Hello, dear readers! I am reviving the website with two Ethiopian recipes that my 20-year-old son tried over the weekend. After the recipes, I’ll share a short review of a few new products from a company called Yoffi.
After high school, my son spent a year volunteering in a town where he interacted with many immigrants from Ethiopia. He’s been wanting to making traditional Ethiopian food, so he consulted with his friends and the internet.
First we have injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread made from the grain teff. He found teff in a store specializing in Ethiopian products, but it is available (at a higher price) in most grocery store chains in Israel.
If you have ever worked with sourdough or any other type of fermentation, injera is a cinch. Even if not, it is fairly simple. “It’s high in protein and calcium, super-nutritious,” my son told me.
The teff sat in our freezer for a few weeks until he came home for long enough to complete the fermenting process. One recipe recommended only one day of fermentation, but most suggest three or four. After 24 hours we decided to let it sit for another 24. I’ve read that fermentation happens more quickly if you do it often, and your kitchen environment is full of wild yeast. This may or may not be true, but 48 hours was more than enough.
Fermentating the teff:
Place a half a kilogram (about a pound) of teff in a large bowl. This amount made six or seven pita-shaped loaves. Keep some extra teff on hand, as you may need it. Add cold water and stir until you get a thick batter. Don’t worry too much about the texture, as you can adjust it later. Cover with a damp cloth or use Marcy Goldman’s trick of wrapping the entire bowl in a clean garbage bag, and tying it. The batter won’t expand much.
Check the mixture the next day. We found a layer of dark, watery liquid on the top (hooch). We kept it, but you can discard it carefully if you like, trying not to spill the thicker part of the batter. Add some warm water and stir, then cover again. You can add more teff if you feel it’s too thin.
Check again the next day (after 48 hours or so). The batter should have a rich, beer-like smell and lots of small bubbles. Here’s how ours looked before cooking.
The batter should be loose and pourable, like a pancake.
Heat up a frying pan. We used a non-stick pan, but if you don’t have one, brush with a little oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with batter. Keeping the heat high, wait until about two-thirds of the pancake has visible bubbles. Then cover the pan for another minute until the pancake is firm. Remove to a plate. The bottom will be crisp. If you’ve ever made crepes, it’s the same idea.
Here’s how it looked when it was done, with the top no longer shiny.
We used the injera to scoop up this simple, spicy lentil stew.
Wot (lentil dip) with chou spice
My son also improvised a wot, or lentil dip, getting the recipe from one of his Ethiopian friends. The defining ingredient, also sold in specialty Ethiopian stores, is a red hot-pepper-based spice mixture. Each store’s mixture is slightly different. I think this must be a version of berbere.
We were quite pleased with the result, and definitely plan to make this again. “It’s the kind of food you like,” my son concluded.
Review of Yoffi products
Vad, a representative of Yoffi, an online company selling kosher Israeli products, contacted me to review samples. I asked him to surprise me, so we received chocolate tahini (sesame) spread with hazelnut, sage tea, and silan (date spread). The company takes care to have attractive packaging, especially the red tea tin. My son loved the spread, which lasted about half an hour. We concluded that people who like halva would most enjoy it and if you don’t like halva, don’t bother. It’s rather sweet, but we would buy it again. The sage tea consists of loose, dried sage leaves, and we are enjoying it. We haven’t actually tried the silan yet. While my son likes to cook with it, I don’t, so it is still sitting here. The company is taking Passover gift orders now.
I received no compensation for this review.
My visit to the store last week reminded of the Jewish saying, “Don’t look at the container, but at what is inside it.” (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:2). Roughly translated into English, this means, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The Talmud references it regarding an ugly man who is very wise and knowledgeable. And it can apply in the kitchen too!
Usually, when we pick fruits and vegetables, we look for the most attractive. But we pay a premium for that privilege. And what looks best in the store, is not necessarily the tastiest.
I noticed three different types of produce being sold for a discount: Tomatoes, avocados, and sweet peppers. As you can see from the pictures, the tomatoes looked dented and spotted, the peppers wrinkled (you may need to look closely), and the avocado skins mostly black. My adult son, who came along to help, was especially skeptical about those avocados. I told him that we might have to throw out 10-20% of the produce, but it would still be worth it.
But when I got home and sliced open a sample, the quality of the produce spoke for itself. I paid about 20-30% of the cost advertised for the higher-quality items in the same store. I had planned to cook the peppers, but they were sweet enough for salads after cutting out a black spot here and there. Those tomatoes were the best we’ve had in months.
Some tips of the avocados could not be saved, and I had to throw out two whole ones. But they were small and most were delicious, with a perfect ripeness and color. And they have kept well in the refrigerator.
Produce quality peaks just when it is about to go soft and spoil. But that is too late for the store, which risks losing the produce to spoilage. If you can use of the fruits and vegetables the store can’t sell within a reasonable time, I suggest taking a chance.
It’s fun to gamble and win! Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by sorry-looking produce?
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Remember those black beans I posted about recently? And how I planned to keep a container of beans in the freezer? Well, I defrosted the container in the refrigerator overnight Thursday. On Friday, my vegan son came home, and added beans to the rice and mushrooms he cooked for the Sabbath. He took the leftovers with him for Rosh Hashanah.
But he didn’t use up all of the defrosted beans. All during the holiday, I heard those beans whispering at me, begging me to use them up. Fortunately, we had a vegetarian couple coming for lunch on Tuesday, and I suspected they would like spicy fare. I started the beans with some extra water, because they were still on the firm side.
After they were soft, I couldn’t decide whether to mash them or not. In the end, I decided not to. After all, whatever is mashed, cannot be unmashed.
Spicy Black Beans with Coriander and Garlic
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Flavorful bean recipe, great as a appetizer or side. Can be served hot or cold. Mash the beans to make a dip, or leave whole. Serves 4-6.
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The kids are back in school, and while the heat hasn’t let up, the smell of routine is in the air. I just finished cooking a pot of black beans, and am enjoying anticipating how I will use them.
I find cooked dried beans one of the most versatile foods to have around. They keep well in the refrigerator, adapt themselves to a wide range of flavors, and even the pickiest eaters can find something to love. My son won’t eat chickpeas plain, but he will eat falafel balls or chumus.
So what will I do with these beans? Let me count the ways.
Have I inspired you to put up a pot of beans? What is your favorite way to use them?
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I’ve been stressing about Passover cooking. My 18-year-old son became vegan a few months ago, and I’m afraid my usual menu plan might leave him hungry. Because of the prohibitions against seeds and legumes (kitniyot) in the Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish Passover tradition, vegan staples like lentils, beans and sesame are off the table.
The recipes in this vegan cookbook do not contain animal products such as eggs, dairy, fish, or meat. They also contain no seeds or legumes. Although many Ashkenazim today do eat quinoa, Rena decided to leave that out too. So these recipes will be acceptable to most Passover-observant guests you are likely to host.
Several of Rena’s recipes answered questions I have been asking myself. How can you make vegan matza balls (kneidlech) that won’t fall apart? What about kugels (vegetable pudding), mayonnaise, and matza brei (French toast made with matza)? Rena provides solutions, without eggs, for all of these.
Vegan Start Passover Cookbook includes a vegan Seder menu, with ideas for vegan substitutes for the egg and bone on the Seder plate. I found the recipes for soups, sides and salads to be similar to those throughout the year, since most vegetables are kosher for Passover. She bases the main course recipes on mushrooms, and potatoes, and other vegetables, like Mushroom Burgers, Gnocchi and Ratatouille. I suggest adding herbs to spice up some of the savory recipes.
Passover desserts create a special challenge for vegans, but Vegan Start Passover Cookbook does not disappoint! Choices include Apple Cake, Almond Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Torte, and Chocolate Truffles. The chocolate mousse contains a surprise ingredient.
Two specialty recipes that I definitely plan to try, or have my son try, are almond milk and mayonnaise. These high-priced items are expensive when ready-made, and often full of additives. Rena’s mayonnaise is based on oil and almond milk (or another vegan milk).
Rena has offered to give away 3 copies of the book to readers. Here are three ways to enter:
Update: Congratulations to the winners, Rachel, Aviva and Yocheved! Thank you to all who entered.
Want more recipes for both vegans and carnivores? Check out Passover Recipes and Cooking Techniques.