A Trip to the Holy Land

July 25 – July 31, 2022

Monday:                   Strip Steak Hash with Peppers, Onions and Potatoes

Tuesday:                   Toasted Challah Caprese Salad with Za’atar Vinaigrette and toasted Gouda and Tomato Sandwiches

Alas, no pictures of our featured recipe – but here are some flowers

Wednesday:            Lemony Chili and Tuna Pasta

Here’s a Picture of Howard pretending to cook with the birthday boy, UFR, in the background being his usual demure self

Thursday:                 Dunnings Meeting

This picture for Rosie, not a fan of whole fish on a plate. But, hey, maybe if she sees enough of them, she’ll get over it.

Friday:                       Grilled Red Snapper with Grilled Potatoes and Salad

Margherita in the shape of Ohio or Iowa

Saturday:                  Really Good Pizza, Unlike the Overcooked Crust Last Week

Sunday:                     Grilled Steak/ Grilled Potatoes w/Paprika Oil / Avocado toast

A Trip to the Holy Land

Our great weekends (see last week’s post) continued with an hilarious dinner for UFR’s 65th birthday at Mere and Howard’s Historic Spa and Maison two Sundays ago.  We grilled steaks on their new Wolf grill and had Mere’s superb fruit salad and crab cakes and Beez’s Chocolate Mousse, and Howard’s gin and vodka and scotch from his new illuminated granite bar which reminds me of the Transformation with the difference that the rock (mountain) was radiant, instead of Jesus, Abraham and Elijah.*

*I know that Biblical analogies are strange territory for some of you and that jocular Biblical analogies edge dangerously close to blasphemy for others.  To which I must reply, in the words of the intrepid Popeye the Sailorman: “I yam what I yam.”

The steak was cooked perfectly, if I say so myself – but I have Billy, UFR et. al. to back me up, and eating in Mere and Howard’s Edenic garden was sheer bliss.  And, finally, coming across two new cookbooks in Mere’s kitchen was pure icing on the cake.  The books are Zahav and Sabbaba, the first by Michael Solomonov, Israeli chef and Philadelphia Restaurateur, the second by Adeena Sussman, an American cook who moved to Israel.  We’ve been cooking from both over the last week and I am ready to sign up for your synagogue’s or parish’s next bus trip to the Holy Land.

Now Beez tells me that it is impossible to take a bus to the Holy Land since there is no equivalent to the Chunnel between the U.S. and the Continent of Europe.  But I have pointed out to her that during very cold winters it is possible to drive across the Bering Strait to Russia, then across Russia to Finland and from there it’s an easy trip down the Nordic Peninsula to the tip of Sweden, then across the Oresund Bridge and the Drogden Tunnel to Denmark, and whence through Germany and Austria and Romania and Bulgaria to Turkey and, crossing the Bosporus by bridge, continuing East to Syria and thence south to Israel.  Some diplomatic palms may have to be greased, but that can be arranged.  And please note, there won’t be any flight delays and your luggage will arrive with you and on time.

But back to those cookbooks.  Last Week we grilled a whole Red Snapper and Potatoes, a la Solomonov, and just last night we cooked a savory Matzoh Ball Soup, using our own chicken stock.  We’ve also made a fine Toasted Challah Caprese Salad with Za’atar Vinaigrette.  I’ll be glad to forward the Soup recipe, but it takes at least two days – on the first day you’ll make the stock (about 4 hours of simmer after bringing a whole chicken, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, water and salt to a boil) and then refrigerate it so that the fat rises to the top.  The second day you’ll scoop the fat from the top of the stock and save it – pure golden schmaltz for cooking – and then make the matzoh balls and the soup.  And I can send you the salad recipe as well, but to give you something you can cook tonight, here’s a delicious pasta dish that you can whip up in no time, leaving you the entire evening to plan your next trip to the Israel, the home of all this good food and two of the world’s major religions.

Seriously – these cook books are a revelation,* like Yottam Ottolenghi’s but much simpler for the home cook.

*I know, another religious analogy – I can’t help myself.

Notes:  Michael Solomonov was born in Israel but raised in Pittsburgh and attended Taylor Alderdice High School here, thereby lending further credence to my theory that all important people and events have a Pittsburgh connection. George Washington mapped the “point” where two rivers (Allegheny and Monongahela) join to form the mighty Ohio.  Jonas Salk discovered a vaccing for polo.  And Andrew Carnegie, eschewing the Gates Foundation, built libraries across the land, including the great main Carnegie Library near Pitt – the largest open stack public library.  I spent a good deal of my youth there.

No more notes – here’s the pasta dish:

Lemony Chili and Tuna Pasta

(adapted from Adeena Sussman)

Note:  you will see ‘24-hour salted lemon spread’ in the ingredients, but fear not.  Use the substitute we used which involves preserved lemons you can often get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or any middle eastern food store, or substitute grated lemon zest and the juice from one lemon.

Timing:                                              30 minutes, tops

Ingredients:                                          Serves 4

¼ lb. bucatini or spaghetti (we used spaghetti

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for tossing

6 garlic cloves sliced thin – we used 2 grated

1 red chili sliced into thin rounds – you want something spicy – Fresno will do, but it’s not quite hot enough – still, we used Fresno

2 6.7 ounce jars or three 5 ounce cans of tuna in olive oil.  Well, we used two 6 ounce jars of imported Italian tuna in olive oil.

¼ cup pitted Moroccan cured black olives (all supermarkets have cured black olives – you can’t tell whether they’re from Morocco or Irwin (the home of DeLallo foods)

1 cup finely minced parsley

Ground black pepper

½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for garnish

1/3 to ½ cup 24-hour Salted Lemon Spread (you’ll find the recipe for this below – but we simply whizzed up about a cup of roughly chopped preserved lemons (with seeds removed) with a teaspoon of paprika and a scant ½ cup of olive oil, a substitute Adeena recommends.  You can also use the grated zest and juice of one lemon.


Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high.

Thaw or shell the peas

Drain the tuna

Make the lemon spread or the substitutes

Cook and Finish:

Cook the pasta until al dente per the package instructions, tossing in the peas for the last 30 seconds of cooking.

Scoop out ¾ cup of the pasta water and reserve, then drain the pasta and peas, tossing with a drizzle of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Return the pot to the stove and add the ¼ cup of olive oil. Cook over medium-low for one minute.

Add the sliced garlic, if using, and cook for a few minutes or add the grated garlic and raise the heat to medium and add the Salted Lemon Spread or the Preserved Lemon mixture of the zest and lemon juice.  With the spread or the mixture, you’ll want to cook until it darkens a bit – maybe 3 minutes.

Now add the reserved pasta water and return the pasta and peas to the pot, along with the tuna, the parmigiano and the olives.  Toss and taste – add more of water lemon thing you’re using, if it needs more punch.  Toss with the parsley and the black pepper.

Serve, garnished with more cheese.

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