Sunday, May 19, 2013


So as I was paging through (I guess it is not really paging through when your cookbook is on your iPad, perhaps swiping through?) the Jerusalem Cookbook on my fabulous new iPad mini, I came across these little gems:

It was my turn to bring dessert a few Wednesdays ago, so I decided to make it.

I didn’t quite know what it was but I did know that it was in the “sweets” section and it contained some type of creamy cheese and – in my opinion – that made it instantly good.  Reading on, it is a popular crispy confection called mutabbaq and the authors explain that it is sold in a pastry shop, under an Ethiopian church, in a gloomy room, at the bottom of a stairway, in Jerusalem.

Of course, in the original recipe, the filo dough is made by hand – complete with all the pulling and stretching histrionics involved – I just opened the door in the freezer section of the grocery store, stretched and pulled out a box of filo dough.  My former husband would often tell a story about his grandmother, mother and aunts spending an entire day making cheery strudel, recalling a similar dough making and stretching memory where they filled the confection with freshly picked cherries from the back yard. He said it was the best strudel he ever tasted. Even though opening the box was not as labor intensive (or perhaps gratifying) as making fresh filo dough, I would say that the results were just as satisfying.  This dessert prompted the comment… “We’ve had many delicious desserts, but this is the best by far.”

From: Jerusalem Cookbook

For the pastry
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
14 sheets filo pastry
2 cups ricotta cheese
9 oz goat cheese
2 Tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (my addition)…orange would be nice too!
Chopped pistachios (unsalted)

For the syrup
6 tablespoons water
1 1/3 cup superfine sugar
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice…or orange juice

Heat the oven to 450°.  Mix the ricotta, goat cheese and lemon zest in a bowl and set aside.  Brush a baking sheet with some of the butter. Place a sheet of filo dough on and brush with some more butter.  Continue this step – brushing with butter between each layer – until 7 sheets of filo dough have been layered.  Spread the cheese mixture over the filo, leaving a ¾” edge.  Layer the remaining filo using the same layer-butter method.  Tuck edges underneath the pastry and brush with more butter.  Using a sharp knife, score the pastry into six even squares (do not cut all the way through).   
Also, score each newly formed square – only until you hit the cheese layer – with a “+” sign. I forgot this step but it makes for a nice presentation. Bake for 25 minutes, until crisp and golden. 

While the pastry is baking, prepare the syrup by placing the water and sugar in a pan over a medium heat.  Stir well and bring to a boil, add the juice and simmer for 2 minutes.  Set aside. When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over the pastry and top with pistachios.  Serve warm.

This is so tasty…not waistline friendly, but incredibly good.       

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Today, Stella would have been 13. Stella died on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. I came home from work and found her lying peacefully on my bedroom floor, just like she was sleeping. The vet told me that she likely felt a little strange, fell asleep, then passed away. She is my Boston angel now and I know she continues to protect and watch over me from the big playground in the sky.  She puts a smile on my face everyday.

Below is the post I wrote about Stella when I found out she was sick and I re-post to celebrate the birthday of a great dog. Rest peacefully my little friend.  I will miss you.  I know that a star -- the meaning of your name in Italian -- will shine a little brighter because of you.

A friend of mine recommended I read a children's book, Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant after Stella died.  It is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book that is sure to comfort both children and adults who experience the loss of a beloved least this adult.

Original post from July 2012

Lessons Learned From The Wild Ones

Recently the vet diagnosed my Boston Terrier, Stella, with advanced heart disease. She collapsed one day doing what dogs do….protecting her house and humans from intruders – the trash collectors. She was indoors and the interlopers were never in any real danger because of the structural barriers but, nonetheless, Stella was going to make her presence known and bark her disapproval.

I wonder if Stella has any clue about what's happening in her little body. All she knows is that now she gets a peanut butter-smothered pill two times a day and Mommy is feeding toast each morning…it doesn’t matter to her that the toast is meant to fill her tummy so the medicine doesn’t make her sick. Her unconscious resilience and ability to go about her day – happy and unfettered by the consequences of the diagnosis (despite her labored breathing) – has reminded me to embrace and enjoy her each day.

She still wags her tail (which is really a stump) when she sees people that – to her – could have been gone for five years, five months, five weeks, five days, or five minutes…it doesn’t matter, she is still happy to see them, regardless of why she hasn’t in a while. People come in and out of our lives for various reasons and circumstances so when you see them again, make like a dog, wag your tail and blissfully greet them. Stella still chases squirrels and birds that she will never catch, undeterred, moving merrily on to the next potential conquest. This is a reminder to never give up chasing a dream.   Stella stretches every morning before she gets out of bed and even though my yoga teacher has preached for years the value of a morning stretch ritual, it took my canine companion to finally help the nickel drop for me.  

The lessons we can learn from our pets are endless and enduring and go way beyond the love and loyalty that our beastly companions offer each day. Observe and love them and I suspect that life will quickly become a little less complicated and way more gratifying.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Saffron Rice Pilaf

Continuing with our dinners paying tribute to middle-eastern cuisine, Architect made Saffron Rice Pilaf with Chicken Kabobs.

Saffron is a colorful spice plucked from the flower of the saffron crocus. Saffron is from the Arab word for yellow, zafaran, and yellow symbolized joy for the Arabs.  Pharaohs and kings believed that saffron was an aphrodisiac, and when the expected results were futile, saffron’s fever reducing and nerve calming medicinal benefits remained.

This dish is made with delicious basmati rice complemented by equally delicious and always pleasing caramelized onions.

Saffron Rice Pilaf

¾ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 tablespoon boiling-hot water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup slivered almonds
1 very large onion, chopped
1 ½ cup of basmati rice
2 ¼ cups of water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup of dried currents, raisins or cranberries

Soften saffron in hot water in a small bowl. Heat oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Fry almonds, stirring frequently until golden, about 3 minutes.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to train.  Fry onion in remaining oil in pot, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.  Transfer half of onions to a bowl. 
Add rice to onion in pot and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add water, saffron mixture, salt, pepper and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 18-20 minutes.  Let rice stand, off heat, for 5 minutes.  While rice stands, stir almonds and fruit into bowl with the reserved onion.  Fluff rice with a fork and serve with almond mixture spooned on top. 

Architect served the pilaf topped with barbequed chicken and onion kabobs.   Foodie made a salad from The Jerusalem cookbook, Baby Spinach Salad with Dates, Almonds & Pita Bits. Life. Is. Good.