Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Brazen, Shameless Plug: Veggie Holiday Meals

Of course this plug is shameless: I stand wholeheartedly behind what -- er, whom -- I'm promoting. I plug with pride and confidence. She's good. Really good.

I'm in a book club. We get together roughly once a month, cook up a potluck meal, and discuss a book we all read. I knew some of the members before I joined, but some have become my friends solely through these meetings. Jenny Goldberg is in the latter group. She's a sweet smiley character with a twinkling personality. When we first met, she was working at Tree People, but getting ready to take the LSAT. She was taking the plunge into law school, and she hated it. I can totally recall the utter dread in her voice whenever she would talk about hunkering down to study.

Then one day, everything changed. She told me that she was chucking off the law school idea, going to culinary school, and becoming a vegan chef. I've rarely felt such elation than I did upon hearing this. I was so excited for her, and knew she would be great. She had always provided amazing vegan dishes for our book clubs, really turning me around on the possibility of delicious vegan food. From sloppy joes to stir-fry, everything she makes is tasty, hearty, and satisfying.

I recall a specific meeting where two people had provided sweets: dueling desserts. One of our members had brought a traditional tiramisu, all creamy and mascarponey, and Jenny had made a pumpkin cheesecake. Except it was a pumpkin 'cheese'cake -- nary a drop of dairy in this thing. Yet it was deceptively rich and creamy, with a strong pumpkin flavor and crumbly graham cracker crust. At the end of the night, the tiramisu sat sadly on the table, hardly touched, while the empty cheesecake dish sat there smugly, gloating silently about how much everyone loved it. A soy-based dessert beating out tiramisu? Obviously this girl is talented.

You can now experience her culinary talents firsthand -- you can Chef-Jenny-ify your holidays! Jenny is offering her services for small vegetarian and vegan holiday get-togethers. Additionally, she can provide a pre-made Thanksgiving feast, with truly mouthwatering courses like twice-baked mashed yams with coconut milk and roasted garlic (Jesus.), and shallot and mushroom gravy with white truffle oil, along with main course, stuffing, and seasonal fruit cobbler for dessert. She'll deliver them a few days before Thanksgiving, with instructions to heat them up and make your home smell delicious and cozy.

It's exciting to see someone following their dream, and thriving. Especially when that dream involves food. But especially when it's someone as warm, and talented, as Jenny. Check out her website -- you'd be lucky to have her cook for you. Oh, and tell her I sent ya.

Monday, October 30, 2006

down for the count

my hard drive is revolting against me, and so my computer is somewhere between here and that mysterious and magical place the purported geniuses ship these things off to before they come back to me in working order (hope hope). so my hands are somewhat tied on the whole posting thing. i'll do my best to fit it in, but the fates are making me take it slow for a few days. there are pressing things to talk about -- this kind of hurts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Link: The Hunger Site

I mean, let's face it. This blog is a pretty gluttonous endeavour. I write, you read, about ingredients available year-long, an overwhelmingly vast number of restaurants where we can have the luxury of choosing large portions of food for very cheap, or spend tons of money on a few extravagant bites. On a day to day basis, each one of us eats far more than we need to, and while we might worry about the menu for our next meal, we don't have to worry about there being a next meal. We're so very lucky.

It's not much, but I added a link to The Hunger Site to the sidebar. Click on it every once in a while, then click the big yellow button on the resulting page. It's the simplest thing in the world, and for each click, The Hunger Site donates staple food to people who need it most both here in the United States and around the world.

So... click the link now. Here, I'll make it even easier for you. Click anywhere in this whole sentence. Or this one. Do it. Now! Go!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Drowning in the Farmer's Market

The office where I work is about 2 doors down from the Gehry Building, the home of Frank Gehry's architectural firm. Within the last year, much to our excitement, they added a tiny food stand to the front of the building, simply named delicious. It's small, but quite pleasant -- the name of the cafe wraps around the cheery blue building in chubby mint green letters, and there is a small sunny patio with Gehry-designed chairs to enjoy a few minutes away from work. The food options suit Gehry's stylish, worldly workforce: sushi and salads, Orangina and Acqua Panna.

On afternoons when staring at the computer screen is making my eyes glaze over, and it's all I can do from falling asleep at my dark desk, pressing fifty keys at once as my head hits the keyboard, I know exactly what to do. I sneak away to delicious for an affogato: a scoop of vanilla ice cream 'drowning' under 2 shots of espresso. Aside from the caffeine kick and the sugar rush, the contrasts of the affogato get me going: sweet and bitter, cold and hot.

On a groggy weekend, I had walked over to the Farmer's Market, and while there, needed a kick (figuratively speaking). I couldn't decide what I wanted at first: a snack or a drink? Sweet or savory? I was kind of sleepy after all -- thoughts were kind of hazy. But then it hit me: affogato! But... how? No fancy cafes here, and an blended coffee drink would just be too much sweet, too much powder, and too much air. In a someone-put-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter moment, it hit me. I calmly walked over to Coffee Corner*, and ordered a double shot of their espresso from the nice kinda-goth lady behind the counter (have you noticed that Coffee Corner, as well as the bakery behind the crepe place, always have nice kinda-goth ladies behind the counter?). I took my real espresso glass, and walked a few feet to Bennett's ice cream. Ordered a scoop of their homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

I took my ingredients to a table, and started mixing. I paid no mind when people looked at me kind of funny as I mixed my beverage with my dessert (or perhaps they were looking at me funny because I was taking pictures of my food. Wow, I really am a weirdo). After all, with a little creativity, I linked two great Farmer's Market establishments, to create a custom concoction just for me.

*I like to repeat this story about Coffee Corner -- aside from their retro pricing, great coffee and tea, and the noteworthy servers mentioned above, it's yet another reason I always choose them over the Starbucks and Coffee Bean at the Farmer's Market: Several years back, one of their regulars was dismayed because the Farmer's Market was moving from silverware to plastic. So, just for him, Coffee Corner kept one real spoon. (This story came from this LA Weekly article, which came out back when the Grove was first opening.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Astoria, Queens: It's A Big Hug

Due to business or laziness, I've not talked about the time I spent in Astoria, Queens while I visited New York. I hate to neglect this sweet little city though -- it was just so kind and affectionate to me. There seem to be two very different demographics to Astoria, but everyone is so damn nice that they coexist quite peacefully, and together they make a visit there as warm and comfy as a big hug.

I got a whiff of the first demographic the moment I stepped onto the street from the elevated train station at Broadway Avenue. The whole of Astoria smells like food. If you are of Greek descent, your grandma probably lives here. Your uncle might own the taverna on the corner where a couple old men are sitting at a table on the patio -- plastic chairs and blue checked tablecloth -- laughing over thick, bitter frappe. Seriously, there is a distinct savory aroma that permeates the whole town. A little bit lentil soup, a little bit moussaka. Even as you walk past Omonia's pastries, where, in the window they have a poster proudly stating to passersby that they made the wedding cake for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you still get the feeling you're in someone's living room, waiting for dinner to be served. It's a homey feeling: it just makes Astoria seem cuddly.

The second group has a bit more edge, but not that much more. Astoria has a substantial population of thirtysomethings (give or take a year). It's an interesting group -- not unlike our local hipster variety, they are into music, the arts, and their community. But somehow, they just seem nicer. They also appear to have the highest blog population density of any city ever. Their headquarters is the Freeze Peach, a local coffeehouse that actively contributes to the community. Residents seem to run into people they know everywhere, and, as far as my hosts were concerned, they knew the proprietors of every shop they frequented.

My perfect Astoria Sunday went like this: My warm, gracious hosts, Annie and Eric, who fall smack in the middle of the second group, started me off with a tiny apple cider donut. It should be noted that every item of food that comes into their home is special, and if it isn't, they will turn it into something special. This little nugget was no exception. Once we overcame the groggy inertia of Sunday morning, we got ourselves out of the house. Homemade dinner was in the works, so our first stop was Gary's. Or as non-regulars know it, D&F's Italian deli. So much cheese in one space. Wow. Then to the Brooklyn Bagel Company for a bagel and scallion cream cheese (yes, they really do know some things about bagels in these parts).

It's About Time

The main event of the day was the twentieth anniversary of the Socrates Sculpture Park. The Park started out as an illegal landfill, and 20 years ago, a group of artists and community members turned it into an expansive park that hosts rotating exhibitions of large-scale artwork. The anniversary celebration meant live music, kids running around with beautifully-painted faces, and catering from Opa! (one of a bajillion local Greek restaurants) and a local Punjabi eatery. I felt like one of those kids as we frolicked around from installation to installation with the sun shining down on us. So far, so perfect.

A little more walking, a little more grocery shopping, then on to the day's real main event: dinner. On the walk home, we ran into a chef friend, who, when he learned I was visiting Annie and Eric, said, "You'll be eating well." No doubt. We got home and got to work. Annie was on kale duty, Eric was slicing potatoes, the cats were high on the nip, and me, I was logging it all from the 2-seater diner booth in their kitchen, sipping on bright Lambic cassis (I know, lazy, but someone has to document these moments!).

Finally time to eat. Eric had made a perfectly spiced potato and shiitake mushroom gratin, and Annie had sauteed some kale with pancetta, and chicken sausages we had picked up at Gary's. As if the food wasn't treat enough, we got to watch 3 hours of cable! Travel channel at that! Really these people spoiled me rotten. It feels so great to be with friends you miss, and to be reminded that there are people across the country that are on the same page as you. After binging on food and fine television programming, we went up on the roof for a breath of fresh air and a view of nighttime in their cozy little city. We came downstairs and had dessert: chocolate chipotle ice cream, homemade by Eric. Yeah, wow.

Astoria, thanks for your warm welcome -- give yourself a big squeezy Greek grandma hug for me!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

t is for Tannaz

We've discussed before how deeply I love tea. We also know I have an affinity for my neighborhood, Los Angeles' Fairfax district. So, imagine my delight driving down Fairfax Avenue the other night, just blocks from home, in seeing a new tea shop: t on Fairfax. Hello, they even named it after me! So thoughtful!

So, I strolled over on Saturday morning and checked it out. I'm a fan. Sparse decor, clean and industrial, but with little ornate accents -- subtle asymmetric frills painted onto the chairs, pretty filigree sconces on one wall. A non-threatening mix of familiar alt-rock like Weezer and Radiohead came through the speakers. A couple people on laptops capitalized on the free wireless internet. They are apparently open late -- until 11 on Sundays, midnight on weeknights, 1 am on weekends -- and even offer live dj's on weekend nights. They've also got a very reasonably priced afternoon tea on the menu -- this local spot is offering to cover a lot of bases.

Whoever's behind this place knows a few things about tea, and displays of tea expertise abound. They have something like 100 varieties, available in 3 sizes of cup, 2 sizes of teapot. I ordered a small pot of Darjeeling, my favorite, after the guy behind the counter (the tea-ista?) helped me navigate the 3 different Darjeelings they offer. Someone else ordered jasmine pearl tea, and they explained to him that they only serve it in a 'display pot', a large clear glass pot that allows you to see the little 'pearls' unravel as it steeps. (If it were up to me, the teacups would be glass as well, instead of the pale green or black ceramic cups and mugs they offer, but I guess these guys are riffing off the British tea tradition.) And, when I went to refill my hot water, the tea-ista asked me what kind of tea I had been drinking. Why? Because they keep hot water at 3 different temperatures -- cooler for the delicate greens and whites, hotter for black teas. Talk about attention to detail.

The all-vegetarian menu is cute. The bulk of it is sandwiches based on afternoon tea offerings -- cucumber and cream cheese, or egg salad and watercress -- supplemented with salads and desserts. I had a blueberry scone, which was delicious.

So, the bottom line -- it's definitely a teahouse, not a coffeehouse. Although they offer wi-fi, there are no couches here. No one will scold you for failing to stick your pinkie out as you sip, but you might feel inclined to sit up straight and mind your p's and q's while you write your breakthrough screenplay in this place.

t on Fairfax is at 435 North Fairfax, between Oakwood and Rosewood.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Big Girls' Playdate

You know what's great about being a grown-up, and a female one at that? You know how, when you're a little girl, you like to have pretend tea parties? Some generous family member buys you a toy tea set: a tiny plastic teapot with matching cups -- dainty little things with pink flowers on the side. Then you line up all your teddy bears and dollies, and pour each one a cup of invisible pretend tea. You might drop invisible pretend sugar cubes in the cups, or lay a delicate invisible pretend finger sandwich beside each one. The guests don't really drink the tea: after all, they aren't alive and don't move. These stuffed animals are kind of lame guests actually -- they just sit there, they don't contribute to the discussion, and they don't really add any personality to the event. You take a pretend sip, you pretend taste the pretend sweetness, and pretend feel the pretend warmth flowing down your throat.

So then, what's great about being an all-grown-up big girl, is that you get to do it all for real. Real food, real flavor, real tea in your pink teacup, and best of all, real friends. And you can drink wine! Last night, me and 7 lovely ladies got together for a fall dinner party. My friend Rachel has recently come into her grandmother's china, an elaborate set in pastel pink and blue, straight out of Cinderella, and, in an email entitled simply "Food Love", she invited us all over to put them to use. In keeping with the seasonal theme, Rachel roasted a chicken with fennel, and her roommate Ashley made sweet earthy roasted beets. The rest of the girls contributed appetizers (almond-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto), sides (scalloped potatoes and an heirloom tomato bread pudding), dessert (homemade from-scratch apple tart), and a fall salad with apples, walnuts, blue cheese, and dried cranberries. I was in charge of soup, and so supplied a roasted butternut squash number, all dolled up with fried sage and Parmesan tuiles. Devotion to the cause came through in each woman's contribution: it was all really delicious.

So, decked out in our finest party dresses, we ate quite well, indulged in a little playing pretend, and talked about girlie topics: baby names, boyfriends and husbands, career paths, and the patron saint of delicious indulgence, Ina Garten. (Admittedly, mostly we talked about what we were eating, in minute and glorious detail.) We dutifully washed and dried and put away between courses, and mused over the fact that, had there been boys in our ranks, we'd certainly have fewer hands helping out.

all the man we need

In spite of the night's feminine bent, we did allow one male into our little coven: Mutty Pitu Burritu, the traveling stuffed wonder dog. Mutty was an exemplary ambassador for the two groups he represented: males and stuffed animals. Not only did he help with the dishes, he was the life of the party: drinking wine, tasting the roasted fennel, posing for pictures with the girls. The wild child that he is, he even ended up lying across the dinner table at some point. This charmer is a different breed from those tiresome teddies of tea parties past.

Sometimes it's rough being a grown-up, but playdates like these make it all worthwhile.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage and Parmesan Tuiles

You know those movies where a somewhat inept regular guy somehow ends up with the task of taking a woman hostage, possibly even murdering her, but she manages to use her wiles to unravel his plans? I felt like that hapless anti-hero as I tried to cut the squash in half for this recipe. As I tried to stab through its flesh over and over again, I was basically bargaining with it -- groveling with the tough, unflappable squash for every inch of headway. In the end I got the last laugh, though: after splitting it open and forcing it into a four-hundred-degree oven for an hour, I pulverized the thing to a pulp. Revenge is sweet.

Two 2 1/2 - 3 pound butternut squashes
1/2 head garlic (about 6 cloves)
tiny drizzle olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 Tbs chopped fresh sage + 16 fresh sage leaves
3 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs butter
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese

The soup:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice each squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and surrounding stringy flesh and discard (or, if you are my mother, save the seeds, wash, salt, dry, and roast them, and nosh on them to stay awake during Dancing With the Stars). Place them face-down on a baking sheet.

Slice about 1/2 cm off the top off each clove of garlic, and drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the exposed tops. Place the head on the baking sheet with the squash. Place it all in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the squash is soft, smooshy, and slightly browned. You can make the fried sage in the meantime.

If you have an immersion blender, scoop flesh out of skin, and place in large pot over low heat. Squeeze cloves of roasted garlic out of skin into the pot. Add half of broth, half of water, half-and-half, maple syrup and 1 tablespoon chopped sage. Use immersion blender to blend soup until it is a smooth puree. Add enough of remaining broth and water, blending them in with the immersion blender, to get soup to desired consistency. Melt in 1 tablespoon butter and season generously with salt and pepper.

If you have a food processor or blender, scoop squash flesh directly into its bowl in batches, adding garlic, broth, water, sage, and half-and-half in batches. Pour completed batches into large pot over low heat. Add broth and/or water to adjust consistency of soup. Stir in maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter, and season generously with salt and pepper.

To plate, ladle soup into bowls, and top each bowl with 2 fried sage leaves and 1 Parmesan tuile.

Fried sage leaves:
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sage leaves, and saute until lightly brown around edges. Remove to a paper towel, to catch excess butter.

Parmesan tuiles:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a cookie cutter as a guide, sprinkle Parmesan into 8 3-inch diameter discs. The discs should be very thin and lacy. Place in oven until edges brown, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool before carefully removing tuiles from wax paper.

Notes: This soup was inspired by this and this. Be creative with the liquids to suit your fancy: replace the vegetable broth with chicken broth, apple juice or cider, or maybe add a splash of white wine.

Serves 8

Sunday, October 08, 2006

bye-bye summer breakfast

I haven't really talked yet about the fact that summer ended and fall began. It's a subtle transition here in LA -- you won't see too many leaves changing, and T-shirts and flip-flops won't leave you shivering quite yet -- but I still sense it. There's a change in what I feel like eating. As much as I love summer, and I actively loved this summer, I'm already at the point where I will pass up cool light summer salads, with their berries or nectarines or perfectly ripe tomatoes, for the cozy warmth of soup -- butternut squash maybe, or a rich mushroom chowder (wow, that sounds so good I wish I had some now!).

But for some reason, I'm still holding a candle for summer breakfasts. With the sun beating down through the open window on a weekend morning, a sweet summer fruit only needed a little yogurt, pita, and a cup of tea to make a light meal and bring a little of what was going on outside to my kitchen table. I'm still not quite ready to start the mornings with something warm and comforting, but I know it's coming. I had a breakfast the other day that was entirely satisfying, but I was a little sad to realize how, in a few weeks time, I would surely pass it up for a bowl of stone-ground oatmeal to help me ward off the autumn morning chill.

Anyway, here are a couple pictures of summer breakfasts past, and a recipe for the best scrambled eggs I've ever made -- which, unlike white pants or the perfect peach, can be easily accessorized to fit all four seasons.

simple and yum

polenta with heavy, oozy, supersweet peaches

scrambled eggs, dressed for summer (Mediterranean summer, apparently)

Scrambled Eggs

3 things inspired this recipe:
  1. My dear friend Rachel got me Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties! for my birthday. Ina manages to make everything more delicious than it would have been without her intervention, and scrambled eggs are no exception: she adds heavy cream and serves them with parmesan cheese. Duh.
  2. In a recent conversation with my friend Jason, truly the most gastronomically knowledgeable person I know, we traded fun facts we had learned from Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, a tome of endless nuggets about the inner workings of food. When I offered up the best way to cope with a wasabi attack (inhale through nose, exhale through mouth), he countered with McGee's method for perfect scrambled eggs: double boiler. I scoffed at this. Scrambled eggs are the humblest of breakfasts, at home in small town diners, dormitory dining commons, and even harried home kitchens. I simply can't get behind that kind of fuss for such a unfussy dish. But I got the point: slow cooking, constant stirring. The resulting texture is transcendent.
  3. I have a bag of cotija cheese in my refrigerator right now. What the hell am I supposed to do with a bag of cotija cheese? (This is not a rhetorical question by the way -- I am open to suggestions.) Anyway, it kind of looks like parmesan.
2 eggs
1/2 Tbs cream (half-and-half or milk will do)
1/2 Tbs crumbled cotija cheese (in a pinch, substitute parmesan or crumbled feta)
small pat butter
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk eggs, cream, and cheese in a small bowl. Melt butter in a skillet over low heat. Add eggs, and cook stirring constantly, until eggs have thickened, but not completely hardened. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 1

a little fairfax history

first off, this has nothing to do with food. well, except maybe popcorn. anyway, the laemmle fairfax on beverly has turned into a regent. this means that instead of being the runt of the artsy laemmle family, it will play regular mainstream movies, a bit after they've been released in the fancier theaters, and at 3 bucks a ticket. not bad. but in and of itself not all that noteworthy (i mean, it is to me, because i live there, but maybe not to you).

however, it has prompted the dutiful documenters of our city at franklin avenue (who are also responsible for bringing the term 'blog-LA-sphere' to the masses...thank god) to get a little nostalgic and print a photo of the corner of beverly and fairfax from way back when. i love old photos of my neighborhood. that's all.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cozy, Local, Flirty...Fleeting

The thing is, I work well under pressure. I'm a bona fide procrastinator, and even with the very best of intentions, it sometimes takes a hard deadline to get me to do what I set out to do. I heard about La Buca several months ago, and every time I drive past it (which was pretty often this summer considering it's right on the Scoops path), I say to myself, Tannaz, you really need to go to that place. But then I didn't... I mean, what's the rush? It's not going anywhere.

Fortunately, urgency finally came in the form of a remodel. This tiny Italian osteria is on the verge of a threefold expansion. While I am glad for them that they are successful enough to grow the shop, I know something's lost when small local restaurants grow. I needed to get there before the expansion, and the shutdown that would probably precede it. With that in mind, I've been there twice in so many weeks. I catch up fast.

I find than generally in LA, there is a direct correlation between the size of a restaurant and its ambiance. You can certainly find good food in a tiny restaurant, but it's usually at the expense of any sort of style or atmosphere. I've seen snug eateries that were very well-appointed in more densely populated cities like Tokyo and Manhattan, but somehow it seems like Los Angeles' restaurant proprietors are rarely willing to put in the effort to make smaller spots feel fabulous. La Buca is an exception. Dimly lit, with Ikea-funky chairs and red tablecloths, this place has understated style, along with with a touch of good-natured attitude: amidst the black-and-white posters of Italian celebrities that line the walls all the way up to the ceiling, there's a chalkboard stating unapologetically, "We know we need a bigger osteria. But for now, deal with it". Not a problem. In fact it has the feel of a New York restaurant -- somehow the conversations held under La Buca's high ceilings and candlelight seem to be a little heavier, a little less frivolous than our regular west coast repartee.

One of the best things about La Buca is that the door to the restaurant is a little tough to open. What this means is that as you're struggling with the doorknob, 3 young Italian men clamber to the door to let you in. Buona sera, indeed! They lend to the atmosphere: cozy, welcoming, and a little flirty. And then you sit at your table, and one of these men deftly uncorks the bottle of wine you brought along, and is so charmed by you he doesn't even charge you a corkage fee (or perhaps that's the restaurant's policy. whatever). Then he may put his hand on your shoulder as he's taking your order, or his arm might graze yours as he serves your food.

Oh yeah, the food. Ahem. It's pretty good. The burrata appetizer is so oozy and creamy -- a perfect complement to the peppery arugula it sits on. The homemade pappardelle is kind of a revelation. It makes al dente make sense: with pasta this fresh, slightly undercooking it doesn't leave you with hard noodles, just a solid springy resistance. The vodka sauce contains bits of shrimp, and although they're admittedly a bit overcooked, it's still pretty good. Italian sausage adds flavor to the bolognese, and the spicy but slightly sweet arrabiata and the pesto both taste very fresh. The overgrown gnocchi are truly cloudlike -- pillowy dumplings of potato heaven.

So hurry up and check out La Buca before the growth spurt, then check it out again when it's post-pubescent: I suspect it'll get through that awkward stage pretty elegantly -- it's quite the heartthrob.

La Buca is at 5210 1/2 Melrose Av. (just west of Wilton) in Hollywood. You should call for a reservation -- it's tiny and fills up fast: 323 462-1900

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Just Kidding...

Actually, although the main crux of Yom Kippur, foodwise, is not eating it for 24 hours, somehow, like with every Jewish holiday, there's plenty of food stuff to talk about. There seems to be a wide range of pre-fast and break-fast meals across families, but this is what it boils down to, every year, for us:

Pre-fast dinner
We eat dinner around 5:30, so we can get to temple and finishes services as the sun is setting. It is a tradition in our family to get there late. It's a tradition we are actively trying to break, maybe this will be the year. The problem for me is that I'm not a huge fan of any of the pre-fast foods, so I never stuff myself like I probably should. Nonetheless, for the most part, the fast is never as bad as I anticipate.

  • chelo abgooshte gondi: This is also the traditional Friday night meal in Iranian Jewish families. It consists of a chicken soup with onions and chickpeas, and gondi -- round dumplings made with ground meat, chickpea flour, and, in our family, a heady spice mix. It is served over rice. For Yom Kippur, my mom makes it a little more bland and a little less salty, in hopes to prevent getting too thirsty during the next 24 hours with no water. She also adds some chunks of turkey thigh meat to the soup for added energy during the fast. I'll see if I can snap a picture tonight. In fact though, Joan Nathan wrote an article (sadly it's premium content -- you have to pay) about gondi for the New York Times a couple weeks ago.
  • tea: This is a point of contention for me. You drink tea so you don't get a headache during the fast. This derives from the fact that traditionally, Iranian Jews (well, Iranians at large), are addicted to caffeine: everyone drinks a cup of tea with breakfast, one in the afternoon, and one at night with fruit. Here's the thing though: you get a headache anyway, and caffeine dehydrates you. So, take it with a grain of salt (not too much salt because it will dehydrate you).
  • watermelon: This stems from the fact that my mother is obsessed with watermelon, and also to fight against dehydration.

Breaking the Fast
We usually end up getting home around 7:30, so the fast actually lasts about 25-26 hours. There are a couple pre-meal appetizers that Violet prepares ahead, so we don't end up eating our arms waiting for food to be put on the table. Besides the traditional stuff, my mother has been known to pack a cooler with orange juice and cookies on years when we've gone to a far-away temple with major parking lot traffic. We've also integrated this delicious pull-apart coffee cake from Gelson's bakery -- there's a thin (and getting thinner) line between traditional Iranian Jew and traditional Encino Jew.

  • faloodeh sib: Shredded apples sitting in a mixture of water, rosewater, and sugar, served ice cold. Sitting around not eating and drinking for a day, your mouth can get kind of dry and icky. This refresher washes the ick away in a most delicious way.
  • soft-boiled egg: Not sure why this is part of the mix. It's quick to prepare though, and feels very cozy.
  • baghali polo: Rice cooked with dill, saffron, and fava beans. It's one of my mom's specialties, and it tastes especially good post-Yom-Kippur.

For those of you who are fasting, hope it's an easy one for you!

The Yom Kippur Food Blog Post