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Friday, July 27, 2007

In A Pickle

Last time I posted a bread recipe. Here are recipes for pickles that are nearly always served with meals in Middle Eastern restaurants.

I'm really fond of the pink turnip pickles. The first time we ate at Bethlehem on Clark Street in Chicago we were served a small dish of these pickles, and some small, hard, very sour green olives. They were my favorite part of the meal - almost.

After eating these pickles in countless restaurants all over Chicago I finally asked the server what they were called. He looked at me for a moment as though I were insane, then said, tersely, "turnips".

I probably turned pinker than the pickles and somehow managed to let him know I wanted the name of the pickles in his language. His opinion of me did not seem to improve as he shrugged and muttered what sounded like "lef".

I have since seen recipes for these pickles called "torshi lift", torshi left" and "kabees el lift" so I guess that's what he was telling me. I'll stick with turnips.

Turnip Pickles

1 lb white turnips quartered if small,
or cut in 1 inch chunks if large
1 small beet scrubbed and sliced
1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cups vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Place the turnips and the beet into a jar large enough to hold them - one that has a close fitting lid.

In a non-reactive pot (glass, enamel or stainless steel) Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt and heat, stirring, until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool, then pour over the turnips in the jar. Cover the jar tightly.

I store these in the refrigerator. They are ready to eat in a week.

Note: The beet is there to color the turnips, but you can eat the slices if you wish.

Quick Middle Eastern Style Pickles

8 cups of vegetables, cut in chunks
I use a mix of cabbage (outer leaves removed), cauliflower, carrot, celery, onion, red, green or yellow peppers, green beans, radishes, peeled garlic cloves, etc.
red chili pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
2 cups vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Place the vegetables, tightly packed, in large jars. I like to mix them up so you get a mix of pickles when you dip into the finished pickles.

Add a chili pepper, some chili pepper flakes or some cayenne pepper to each jar, to taste, for spicier pickles.

In a non-reactive pot (glass, enamel or stainless steel) heat the liquid with the salt until salt is dissolved. Cool, then pour over the vegetables in the jar. The vegetables should be completely covered.

Cover jars loosely until completely cool, then cover tightly and keep in the fridge (the original recipe says they can stay on the counter a few days but I put them right in the fridge). Pickles are ready to eat in a few days and will improve after a week or more. Keeps refrigerated one month.

An easy to make salad, often served with felafel and schwarma, is Jerusalem or Lebanese salad (depending on the restaurant). Basically, it's diced cucumber and tomato dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and tahini. Sometimes it contains onions, never lettuce. This is good to eat with your pilaf or to stuff into your felafel sandwich.

And for a refreshing beverage to go along with your Middle Eastern meal, make some mint tea.

Fill your tea pot with the usual amount of tea. Any black tea will do. Add a handful of fresh mint leaves or a spoonful or two of dried mint. (If you don't have mint growing in your yard, find a friend or neighbor who does). Add boiling water and steep about five minutes. Serve in glasses or cups with lemon and lots of sugar. Sugar cubes or lumps are especially fun.

Don't get pickled!

Quotable Quotes; In the category Look Ma! No Hands!

“I don't want a pickle, just want to ride on my motorsickle.” Arlo Guthrie

Friday, July 20, 2007


I received some requests from family members for recipes so I will be posting some occasionally.

This recipe comes from a family cookbook that someone brought into Bill's shop to be copied for family members. It is titled "Arabian Recipes" and appears to have been "home published" and illustrated with hand drawn pictures, mainly of certain implements (like a felafel mold) and techniques (like rolling up pastries).

Here is a recipe for bread that is similar to that served in some Middle Eastern restaurants. We have had bread like this at Kabul House in Skokie and at Cafe Denir on Lincoln Avenue near the Athanaeum Theatre. It is similar to a foccacia in that it is dimpled all over in a regular pattern, and is soft and puffy. The bread we were served had been sprinkled with black sesame seeds before baking. It is a delicious bread for dipping in yogurt or sauces, for scooping up things like baba ganoosh, or for topping with tidbits from your plate, sort of an open face sandwich.

I imagine it would be good to use in a fattoush salad when it is stale. When it is fresh and warm, it is delightful.

Middle Eastern Bread

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups bread flour
(you can substitute up to
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
in place of the same amount
of bread flour if you wish)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
1 beaten egg yolk for glaze
nigella, black sesame or
poppy seeds optional (see note)

Follow the instructions for your bread machine and use the dough setting. Or, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and a hefty pinch of the flour. Let stand in a warm place until foamy and yeasty smelling, about 20 minutes.

Add the salt and stir, then the olive oil. Stir in the rest of the flour a little at a time. If you have a Danish Dough Whisk (pictured here) the job may not go any faster but it will be more fun and you will feel like a professional baker.

Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead until smooth, then oil your bowl and put the dough back in, turning to coat with oil. Place a piece of oiled plastic wrap down on the dough or cover with a damp dish towel (not a terry cloth one) and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour or so.

When risen, or when the bread machine beeps, cut the dough into three equal size pieces and roll these into balls, then into 6 inch circles. Cover with the oiled plastic again and let rest 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450º f.

Dimple each dough circle all around with your finger tips until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Press your finger tips all across the circle to form dimpled rows and ridges, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat in the other direction.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with the seeds, place onto an oiled baking sheet and bake 9 - 10 minutes until puffy and golden. Serve at once.

Note: Nigella seeds, also called black onion seeds, are tiny, angular, deep black seeds with a nutty, peppery flavor. They can be found in Middle Eastern and Indian markets.

If you prefer, brush with olive oil instead of egg and omit the seeds.

Fattoush Salad

Prepare your favorite salad of shredded romaine lettuce, tomato, diced cucumber and other greens or vegetables such as radishes, onions, etc. Garbanzo beans are a good addition. Make a vinaigrette of a few tablespoons each lemon juice and vinegar, pinches of salt, pepper, a dab of spicy mustard and some basil or oregano. Whisk in olive oil to taste.

Tear or cut leftover bread from the above recipe (or use pita bread) into small chunks and toast until dry and crispy on a cookie sheet in a 350º f oven. Watch carefully that it doesn't burn, and allow to cool.

Toss the salad with the dressing in a large bowl. Scatter most of the bread bits in and toss again, garnishing with remaining bread bits.

Quotable Quotes; In the category bread or circuses?

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My Oh My Oh Mio!

Let me confess right up front the only reason I'm writing this entry is cuz I have PICTURES TO POST! And that's such a rare occurrence for me, I just had to do it.

We travelled to northern Michigan a few weeks ago. If you ever want to spend an entire day driving a straight line to nowhere get on US 131 just north of Grand Rapids MI and keep going. Or get on US 127 south of Houghton Lake and do the same thing. These are the kinds of highways that cause hypnosis and put you to sleep. especially when it's in the upper 80s and there are no clouds in the sky and you don't have air conditioning. If you have a cat with you, barfing in the back seat, so much the better.

Once there, though, the trip became worthwhile. We checked into our motel and drove over to the public access site on the Au Sable to meet Johnny and Tony and Mary. Sadie was with her, of course. After the guys got out of their waders we headed over to the restaurant that had the Friday Night Fish Fry (read every restaurant in Michigan). Only Bill was hungry enough for seconds. I love it when you ask for "a couple more pieces and a few fries" and they bring you another entire order.

Out motel was not the Ritz. I am told that the motels in the area are frequented mostly by hunters and fisherman, less often by vacationers, like us. I am further told that hunters and fisherman are less inclined to concern themselves with amenities like clean showers and floors. They apparently care more about a fridge where they can keep their perishable bait. And their beer.

Bill and I were vacationers. We would have preferred cleanliness over fridgeliness (although we did have a bottle of capsules for Otis that had to be kept refrigerated). Yes, we brought Otis with us. We were unwilling to leave him kennelled at the vet for four days and could not find anyone able to give him his injections so he came with us (thus the previous reference to a barfing cat in the back seat).

Otis hated the drive to Mio. He did not seem to mind the motel. Being confined to one room, we heard him eating and drinking in the middle of the night, which he did several times. He had his pick of beds to sleep on and had the whole room to himself while we were touring during the day. It seems the only thing he did not like was the chair, which had probably served as a dog lounge to previous tenants of the hunter variety. In this picture, he shows his disdain in the way he knows best. Animals and children can express things we are often unable to say ourselves.

We drove over to Harrisburg where we stopped to walk on the shore of Lake Huron, site of many past camping trips and fond memories. In fact, Harrisville on Lake Huron may be the first place the Brents all camped together as a family, but I'm not sure. There are certainly family movies (Brentwood Productions with the famous Pink Privy logo) featuring a be-diapered Madeline toddling along the shore eating pebbles ("those aren't petoskey stones", dad would always say when we watched the movies). But I'm not sure - I think the family may have camped at Rollway's Resort, wherever that may be, the year before.

Sadie had fun trying to herd the ducks and geese swimming in the lake. We had fun watching her. Like most dogs, Sadie loves water. Unlike many dogs she does not lap up water from a lake or river. Instead, she wades in just until her chest touches the surface of the water, then she squats down until it's up to her chin and she "bites" the water to get a drink. Sadie is an awesome dog.

Mio is the place where the Kirtland Warbler makes his summer home (he winters in the Bahamas). This little bird nests only at the base of a tree called a Jack Pine which, as far as I know, grows only in this area of northern Michigan. The Kritland is sometimes called a Jack Pine Warbler. The pines are scruffy looking trees not unlike the pitiful example Charlie Brown chose for the pageant in the cartoon we all know and love. The pine cones will only burst and go to seed when the trees are extremely old, or under intense heat. Thus the forestry department stages controlled burns to ensure the pines continue to reseed and grow, and the warblers will have a place to nest.

Dad and the boy scouts did a giant exhibit on these warblers at one of the scout expos. Mack Lake in the Huron National Forest became our favorite place to vacation and we returned again and again.

It was fun to go back. We had a good time. I hope we'll do it again.

Quotable Quotes; In the category Damned if you do . . .

Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business.
Dave Barry