Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Nes of the Nachash

Yom chamishi, 9 Sivan 5768/12 June 2008, Thursday.

My son did not die last night. Baruch Hashem!

Soldier Boy was sleeping in the field with his unit. He got up from his bedroll to help with about a half-hour of guard duty, and then went back to his tent, exhausted, as usual. He flopped down, and was sleeping again, probably before his head had quite hit his rolled-up jacket/pillow.

The next morning, while shaking out his jacket, he discovered that he had been sharing space with a poisonous viper. Fortunately, the snake was happy to finally escape from under the pillow, and my son was too busy yelling and jumping around, for their face-to-face to be fatal. (At least for the human. From all good field operations blossom into public view at least half a dozen latent snake killers. My son's erstwhile bed-mate is now a belt or a hat-band.)

Soldier Boy called to share the miracle. We discussed some tzedaka he had recently given to a poor old Yerushalmi. "Ema, I dreamed about Rabbi Akiva's daughter last night. Weird, huh?" I remembered the story with him. On the day before her wedding, Rabbi Akiva's daughter had fed a poor man for whom everyone else had been too busy. That night, she stuck her hairpin into the wall above her bed. In the morning, it was discovered that her hairpin had skewered a poisonous snake. Rabbi Akiva knew that it was her act of kindness the day before that had saved her life.

We reminded our son to bentch Gomel, to publicly thank Hashem for saving his life; and we gave our yishuv rav extra tzedaka.

Later in the day, we got another call. "After we checked the inside of my jacket, we made another discovery," said Soldier Boy. "Either I was sleeping with a stapler -- or that snake was trying to bite through the fabric all night."

Hodu Lashem, ki Tov, ki LeOlam Chasdo!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Garbage Vegetable Broth

6 Adar 5782.

MasterClass has been such a fun and relatively affordable way to fill the seemingly endless time at home created by our nearly two-year (so far) “adventure” of COVID-19. 

I started taking the classes to learn from writing greats such as Dan Brown, David Baldacci, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, and Amy Tan. A surprise benefit was taking classes from many other experts in their fields, including chefs Roy Choi, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Gordon Ramsay. Each chef taught me remarkable things about making my kitchen a more effective launchpad for excellence.  

Ramsay grew up poor. So a leitmotif in his classes is not. wasting. anything. Ever. When I think of everything I have thrown away that was viable food...! Well, spilled milk, and all that. Now, I am enlightened, and we are saving oodles of money, and “making our carbon footprint smaller,” whatever the heck that means. (I’m joking, I’m joking. Please don’t send me articles on what “carbon footprint” means. Thank you.)

This recipe was born of frustration and the slowly dawning realization that I did not need to remain a victim of said frustration. I often use Imagine Vegetable Broth for recipes. It doesn’t have sugar, as do so many other prepared broths. But it costs between 30 and 50 shekels for 32 ounces (946 ml), depending on where you can find it, and you can’t always find it. So, after I whined for a while... I decided to do what I always do when I can’t find a product easily: I make it from scratch. With that in mind, I will share with you my recipe for Garbage Vegetable Broth, without sugar or ridiculous amounts of sodium, and as organic and as low-carb as you want it to be. 

Save up those carrot peels, sweet potato peels, onion skins, celery leaves, kale and parsley and dill stems. If you really don’t want to use the broccoli stalks and cauliflower leaves for your kugel or roasted veg recipe, don’t throw them in the shemitah bin (this year, or the compost or trash in non-shemitah years). Save them in bags in the fridge or freezer until it’s time to make broth (meaning you have enough detritus with which to brew it).

I like to add other vegetables. Today I added scallions, garlic, celery root, and turnip. Cover your collection of garbage with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and any other spices and any herbs that you like. I added pepper, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Then I let it simmer for a few hours, adding water to keep the pot full.

When the vegetables have given their all, I strain the liquid from the vegetables which now can be thrown in any of the various waste receptacles previously mentioned.

The resulting broth is delicious, costs nearly nothing (when you realize I was going to toss everything but the additional vegetables) and makes me feel very good about myself. Bonus: the Dearly Beloved says it tastes better than store-bought products.

If you’re living in Israel, here’s another tip: I just started doing business with Farm to Family, “Where Quality and Service Meet.” I am very impressed with their service (online, phone and delivery), with their commitment to shemitah and to supporting local farmers, and with their produce (and other products). They have an easy-to-use English site for those of us still struggling with our Hebrew.

Save money! Ensmallen your smudgy little carbon footprints! And feel really good about making your own vegetable broth, and telling the kids it’s made of garbage. 😂 Kids like eating garbage.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Your New Favorite Sushi Place in Jerusalem

8 Shevat 5782.

Word of mouth is a very powerful sales tool, as are quality and service. Thanks to all three, Sushi Mamilla is our new favorite sushi place.

The adventure started when our friend and fellow foodie, Arnie Draiman, raved about a new place we hadn’t heard of in downtown Jerusalem. Since it was in our usual hang-out area, we knew we needed to give it a try before our latest self-imposed lockdown. (Fie on thee, COVID! Give us back our normal routines!)

Shlomzion HaMalka 4

The restaurant was easy to find, located just across the street from Misrad HaPnim on Shlomzion HaMalka. There were several couples and small groups already dining outside; and we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a waitress and by the owner, Naftali. Both took the time to be interested in us as human beings before they seated us and left us to peruse the menu.

As a brief aside, I will say that we discovered another new sushi place not long ago that was just opening. While there appeared to be food available, it was nearly impossible for us to get attention, and that was without a crowd. When we finally did, there was no menu in English and no one seemed to have the time for my slow efforts in Hebrew. I don’t need to have establishments cater to me in English. This is Israel, after all, and it’s my responsibility to learn the language. But I do like to be acknowledged. So, that sushi place is history, as far as we’re concerned. Back to the present...

After pleasant banter with the masked waitress, whose name was Halla, we placed our order. While waiting, I checked out the facilities. The single bathroom is clean and well-appointed, though small (befitting the small restaurant).

Halla brought us a very-mildly pickled appetizer of cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers with a hint of sesame seeds. Even Coach, famous for avoiding pickles, enjoyed the dish, much to my surprise.

In a reasonable amount of time, our beautifully-plated order appeared. I chose the Salmon Poke Bowl with perfectly sliced and very fresh salmon and avocado, with toothpick-slim sticks of cucumber and carrots as well as sweet potatoes and other perfectly prepared vegetables. The dish was topped with a wonderfully colorful crispy mixture so that I enjoyed a flavor experience from sweet to earthy with plenty of interesting textures. The dish was served on a bed of white rice. Though I am not interested in rice these days, the few bites I indulged in were quite tasty, and just the right consistency.

Coach was in an adventurous mood, and chose the American Pessi Roll with baked salmon, peanut butter, carrots, and sweet potato served with a very interesting, tangy sauce. He was delighted with the combination.

Near the end of our meal, the owner, Naftali, joined us to ask how we were enjoying the food. (We had seen him stop by all the tables outside as well.) We talked about the Old Country, as he came from Long Island two years ago, and we asked a few questions about the restaurant and the menu. It delighted me that many of his dishes are named for his children and children-in-law as well as for grandchildren. Nothing like a love of family to impress the two of us!

Not quite ready to end the adventure, we decided to try one of Naftali’s recommendations: the Falafel Sushi. This dish really brought home the restaurant’s tagline: “Where the Middle East meets the Far East.” There was no loss of taste or texture in the falafel ball cradled within the rice and tempura outer coating. We were glad we tried the “dessert.”

Sushi Mamilla has kosher certification from the Rabanut Yerushalayim, mehadrin min hamehadrin.

All of our encounters with the staff were pleasant and fun, and as we were leaving, we had one more surprise. Our “masked bandit,” Halla, photo-bombed us at the door as Coach was posing with the menu. I really love this place, and I am sure you will, too. We plan to make it a regular stop on our please-God increasing visits to the Holy City.

This gal more than earned her tip!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Too Bad You Can't Speak Hebrew

6 Av 5781

    In a small grocery store in Modi'in, I met a wizened little Israeli as I was purchasing blueberries and a telescoping back scratcher. She was buying cigarettes, pitot and a small bottle of Arak. I marveled that there are indeed miracles visible to us, if only we choose to see, and wondered if my diet would get me to her age. She, however, was fascinated by the back scratcher, and wanted it explained to her. Fortunately, the young clerk explained in rapid Hebrew as I looked on, nodding and smiling and demonstrating like Carol Merrill on The Price is Right.
    Later, I met the same elderly lady at the crosswalk. "Third time, ice cream!" I quipped.
    She smiled at me. "You are not Israeli?"
    "Now I am," I replied proudly.
    "Where do you live?"
    "In Neve Daniel, in Gush Etzion. About half an hour south of Jerusalem." She didn't recognize the area, but she placed it in proximity to Jerusalem.
    "Where did you come from?"
    "The United States."
    "You don't speak Hebrew? How long have you been in Israel?"
    Aware of my deficiencies, I responded, "I'm embarrassed to say, almost fourteen years."
    "So long! You should speak Hebrew!"
    "I know, I know. I'm trying to learn. Ah! Here's our light. Have an amazing day!"
    As we crossed the street, she gave me many, many blessings, as is the custom of Mizrahi Jews. She ended with, "Stay healthy, Mahmee."
    "Amen! You, too, and all of us!"
     Why am I writing about this rather mundane conversation? Because the entire thing, every word, was in Hebrew. It may not have been perfect Hebrew, but there was not one word of English.
    I laughed to myself for some time as I walked to my children's apartment to babysit their youngest daughter so they could get at least a little work done in peace. We all are guilty of being stuck in our preconceptions sometimes, to the extent that we cannot even hear what language the other person is speaking. The best we can do is the best we can do... and love each other around our miscommunications, and laugh.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Prohibition Pickle

 23 Elul 5780.

I usually have cantaloupe or Greek yogurt with toasted almonds and goji berries and chia seeds for breakfast. But today I had a very unusual breakfast: I dined on Prohibition Pickle pickles.

I am easily tempted to try new flavors and to support local vendors. For this home business, I have a particular fondness. I have known Chaim Davids since he was a wee lad. His father, Rabbi Moshe Davids, taught each of my sons his bar mitzvah parasha. And his mother Shula was a local mikveh lady and a wonderful friend.


Many years ago, Chaim showed up at my door a few hours before he was to be a Shabbat guest... and proceeded to wow me with his kitchen expertise. He was humble about it. He played the role of respectful sous chef, and I gushed that he was one of the five people on the planet I can stand to work with in my kitchen. It wasn’t until later that I learned he had attended the Baltimore International College School of Culinary Arts and Hotel/Restaurant Management and had subsequently worked for California restaurants and wineries, as well as working as a mashgiach for the OU and the Vaad Hakashrut of NorCal. 


I have followed Chaim’s endeavors over the years since his aliyah. Besides marrying the lovely Batya and helping to bring into the world three adorable daughters, Chaim has created and locally-distributed ginger beer and beef jerky, and has helped to launch several popular food establishments such as Beer Bazaar in Mahane Yehuda, as well as maintaining a thriving personal chef business. 

    His most recent venture is pickling. What follows is my initial impression of some of these delicacies.

    Full Sour  These were nice and crispy, which is my first requirement for a pickle, but a bit too high-salt for my tastes, if eaten straight out of the jar (my usual preference); but chopped up and added to salad or inserted in a burger, they should be lovely. I'm hoping as the company grows, a lower-salt option will be available, because the other seasonings are quite enjoyable. 

              Not Quite Kraut  This one ended up surprisingly being my favorite, as I usually am not a sauerkraut fan. But the big chunks of cabbage and carrot were very tasty. Again, the brine itself is well-seasoned. 

              Bread and Butter  These days, we are avoiding sugar; but were not making a religion of it. To his credit, Chef Chaim Davids does call this one junk food, which is very fair. Who doesn't want to cheat a little now and then on the strict diet? These B&B pickles were not overly sweet; I loved that they were made of zucchini (that retained just the right amount of crispness); and the seasonings were tasty and intriguing. 

             All the pickles were beautiful and fragrant. The simply-designed labels are a pleasure. 

               I discussed my few problems with Chaim, and received very satisfactory answers:  

RE: Chaim, I would love an ingredient list and a little more information about the process. How much sugar am I eating? Is it refined sugar, or some healthier version? Is this more a brine (salt) recipe or vinegar recipe? What about the process are you especially proud of? (For example, are we talking probiotic here? If so, that should be trumpeted, as its all the rage these days.) 

CD: I need to find an affordable way to convey the product’s qualities, as labels are very expensive, and production is too small to justify bulk purchase. An ingredient list in my catalog is next  thanks for the tip! By the way, the only sugar is in the bread and butter pickles. And yes, most of the products are probiotic. And  wink-wink  one of the secret ingredients in the Mixed Dancing Spice Mix is nutritional yeast. I like to think that the products are a reflection of my personality, because I want them to be bold and punchy, but also wholesome and nutritious.

RE: What about the saltiness? 

CD: The main thing in fermenting is to win the war between good bacteria and bad bacteria. The high salt level comes with reason: being lacto-fermented, the brine needs to be between 3.5-4% salinity at least or I risk losing it to mold and Kahm yeast. I use no firming agents or preservatives in the full sours and cabbage, hence the full salt flavor. As you said, incorporated into meals is a great application.  If people want to learn more about fermenting, Im offering a pickling workshop series soon. You can follow us on our Facebook page for details.

             And then came lunch time... 

             Aryeh and his adorable son Coby came by and barbecued for us. (Well, Aryeh manned the grill. I followed Coby around as he taste-tested rocks, twigs, leaves and other assorted backyard goodies, insisting that none of them get an actual roll-around in the mouth. Even very cool boy-grandmas must set some limits.) I asked Aryeh’s honest opinion of the various pickles and condiments... and received my answers in wide-eyed yummy sounds. Verdict: these pickles are GREAT at enhancing burgers!

             As I am not interested in eating burger buns, I had my burgers on a bed of crispy Romaine, and tried each of Prohibition Pickle’s spreads and sauces. 

             The Dude Shemesh jalapeño-garlic sauce (besides being delightfully named, for Israelis) is gentler, but quite tasty. The G’Henom habanero sauce was hotter, and even more to my liking. I really enjoyed the Beet & Horseradish “gefilta enhancer,” and plan to use it for our yearly Rosh Hashana nod to eating gefilte fish. It is much more flavorful and has a more interesting texture than other chrain recipes we’ve tried. And now  drum roll, please  Ladies and gentlemen, I have found my new favorite mustard. It doesn’t have a name yet, beyond “Awesome Mustard,” but it is fragrant, flavorful, spicy, nicely-textured... in short, it is magnifique. (How about Magnifique Mustard, Mon Ami? Don’t thank me. I’m a giver.)


   While there is no official kashrut certification at this time, Chaim asserts that all ingredients are kosher mehadrinAfter the initial soft launch to determine which products offer the most mass appeal, he is planning to pursue certification. Until such time as he gets certification (an expensive proposition, as people in the food and beverage business know), all I can say is that I would eat in Chaim’s kitchen. 

   In short, the prices are no higher than you would expect for homemade craft products, the quality is exceptional, the flavors are, as they like to say in New Yawk, “to die for.” Check out Prohibition Pickle at