yael’s birthday

for my wife’s birthday she wanted to bake something really simple and something really complicated.
the simple one was on the day of her birthday and it was nutella cupcakes, and it is embarrassingly simple, and highly addictive, be careful.
you take a whole jar of nutella, 350 grams. add 90 grams of self raising flour and an egg… and that’s it. yup, that’s it.
bake at 180 degrees c (350F) for 12 minutes, and they are still a little moist on the inside, and that’s where the embarrassing and addictive part come in. share share share with whoever you can, otherwise you’ll find yourself quickly realizing  you just went through a whole jar of nutella in one sitting.

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for the complicated part we had to wait for the weekend, and it was a stormy one, so it made it perfect to stay indoors and kneed our dough… fold it, butter it, fold it again, let it cool, and fold it and butter it some more to end up with freshly baked croissants about 24 hours after our arrival to my parents house.

we took the recipe from reviva and celia, but we couldn’t manage to fold all of the 600 grams of butter they suggested. and it still turned out amazing.
it takes a while to make, has a few simple steps that are physically challenging, like flattening the cold dough to 1cm, and you have to do it gently not to rip the thin layers of dough.

to make the dough, you’ll need

40 g dry yeast
200 ml water
150 g flour
200 g flour
750 g bread flour
25 g salt
80 g sugar
100 gram softened butter
350ml milk

and then 400 more grams of butter for folding the dough.

mix yeast, water and 150 grams of flour until smooth, then add the 200 grams of flour and mix well.

mix the dry ingredients, bread flour, salt and sugar, and add to the dough mixture with the butter and the milk.

wrap and let rest in room temperature for an hour, and then in the fridge for an hour.

and then we fold!

soften the butter and get to work.
flatten the dough to 1cm and shape it as a rectangle. spread the butter on 2/3 of the rectangle and fold to 3. the dry side first.
seal well, so the butter won’t slip out and repeat.
then let cool for a couple hours in the fridge.
take out and do this folding part once again.
let cool overnight.
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flatten to the dough and cut into triangles with a slit in the base.
roll, and let raise on the sheet for a couple hours.

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cover the croissants with egg yolk and stick in the oven for 20 minutes at 170degrees c (330 f)

they’re good savory or sweet. we had them with jam, with chocolate, and also with ham and poached eggs. it works. sorry vegans.
and happy birthday to yael!
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we also made bread and little nut cookies to kill time because there was so much waiting… it’s good to have a plan of what to do while you wait =)

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start your day right

yesterday we went to have lunch at jem’s. a small beer factory in petach tikva. it’s an awesome place! we found out about it over a year ago while looking for a place to get married, the idea of a brewery came up, we contacted these guys and coordinated everything over emails and skype from china. The food is delicious, the beer is even better, and it’s overall a fun place. a friend of mine who couldn’t attend the wedding is visiting in israel now, and we thought it would be a good idea to go there for lunch.
after lunch i said hi to jeremy the owner and master brewer. he said he’s going to start brewing early in the AM and invited me to come along if i like.  i thought it would be a good idea.
I left the house at 3am, jeremy picked me up and off to the factory we went.
we prepared an amber ale, put labels on some 8.8s, started a new batch of 8.8, i learned some new stuff about beer, had a couple of pints of stout and went on to work. not a  bad morning.
can’t wait to do it again.

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Pastrami and Passover; or, The Only Living Goy in Ningbo

Let me get this out of the way. China has an extremely rich and enduring culinary tradition. Chinese food is available in pretty much every corner of the globe, and even the cheap American knock-off version ain’t half bad. The many varieties of cuisine under the ‘Chinese food’ umbrella use pretty much every cooking method and ingredient imaginable. From lavish tables overflowing with a colorful bounty of dishes to 20 cent pork buns so good you’ll want to fly home and slap your mother, it is next to impossible to go unsatisfied. I cannot rave enough about how awesome eating in China is.

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I kicked a small child in the shins after eating these soup dumplings.

That being said, there are some things which are lacking here. Namely, pastrami, the king of the deli meats.

After a trip home for the holidays and a subsequent excursion to New York City on the way back to China, I had eaten enough of the stuff to know that living without it now would be completely unacceptable. I checked everywhere, from the overpriced gourmet market to Taobao, China’s version of Amazon marketplace. Bupkis.The only solution? Stop kvetching and make it ourselves.

As a full-fledged WASPy gentile lacking any real knowledge about how pastrami was made, I needed some guidance on the matter. For that I went to my barbeque and charcuterie bible, or Torah in this case, AmazingRibs.com to an article on the subject. It is a wonderfully-written article, complete with the history of pastrami and loads of anecdotes and is worth a read even if you’re not interested in making your own pastrami.

http://amazingribs.com/recipes/beef/close_to_katzs_home_made_pastrami.html

There are about 20 or so spices involved from start to finish in the making of pastrami. After shopping online for these spices, I now have enough of them to pickle an entire herd. This time, however, we limited ourselves to about half a dozen pounds.

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Pictured: 1/210th of spices I procured from the orient

To make pastrami, you first need to make corned beef. This process starts with mixing a great number of spices together with salt, sugar and water to create a brine. Beef brisket is then soaked in this brine for about a week. When that’s finished, you’ve got corned beef.

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In case you were wondering, this smells like a mixture of wit, sarcasm and guilt.

 We happened to be at this stage a few days before St. Patrick’s day, so we set aside a few pounds of the corned beef to make a traditional corned beef hash brunch on everyone’s favorite day of whiskey and poor decisions.

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Poor decisions such as this hat.

The next step in the process is putting a dry rub on the corned beef and letting it sit for a few days, which I viewed as essentially ‘baconizing®’ the corned beef, baconizing® being both a term I just coined and something I’ve grown quite familiar with. The rub, however, is not quite as simple as the whimsically pure salt and sugar combination used for turning pork belly into bacon. Again there was another round of spices being used here, including mustard powder and paprika. I’d saved the parts of the brisket with the most speck for making the pastrami, as there are very few things in this world that make me quite as verklempt as smoked animal fat.

The next and final step in the process of making the pastrami was smoking it. I’d also gone ahead and skinned and cured some pork belly since we’d be already be smoking.

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Baconized® pork belly

We timed everything so that smoking night would coincide with the night St. Patrick’s Day, because what could possibly go wrong when alcohol and fire combine?

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Responsibility is the name of the game when smoking meats

We used applewood chips and charcoal to smoke the pastrami, which gave both the pastrami and the bacon a really nice flavor that made me just a little homesick, which was fine because between the whiskey and ‘taste tester’ portions we’d cut out for ourselves, I was a little sick in general, so it wasn’t that noticeable.

It’s best to let the pastrami ‘rest’ in the fridge for a few days before serving it. Traditionally, one would steam the whole piece before carving it against the grain to form tender, juicy slices. I also had some luck just slicing it up and frying it like bacon. Though several sandwiches were made for testing purposes in the meantime, the pastrami made its first major appearance at Passover, where Baranga served it alongside several extremely delicious and much healthier items. 

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Don’t mind me, I’ll just sit over here in the corner.” – the pastrami

A little cliche, or perhaps ‘over-jewing’ it (thanks, B)? Maybe. But from an admittedly goyish perspective, Passover seems to be on some secular level about having a nosh with people you care about when you’re far away from home. For that, it was perfect.

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L’chaim, y’all!

all photos by Baranga

ramen after hours

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it’s not a post about a late night ramen session, but we arrived in kyoto a bit late and by the time we started looking for a place for lunch all the places were already closed for their afternoon break. but this old guy on a bike saw that we were looking confused (how else would a bunch of hungry gaijins look?) and he suggested to help, we told him we want to eat and asked him where he thinks we can go, now he’s the confused one, but when i asked him about ramen, his eyes lit up and he was out on the mission! he hopped on his bike and found a ramen shop, he waited for us to arrive with the ramen chef outside to greet us and tell us the shop is closed, after a weird conversation about how good his ramen is even though he’s closed and the old man is trying to convince him to make us some lunch, the chef decides he’ll do it, he goes in to start the fire on his soup pots.
we sat alone in this closed ramen shop, ordered four bowls, different variations, had some pickles and cold asahi draft. it was so delicious. you could taste that everything was slow cooked to perfection and it was automatically added to the list of dishes that will from now on be a bummer to have outside of japan.

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making sushi in osaka

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the first time i went to osaka my friend junji was working in a sushi delivery place, one evening he asked his boss if it will be cool if i come visit, because i really wanted to check out their operation and have a chance to see a sushi place in japan from the inside. the guy was super cool about it, invited me in and without a single word in english showed me all around told me i could take pictures of whatever i want and even made me some sushi.
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the first thing he made was a toro nigiri (fatty tuna). junji was very impressed that he whipped out the fatty tuna and told me that he apparently really likes me “that’s the good stuff” and it was really really good. it was actually my first time eating a piece of tuna that was so fatty. now i know what to look for, but it’s so rare to find outside of japan =/
we left with a bunch of photos and two big trays of sushi for dinner.

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last week we arrived in osaka again. junji still works at the same place, but now he arm is broken and he can’t deliver sushi. but before he broke his arm, he already told the bossman Im coming to visit, so we were invited down to the shop even though junji couldn’t work for an early sushi session, and this time i was making the sushi while junji and yael were taking the pictures.

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bread covered stew

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it’s not exactly a pie, and it’s not exactly a stuffed bread.
this dish was inspired by el-ba’abur’s famous kabab, but ended up having nothing to do with it. a few days before we got together to cook all this goodness, we got together for drinks in the sun and thought about what we want to make. this idea came up, but we wanted to make our own stew.
so we let the dough raise and went to the carmel market to buy the rest of the ingredients.

joyfully served six, but we had heaps left over, could have served six big eaters as well

bread cover:
2 cups flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon yeat
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt

stew:
1-1.5 kg of beef, we took the rump cut
1/2 kg onions – chopped
garlic- lots
1/2 kg tomatoes – peeled
1 bottle of local beer, cook with local beer always, there’s something about local foods with local drinks and local air that mixes so well together.
1 kg of potatoes- diced, or at least cut to big pieces, but not much bigger than 3cm/1 inch cubes
mushrooms, they shrink so whatever you think is enough, get some more.
1/2 kg of pumpkin, cut bigger than the potatoes, it cooks faster.
salt, pepper, and basil or other greens according to your personal preference

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for the dough, mix all the ingredients and let raise for at least 4 hours, keep covered and oily.

for the stew, sear the meat to seal in the juices, then move to a deep pot where you already started to cook the onions until they become clear.
add the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, pepper and beer, bring to boil
in the pan where used for the meat, sautee the potatoes a little bit
add the rest of the vegetables to the pot and let cook for 20 more minutes
place the potatoes in a big oven tray, and cover with the sauce and the meat, distribute evenly, cover and place in the over set for 200/400 degrees C/F for an 40 minutes
once in a while return to make sure you have enough fluids so the whole thing doesn’t burn, and try a potato to see if it’s ready or not.
when the potatoes are soft enough to eat, take out of the over, cover with the  dough and put back in the over for an extra 15-20 minutes.

for fun and freshness we added to this dinner some salsa, guacamole, seviche and side dish of green beans with butter and soy sauce

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we’re out smoking… meat

my friend david got a smoker/grill for a christmas present, and a couple of weeks ago he told me about, saying that we should get together sometime soon, drink some beer, and smoke some bacon.
so he got a couple of pieces of pork belly, cured them for a week in a salt:sugar 8:1 mix with no special herbs or spices, just keeping it simple and pure… that’s how he rolls. then called me to say that the bacon will be ready and it’s time to smoke it.
so i came over, and i had no idea he was talking about such a big device that needed so much assembly… that delayed the smoking a bit, but the drinking started right away.
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when we were done putting it all together it was time to go downstair and start the fire.
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just as expected, it instantly became a spectacle. and not only to check out what these two guys are doing, what’s all this smoke about, and the regular things that would be weird anywhere around the world,
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so people came to take pictures and see if they can help out, and the guard went on got us some more wood when he saw the fire was winding down.BPX_1875 BPX_1888and about an hour and a half of smoke later that could be smelled for blocks around, when the meat reached 150/65 degrees F/C in its core, we had out bacon!BPX_1902at this point it already smelled like bacon and it was delicious, but we had to fry up a few strips so it will be even better.BPX_1915and on sunday we fried up some more, as part of a wonderful brunch, a southerners-unite brunch.BPX_2032to the bacon we added scrambled eggs, salsa bread, bagels, cream cheese and cheddar, sorry vegans. and of course, bloody marys, to make this brunch complete.BPX_2039 BPX_2043

baked salmon

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butter’s making a comeback!
last week the world’s largest human migration, also known as the chinese new year began. the holiday itself is this weekend, but starting last week people stopped showing up at work, projects were put on holds, and from day to day the streets feel like they are becoming emptier.
to mark this occasion, we also finished our work week a bit early and felt like making something special.  we went shopping early, so we had plenty of time before dinner, and we decided to make baked salmon on potato slices.
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the trick with dishes like this is to get everything ready together. the potatoes take much more time to cook than the fish, so you can either
start with the potatoes for 30 minutes (or more depending on how thick you cut them) in the oven and only then add the fish.
you could stirfy the potatoes a bit, before you bake them, or
you could slice them very very thin.
we went with the option of baking them longer than the fish
other than that, pretty simple.
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place to salmon pieces skin up, and it’s very important to keep the skin, it will keep the fish moist.

add honey, butter, salt, pepper and soy sauce to your liking.
and baked covered in tin foil for 25-30 minutes.

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remove the foil and place back in the oven for a few more minutes

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and if you feel like having a drink, i suggest a classic shaken lime margarita
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PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald / pea soup

so the guys in PANTONE decided that the color of the 2013 will be emerald, and that sounds great for me! so here’s the first post for 2013 perfect for a cold day!  pea soup!

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i’d like to try to make this with fresh peas one day, they’re pretty easy to come by and not expensive here in china, but i’ve been using the frozen peas and am very happy with the results, i always find the canned peas too sweet and too expensive (two good reasons not to use them).
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if you have a vegetable stock ready there aren’t many recipes easier than this, if you don’t, go ahead and make some!
for stock, i use celery, carrots, onion and coriander (i guess i would use parsley, but it’s not easy to find in china) salt, pepper and garlic as by personal taste.
to the stock,  add the frozen peas for about the ratio of 1:2 cups of peas to cups of stock.
i like adding onions and also potatoes also to make the soup creamy and vegan… if that’s not your thing, of course you can use  a little bit of cream.
let it all boil until the potatoes are soft, then blend it all and that’s about it!
very simple, very good, and good for you =)
have a warm winter and a wonderfully green new year.

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