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  • Tempting Bread Toppings

    Ever wonder how you can make bread taste a little more exciting? Well, one tempting way for sure is to add toppings.

    Toppings are nothing new. In fact, we've all bought freshly baked bread made with traditional seed toppings, such as sunflower, anise, flax and caraway, to name a few. But there are more delightful ways to create tempting toppings and how to combine them with different types of breads.

    For example:Challah bread can be made with or without seeds, depending on the occasion. Traditionally, either sesame or poppy seeds can be sprinkled over the top before baking, but you can use many other spices as well. For an unsweetened version of challah coarse salt with savory herbs works well together. A whole wheat version of challah could have a sprinkling of oatmeal, sunflower or flax seeds. And the same combination applies if you prefer the rustic look with white, whole-wheat or rye flour. For challah that is sweetened, the toppings would have the consistency and taste of a crumble made with sugar and flour. Continue reading

  • The Good Sumac

    The varied cuisine of the Middle East has garnered worldwide recognition for its exceptional flavors of aromatic herbs and spices; and is also considered to be some of the healthiest food to consume.

    Most dishes are grilled or baked rather than fried, and use olive oil in place of fatty butter and lard. And knowing just how much spice and herbs to use, and what kind, comes from an innate sense of skill and knowledge that was handed-down from generation to generation.

    One particular spice that is most common in Middle Eastern recipes, and is one of my favorites, is sumac. This pungent spice is made of dried, crushed red berries from the sumac bush (not to be confused with the poisonous sumac plant which is similar to poison ivy). The sumac bushes grow in the wild all across the Mediterranean region and in parts of the Middle East. The poisonous sumac plant grows almost everywhere in the United States, except Hawaii, Alaska, and some desert areas in the southwest. The poisonous variety has smooth leaves and spaced out white berries, whereas the edible sumac has tightly clustered red berries with jagged leaves. Continue reading

  • The School Project

    A week ago, Shuli and I had participated as volunteers at our sons school. This joint effort involved students from Kindergarten through the third grade.We had the great pleasure of demonstrating how various spices were used in ancient times as dyes and for cooking. Each child was given the opportunity to dye a muslim bag with turmeric,choose from a large array of spices to make their own Havdalah mix, and use a mortar and pestle to grind spices for making Israel's famous za'atar spice blend.The children sprinkled the za'atar mixture over sour cream and olive oil and it was served to the entire school as an accompaniment to their delicious school lunch, much of which was prepared by the students on-site .

    The following day when the muslin bags had dried, the Kindergartners filled the bags with their spice blends making their own b'samim bags (same as potpourri bag) for Havdalah, which is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Shabbat and holidays ushering in the new week. The ceremony is usually celebrated at home with family and friends and includes three blessings: over wine, spices, and lighted candles. Continue reading

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