Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Pizza

There's a holiday in Israel that's dedicated to love. On that day, it is said, young ladies in biblical times used to dress in white dresses and go to the meadows, so that young men can chase them in some sort of a courtship game. This holiday is not supposed to happen yet (I think in around 3 weeks) but it is a symbol of summer. The white pizza we had last night reminded me of it.

It filled the house with wonderful scents of oregano and thyme...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another Game

Madcap Cupcake has some nice ideas for games... Here's another one:

1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog (OR do what I and my fellows before me did instead…see end of meme)
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?

I was in Raleigh, NC, finishing the first year of my PhD.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

1) Feed the ants.
2) Pick up ceramics pieces from the studio.
3) Cook something for dinner.
4) Watch a movie.
5) Read "The Hatchback of Notre Dame" (difficult task!)

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1) Pecan-stuffed dates.
2) Watermelon sorbet (or any kind).
3) Ants on a log.
4) Matza with Nutella and raspberry jam.
5) Think Thin bars (if I'm exercising later).

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

1) Pay off family debts (there's a lot of that, unfortunately...)
2) I've always wanted to open a rehabilitation center for drug addicts. It would be in the mountains (because exercising helps release opiates I would take them mountain-climbing) and they would grow their own food and take care of abandoned animals.
3) I could do something similar for general homeless and battered wives.
4) Buy a small yacht and operate it as a tour yacht in the Galapagos - I will also be the guide! It will only accommodate up to 8 tourists at a time.
5) Convince world leaders to try peace and equality for a change (they should listen to me when I'm a billionaire, shouldn't they?)

What are five of your bad habits?

1) I tend to kill plants (not intentionally).
2) I’m a terrible driver.
3) Man I’m stubborn.
4) Inventing silly recipes (like banana quesadilla).
5) Sweet tooth. Big time.

What are five places where you have lived?

1) Dier al-Balah, the Gaza Strip
2) Jerusalem, Israel
3) Rehovot, Israel
4) Raleigh, NC
5) Tempe, AZ

What are five jobs you’ve had?

1) Night shift meal preparer in a 24-hr coffee shop/restaurant
2) Passport inspector
3) Translator (articles for students)
4) Assistant librarian
5) Stable cleaner

Five people I tag:

I'll just do what the madcap cupcake did:- so you are tagged if you want to be and…

1) You ate a cookie today (or at least craved one).
2) Your name starts with D.
3) You love the scent of a freshly opened container of coffee.
4) You think it's hot in Pheonix.
5) You live with one or more pets (or did in the past).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Yesterday Mark and I went looking at a house for rent. The house was nice, but it had a few problems. The biggest of which was its small oven. He mentioned that to the landlady, and she asked: Why? Do you cook?
Yes, he replied.
You're a treasure, said she, most people don't like to cook at all, they just eat out! (Maybe by "most people" she meant herself?)
What do you like to cook?
Breads, mostly, he said.
If that's not a validation, I don't know what is :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hair of Angels

This pasta was made by Mark (from scratch, of course!) on Thursday night, but I forgot to post it on Friday, being busy with work and that kind of silly stuff. So here it is - better late than never?

It's just semolina flour and water, from what I understand. It was my job to cook it, and I'm afraid I overdid it. It was still good. The best thing about fresh homemade pasta is that leftovers are never dry - even if you just warm them up in the microwave (as we did on the weekend), they still taste just as fresh as on the first day!

On a different note, I was thinking of starting a new blog, for all the foods we make that are not breads. I realized that there's a lot of things we make that look really colorful and appetizing, and it seems such a shame they don't get to have their picture taken. Besides, with summer beginning and the AZ heat, baking may not be such a good idea...

So maybe this blog belongs there rather than here. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Related to Baking At All...

That's an interesting game I found in this blog. To see what it's about, you may click here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


It was my turn to bake a birthday cake for the lab: Adrian's belated birthday celebration; so I google-imaged "cake recipe" and found this Czech honey cake that looked extremely intriguing. Everybody on the web praised the cake as if it's something completely surreal and unimaginably delicious. Then I saw a blog post titled "yucky honey cake" describing the baking of the same cake following the exact same recipe. ** Sigh ** After considerable debate I decided I had to try it. "Worst case", I though, "I'd get a store-cake". I didn't have to! I couldn't tell exactly what it would taste like based on the crumbs-dipped-in-cream I tasted, but I could definitely tell that it's not going to be completely yucky.

Making it involved a bit of muscle work: a lot of stirring of dough that got progressively tougher as more flour was added. And then the eggy cream had to be constantly stirred so it won't get all chunky.

The cake had to sit for at least 8 hours, and I didn't know how that sitting would affect it exactly, so I was a bit anxious to see and hear people's reactions to it. Turns out sitting made the cake layers soft and smooth and the flavors all merged. It sliced beautifully, exhibiting nice layers (which are not easily seen in this fuzzy picture).
People liked it! I thought it was pretty good, though a bit too sweet for my taste (and I do have a sweet tooth!).
I wouldn't call it the best cake ever, but it was an interesting thing to try. Now I have to go to Prague and taste the real thing!

Green Pasta, Herbed Pizza and a Pizza Pretzel

Mark finally got his pasta machine. It was a long and frustrating story, which I will make short here, in favor of pictures. He got one at a World Market store back in NC, which was a cheap piece of crap that broke even before you we used it. Then we ordered one online as a wedding gift to ourselves, thinking it was the good kind. But when we opened the box, we found it was the same cheap piece of crap and had to return it. Apparently the vendor didn't know that the wrong one was shipped. Anyway, Mark finally ordered another one online, this time making sure that what we get is the one that's made in Italy and not in China (even though the Chinese were the ones to invent pasta!). And when it got here he anxiously opened the box, afraid of being disappointed again. The machine was lighter than it should be (indicating possible cheaper materials), but it was still made in Italy. He tried it on, and it seems to be working well!

So we had homemade pasta for dinner!

We had some leftover spinach, but no ricotta, so instead of spinach ravioli, we had some green fettuccine.

One is supposed to chop the pasta in a food processor, which we don't have, so the consistency of the pasta is a bit chunky. Mark thought it tasted too eggy, so next time he will try to make it with less eggs.

The day after he made pretzels - his specialty! I decided that I wanted to have a pizza-style pretzel, so I topped it with tomato sauce, basil and cheese:

They're very good as-is, of course!

And last night we had to use some leftover yogurt pizza dough, but we didn't have any spinach, and we didn't have fresh mozzarella cheese, so I suggested a herb pizza with goat cheese:

Mmmm... the thyme and oregano scents that filled the house!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Corn Blues

We got a lot of blue cornmeal, thinking we'd have lots of piki...
Instead, Mark made some blue buttermilk cornbread which turned out just perfect! Soft on the inside - not at all dry, and a bit crusty on the outside, and the yellow corn kernels (for lack of blue ones) add sweetness and juiciness. Great accompaniment to the leftover chili!

Mmm... It looks more blue in real life...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Two Birthday Cakes

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but that didn't stop me from celebrating it today and yesterday :)
I was in Israel during my real birthday, and celebrated someone else's birthday instead (my cousin's son's Bar-Mitzva). Although another cousin of mine, Tally, baked me one of my favorite cakes (sweet bread with lots of chocolate), which was extremely nice of her, it was hardly a birthday celebration. It was a crazy day that started at 5:30 am with the Bar Mitzva party, continued with a trip to the desert and a visit to my cousin's, and ended at 11 pm, after a dinner with my uncles.
So Mark and I decided to celebrate it properly this past weekend, with a nice brunch at the Mandala Tearoom, a visit to the museum, and a cake baked especially for me by Mark.
It was hard to decide what to bake, but I finally decided he should make cinnamon rolls and peanut-butter-and-chocolate rolls. He made them using his regular cinnamon rolls recipe for the dough, but with buttermilk this time, which made the dough very soft and fluffy.


And today, we celebrated my birthday in the lab :)
Dani baked me a luscious mixed berry pie:

Can you see the ant?

It was a very nice birthday gathering, complete with singing candle that refuses to sing, a happy birthday song (which was weird for me not to join in) and presentations of travel pictures made by Kevin (a trip to France) and me.

Now I have no choice but to accept the fact that I'm a year older.

Tricky Piki

About 6 months ago, inspired by a visit to the Heard Museum, we decided to try and make some piki, also known as Native Indian paper bread. Last night we finally realized that decision! We didn't want to eat it just by itself, so we looked for recipes that include any of the "three sisters": Corn, Beans, and Squash (CBS). I finally found one recipe that incorporated all three of them! So we set up for cooking, not realizing how challenging it might be!

Not that the chili was so hard to make - it was actually quite easy. I did omit the garbanzo beans, for authenticity, though.

It's the piki that gave us trouble. That simple paper thin bread, of all things!

First of all, the recipes we found online call for juniper ash. Now where the heck can you find something like that? Fortunately, it can be substituted with baking soda. But what's the exchange rate? One place said 2 tbs per cup of cornmeal but that was way too much. The batter tasted like, well, baking soda, and it created gigantic bubbles in the bread after you pour it onto the hot griddle, resulting in multiple little separated islands of baking-soda-tasting mush.
So we tried again, this time with only 1 tsp per cup. That worked much better.
The amount of water to use was also a matter of trial and error, but I think Mark finally got it right, more or less. Of course, we can't say for sure, since neither of us has ever had it. But at least it resembled a thin paper, albeit a rather holey one.

By itself it doesn't taste like much, but with the chili it was nice. And most importantly, as Mark said, it made us feel "Indian", which was nicely complimentary to our visit to the North Scottsdale branch of the Heard.


Last week we got a new basil plant, of a fairly large size. Being realistic, I know it won't last very long with my methods of cultivation, so we decided to eat as much of it while it's still alive. The first thing we used it for was this yummy fresh mozzarella pizza on yogurt crust.

I didn't care much for the tomatoes - they weren't as sweet as they're supposed to be, will probably be better to use those little sweet cherry tomatoes. But it still was very good - the crust crusty as ever, and the fresh mozzarella, with its pleasant texture but bland flavor, allows for the basil to shine.