Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Day at the Library

Thank you to my friend Tanya for inviting me to join her and her colleagues from ETAI (English Teachers Association of Israel) at their winter event at the National Library of Israel.

 My interesting and informative morning began with a presentation by AJL colleague Nachum Zitter about the history of the library and its collections. From there, the first stop was the map room, where Ayelet talked about the maps. While some of the originals are in huge books, many posters have been made, and it was interesting to see the different depictions of Israel, some of which included bible personalities and sea monsters.

Part of the map collection at the National Library of Israel

From the second floor,there is a great view of the stained glass windows. It was a rainy day, so I did not see them in their full glory (another reason to return for another visit). 

From there, it was on to one of the nine reading rooms.

After the short tour, the group heard about the resources available, in English, at the National Library: classes, programming and tours and their website - 

The site includes an open access digital primary resource database and educational activities and games. To give students and library patrons a multimedia experience, you can check out the audio recordings available at the Bella and Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound and Song and find songs and chants.

Another project, also available online is "Time Travel," which is a collection of Israeli ephemera (posters, pamphlets, menus, etc.). The collection is searchable by company, time period, language and more.

At one time the library had a program for bar and bat mitzvah-age students to do research on a subject of interest. A video showed the delight of one boy who was interested in the Bermuda Triangle and discovered the magic of the library. Another student did her project on Surika (Sarah) Braverman, the "first lady of the IDF," Braverman parachuted into Nazi-occupied Hungary with Hannah Senesh, but was able to escape. The girl was able to travel to Kibbutz Shamir and interview Surika as part of her library project. While the one-on-one program is no longer available, classes and groups can arrange to do research at the library.

A plug for ETAI and then some real cats:

"Founded in 1979 by teachers for teachers, ETAI's aim is to provide professional support, advice, teaching ideas and background knowledge to teachers of English."

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 11, 2015


In Secret Restaurant Recipes (Mesorah, 2014), Leah Schapiro and Victoria Dwek learn the secrets of the best kosher restaurants around the world and pass them on to readers. Recipes include Deviled Kale Salad, Duck with Sour Cherry Reduction, and other sumptuous dishes.

In Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes (Mesorah, 2015), the dynamic duo of kosher cookbooks present recipes "from you favorite kosher cafes, takeouts and restaurants." Using the same format, there are chapters for Starters and Sides, Soups and Salads, Sandwiches, Chicken and Meat, Fish, Brunch and Lunch, and Baked Goods and Desserts. In the Table of Contents, each recipe is listed with the restaurant where it was created; the back matter includes a list of restaurants by country, state, and city, and a detailed index.

The recipes are presented on double spreads with clear color photographs that will have our mouth watering -- Morning Scramble from Boeuf and Bun in Brooklyn, made with with a burger, beef fry, an egg (on a bun) with sauteed mushrooms, potato sticks and horseradish mayo quickly comes to mind. The assembly of this one is beyond my culinary skills, but the Harvest Twist Salad from  The Pantry in Toronto, made with sweet potato and feta (yum!), served with a Tomato Rice Soup from the Sunflower Cafe in Brooklyn, makes for an easy weeknight meal. A Tuna Melt (from Bagels and Greens in Brooklyn) becomes a gourmet meal with a cheese/garlic sauce and made with tortillas. And as for inventive names, the Cali Love Panini from Holy Schnitzel is made with chicken breast, roasted eggplant and a pesto mayonnaise, topped with avocado and sun-dried tomatoes (good thing you can't see drool on the computer as I think about making these for dinner). The Asian Noodle Salad from Rimon in Israel sounds amazing, although I would probably skip the housemade teriyaki sauce and use my mother's, z"l, secret recipe. Zucchini Pasta, sometimes called "Zoodles," is full of vegetables (from Alice's in Brooklyn), and in the comfort of my home, I would not have to go across town to Crawford's to get a Creme Brulee Freezer.

How about some authentic Gong Bao Chicken from Dini's in Beijing?

1 lb chicken breast, cubed

3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
Pinch coarse black pepper
oil, for frying
2 Chinese leeks or scallions
3 Tbsp salted peanuts
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp vinegar
2 tsp hot sauce
4 tsp ketchup

Place chicken into a small bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch; top with water and black pepper. Mix to coat the chicken. Let stand for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok or sauté pan over high heat. When oil is very hot, add chicken cubes in batches; fry for 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Drain oil from the pan. Add soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, and ketchup. Cook until sauce thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and scallions; toss to coat. Top with peanuts.
Tidbit: Dini makes her own version of hot chili sauce to use in the restaurant. She says it’s the Asian equivalent of Israeli red schug.

Home Cook: We’ve tested this with all different types of hot sauce and they’ve all been successful. Halve the quantity if serving this dish to children.
Recipe from Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek
Reprinted with permission from the copyright holders: ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications

There are tips for home cooks, interesting descriptions of the restaurants, and insightful advice between the chapters about cooking fish, plating, and sandwich tips. The chefs who shared their secret neither received nor gave remuneration ($$) for the inclusion of recipes in this volume.

On the one hand, part of the restaurant experience is eating things that you cannot or would not prepare at home due to lack of time, equipment or inclination. Some of the recipes require ingredients that are not available in some places -- golden tomatoes, artisanal breads, and more unusual kosher fish.

On the other hand, its very cool to recreate favorite dishes in your own kitchen and impress family and friends with tastes and textures from restaurants. My rule of thumb is usually no more than 10 ingredients and no more than 5 steps in the instructions, and happily, most of these recipes conform, so I will be using it quite often. It is a rather large tome (336 pages), so it will be a challenge as I keep it FAR from the cooking area. For those of us who don't get out much, Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes is a great way to travel the world of kosher cuisine.
(Be-tai-avon - healthy appetite in Hebrew)

As always, some real cats of Israel:

Happy Hanukkah!
Happy Reading!