The Second Annual Chocolate Week in Israel

The Land of Milk and Honey Becomes a Land of High-End Chocolate

Chocolate Week begins in Israel, spotlighting dozens of artisan chocolatiers that have sprung up in the past few years.

This photo collage was taken last year, on the 1st chocolate Festival in Tel Aviv.


Feb. 9 will kick off Israel’s second annual Chocolate Week, when dozens of chocolate or chocolate-related businesses across the country will offer special deals. It will all culminate in a Chocolate Festival held Feb. 13-15 at HaTachana (The Station)—Jaffa’s historic railway station, which was recently restored and converted into an entertainment and leisure complex.

“There are many new chocolatiers in Israel and even two small bean-to-bar makers,” said event organizer Yael Rose. “I think Israelis generally are really creative people and it shows—in the flavor combinations, in the packaging, and in ideas they are coming up with of new ways to sell chocolate.”

To read more:


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Gluten-Free Coconut-Lemon Cake

Since Citrus Fruits are in season now, here is a Lemon-coconut Gluten Free cake that is also kosher for Passover (in case you are looking for ideas for next Passover).


For the Coconut-almond base (for a round 24 cm/9 inch pan)
4 medium eggs
1/2 a cup sugar
1 cup (100 grams) almond flour/finely ground almonds
1/2 cup (50 grams) desiccated coconut
Zest of one lemon
100 grams melted butter

Heat the oven to a medium temperature of 175 degrees C. /350 F)
Whisk eggs and sugar in your mixer for at least 5 minutes ! till it triples in volume and becomes foamy and light.
Add almond flour and coconut and fold gently.
Add melted butter and fold till the mixture is even.
Pour batter into a non-greased pan (so that the cakes sticks to the sides) and bake for 15-20 minutes till the cake is fluffy and ready.

For the Lemon cream (which can be easily replaced by any other citrus fruit but don’t forget to adjust the amount of sugar according to the sweetness/tartness of the fruit)
30 grams cornstarch
150 grams sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
3 eggs
250 ml heavy cream (8.f fl ounces US)
50 grams butter

Combine the cornstarch and sugar in a stainless steel bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix till the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the lemon zest and the eggs and whisk.
Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan till it starts to bubble. Remove from heat.
Place the lemon-mixture bowl over a pot with simmering water and whisk while you’re adding the heated heavy dream. Whisk until the mixture reaches 81 degrees Celsius/178 F. or until it thickens like pastry cream.
Add butter and stir till the butter melts and is incorporated into the cream.
Pass the cream through a fine strainer and cover with cling film. Refrigerate for several hours.


To Assemble the cake:
Spread 2/3 of the refrigerated cream over the coconut base.
Whip 250 ml of 38% heavy cream with 2 Tbs sugar till a soft whipped cream is formed and then gently fold in the remaining lemon cream.


Spoon the lemon flavored Whipped cream into a pastry bag with a round nozzle and pipe it on to the lemon cream.


Decorate with toasted desiccated coconut and lemon zest.


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Middle Eastern twist on “Pizza”


I got home yesterday evening and was so hungry !

I almost picked up the phone and ordered Pizza (yes, pizza is a very well known Israeli food ((((-; )

But then I opened the fridge and saw: za’atar spice, tomatoes, excellent olives I bought in the Galilee at Saba Habib’s olive oil factory and one ball of Mozzarella cheese that was left all alone after last week’s Knaffeh dish.

I usually make Pizza and Pita dough from scratch because my mixer does all the kneading for me, but this time I didn’t want to wait…

So I sliced a pitta bread in two, added olive oil to the za’atar till a paste was formed, spread it on the pitta halves, topped with tomatoes, cheese, a bit of hot green pepper – shoved it into the oven and 15 minutes later – I have a Middle Eastern Za’atar pizza (with fresh nana/mint) leaves on top. Who needs more than this?

I guess chocolate is always in order…but I am satisfied for now…

Posted in Dishes with cheese, Middle Eastern Food, Za'atar spice: dishes I use it in | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kadaiif discs with Mandarin Pastry Cream and Strawberries


For the Kadaiff base:

200 grams (7 oz) Kadaiff strands-dough
150 grams (5.25 oz) melted Butter
50 grams (1.75 0z) Powdered sugar

Add melted butter and powdered sugar to the kadaif thin strands. Mix it all with your fingers till all the kadaif is covered with butter and sugar.

Draw several 8 cm circles (3 inch) on a baking sheet. Place it on a baking pan and arrange most of the kadaif dough to form a circle. Save some dough on the side and spread it on the corners (for later decoration).

Bake in medium temperature for 20 minutes. The dough should become brown and crispy (especially after it cools).

Mandarin Crème Patissiere (Pastry cream)
250 ml double cream
100 ml freshly squeezed mandarin juice
125 grams sugar
1 vanilla pod, sliced vertically or 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
mandarin zest from two mandarins
A pinch of salt

50 grams corn starch
150 ml freshly squeezed mandarin juice
3 egg yolks

50 grams butter

1. Heat the double cream till small bubbles start forming.

2. In the meantime, whisk the corn starch and 150 ml mandarin juice in a bowl and then add the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture becomes pale and light.
3. In a separate saucepan, place the rest of the mandarin juice, the sugar, vanilla, mandarin and a pinch of salt.

4. Pour the boiling double cream into the mixture a little by little while whisking continuously to avoid curdling.

5. Transfer the whole mixture into a pot and heat it over LOW HEAT. Stir it constantly with the wooden spoon or spatula scraping the sides and bottom until it has thickened.

6. Once the custard has thickened, take it off the heat, pour it into a clean bowl, add the butter and stir until well combined.
7. At this point – I like passing the cream through a sieve in order to make sure there are no egg curds. I also pour it to a mixer bowl and whisk on low speed with a K beater.

8. cover it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate it until needed.

Spread the refrigerated orange cream over the kadaif dough crust. Decorate with strawberries (whole or cut). Heat apricot jam diluted with water and brush over the strawberries for a shiny look – and preservation reasons


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Mamaliga in Romania, Polenta in Italy – same thing, different names

It’s one of those days… when I REALLY don’t feel like cooking…or even chopping veggies for a salad !
But, hey, we need to eat something, right? So I made a quick, simple dinner, based on my family’s Romanian cuisine MAMALIGA!


I come from a Jewish Romanian family.
Romanian cuisine uses simple, cheap ingredients . One of those is Cornmeal, which we also know from Mexican and Italian cuisine.

One of the main dishes in Romania is called MAMALIGA. It is actually very similar to the Italian Polenta and is some kind of a porridge made of boiled water and cornmeal cooked together.

Romanians eat it with almost anything: Meat dishes, Fried eggs, Cooked vegetables and…cheese.

My basic mamaliga recipe follows this explanation of what I added to it this evening:

This time, I sauteed onions in olive oil and a tsp of chopped Rosemary, and then added chopped mushrooms and sauteed for several minutes till they released most of their liquids.

I poured the Mamaliga/polenta to serving bowls, topped with the sauteed onions and mushrooms, made poached eggs (water with a bit of vinegar) and grated hard goat’s cheese on top. Simple and delicious !

This is a basic recipe for Mamaliga:

A bit over 1/2 cup cornmeal (100 grams/10.5 oz)
1 hipped tsp of salt
Black pepper and nutmeg to taste
1000 ml (34 fl oz US) water or milk
3-4 Tbs butter or extra virgin Olive Oil

Boil the water in a deep saucepan. Add the salt, black pepper and freshly ground nutmeg. Add the cornmeal gradually!!! stirring with a wooden spoon or a whisk till the mixture thickens. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon or a manual whisk on LOW HEAT for about 25 minutes.

Add butter or olive oil and stir.
Remove from heat.

At this point – pour the thick mixture into a serving Pyrex dish and now you can cover it with all the cheeses you love.

I usually put sour cream first (in Israel we have 9% fat sour cream) but you can replace it with Yogurt or cottage cheese, then grated Fetta (or 5% fat Bulgarian salty cheese, which we have over here), and finish with grated Parmesan or Peccorino or Goats’ Kashkaval.
Place this in the oven for several minutes on medium temperature till the cheese melts and serve.

Posted in Gluten Free, Traditional Romanian Dishes | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

More Hummus…with spices


In Israel we call both the chickpeas (the seeds) and the paste – Hummus.

As a general rule – I’d rather cook dried chickpeas after soaking them in plenty of water for at least 12 hours than use canned ones; you can divide the cooked chickpeas into smaller portions and freeze them in ziplocks.

For this easy dish, I tossed cooked chickpeas in olive oil, lots of cumin, paprika, sumac spice, fresh minced garlic cloves, salt and black pepper – till it got crispy on the outside.

Then I added freshly squeezed lemon juice, fresh Za’atar (hyssop) leaves and served it on Pita bread topped with tahini sauce and thick Goat milk yogurt.

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Hummus with Avocado


This dish is dedicated to one of my FB page readers.

Thank you for inspiring me to make this combination !

Hummus with avocado recipe (2 servings)

300 grams (10.5 oz) COOKED chickpeas
100 grams (3.5 oz) avocado flesh (1 avocado)
2 Tbsp RAW tahini paste
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
a few Tbsp water – only if needed ! (I recommend using the water that the chickpeas were cooked in)
1-2 crushed garlic cloves (optional)
salt and black pepper to taste
cumin – optional

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blend them in a bowl with a stick blender. The paste should be thick but if it’s too thick – you can add a little bit more water.
Serve with Avocado cubes, cooked chickpeas, chopped lemon and lots of extra virgin olive oil !

For more information on how to prepare regular hummus paste:

or on my FB page:

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Another week, Another Batch of Hummus

Israeli Hummus, my own version

Vegetarian Foodesigns from the Land of Milk and Honey

Another week, Another Batch of Hummus

My first post deals with a staple Israeli, Middle-Eastern food: Hummus.

I’m giving you a basic recipe for my Hummus paste but will post more ideas and suggestions for Hummus dips later.

I prefer home-cooked chickpeas to canned ones so every couple of weeks, I soak 500 grams (1.1 lb) of chickpeas in plenty of water and leave them in the water for 12-24 hours, changing the water 3 times !!! during this time.


After the chickpeas have spent 12-24 hours in water,


drain them and rinse,


place in a pressure cooker, cover with water and cook for 2 hours !


After the chickpeas have been cooked – you can either make the hummus right away (I love it when it’s warm) or – drain the chickpeas, divide into plastic bags and freeze.

I divide the remaining chickpeas into portions of 150 grams (5.25 oz) – which yields one serving…

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Drunk Figs in Red wine and Brandy, filled with almonds

Tu Bishvat – The Jewish “New Year of Trees – is coming up in a couple of weeks


“The first time Tu Bishvat – Rosh Ha’shanah La-Ilanot – New Year of trees – is mentioned in the Mishna (the book of the Oral Torah) is in connection with tithing of fruit.

According to the sages at this point the tree has
supped the winter rains and is starting to produce fruit and therefore it is possible to calculate the tenth of the crop that is due as a tax to the Temple. As it was a purely administrative holiday no liturgy was created.

After the destruction of the temple the day, which has lost all its agricultural and administrative relevance developed into a minor holiday. The symbolic consumption of fruit was meant to affirm the Diaspora’s allegiance, to the land of Israel.

The land which is referred to in Deuteronomy 8:8 as ‘a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, of olive trees and (date) honey’.

In the European Diaspora dried fruit – the only fruits that are available when the holiday occurs, at the end the European winter, were symbolically eaten on the day.

The custom of eating dried fruit on Tu B’Shvat originated in the Diaspora; the idea was to honor fruits of the Promised Land.
Raisins, figs and dates where eaten by those who could afford them while the poor celebrated the holiday with Carobs – which were cheap and readily available. Nuts where also eaten, almonds in particular.
Being, traditionally, the tree to herald the spring the almond is the symbol of rebirth and purity.

Here is an idea for a simple sweet for this holiday (or any other day…): Drunk figs filled with almonds (that incorporate vine/grapes/wine with figs and almonds.

Place dried figs in a plastic or glass container. Pour red wine, brandy, a little bit of date-honey (date-molasses) or regular bee-honey over them and a bit of fennel seeds.

Let the dried figs marinade overnight in the red wine, a bit of brandy, a little bit of honey or date-honey and fennel seeds (just a bit, for anise flavor). Store in the fridge and insert a whole almond into each fig once the figs have soaked the liquid.

More about the BEAUTIFUL symbolism of Tu-Bishvat:

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Tu Bi-shvat (15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat) – The New Year of Trees – coming up in 2 weeks


This year on Tu B’Shvat, as you’re gnawing that slab of carob, ask yourself:
Am I getting the spiritual food and shelter I need to survive, or is my tree being blown down by the forces of information overload and rampant materialism?

Am I part of a strong community, providing a warm and nurturing environment? Or am I cast into the pale bleak anonymity of urban life and cyberspace?

Am I looking to future generations knowing that I am providing them with the proper foundations for their lives?

The source for the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, which is coming up on Saturday evening, is the opening statement of the Talmudic Tractate Rosh Hashana: The Academy of Hillel taught that the 15th of Shvat is the New Year for the Trees.
What does that mean, New Year for the Trees? Do all the cedars and pines get together, make resolutions to improve themselves, and dip apples in honey like we do in our Jewish New Year?

Of course not. Tu B’Shvat is technically the day when trees stop absorbing water from the ground, and instead draw nourishment from their sap. In Jewish law, this means that fruit which has blossomed prior to the 15th of Shvat could not be used as tithe for fruit which blossomed after that date.

So what relevance does this have for us in the 21st century?

In various places, the Torah compares a person to a tree:

– A person is like the tree of a field… (Deut. 20:19)
– For as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people. (Isaiah 65:22)
– He will be like a tree planted near water… (Jeremiah 17:8)
Why the comparison?

A tree needs the four basic elements in order to survive — soil, water, air, and fire (sun). Human beings also require the same basic elements:

A tree needs to be planted firmly in the earth. The soil is not only the source through which nourishment is absorbed, but also provides room for the roots to grow.
This is true of a person as well. The Talmud explains:
A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous, but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down.
But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place. (Avot 3:22)

Rain-water is absorbed into the ground and — through an elaborate system of roots — is carried throughout the trunk, branches and leaves of the tree. Without water, the tree will whither and die.
The Torah is compared to water, as Moses proclaims: May my teaching drop like the rain (Deut. 32:2). Both rain and Torah descend from the heavens and provide relief to the thirsty and parched. The Torah flows down from God and has been absorbed by Jews in every generation. Torah gives zest and vitality to the human spirit. A life based on Torah will blossom with wisdom and good deeds.
Deprived of water, a person will become dehydrated and ultimately disoriented, even to the point where they may not be able to recognize their own father. So too, without Torah, a person becomes disoriented — to the extent they may not even recognize their Father in Heaven, the Almighty God of Israel.

A tree needs air to survive. The air contains oxygen that a tree needs for respiration, and carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. In an imbalanced atmosphere, the tree would suffocate and die.
The Torah (Genesis 2:7) states that God breathed life into the form of Man. The Hebrew word for breath — nesheema — is the same as the word for soul — neshama. Our spiritual life force comes, metaphorically, by way of air and respiration.
We use our senses of taste, touch and sight to perceive physical matter. (Even hearing involves the perception of sound waves.) But smelling is the most spiritual of senses, since the least physical matter is involved. As the Talmud says (Brachot 43b): Smell is that which the soul benefits from, and the body does not.
In the Holy Temple, the incense offering (sense of smell) was elevated to the once-a-year Yom Kippur offering in the Holy of Holies. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 93a) also says that when the Messiah comes, he will smell and judge — that is, he will use his spiritual sensitivity to determine the truth about complex matters.

A tree also needs fire — sunlight — to survive. The absorption of energy from the light activates the process of photosynthesis, a chemical reaction that is essential for the growth and health of the tree.
Humans also need fire — warmth — to survive. This is the warmth of friendship and community. People absorb the energy of peers, friends, family, neighbors and associates — and channel that into identity and actions. All the essential observances and ceremonies of Judaism are based on family and community — from the celebration of birth, through the attainment of maturity, marriage, education, and even death.
The power of community is illustrated in the following Talmudic story:
An old man was planting a tree. A young person passed by and asked, What are you planting?
A carob tree, the old man replied.
Silly fool, said the youth. Don’t you know that it takes 70 years for a carob tree to bear fruit?
That’s okay, said the old man. Just as others planted for me, I plant for future generations.

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