Tuna Pockets (Empanadas)

Recently, thanks to my daughter, I got hooked on The Great British Bake-Off show, on TV. I’m not much of a TV person and I don’t usually have the patience for all the drama around cooking competitions, but this show is different. I consider myself a pretty good baker, yet I learn so much about baking from this show. The show covers all the classic baked goods, whether it’s breads, pastries, quiches and pies, cakes, or other baked desserts. There are tips and techniques for baking that the judges actually go over and explain, something I haven’t seen in other shows, and to me, this is the added value of the show. It is both entertaining and educational, without all the drama that you find in American cooking competition shows.

Anyway, one of the crusts I was kind of introduced to in the show was hot-water crust. This crust is used for savory dishes like pies and empanadas. With this crust, instead of cutting cold fat into flour and then adding cold water, boiling water is whisked into fat (usually lard) until it forms an emulsion. This lard mixture is then added to flour. The result is an extremely pliable dough that’s easy to work with since it doesn’t crack or tear. I’ve never worked with lard or shortening, but I did bake with margarine ages ago, before it turned out that it was very bad for our health. Here, I chose to use shortening for religious reasons, although I’m sure that lard would be a tastier and healthier choice.

The filling is something my daughter, who also got inspired by the show, came up with. The result was delicious.

½ cup (120 ml) oil
100g shortening or lard
¾ cup (180ml) water
1 tsp salt
3 ½ cups (500g) flour

1 7oz cans of tuna in oil, drained
1 small onion, thinly diced
1 roasted bell pepper, diced
1 tsp salt
4 tbs romesco sauce
1 egg

Filling option 2 (shown in the pics):
1 7oz can tuna in oil, drained
1 small onion, diced
1 roasted bell pepper, diced
2 heaping tbs olive muffalata (I found it at Costco)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg

In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Add the oil and shortening and stir until melted.

Place the flour in a mixer bowl with the hook attachment. Turn on the mixer on low and while the engine is running, add the hot liquid gradually. Knead only until the dough comes together. Over kneading will result in a hard and less flaky dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 20 minutes. This allows the gluten to rest and will prevent the dough from shrinking when you roll it out.

In the meantime, make the filling. Place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.

Heat your oven to 360F.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on parchment paper to ¼ inch thick circle. You don’t need to flour the paper. The dough is oily and doesn’t stick to the paper. Using a cookie cutter or the rim of a cup, cut 8cm diameter circles.

Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle and fold it in half. Pinch the edges together to seal and using your fingertips create decorative dimples along the edge. Alternatively, press the edge using a fork.

Arrange the dough pockets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until dough turns lightly golden.

Tuna Salad, a Little Different

Tuna salad is one of the foods I like to have in the fridge on a regular basis. It goes well as the protein portion of a meal when we are too lazy, too tired, or too hungry to cook something. It also goes great on a sandwich or in a salad. And now, that school is back in session, we will be making it even more often as it is one of my son’s favorite sandwich options.

But eating always the same thing can get a little boring, so we try different spice and ingredient combinations to give the tuna salad a fresh twist. Here are a few of variations we like to make:

The common American tuna salad, as you may know, calls for canned white tuna in water, mayonnaise and celery. We don’t usually love white tuna in water because it’s very dry and not so flavorful. But thanks to the mayo added in here, it actually tastes really good. Just don’t go overboard with the mayo, because then you’ll only taste the mayo and nothing else. Try to be generous with the celery, though. It lightens up the salad and freshens it.

Another tuna salad I like to make uses canned dark tuna in olive oil (also known as Italian tuna), thinly chopped onion, chopped parsley, fresh lemon juice, very little mayo (enough to ‘glue’ the ingredients together), salt and black pepper. Very simple, very easy, and very refreshing! Tuna goes very well with lemon!!

One of my son’s favorite variations is what he calls the Israeli tuna salad, which consists of canned dark tuna in olive oil, chopped onion, sweet corn kernels from a can, chopped Israeli pickles (dill pickles will do, if you can’t find the Israeli ones), and a little mayonnaise.

As school has just started a couple of weeks ago, I needed to make sure there was food to take, so I opened three tuna cans and started making the Israeli tuna salad. Only instead of regular onion, I chopped some scallions, and instead of opening a can of Israeli pickles, I used some pickled muffaletta olive salad that we had already open in the fridge. It came out a little different, obviously, but not less yummy. In fact, we just had it for dinner and enjoyed the combination of flavors so much that I got inspired to write this post and let you all know that you should try it too.

I do not usually measure my ingredients, I do it by eye, and I taste to adjust the flavors. So there is no recipe this time, just the list of ingredients above. Have fun playing with it and be creative. And if you come up with some other fun combinations, I would love it if you shared them with me.

Fish in Tomato Sauce

In many Israeli homes, Friday night dinner is not complete without a stew of fish in tomato sauce to start the meal. This fish stew goes really well with good challah bread. There is nothing more satisfying around Shabbat table than dipping challah bread in the rich sauce and filling your mouth with it. Needless to say, this stew can be enjoyed any day of the week. Just make sure to have some good bread for dipping.

For best results, choose a slightly fatty fish with firm flesh and mild flavor. Grey mullet is the ultimate fish to go with in this recipe. Unfortunately, it is not an option for me in Florida. The best suited fish I found here is corvina. Sea bass is also a possibility, although a more expensive one.

3 tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped  
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
2 medium tomatoes
1 tbs tomato paste
2 cups water
2 tsp sweet paprika
Salt and pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2lb grey mullet, corvina, or sea bass fillet, cut into individual portions

In a large saute pan, brown the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons oil. Add the peppers and keep sautéing for 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the tomato paste with 2 cups water, salt, paprika, and black pepper until smooth and add to the pan together with the cilantro.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low and cook for 5 minutes, to allow all flavors to combine.

Place the slices of fish in one layer in the pan and shake the pan slightly to nest the fish in the sauce.

Adjust seasoning. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the fish flakes when poked with a fork.

Another Easy Dinner, Japanese Style

This time, it’s my daughter, Tamar, recycling some leftovers (without even meaning to…). She decided one evening that there is nothing to eat in the house, so she had to cook for herself. She took out some smoked salmon that we had in the fridge and sautéed it in a pan together with some chopped fresh ginger, some soy sauce, and a tiny bit of agave, for sweetness.

I was so impressed and proud of her ingenuity. And I’m glad that this is the example I set for her. Her food looked and smelled delicious! But this is all she had on her plate. I asked her if I could contribute to the meal, and she agreed. So I took some white rice from the fridge, and warmed it in the microwave. Then I chopped some seaweed paper and mixed it with the rice. It all went on the plate with the salmon. We completed the meal with some pickled ginger, on the side. It was really good!! Look for yourself…


Tilapia with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Tilapia is one of the most common fish and maybe the most affordable one, sold in supermarkets in Florida. It is very delicate and somewhat blend in flavor, which makes it perfect to combine with bold flavors such as sundried tomatoes


8 fillets of Tilapia
2 hipping tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (recipe follows)
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and black pepper


Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and preheat the oven to 380F.

Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper on both sides.

In a small bowl, mix the tomato paste with the olive oil.

Coat each fillet with the mixture, on both sides, and place it on the baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

This dish goes well with white rice or mashed potatoes, and some braised greens.



Sun-dried Tomato Paste

This paste is very versatile and can be used in many dishes.

Of course, you can always find ready-made jars of sundried tomato paste at your local store. But it doesn’t taste the same as the fresh, homemade version, and most probably, it has preservatives in it, which you might want to avoid.


1 (28 ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
6 cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil
leaves from 2 sprigs of oregano
leaves from 2 sprigs of basil
salt & freshly ground black pepper


Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl.

Add some boiling water to cover the tomatoes. Leave for half an hour, then drain. This softens the tomatoes and gets rid of some of the packing oil.

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, herbs and seasonings.

Puree until smooth.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.