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.  
Depending on where you live, you might find that to be pathetic. I get it. I've done crazy, endless, bone-chilling, icy winters. After all, I'm from Montreal, I know winter. But, still, there's something about being huddled indoors with your hands wrapped around a warm drink that feels so comforting, I'm holding on a little longer. And it works here in Jerusalem, when the evenings are cool enough for this soothing Moroccan Mint Latté.
I first had this drink at Coffee Bean almost nine years ago, on one of my first visits to L.A. My mother-in-law took me for a stroll at The Grove and though I can't remember much else from that visit, this drink stands out. Maybe because it was the first of many warm gestures from her or purely the combination of mint, warm milk (I took soy), and chocolate that left an impression. Regardless, it gets to the core of cozy. So now that I'm a touch too far away from the convenience of a coffee shop run, I tried recreating it at home. It's obviously not a match. I don't have a fancy machine to froth the milk, nor do I stock the chocolate powder Coffee Bean uses, but it's perfectly delicious with the more simple ingredients. The combination of minty tea and chocolate milk, create a delightful drink that may be close but lighter than hot cocoa and in a better way. It's not intensely chocolate, but somehow the flavors meld so delightfully that you might also be holding on to cozy just a little longer.

Moroccan Mint Latté
yields 1 large cup

ingredients
1 mint tea bag
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon heavy cream
splash of vanilla extract
cocoa powder, for dusting

directions

Bring water to a boil. In a large cup, place the tea bag and pour the boiling water until the cup is 3/4 cup full. Let the tea steep for a few minutes. Meanwhile, warm the milk in a small saucepan on medium heat. Don't let it boil. Mix in the cocoa powder and maple syrup and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and pour into the tea. In a small bowl, beat the cream and vanilla. Pour into the tea, dust with more cocoa and enjoy warm. 


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.

Orange Zest Hamantashen with Dark Chocolate Filling

March 8, 2017

There was a casual knock on the door not unlike any I haven't heard. Out of habit, I swung the brown wooden door wide open and did not expect to see 30 of the building's children dressed up in costumes and grins. They waltzed into the living room and broke into song and dance, in celebration of the happiest month of Adar. I couldn't stop smiling at their contagious joy and collaborative scheming. My daughter borrowed a sailor dress and my son donned his policeman costume. All I could see was their wide smiles and full bellied laughs. That's how Purim is done here in Israel. All out. The stores have glimmering hats and scarves, costumes galore, and colorful accessories. At the market, they play dance music loudly enough that I find my head bopping to the beat and if the song is really fun I might throw in a dance move. It's festive and energizing and a reminder to me to look for joy in the small moments every day because isn't that where true happiness lies? In the warmth of a kiss from my toddler that I didn't even ask for, or the sparkle in my son's eye after I've expanded his world with the answers to why and how. It's also right there when I cut into a bright red juicy grapefruit that's both sweet and bitter in perfect proportion. And of course, in a cookie but with chocolate. Joy is chocolate and you can't refute that. So naturally I had to make hamantashen with chocolate, because Purim. 

Olive Chicken Tajine with Dried Fruits Couscous


There was a week in February where one thing after another cracked, shattered, or broke. I would think experience taught me that little people like to touch everything and I should leave the pretty, delicate things behind at the store. I've gotten better over the years, choosing utilitarian, but some times I'll still fall for the impractical. It's irrational, buying something I know has a slim chance of survival. But irrational is a good thing sometimes. So it came to be that I bid farewell to a few glass pot lids, a mirrored tray, and my laptop charger. I blame the kids for some of the damage but not for the charger who decided to stop performing its intended function just when I needed it. Instead of pacing and wallowing in frustration, I gave the computer a hiatus until I got a replacement charger. All this to say that I obviously missed the boat on this post but it's here anyhow because pourquoi pas? I make this chicken and couscous almost every Tu Bishvat because it incorporates many of the symbolic fruit of the holiday. Tu Bishvat celebrates the renewal of the trees and their fruit-bearing cycle and I like to incorporate as many vibrant fruit as possible, especially those from the seven species. In my head, it also marks the unofficial welcome of spring since I've seen the blossoms bloom. I can already imagine summer fruits making way and I'm all sorts of giddy. But let's talk about this couscous and friends. 

Toffee Pudding Cake

January 31, 2017

If I'm in a hurry to catch up on recipes, why not share this cake so soon after this? Truthfully, I haven't seen cake around here in a while, so I don't think anyone will mind. We all need a nice big bundt cake to cut sliver after sliver and enjoy with tea, for breakfast, after dinner or just because. This toffee pudding cake is the perfect, matches-any-occasion cake. It isn't as intense as chocolate, which is a good thing even if you're of the chocolate-trumps-all type.
A slice warmed up with the toffee sauce (and a sprinkling of salt is essential) is nothing short of extraordinary. The depth from the caramel with the soft crumb of the cake makes it irresistible. Pencil it into your next baking session. Promise?

I should not that I've made the cake with coconut oil and it was perfect as well. So if you're going dairy-free, opt for coconut oil and skip the toffee sauce though I can't imagine you'd want to do that.

In other news, make sure you follow along by email here. And on Pinterest. Also, have you seen this interesting ted talk? I recently got a carbon steel pan and it still didn't develop that black nonstick coating and might be driving me crazy though I really want to love it. Check out this new website for Jewish women. And this list of Jewish food bloggers Melinda pulled together.

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