This is a Thai-Style salad that I have adapted from the amazing Thai Vegetarian Cooking (1991) by Vatharin Shumichitr. I can’t claim that it is truly Thai; I did not follow the recipe exactly, both because of the ingredients that I had on hand, and our preferences. It was still delicious!
True story: During my time on the Visa line at the Embassy of London in Grosvenor Square – when dinosaurs walked the earth – I encountered my share of celebrities, including Mr. Vatharin Chimichitr. He needed an American Visa for his upcoming (non-vegetarian) US cookbook tour. Of course I approved his visa, and also informed him – with apparent seriousness – that the next time he wanted an American Visa he should publish a Vegetarian Cookbook. That was in 1989. Much to my surprise, within two years he published this amazing vegetarian cookbook. – it must already have been in the works. And it is just wonderful.
While we lived in Washington DC Green Papaya Salad was readily available in our local Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. Here in Israel it has been harder to find. So this week when our local organic farm Bein Hatlamim – translating literally to “Between the Furrows” – offered papayas and promised to pick out one of the most green for me, I jumped at the chance to try to make Papaya Salad at home. ( I have written before about this amazing farm here. )
1 Shallot, sliced
1 block of Tofu (app. 233 grams which is approximately 1/2 pound)
3 – 4 Tbs Oil for sautéing the Tofu
1/2 Under-ripe Papaya (app. 435 grams or is nearly a pound)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Chopped fresh chilis or Chili Sauce (to taste)
3Tbs fresh lemon juice
3Tbs Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs chopped toasted peanuts
1 Red Pepper (Sweet) seeded, sliced
Several large green outer lettuce leaves (Romaine works really well), trimmed and washed
Cut the tofu into rectangular slices suitable for topping your Papaya Salad (we like 1″ x 2″ slices.)
Sautee the tofu and chopped shallot over medium heat until the tofu slices are golden brown on each side.
While the tofu is browning, peel and grate the Papaya, and then place the grated papaya in a measuring cup or bowl. (Mine was green outside; after I peeled it I saw it was orange inside. The main thing is that it should be under-ripe.)
Stir together the marinade: garlic, chilis to taste, lemon juice, Tamari (or Soy Sauce or Braggs Aminos – whatever you prefer), and sugar.
Add the marinade to the grated papaya.
Assemble your Papaya Salad: If you have a decorative serving dish you have been saving for something special, this is the time to use it! Line the serving dish with the outer lettuce leaves, layering the grated papaya in its marinade on top of the lettuce. Place the sautéed tofu and shallots on top of the papaya. Garnish with the (sweet) red pepper slices and sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top.
Substituting Quinoa flakes (available from organic / health food stores) for rolled oats makes for a delightful granola with no more work and great taste. Not exactly a miracle, but pretty exciting in my house!
We miss Granola during Passover when easy breakfasts without eggs, cheese or matzot are elusive. There are of course other Passover Granola recipes; I was looking for a way to make granola on the cooktop the way that I make it throughput the year without adding oil, and with little added sugar/sweeteners. I absolutely did not want to make granola with matzah farfel and was looking for something with a similar shape and crunch of rolled oats – a tall order I know.
And I am not the world’s greatest Quinoa fan, however I read about Quinoa Flakes and thought that was worth a try. Smaller than rolled oats, Quinoa Flakes have have a similar shape and a great crunchy taste. So yesterday evening I gave it a go, and this morning we enjoyed our Granola with Quinoa Flakes for breakfast.
Dear Reader, it worked! It is crunchy and delicious – no tails, no added fats and lower in sugar than recipes cooked inside the oven. For Passover I have omitted sesame and flax seeds and added additional nuts to mix and match based on your Kitnyot preferences. Some people who happen to live in my house think that adding raisins (or any other fruit) is a travesty, so dried fruit remains optional.
1/4 Cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 Cup broken cashew pieces, walnuts, almonds and/or other raw nuts
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 Toasted Quinoa Flakes (I found these in a box at our local Anise Store)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 Cup shredded coconut (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T brown sugar
1/3 Cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
This recipe is easiest to prepare in a large pan with relatively high sides. The ingredients have a tendency to scatter while being stirred, and a high-sided frying pan, wok or a wide sauté pan is ideal for keeping them in the pan.
1. Over low heat, stir together the cashew pieces, and sunflower seeds. Stir for five to ten minutes, until the oats and cashew begin to brown. If in doubt, taste a sunflower seed. It should taste almost done.
2. Next, add the remaining nuts, and stir together with the toasted Quinoa Flakes. Stir for another five to ten minutes, and stir in the cinnamon.
3. Add the shredded coconut and stir for two to three minutes. before adding in the salt.
4. Turn off the heat and add the brown sugar. Mix well to evenly distribute them among the other Ingredients.
4. Remove from heat and allow to cool before adding raisins or other dried fruit (if desired). Store in an airtight container to maintain freshness. Enjoy!
This recipe started out as a way to solve the problem of how to make caramel without butter, ie to make parve or vegan caramel for Vegan Chocolate Matzah Bark. It ended up tasting too good to be just a means to an end.
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup date syrup (Silan)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (can substitute brown sugar)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
To make the caramel mix the almond butter, date syrup(Silan), Coconut Sugar, and Water and bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly.
Continue to cook until it reaches the desired consistency (10-15 minutes) and then stir in salt and vanilla. Remove from heat.
Almost all of my recipes are variations on a theme and this is true especially for my Passover recipes. As our needs and preferences evolve, so too do our recipes and this is no exception. This variation is both vegan and a bit healthier at the margin – swapping out the butter for almond butter and cutting the sugar in half with the addition of Date Syrup (Silan). Still a little goes a long way. This is essentially candy for dessert; not meant to be eaten in large quantities.
There are many versions of Passover (Matzah) Chocolate Bark – most of them dairy – and you may be familiar with one called by another name. Shakespeare wrote that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Whatever you call yours, it should taste as sweet!
For the Vegan Caramel you will need the following:
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup date syrup (Silan)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (can substitute brown sugar)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
Additional ingredients are:
12 oz semisweet / bittersweet chocolate
Optional: 1.5 cups chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts or shredded coconut
To make the caramel mix the almond butter, date syrup(Silan), Coconut Sugar, and Water and bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until it reaches the desired consistency (10-15 minutes) and then stir in salt and vanilla. Remove from heat.
Cover 2-3 cookie sheets with baking paper or aluminum foil, shiny side down. Lay the Matzot on the cookie sheets, side by side without overlapping.
Spread the caramel over the Mazot.
Melt the chocolate chips and spread over the Caramel sauce.
Sprinkle chopped nuts or coconut shreds on the chocolate (optional)
Place in freezer until firm, approximately 1 hour.
This is our annual Seder dessert, based on Passover Matzo-Layer Cake, from Josephine Levy Bacon’s Jewish Cooking from Around the World (1986).
Sometime back there was a flurry of excitement over revelation by the Royal Baker of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite chocolate cake, a refrigerator cake known as Chocolate Biscuit Cake. I was as interested as the next person in learning about this vaunted chocolate cake and made it at home for my family. Only later, I realised that the recipe is very similar to our own familiar Seder Chocolate Cake, which I am sharing here. Who knew?
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz bakers chocolate
2 T cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coffee (cooled) (may substitute water)
1/2 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup Halva, crumbled or cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Seder Wine (sweet)
2 Tablespoons potato starch
2 Tablespoons water
6 Square Matzot
Extra (1 ounce) halva for decoration
Optional: fresh berries
1. Stir together over low heat the sugar, chocolate, cocoa, cinnamon, coffee, and continue stirring until it comes to a boil.
2. Add vegan butter, halva and wine and stir until it again comes to a boil, then remove the pot from the burner.
3. Mix potato starch and water, and stir into the pot.
4. Return the pot to the burner over low heat, stirring approximately 8 – 10 minutes until it thickens and remove the pot from the burner and allow to cool.
5. To assemble the cake, place the first Matzah on the cake platter and spread an even layer of the chocolate mixture over the Matzah, and repeat in turn for all 6 Matzot, ending with a layer of chocolate.
6. Decorate the cake with remaining halva.
7. Chill opportunity several hours or overnight before serving.
8. Optional: In addition to the halva, it is nice to decorate the cake with fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries before serving.
A Pesach Seder alternative for the gefilte-hesitant.
No tangerines were harmed in the making of this dish. As the estimable cookbook author Mr. Copeland Marks (z”l) notes in his landmark tome Sephardic Cooking (copyright 1992, 1994), “The inhabitants of Tangier are known as Tangerines, an amusing but accurate name” (p. 464). Accordingly in our house this Pesach adaptation of Albondigas de Pescada (p. 469) is known as Tangerine Fishballs. It makes an excellent (and easy) Seder alternative to the ubiquitous gefilte-fish starter (appetizer).
For the fishballs:
12 oz (340 grams) boneless mild white fish. This year I am using denis – turbot, carp, or tilapia should also be fine, whatever works out best for you. I have a wonderful fish monger who really exceeded my expectations this morning. He first showed me the very fresh fish, before whisking it away to clean; within a few minutes he returned the prepared, chopped fish, neatly packaged for me to take home.
To make the fishballs
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1T matzah meal
1/8 tsp hot paprika
This year working with the fish chopped by my fishmonger was much easier and i did not have to use any oil. Also this dish is more attractive with the fishballs slightly smaller rather than on the larger side. Appearance is a big part of how food tastes and it is worth taking a few more minutes to make your fishballs neat and petite.
Blend fish gently with other ingredients until smooth
Coat spoon (or hands)with oil to make it easily form 1” balls (yield: approximately 30– 32 fishballs;
To make the Sauce
3 Tablespoons oil (I use 2 Ts sunflower oil and one T EVO)
1 shallot, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, cored and deseeded
1/2 inch peeled and sliced fresh turmeric or 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Heat the oil and sauté the shallot with the turmeric and tomatoes until the shallot is transparent and the tomato is softened.
Add water / vegetable broth and simmer for 5-10 minutes over medium low heat.
Remove turmeric slices and blend the sauce until smooth (you can skip this step if you prefer a less smooth sauce).
Add the fish balls and cook, covered for 15 minutes over medium low heat.
“Somebody once said that Washington was a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency.”
John F. Kennedy
After nearly 30 years as a Washingtonian I left DC in October 2018 with very mixed feelings about the nations capital. More than 3 years on – and from a distance of some 6000 miles – I am writing this to acknowledge and accept the bad things that happened and in doing so to try to reclaim happier memories of our past life in Washington DC.
Although neither my husband nor I had joined the US Foreign Service to sit behind a desk in the uninspiring gray structure known as Main-State, after our son’s ASD (Autism) diagnosis we stayed state-side and settled into life in DC. We were fortunate to find a semi-attached townhouse in a leafy neighborhood, a child-friendly corner of Cleveland Park with our nursery school/synagogue, library, community pool, shops and restaurants all within a radius of a few blocks. I cherish memories of family and friends in the house and garden and the scent of flowers that greeted passersby and guests alike as they approached the house.
Washingtonians are very busy working at their very important jobs and living their very important lives. As long as my husband and I fit that mold – relatively speaking – life in DC was ok.
Within 2 years I had left State Department for a prominent trade association in search of both more resources and flexibility. We laughed when others called us a ‘power couple.’ Still it was disconcerting when some of these same friends disappeared after I subsequently left organized employment to better meet the needs of both of our kids. Washington DC can be a cold and indifferent place and we felt the chill when I no longer had what others considered to be an important job.
That was a sign of things to come.
In 2011 my husband had to take a mandatory Tour of Duty in Kabul, Afghanistan, and so for 360 days I was a single mother of two teens – one with ASD but both with special needs during this challenging time for our family. Our immediate neighbors were wonderful, and a handful of longtime friends reached out. However the silence from our wider circle was deafening.
In the rarified atmosphere of Cleveland Park, DC, serving in Kabul, Afghanistan was something that happened to other people. We had been very active members at our neighborhood synagogue, and it was hurtful to be left alone on countless Friday nights (Erev Shabbat) when my kids most missed their Dad. This seismic event in our lives had made us invisible in our own community.
Literally the one time that someone from our shul called me it was to ask for money, specifically a $500.00 contribution for an event intended to make the Minyan warmer and more inclusive. And the person who made the call had not even thought to invite me in for a cup of coffee the entire year my husband was in Kabul. There was an irony there that I failed to see at the time. (No dear reader, I did not write the check.)
Over time we found our long-time shul generally unwelcoming as our son grew older and sought continued opportunities for participation commensurate with his abilities. We ended up leaving our long-time synagogue and found more accepting communities farther afield. But the worst was yet to come.
To celebrate our son’s graduation from high school on the honor roll, we had a lovely Oneg Shabbat (Open House) where he led the Friday night prayer service followed by a buffet dinner. The number of people who wanted to celebrate Aaron’s achievement – and who insisted on contributing home-made salads, main courses and desserts – made the event that much more special. The house and garden were full of love and laughter.
Then reality set in. Our planning for his so-called transitional years proved grossly inadequate, as it became apparent that there was nothing to take the place of the supports we had relied on during his high school years. This is a national tragedy for tens of thousands of young men and women annually who graduate or age out of educational programs with no bridge to adult life.
If you have been following my blog you may recall that my family, like so many others with special needs children, struggled mightily to find meaningful opportunities for Aaron in young adulthood. Over time the walls began to close in. Of course as Aaron’s world narrowed, so did mine. And when he became essentially home bound, so did I.
A few wonderful, kind friends and neighbors stuck with us, continued to invite us out to places and events with Aaron in mind, or just dropped by to keep us company – many days that was the most that we could manage. We also found an amazing rabbi who really ‘got’ Aaron and so we had a reason to get up in the morning to help make the minyan at the 6:30 am prayer service.
In this manner we cobbled together a schedule for Aaron that brought a minimum of spiritual engagement, physical exercise and social activity with Aaron’s friends – many of whom were in similarly leaky boats – but it was far from where we needed to be, with no hope in sight. Even the direct support of the Washington DC bureaucracy – we were blessed with exceptionally positive relationships with both our DC Social Worker and her supervisor – could not change the reality that there was no future for Aaron in DC.
And there were other traumatic family events of the period that I won’t revisit here. My point is, if you felt claustrophobic during COVID-19 lock-downs imagine how it would feel if that was all you had, all the time, with nothing to look forward to, adding in the necessity of drugging your son to help him get through the reality of his daily life and his very real feelings of being in his words ‘left behind.’ This was my reality, and of course Aaron’s most of all.
Watching the returns of the 2016 election I suspected it would not get better. So that night as Hilary Clinton lost the presidential race I opened our Israel immigration file and began a lengthy and complex process to leave DC culminating in our departure on October 10, 2018.
Our decision has given Aaron the opportunity for a fuller, more meaningful life and this in turn has released me and my husband (in early retirement) from our Sisyphean existence in DC.
I am hoping that with enough time our good experiences here in Israel may balance out the pain of our last years in DC, and that some day I will be able to contemplate going back for a visit.
We have arrived at our destination. Just short of three years after we left Washington DC, we completed purchase of our permanent ‘second-hand’ home here in Zichron Yaakov.
Fun fact: while in the US it is common to buy an existing home in a desirable location, here in Israel many people buy real estate ‘on paper’ – that is to say, they work with a builder during the construction process and are actively involved in decisions about the design of the new house, with the idea of building your dream home.
Needless to say there are plusses and minuses to this approach, including frequent delays, cost escalations and other problems associated with new house construction. One friend of ours said that with any new house, you should wait to take occupancy until after the first rainy season!
It is also much more challenging for newcomers to Israel to navigate the process of new home construction, on top of everything else we had to learn about buying a house outside the US. In this case this led us to where we are now as the happy owners of a 12 year old house, built by the family that sold it to us.
While we have a lot of work ahead to make this house our home, we have by now unpacked (most of) the boxes and are enjoying both the house and the knowledge that we are not looking forward to another move anytime soon – as far as we are aware.
Given our cumulative moving experience – 6 moves in the last 3+ years, probably a few dozen more both within the US and overseas including back and forth from London, Tel Aviv, Manila, and Kabul (this last just my husband – he left the family at home for his tour of duty in Afghanistan), I am sharing a few key points about what had made the experience of moving more or less successful:
1. Focus on the Kitchen:
The kitchen is always my top priority when packing/unpacking – in my family it is the room that is the most important to get up and running as soon as possible.
I like to try to pack the kitchen ahead of time to the greatest extent possible. If you can start moving the kitchen – apart from big items – the night before, that will give you a head start on the day.
2. Empower your fellow travelers:
Each member of your household should be deputized to pack their own bag/trunk with whatever they will need for the first 1 – 2 days. That way you won’t have to search for things that people need right away and each person can take responsibility for packing an overnight bag, toiletries, bedding, hand towel and bath towel, etc.
Even when we had two children under four we generally had them carry their own small backpacks on international flights to give them the experience of having their own bag with their stuffed animals and a small book, etc. (You have not lived until you have traveled solo with two small people 24 hours in transit between Manila to Detroit, giving thanks for the Mary Poppins room at the Tokyo airport.)
3. Plan ahead to make beds:
My strategy is to pack a separate labeled trunk or duffel bag with bedding and towels. Of course there are other approaches; the point is to organize it ahead of time so that people can make their beds on arrival at your new home without the hassle of rifling through bags or boxes.
4. Try not to be outnumbered:
If possible, the number of movers should be the same or less than the number of people available to help support you on moving day, i.e., man-to-man vs. zone defense. This is important because it is impossible to overestimate the capacity of movers to scramble the contents of your home.
The exception that makes the rule is if you are being moved by careful, caring people. We were extremely fortunate to have wonderful movers here in Israel. As the saying goes, hope for the best and plan for the worst.
4. Pack plants last:
Generally speaking, I like to go back a the end to move plants. If you can wait to do this overnight, that is the best thing so that you can go back the next day when you are less tired and can give the potted plants the attention they need to not get hurt on the way. This goes double for anything you may be pulling out of the ground to replant. Just make sure you water everything the day of the move.
For our move, we had the ‘benefit’ of it being the start of a non-planting year, known as the Shmita year here in Israel. (This is a complicated issue and I am not going to try to explain it here.) Still we had potted plants to bring along that we are now enjoying at our new home.
5. Think about dinner:
One other thing which I also try to do, is to order delivery of food to the new address for the day of the move – I try to draw down our food reserves in the old apartment/house also of course – and then if we have food coming to the new place I know that there will be fresh fruit/vegetables/prepared food for an immediate meal, etc., arriving on the day of the move.
Those are the highest priority points.
If you have the time / resources, its great if you can complete your own inventory, room by room, taking pictures with your phone and noting both where the items are in your old house and where you want them in the new house.
Movers are supposed to provide a written inventory, but that has not always been our experience, to say the least. On the international leg of our move from DC to Jerusalem we had an inventory from the US company that was derided – literally laugh-out-loud bad – by our Israeli movers. (I am shaking my head as I write these words because I never thought the day would come when we would find Israeli movers kinder and gentler than movers in the US.) So it is really best if you can make your own inventory, to the extent possible.
Moving day is inevitable at some point. If you are lucky, you won’t have to repeat the process as often as we have in recent years! At least we ended up spying a beautiful double rainbow from our back balcony.
If you have an upcoming move I hope that the foregoing may be helpful. And if you have recently survived a big move you have my sympathy.
Let me know in the comments what you found most helpful!
So now it is Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of lights and the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 days. Potato latkes cooked in oil are an enduring Hanukkah tradition and I have been making latkes at home for more than 30 years. That’s a lot of latkes!
Here is my fool-proof gluten free (GF) potato pancake recipe. Part of the secret to crispy, light latkes is to turn them twice to ensure that they are golden brown and well cooked on both sides. They then are drained on paper towels and transferred to an oven rack or toaster oven to retain their crispness on the plate. Quantities can be doubled or tripled; and its great to prepare a larger number of latkes ahead of time so that you can enjoy your Hanukkah guests.
4 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
2 eggs beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 T brown rice flour*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T onion, finely chopped
vegetable oil, as needed for frying
* any gf flour can be used, or if gluten is not a concern substitute with matzah meal or all purpose flour.
1. Place grated potatoes in a colander over a bowl to drain excess moisture from the potatoes. Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the potatoes.
2. Mix the potatoes with additional Ingredients.
3. Using a non-stick frying pan, heat at least three tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat to the point that a small amount of batter starts to form little bubbles when it is added to the pan. Then, use your hands to form latkes and place them carefully in the pan; depending on the size of the latkes and the size of the pan, you should be able to get at least four or more pancakes in the frying pan at any given time.
4. After a few minutes, the bottom side should be starting to brown. Turn them to brown the top. Then, turn a second time to insure a uniformly crisp latke. When golden brown on both sides, remove to drain on paper towels before serving.
A cook’s secret for making perfect latkes for Chanukah parties: To make ahead in larger quantities, preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Spray baking racks (found in the oven), with a generous quantity of non-stick spray. Place a long shallow baking pan at the bottom of the oven, and place drained latkes directly onto the baking racks in a single layer so that air will circulate around them to keep them crisp and warm until serving time.
Serving suggestion: You can’t go wrong with homemade applesauce (see following recipe), or in the alternative slices of apples are also nice – and a lot less work.
The following is the recipe for the best applesauce I have ever had, with thanks to Mrs. Minna Recht of Cherry Hill New Jersey for sharing it. Once you try it, you will really see the difference between applesauce from a jar and homemade.
10 apples, grated*
1/4 Cup water
1 Cup of sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1. Place grated apples in a pot with 1/4 C of water, and one C of sugar. Bring to a boil, turn to low heat immediately, and add spices.
2. Simmer for 20 minutes or until brown. Chill before serving.
* For best results use a mixture of 2 – 3 apple varieties.