Saturday, June 8, 2013

A happy birthday and a recipe for a most decadent cheese cake

The best cheesecake we know

A couple of weeks ago I turned 39. I must confess I wasn't too thrilled about it. Though I never hide my age the passage of time is starting to be cruel. I cannot ignore anymore the signs time is marking on my face and skin. This year I allowed myself a bit of dark, moody brooding before the big day. It didn't last long tough, because we all took a day off and went to celebrate my birthday weekend in the north part of Israel with all my family, parents and brothers included. It was a perfect day. Unpredictable great weather with beautiful deep blue sky dotted with white clouds (we call it The Simpsons sky), empty roads with no traffic jams and an almost completely empty national park. We hiked the short but challenging Arbel cliff that hangs over The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), combining adventurous rock climbing on ladders with history and archaeology. The Arbel is a fort built into the rock like something out of Game of Thrones, which makes it a great place for pretend knight dual or hide and seek. 

The Arbel

Hiking the Arbel mount

thorns of summer

We ended the day in a lovely family gathering at the hotel lobby where we all stayed. We had a cake of course, with only one candle; I think the heat from 40 candles would've caused a fire.  

All together now

Since we've recently celebrated the Jewish holiday of Shavuot every Israeli and Jewish food blog had recipes for cheesecake. Although I was reluctant at first my friend and food blogger Foodbridge convinced me to publish my version for cheesecake.  It is my daughter's favorite because it combines perfectly sweet, savory and sour flavors.

Cheesecake recipe modified from Doram Gaunt's cookbook "A tall man cooks".

A 22cm tin lined with baking paper.

Cake base:
150gr savory gluten-free pretzels (Osem has a special edition for Passover from potato flour) or any savory crunchy gluten-free crackers.
125ml (half a cup) Nutella spread.
75gr butter

The filling:
4 eggs
250ml (1 cup) sugar
500gr 5% white cheese – Quark cheese (gvina levana)
200gr soft ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 table poon corn starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Ganache topping (Not necessary)
100gr dark chocolate at least 60% cocoa solids
100ml whole cream

1.       Making the cake base:  In a food processor grind all the ingredients to crumbs. With moist hands take the base and flatten it on the bottom of the cake tin and chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
2.       Heat the oven to 150 centigrade
3.       Prepare the filling: bit together the eggs and sugar (at least 5 minutes in an electric mixer), add the cheeses, and lemon zest and mix. Dissolve the corn starch in the lemon juice and add to the mixture.
4.       Assembling the cakes: pour the mixture on the base and bake for 50 minutes until the cake is stable. Cool the cake for at least 5 hours in the fridge before serving.
5.       If you want to top the cake with ganache, boil the cream, take it off the heat and immediately add the chocolate, mix and cool. Spread carefully on the cake and let it cool for another hour.

Have a bite

Friday, April 26, 2013

The great outdoors

A carpet of tiny Irises covers The Israel Trail near Jerusalem

Tiny iris ( Moraea sisyrinchium)

Recently I met a very interesting person, a tourist from Canada that isn't Jewish and came to visit the area out of curiosity and a sense of adventure.  I got to meet him through a friend we've acquired a couple of years ago on our great tour in Canada. Since the guy arrived just before Passover the DH and I took it upon ourselves to explain our non-suspecting visitor what happens in Israel come Pesach. We met him for beer and conversation in a Jerusalem pub. Although he is Quebecois he speaks very good English, far better than my pitiable French. We had a very nice evening, discussing many issues in history, geography, politics and a lot of explaining about Pesach, especially in Jerusalem. We've also recounted our own visit to Canada. I described to him my awe and wonder from the size of the country. The huge impression all the woods and running water made on me, coming from this arid corner of the world. I tried to explain how liberating it was to be in empty huge wilderness, as I'm not used to so much open space.

He was very attentive but didn't really get what I'm talking about.

He kept traveling here in Israel and in The Palestinian Authority, went to the Galilee and Golan Heights, enjoyed the night life of Tel-Aviv and before he went on in his travels he came to celebrate Independence Day with us. I believe he now understands a lot more about the complexity of the situation here and comprehended better the reality of life here for both Israelis and Palestinians. But what he understood best was the size of the country.  He was amazed that his hike in The Tel Dan National Park ended in an hour and was crammed with people. After telling me that, he said: "I now get the way you feel about traveling in Canada, you live in a very claustrophobic country, no great outdoors."  I just smiled.
Our guest has left for the great Turkey and its splendor. 
We're still here. Yes, it's crowded and there is not much open space left but we are trying to make the best of it. Those past months we went outdoors as much as possible. Not doing great hikes or challenging treks but rather picnicking, relaxing, and taking lots of pictures even in the weirdest of weather. 
There is great beauty even in the smallest of places as hopefully you can see in some of my photos.

Not to mention my DH who is a wonderful cook, in and outside the house.   

Having a picnic at Hirbat Saadim in The Jerusalem Mountains- we were freezing so a nice fire kept us warm

Carpets of cyclamens near Jerusalem

Green almonds

Anemones blooming 

Sunset on Lachis

Strider -Walking Wadi Barak, in the southern part of Israel

Happy campers-having breakfast in Wadi Barak camping site.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stop and smell the almonds.

My favorite time of year is here again and will disappear shortly. The winter is ending and already we are experiencing hot dry days. The hills around my house are still green and everything is blooming: the trees, the shrubs, and flowers everywhere, an awful time for the allergic among us.  Very soon it will all turn yellow and dusty. So for this short period of grace I'm in photography frenzy especially of almond trees blossoming. I've wrote before about the loveliness of almond flowers and so has my fellow blogger foodbridge. But every year it enchants me again. Just a mere 5 minutes' drive from my home there are almond orchards that transform to fairy wonderland this time of year with trees blooming in white and pink. It is one of my favorite places on Earth. Even the road that leads to the hospital where I work is laden with almond and Judas trees that make the tedious driving a lovely experience.  Although my daily life is very stressful and demanding I do stop, take out my smart phone and photograph the lush beauty of trees and flowers thus remind myself every day that it is a wonderful life and I am fortunate to live them.
My working place

Pink almond tree

The road I drive daily

Stop to smell the almond flowers

 As opposed to most of my posts the photographs here were taken and processed using iphone4. Unfortunately there is yet no way for me to document the lovely scent of the almond tree or other flowers.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A new year with snow

2012 passed so quickly. There was so much to do, so many new things to learn and new people to meet some of which were amazing but not all unfortunately. There were a lot of dead-lines to meet till it seemed sometimes I just moved from one project to the other. There was a lot of good food this year that was mostly home cooked.  The current economics kept us mostly dining home and less in fancy restaurants, even though here and there we treated ourselves to some old favorite places. It was a year filled with happy moments with family, friends and work. I had many challenges to face this year but I think I handled them quite well. I circled the world this year and was in many places abroad not in all of them for recreation and fun. These are experiences that I didn't have time to process yet even though they were emotionally very taxing. 

A new year brings with it contemplation followed by resolutions.  I want to write more and take more pictures this coming year. And I do hope it will be a good year for us all on our lovely blue planet.

The Israel Trail in The Meron Region 

The Israeli symbol- Sabre (cactus) covered with snow

Since the first week of the New Year has begun with a spectacular storm I thought it is a good omen. Not only my hopes for rain were fulfilled but as a bonus it snowed on the top of the mountains here in Israel. As snow is extremely rare in these parts we skipped work and school took the kids and went for our won snow day in the North of Israel. It was an amazing experience, and the first snow my 4.5 old boy ever saw.  
Happy new year.

Rainbow over The Golan Heights

The Golan Heights in the storm