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Archive for the ‘Salads’ Category

As promised, here are some things I ate or saw in France (Bordeaux, Paris, Giverny) a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

Creme Brulee at an everyday kind of brasserie at the Place St Michel. Delicious. Burned to perfection.

Steak Tartar at Le Bistrot du Sommelier in Bordeaux, 163 Rue Georges Bonnac. Also fabulous. Very laid back. Very "homey" food. But it's entirely prix fixe, fast, rude-friendly (I suppose you'd call it), and certainly an experience. We had pink Champagne that night.

Fish, artfully jumping out of and diving back into...ice at Auchon, mega-awesome-supermarket

Tourte aux pommes. Giverny. Respite from the tourist hoards I had a luncheon fit for only the pudgiest of gourmands. No holds barred, a large bottle of San Pellegrino, 500 mL of red Bordeaux, duck pate, lamb brochette with amazing gratined potatoes, and this chunky rustic natural apple pie. Followed by coffee.

The potatoes!!! Best part of my lunch by far in Giverny.

The yummy lucky ducky luncheon I treated myself to on my very-hot-art-and-shopping- in-le-marais-day. What better than a salad on a summer afternoon? That would be fois gras (center) duck confit and preserved duck all around atop some heavily-dressed greens. Heaven. I believe I had a carafe of Sauvignon (blanc).

Cafe de Deux Magots. The famed literary cafe where all the greats drank and dined. St Germain. And now we, the tourist hoards, pay tenfold what the starved artists a century ago paid - and I'm not talking about inflation. I said to hell with it, it's expensive anyway, I might as well get what I want. Better a slightly overpriced gourmet salad than the death-provoking highway robbery-priced ham sandwich. The fois gras and smoked salmon salad (house specialty) was dainty, but worth every bit. Washed down with Leffe. Refreshing.

My last dinner. A bit disappointing. A bit of comfort food nonetheless. Jambon and fromage crepe with an egg on top. Yup, a croque madame a la Bretagne. The best part of the meal was a rich, smokey apple cidre - served in that brown bowl.

My first glass of Cinsault! A rose, but a Cinsault rose. I've been dying to try it since I learned that Pinotage was a hybrid of Cinsault and Pinot Noir. It was interesting, and not at all like what I expected.

Martzipan potatoes and figs. They were terrible, but only because of this particular shop. A decent potato consists of a small amount of cake, covered with a thick dense layer of marzipan (shaped into a potato) and then rolled entirely in unsweetened cocoa powder. It's my mother's favorite.

Macarons! Exceptional French cookies. Melt-in-your-mouth meringue and creme and almond and wow. So colorful and dainty. Specialty macaron shops seem to be popping up like the cupcake shops were a while back in the US. Much tastier, these are. The flavors are getting super-creative. I had a bergamot flavored one!

Last but not least. Desserts (a fairly typical, but typical is extraordinary here) at Le Bistrot du Sommelier. We have a semi-fredo with raspberry (if I remember correctly), creme brulee, profiteroles (my favorite this trip), and a chocolate fondant cake with pistachio ice cream.

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I respect fungi.  I truly do.  They are as fascinating as they are a brutally tough adversary.  They’ve been on my mind, so, yes, this will be a slightly more personal post, but mostly, I’d like to get my thoughts out there on the brilliance and genius of fungi.

Fun Fungi Facts

  • Fungi are in their own kingdom.  That’s right.  They are not plants.  They are not animals.  They are separate.
  • Fungi are not photosynthetic.  They are saprophytic, deriving their food from dead and/or decaying organic matter.
  • Fungi are inconspicuous.  We normally notice them only when they flower, e.g. the mushroom caps that we eat.  They really have extremely strong and complex networks underground and within and around other organisms.  They are everywhere!
  • Yeast spores

    Fungi you know: mushrooms and truffles (for eating), yeast (for bread, wine, beer, and countless other things that are fermented), antibiotics including penicillin (you know, for preventing us from dying from all the seemingly simple diseases and raised life expectancy by close to 30 years within a century), and much much more.

  • Fungi grow and thrive in our bodies.  One common method for their survival is symbiosis with animals and plants.
  • Fungi are the molds that grow on our cheeses and breads and all things nasty rotting in our fridge.  In fact, fungi are responsible for the breakdown of most dead things.
  • Fungi are really important – They are the top and bottom (whatever way you see it) of the food chain – breaking things down, so that plants can use them again.
  • Finally, fungal infections are perhaps some of the most difficult things to get rid of.  Take it from me.  Most of the time, you never think it’s that bad.  A chronically upset stomach.  Some embarrassing itching.  Some peeling skin on your feet and fingers.  Like the fungi out in the world, burrowing deep and forming vast networks, our symptoms are the tip of the iceberg.  And the creams and pills doctors prescribe usually only treat the symptoms.  Which means the fungus doesn’t really die “all the way.”  Remember, it burrowed.  It may become stronger, and then it will come back, again, and again, and again.  Because it never really left.  And it adores feeding off of us.

All in all.  All in all.  My issues with fungi in several of my bodily tracts have recently flared up again.  Not surprising as I’ve gotten a bit lax with my eating habits.  Not as terrible as a couple years ago when I was in fungus-crisis-mode.  I know the early symptoms now.  And I know that to get rid of a fungus, or at least keep a really firm grip on it, you have to starve it.  Now, some would say my approach is “alternative.”  But after having a 6-month painful off-and-on infection taking prescribed medicine after prescribed medicine and doctors telling me to give it a chance, that it’s in my head, bla bla bla, I finally, tearfully panicked, went to a Chinese healer who gave me very specialized plant tinctures to take several times a day for months.  Along with some diet modifications, it did the trick.  So…because I’ve been eating way too much sugar the last few months…I’ve got to get back into gear.  I’m not happy about it, but that’s the way it is.

How do you starve out a fungus?  Fungi thrive on sugar. Period.  Sugar means sugar of all sorts: granulated, honey, fruit, white processed starches.  Also, fungi are in lots of our foods already.  Anything that was fermented.  Breads.  Wine.  Beer.  What does this mean for me?  I’m on a diet of leafy greens, and although I love leafy greens, the first few days without standard carbs is killing me.  You’d be surprised how many sandwiches we eat.  How many croissants.  How much sugar in our coffee.  How many fruits (as healthy as they are – I once had a violent outbreak right after eating a juicy pear).  No ice cream.  No chocolate.   No spaghetti.  No potatoes (too starchy, easy sugar).

So I went to the shuk (market), and I bought huge bunches of kale, celery, sorrel, mint, green beans of two varieties, garlic (excellent for anti yeast), cilantro, ginger, and rocket.  I made a large pot of mostly-sorrel soup last night with some zucchini and lots of ginger (in actuality, almost all the greens went in in various capacities, but sorrel for a soup base is incredible – a great thickener, and the sour taste is really something).  I had a rocket-cilantro-tahini salad for breakfast.  I had a small bowl of soup for a snack.  I had a lettuce-radish-endive-egg salad for lunch.  And I am friggin starving.  Thank goodness tahini is allowed and recommended by some.  Almonds and most nuts, too.  But I want my chocolate.  I’d like some crackers and popcorn.  I want a glass of scotch (alcohol=sugar and it was fermented, so there could be yeast…bla, bla, bla).  I want an easy cooking job like boiling some noodles.  Greens have such a low caloric count that you really understand why cows have to constantly eat.

Candy mushrooms = eww!

Ideas to make it better – I am starting with the whole grains again.  A lot of those are allowed.  Oatmeal is awesome.  Buckwheat should be OK.  Quinoa, too.   At the suggestion of a friend, I also bought some peanut butter and cocoa powder to mix together — perhaps it will fulfill the urge for desserts.   Tahini does that for me sometimes.  I am not ashamed to admit I will sit around and eat whole cucumber after whole cucumber dipping them directly into raw tahini when there isn’t anything else I can eat.  I think of it as tahini fondue.  Yogurts are great too, but too much dairy is also not good, so you have to be moderate there.  Apple cider vinegar, although of course fermented, is heralded by many as a miracle cure.  I’ve taken to drinking some diluted in water.  I also take a pro-biotic supplement.

Another note: I avoid antibiotics as much as possible these days.  Why?  Despite the fact that it kills off infection, and it’s terribly important – it weakens us, and it destroys the balance of all the little creepy crawlies inside.  Because antibiotics kill off bacteria (not just the infected area), fungus has the space to thrive.  Glaring infection of a completely different sort.  And that weakens us further.  We take prescription anti-fungals, this often causes the bacteria to over-multiply now, and we’re back to square one.  I take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary (part of why I’ve cut out all meat products).

So there you have it.  Most of us eat too much sugar.  Most of us have had athlete’s foot.  Some of us have some rotting nails, chronic digestive issues.  Many – perhaps a majority of women (and even some men) have had yeast infections.  Some people have had oral thrush.  And goodness knows, many of us have experienced unexplained bouts of sluggishness, depression, and other disturbing things.  A lot of this, if not all, can be attributed to fungus, most notable, Candida.  Living everywhere – on our skin, mostly notably, in the gut.  We can all stand to cut a lot of sugar out of our lives, pump lots of greens back in, and eat whole grains as opposed to processed everything (which is usually the case if you don’t go out of your way to get special breads and pastas, and eat foods out of boxes and cans, etc).

I hope this was elucidating rather than boring or disgusting.  I really welcome comments on this.  It’s an important subject to me, and goodness knows, I’m really not an expert.  I may have unknowingly exaggerated or confused some facts, above, so let me know.  I want to learn, too.

Mycorrhizae – fungus root – mutually beneficial relationship between plants and some fungus

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Morrocan chicken stew

My Morrocan chicken stew - so tender - served over couscous

Cumin, chick peas, chicken & lamb. Eggplant, coriander, courgettes & couscous.

"Casserole" in HebrewThe second of the Anglo Food Blogger’s dinner I’ve attended was held last night at Casserole (3 Lillenblum, Neve Tsedek), a trendy yet down-to-earth kosher restaurant specializing in real Middle Eastern cuisine, specifically stews and kubbehs (meat-filled semolina dumplings either boiled or fried) from Iraq, Tunisia, and Morocco. The restaurant also seems quite proud of its Arak collection.  An alcoholic anise beverage (similar to Ouzo and Pernod) served on ice, often with sprigs of mint,  it is a regional specialty and favorite.  It’s an acquired taste, and many Westerners (like us) don’t take too kindly too it.  Besides a selection of some 12 different kinds, the restaurant sports a wide variety of homemade flavored Arak.  Rare, indeed.

Dinner was organized by Miriam and Michelle, and we were joined by Sarah, Liz, and Yael, all wonderful, knowledgeable cooks and food bloggers.  I encourage you to visit their blogs – altogether they’re great way to get a real taste of Israel.

Iraqi beef stew

Iraqi beef stew

Our dinner was lovely. Rather home-cooked, yes, but very satisfying, and very very affordable.  The chicken in my Moroccan stew was as tender as you could possibly want, falling off the bone at the mere suggestion of cutlery.  I tasted the others’ kubbeh and various other stews, each as delicious as the next.  I was particularly taken by a couple of the mezes – a stewed zucchini with a generous amount of garlic cooked in it and a spicy cold eggplant dish I ate until I wiped up the bottom of the dish. Half loaves of thick white bread were served with a small bowl of pickled cabbage and carrots, as well as a small bowl of savory curried pumpkin.

Curried pumpkin spread, (juice of) beet salad, spicy eggplant & pickled veg

The conversation’s wide range spanned from translation of the names of the unique ingredients in some of the lesser-known dishes we were eating, to the particularly embarrassing state of Israeli politics and international relations at the moment, to Studio 54 (one of us had been!), Andy Warhol’s diaries, and back to Israeli wineries and the tour we’ll potentially be taking together to one when the Passover season is over. And of course, much more.

Huge kubbeh! - stuffed with lamb & cooked in broth

With only three (or four – I almost never look at salads) categories, all mains are 30 shekels, all first courses around and mezes (smaller “tastes”) between 10-20 shekels or so.  With the six of us sharing a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for 90, we each paid 50 shekels apiece.  I’m saying wow. A real deal for dinner or any meal. Especially for Neve Tsedek – yuppie-ville if ever there was one.  I’m going to have to come to Casserole again.

A super-fun evening.  I really enjoy the company of this diverse, smart group of ladies.  Seriously, folks, check out their beautiful blogs.

Casserole's interior, image from their website

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Conjoined Quadruplet Strawberry - a surprise indeed! Found in a box I picked up for 5 shekels on the street corner. Made for an interesting dessert.

Balsamic Strawberry Dessert - this is what the mutant (and its siblings) went into - best strawberry dessert, ever! Just add balsamic vinegar and sugar! Stir! Let sit! And we ate it with fresh whipped cream. I've done it with vanilla ice cream (the best), and I've done it with moscato sabayon - very decadent.

Tomato Anise Jam at Cafe Arlozorov - what a joy! Very weird, most people, and indeed the friend I was with, don't really like stuff like this. I mean, gosh, tomato jam? And then, tomato jam with anise?! But it was wonderful. Really wonderful. Hence the image below...

My attempt at tomato anise (cinnamon) jam - tonight actually! Just came off the stove! Decent result. Cooked down a lot. I have maybe 3 breakfasts' worth of jam for my toast. Was it worth it? Yes! Great idea for jammy gifts. Although, maybe not. Who would appreciate such a thing? All the more for me...

Cucumber, Mint, and Spring Onion Salad

Cucumber, Mint, and Spring Onion Salad (organic veg box strikes again!). This was fantastic. Added some sunflower spouts later, raw tahini, tiny drizzle of sesame oil, and lemon juice. That's it.

Chopsticks, soy sauce, meat magazine, and Tel Aviv at my local takeout sushi. Just a nice view. It was raining cats and dogs. I took refuge and decided to get lunch.

Fab family dinner with tender beef stew and homemade mac & cheese. Goodbye dinner for our good friends Caitlin and Drew. It was a great evening. The food (pat on the back -- mostly for my sister) was awesome. Stew, mac & cheese, broccoli, garlicky zucchini, and store-bought white chocolate cheesecake. Great bottle of Galil Mountain wine, their 2006 Avivim - aged Chardonnay/Viognier blend. Will miss the two of them a great deal as they start their life again in Philly.



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Remember the days back in college when all you needed to guarantee attendance was a sign advertising “free food”?

Well, step right up ladies and gents, have I got good news for you!  You, yes, you can have FREE salad and stewing veg all winter long — if you can identify it, that is.

It’s sprouting from every street corner, alley, empty lot, park, and even every private garden in Tel Aviv.  And most of you probably thought they were just lowly weeds.

An Anarchists’ Amblings

My good friend Moshe invited me to come along on a walking tour being hosted by Salon Mazal, an interesting place that according to Wikipedia is:

an infoshop in Tel Aviv, Israel. Its purpose is to spread information and raise awareness of issues related to social change, including human rights, animal rights, the environment, globalization, social and economic oppression, consumerism, feminism and gender issues. It is run by an open, non-hierarchical collective of volunteers at 32 Yitzhak Sadeh Street, Tel Aviv.

I had actually been inside their premises a few years ago (and two locations ago), when I had no idea who they were…and left quickly when it sank in that I was in what appeared an anarchist bookshop.  Moshe says that they’ve actually branched out from then, hosting lovely events and lectures, and that generally friendly people frequent the place.  I’ll have to drop by sometime for a better look.

Back to the veg – As I was pouring wine all day last Friday (I got to open the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, a rare treat), so I couldn’t attend the walking tour.  Lucky for me, Moshe took me on a private post-shabbat nighttime tour of central Tel Aviv’s tiny patches of green, sharing with me what he learned from the experts.  What we found astounded me.

Mallow

Hubezah - Hebrew for Mallow

Hubezah - Arabic for Mallow - חובזה in Hebrew

The mallow plant has gotten a bad wrap in modern times.  It’s been thought of as a subsistence green, a poor man’s refuge, if you catch my drift.  It used to grow just about everywhere in Israel.  In fact, I think it still does, despite the urban sprawl.  The Arab community cooks with it quite a bit, and it can be found in all of their suks.  The Jewish markets…not so much.  Luckily for us, this very easily identified plant grows everywhere…and I mean everywhere.  This is a great little article in Hebrew about mallow, and if this works, here is the googled-translation of the same story.  My friend Moshe told me to eat it like a salad green, very neutral yet pleasant taste.  The Arabs sautee it with onions, include it in stews, and I’ve seen it used to wrap other foods in (like grape leaves).

Mustard

Mustard

Slightly less obvious, but also quite plentiful is the mustard plant.  For those of you who have never eaten mustard greens, they taste like the condiment.  They really do.  Somewhat brighter, sometimes more spicy, even.  And this bold flavor is marvelous for cooking.  Moshe, who I might add is a vegan, recommended that it also be eaten raw.  Fine for some.  In the States I bought mustard greens when I could find them (the first time was a mistake…I’m a sucker for strange veg I’ve never tried before).  Great for stewing, steaming, sauteing. “Southern greens,” you know the kind that are stewed and drenched in fats and seasonings of all sorts indeed include mustard.  Even the flowers are good, spicier than the rest of the plant.

Sorrel

Sorrel with the lovely sour yellow flowers

My new favorite green!  I’ve already written about this green extensively, and now I don’t even have to hunt it down in the markets…it’s right out front!  With delicate little leaves that look like flat folded clover, the stems are sturdy and snap crunchily when you bite into them as the lemony sour taste pours into your mouth.  Lovely!  Every part of this plant is edible – leaf, stem, flower.  All sour.  It packs great punch in a salad, and as I’ve demonstrated a few times this year, it’s extremely wonderful in soups and stews.

There are a few more edible greens in my public urban garden, according to Moshe, but they are more difficult to identify and are supposedly far more boring in flavor.  For now, I’m going to stick to these three and see if I can come up with a creative recipe with them.

If I have the guts to go foraging, I’m going to have free soup and free stew and free stir-fry all winter long.  You should try it too.  Just wash these greens very, very, very well.  You’ve got a good imagination, you can figure out why…

Moshe munching on sorrel

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Check out this cool blog I found on the New York Times called “The Urban Forager”

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By Irene Sharon Hodes
Published in the Shiur Times Magazine, September 2008

On a recent trip to Tuscany, I visited a small family-owned vineyard. Surrounded by crusty breads and rustic cheeses, the smiling couple and their children shared their hard-earned creations: tart Chiantis, musky Grappas, and an inspired Vin Santo made from the most mature grapes of the season. But it was the dessert – a rare creamy white-blonde acacia honey – that I took home to Israel. Wandering the world, often desperately alone, all I thought at that moment was how perfect this particular honey would be months later on Rosh Hashana.

As a new olah finishing her first year here, and as a single woman rounding off the end of her 20s, I only now came to realize how important is the nature of structure. In our daily schedules, weekly traditions, foods, relationships, prayers, in the very execution of our lives, a solid structure is the plan, the roadmap. With it we are better able to achieve our milestones, experience our joys, and endure in times of hardship and sorrow. Without it, we are lost.

Having lived in seven countries, made and left dozens of friends, and changed careers, all too frequently, I have come to realize that living without structure is much like not having an identity. This continued absence has profoundly affected my quality of life since making aliyah, what I thought was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Now that Rosh Hashana has arrived, my first here, the structure that is manifest in Jewish life has opened my eyes in a remarkable way. This is the time of year we take stock. When I did, I realized I overlooked another dream I had accomplished – graduating from culinary school. It’s been three months since graduation, and in the chaos of my unsettled life, I had forgotten how thrilling it was being in a professional kitchen every day.

Masquerading as vital sustenance, food is a physical manifestation of history, a deliciously important inheritance. Like a hidden code, the symbolism inherent in our recipes is a direct link to our ancestors. Bitter herbs at Pesach create a visceral connection to the hardships of our forefathers. Apples and honey at Rosh Hashana evoke the sincere prayers of our foremothers for a good and prosperous future, something we simultaneously pray for in tasting the sweetness.

As I ease myself into new concrete plans, I am strengthened by my Jewish heritage. For what else is tradition but a time tested standing structure? It is my hope that these recipes will inspire, sustain, revitalize, and sweeten your palate in envisioning the new year ahead. Me? I’ll be holding firm for the first time in a long time, savoring my “miele di acacia,” and with every drop, the memory of that perfect day, and the hope I had, even then, for a sweet new year.

Applesauce Cake

This first recipe came from Jamie Geller’s newest cookbook, Quick & Kosher, and it was a pleasant surprise. The book’s lackluster title (as well as the subtitle “Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing”) made me more than a little skeptical, but after reading the introduction, I couldn’t put the book down. Don’t get me wrong – after years of delving into complex gourmet cuisine, it’s doubtful Quick & Kosher will become the foundation of my kitchen. But with its fun no-nonsense approach, it’s certainly a book I would give to my friends, and definitely to my own mother (for whom I have to thank for honing my culinary skills, growing up in the absence of hers). The clever Mrs. Geller devised a strict and ingenious guideline: preparations for every recipe must be able to be done in under 15 minutes. She cuts some corners (occasional soup powders, canned goods, and frozen items), but the recipes are quite innovative, simple to execute, and pleasing to modern palates. The selection ranges from the traditional (classic chicken soup, stuffed peppers, challah kugel), to the fresh and multicultural (hot salmon salad, beef sukiyaki with noodles, curried coconut couscous). Her desserts are particularly mouth-watering, and this applesauce cake would be a welcome centerpiece on any Rosh Hashana table.

3 cups flour

1½ cups sugar

2/3 cup canola oil

1 (12 ounce / 340 gram) jar applesauce

2 eggs

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

½ cup non-dairy whipped topping

  • Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) cake pan with non-stick baking spray.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  • Bake at 350° F (180° C) for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of non-dairy whipped topping.

Fusion Taboule

An old Middle Eastern mainstay with a thoroughly modern twist, my take on taboule looks back in time as it looks forward. Perfect for the holidays at hand: the sweetness of apples, pomegranates, and honey mingles with the invigorating cilantro and ginger, all resting upon the foundation of the hearty, humble quinoa. Replacing the traditional bulgur wheat, this ancient and nutritious South American grain has become so popular, almost every café in Israel is experimenting with it. The ingredients come from every corner of the globe, and the resulting combination is a sincerely satisfying culinary experience.

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa

2 cups water

Large handfuls (4-6 stalks) each, roughly chopped, of fresh:

Mint

Cilantro

Parsley

¼ cup raisins

3 stalks green onion, chopped finely

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger

1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic

1 apple, cored and diced

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup honey

salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add quinoa and continue to stir 1-2 minutes or until onions sweat and quinoa browns slightly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce temperature, maintaining a simmer for 14-18 minutes. The quinoa is ready when the germ has unfurled to a tiny curl and has a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). Set aside and cool.
  • While quinoa is cooling, prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • Transfer cold quinoa to a large bowl and mix all other fruit and vegetable ingredients into it well. Add dressing and stir to coat the quinoa.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste by adding salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a spoon of honey. Serve and enjoy!

Note : This recipe is very versatile. Apples and pomegranates can be replaced by halved grapes, plums, melons, or grapefruits, depending on the season.

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