don’t do it for me. My favorite hamentasch filling is lekvar, either prune or apricot. Until I read Matthew Goldman’s remarkable cookbook, “Jewish Food, the World at Table,” I thought that you had to choose one or make two kinds of hamentasch fillings.
But Goodman offers another option-combine all three fillings into one and his recipe includes all three. I’ve adapted, deleting the poppy seeds to make a delicious homemade lekvar with both apricots and prunes together which I used inside of Goodman’s dough. And it’s wonderful. Light, not too sweet and amazingly–free of the two Purim scourges, sugar and margarine.
To his eternal credit, Goodman acknowledges that his recipes are culled and cribbed from others and for this one, he gives credit to Selma Cherkas of Worcester, Mass. Thank you Selma
Dough–from Matthew Goodman via Selma Cherkas
2 1/2 cups flour–I used white
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup honey
1 T lemon juice (in a pinch you can use water)
1 tsp vanilla
Mix together by hand or machine into a soft dough, adding additional flour if it’s too sticky. Cover in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least one hour. Meanwhile make the filling
This is my original
1/2 container of sunsweet pitted prunes
6 dried apricots
Water to cover
Simmer on low flame until soft, Then blend with immersion blender
To make hamentaschen, roll out the dough as thin as you can. Then using a round cookie cutter or cup cut into circles. Put 1/2 tsp of the filling in the center and fold up on three sides to form a triangle.
Preheat oven to 350 or 180 C
Bake until brown 12-15 minutes depending on the strength of your oven.

Tu BiShvat Fruit Kebabs

Back when my kids were younger I’d buy a large haul of fruit and nuts and my husband would conduct a lavish Tu BiShvat Seder, dishing out 15 different types of fruits in ritual order . This year however, my nest has emptied . With only one child around and even that child busy with friends and thank G-d, with Talmud study, I couldnt see going through the whole ritual, in the way we had in years past, but I didn’t want to skip over this holiday when the sap begins to rise inside the trunks and the new growth that will burst forward in the spring begins.
So I bought the requisite fruits,dried and fresh in small amounts and then I was blessed with an idea– . Skewers. Why not thread the fifteen fruits on skewers? Skewers are a great Israeli favorite used for anything and everything from marshmallows to , meats and vegetable. During my kids preschool years, I saw Tu BiShvat fruit skewers but I never made them until now. Skewers allow you to get away with eating the fruit in small amounts–you can thread tiny pieces together, thereby avoiding the unfortunate digestive complications sometimes associated with an overdose of fruit. Here’s what my skewers look like Happy Tu BiShvat

Humous Hiddush

In the world of Talmudic study which my son’s blessedly inhabit a hiddush is a novelae, (how is that for a fancy word) or, very simply, a new way of blending ideas. Last night, in my own tiredness I stumbled upon a culinary hiddush–using pickle juice to flavor my humous. Yes, pickle juice, that salty, garlicky, murky greenish, gray liquid otherwise known as brine. I dribbled some into the processor and the humous turned almost velvety smooth, though never quite fully dissolve as commercial humous, but fresher tasting and very richly flavored.
I’m not the first person to use pickle juice in cooking. Though I’ve never tried it, I’ve been told that Russians commonly add it to vegetable soups, and right here in Jerusalem, falafel stores combine it with techina, with delicous results and now I’ve added it to humous and I’m so pleased with the results that I’m sharing them with you.
1 and 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (boil your own. It’s easy enough and you can freeze ahead. Canned just doesnt taste the same)
1/2 cup of raw techina
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
pinch of black pepper
1/3 cup of pickle juice (or more to taste)
Combine in food processor.
Eat right away or refrigerate. Dont free.
Makes about 3 cups.

Easy and Delicious Roasted Red Peppers

If you’ve been following this blog, you might notice a subtext–it’s all about overcoming challenges which means trying recipes I never thought I could manage. This week’s is roasted peppers, a dish I had written off. How did one even make them? And peeling off the pepper skins? It just sounded fiddly, complicated time consuming and given the fact that peppers are so yummy when eaten raw, purposeless.
Hungarians have a longstanding love affair with raw red peppers sliced pepper with a sprinkling of salt and perhaps a sliced tomato. That was my mother’s favorite easy salad when I was a kid.
Then I got an advance copy of “The Covenant Kitchen.” Written by Covenant wine founders Jeff and Jodie Morgan, who have made it their life’s mission to create the best kosher wine in 2000 years, the book offers a collection of trendy recipes each of which is paired with a matching wine which freaks me out a bit.
There’s a very fine line from oenophilia, which can seem cool and sophisticated to alcoholism which is anything but. But back to peppers, the cookbook has a very simple pepper roasting strategy which I quickly adopted and adapted.
The whole thing is a snap to make. You wash the peppers, bake them on high for a half hour until they start to char, cool and peel; the skins just slip off. Then marinate them in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and eat.
Roasted peppers are great on their own and they are wonderful along with chicken, meat, fish and salad. They also look pretty. On Friday, I added a bunch to some leftover tabouli. Then I choppped in some feta and had a wonderful restaurant style lunch.
So here it is adapted from the Covenant Kitchen
6 red peppers–chose firm and beautiful ones. Wash them, not need to slice or remove seeds. Just lay them on a baking tray and bake on high (220C or 400 F) for about a half hour or until the peppers skins begin to pucker and form black spots–that’s when you know they are peelable.
Cool, then peel off skins. Marinate in olive oil (the Morgans use a half cup but I’d say you could get by with a third or even a quarter) Add 2 to 3 minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the peppers marinate at room temperature for an hour or two. Then move to a closed container in the fridge. Enjoy. IMG_4416

Orange Lemonade from my tree!!!!

One of the really lovely things about having a garden is watching my fruit trees grow from bud to flower to fruit. While it sounds almost hackneyed to confess this, I get excited and even awe inspired when ripe fruit finally dangles down among the leaves. Ask anybody who has done it–there is nothing like picking fruit from your very own tree.
Here in Israel winter time means that the lemons are ready. After patiently watching my own tree go from “lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flowers so sweet,” to quote the old Harry Belafonte song,this week it was time to pick “the fruit of the poor lemon,” which sings Harry, is “impossible to eat.” But Belafonte forgot the lemon’s best friends– sugar and oranges. Orange lemonade is so easy to make that it could hardly be called a recipe but it’s wonderful, tart, sweet, mild, refreshing and oh so bright. Of course it’s full of vitamin C and kids love it It’s also the perfect pick me up for breakfast or after fasting.
Tomorrow is the 10th of Tevet, the anniversary of the day the Roman’s breached the walls of Jerusalem and Jews throughout the world remember this disaster which was a prelude to the Temple’s destruction, by abstaining from food and liquid. Fasting literally takes you out of your life–it is quite amazing to realize just how ragged one can feel after one has missed a meal, or two or three. How vulnerable we humans are, but that is the point, for us to leave our egos and realize that we live on G-ds mercy.
Starting around 5 am and ending 12 hours later, the 10th of Tevet is considered to be the “easiest” of fasts. Certainly it’s easier that Yom Kippur or Tisha B’Av which go on for 25 hours, but it isn’t easy and as if the case with all fasts, deciding what to eat once the fast is over is a challenge. A weary post fast stomach isn’t up for meat or fowl or even cheese. What fasters want is something sweet, a pick me up to replenish the stores of energy that the fast emptied dry. Orange lemonade does this amazingly well and it’s a natural constipation cure (fasting is inimical to bowel movement) , far tastier and easier on the insides than prune juice. Two or three cups will get the system into gear again.
Just one warning–citrus juices strip tooth enamel so drink sparingly or use a straw
2 lemons and 2 oranges squeezed out for juice. The best ones come from your own trees.
1 and 1/4 cups of sugar (or to taste)
8 cups water
Combine everything into large pitcher and refrigerate. Delicious IMG_4272