A Passover Treat — Candied Matzah


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finished matza

When most people think of Passover they think of matzah. This elusive cracker appears only once a year, and that’s the way most people like it. My family has never been a big fan of matzah, but my grandmother manages to make even this irresistible. This traditional Jewish Moroccan recipe transforms this bland, unleavened bread into a delightful sweet snack or dessert.

While this recipe is traditionally flavored with lemon, it can also be substituted for rose water. To store the candied matzah, seal it in an airtight container and leave at room temperature — although I doubt you will have any left at the end of your Passover Seder.

candied matza ingredients


1 package of matzah, approximately 8-10 pieces
1-2 cups canola oil or vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice


Pour oil into a heavy-bottomed medium pot and set on high — the oil should be about two inches deep ifrying matzan your pot. Meanwhile, unwrap the matzah and break into 2 inch by 2 inch squares. Additionally, prepare a bowl lined with paper towels to collect the fried matzah.

Once the oil is ready (test this by dropping in a small piece of matzah and seeing if the oil bubbles vigorously), reduce heat to medium and carefully drop in matzah. Do this in batches of 3 or 4 pieces so that the matzah fries fully. After about 10 seconds or until matzah is very lightly browned (see picture below), remove from oil with a slotted spoon and set in paper towel lined bowl.

matza after fryingWhen all of your matzah has been lightly fried, prepare your sugar syrup mixture. Set a clean, medium-small pot on medium high heat and add the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Mix the ingredients constantly for about 7 minutes until slightly thickened. The syrup should not turn brown, but should loose about 1/4 of its volume.

In batches of 5 to 6 pieces, lightly drop your fried matzah into the cooking syrup and let the syrup coat the matzah for about 30 seconds before removing. At this point, the matzah should develop a more golden shade. If the syrup browns or your matzah comematza cooking in syrups out very sticky after being cooked, lower the heat or add more sugar water to dilute the syrup.

Working in batches, soak the rest of the matzah in syrup. Finally, pour any leftover syrup over the finished matzah. Let the matzah cool slightly and then enjoy!

finished matza 2


A Healthy Spanish Tomato Sauce — Salsa De Tomate


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This sauce, or “salsa” as it is called in Spanish, is a staple in my grandma’s Spanish Moroccan cooking. It is a somewhat sweet, super concentrated tomato sauce that adds a flavorful punch as the base for dishes.

The most common way to eat this healthy sauce in my house is to spread some cold sauce on a slice of bread and enjoy the instant tomato party in your mouth! But this sauce can also be used as the base for cooking other dishes. For breakfast, this can be used as a base for Israeli shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce). It can also be added to a pasta like a regular tomato sauce, or — if you want to do it like my family — throw some in a pot with lots of olive oil and garlic and slow cook a fillet of salmon or some turkey meat-balls.

Traditionally, this is made with red bell peppers (not poblano) so that the sauce is sweeter and completely red. I added poblanos for a bit of a twist. Also, if you’d like to make this recipe faster, you can substitute two cans of diced tomatoes instead of the fresh ones.

Ingredients: makes 1 to 2 cups

10-12 roma tomatoes (make sure they are not very hard, softer is better here)
2 poblano peppers or sweet red bell peppers
boiling water
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

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Wash tomatoes and cut a small (about 1 inch) X in the ends with a sharp pairing knife. Then place tomatoes in a large bowl of boiling water so that the tomatoes are covered, and let sit for about 20 minutes or until the skin starts to come off.

After the 20 minutes have passed, carefully remove the tomatoes from the hot water and slowly peel off the skins (starting from the Xs). If the skin does not easily come off, soak for more time in the hot water. Once tomatoes are peeled, cut them crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Discard this wet, seedy part — you want only the ‘meat’ of the tomato. Cut your tomatoes into quarters and pulse them in the food processor until they are a chunky sauce (if you don’t have a food processor you can just dice them instead). Dice your peppers separately.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat and saute peppers in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 5 minutes or until peppers are soft. Lower the heat to medium-low and add another tablespoon olive oil as well as the diced tomatoes. Stirring occasionally, simmer your tomato and pepper mixture for about 30 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated.

Mince your garlic and stir it into the sauce as well as the sugar, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and refrigerate until ready to use.

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A Final Meal in Israel — Moroccan Pumpkin Couscous


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So after a few false starts in which my flight was cancelled and/or delayed, it looks like this is my final day in Israel for a while. I will be returning back to sunny California, but never fear, dear reader, I will continue posting about Israeli food from there, so stay tuned!

About the couscous: this is one of the traditional recipes my family uses. We have two versions of pumpkin couscous, the sweet one, and the savory one. The sweet one can be a bit of a surprise for first time eaters as it is really (deliciously) sweet. The first time my Dad ate it with my Mother’s family he asked if dessert was being served before dinner.

So let’s start out small with the savory version at the moment and then I will make another post for the sweet version. This is a great, healthy meal we often eat for lunch on Shabbat as a lighter alternative to Orisa. If you don’t like couscous, you can also serve just the pumpkin stew part of the dish or add noodles and more water to make it a soup.


Ingredients: makes about 6 servings

2 cups couscous (I used whole wheat, but you can also use regular)
1 whole white onion
2-3 zucchinis
2-3 carrots, peeled
1 pound (1/2 kilo) pumpkin
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 can chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3-4 cups water


Roughly chop onions, carrots and zucchinis. Cut pumpkin into large 1 inch cubes. Once your vegetables are prepared, set a large pot on medium heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add onions, zucchinis and carrots until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin, turmeric, and enough water to cover all the vegetables. Allow to simmer on medium heat, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are soft or about 30 minutes. Once your stew is done, add the can of chickpeas and salt to taste.

To prepare the couscous, combine the dried couscous and 2.5 cups hot water from your finished stew in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, cover the bowl, and let stand for about 5 minutes or until the couscous soaks all of the liquid.

Serve by spooning some of the vegetables from the stew over the couscous (there should not be a lot of liquid left in the stew at this point), and eat together. Enjoy!


A Light Summer Lunch — Aunt Nina’s Lentil Salad


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I have recently been able to spend more time with my Dad’s sister Nina, and and discovered this amazing salad she makes! It is very simple, healthy, and delicious so I thought I would give it a try and then share it with all of you.

Lentils are a staple of middle-eastern cooking and are a great source of protein and iron. This type of lentil may be a little tricky to find — make sure not to confuse them with black gram. From my experience, true black lentils can be found in health food stores.

Lentil salad ingredients final

Ingredients: makes about 4 servings

1 cup dry, small black lentils
1 lemon, juiced
1 medium red onion
1 tablespoon cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper


Give your lentils a quick wash under running water and then pour into a medium pot. Add water until the lentils are covered and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside to cool.

ImageWhile lentils are cooking and cooling, finely dice the red onion and add it to a bowl with the juice of one lemon. Allow the onions to soak in the juice for about 20 minutes.

Once the onion is done soaking, add the lentils to the onions (without draining the lemon juice) and gently mix in cumin, olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also add more lemon juice, to taste.

The salad can then be served warm or cooled further in the refrigerator.


Baking with the Family — Israeli Rolled Cookies


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ImageOn a sunny Saturday my cousin Inbal and I made some cookies at her house! Inbal is really great at all things hand-made. She excels at anything from painting nail-art to stitching crochet to making meringues.  Check out her beautiful Pintrest feed here.

The cookies we made together are very typical to Israel and can be found in bakeries and supermarkets throughout the country. They have a nice crunchy-soft texture, are easy to personalize, and go very well with coffee or tea.

ImageIngredients for Dough: makes about 40 cookies

2 1/2 cups (360 gr) self-rising flour*
200 gr. (1 cup) softened butter
1 box (200 mL or 3/4 cup) sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If you do not have self-rising flour, use all-purpose instead and add 1 teaspoon baking powder for each cup flour.


Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix until combined. For those of you that do not have a food processor (like me): using a fork, mix together all ingredients in a bowl until fully combined.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

About the filling: I have included here a recipe for chocolate filling, but you are by no means limited to this option only. Examples of other possible fillings are: nutella, peanut butter, dulce de leche, jam/jelly, or whatever other spreadable thing you feel like rolling up in dough.


To the right is an example of an interesting spread found in Israel, and — most likely — in the rest of Europe. I have not looked for it in the States, but I will let you know if I find it there. It is a spread based on a “Lotus” cookie which tastes deliciously cinnamon-y and caramel-y. I highly recommend it.ImageIngredients for Chocolate Filling

3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons sugar
3-4 tablespoons hot water
50 gr. (1/4 cup) margarine or butter
50 gr. (1/2 a bar) chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat on low while stirring constantly until butter is melted and all ingredients are combined.

Set aside and allow cool completely.


To Prepare the Cookies:

Set your oven to 200 C (375 F). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 4 equal parts. Lightly flour a clean surface and, working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out until about 1/4 inch thick. Do not roll dough out thinner as it will not be able to hold filling when rolled! Spread onto the dough the filling(s) of your choice and then gently roll into a log. Bake in the oven about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

ImageOn the right is an example of what your dough should look like before baking. On the left is an example of what it should NOT look like. If it looks like this weird melted blob, you know that your dough was either rolled out too thin, or your filling was too hot (remember when I told you to cool it completely?), or both. Do not despair, dear baker, if it does look like this. You will have an ugly cookie, but it will still taste delicious.

Once your cookie log is out of the oven, allow it to cool for a few minutes before cutting it into 1 inch thick slices. Now make yourself a nice cup of nana (mint) tea and eat some cookies.


In Honor of Olim from Argentina — Beef Empanadas


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ImageYou must be asking, dear reader, “Why Argentinian food in a blog about food in Israel?” And my answer is, “Because I live with an Argentinian Oleh Chadash (Congrats Professional Eater!).”  But OK, I understand that this might not be sufficient to explain the general connection between Argentina and Israel.

The way I see it, Israel is to a certain extent a nation of immigrants. Israel’s stated purpose is to serve as a country that all Jews may live in, no matter their nationality. Thus, it strongly encourages new immigrants from the Jewish diaspora. Because of this, ‘Israeli food’ is actually a combination of many different cuisines and includes anything from traditional Ashkenazi Kugel, to Ethiopian Injera. It’s not all just pitas and hummus, you guys.

Since its birth as a state in 1948 about 67,000 Argentinians* have immigrated to Israel. If you meet a Spanish speaker on the streets of Tel Aviv, probably 9 times out of 10, he/she will be Argentinian. So lets eat some empanadas!

*For more information about the nationalities of immigrants to Israel. See the interesting chart here.

ImageThe original recipes are here (dough) and here (filling).
A Note on Dough: If you do not want to make the dough from scratch, you can buy it in America in the frozen section labeled as empanada dough/disks. In Israel, I believe that frozen “batzek parich” (בצק פריך) is a suitable substitute.

Ingredients for Dough: makes 8-10 empanadas

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
100 gr. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar


Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. If using your fingers, make sure to use only the tips and not the palm of your hand, as this will prevent the butter from melting excessively.

Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)


Dough after kneading and ready for refrigeration.

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

ImageIngredients for Filling:

2 hard-boiled large eggs, cut crosswise into 10 thin slices
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
375 gr. ground beef chuck (about 3/4 of a frozen package)
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped olives
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons juice, and chopped
salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

A Note on Baking vs. Frying: For me, baking is a healthier, easier option than frying, but it results in a less crisp empanada. If you want to fry the empanadas, add 4 cups of vegetable oil to your ingredients list and fry them at 360° F until golden.


Set oven to 200° C (425° F).

Cook onion in olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until yellow. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Add raisins, olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes with reserved juice, then cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist, about 5 minutes. Spread on a plate and refrigerate to cool completely.


Filling mixture before liquid is reduced.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into 5 inch circles using a cookie cutter, bowl, or glass. Continue gathering the excess dough, rolling it out, and cutting in circles until you have 8-10 prepared circles. During this process, try to use flour sparingly as too much will change the texture of the dough. While you are cutting out more circles, you may lay prepared circles on plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use them. At this stage, you may also freeze the dough between layers of plastic wrap to use at another time.


Empanada dough circles

Once you are done preparing your dough, lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a dampened work surface (to help keep plastic in place), then roll out an empanada disk on plastic wrap to measure about 6 inches. Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture on disk and top with 2 slices of egg. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp with a fork. Make more empanadas in the same manner.


Empanada folded over and crimped

Place the prepared empanadas on a baking sheet covered in non-stick baking paper and brush tops with reserved egg.  Bake about 10 minutes in oven until lightly browned.

Now pat yourself on the back for all of that hard work, and enjoy!


A Sephardi Saturday Tradition — Orisa


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rice Orisa made by my grandma

On my mother’s side (happy Mother’s Day mom!) Orisa is a central part of our weekends together as a Sephardi Jewish, Israeli, Moroccan family. What is Orisa you ask? In Ashkenazi Jewish culture, this type of food is called Chunt, or Cholent and in general, Israelis call it Hamin (חמין). It is a dish prepared on Friday before the Sabbath and then kept warm in an oven, hotplate, or crock-pot the whole night until lunch-time on Saturday. Each Jewish culture and family has their own version of this slow-cook dish and I get to have all of them! Ashkenazim (I am 1/4 Ashkenazi) have Chunt, which is made primarily with beans and red meat; and Iraqis (I am 1/4 Iraqi) have Tebit, which is made with rice and chicken. Moroccans have 2 variations I am familiar with: Orisa, made with rice or barley and red meat, and Adafina (or Dafina), a stew/soup made with garbanzo beans and red meat.

To learn more about Hamin visit the Wikipedia page about it!

ImageIngredients: Serves about 4-5

1 medium/large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, whole
2-3 medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and halved
4 hard boiled eggs, shells on
1/2 kilo Ossobuco cut veal or other cut of beef with some fat
1 1/2 cups wheat or rice
2 1/2 cups water (2 cups water if using rice)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
olive oil


fried onions, garlic, and paprika


Coat the bottom of a medium/large pot with olive oil and set on medium heat. Fry onion and garlic until yellow. Add the beef and water and boil, covered, until meat is lightly browned.

If water has reduced below what it was before, add some more to raise it to its former level. Once water is hot again, add barley, sweet potatoes, and eggs (it is OK if eggs are not completely covered with water). Cook covered, on low heat until no water remains and wheat is soft.


Orisa before cooking

Once the Orisa is cooked, cover the pot and put into an oven (or onto a hot-plate) on low heat (about 100° C) until lunch on the next day. If desired, it is also possible to eat this immediately. Peel eggs to serve and have a Shabbat Shalom!


An Easy Crowd Pleaser — Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream


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This recipe is an oldie-but-goody of mine. I’ve made it a few times already and I keep getting requests for more, so when my Professional Eater’s co-workers demand baked goods, this is a super easy, low-effort way to please. Since my PE’s office was just moved to a new location and these were for the first day at the new office, I decided to make these cupcakes a little more exciting than usual and splurged on these great little cups I found in the Shuk for 18 shekels. These can also be made in regular sized tins and as mini cupcakes/muffins (if you can manage to find a mini tin in Israel for a reasonable price — not easy).*

These cupcakes come out pretty dense and the batter is not overly sweet, so they can of course serve as every-day muffins. In this instance, I decided “leshadreg otam” (to upgrade them) and added a simple chocolate cream frosting. WARNING: this is NOT buttercream! This is a simple, typical-to-Israel substitute which is milk and cream based as opposed to butter based; it is a somewhat healthier alternative to buttercream. This type of cream is commonly used here as filling for pastries, layer cakes, or — most often — for “Ugat Biskvitim” or Biscuit ‘Cake’. I promise to get to the recipe for “Ugat Biskvitim” another time.

* A note about muffin liners in Israel: the selection of muffin liners can be very confusing here as they come in various number sizes and are not labeled as ‘regular,’ ‘mini,’ or ‘large.’ I encountered this problem when I bought the wrong sized liners for a ‘regular’ sized muffin pan because the box looked like the liners would be the right size. Don’t let the size of the box fool you!  For ‘regular’ sized cupcakes use Size 4 muffin liners and for ‘mini’ sized use Size 2 muffin liners. Once I figure out which liners work for ‘large’ cupcakes I will let you know.


Ingredients (makes about 18-20 regular sized cupcakes)

2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
100 gr (1/2 cup) butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 200° C (400° F). Line a muffin tin with liners and lightly spray with oil.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In another, smaller bowl stir together milk, eggs, butter and vanilla until blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add wet mixture. Stir together until combined (no electric or hand mixer is necessary, this can be done by hand). Fold in the chocolate chips.


Once the batter looks like this, spoon it into the prepared muffin cups until they are about 2/3 full.


If you are using paper cups such as these, spray them with oil and set them on sheet tray before filling.


Bake for 15-20 minutes (7-10 minutes for minis) until tops are lightly browned and let cool.


Ingredients for Chocolate Cream Frosting (frosts about 30 cupcakes)

one box of instant pudding mix in the flavor of your choice
one cup of sweet whipping cream
one cup milk


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric or hand mixer for about 3 minutes until thick.

Frost cupcakes with a piping bag, or, if you want to go low-tech, just use a butter knife.