My Sister’s Amazing Sandwich Rolls

My sister is a pastry chef, and she is REALLY great at baking. Everything she bakes is amazingly good. She happens to be a wonderful cook as well. Today I’m posting her recipe for Israeli sandwich rolls. These rolls are the kind we used to buy every morning at the grocery store when we were kids in Israel and made sandwiches to take to school. Soft and slightly chewy, and always so fresh…I’m not sure if you can find these rolls in the U.S. I haven’t seen any in all the years I’ve been living here.

Ingredients:
1 kg (2 lb) all-purpose flour
2 tbs dry active yeast or 50g baker’s yeast
5 tbs sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tbs salt
1 egg for egg wash (optional)

Preparation:
In a mixer bowl equipped with the hook attachment mix the flour, sugar and dry yeast.

If using baker’s yeast, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of lukewarm water. Let it develop for 5 minutes. Add it with the liquid in the next stage.

While the motor is running, gradually add 2 cups water (or 1 ½ water and the yeast mixture if you used ½ cup water for the yeast) and oil. Add the salt at the end and continue kneading for 7-10 minutes, until the dough detaches from the walls of the mixing bowl, but still sticks to the bottom.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and proof in a warm place until it doubles in volume.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a work surface lightly floured.

Punch the dough a few times to deflate it and divide it into 16 equal pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a 10-inch-long rope and tie it in a knot.

Place knots on a baking sheet covered with baking paper and space them out, leaving 4 inches between knots. Cover with a towel and proof again until knots double their size.

Bake in a 350F oven for 20 minutes.

Textured Soy Protein (TSP)

Textured soy protein (TSP) is a by-product obtained from extracting soybean oil. The pulp is separated from the oil and is extruded in the form of dehydrated chunks of fiber with a spongy texture that slightly resembles meat texture. TSP is made of soybeans but it may also contain wheat and gluten. It contains 50% protein in its dry form, and 16% protein after rehydrated, and is therefore considered a great substitute for meat.

Textured soy protein can be found in the shape of nuggets, flat strips, or flakes. Its flavor is pretty bland. Given that its texture is dry and spongy, it can absorb a lot of liquid and take on the flavors added to it, so it can imitate beef, chicken, pork, fish, or any other flavor you wish to add to it.IMG_7794

The recipe below is a pretty successful attempt to substitute soy nuggets for beef. My traditional recipe for beef croquettes calls for ground beef, but since we have become vegan in my family, I decided to recreate the recipe with non-animal products. Soy nuggets seemed like the best way to go.  They can be found in Asian and Indian grocery stores, and in health food stores.

To prepare it for use, TSP should be rehydrated. It needs to be soaked in hot liquid (water, soup) for about 30 minutes, then drained, and all liquid should be squeezed out of it. Then it is ready to be used in a dish. For the following recipe, I soaked my soy nuggets in boiling water.IMG_7724

 

Soy Croquettes

Ingredients:
2 cups dry soy nuggets
2 tbs ground flax seeds
8 tbs water
1 cup parsley leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tbs chicken flavored soup powder
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Preparation:
After soaking, draining and squeezing all liquid out of the soy nuggets, place them in a food processor and pulse to create crumbs resembling ground meat. Move to a large bowl.IMG_7725

In a small bowl mix the ground flax seeds with the water and let rest for a couple of minutes, until it becomes eggy in texture. Or, if you eat eggs, you may lightly beat 2 eggs.

Place the onion, garlic and parsley in the food processor and chop thinly.IMG_7726

Transfer to the bowl and add the flour, the spices, and the flax seeds (or the beaten eggs).

Using your hands, mix all the ingredients to a cohesive mixture.

Form croquettes the size of a ping pong ball and flatten them a little.IMG_7730

Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the croquettes for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

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I tried adding the fried croquettes to a Persian stew that I made (something I used to do with beef croquettes). The stew came out delicious, but the croquettes fell apart. So I think it’s better to just eat them fried with some other things on the side.

Enjoy!

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Kale, Bean, and Avocado Salad

This salad is a good way for me to eat my kale as I’m not a big kale eater. It is also very healthy and yummy, so what more could I ask for? I first had it in one of the farmers markets I used to sell at in South Florida. I was attracted to the salad because of its vibrant colors and its refreshing look. I was indeed a happy customer once I tasted it, and so I recreated it at home, with some tiny changes, and now I get to share it with you as well.

Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped into 2 inch wedges (leaves only)
2 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups cooked white beans
2 medium tomatoes, sliced into small wedges
1 large avocado, pitted and cut into 1 inch pieces
Lemon juice from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 lemon
Salt

Heat the oil in a saute pan and saute the sliced garlic on medium heat, until garlic is starting to brown. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix well. Allow all flavors to absorb for about an hour before serving.

Bulgur Couscous

Bulgur is a delicious and nutritious grain. It is basically cracked wheat and you can find it in Middle eastern stores in two sizes, coarse and fine. The coarse bulgur has a nice bite to it. It is used in tabbouleh, salads, and side dishes. I call it couscous because it reminds me of couscous in its look, although it doesn’t taste at all like couscous. The fine bulgur is used for kibbes, stuffing, and porridge-like dishes.

This recipe is a very basic method to cook bulgur. Usually you don’t even need to cook it. Soaking it in hot water for half an hour gets it ready to be used in tabbouleh, for example. The added cooking process is only to let the bulgur soak in the flavors we want to add to it. Since it is already soaked in water, there is no need to add much water during cooking time. ¼ cup water for two cups of soaked bulgur is all it takes.

Ingredients:
2 cups coarse bulgur
4 tbs oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
1tsp Aleppo pepper
½ tsp turmeric powder
Salt
Black pepper
¼ cup water

Preparation:
Place the bulgur in a medium size bowl and cover with warm water, about 3 inches above the bulgur. Soak for half an hour. Drain the bulgur and discard of the remaining water.

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion until golden. Add the garlic and sauté for one more minute.

Add the drained bulgur and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the spices and ¼ cup of water. Stir well, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Mediterranean Medley

Eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, basil, olive oil and garlic….couldn’t get more Mediterranean then that.

This wonderful dish can be served as a salad or as a side dish, warm or at room temperature. It is at its best a day after preparing it as the flavors combine into a cohesive dish.

Ingredients:
2 eggplants, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 zucchinis, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 bell peppers
Olive oil for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 sprigs basil (1 cup)
3 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
Salt

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the cubed eggplants and zucchini on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes, until eggplants are golden. Remove from the oven and chill.

Place the whole bell peppers on a baking sheet. Set the oven to hi broil and roast the peppers until skin is charred. Turn the peppers and char them all around. Remove from the oven and place in a pot with a lid to let the peppers sweat. When cold enough to handle, peel the skin off the peppers and remove the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into strips.

In a large bowl, place the roasted eggplants, zucchini and peppers.

Cut the basil leaves into thin strips and add to the bowl.

Add the garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and salt, and toss the salad well.

Keep refrigerated overnight or at least 4 hours before serving, to let all flavors come together.

Best Dill Pickles

I grew up with these pickles. My grandma made them and so did my mother. With the years I’ve tried other versions of pickled cucumbers, but always came back to this recipe.

A crucial thing to know before attempting to pickle cucumbers is that you MUST have the right kind of cucumbers. Otherwise the cukes become soft and mushy when pickled. You want them to remain crunchy. Which are the right cucumbers? In the U.S. the most used pickling cucumbers are the Pickalot and National Pickling types. They are short and have a bumpy skin, and they can be found in many supermarkets and markets.  

I like to use the Persian/ Lebanese cucumbers. These are actually cucumbers that where developed in Kibbutz Beit Alpha in Israel in the 1950s and made a name all over the Middle East. They are small in size, with a firm texture and their skin is smooth and thin. They are sweeter in flavor. I always called them Israeli cucumbers because these are the only cucumbers I knew when living in Israel. Nowadays they are making a name in the U.S. and I see them more and more in different supermarkets. These cucumbers are great for pickling, but they are also great eaten raw. At home, we use only this kind for all our uses – salads, tzatziki, pickles, or just eating them as a snack with some salt sprinkled on them.

Once you’ve got your hands on the right cucumbers, it’s time to pickle…

Ingredients:
2 quart pickling jar
2lb thin Israeli cucumbers, rinsed
10 sprigs dill, leafy parts only
6 large garlic cloves peeled and smashed
6 bay leaves
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups warm water
½ cup white vinegar
4 hipping tsp salt

Preparation:
In a small pot, combine water, vinegar and salt , and mix until salt is dissolved.

Boil water in a large pot. When water is boiling, submerge the open jar and sterilize it for one minute. Remove the jar from the water using tongs, pour all the water out and leave to cool.

Place 5 sprigs of dill, 3 bay leaves, and 3 smashed garlic cloves on the bottom of the jar.

Insert the cucumbers and stand them tightly, one next to the other. If you have room on top insert more cucumbers in any way that works. I sometimes cut the cucumbers in half to fit them in.

When the jar is almost full (leave space of about 1 inch), top it with the rest of the dill, smashed garlic, and bay leaves, and sprinkle the pepper flakes.

Pour the brine into the jar to cover all cucumbers.

Tightly close the jar and let sit in room temperature, preferably in the sun.

The pickles will be ready to eat after 3 days. You can keep the jar refrigerated or at room temperature, but not in the sun.

Only use a clean, unused utensil to remove pickles out of the jar, and avoid touching any of the contents with your hands, to avoid spoilage.