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mint and berry ice cubes

yumivore berry ice cubes

A great way to add a little pizzaz to a club soda or even a cocktail, freeze berries into ice cubes for a pop of color. Select fruit that’s in season such as raspberries, blueberries or strawberries, or try mint leaves or even lemon wedges – the possibilities are endless on what to add to ice to perk up your drink. Unless the fruit is puréed before freezing, don’t expect a lot of flavor in your glass, just a hint when the ice cubes melt, but the additional berries or mint does add a bit of flair. And certainly your eyes deserve something cool as well!

yumivore ice berries (9)

yumivore ice berries (10)

yumivore ice berries (1)

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roasted eggplant with moroccan charmoula

yumivore chermoula  (13)

Charmoula is a robust Moroccan marinade that is bursting with flavor. It’s most often used as a marinade or dry rub with fish, but the sauce lends itself to vegetables as well and is an exciting blend to try with eggplants. Charmoula, also spelled chermoula, is a mix of herbs, spices, crushed garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. It’s simple to make, and simply adds a world of flavor to a dish.

Recipes for charmoula are easy to find and popular throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. This recipe comes from one of the most prolific writers and cookbook authors on Moroccan cuisine, Paula Wolfert. Her book ‘The Food of Morocco’ (which hit shelves in 2011) is an exquisite and colorful journey through Morocco for the eyes and palate. Pick up a few eggplants at the market, also known as aubergines, along with a few basic ingredients and you’re on your way to taste of the Marrakesh.

yumivore chermoula  (8)

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Moroccan paprika
pinch of cayenne
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste

yumivore chermoula  (7)

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together, then set aside for at least a half an hour to give the sauce some time for the flavors to mellow and meld together. Mix again just before adding it to the eggplant.

Cilantro is a popular herb used in Moroccan cuisine. For some though the flavor of it can pose a challenge, thus simply substitute the cilantro with more parsley. Fresh squeezed lemon is ideal in this sauce, but if not accessible, vinegar can be used in its place. Moroccan paprika is a more vibrant red compared with its Hungarian counterpart, and it’s also moistened with a hint of olive oil that’s blended in. Here I use a Moroccan paprika ground by hand that I acquired in Israel. Penzeys Spices or Whole Spice Market in California may carry Moroccan paprika, and Moroccan cumin as well, if you’re curious to give both spices a try. Good quality ingredients, as with any dish, makes a difference, as does the flavor of the olive oil you choose. Olive oils have different flavor profiles; here I used a versatile extra virgin olive oil that has a bit of a buttery and fruity aroma from California Olive Ranch.

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For the eggplants, slice two medium eggplants, spread out each slice separately on a cutting board, then sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on top of each and set aside for about 10 minutes. This method enables the eggplants to sweat and helps remove some of the bitter juices. Dry each slice with a paper towel before turning and applying the same technique to the other side.

Wolfert calls for a two-step process in her book to prevent the eggplants from acting as a sponge and absorbing an excess amount of olive oil. There are several options to preparing the eggplants for you to consider. The first is frying, which as noted, will drench the eggplants in oil. Another is to lightly coat or brush them with olive oil to crisp up in a hot 425 degree oven, then finish frying them on the stovetop; the baking-then-frying method enables you to use a lot less oil. Another option is to simply heat the eggplants (that were first roasted in the oven) in a dry frying pan (just before serving) no additional olive oil required. Yet another method is to heat the eggplants in a GreenPan roasting dish; vegetables don’t usually stick to this material and can be roasted dry. Lastly, there’s always the option to prepare the eggplants on the grill.

Frying or roasting with the added olive will result in a crispier dish, but I found that I don’t miss the extra oil once the eggplants are smothered with the sauce. It’s a matter of preference. Whichever route you choose, place your roasted eggplants on a serving dish, then smother them with the charmoula marinade. The dish can be served warm or room temperature; garnish with extra herbs once plated and enjoy!

yumivore chermoula  (10)

yumivore chermoula  (12)

For more details on why some find cilantro to be offensive, read more on cilantro and soap in the New York Times. Miller’s Blend by California Olive Ranch is an olive oil I use regularly, and they were kind to provide me with Everyday California Extra Virgin Olive Oil as a sample to taste. For friends who are part of the Tasting Jerusalem community, and all are welcome to join the group, there’s a Chermoula Aubergine and Bulgar recipe to try. And I highly recommend Wolfert’s book for even more dishes with charmoula and as an incredible source for Moroccan cuisine.

yumivore chermoula

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caramelized onion, red pepper and feta galettes

yumivore feta pastry picnic  (10)

These puff pastry bites are simple to make and perfect for a picnic. The seasoning here has a Mediterranean flare to it, but you can be creative and try a variety of different spices and herbs to find your favorite combination. The filling makes a great pizza as well. Delicious, it’s a crowd-pleasing dish.

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Caramelized Onion, Red Pepper and Feta Galettes

1 medium onion
1 small red pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped, stems removed
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese (more or less based on preference)
1 tbsp sour cream
1 sheet of puff pastry dough
1 ggg for an egg wash
Filling makes about 4 individual size puff pastry bites

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the pepper (discard the seeds) into long strips. Peel and slice the onion into strips as well. Sauté the pepper and onion in a pan on the stove, medium heat, for roughly 10 minutes. Add the fresh thyme sprigs and seasoning. Continue to cook for an additional minute or so until onions are golden to light brown in color and the red pepper is soft. The vegetables will continue to cook once in the oven.

Roll out the puff pastry and cut into squares, then place on a baking tray. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash. Spoon a thin to medium layer of sour cream around the center. Add a spoonful of the sautéed vegetables on top along with crumbled bits of feta cheese. (Note, preferable to crumble the cheese on your own). Bake for roughly 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven, remove when the crust is browned. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. Enjoy!

yumivore feta pastry picnic

Notes and Variations
– Pitted Kalamata olives are a wonderful addition to the onions, peppers and feta
– Additional toppings that would work well here include: roasted garlic, artichokes, pine nuts
– Try adding a sprinkle of the spice blend za’atar, add chili flakes

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across the bridge, to brooklyn







My memory of Brighton Beach of the time that’s captured here is faint at this point. I vaguely can conjure up images of my mother’s friends who lived in Brighton, and my trips across the Brooklyn Bridge to get there. Though I was often adverse to many foods at this stage, it’s not at all odd to me now that what I remember most from my visits to Brooklyn is in fact the food.

I recall my mother’s passion for the delicacies from her motherland and her quest to find them; Little Odessa was often the place to oblige her palate. Hot golden-colored pirozhki pop in my mind. We enjoyed these treats with either savory or sweet fillings. Made from a yeast dough, the buns would be shallow-fried and turn out golden in color, a bit oily to the touch and taste, it would be stuffed with chopped meat and mixed with sautéed onions. Mashed potatoes stuffed inside was another option and sometimes I’d be surprised to find sautéed mushrooms hiding within as well. A sweet option that was never truly sweet but memorable would be pirozhki stuffed with sour cherries. The cherries I remember would make me pucker. A few pirozhki, usually the meat-filled ones, would be wrapped up in parchment paper and placed in a brown paper bag for the ride home. Bialys fresh from a bakery, likely nearby, would also find themselves stuffed into a paper bag, and one would always make its way into my hand. Today I would grab these rolls if I could get them. Bialys are a bit like a pizza crust-like bread with a deep center filled with diced onions, and usually poppy seeds would be sprinkled inside as well. Other delicacies to discover would be pickles, and most certainly pickled herring, along with a smorgasbord of other fish such as smoked sturgeon, lox, trout – and only the finest quality would do. It sounded to me like arguing, but my mother would fervently speak to the shopkeepers or folks behind the counter in Russian or Yiddish; I would pick up bits here or there of the conversation as she searched for the finest tidbits to taste.

Eventually settling in for meal at a friend’s home we’d find a plate of varenykis, dumplings, sometimes also called pierogi. These too would be stuffed with a variety of combinations, spinach and cheese, potatoes and onions, or a meat filling similar to the pirozhki. Finely chopped and sautéed onions would be served on top if filed with meat, a large dollop of sour cream if it was potato pierogi. Sour cream seemed to find it’s way atop what seemed most dishes, including my favorite, blinztes, very similar to a crêpe and filled with farmers cheese or pot cheese. Likely from my memories I would have declined eating anything more at this point, and with the conversation in dedicated Russian, I often could escape from the table without protest and seek comfort in a book, a friend who usually was in tote wherever I would travel. Books continue to be my faithful friends today, though I could never have imagined engaging in such an affair with food.

In addition to the photo of me reading, you can catch a glimpse of me walking along Brighton Beach Avenue with my mother. I’m helping her carry bags filled with delicacies (perhaps even produce) that we had picked up at the markets and bakeries. The pictures were taken by photographer Carol Kitman and shared with permission.

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together in the kitchen: the cookup club

Bourbon Maple Glazed Pistachios by @cheekyattitude

Bourbon Maple Glazed Pistachios by @cheekyattitude

We did it again! another month, another theme – the CookUp Club meets again. This time we gathered together in my kitchen for an evening filled with Beer Bread, Bourbon Maple Glazed Pistachios tossed over salad, Sake Soaked Clams, Drunken Pasta, wine-drenched Stuffed Mushrooms, and Guinness Chocolate Whiskey and Irish Cream Cupcakes for dessert – we basically cleaned our liquor cabinets dry. With alcohol as the inspiration, it seeped its way into every dish. Being together in the kitchen not only brightened our spirits, it also inspired us to try new recipes, cooking methods and ingredients; some of the many perks of cooking together as a group. If you’re curious for a taste, snapshots from the evening and recipes courtesy of the CookUp Club are below.

Beer Bread
Not part of her usual repertoire, but for the evening Tal of Eva Sweets baked a moist beer bread. Slathered with butter, it’s a treat and a great way to kick-off the evening.


Here’s the recipe:
375 grams of flour
375 ml beer
1 tablespoon of salt
15 grams fresh yeast
50 grams sugar
75 grams chopped walnuts

Grease and flour a loaf pan. Combine the yeast with half of the beer in a bowl and place aside for 10 minutes to rest. When the yeast has bubbled, add the flour, salt, sugar and the rest of the beer to the yeast and mix until all the ingredients are well combined (take care to not over-blend). Add the walnut and gently fold into the batter. Pour the mixture into the pan and let rise for at least an hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Bourbon Maple Glazed Pistachios
As we all chopped, sliced, diced, mixed, and poured we nibbled while we worked and tasted Bourbon Maple Glazed Pistachios. Tricia who whips up the blog Cheeky Attitude made the pistachios ahead (see top right photo) and then tossed them into the salad. Whether added to a salad or as a snack, it makes a fun bite.

yumivore cookup

Sake Steamed Clams
To add some fun to the kitchen, Beth who dishes up OMG! Yummy brought a couple bottles of sake to sip on, and sake was also an ingredient in her Sake Steamed Clams recipe. The clams surprised us all at how relatively easy they were to prepare (once they were cleaned) and a small bite made a big impression. Served over steamed rice drenched with the broth, it was wonderful to try with a shot of sake. I believe in Japan before eating a meal one says ‘itadakimasu’ and to toast with a drink ‘kampai’ — cheers!

yumivore cookup2

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Drunken Pasta
Things started heating up in the kitchen when the clams went on the stove and water and wine started boiling to make the Drunken Pasta. Yes, you read that right, water AND wine. It was an interesting preparation; for many Drunken Pasta elicited thoughts of a vodka cream sauce, but this was a new take on cooking with alcohol. Drenched in a butter sauce that would make even Julia Child blush, this dish warmed us up and was welcome on the plate.

yumivore cookup

Homemade Fettuccine:
2 cups of flour
2 eggs
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. water (approx)

Mix everything to a firm dough, then use a pasta roller to make the fettuccine, and let dry for 2 hours.

For boiling the pasta:
Mixture of 50% red wine and 50% water

1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 chopped onion
1 cup of white wine
1/4 cup Parmesan for sauce, and another 1/4 cup for plating
1/4 cup sage
Salt and pepper

Bring the red wine mixture to a boil. In a separate large pan, melt the butter, and add the onion, cook until soft, but not brown. Add the white wine, and continue to cook. Add the pasta to the boiling wine-water, and let it cook for at least 3 minutes, to release the starch. Strain pasta and move it to the pan. Coat the pasta well with the sauce, and add Parmesan, sage, salt and pepper to taste before serving. Sprinkle more Parmesan on top before plating, and voila!

Stuffed Mushrooms
While friends were preparing the pasta, I was busy cooking wine-drenched mushrooms. Playing host and cooking has it’s disadvantages. Not fully paying attention to my pan, I grabbed a Côtes du Rhône red for the recipe, but don’t try this at home, opt for a dry white wine instead to enhance the earthiness of the mushrooms. This classic appetizer is delightful, full of flavor and indeed worth a bite. Here’s the recipe for scrumptious Stuffed Mushrooms.

yumivore cookup2 (3)

Guinness Chocolate Cake Whiskey Ganache and Irish Cream Cupcakes
If bowls of creamy gooey chocolate, luscious whipped cream and rich chocolate cake makes you swoon — brace yourself. No doubt the sweet smell that wafted through the kitchen while preparing the batter and cream for the cupcakes overwhelmed us all. It was impossible not to catch a whiff of the whiskey and crave the Irish cream as these were being prepped by Tal with a little help from us all. If sweets are your thing, this recipe takes the cake.

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Recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cake, Whiskey Ganache, and Irish Cream Cupcakes:
12 Cupcakes:
140 gram flour (1cup)
½ cup beer
pinch of salt
120 gram butter
200 gram sugar (1 cup)
35 gram cocoa powder (1/2 cup)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream

Whiskey Ganache:
120 gram bitter sweet chocolate
40 ml heavy whipping cream
15 grams butter
1 tablespoon Whiskey

Irish Cream Topping:
120 grams white chocolate
100 ml heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoon Irish cream
250 ml whipping cream

Irish cream topping: melt the chocolate with the whipping cream on a ‘bain marie’, add the Irish cream and mix well. Let cool and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

In a small pot mix the beer and the butter until well blended, add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth, set aside to cool down. In a bowl mix the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt. In the mixer, mix the sour cream and egg until well blended than add the beer mixture – mix well. Fold in the flour mixture. Divide evenly and pour into a cupcake pan (fill each mold ¾ full). Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Whiskey Ganache:
Melt the chocolate, butter and whipping cream on a ‘bain marie’, add the Whisky and mix well. Let cool down. Add the Irish cream mixture to the remaining whipping cream and mix until you get a soft cream. Cut out the middle of the cupcake in order to make a small hole. Pipe a teaspoon of the Whisky Ganache inside. Decorate with the Irish cream topping.

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Finally after all the cooking, we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor and savor a meal together. Thank you for joining us for a taste, and hope you get to try the recipes in your kitchen!

yumivore cookup the meal

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stuffed mushrooms

yumivore stuffed mushrooms (4)

A home cookbook isn’t complete without at least one recipe for stuffed mushrooms. It’s the kind of dish that’s coveted by a crowd and goes fast at any party. Easy to make, the variations are endless. This classic appetizer is widely popular in many cookbooks worldwide and worth a bite.

Stuffed Mushrooms
20 medium white button or crimini mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

Directions: Wash and dry the mushrooms. Grasp one at a time, cap face down in the palm of your hand, and gently gripping at the base, wiggle the stalk loose and remove, then set aside. Repeat this step until all the mushroom have a hollow center. Prep the stalks by slicing and discarding the dark ends then finely chop the rest. Note that some stalks may not be suitable for cooking and should be discarded. In a large pan on the stovetop, melt the butter on medium heat. Cook the mushrooms cap face down for several minutes until lightly brown before turning over and cooking on the opposite side for another minute or two. At this stage add the wine to the pan and cook for an additional minute. Remove the mushrooms and place them in an oven-proof baking dish. Using the same pan, sauté the scallions for a couple of minutes, then add the remaining ingredients. Taste and add additional seasoning as required. When the mixture is ready, spoon a portion into the hollow center of each mushroom. Place the stuffed mushrooms in a 300 degree oven; bake for approximately 15-20 minutes prior to serving. Serve warm.

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Notes: Once you get a hang of removing the stems, all sorts of fillings can be stuffed inside. In place of scallions, shallots are a superb and tasty option as are leeks. Fresh chopped garlic is also a great addition. For an extra bite add Parmigian-Reggiano cheese to the mix. For a vegan version, replace the butter with an olive oil that is naturally buttery in taste.

The filling inside the mushrooms can be mile-high and overstuffed, or the filling filled up to the rim, it’s up to the cook to decide. Try adding sausage for a meat-lovers version or crab if you’re craving seafood fare. Different types of cheese can be blended in as well, or the mushrooms can even be stuffed with a creamy spinach or artichoke mix. There’s lots of room for creativity. I can assure though this simple recipe is mouth-watering as is. Since the recipe calls for a dry white wine, try Dry Creek Fumé Blanc which is enjoyable both for drinking and cooking. Cheers and bon appétit!

yumivore stuffed mushrooms (5)

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dans le jardin

photos du jour | dans le jardin
in the garden

yumivore photos du jour ladybugs (10)

yumivore photos du jour ladybugs (5)

yumivore ladybugs

yumivore photos du jour ladybugs (6)

yumivore photos du jour ladybugs (7)

yumivore photos du jour ladybugs (8)

yumivore photos du jour ladybugs (9)

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a toast to ridge

yumivore ridge vineyards blogiversary (1)

Friends at Ridge Vineyards are celebrating their fourth blogiversary. 4488: A Ridge Blog is hosted by the amiable Christopher Watkins, a bard of sorts, who is one cool cat. Savvy and passionate about wine, words, and jazz he brought several of us kindred spirits together one afternoon to revel in the Gospels of Pauls. The sermon delivered that day had one message – to experience fine, classic wine paired with the smooth sounds of jazz.

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Though we were initially focused on a wine tasting in the comforts of Monte Bello, cradling a glass in hand, the music whisked us off to another place. Whether it was to a ragged old club with weathered chairs, “smoke-filled jazz grottos in Paris” or a posh apartment overlooking Central Park, for a few moments the sounds carried us far. The banter in the room was filled with vibrant subjects. We warmed our palates and minds with Paul Draper’s wine philosophy (shared by our host). We pondered and deliberated over subtleties and nuances in each wine. From there topics took off that spanned art and the painter Jackson Pollock, prose and the writer Jack Kerouac, and in the background Miles Davis, Theolonius Monk, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane were strumming and swinging along as though to the tune of our conversation.

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yumivore ridge vineyards blogiversary (2)

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That afternoon took place a year ago, on Ridge’s third blogiversary. Though a full year has passed, and perhaps the details may not be as crisp, ultimately it’s the experience that lingers. Thank you Christopher and Ridge for hosting such an enriching experience. Pairing wine and music was an exercise that compelled us to creatively think about marrying two elements or passions together in harmony. For those nostalgic, and for those curious and wish a taste of what we tasted that day, sit back with these wine aficionados and enjoy:
On Wine, Jazz and Inkblots
Ridge Wine Blog Anniversary Tasting
Drink That Tune: A blogger tasting at Ridge Vineyards
Ramblings: Wine Descriptors and Ridge Vineyards Wines

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Wishing you a very happy fourth blogging birthday, and many many more.

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A toast, to Ridge!

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