Homemade Harissa

April 30, 2017

I think it only appropriate to post my homemade harissa recipe when the previous post includes a tablespoon or two and the next post will as well. As much as I enjoy the taste and convenience of a jar littering in the back of my fridge, I seldom reached for harissa at the grocery store. Maybe it was the brow-raising ingredients or I didn't think I would use it up so it felt wasteful. Making my own I imagined would be complicated, and if you know me at all, you know there is a collection of spicy sauces and dips always available in my fridge. So harissa didn't feel like a need. A generous slather in my pita at the falafel shop was enough to tide me over. Then I came across a recipe and reread it twice to confirm that I had been wrong in my assumptions, and that it was really uncomplicated and something I needed to get on right away. So I did and it joined the crew lining my fridge shelf. It might have even taken center stage for a while, which is likely why it shows up in two recipes in a row. Once you make it, I think you'll understand. 

Harissa Tuna Sandwich with Hard Boiled Eggs and Olives

April 20, 2017

I purposely stepped away from this space and all it involves during the holidays. By default, I get naturally pulled into complete motherhood mode when there are meals to serve and the kids are home, but this time, I was aiming for more intention. So I stayed away from Instagram, and tuned out the urge to explore new flavor combinations and recipe ideas. In some way, cooking out of habit foods that have been on repeat for years was liberating. Plus, seeing everyone eager for the familiar dishes is an encouraging nod to a home cook. No hunched noses or expressed disapproval, how nice. With all that, I still couldn't tame the relentless flow of ideas circling in my mind. Projects I want to work on, the direction I want to take this blog, how the perfect chocolate cake still eludes me.
These thoughts, like most thoughts I suppose, appeared randomly but constantly, making themselves into a pressing matter that must be accomplished, as if they could be. I still haven't come to terms with the season in life I'm in. You would think that after seven years, I would have realized how all-consuming motherhood is. I love it and I chose it but sometimes can't they just make their own breakfast? And maybe their beds too? I know these days are fleeting. Really, I know, and I try to be present, but maybe I'm also looking forward that one day, hopefully, though not soon enough, I will be able to indulge my passion just a bit more. I'm not aspiring it to take center stage, because that's not where my heart lies, but someplace where I can do more than I dream about. After all, this space is my happy place, and I'm grateful to have it connect us through cooking, but only if more often.

Enough wishful thinking, let's talk about this sandwich. I started making homemade harissa and just like I expected, I can't imagine going back to the industrially-made kind. It's dense, flavorful, and spicy, but requires little effort, just some food processor time. It also survives the freezer well so you can double up and store a few small containers, making the process more worthwhile.

Walnut Stuffed Chocolate Dates

April 7, 2017

I stood still, taking in the pleasure of a clean kitchen. An exceedingly clean kitchen. It happens once a year for Passover and doesn't last for more than a few minutes. But those moments are glorious and worth the involved effort. Inevitably, there's a toddler who walks in armed with a bagful of something crumbly to disrupt the neat environs of my kitchen. Yes, mine, even though I would say it's where we all spend much of our time. It's the center of our open living space and the place that attracts the little ones in the hope of finding a treat. For me, it's the place I find myself in part by responsibility, and it part for the joy of turning ingredients into foods that give pleasure. Being in a quiet kitchen with a long list of promising recipes, involved in the task of cooking, is something I look forward to, and with Passover really soon, it's what I will be doing most. 

Moroccan Mint Latté

March 26, 2017

The weather is nice enough that a light sweater doubles up as a coat. On trees, tiny buds have made way to burgeoning blossoms in every color. I feel especially giddy when I pass the rose colored one on my way to the market. Just a little while ago, the trees seemed bleak in their nakedness, each branch looked stark against the grey sky but now they're adorned in flowers whose beauty inevitably evoke contentment. I'm not one who believes that weather should dictate mood but when the sun's rays stroke your cheek and you skim by the violet wildflowers dotting the sidewalk, a cheery smile forms effortlessly. Spring is so here, and not just by calendar. It's really here. I can tell by the perky chirps I wake up to from the flock of birds who like to hang out by my kitchen window. But with all this changing of season, I'm still holding onto cozy.  

Sesame Halva Brittle

March 15, 2017

I thought the conversation went rather well. "What would you like to dress up as this year, lovey?" I asked my daughter a whole week before Purim. I was being proactive. I hoped she'd answer almost anything but a princess. We've done that every year since she could assert her opinion. She's seven, that makes it four years straight. "I have an idea! Maybe a cupcake? Or Minnie Mouse?" she answered. "Ohh, good ones." I replied more eagerly than I felt. When it comes to costumes, I let my children pick out whatever they wish, more or less. I can dream up themes and grand plans, but logistically it usually doesn't work, at least not if I want calm and happy to reign. So when I sent my daughter off with Saba to buy her costume, I was hoping she'd fancy something other than the puffy, frilly dresses that could not get more impossibly girly. 
And guess what she came home with? A bubble gum pink gown laced with silver stars, dotted with tacky polyester bows throughout the waist, sheer bell sleeves, and a tiered ball skirt that sways and billows around her if she twirls fast enough. The excitement was spilling out of her eyes every time she looked at her dress and I mustered every bit of enthusiasm to share in her joy. Then came my other daughter who unexpectedly became the archetypical younger sister and picked a matching dress, except hers had puffy sleeves and pink velvet. They both tried on their crowns every day and fell asleep starring at their gowns. With a full heart, I added pearls and a feathered fan to their ensemble. Both in pink, of course. 
My son, on the other hand, was determined to be a police man, and so it took all of five minutes to pick out his costume. I even let him don a toy gun, which surprised and thrilled him all the same. But a few hours before the day he picked a plastic sword to replace it. Just imagine a civil servant running after people with a blade in the air and an unrestrained growl. It was as amusing as it sounds. As for the baby, we found some striped PJs jumpled in his closet, fastened some plastic handcuffs on his left hand and called him the cutest prisoner. I got a picture with most of them looking and no one crying, that's success. 
It was our first year celebrating Purim in Jerusalem and it was everything we hoped for. We felt the palpable celebratory ambience as we walked around delivering our Mishloach Manot. We oohed and aahed at the creative costumes all the children, and there are many, walked around in. There was blasting music streaming from different apartments, thumping and reverberating throughout the city streets. And we mostly enjoyed being together, surrounded by more candy than I care, inviting neighbors in to exchange smiles and good wishes. 
I should note, before you think I've romanticized my holiday, that there were a few tantrums, some sibling brawls, and streams of tears, but nothing I didn't expect. I've learned that perfect is unlikely, despite my sincerest hope for such a loaded day to just flow. It never does. Instead I anticipate the hiccups and let them pass naturally. Choosing joy is the only way I can stay calm and present. And that's what made my Purim just as it was supposed to be. My kind of perfect.
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