Making the Best of Summertime with Sangria Saturdays.

It can be difficult to recognize the onset 0f the summer months in a Mediterranean climate such as Israel. Gradually though you begin to notice the increasing power of the sun, the warmth of the breezeless nights and  your ever-increasing fantasies about air-conditioning.

Summer in Israel slows things down. Rushing makes you feel hotter, so you just take your sweet time going wherever you need to go. In the oven-heat, it can be hard to imagine doing anything else but finding a shady spot somewhere and lying down, sipping ice water stuffed with mint leaves.

Saturday was such a day. Too hot for the beach, too hot for a walk, too hot for anything but to make a soup-pot’s worth of cold sangria and devour a mess of freshly made  bruschetta under the lemon tree, whiling away the afternoon enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of summer.

Summer Sangria:

Bunch of fruits (I used grapes, apples, nectarines, oranges and cherries)

Brandy/whiskey

Sugar

red wine

red Lambrusco/cava/any sweet carbonated wine

Instructions:

In a large bowl/pitcher, mix the chopped up fruits with a few teaspoons of sugar (more if you like a sweeter sangria, less if you don’t)

Pour over the fruit enough whiskey or brandy to just cover the fruit. Let chill for a few hours or overnight

Pour in your wine; one bottle of red and one bottle of Lambrusco and let chill for another hour or so. Serve in cups over ice.

Tip: If you really want to be fancy, make ahead sangria ice cubes by freezing red wine in ice cube trays, dropping a little bit of chopped apple in each cube.  As the “ice” melts, it will make your drink colder AND stronger.


Simple Summer Bruschetta:

1 package grape tomatoes

Handful chopped basil

1 large red onion

2 cloves garlic

Coarse salt and fresh pepper

olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar

baguette

Instructions:

Slice each grape tomato in half and add to bowl. Finely dice the garlic and add to tomatoes. Finely chop the onion and add to bowl. Sprinkle onions with course salt and fresh ground pepper. Thinly slice the basil and add to bowl. Pour in olive oil, about 4-5 tablespoons and add 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar into the mix. Gently stir the bruschetta with a spoon. Meanwhile, slice baguette into rounds and sprinkle with olive oil. Toast slices in oven until golden brown. Top with bruschetta and eat!

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Rooftop in Bushwick Eating Classy Treats.

For the past three years, I have gone back and forth between my school (in Israel) and home (in NYC). I usually come back once or twice a year; a two week trip for spring break in April and a 3 month trip in the summer.

The shorter trips are the best, because they serve as condensed reminders of the dual lives I lead; I exist as myself in two separate universes separated by 5,000 miles and a 12 hour plane ride. I always try and fit a year’s worth of experience in two weeks, carefully scheduling my days to meet as many friends as possible, eat as much thai food as possible, and walk as many streets as  possible. Balancing this with my desire to also veg at home with my family is sometimes a tricky act.

In two weeks I run around all over the city, becoming so immersed that I forget that I am here for a short time, that my friends will forgive me if I can’t hang out, that I have an entire life waiting for me back in Israel (at least, I do until graduation). I become stressed that my plan to fit a year of experience in an entire two weeks doesn’t…..actually……work.

Which is fine: Because when I cross out my schedule and let go of my plans ahead, I get the opportunity to climb up to the roof of my friend’s house in Bushwick and look at the sunset suffuse the air with depth, munching on classy pastries the whole time.

FOOD UPDATE: The above are assorted cakes/pastries from one of the oldest and greatest Italian bakeries in the city, Veniero’s. Specifically in the box are a red velvet cupcake, a mini-fuit cheesecake, a slice of sicilian rum cake, a mini napoleon and a mini raspberry tart.

FURTHER FOOD UPDATE: Not mentioned in this post is the fact that these classy pastries succeeded a lunch of transcendant lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster and a corn dog from Crif Dogs. The lobster roll, with the sweetest, most tender meat wrapped in a butter grilled slice of bread gave us what can only be described as a religious  feeling of awe, while the corn dog was simple gluttony.

FURTHER, FURTHER FOOD UPDATE: The above food treats were not documented more in detail on this blog because my lack of iphone means I cannot snap a picture of my food fast enough before I eat it. You’ll just have to use your imagination and take my word for it that it was delicious.

Epic Seder.

When I was younger, I would mark the passing of the year by the arrival of Passover (or Pesach).  I knew that when Pesach came, the year was almost over (from the ages of 5 to 15  I was under the impression that the year began in September [School] and ended in June [Summer Vacation!])

In Israel, I celebrate Pesach Morroccan-style with my grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts.  We go through the entire Haggadah (no shortcuts) and sing traditional sephardic Pesach songs, some in Arabic. Whenever I would whine to my mother “Are we there, yet?” whispering under the chanting undulations of the Seder, she would point out to me that I had it easy: when she was a child, my grandfather would recite the Haggadah twice: once in Hebrew, and once in Arabic.

Pesach in Israel is a totally different vibe: no wheat is allowed (chametz) and the days before bakeries close, and supermarkets practically give away their pasta. Those uninterested in abstaining from gluten stuff their freezers with baked goods in preparation for a week in which any trace of chametz is obliterated or covered with a black cloth: If you can’t see it, is doesnt exist.

This year, I flew home to NYC for Pesach break to celebrate the holiday with my nuclear family and friends. My mom went all out, as usual; making lamb, matza balls (light and fluffy) chicken,gefilte fish (from scratch), chopped liver, veggie chopped liver, kebabs with cinnamon sticks and maybe 8 different salads. The kebabs especially were a big hit : cinnamon sticks are meat’s new best friend.

My favorite part of the Seder, besides for the obvious act of eating, is the moment right before the guests come: when the table, gleaming in white and crystal, shines with the light of the setting sun and the promise of a good year to come.

Perfection On A Park Bench (Breakfast in NYC)

Last week, a flurry of last minute assignments, papers and general school nuisances culminated in my flight home to NYC for Passover break.

Home is great. Home is amazing. Home is everything I want it to be. Being once again in the bosom of my family, my friends and my city makes me feel like I won the lottery (On a capitalistic side note: I was really hoping I’d win the actual 650 million dollar lottery that was drawn last week, but missed it. Oh well.)

My feeling of well-being reached new heights this morning when, running early on my way to a doctor’s appointment, I sat down on a park bench in Central Park to enjoy my deli breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese on a roll and coffee.

Cold air, warm sun, bacon slick with melty orange American cheese crunching in my mouth and gulp after gulp of strong hot coffee. All those Gods up there drinking nectar and ambrosia? They don’t know what they are missing.

Tapas, Jamón and Seafood, Oh My!

I am still trying to sort through my experiences in Barcelona; getting acclimated to a normal routine has been interrupted by a frantic wave of cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving later this evening ( which will be another post). This morning I ate the last of my Jamón Ibérico and anchovies, brought over from Barcelona and jealously guarded all week.

Can you be homesick for a place you’ve been in only five days?

Barcelona food is fresh and unashamed. Sure, most things are fried, but whether it is a calamari ring or a ham croquette it is made with love and respect and your stomach (like a dog) senses this and accepts it with open arms. How else to explain my lack of indigestion despite five days of non-stop scarfing down ham, croquettes, anchovies, and more ham?

In order to bring some order to the cornucopia I have divided the offerings into three categories: The Temple of Jamón, Fish So Good It’s Not Fishy and Rainbow Eats.

The Temple of Jamón:

Spain takes its ham seriously. Ibérican ham comes from Ibérico pigs. These pigs are treated like royalty. The most sought after kinds eat only acorns. Imagine how good you’d taste if all you ate was acorns.

Jamón and the penguin from Madagascar. My life is complete.

 Fish So Good It’s Not Fishy:

No big spiel. The seafood is so fresh and affordable it makes you wonder why you had seafood anywhere else in life. The end.

Even clams deserve decorative flowers.

This is what an entire dried squid looks like.

No, this is not an impressionistic masterpiece. It’s a dish from Els Quatre Gats consisting of grilled squid, Iberico ham chips and some kind of brown sauce. It was beautiful.

Rainbow Eats:

So much of the food in Barcelona just looked so darn good. The effect of a rainbow was especially felt in La Boqueria market, where I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland peering through the looking glass into a world of wonders. Food wonders.

"It's a sponge, it's a bathmat, it's a deflated brain-no! IT'S TRIPE." I wanted to try some but I think that is more of a Madrid thing.

The cherries and tomatoes could have been interchangeable. I’ve never seen that kind of red, unless you count a firetruck.

Some juvenile butcher thought it would be funny to put these cow figurines in this intimate position. He was right; it is funny.

Night Cheese.

“Workin’ on my NIGHT CHEESE!”-Liz Lemon. And sometimes me.

tu·ro·phile, ( n) tu̇r-ə-ˌfī(-ə)l: Cheese Lover.

My favorite Wallace and Gromit* film has always been “A Grand Day Out” where Wallace and Gromit run out of cheese and decide, quite sensibly, to build a rocket ship and fly to the moon. Which is made of cheese.

The reason for this is obvious. I love cheese. Hard cheese, soft cheese, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, moldy cheese, cream cheese. The only cheese I don’t like is low-fat cheese. Low-fat cheese is an offense to cheese. Cut your calories somewhere else; that bite of brie isn’t going to tip the scale. Cheese is tasty. Cheese is comforting. Cheese makes sense. Saying “Cheese” makes me happy, whether I am smiling for a camera or eating a plate of it with some wine for a late dinner (as I did last night).

No Night Cheese is complete without fresh fruit, crackers and red wine.

Imagine my delight, and slight embarrassment, when I saw this clip from an episode of 30 Rock:

So I say, “Let them eat cheese!”. There is no shame in considering cheese as your main protein source, or having 4 different kinds in your fridge at any one time. You can even play Cheese or Font, an online game in which a name pops up on the screen and you, the player, needs to decide if it is the name of a cheese or a font. It’s tricky.

http://cheeseorfont.com/

Two summers ago,  my friends and I became so obsessed with this game that we made up a theme song for playing.

To the tune of Tears for Fears’ song “Take on me”:

Cheese or Font?

Whats it gonna be?

(repeat)

Cheese can also be life saving. The blue mold that gives Bleu (or Blue) Cheese it’s name is actually the cultures of the mold Penicillium, the very same mold which produces Penicillin, the ancestor of all modern antibiotics. *Oh SNAP*

*if you don’t know what I am talking about, check it out here: http://www.wallaceandgromit.com/films/granddayout/about.html