The Big Felafel



What’s in Season? Winter Fruits and Vegetables in Israel

Note from Rebecca: I’ve been reading Miriam’s blog, Israeli Kitchen, and asked her if she could help us out during the year to remember which fruits and vegetables are in season. For some reason, I can never remember when celery turns wilty or avocado can sadly no longer be found or when strawberries make a most welcome comeback. So Miriam to the rescue!  Miriam creates original recipes and posts them on her blog and agreed to share some of her favorite winter recipes with The Big Felafel. Enjoy and make sure to check out Israeli Kitchen for more recipes. Stay tuned for the Spring, Summer and Fall editions of “What’s in Season”. Without further ado, Miriam of Israeli Kitchen:

When rain streams over my window and it gets dark early, I cook soup. The family shleps in towards evening, dripping and complaining. As they pull off coats and put umbrellas away, they sniff the aromatic odor wafting from the big pot on the stove, and know that in a few minutes they’ll be sitting down to their favorite winter food – home-made soup.

I started my soup in the supermarket, slowly cruising the vegetable aisles. All kinds of mushrooms were on sale. Then there was firm, golden corn on the cob, which made me think of cornbread baked with corn kernels in it. Slender, pale-green leeks and crisp celery lay in orderly rows. Piles of potatoes, both white and red varieties…hmm. A delicate leek and potato soup, aromatic with celery, possibly?

Or how about a robust white bean soup with tomatoes and diced carrots, flavored with thyme and plenty of onions? There were so many vegetables! But I was enjoying this cook’s dilemma.

I pushed the shopping cart on. Knobby celeriac and pale parsley roots were fat and tender. When the weather gets hot again, they’ll go thin, not as good. I like to include one or two of those roots in my chicken or beef soups for the rich, sweetish flavor they give out. All those vegetables are in season and reasonably priced. What soup, what soup would I feed my family tonight?

The mushrooms won. I could have bought a few vibrantly green stalks of broccoli, also in season, for a broccoli/mushroom soup, but I love the pure taste of mushrooms alone. I chose a little basket of firm, brown Portobelos and served my soup with warm slices of that chunky cornbread.

We ate and thawed out. The soup performed its reliable magic, filling stomachs and souls with comfort. By the time we sigh and push our bowls away, life had started looking good again.

A colorful salad of sliced tomatoes and avocados followed. It needed only a little lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dusting of salt for dressing. All Israeli winter produce for dinner last night.

Recipes:

Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms, Portobellos

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

450 grams – 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, clean and sliced thinly. Put 4 aside for later.

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small potato, peeled and diced

1 bay leaf

1 cup water

3 cups of milk

2 Tablespoons white wine

1 Tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, or a sprig of fresh

salt and white pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped chives or chopped parsley

Method:

1. In your soup pot, sauté the onions till they’re wilted.

2. Add the sliced mushrooms and the diced potatoes. Stir and cook till the mushrooms have released their juice and the potatoes are starting to get soft.

3. Add the garlic and the bay leaf.

4. Add the water. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over low heat till they are all soft.

5. Take the pot off the heat. Either transfer the soup base to a blender or food processor, or use a stick blender, but process it till the vegetables are blended.

6. Return the blended vegetables to the pot (I just take my stick blender to the whole thing – off the heat, of course).

7. Add the milk, bring it up to a simmer, and cook for another 15 minutes. Don’t let the milk boil over.

8. Swirl the butter in. Add the wine and the thyme and the 4 sliced mushrooms you put aside, and simmer the soup another minute or so.

Spoon out some of the mushroom slices into each bowl and sprinkle chopped chives or parsley over them. Serve.

Cornbread with Fresh Corn Kernels

corn muffins with corn kernels

Ingredients:

1/1/4 cups white flour

3/4 cup corn meal

4 Tblsp. sugar

3 tsp. baking powder (Israelis can just empty out a little package of baking powder into the bowl)

3/4 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 Tblsp. melted butter. You can use oil or marg, but it will never be as good.

2 corn cobs, broken in halves and steamed till the kernels are tender.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 F – 190 C.

Have ready a medium-sized bowl and two smaller bowls.

1. Scrape the kernels off the corn cobs; put into one of the smaller bowls and set aside.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into the larger bowl.

3. In the smaller bowl, beat the egg. Add the milk and melted butter and mix well.

4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing well again.

5. Add the corn kernels to the batter and mix.

6. Spread the batter in a butter 9-inch pie dish; or line your pan with baking paper.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cornbread is golden brown all over.

Here’s a quick list of especially delicious and available  fruits and vegetables during the winter months.

Please feel free to comment with your favorite winter eats in Israel.

  1. mushrooms, many varieties
  2. all the citrus: oranges, pomelos, grapefruits, tangerines
  3. apples
  4. avocados
  5. lettuce: cos or Arab lettuce, oak-leaf, iceberg
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