Category Archives: Appetizers

Homemade Whole-Wheat Pita in a Flash!!

As part of our award-winning breakfast- I’m convinced the closer was Shira’s homemade pita.


Whole-wheat, warm and delicious, this pita was made from scratch (!) and was ready in under an hour. During the competition, we were given active yeast – the real deal (not the stuff in a paper packet)- and we’re convinced it made the difference.

The pitas puffed up right at the end – and clarified, there is no need for store-bought pita anymore. Try it. (Would be especially good with Eli Shem-Tov’s Chummus).

1 package yeast or 2-ish teaspoons active yeast
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 whole wheat flour
1 1/2 white flour


  1. Set oven to 500 degrees
  2. Proof yeast with lukewarm water and sugar
  3. Once yeast begins to bubble (15-20 min), add oil and honey; mix well
  4. Add both flours, fold and incorporate
  5. Knead dough for about 5-8 minutes
  6. Place in a warm place to rise for 25 minutes
  7. After dough has risen, break off handfulls of dough and form into pita circle/shapes
  8. Put each onto an oiled cookie sheet and let sit for 5 minutes on top of oven
  9. Bake pita for 4 minutes on each side; should puff up while in oven


Filed under Appetizers, Bread, Breakfast, Israeli, Middle-Eastern, sides, Snacks

Muhammara: Red Pepper, Pomegranate Molasses and Walnut Dip

Okay – had dinner last night at hands-down the best Middle-Eastern restaurant I’ve been to since I moved to NYC. Nestled on Third Avenue in neighboring Bay Ridge, Tanoreen is a must.    

Owned by chef Rawia Bishara, who circulates the restaurant throughout the evening checking to make sure every table is happy and enjoying themselves, Tanoreen has been reviewed by the NY Times and listed in the “Best of NY” in New York Magazine on more than one occasion.  

Rawia Bishara

 One of the great dishes we had last night was Muhammara – a delicious blend of walnuts, pomegranate and red peppers. While we can’t get our hand’s on Rawia’s recipe for it – here is Paula Wolfert’s (from the great website: Leite’s Culinaria), the author of “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.”


Paula Wolfert’s “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean”



2 and half pounds of sweet bell red peppers

1 small hot chili pepper

1 and 1/2 cup of walnuts

1/2 cup wheat crackers

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (If you search at the top of the page, I’ve included a recipe for this elsewhere on this site)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

salt to taste

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil


Click here for directions. 


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Beet Salad with Feta, Orange and Mint

This is a recipe from Alfred Portale’s Simple Pleasures. It’s a perfect autumnal salad that brings in some packed, fresh and almost summery flavor to it. Delicious.

You can also find the recipe online here.

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Fancy Bourekas: Phyllo Triangles with Basil, Zucchini & Pine Nuts

This recipe is for when you have a little bit of time on your hands – and I promise, it’s worth every second. If you haven’t worked with phyllo dough before, remember that patience is a virtue. I used olive oil instead of butter – and much less than the recipe called for. A pastry brush is helpful to have on hand, and garnishing the ‘bourekas’ with sesame seeds is a nice touch. You can use the oil to glaze the bourekas, or a beaten egg will do nicely as well. These are great for a dinner party – and truly impress. I brought them to a tapas party last year and they went quickly.

I got the recipe from Click here to see it on the site.


12 ounces zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 chopped onion
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup packed grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 egg
6 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Sesame seeds


Toss zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain zucchini well; roll in kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add zucchini; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Mix in basil, parsley and garlic; add wine. Cover skillet; simmer 3 minutes. Uncover; stir until any liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini mixture to large bowl and cool. Mix in both cheeses, then pine nuts. Season filling with salt and pepper. Mix in egg.

Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface with 1 short end parallel to edge of work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel.) Brush phyllo sheet lightly with butter; cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips, each about 4 inches wide. Place 1 generous tablespoon filling at bottom end of 1 strip. Fold 1 corner of phyllo over filling. Repeat folding down length of strip as for flag, brushing twice with butter and forming triangle. Place pastry on prepared baking sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets and filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic and chill.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush pastries with egg white. Sprinkle pastries generously with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

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Butternut Squash Bruschetta – From Jason Denton, of ‘ino in NYC

My friend Adena introduced me to a great spot last night, a stone’s throw away from NYU. Tucked away on Bedford and Downing, ‘ino cafe and wine bar is from the same owners of the great ‘inoteca in the Lower East Side.

‘ino – 21 Bedford Street, NYC

Small, cozy, with great atmosphere, ‘ino’s paninis gave me new appreciation for the simplicity of a gourmet sandwich. I ordered the ‘quatro’ – so I could taste ‘four’ mini paninis. Highly recommended. Turns out, Jeniffer and Jason Denton, the owners, also have a recipe book,

“Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America’s Favorite Panini Bar.”

Notice that the Foreword is written by Mario Batali

Below Jason Denton shares his recipe for Butternut Squash Bruschetta, which I found on New York Magazine’s website. They’ve got a whole gallery of recipes from NYC Chefs. Check it out here.


’ino’s Butternut-Squash Bruschetta

2 cups squash, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons honey
1⁄2 teaspoon chili flakes
10 caperberries, roughly chopped
10 walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of pepper
1 baguette, cut on a bias into 12 11⁄2-inch-thick slices
6 teaspoons walnut oil
4 teaspoons asiago cheese, grated


(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into 1-inch cubes.
(2) Gently fold the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl. Spread mixture evenly on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then gently stir ingredients, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, toast the baguette slices in the oven or press on a panini press until slightly crisp.
(3) Scoop a generous tablespoon of the squash mixture onto each piece of baguette. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and garnish with a drizzle of walnut oil and grated asiago.

Serves 6.


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Video: How to make Hummus

Loving cute Moti!

Check out his website

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Yaprak: Stuffed Grape Leaves


Me and Talya Enriquez (right) in NYC

Love stuffed grape leaves – in Hebrew, they are “alei gefen” (literally grape leaves) but in Turkey, they are called “Yaprak.” My friend Talya (above right) hails from Izmir Turkey, where her mother Sarah makes the most incredible food. On the last day of my visit there, she made a whole new batch for me – simply delish. Sarah and a group of women in the Izmir Jewish community put together (unfortunately for me, in Turkish) a Jewish Turkish recipe book. We’ll work on Talya to do some translating.

Jenny and Talya

Jenny Goldstein (left), who met Talya while living in Izmir for a year working with the Jewish community.

In the meantime, I’ve included a recipe below from a great book, Mathew Goodman’s, Jewish Food: The World at the Table:

Stuffed grape leaves are enormously popular throughout Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East. When filled with ground beef or lamb, they are served hot; filled with rice, they are served cold and make a favorite Sabbath dish. (Yaprak is the Turkish word for leaf, which is also the derivation of the name prakkes, as stuffed cabbage is known in the Ukraine.)
I’ve adapted this recipe from one made by Jenny Edelstein of Miami, who was born in Havana and came to the United States in 1963; like many of the Jews of Cuba, her family has Turkish roots. These stuffed grape leaves taste even better when eaten the day after they are made.



8 ounces brine-packed grape leaves

1 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 limes

1. Drain the grape leaves, rinse well, and pat dry.

2. For the filling: Place the rice in a bowl of cold water. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly colored. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Place in a medium bowl and combine with the mint and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let cool.

4. Place a grape leaf, shiny side down and with the stem end facing you, on a clean surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling near the stem end. Fold this end up and over the filling, then pinch in the two sides toward the center and loosely roll up the leaf like a cigar, tucking in any wide parts of the leaf and loose ends. (Do not roll the leaf too tightly, because the rice expands somewhat during cooking.) Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

5. Line a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with the remaining loose grape leaves. Pack the stuffed grape leaves, seam sides down, in one layer over the bottom of the pot, then place any remaining stuffed leaves in a second layer on top.

6. For the cooking liquid: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, lemon juice, and lime juice.

7. Pour the cooking liquid over the stuffed grape leaves. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently, covered, until the filling is fully cooked, about 45 minutes. Let the stuffed leaves cool in the pan, then transfer them to a large serving platter. Serve at room temperature.


Filed under Appetizers, Links, Middle-Eastern, sides

Youssef’s Ba’abnjan (a.k.a. babaganoush or eggplant salad)


  • 2lbs eggplant (usually 1 large eggplant)
  • 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Mayonaise -OR tahina; to desired consistency


  1. Punch a few wholes in the “ba’abnjan” = eggplant
  2. Bake in the oven @ 450 F, for 20-30 minutes;
  3. Flip the eggplant over so that it bakes evenly; keep it in for another 20-30 minutes
  4. Take it out; peel the charred eggplant skin;
  5. Put the 3-4 cloves of garlic in the food processor and pulse
  6. Add the eggplant; pulse;
  7. Add salt & pepper to taste and then either the mayo or tahina until you reach your desired consistency


Filed under Appetizers, sides, Snacks

Like…Sari’s Guacamole


Liat (left) and Sari (right)

Sari, who just turned 16, has a sophisticated palate – and often has very sophisticated reviews of food, both of family and of restaurants (quote: “I mean, they don’t know how to slice an onion!”) Below is a go-to recipe of hers for a quick and healthy snack – she was watching TV while I managed to wrestle this one out of her. If you like it, some freshly chopped cilantro (which Sari does not add) is a nice addition. Thanks Sar.


  • 2 avocados, ripe (Sari says, “like a little overripe, you know…mushy”)
  • “and then like, thinly sliced purple onions, like..diced”; a handful worth
  • Diced medium-sized tomato; “take out the seeds”
  • Crushed garlic ; When asked how many, Sari responds, “Like depends how garlicky you like it.” She uses 1 and a half
  • a bit of pepper and salt
  • freshly squeezed lemon, “just like, half a lemon”
  • And…that’s basically it.


  1. Cut up the avocado and mush it with a fork
  2. And then, mix in all the salt, pepper, garlic & lemon
  3. Add tomato and onion last
  4. Eat it with tortilla chips

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Eli Shem-Tov’s Chummus

Be sure to eat lots of this before you go visit Eli Shem-Tov in the dentist’s chair, and breathe your thick garlicky breath on your friendly dentist. You can visit Eli’s website at:

TO know more about the man behind the chickpeas, see below:

Dr. Shem-Tov as a child

Dr. Shem-Tov was a patient at North York Dental since he was a young boy and was inspired by his childhood dentist, Dr. Tom McKean (past President of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario), to pursue a career in dentistry.

As an undergraduate, Dr. Shem-Tov studied neuroscience at the University of Toronto. In 1988, he entered the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario and received his DDS. He then returned home to North York and became the dentist at his boyhood practice.

2 Dr. Shem-Tov at the University

Dr. Shem-Tov is currently a clinical instructor at the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto. He has volunteered his dental skills in his travels to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America.

Dr. Shem-Tov lives in the Annex and is a passionate cyclist, avid skier and horrible golfer. He is more than happy to swap recipes and stories about his two children, Levi and Zoe.

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  • one can of chickpeas (CEDAR is the best brand); reserve juice from can
  • 3-6 cloves of garlic – depending how garlicky you like it
  • 4-6 tablespoons of tahina (sesame seed paste); preferably Middle Eastern
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil – preferably a Middle Eastern brand
  • sprinkle of cumin
  • the juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • optional: za’tar


  1. Crush garlic in a garlic press & put it in food processor
  2. Add tahina, sprinkle of cumin, olive oil, lemon juice and 3-5 tablespoons of the chick pea juice reserve to food processor; blend until texture is light and smooth
  3. Add drained chick peas – in portion, and pulse to maintain a chunky texture; if you like it smoother, blend until desired texture is reached
  4. You’re done; nice to place it on a dish and use tablespoon to “shmear” around a plate; drizzle a little olive oil, paprika and parsley and eat with a brown egg.
  5. Best served at room temperature, with warm pita.

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