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Homemade pumpkin pie!

 Thanksgiving: my favorite holiday

In my invitation, this is how I described Thanksgiving to my Israeli friends:

For those not especially familiar, Thanksgiving is a secular American holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November.  We take a moment out of our lives and give thanks for all we have – and eat massive amounts of American food (hope you like green bean casserole and pumpkin-marshmallow bake).  In theory, we mark the date of the “first Thanksgiving” the Pilgrims shared with the Indians in Massachusetts in 1621 after having survived the first difficult year in the New World.  For a good overview of the history of Thanksgiving see: http://history1900s.about.com/od/1930s/a/thanksgiving.htm.  It’s like Passover, but for everyone and anyone.  I think it should be an international holiday.

They don’t quite get it, but it’s still important for me to do.  As for the meal, I never cease to be amazed at how disgusted everyday Israelis are of pumpkin pie.  I basically made a quintuple recipe – two double-stuff pies (one pictured above) and 2 dozen pie-cupcakes.  Three-quarters of one pie got eaten, along with a small handful of mini-pies.  Half of our twenty or so guests were American, so you can see how little and unadventurous the palates were.  The apple pie went over a bit better – the prettiest apple pie I’ve ever made, actually – and most people don’t seem to know it’s easy to make.  Well, almost all pies are easy, depending on the filling.  Just mix up whatever you want to cook and pour into the crust.  Apple pie, being made entirely of apple, is usually just made up of apple slices, a bit of sugar, and cinnamon.  Pumpkin pie, so easy to make in the US with canned pumpkin, is infinitely more difficult when you have to go out and buy your own pumpkin, core it, cut off the rind, boil large chunks, and then press and blend the cooked meat – all before mixing in the actual pie ingredients.  I will use the word homemade here quite frequently, because it truly was – nothing canned.

Surprisingly enough, my homemade sweet potato marshmallow casserole was a big hit, although they did not understand why it wasn’t in the dessert category.  I suppose nobody can say no to a dish covered in marshmallows.  The child in us all simply jumps out of our skins.  My family’s recipe calls for the sweet potato mash to be mixed with a large can of pineapple chunks (syrup removed first) and sprinkled heavily with cinnamon, before being topped by our preservative-packed confection.

The turkey was divine!  Again, Israelis are stunned and impressed at the buying and cooking of a whole turkey.  Now, Israelis, you must understand, eat a lot of turkey.  More than most countries.  But the form it takes is almost exclusively in cold cuts and schwarma, if you can believe it.  Even huge cuts of meat for roasting are pretty rare.  I’ve never seen a roast in Israel.  The closest is goulash with big chunks of meat.  So you can imagine the oddity of a whole bird.  I brined mine for about 15 hours (it was about a 16-17 pound bird) in homemade brine I improvised around an Alton Brown recipe.  My brine-broth contained crystallized ginger among other exotic things.  If you’ve never brined a bird – DO – it makes a huge difference in the juiciness, tenderness, and intensity of flavor.  Of course butter helps enormously too, and herbs under the skin along with it.  The stuffing was as usual Martha Stewart’s chestnut stuffing, a recipe my sister and I have favored for years.  Lots of butter, sage, cups and cups of chopped chestnut, and high quality bread.  I’m still eating the leftovers quite happily.

In any case, in any case.  Thanksgiving was a hit at our home – my sister and I are very proud of 2011’s feast.


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I am sometimes privileged enough to get to participate in days and evenings that many people would die to experience, or have a hidden camera along with them.  As a writer, I don’t need one.  And believe me, I’d be a fool not to use my experiences as fodder for something extraordinary one day.  I won’t disclose direct details and names are omitted (don’t worry, nothing as sordid as you’d think).  The last 3 days of my life have simply been surreal – nothing short of it at all.  Billed as a combination “giving back and coming together,” the winery created a three-day program for every single worker – yes, we shut down for three days.  Included in this adventure:

  •  Community service – I spent most of the day breathing in ungodly amounts of sawdust and varnish fumes in an enclosed greenhouse for about 6 hours for the benefit of a community center for the mentally challenged – the folks came down to help us, and I ended up getting sprayed by said varnish for several minutes.  Ah well.  All for good.  I did get to commune with donkeys, ducks, and chickens that day in their petting zoo – always a plus in my book – and it was amazing to see what 6 hours’ hard work by 100+ people actually can accomplish.  It was great – although the sawdust ring and piles of sediment in the bathtub that night (I kid you not) were a cause of some concern to me.
  • A romantic tour of the old city of Jerusalem.  Great fun.  Churches, ramparts, architecture.  I’ve done it at least half a dozen times, and even led unofficial versions of it for friends.  But I loved it.  Towards the end I got tired, and when we got to the incredible Austrian Hospice, I simply disappeared into the cafe-garden with a lovely creamy Meinl cappuccino while the group went up to the roof for another half-hour of pointing-at-buildings.  It’s a rose garden, quiet, and two foreign gentlemen smoked cigars next to me.  At that moment I was happy.  I loved my employer, my colleagues, the retreat, the weather, the location.  It was a great day.
  • Ridiculous performances — I hate using ridiculous to describe performance art, as artists try hard and need to earn a living.  There just happens to be a lot I cannot tolerate, and I was subjected to some extremely…well…difficult work.  Folksy mediocre sort of stuff — the fact that many, perhaps not most, but not a few, of my work colleagues enjoyed some if not all of the two evenings’ entertainment, puzzled me.  But let me leave it at that. To each his own.  A fantastic exercise in anthropology, one could say.
  • A scavenger hunt.  A big fat three-hour frantic massive-list hunt, 21st-century-style (all evidence photographed, video’ed, and internet research often required).  We were broken up into groups and I knew almost nobody in mine.  Running all over Jerusalem, climbing the YMCA tower (450 steps up) to count carillon bells, taking photographs while sitting inside random people’s cars, teaching tourists to speak a sentence in Hebrew about our company, archery in the park, and on and on.  It was exhausting.  We didn’t win, but now I have 7 new friends at the winery, most of whom I never would have met, approached, or sat with at a meal.  The fact that I enjoyed this is a huge credit to the HR people at the winery.  They know their stuff.  It could have been cheesy-city, but almost every group participated with gusto.  It was great.
  • Raucous late-night adventures in the shuk — my favorite part of the trip — reminded me of my adventures in Bordeaux.  A small group (12 or so) of people from almost every walk of life (department) of the winery decided to head out for some post-cheesy-art living it up on the town.  We found ourselves at the Casino de Paris – a hip new bar-eatery in the middle of Machaneh Yehuda shuk (market).  Yes, hidden among the vegetable stalls is quite a chic place, bright, friendly, excellent booze, people spilling out the door on a Monday night.  We drank, ate, drank, told stories, drank, made merry, and drank under the stars beside the covered stalls outside the warm little bar.  Then we made our way to the famous Machaneh Yehuda restaurant a couple blocks away.  We drank, ate, drank, and made merry all over again, to a much higher and stranger degree.  With stranger foods (shellfish after midnight).  Stranger objects (wearing tea towels somehow became part of this segment of the evening). Stranger liquors (we started the evening with high-end Cognac and single malt Scotch, and somehow ended up finishing it off with cheap Arak).  So it goes.  Interesting taxi-back-to-hotel arrangements.  And lots and lots of ibuprofen.  I’m quite proud of myself, really.  I can really hold my liquor, or so it seems to me.  I didn’t tell any bad sex jokes, I didn’t vomit, I didn’t fall down, and I hardly cried at all.  I think it was a well-maintained buzz through and through.  In the course of 6 hours (with food) I think I consumed 3 glasses of wine, 2 whiskys, three sips of beer (one ale, two stout – a knowledgeable person told me to try stout with whisky and it was an excellent combination), one tiny sip of Arak, and a glass of bubbly.  It was a fantastic evening.  Had it occurred at the American Colony as I’d wanted, it would have been better.  It’ll have to wait for the next adventure.  But it was very good as it was.

It doesn’t often occur to people that they live interesting lives — but on this particular occasion, it occurred to me that I do.  I don’t make wine, but I get to work with people who do.  People who make world-class amazing wine.  And that counts for something.  It’s amazing when you know you’re working with and for good people, for a good cause.  Wine is a luxury product, I suppose, but it’s far more essential than a Lexus or foie gras or an Xbox, I think.  It’s a connection to land, to history, to religion, to people, to experience.  What’s a wedding without wine?  New Years?  Anniversaries?  Birthdays? Beuf Bourgignon? Coq au Vin?  I’m back to stressed out life — and even if it doesn’t seem charmed 99% of the time — it is a charmed existence in many ways.  There’s always that after-work glass of wine waiting.

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Vinexpo entrance

As I’m trying to focus more on wine, I feel obligated to devote a post to my Vinexpo experience.  As I’m tired, working, it’s August, hot as hell, and I’m typing away outside today as there’s no room inside at the cafe I stopped at because I could walk no longer – this is difficult.  But I’m going for it because sooner is better than later (and it’s been – my god – over a month since the event).  Without further ado, I give you…

VINEXPO 2011

Overview: Founded in 1981 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the Vinexpo has emerged over the years as the great meeting place for global operators of wines and spirits. The expo takes place every other year in Bordeaux at the fairgrounds. It takes place during one week in June every odd year and welcomes some 50,000 visitors, and hosts 2400 exhibitors from 47 countries. The main exhibitors are French and Italian.   In 2011, one out of three non-French exhibitor was from Asia, and recorded 48,122 visitors from 148 countries, up 3.22% compared to 2009.

ISRAELI WINERIES

The GHW and GMW booth at Vinexpo with Head Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld and Director of Sales and Marketing Arnon Harel.

I was honored with an invitation to come and work at the expo by the Golan Heights Winery.  They have been exhibiting at Vinexpo for at least 20 years, as far as I know, the only winery – at least this year – from Israel.  This year, we also brought wines from our daughter winery, The Galil Mountain Winery.  I speak French fairly fluently (I lived in Paris as a child, grew up in a loosely tri-lingual household, and continued my studies through high school and university – where I focused heavily on French literature), but needless to say, my wine vocabulary was lacking.  I spent the two months before attempting to brush up – listening to French news radio on the internet, and I found some Skype-pals, for lack of a better term, through a free service that pairs up people wanting to improve their foreign language speaking skills through an exchange with native speakers, online.  A fantastic idea.  I also created lists of wine vocabulary, watched wine-making videos on YouTube, and I did some research on wine websites and wine regions in France, simply to read about these topics in French.  It all helped.  I was a bit overzealous in my preparation and overly nervous about my ability to perform, but I think I did well.  The first day I felt I was a bit shaky – but after a glass or two of wine and hours on end of speaking just French, it came very easily.  I was there to pour wine, explain about our wines in detail, and introduce whoever was interested to what Israeli wines really are.  A great fun very professional exhibition.  I met wonderful people, and I learned a lot, too.

FEATURED WINES

The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served)

Golan: Yarden Gamla Brut 2005; Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2010; Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organ Vineyard 2009; Yarden Syrah 2006; Yarden Merlot 2007; Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2007; and Yarden Heights Wine 2009.  We also brought a hodge-podge selection of 2-3 bottles of various other wines to share with journalists, specialists, and international distributors, if the moment arose – from the Golan range, through Gamla, and a few special single vineyards and top limited-edition wines like the Rom and Katzrin.

Galil: Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Viognier 2010; Avivim 2009; Pinot Noir 2009; Meron 2007/2008; Yiron 2007.  There were also some random bottles opened on occasion, if memory serves, perhaps some of the younger reds.

MY EXPERIENCE

As the only French speaker, I found myself at the stand so much that I didn’t see much of the rest of the expo.  Frankly, that was OK by me.  Victor, the head winemaker, worked extremely hard, too, as well as some of the others, and when you get into a rhythm, adrenaline kicks in, and it’s extremely fun work.  A real team effort.  We had “Wine ID Cards,” as we call them, with all the stats on the company, the numbers, and the geography, complete with map, as we used as a starting point to explain about the location of the vineyards and the specific terroir.   What I found surprising was the people were incredibly open-minded.  I think that a number of them simply came out of curiosity, the novelty of an Israeli winery, but the fact that we’ve been winning very important awards, especially as of late went a long way, too.  People loved our wines.  The most “negative” comment I got was that it was very different than what they make in France.  Perhaps they were being polite.  However, the rave reviews some people offered up, who came back for seconds, who finished their glasses instead of using the spittoons, were not uncommon, and it was energizing.  I was so happy to be there.  Honestly, I was so proud to be there.  And to be spouting off facts, figures, agricultural specifics, aging techniques, standing right next to the winemakers – hopefully getting it all right (I certainly prepped enough) – was something else.   I feel I proved something to myself.  I’ve come very far in just two+ years in the trade.  I’m actually able to teach things, and in some ways also to inspire.  I love these wines, and I love the people I get to work with even more.

And enough drippy drippy sap I’m spouting.  Of the OTHER world wines I got to taste:

  • Lebanese wines: SO different from Israeli wines, and such a small distance away, it’s surprising (almost all of the wines are made in the Beqaa Valley).  I found them sharper somehow.  Very different layering.  A lot of the wine wasn’t amazing, I have to admit, as younger wines always are.  However, among the young wines, there was a lot of creativity – fresh and bright.  The vines in Lebanon are older than ours, at least some of them.  Because Lebanon is not a dominantly Muslim country, there have always been Christians there – I met a lot of people who had vines that were decades and decades old.  A big positive factor in the quality of the grapes.  Of course, there are also a lot of new ventures.  I met French winemakers who were hired by Lebanese and Syrian businessmen who wanted to build up wineries as an investment in recent years.  The wines I tasted that I remembered most were from Chateau Ksara and Château Kefraya.
  • Japanese wine: no, I’m not talking sake.  I’m talking real true blue wine from grapes of the authentic Vitis vinifera.  They don’t yet have a website, the wine is in such limited production, and for the life on me I cannot remember the name.  Crazy.  I will find out, though, as I know some people who know some people and I will update soon.  Perhaps I’ll write a post on it.  What I remember is this:  it was distinctive as hell.  I don’t know whether I loved it or hated it.  Not kidding.  There were two wines, one younger, one more aged – premiere, both white, very fresh and sharp.  What was distinctive first was the smell.  It was like stinky bleu cheese and fresh green melon.  Weird.  I mean so weird, I felt like my facial expression might have insulted the women representing the winery.  They served sushi with it.  The taste was so contrary to the smell, that was the next oddity.  Very floral and green.  They were saying that the specific grape varietal was native to Japan and had been evident in records for over 1,000 years.  How this fruit came to Japan that long ago is a mystery.  On the wings of a bird?  On a rare random trade ship?  Because it is the real deal species.  Not a different fruit.  I will find the name, promise.
  • Chablis: I tasted the whole lineup of wines from the Durup family’s winery.  It’s good solid decent Chablis.  I liked the Chablis 1er cru Vau de Vey very much, although I must say that their Petit Chablis was just as lovely and drinkable.  For people who want a fun summery wine, and aren’t wanting to break the bank, it’s a great choice.
  • Sicilian wines: I tasted a big-commercial-winery’s wine from Sicily two years ago and was blown away.  Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for Sicilian wines in Israel.  This wine was so rich and deeply fragrant, reminiscent of cassis (black current), that I was kind of in heaven.  Cassis reminds me of France and England and childhood and fruits from other-parts-of-the-world, not the standard everyday variety. Needless to say, there aren’t many Sicilian wines available in Israel.  I got a chance to taste many many Sicilian wines at the expo.  In short, there are volcanic regions on the island, and surprisingly enough, non-volcanic regions, too.  The wines are dramatically different.  The dominant local varietals are Nero D’Avola (red) and Inzolia (white).  I was pleasantly surprised by the whites, as I hadn’t tasted them before.  Because of the sort of “transparency” of flavor inherent in white wines (for even the beginner, it’s easier to detect differences between white varietals than red ones, at least in my opinion, and they are easier on the nose, if that makes any sense) – I felt I was tasting something so new yet so ancient.  I don’t have my notes in front of me, unfortunately, but maybe I’ll do a separate post on it, too.
  • Burgundy: Tasted some, people were pretentious, the wines weren’t at the correct temperatures, by a long shot , and I didn’t have a good time.  I moved on quickly.  So I can say I drank a glass of grand cru.  OK.  My notes are elsewhere, and that’s OK by me.
  • Bordeaux: Besides the two stands I stopped at, we drank Bordeaux wines all week at dinner.  There is a reason that these are the kings of world wines.  Even the youngest wines are so distinctive of this region.  The layers and complexity are fascinating and at the end of the day, delicious.  At one of the stands, a young man took me through a very interesting tasting.  I got to taste, albeit two simple wines, ones that were made a few meters from each other, from the same vintage, made in the same method, by the same winemaker.  And the differences were dramatic.  An exceptional lesson on terroir, for sure!

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The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served) at our stand at Vinexpo, June 2011

I have been an international lady as of late. Blogging has suffered. The huge events that have dominated my life since my last post have been:

  • Vinexpo – Bordeaux, France – one of the largest (if not the largest) wine exhibition in the world. Kilometers long. Immense.  Exciting.  And the Golan Heights Winery (and its daughter winery, Galil Mountain), the only Israeli winery represented (and has been for over 20 years), invited me to come with them.  A brilliant week!  I spent my days speaking French with lots of wine professionals and led them through “une degustation,” a tasting, and teaching them about our wines.  I got to know the head winemakers and management well, which was so much fun – it honestly started to feel like a school trip….and the eating and drinking through the city like there was no tomorrow was certainly a perk.
  • Paris – I spent almost a week in Paris after the expo – two/three days of which was with my parents who happened to be in town, unplanned.  I spent time with family friends, too, walked all over the city, relaxed, and ate very very very well.
  • New Job! The winery hired me to manage, train, and recruit all of the wine stewards in Israel.  This is a huge honor, and it’s a job I’m loving.  It’s not easy, but it’s mainly logistics and some training.
  • New love – a beautiful, exciting, and ultimately sad story. I met a man that I’m crazy about. It has been one of the most emotionally satisfying, significant and devastating months of my life.  He is leaving to go abroad for a very long time (years) in two weeks (we will have had about 5 weeks together). I’m not sure how I’m dealing with it all.  With the new job I love and a career I’m trying to forge,  I finally accepted the fact that I’m staying here and putting a stake in this place.

ANYHOW: I will be putting together some incredible photos in the subsequent posts.  Stay posted for gorgeous food.  And I mean gorgeous food…

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A Vogne-Romanee over my notes.

I’m thinking of changing the name to “Wine Wednesday.” The W’s go so well with the day I happen to write these posts.  Opinions?  I’m also not sure anyone is reading — my more quirky culture posts seem more popular — so give me a shout out in any case to let me know your thoughts.

What I Tasted:

I was invited by my employer to attend a private wine tasting hosted by a major import company, featuring the wines of M. Chapoutier.  It was held at the Institut Francais on Rothschild Blv in Tel Aviv.  I’m a big fan of Rhone Valley wines, Syrahs can drive me nuts, I swear.  But, they’ve got to be good, and it’s a region that exports a lot of mediocre stuff.  Apart from the exceptional blini being served along with excessive amounts of French cheeses, a knowledgeable representative of Chapoutier presented a long array of his wines.  The only ones of note to me were the “Ermitage” wines.  Ermitage (without the more common “H” – Hermitage – is commonly used to denote the better single vineyard wines) wines that were best included their “Le Pavillion” and  “L’Ermite.” At the time I didn’t know that they were priced at 147 and 176 Euro per bottle, but it makes sense.  These single vineyards are ancient, the Pavillion on the slope side of the larger pf the two Hermitage hills, and the L’Ermite at the top, where the soil is very poor, the ancient vines really needing to fight to survive, and producing a terribly small yield.  The Hermitage region is one I will be keeping an eye on.  These wines are bold and full of fruit, that gorgeous cassis I adore so much, that rich magenta color – so different from the Bourgognes we drink often at the wine shop. Interesting facts: Hermitage wines were the favorite of the Czars of Russia, and in fact, in the 19th century Bordeaux wines were “hermitaged” (mixed with Hermitage) in order to fetch a higher price.  Cool beans.

I also had the pleasure of drinking the above pictured wine this week, and it was wonderful.  The “La Forge de Tart” is the second wine, one of two, that this domain makes, and it doesn’t come out every year.  As a “second” wine, it’s laughable, as it’s as good as most grand cru Bourgognes out there.  This producer’s got a crazy awesome story, so here’s a little about the “Clos de Tart:”

A rare gem, Clos de Tart has been owned by the Mommessin family since 1932 — only the third proprietor of this historic domaine founded in 1141 by Cistercian nuns, the Bernardines de Tart. Located on the very best slopes of Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits, Clos de Tart, only 7.53 hectares (18.6 acres) in size, is the largest grand cru monopole in Burgundy, with a picturesque, 15th-century, stone wall surrounding the grand cru vineyard. Clos de Tart carries the distinction of being one of the few grand cru monopoles in Burgundy that comprises an appellation in its entirety. Clos de Tart makes just two wines. Low-yield, old-vine vineyards are harvested by hand and vinified in six separate lots, and the best lots achieve the bottled status of Clos de Tart Grand Cru. In some vintages, the domaine also produces a second wine called La Forge de Tart Premier Cru, which is typically made from the younger vines (25 years and under).

That’s it for me this week, I’m afraid.  I’m exhausted and expected at the wine shop in under an hour.  Night before last was an all-nighter, spent writing a short story I should have been developing for over a month.  Oh well.  I’m still very proud of what I produced.  Perhaps I’ll post it here…after a couple revisions.  Human milk has been in the news a good amount these days… Cheers to you all!  Always remember to drink good wines…life is far too short.

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Look out, folks, there’s a new beer in town!

That’s right – BAZELET – by the Golan Brewery.  They make some killer, fresh, handmade, creative, high-end brews.  The four varieties are a Pilsner (a light, bitter lager with a honey finish), a Wheat beer (oh so blond, floral, bready-banana – 2nd fermentation happens in the bottle), an Amber Ale (an Irish-German variety, creative blend of 5 different malts – one of the favorites among the group, and again, a 2nd fermentation with added yeast in the bottle), and finally a Double Bock (dark lager, rich, creamy, sweet, made with twice the amount of malt, giving this darling beer an 8.5% alcohol content).  Bazelet refers to the basalt soil and rock in the Golan Heights, the resulting water coming through is thus of a high caliber.

All I can say is TRY IT.  It rivals the Belgian, German, and Czech imports.  It’s available at a lot of the fine wine stores these days, and it’s getting there in terms of top restaurants.  It’s just so fresh and the demand is high…you know the story.

I had a chance to go to a private tasting and meet the brewmeister.  It’s a bit dim, but here’s a look at all 4 beers:

From left: Pilsner, Wheat, Amber Ale, Double Bock

On a related note, I had a chance to let loose this past week at the Dancing Camel, a small micro-brewery in the center of industrial Tel Aviv.  They make a fascinating array of beers, and I was given the full spread (of what they had at the moment on tap – there are a bunch of specials they sometimes make).

From the bottom: Gordon Beach (mint and rosemary infused wheat beer), Wheat Beer, Pale Ale, Amber Ale, and a Cherry Vanilla Stout

Yes, that’s the nutty bartender’s head I tried to cut off.  It’s a fun night out, a quiet bar inside a big hanger, and of course, lots of beer to taste.  They also have a kosher sandwich menu, and you can actually order this:

It's called the "Penis" and comes with a side of mayonnaise.

Finally, there’s a big beer expo this week, Wednesday and Thursday, at the Nokia Stadium (where Maccabi Tel Aviv play – on Yigal Alon, I believe).  If you like beer, this is the place to be!

I’m still plugging away at grad school applications, but I’m breathing, somehow.  Have a great week everyone!

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The gorgeousness that is sorrel

It looks like spinach but tastes NOTHING like it.  A sour, delicate leaf, perfect in soups and stews as it has a remarkable thickening quality while retaining its vibrant taste.  Spinach cannot compare.  I don’t know why the whole world isn’t cuckoo for sorrel.  In fact, I’m hoping to start a trend here.  People, if you haven’t tried it, take my word for it, you simply must.  Period.  With the scents that were wafting out of the kitchen, we knew we had one legendary meal in the making.

Today, after a rather frustrating morning of heavy work, I boarded the bus to Jerusalem, on a whim.  One of my favorite friends, the lovely queendeb, resides there on the border of Baka and Talpiot (although she only admits to Talpiot). We don’t get together as often as we should, and as two creative food-minded people, we decided on a cooking project.  I brought the sorrel and a bottle of Israeli-Champagne (GHW’s Gamla Brut).  In her quirky kosher kitchen (with her little brother in NYC on video-Skype the entire time), we proceeded in what felt like an adventurous cooking show.  Here’s what became of our evening:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small celery root, chopped
  • 1 yam, chopped
  • 500 g chicken wings
  • 1 bunch sorrel, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 left whole
  • handful of cilantro stems, chopped
  • 3-4 small celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 white cabbage, cut into large in-tact wedges
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 in strips
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 shot Laphroaig Whisky
  • chipotle pepper to taste
  • pepper, garlic powder, chili, etc to taste
  1. In a large soup pot over high heat, drizzle olive oil, then brown the chicken wings.  Remove.
  2. Whisk together the mustard and soy sauce.
  3. With the fat of the chicken left behind, add the onion, garlic, celery root, and yams (in that order – waiting a minute between additions).  Cook at medium heat until sweating/softened.  Add mustard/soy sauce.
  4. Layer the chicken wings evenly over the vegetables.  Then sprinkle the chopped sorrel, chopped celery & celery leaves, and cilantro stems evenly over the chicken.
  5. Sprinkle chipotle pepper over the surface.
  6. Create a layer with the whole sorrel leaves spread flat.  Place the cabbage wedges over the sorrel evenly.
  7. Pour the whisky over the contents of the entire pot.  Allow to cook for a few minutes to let the alcohol evaporate.
  8. Sprinkle all the lemon zest, and pour lemon juice over the contents of the pot.
  9. Without stirring, slowly and carefully pour two glasses of water into the pot.
  10. Bring to a boil, reduce flame to lowest possible, cover and let simmer for 30-60 minutes.  Do not stir, but checking to ensure the bottom layer isn’t burning is fine.  Add pepper, spices, etc at the end, to taste.
  11. Serve over couscous or rice.

The resulting stew-y casserole was pure heaven.  Rich, smoky, sour, spiced.  The smoky qualities of both the Laphroaig and the chipotle pepper, combined with the tartness of the sorrel and the lemon components, were so complementary, it was wild!  All the veg fell apart, becoming almost caramel-like.  The sorrel indeed thickened things up, and oh me, oh my, the lemon zest was a joy in and of itself!  The layering method came about organically, in that we thought it would be interesting to allow the leafier veg to steam in the lovely saucy broth of the layers beneath it.  And what can I say of the chicken?  It fell off the bone.  So tender.  So moist.  So perfect.

The best part was, even though we didn’t know where we’d end up, we always knew we could do it.  Two savvy seasoned cooks with random well-loved ingredients having a ball.  The bubbly went great with the meal, and I’m so glad we drank it.  This meal was a shining beacon in the middle of a drab work week.  So, it’s a yes to letting loose!  A yes to drinking your best wine for no reason but to enjoy it in the here and now!  And a resounding yes to sorrel! To single malt scotches everywhere! To lemon rinds!  To chipotle! L’chaim, l’chaim to life!

And I’ve driven myself into the cheesy corner.  But it really felt like that.  A meal as a celebration.  Even with just a couple lonesome American-Israeli friends.  Especially because.

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