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Sweets & way to Bitters my heart 2





Getting away 68

a rye look at new york 104

how distilling works VOL. 3

Foodways We share so much more than nutrients in a meal! Food and drink tell stories of the soil, science, history, and people that made them. Anthropologists describe the ways people cook and eat in different times or places as “foodways.� Whether you learned to cook from television or from your grandmother, foodways are a part of your life. They might trace how something gets from the farm (or test tube) to our table, how historical events and cultural traditions shape a cuisine, how new technologies have changed what we eat, or simply how our experiences influence the way we cook. What foodways mingle in your kitchen? Americans may not revel in their regional culinary traditions the way, say, the French do. But avocado spread on artisanal multigrain bread makes me think of California, fried chicken and collards take me to the South, maple syrup with hotcakes capture the taste of New England, and lobster drenched in butter is better nowhere than in Maine. And while we are known for guzzling soda and TV dinners, for factory farming and microwave cooking, Americans are taking a renewed interest in our agriculture and food traditions, as well as innovating new ones. We are eating both more internationally and more locally: half a century ago soy sauce or tortillas would have been hard to find in an American supermarket, but now they are staples in many pantries, and there’s nary a town without a farmers market. 2


Each story in this edition of Sweets & Bitters showcases a different kind of foodway. Mira Evnine tells us about a love that changed her life and her cooking, and serves up a spicy green mole with handmade tortillas. Devra Ferst takes us on a reminiscent trip to Tel Aviv for brunch at a beachside table cluttered with savory morsels. And we follow grains of rye from a farm in upstate New York to a distillery in Brooklyn, where we host a rustic cocktail party. The Small Bites section invites you to nibble on ways that history and culture shape how we eat. Meals hint at where our families come from, at our relationships and travels and aspirations. My family is not Jewish, yet my aunts serve lox and bagels for breakfast and my father doesn’t care for ham. Is it any coincidence that my great grandfather was a rabbi? My mother, from Ohio, makes Cincinnati chili, its flavors telling of the Greek immigrant brothers who popularized the recipe, and its spices telling stories of ancient migrations. Now this dish is a part of our family celebrations. I learned to cook not only from my parents, but also from my own experiments, and through jobs and travel. On hot summer days I eat cold rice noodles doused in fish sauce and lime and topped with handfuls of herbs, like I ate for lunch at my high school job in a Vietnamese restaurant. I brew coffee the way I learned on a trip to Japan after college, pouring the water over the grounds slowly and carefully. And my ways with food are always changing as I encounter new tastes and techniques—like the ones we share in the pages that follow.






FRESH FRUIT SODAS I have a real weakness for Mexican sodas and aguas frescas, the cane sugar– sweetened fruit juices you can find in restaurants or on the streets of Mexican neighborhoods. They are thirst quenching and celebrate not only the sweetness but also the sourness of fruit. Here are a few recipes for syrups so that you can make your own sodas at home. They keep well for at least a few weeks — just mix them with seltzer to your taste (or use them in cocktails).

Hibiscus-Lime Syrup ½ cup dried hibiscus 1 cup boiling water ¾ cup sugar ¼ cup fresh lime juice, strained to remove pulp

1. Make a tea by steeping the hibiscus in the water for 5 minutes. Strain. Dissolve the sugar in the tea. 2. Refrigerate the syrup until cool; then stir in the lime juice.

Grapefruit and Thyme Syrup 1 cup sugar ½ cup water zest of 1 grapefruit 3 sprigs thyme 1 ½ cups fresh grapefruit juice, strained to remove pulp

1. Make a syrup by heating the sugar and water together in a small saucepan, stirring constantly until dissolved. Remove from heat, and add the zest and thyme. 2. Refrigerate until cool; then strain into the juice. Stir to combine.

Tangy Tamarind Syrup 1 pound dried tamarind 2 ½ cups cold water ½ cup sugar ½ cup boiling water pinch salt

1. Peel the tamarind pods and discard the shells. Put the fruits in a saucepan and cover with the cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tamarind turns to mush. Push the tamarind mush through a strainer into a bowl, helping it along with a wooden spoon. Discard the fiber and seeds from the strainer; the remaining tamarind should be the consistency of ketchup, and measure about 1 cup. 2. In a large glass measuring cup or a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Stir in the tamarind and salt. Refrigerate until cool.



more at

A recipe for this “Mexican Friend Rice� is in Sweets & Bitters volume 2 and online.




Makes 1 5

I was taught how to make fresh tortillas on a hot summer day in an even hotter Bronx apartment. It takes a little practice, but making tortillas is truly gratifying. They are so simple, there is no excuse not to make them fresh — whether it’s just a few for a quick snack, or a big pile to serve with mole. You can always refry the leftovers and make chilaquiles or enchiladas. 1 ¾ cups masa harina (tortilla flour) 1 ⅛ cups warm water (approximately)

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the masa harina and water until thoroughly combined. Turn the dough onto a clean surface and knead until pliable and smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add more masa harina; if it begins to dry out, sprinkle with more water. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand, ideally for 30 minutes. If you are short on time, 5 minutes will suffice.

4. Immediately place the tortilla in the preheated pan and allow to cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until browned and slightly puffy. Turn the tortilla over and cook for approximately 30 seconds more to brown the other side; turn over again, and the dough should puff. (The idea is to cook and seal both sides, trapping steam between the layers that forces them to separate.)

2. Preheat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

5. Repeat this process until you’ve used all the dough. Wrap the tortillas in a towel to keep them warm and moist until ready to serve.

3. Pull off a golf ball–sized piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Cut two sheets of plastic from a grocery bag and press the ball of dough flat between them using a tortilla press, rolling pin, skillet, or your hands, until it’s about ⅛-inch thick. 14

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Check out a tutorial on making tortillas completely by hand, without a press. 15



Menu and Meal Planning Tips

I love Israeli food for its simplicity and freshness. These dishes taste best when made just before serving, but you’ll want to shop and start your preparations a day ahead. No Israeli brunch would be complete without bowls of little nibbles to munch on throughout the meal: pickles, olives, feta, and dried fruit are delicious additions to the table, and are perfect for your guests to snack on while you finish cooking. Have fun picking out whichever small bites you most enjoy — cherry tomatoes, radishes, and sliced cucumbers are wonderfully refreshing during the summer. A day before you’ll serve the meal, soak the chickpeas for the hummus. Perhaps make the pita dough and refrigerate it. You could even stew the sauce for the shakshuka to save time. The cooking is easy enough to do in a morning, but plan a late breakfast so you don’t feel rushed. 18


1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight by placing them in a bowl and covering them with several inches of cold water. Leave them on the counter if the weather is cool; refrigerate them if it is hot. (You can skip the soaking all together, but expect cooking to take much longer.)

FRESH hummus

ma kes about 1 q uart

My Israeli brunch table is not complete without a bowl of freshly made hummus drizzled with local olive oil. Chefs and grandmothers all have their own recipes with their own secret balances of the ingredients that they love. I make mine with loads of rich tahini, a bit of lemon to cut the thickness, and warm chickpeas and olive oil on top. You can play with the seasoning — more lemon, tahini, garlic, olive oil, or even melted butter — and the texture to make this hummus your own. For me the final touch is a sprinkling of za’tar, a blend of herbs, sesame seeds, and spices.

1 ½ cups dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked), preferably a smaller Middle Eastern variety 1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup chickpea cooking liquid or water, plus more as needed 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

1–2 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, best quality

1 cup light-colored tahini

za’tar (optional)

juice of 2–3 lemons 20

2. Drain the chickpeas and place them in a medium pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with the baking powder and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour enough water over the chickpeas to cover them by two inches (about 7 cups), and bring to a boil. Then turn down to a simmer and cook until the chickpeas crush easily between your fingers but are not mushy, about 20–40 minutes. (The cooking time can vary a great deal depending on the type of chickpeas and how old they are.) Add more water as needed to keep the chickpeas covered. As they cook, occasionally skim off the scum that rises to the surface. 3. Drain the cooked chickpeas, reserving the liquid. If you prefer a more refined texture, remove the skins of the chickpeas by gently massaging them in a big bowl of water, skimming off the skins as they float to the surface, and then draining the chickpeas once more. Or leave the skins on and move straight ahead to the next step.

4. Whiz the garlic in the food processor to chop it up. Add 2 cups of the cooked chickpeas, setting the rest aside. Begin to puree. Add the tahini and juice of 2 lemons, and continue to puree until the mixture is very smooth, about 3 minutes. Add a little of the chickpea cooking liquid or water as necessary. Once the hummus is smooth, dribble in more chickpea cooking liquid or water until you reach your desired thickness. Mix in the salt. Taste, and add more salt or lemon as needed. 5. Transfer tthe hummus to a bowl. Make a well in the center of the hummus, fill it with the remaining cup of chickpeas, and drizzle with the olive oil. Just before serving, sprinkle with za’tar if you have it, to taste. Hummus will keep for at least a few days in the fridge (you can stir in a little more water or olive oil if it gets too thick), but it tastes best the day it is made.

Pressed for time?

You can “cheat” this hummus recipe by using 3 cups of canned chickpeas. Rinse and drain them, and begin at step 4 — but omit the salt, as canned beans are usually pretty salty already. You can salt the hummus to taste at the end. 21

simple science

An alkaline cooking environment softens the skins of legumes. That’s why the recipe calls for heating the chickpeas with baking powder. However, they will also cook just fine without it. The water added toward the end of pureeing the hummus not only loosens the mixture but also helps emulsify it, creating a texture that is fluffy and creamy instead of pasty. 22









simple science

Some gravlax recipes call for freezing the fish to kill parasites, but unless you have liquid nitrogen on hand or a freezer that gets down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, this won’t do much good. Fortunately, you probably won’t get sick even if nematodes are present — only about 10 people per year do in the US, and it’s an unpleasant but not life-threatening experience. I find this an acceptable level of risk, but if you are concerned, simply buy farmed salmon, or sushi-grade fish (that has been frozen to an appropriate temperature). Bacteria are much easier to deal with — the salty brine makes an inhospitable environment for them. Start with fresh fish and keep it cold, and you will have little to worry about.



Serve with Style

Cupcake papers wrapped around each slice make them easy for guests to pick up. These also look great served from the skillet they were baked in.




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