Archive for August, 2014

Zatilas (Kurdish Grilled Stuffed Flat Breads)

August 18, 2014

Have you ever heard of zatila? It is a grilled stuffed flatbread that is also known as kadeh (Take a look at this post and also this post on the Jewish Food Experience; also look in the comments to this post by Sarah Melamed and also look at this other post by her as well). It is easy to make, delicious and lends itself to endless variations. Even better, leftovers can be packed for lunch.

Two years ago, Shopmiami49 posted a recipe from her mother-in-law for “these Kurdish ‘pastries’” on The recipe has remained popular on that site, with users continuing to post new ideas for fillings.

The idea is this: make a simple bread dough, roll it out thin, fill it with whatever you like, fold it and seal it like a calzone and then grill it on both sides in a hot skillet until the bread is cooked and the filling is heated through. It is best straight from the pan, but it is also good reheated. At least one Imamother poster says zatilas are “great to take to work for lunch the next day.”

The recipe reminds me of gozleme, which is a stuffed Turkish flatbread. According to Ghillie Basan, author of Classic Turkish Cookery, gozleme can be made by (1) cooking the dough as a flatbread and then folding the bread around the filling, or (2) by folding the dough around the filling and then cooking it. Gozleme are filled with (1) spinach and cheese, (2) potato and cheese, (3) roasted eggplant and cheese, or (4) ground beef. I think that these fillings would work with zatilas, too.

Imamother posters have, in fact, tried similar fillings with their zatilas. Most fillings are some variation on (1) sauce and cheese, (2) vegetables and cheese or (3) a hard cheese combined with a soft cheese like feta, cream cheese, sour cream or cottage cheese with or without vegetables. Other options: tuna melt zatilas or (for a fleishig version) ground beef cooked in tomato sauce.

Bonus: After making the recipe for zatila, I found a recipe by Leah Hadad on the Jewish Food Experience.  She got the recipe, fascinatingly enough, from Ariel Sabar, the author of My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Family’s Past.  Sabar’s father was from Zakho, an ancient Jewish Kurdish town in Northern Iraq. Sabar sent Hadad his grandmother’s recipe for kadeh.

The recipe makes a similar amount of dough to the recipe and, similarly,  gets divided into 16 pieces. Each piece is rolled into a 5″ circle and is filled with a mixture of feta and gouda (about half an ounce of each per kadeh). Instead of being shaped into a half moon, the dough in wrapped around the filling and then pressed back down into a 5″-6″ circle (kind of like some versions of Georgian Khachapuri).


Blueberry Toaster Tarts

August 18, 2014


This is a nice snack to pack for lunch. You can also use it as a take-along breakfast treat on those mornings when a sit-down breakfast just isn’t happening. Made with whole wheat flour and filled with a low-sugar (or no-sugar) blueberry chia jam, these toaster tarts have much more fiber and anti-oxidants–not to mention much more flavor–than store-bought toaster tarts.

Don’t be turned off by the idea of whole wheat flour or the chia jam. These tarts have flaky, tender crusts with a flavorful filling–exactly what handheld fruit pastries should taste like.


Chocolate “Salami”

August 14, 2014


Don’t worry–this is a no-bake chocolate cookie, not real salami.  It is called “salami” because the cookies are dotted with bits of crushed tea biscuits in a way that evokes the mottled appearance of salami slices.  Sometimes the chocolate salami log is rolled in powdered sugar, which is meant to be reminiscent of the film of white mold that covers authentic Italian salami. (Don’t think too hard about why someone would want their cookies to remind people of mold covered salami–stay focused and remember that these are yummy chocolate cookies that are super easy to make. In fact, this is an excellent project for your kids to make if they are bored and kvetchy.)

I decided to make this in a roundabout way. First, I was admiring this recipe on My Bisim for no-bake tahina cookies made with crushed tea bsicuits, tahina, honey and coconut. I wanted to make it, but the whole point of the recipe is that the cookies taste like halvah and my kids aren’t that keen on halvah.  Then I thought about adding chocolate and substituting peanut butter for the tahina. And THAT is when I remembered about chocolate salami.

Chocolate salami is usually made with chocolate, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs and chopped cookies. The first recipe that I ever saw (or tried) for chocolate salami was in a book by Meri Badi called250 Recettes de Cusine Juive Espanol. Recipe 219 is “Gateaux Salami.” It calls for 350 g. petit-beurre biscuits, 125 g. margarine, 2 eggs, 3 spoons of cocoa, 3 spoons of powdered sugar, 4 spoons of milk or liqueur, 5 bars of chocolate (chopped) and 75 g. of nuts (slivered almonds, pine nuts or pistachios).

I didn’t make that recipe this time. Instead, inspired by the My Bisim recipe and chocolate salami recipes, I kind of made something up. It isn’t a traditional chocolate salami recipe, but it is delicious, so who cares?  I combined crushed and crumbled tea biscuits with melted chocolate, cocoa, powdered sugar and peanut butter. I formed a log, which I rolled in cocoa and then powdered sugar. I sliced the log after chilling it for a little bit. The result tasted pleasantly like a cross between peanut butter cups and milk chocolate with rice crispies in it.


Lidia’s Baked Rigatoni and Zucchini

August 12, 2014


Zucchini, tomatoes and basil tossed with rigatoni–this pasta dish makes excellent use of later summer produce. I have made this pasta  a few times over the past several weeks and have come to prefer it without the cheese (or with less cheese) and with less pasta in relation to the vegetables. Don’t leave out the fresh basil–that is key to the flavor. If you want to replace the fontina with another cheese, you can.


Parshat Devarim: “Where We Are, Where We Are Going”

August 1, 2014


Last week, my nephew, Rabbi Roy Feldman, gave a drasha entitled, “Where We Are and Where We’re Going: Reflections on Life in Israel.” It was on Mas’ei, but I think it is relevant to this week’s parsha, as well (which is also a summary of events). In any event, it is well worth sharing. I’m going to give a summary of it, but you really need to follow the link and read the whole thing.

About a month ago, my niece and nephew were in Paris. There, they had the opportunity to visit Synagogue de la Victoire, which, unsurprisingly, is under heavy security. Rabbi Feldman began his drasha with a Hasidic tale that was told over to him by the rabbi of the Paris synagogue, Rabbi Moshe Sebbag.

One Friday eve, in shetl in Czarist Russia, a Rebbe was stopped by a police officer, who demanded to know where the Rebbe was going. The Rebbe replied, “I don’t know.” The infuriated police officer warned the Rebbe to answer or be dragged off to prison. The Rebbe repeated, “I don’t know where I am going,” and was dragged before the local chief of police.

“’How could you say you don’t know where you are going? It’s Friday evening and you’re a rabbi, surely you were going to the synagogue!’

The Rebbe looked up at the police chief and said, ‘When I began my walk this afternoon, headed in the direction of the synagogue, in no way could I have possibly predicted that this evening I would end up in prison. And so you see, chief, we only know where we are, but we never really know where we’re going.’”

Rabbi Feldman points out the relevance of this tale to Parshat Mas’ei, which recounts the travels of B’nei Yisrael in the Midbar. Rashi says that the purpose of this list is to show Chasadav Shel HaMakom (“the kindnesses of the Almighty” ) in that it illustrates that that B’nei Yisrael were not overly burdened during their travels with many short encampments. The list of travel is a “reflection of Hashem’s love for B’nei Yisrael. Even though He punished the people as a result of the sin of the spies and made them travel about the wilderness for 40 years, He nevertheless showed them care and concern throughout this period.”

“But what Rashi doesn’t acknowledge is that at every stop, at each station, no one, including Moshe himself, had the slightest idea of how long the stop would last. Are we here for one year, or for one hour? Should we unpack and build a new tent, a new camp? Or is it advisable to just live out of our luggage and be ready for the next move? It’s an exhausting state of dependence and of reliance. Even more than the rebbe in the story, B’nei Yisrael knew where they were, but they had no idea where they were going.”

It is at this point of the drasha that Rabbi Feldman turns his attention to the Israel, which is where he traveled after leaving Paris. Once in Israel, He was reminded of the story of the Rebbe who knew where he was, but didn’t know where he was going. When he originally planned the trip, he had no idea he would come in a time of war. He then proceeds to describe what is was like to spend Shabbos in Holon, south of Tel Aviv, with sirens constantly going off. (I can’t begin to summarize this–you have to follow the link and read this for yourself.)

Rabbi Feldman also describes how Israelis are pulling together in this crisis. His cousin’s bakery in Giv’at Shmuel ran out of challah mid-day Friday (usually they have challahs leftover at 4:00 closing time) because so many people were hosting friends and family from Ashdod and Ashkelon for Shabbos, to give them respite. Even after the bakery ran out, people kept pouring in hoping to find challah.”We may not know where we’re going, but we know where we are,” notes Rabbi Feldman.

“The outpouring of chesed in Israel to the families affected by the rockets and the soldiers involved in both the Iron Dome system and later the ground invasion in Gaza is unimaginable and unparalleled.” The hospital he visited in Petach Tikvah had received so many donations cake for wounded soldiers that even after giving it to the soldiers and to the rest of the patients, they still had too much.  Going to donate blood–on the same day a call went out asking for donations for wounded soldiers at Beilinson Hospital–he found out that the appointments for giving blood were booked through to the next week.

Rabbi Feldman concludes by observing that “We know where we are, we don’t know where we’re going” is the way to “sum up the feeling in Israel during this war.”

“No one has any idea how or when this will end– I remember on the fifth day of the operation, every commentator on every major news channel in Israel was saying ‘we are closer to the end than we are to the beginning.’ Obviously, they were wrong, but they had no idea. Nevertheless, the feeling in Israel is clear. By the end of our trip, the restaurants in Tel Aviv were full again, if not by tourists, by Israelis. We have to continue living our life, and we have to give tzedakkah to and do chesed with those who are most significantly impacted by this situation. Even though we don’t know where we’re going, at the very least, we need to know where we are.”