Goodbye Shiso Leaves, See You Next Year!! Tutorial for shiso-wrapped tempura fresh shrimp

Well, summer is almost over.
And seeing as it’s been one of the hottest I’ve ever experienced in Tel-Aviv, I for one am happy to say, “Goodbye Summer- And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!!”

However- my joy is tempered with sorrow, because almost to the day, the last of summer means the end of the shiso season..
For those of you who know me, and my garden, you know that among other treasures lurking in the green oasis, such as pandan leaves, galangal, sky-pointing chilies, kaffir lime leaf trees, and lotus lilies,

Our Oasis

there exists my most precious culinary jewel- the elusive, elite, and absolutely irreplaceable SHISO.

For many Authentic Japanese specialties, you just cannot make them unless you have fresh shiso leaves.
If you live in Japan, Asia, San Francisco, NY, or Paris (the only city in Europe I’ve ever seen them, although there may be others) getting fresh shiso won’t be a problem.
However, if you live in Tel-Aviv, you can forget all about it.
I found this out the hard way 11 years ago when I moved here, and decided to make a Japanese dinner.
Fat and happy, I waltzed to the market, thinking I would surely be able to get shiso leaves- Only to be met with blank stares of incomprehension, and later when I asked horticulturists and suppliers, that it is impossible to grow them here because of the climate.
Well, I didn’t accept that, no way.
I ordered seeds from Japan, and spent the next 4 years trying to grow them:
I froze the seeds for 3 months to simulate the harsh Japanese winters.
I warmed the soil on coffee-cup warmers.
I tried planting the seeds in every month of the year.
Inside.
Outside.
Using different soil mixtures.
In short, I drove Alon insane with my experiments. Nothing worked.
Finally, in defeat, I threw years worth of pots and their contents into a big pile of soil I planned on mixing with compost, and resolved to forget my hopeless dream.
Imagine my surprise in the Spring when dozens of little shiso seedlings popped up in the compost heap.
Since then, they grow by themselves every year, reseeding themselves.
They grow to towering size, and the first growth leaves are comically gigantic, like lettuce leaves.

giant first-growth of the season shiso leaves

I’ve used these giant first growth leaves like sheets of Nori to wrap maki rolls, spring rolls, and other things…
And people from all over the country gradually heard about my shiso and
come grovelling and begging me to share them.
Now usually, I share anything, either ingredients, or knowledge, with anyone who asks.
But my shiso is different.
I worked for years to grow it, and I am not going to fork it over to some
nick-nack coffee-house cowboys to shove in the frig for 3 days and then put inside some atrocious bastardization of a Japanese dish that I wouldn’t feed to my cats!! No way!!

To this day, the only chef I have ever shared my precious shiso with, is the mighty chef Oren Goldwasser, a true expert in Japanese cuisine, who once had the only truly authentic Japanese restaurant in Israel, “Tatami”, in Haifa.
Which unsurprisingly, he closed, due to no one knowing or appreciating REAL and AUTHENTIC Japanese food here.
If I had to guess, the reason he closed probably was he got sick and tired of hearing clients ask him why he didn’t have a deep-fried chicken shnitzel and cream cheese maki on the menu.
(I wish I was joking, but I’m not. The photo below ,which to make it clear, OBVIOUSLY is not mine!!!  is what I found when I googled
“cream cheese maki”. WTF.)

this digraceful nightmare is, apparently, "cream cheese maki" And to this I say, "WTF"

In any case- Oren, much to my sadness at his not still having his Japanese place, now has a great fresh pasta place, “Fiori”, down in the Shuk ha’Namal, and needless to say, he doesn’t have any use for shiso leaves there.

http://www.shukhanamal.co.il/?p=795

Nonetheless, if he ever has a personal special dinner and asks for them, I make sure he gets them!
As for anyone else: Dream On!!

watch?v=k6Qd9VR1gD8

Here, by the way, is a link to a photo album of my yearly Shiso Kaiseki Dinner,  photos by my friend, the talented clarinet musician Michal Beit Halachmi :

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150161428156723.299016.546006722&type=1

Now without further ado, let me share with you (let’s face it, this recipe will only be able to be used by those of you who don’t live in Israel.
Unless someone here other than Oren impresses me enough to share, but oh well. Life isn’t always fair!!)

FRESH SHRIMP in TEMPURA SHISO:

Ingredients:
12 extra large, live or almost live, whole fresh shrimp.

Peeled, heads cut off, keep the very last segment of the tail shell on, clean the sand vein by cutting through the back with a tournee (oh and believe me: fresh live shrimp have a lot of crap in them an it’s pretty gnarly job cleaning them. Make sure to rinse them well after cleaning the guts.)
Under no circumstances use frozen shrimp for this dish!!!!!

I ONLY buy fish and seafood from Moshe (Musi) Penster, who in addition to having THE BEST fish shop in town, ( 03-510-1863) is also like a brother to me and is one of the most hilarious guys you’ll ever meet, and a crazy perfectionist, too!!!
Here’s  a photo of him, plus me and Alon, at his shop one night when we had “Sushi Night” in the market!

http://www.rimaolvera.com/blog/night-shuk-sushi-bar-what-fun-we-had/

12 fresh shiso leaves

12 toothpicks

Tempura flour, 1 cup

Shichimi (togaroshi) japanese chili powder

Ice cold water

Canola oil

For ponzu dipping sauce:
Soy sauce, 1/4 cup
Yuzu juice, 4 TB
Mirin, 6 Tb
Lemon juice, juice from 1/2 fresh lemon

METHOD:

Mix all Ponzu sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Wrap each fresh shrimp in a shiso leaf as shown in photo. Secure with a toothpick.

In 2 bowls, split the tempura flour in equal parts.
Mix about 2/3 cup ice water with the flour in one of the bowls.
Make sure not to overmix, in fact, it should be lumpy, and look terrible and as if it isn’t mixed right.
It should be very thin, NOT a thick “pancake” batter, like most people here seem to think Tempura batter is suppposed to look like.


(Damn!! I’ve eaten “Fish n’Chips” in England with a more delicate batter than most tempura in Israel!! Ugh!!)

Heat a heavy bottomed pot filled halfway up with canola oil. Heat up gradually, on med-low heat, not quickly heating it on high heat. Test by adding a drop of the batter. It should sizzle
and float immediately.

Dredge the wrapped shrimp in the other bowl containing the reserved dry tempura flour, knock off excess by banging on your hand holding the shrimp, with your other hand (don’t touch the shrimp itself)

Dip the shrimp, in batches of 4, in the tempura batter, amd shake off excess. It should look very light and you should see the shrimp and leaves colours very clearly, if the batter looks like it is covering it too thickly, add more water.

Fry in batches of 4, turning once, for about 1 minute total, until just barely cooked and the leaf is crispy.


Remove to drain on paper towels, sprinkle with Shichimi pepper, serve immediately with the Ponzu sauce.
Oiishi!!!!! (delicious)

Sorry about the cleavage and no makeup, but it's my day off

Manga Alon!

Blue is waiting in vain for some

Angry with Turkey? Go to the Ottoman Empire instead!

PREFACE:
This post was originally posted at the end of May 2011, in Hebrew, on the lifestyle portal site www.xnet.co.il
Even several months ago, when I returned from there, before the diplomatic situation deteriorated to the awful point it reached today, this article was considered to be very risky for me to publish- due to many Israelis taking as a personal insult seeing another Israeli print anything favourable about Turkey.
However- It is very important for me to note to you who read this that this exactly my point-
Many people around the world hate Israel because of the actions of a few, or the negative spin in the world press distorting reality in the media’s portrayal of Israel.
Just as I get angry and frustrated seeing this happen, so do I feel that Turkey as a nation does not deserve to be hated by all of us here in Israel because of the misguided policy created by the current PM , who has done much to damage Turkey’s noble legacy of moderation and a secular, free society.
I know many people in Istanbul, and believe me, they are as saddened as we are to see the state that their beloved country has gotten to because of fanatics that they fervently despise and disagree with-
My aim in re-posting this in English, on the worst possible day for anyone to be saying anything positive about Turkey is this:
Just as we who love peace and freedom in Israel and do not wish extremist factions to dictate to the world how we are perceived, so the sane, calm, and peaceful individuals in Turkey who deplore this situation, deserve to be seen as individuals- Not lumped together with the very savages they detest….
So I hope you will read this post and understand it’s context..

ISTANBUL and CHEF VEDAT BASARAN

I just returned from one of my most favourite cities in the world, Istanbul!
After spending a week there, of course I was itching to write about all the new things I ate, saw, and experienced.
Then, on our last day, I went to meet Chef Vedat Basaran, the incredible chef I had filmed an episode of “Duet” with in Istanbul, 2 years ago:

http://www.mako.co.il/mako-vod-mako/Duet-s1/VOD-c7386a4a2d57a21006.htm

After spending an hour with him seeing his new project, I realized that my posts about Istanbul will have to be in 2 parts, this week being dedicated exclusively to him.
His importance is far too great to just say just a few words in a general post.
First of all, Chef Vedat Basaran is not only just a great chef.
He is a true man of culture and education, and has devoted his professional life to preserving the culinary and artistic heritage of the Ottoman period of Turkey’s rich history.
I don’t exaggerate to say, to me he is a genuine role model and culinary icon I sincerely admire.
I won’t waste time repeating his accomplishments here because I discuss them in the “Duet” link which I posted above.

One of the things he taught me last time we met, was about how to prepare the noble “Kalkan” (turbot) in the authentic Ottoman style.
Below is a photo of me making it again later,  here in Israel, which I had specially flown to me from France!
( plus a photo of me and Alon holding up the turbot and a little note for Vedat:)

Here are a few photos of his restaurant “Feriye”, and a link about the restaurant and Chef Vedat from Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703683804574533852995675002.html

his kitchen, staff, and would you believe the view from the back door of the restaurant???!

Now in addition to all his impressive credentials, he is about to add to the list- Consulting Chef and director of the newest center for art and culture in Istanbul!
This insanely complicated and expensive endeavor has been more than a year in just the building phase, and I was lucky enough to meet Chef Basaran at the site, only one week before the scheduled opening!

The building itself is 4 floors and on each floor will house showrooms dedicated to different Turkish textiles, art, jewelry, and of course, food!
When we arrived to meet him, he was busy with the general manager, choosing the exact spot on the chef jackets where the logo will be placed.
As we entered, an incredible display of Turkish handmade glass globes hung like jewels from the ceiling.


Workers were installing the last of a curving steel balustrade wrapping the huge marble stairs.
Gleaming glass cases held examples of Royal Ottoman textiles and costumes from the Sultan’s palaces, Chef Vedat explained to me that these treasures were now being specially duplicated in by textile historians, to preserve the treasures for the future..
It takes months for laboratories to study the materials and the dyes and then the results are sent to the textile artisans so they can duplicate to the final detail the exact composition of each garment!

Walking up another floor, our breath was taken away by a three- story high vertical garden!
As the plants mature (they had only been planted a week before) they will make a rich living tapestry evoking the amazing textiles in the gallery inside.


In the restaurant, where geometric turquoise tiles frame the gleaming stainless steel and marble professional kitchen which in addition to serving authentic Turkish cuisine made by chefs from all over Turkey, personally trained by Chef Basaran himself, there will be classes with local chefs who through difficult research to find them, Chef Basaran has made sure that the ancient and complex culinary secrets they hold will be taught to the new generation of young chefs so these priceless cultural treasures aren’t lost forever.

We sat with him and even though the pressure of the opening was fully upon him, dozens of staff in full concentration all around him, his graciousness and hospitality never faltered.

He whispered something to one of the headwaiters who were standing just nearby, and moments later a delicious wood roasted flatbread covered with handmade Turkish cheese, herbs, and peppers appeared, even though the entire kitchen staff was busy with a full training and testing of all the dishes.

He spoke to me about his visits to Israel, and mentioned how much he enjoyed them, how much he appreciates Israel’s natural culinary products, and his friendship with Chef Ezra Kedem.
I appreciated his openness about his friends here in Israel, and it touched me even more, as these days many Turks, especially prominent members of society, would not wish to say publicly positive things about Israel..
I wanted very much to ask him how he felt about the political climate in Turkey now, but I knew that would be putting him in an uncomfortable position, and his grace and class would compel him to answer politely, and I had no wish to be pushy.


He told me about his Sommelier and how he has worked tirelessly to select the very best boutique wines, from local Turkish grape varieties, that could be found in the entire country, and introduced us to him, even giving us the names of several outstanding Turkish wines which he recommended we find and bring home with us (we did!)

Every detail of this project seemed to be personally supervised by Chef Basaran- Even down to the style and cut of the uniforms, the type of authentic handmade wooden trays for proofing the breads before they go to the oven, the marble slab counters in the kitchen, the placement of the equipment in the demonstration kitchen- no detail escaped his eye and his demand for perfection.
This to me is the sign of a true chef, and a true man of culture:
Devoting yourself to what you love and never saying “it’s good enough” unless it’s truly perfect.

You may notice I left my usual sarcasm and jokes at the door for this post and wrote simply about the privilege I feel to personally know Chef Vedat Basaran, and how lucky Istanbul is to have such a treasure.
I wish him every success with this new project, and hope to visit there again just as soon as possible.
If you have the chance to go to Istanbul, you won’t believe your eyes at the magic contained in this city!

Mexico City Market day!!!

I’m sure it will surprise no one that my first post for Xnet ( www.xnet.co.il) will be about markets.
In this case the markets of Mexico, where I just returned from after 2 weeks.

What may surprise some of you is the absolutely dazzling level of quality, products, and the mind- boggling array of delights in Mexico’s markets that could fuel the fantasy feasts of foodophiles for years on end..

Mexico is a true love of mine.

I’ve seen her many times, at her best and at her worst, but every time I am mesmerized, enchanted, and I fall immediately under her spell the second I step off the plane..

There is something about this place, it seems always to be vibrating with an almost uncontainable life force, full of gladness, beauty, and vital sensuality.

The glimpses of the frightening or the grotesque just make it that much more intoxicating and it is exactly the contrasts here which make this place unlike any other on earth.

This visit was the first time Alon has been to Mexico, so it made it even more special for me-

for years I had wanted him to taste and see all the secret and rare things which I had loved so much and had always wanted to share with him..

Mexico’s culinary history is as vivid and extreme as the history of the country-

Gods, mythology, legends, sexuality- all these things in Mexico are connected somehow or another with food.

Nothing pleasurable, or sacred, in life, or in death, are separated from food.

I will get into this in more detail in future, but for now, let’s just say, “That’s just the way I like it!!”

First of all, we went immediately to the Friday Market, in Condesa, Mexico City.

It’s a travelling market which is located in different areas of the largest city in the world, (25 million people!!) on different days of the week.

We went with my culinary soulmate, the incredible chef, Peter Norman,( who lives with his partner, a stunningly talented jewelry designer and the possesor of one of the most hilarious senses of humour I have ever seen..to meet either of them is to immediately fall in love) in a beautiful apartment just a few minutes away..

The Jacaranda trees that fill the huge park in Condesa are just about to burst into full bloom, filling the air with their dusty perfume and carpeting all the streets with their sky blue blossoms.

Tiny birds fly everywhere. The park is filled with all different kinds of things-

The dark and sinister sounding whistle of the “Camote Man”, selling delicious wood- fire roasted sweet potatoes from a rolling cart with attached wood- burning fire oven!

The taco seller, with miniature freshly- made corn tortillas filled with roasted pork and fresh salsas and grilled green onions, you get them in sets of 4, add fresh lime and blazing hot habanero chiles.. The cost? 20 pesos (about 5 shekels!)

Fruit juice sellers, with a selection of fruits that overwhelm you, our favourite was the fresh Nopale cactus mixed with pink grapefuit- it’s delicious, extremely healthy, and is great for weight loss- an added bonus!

But I digress- we were off to the Friday Market!

The first thing I saw, to my delight, was this:

Oaxacan women making “gorditas” delectable treats made from Aztec blue corn, filled with handmade cheese, beans, meats.. Of course we ate several!

This little market packs a mighty punch:

The produce and vegetables blew my mind!

“Cuitlacoche”- a black fungus which grows inside ears of corn, discreetly today called “Mexican Corn Truffles”, it’s real name in the ancient language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, actually translates to :

“Shit of the Gods”!! Oh my goodness!! Well, whatever you call it, it’s intense, unusual, and delicious!

Fresh pumpkin flowers!! fry them in a batter made from flour and beer, and dust them with salt!

Chayote vine squash, a pale green squash the colour of mint sorbet and with the delicate flavour and texture of cucumbers! These will clean your blood and remove toxins from your body!

Tiny tomatillos, sleeping in their papery husks, pink and blue potatoes the size of your little fingernail!

Jicama, a cool, intensely crunchy, and delicious root like a giant water-chestnut, a favourite treat is to cut them into big paletas like an “Artik” ice pop, and then dip them into sugars and salts flavoured with all kinds of different fruit essences and chiles!

But the jewel here (of course!!) is the FISH!!

This little stand was packed with some of the most pristine fish and seafood I have seen outside of the best markets of Europe!!

Huge Dorados! “Tiburones” ( thresher sharks) which must be eaten within 12 hours of being caught! “Percebes”, which are an esoteric delight often seen in the very best restaurants in Spain, these are giant barnacles, boiled for exactly 4 minutes in salt water ,and removed from their scaly “legs”.

In Spain these creatures cost 20 Euro per 100 grams, and taste exactly like fresh lobster!

Octopus (Pulpo), giant locus, and the best quality giant fresh shrimp I have ever seen, and now I will just rub a little salt in your wounds by mentioning that they cost about 40 shekels a kilo!!

The fish guys are incredible professionals, and have intense and obvious pride in their work. Respect!!

Now I can go on for hours on this subject but I will save some for later, and leave you with Peter’s simple yet special, recipe for: “Camarones en Tequila”. ( He uses Mezcal, but let’s face it. The chances of finding Mezcal in Israel, are small. If you do find it, or have it, use it)

And don’t blame me if you immediately after eating them drop everything and book a flight to Mexico!

Ingredients:

16 large FRESH shrimp, cleaned with scissors through the back of the shell and sand vein removed.

3 teeth fresh garlic, sliced

1-2 fresh green chilies, sliced into rings

Coarse sea salt

Fresh limes or lemons

Tequila (real, not that horrible fake Israeli “kahila” or whatever it’s called)

Canola oil

Ps.

For 10 years, since I moved to Israel, I ONLY buy my fish at “Moshe Fish”, in the Shuk ha’Carmel, and you should too.

03-5101863. And to make sure he pays attention to you, tell Moshe that Rima sent you. ;)

He’s like a brother to me! I made the food for his kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs!

He had everyone at our wedding sobbing with his speech, and he held up a corner of my Chuppah !

and his fish is simply, The Best.

Method:

In an EXTREMELY hot pan or wok add first the oil and when it starts to smoke, add the shrimp, garlic, and chilies.

Saute until the shrimp are cooked, about 3 minutes.

Add about 1/4 cup tequila, tilt the pan to catch the alcohol on fire, let it burn off.

Add plenty of sea salt and squeeze fresh limes ( try to get limes. It makes a big difference!!

You can call me if you want and if you are very nice I will give you some from my trees!) or lemons on top, serve with the rest of the tequila to drink on the side.

Pura Vida!!

Why I Hate “Molecular Cuisine”

First of all, I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t like the texture of Frozen Olive Oil.
Secondly- argue with me until you are blue in the face, but I CAN taste the Alginate Gelling Agent in those spheres of yours.
And last, and most importantly-
Why, in the name of Batman’s Mother, does every photo, without exception, of every chef wreathed in clouds of liquid-nitrogen smoke, or holding aloft some sphere of emulsified organic free-range wombat milk “espuma” or whatever the hell it is like it’s the Holy Grail, have a pompous, smug, and utterly condescending look on his face like he has just looked down from the heavens and decreed:
“Let There Be Foam!” ??

adria foam crap get serious u pompous ass alginate crap

you aren't god adria

Yeah..yeah.. I can hear you guys already, fingers poised over your “delete” and “unlike” buttons, muttering indignantly that I am insane, ignorant, arrogant, not “With The Times”, jealous that I didn’t think of it first, clueless, and other derogatory adjectives,
ad nauseum.

And you know what?
Those of you who know me, know that not only am I not afraid of a little controversy, I actively, and relentlessly, seek it out!!
So gather ’round, people, and allow me to explain in a bit more detail,

Why I Hate Molecular Cuisine:

In The Beginning, there was Ferran Adria.
An egocentric, yet spectacularly talented food scientist, chef,
and performance artist.
He created new textures, tastes, and the technology to make his
outlandish dreams into reality.
And It Was Good.

Then, into this pastoral garden of Eden, came the first sign
of trouble in paradise:
All around the world, restaurants started sporting menu items like
“gelled olive oil” “seawater sorbet” , and “calamari foam”.
And It Was Not Good.

cashew air bullshit

“cashew milk air” and no, I didn’t make it.

Then came the second wave, which consisted of every snot-nosed stagiere
with 5 minutes kitchen experience and the best Culinary School Diploma their
parents’ money could buy, idolizing Ferran as if he was Farrah Fawcett in 1975. Some of those guys probably have posters of the guy hanging in their bedrooms, with suspicious sticky substances clinging to the edges.
And by “sticky stuff”, I don’t mean a spilled mocha frappuccino.

Needless to say, these prepubescent poseurs decided that what better way to Impress the Ladies (or trend slaves, tv producers, food critics, or bored and jaded clients) than busting out every single technique in good old Adria’s formidable Bag of Tricks, on every single dish on every single menu.
The cool little professional’s tricks which should have been used as accents, or highlights, once in a while, not constantly until they became nothing but a cliche, became their own worst enemy.
This is when I started really developing a serious problem with this stuff.

foam salad crap

some idiot decided to put some kind of “espuma” (foam) on a tired, flat, ugly salad. I don’t think really it improved it’s aesthetics.

kids nitro ice cream

apparently, kids do not have lemonade stands anymore.

Here is a video of some chubby little twat demonstrating how to make
“Salt Cod Espuma, using an iSi ThermoWhip”.
It sounds like something from a bad S&M club. Enjoy:

watch?v=_O1McGOXGTo

some violet foam crap

some guy just learned how to make foams and crystallized stuff and decided it all needed to be on one plate. Don’t ask me what it is because I don’t know.

And what really put the last nail in the coffin for me, finally, was that an entire worldwide marketing campaign took hold, with endless tv shows, gadgets, kits, products, machines, and instructors to teach every chef, not to mention every coffee-house cowboy and bored housewife, why their life was meaningless unless they owned a Sousvide, a ThermoMix, or a Texturas kit!

textura kit crap

a "Texturas" kit, Here is what “gellan” is made out of: “..Gellan is a very recently discovered gelling agent obtained from the fermentation of Sphingomonas elodea bacteria..” You can google up what that is, but I seriously wouldn’t advise it unless you’ve already eaten.

sous vide crap

a low-temp immersion bath

mcdonald's

This is “mechanically separated chicken”, which is what chicken McNuggets are made out of. It is made by taking the entire chicken, feathers, guts, toenails, and all, grinding it up, and passing it through fine strainers. Then it is disinfected by soaking it in ammonia, then re-flavouring it with synthetic chicken flavour, and re-forming into different shapes. Sounds like “molecular” cuisine to me.

And right about this time, mes chers amis, is when the wily and intelligent Adria decided to close his eponymous “El Bulli”, and head off with his bags of money, insanely lucrative product lines, reputation, and self-respect intact, into the sunset-
Leaving chefs around the world still churning out soulless and exact replicas of his once-innovative creations with the all monotony of McDonalds churning out McNuggets.

No longer is there any “Wow” factor.
Gone are the gasps of wonder and surprise when a waiter brings your dessert and there sits a pearlized sphere filled with foam, shining like some jewel in God’s Own Treasure Chest.
The big client your firm is trying to land won’t be impressed when you take him to a top-flight expense-account dinner and the waiter tells him
his foie gras en sous vide will be served with rosewater caviar pearls.
He’s seen it before.
gel sphere crap

Sorry, guys, every housewife in Omaha and their kids too, has seen all this stuff now, and probably also watched 10 TV shows about how to make it themselves.
As a matter of fact, here’s a link to a Flickr photo album by some mom and her ankle-biters making some foam, alginate gel spheres and some other stuff. Enjoy:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mylastbite/sets/72157618063612191/

Yep, this guy  Ferran Adria is a genius, no question about it:
He invented a whole new type of cooking style, complete with all the equipment necessary and ingredients to create these magical concoctions, which of course cannot be made without purchasing said equipment and ingredients, plus books, tutorials, courses, etc, and then he proceeded to ride the wave of hype, overexposure, and mythology all the way to the bank like Laird Hamilton riding the Waimea Bay Pipeline.

adria is rich

more stuff you can buy from Adria

Leaving all all of us industry veterans still in the mix, to deal with the culinary fallout of his seemingly benign invention,
“Molecular Cuisine”.

nuke bomb

Just today, a friend told me she heard some “molecular chef” referring to something called “Atomic Glucose”. I have no idea what it is but it’s too pompous and lame for me to even bother looking up, sorry.

“Fallout?!” you say, “Isn’t that a bit extreme, comparing the trend of molecular cuisine to radioactive waste?!” and to this I say, “No”.

Why?
Because what started out as a great idea, something special and fun, to be used sparingly, rarely, and discreetly, say, like Cocaine, or Padded Handcuffs,
has sadly been transformed by overuse into a tiresome, predictable, overly showy, and vulgar caricature of itself-
Like a just-slightly-too-old ex-model with too much makeup, a little too much “work”done on her lips, and after a few too many drinks and a line or two of blow at the Xmas party-
Amusing and kind of hot at first, but as the evening goes on, becoming more and more embarrassing.
And much like radioactive waste, the after-effects of the Big Blast, started innocently enough by our friend Mr. Adria, are starting to make us all feel sick.

dr seuss wtf

here’s a hard-to-find link for the entire texturas line of  molecular additives.
Which I personally find about as appealing as tits on a fish.
They’ve also been banned from use in Italy.
However, I know some of you are going to be jumping up and down and screaming with  orgasmic joy as you frantically run to click on “Order Now”,  so I will say “you’re welcome” in advance.
However, I would advise against reading about what all the stuff is made from
.

http://www.solexpartners.com/media/texturas/index.html

But all of these snarky observations aside, (and ignoring completely the despicable and affected nonsense cooked up by Heston Blumenthal such as the blatantly-made-for-shock-value-only “Sardines on Toast Sorbet” etc. )
The most serious issue I have with Molecular Gastronomy, is the fact that many young cooks and upcoming chefs seem to want to go right to the foam, spheres, powders, “airs”, dry ice cocktails ” fume en vitrine” etc.
Without learning from the ground up, the important, and irreplaceable basics: Correct grilling, saucework, patisserie, and other techniques which are priceless skills, honed over long periods of time, by working in precision services, under seasoned Chefs.
NOT learned by programming an electronic appliance.

sous vide crap3

tatooed jackass chef

yet another tattooed and pierced 20 year old “chef” using a thermal circulator to boil eggs. wtf.

some bullshit at Fat Duck

and some of the usual smoke and mirrors at Fat Duck.

another mc jackass

a random Pompous JacqueAss

Many cooks today ooze confidence when demonstrating how to freeze ice cream with dry ice, make alginate spheres in calcium chloride baths, crystallize and powderize everything from heads of lettuce to blocks of chocolate, freeze oils, and how to correctly vacuum seal and cook a piece of filet at blah blah blah temp for blah blah blah minutes in their 5,000$ circulating low-temp water bath.
But God help these rookies if their Sousvide or their Pacojet, Runner, or whatever other gadget they rely on to execute a dinner service, breaks.

dry ice asshole

I have recently heard of a sous chef in an, ahem, “Top Restaurant” here in TLV, who told his cooks to take the beef filet off the menu when the Sousvide broke in the middle of service!!
(By the way, this with a working grill in the kitchen, and when one of the cooks suggested that instead of the Sousvide, they use the grill to cook the meat, he was shouted at and called a “Cowboy” by the sous chef!!)

molecular in cambodia

There’s no real reason to put this photo here, but I found it hilarious that there is a site advertising “molecular cooking tours” in Cambodia.

Thanks to my network of cooks working in kitchens all over town, I hear stories like these and tons more, on a regular basis.

How about the guy who also cut a service short when the thermometer probe in the runner stopped working?

The dessert taken off the menu because the cream spheres made by the new chef patissier collapsed?

Are you starting to see my point, or are you still mad?
Still need another example?
Here’s a link to a blog from some amateur cook and his experiments with “MC” as he calls it. Apparently this atrocity, “Hake fish with beans and bananas with traditional flavours, powdered”, is from the Alinea book.
I am warning you, it’s one of the worst things I have ever seen:

http://audaxartifex.blogspot.com/2009/07/daring-cooks-3-challenge-molecular.html

There’s a guy here calling himself a “Private Chef”, who happily admits his culinary education was comprised exclusively by watching cooking shows on tv, and declares “Molecular Gastronomy” was his “inspiration to become a chef”. WTF?!
What happened to really learning how to cook, working your way up through restaurant kitchens, and getting a thorough culinary education and loads of practical experience before you even dreamt about calling yourself a “Chef”?!

I’m not saying molecular cuisine is to blame for this particular jackass I just mentioned.
But I am saying that overexposed trends started by truly innovative chefs, are then inevitably hyped, dissected, and co-opted by every “Celebrity Chef”. Then these trends filter down the culinary food chain to be seized upon like a filet mignon by a pack of rabid wolverines, by every single cook, from the ambitious up- and- coming talented chef de cuisine at the slick downtown brasserie, to the poor slob working the night shift at the all-night corner cafe, and it all combines to bring focus on the professional culinary field for the wrong reasons.

chinese cooking show

An example of bringing focus to the professional culinary field for the wrong reasons

nasty

Another one, and yeah, both of these people are hosts of tv cooking shows.

Not to mention, the lack of true culinary training, discipline, knowledge, and foundations in inexperienced young cooks who are exhilarated and intoxicated by this “Brave New World” may be the reason they come up with some frightening messes like this actual excerpt from actual article about an actual restaurant.
Ok, fair enough, it’s in a hotel in Dubai, but you get the idea. Yikes:

 

“…finally a Mango Capsule decorated with Basil Styrofoam, Lychee & Coconut drops and garnished with pink salt, pepper and chervil cress!
Spherically Mind Blowing!!..”

Spherically mind-blowing, indeed. Ugh. Here’s the link in case no one believes me:
http://www.younghotelier.com/young-hotelier-videos/molecular-gastronomy-at-tang-restaurant-video-interview-with-chef-stuart-sage/

reverse spherical peas

I couldn’t find a photo of the “mango capsule” but here is one of “reverse spherification technique peas” WTF.

Folks- I’ve got some harsh news. You better sit down.
Working in the professional kitchen isn’t glamorous. It isn’t “sexy”. It isn’t easy, and there are no shortcuts, none at all.
You should enter this profession because you love to cook, and can’t imagine doing anything else in life.

Omnivore

my sous chef Shai, who has a smile on his face of pure joy every second he is in the kitchen.

Certainly not because you desire notoriety, money or fame. Very few of us will ever achieve that, no matter how blazingly talented we are, and if the real possibility that you will never appear on TV, or that no one
will ever know your name bothers you, you are definitely in the wrong profession.

a link to a “chef” who is definitely in the wrong profession:
http://www.zimbio.com/Indonesia/articles/436/Farah+Quinn+Sexy+Indonesian+Chef

Furthermore, you should embrace every single step of the lifetime journey of becoming a true chef:
From learning how to correctly wash a delicate bunch of mache, how to fillet an anchovy, how to bone a quail, how to clean a 30-lb halibut or butcher a side of beef, or sharpen all your own knives,
Damn, let’s face it- even how to clean a grill or a refrigerator correctly and how to do inventory carefully and thoroughly at the end of the month, how to work 6 months of doubles and back-to- back services every day if you have to, and without complaining or quitting, how to treat your dishwasher with respect, and how to train a young apprentice to make his first salad, all with equal joy.

knives Rima Olvera

my knives, which I know how to sharpen myself

Not just to be interested in eventually getting to do the really exciting stuff people seem to think all chefs do, because being a chef is such a glamourous job, such as: (yeah, right)
Wearing a clean white Bragard and a cool pair of Converse All-Stars,
“de rigueur” tattoo of fork and knife on one arm, and a model with breasts like sun-kissed organic cantaloupes on the other, smiling for the cameras, walking around the kitchen or the tv set with a glass of wine in your hand, soaking up admiration, offers for movie roles, and reeling in girls faster than than you can say “Tapioca maltodextrin”
(which by the way, is a starch patented as N-Zorbit M by the National Starch and Chemical Company.)
That’s what is used in molecular gastronomy to turn fats into powders.
Still want to order that green apple gel with caramel butter powder??

tapioca malto

“Malto”

you must be fucking joking

some “celebrity chef”

lab tech

And a scientist in a lab. What’s the connection??

 

So for God’s sake, lay off the foam, dusts, frozen oils, “eines”
reverse-spherification suspensions etc, at least until you know how to perfectly cook anything from a delicate piece of fish, to a giant porterhouse steak on the bone, using nothing but FIRE, and with not even so much as a thermometer.
And I beg you: Garnish that steak with some fleur de sel and a drizzle of first press olive oil, not “
Basil Styrofoam”.
And don’t serve it on a black slate slab, either, please.

Here and photo below: two porterhouse steaks. One is being cooked on a grill, the other in a sous vide. I know which one I will order.

sous vide  porterhouse

The skill of really connecting with the process of creating food comes from intimately feeling, touching, smelling, handling real ingredients, for years, until you know just by a scent, a sound, a touch, if something is truly perfectly made.
That’s the most impressive dish you can serve anyone.

And not even one of Adria’s Magic Machines or Powders can replace that.

ben ilan thanks

a beautiful porterhouse of Simmental beef, given to me by my friends Ben and Ilan at La Maison. And no, they don’t have a sous vide over there.

La Maison- Jump on in to the TLV top 5, guys!!

La Maison, in Tel-Aviv, is exactly the type of place I love:
Tiny, free of artifice, and without a single molecule of compromise or pretension, to be found within it’s walls.

La Maison לה מייזון
And better yet, it’s run by two of the best cooks in town, the former chefs at Yoezer, (Also in my TLV Top 5)  Ilan DovShani  and Ben Tidhar.
Not only do these guys bust out the VERY BEST charcuterie in Tel-Aviv, they are also fantastic guys who work hard, remain simple and down to earth, and make no secret that they are on a mission for perfection.
In short: My Kind of Guys.

In the several months that they have been open, I have become a real pest to those guys, I tell you:
I sit there at least twice a week, usually with an entourage of cooks, shovelling up everything those two are making, taking up all the space outside, (which is 3 tables outside on the sidewalk enclosed with a simple cast-iron fence with charming little iron birds clustered on the wires. Tres mignon!)

La Maison לה מייזון
drinking fine Belgian beers, or in my case, arak, talking about industry gossip, and in general, treating the place like it’s our living room.
Well, true, there is a beauty-salon across the street catering to the, ahem, “cross-dressing” crowd, and maybe that isn’t in any of our living rooms, or maybe it is, because it’s none of my business what my cooks or my friends do at home!
But, hey, I am not complaining about that! It adds to the atmosphere!

klinger MASH

This is not a real client of the beauty salon across the steet

Which is exactly another thing which is so great about La Maison-
Ilan and Ben aren’t just chefs. They are genuinely warm and interesting people, who make everyone, not just us cooks, feel at home.

Now that I have spent a bunch of time telling you what hella guys they are, let’s get down to business.
And by “Business”, I mean, discussing the best charcuterie that I have eaten in Israel.
Let’s face it: all the poseurs and followers of PR hype may sit at “Charcuterie”, but I sure hope it isn’t for the actual charcuterie, because that place is like that old story about “The Emperor’s New Clothes”- in short, a load of pretensions, out-of–line prices, and no substance.

The opposite is true at La Maison:
Their Pate de Campagne is comparable to the best ones that I have tried in France: Roughly ground liver, cured meats, and pistachios, gently baked en bain marie, the texture is rustic yet sublime, the flavours balanced, complex, and delectable! And let me tell you, it isn’t easy to make this the right way!
The outrageously rich and decadent Terrine of Chicken and Chicken Livers with White Truffle is simply “Over The Top”- and I mean that in the very best way!!
You’ll feel like a privileged French aristocrat when you sit down and eat this!
french snob
The little jars of the lightest and most delicate Veal Liver mousse are a special treat that should NOT be missed.
And the lightly smoked Pork Neck with a thick crust of toasted fennel seeds is succulent, unique, and makes a sandwich so divine it will bring tears to your eyes!

Rima Olvera רימה אולברה

Rima is eating too much as usual

Handmade Coppa? Hell yeah!
Jambon, with a perfectly decadent layer of fat surrounding the delicate, sweet meat!
A Pancetta that they cure for 4 months, the only one in Israel!
I used to have to hand carry the stuff back home from trips to Italy!
A Roast Beef which they make from a huge cut of Sirloin on the Bone- covered with a thick crust of herbs butter and roasted to a perfect medium-rare!
Oh my God!  I usually sit there and eat about 300 grams of this, on it’s own, for lunch!
Corned Beef, Smoked Veal Pastrama- All of the very best quality, and with their unmistakable signature of excellence.

Even the potato salad, and chopped liver is different and so much better than the usual versions..
They also make handmade fresh sausages, which are sold raw, to take home and cook-  and yeah, I know that everyone and his brother has started making fresh sausages around here lately, but don’t be fooled:
Making sausages is a precise and difficult science, not as simple as just tossing a bunch of random stuff into a meat grinder and stuffing it into sausage casings-
(as most people do here!)
Making a perfect sausage is a precise emulsification technique- meaning that exactly the right amounts of meat and fat, at the correct temperatures, must be blended together to form the mixture, so it won’t turn into a greasy, crumbly, mess when cooked! Now that’s the kind of  “Molecular” cuisine I like!
These sausages are by far and away, the very best in Israel.
A perfect Boudin Noir (Blood Sausage) delicately flavoured with muscat and pepper.. succulent Smoked Paprika Chorizo,
(perfect for making Paella, I might add) white Bratwurst…
Take a bunch of these home, grill them up, make a salad and open a few bottles of wine.. Dinner is served!!

La Maison לה מייזון

This is Ilan

And as if that isn’t enough, Ben has recently started to make absolutely fresh, delicious, and delicate pickled Palamida, and herring cured with olive oil, bay leaves, and allspice! Mon Dieu!
He claims he never eats fish unless it’s raw, so he won’t touch the stuff himself, but I have something to say to him: Buddy, you don’t know what you are missing!
And in case you cheap bastards aren’t convinced yet, the prices are not only reasonable, they are in fact, TRES reasonable!
Believe me, cooks are notoriously broke, and whether they love a place or not, if they can’t afford it, they just don’t go!
And my crew is there multiple times a week!

Up until now, they have been open from noon-8pm, from Sundays to Thursdays, and until 4pm on Fridays, but now, they plan on opening up at night, too, with a tiny bar, which in my opinion, is fantastic news.
Now all of us cooks can not only sit there all day, we can sit there at night, too- and DRINK! Hallelujah!
I only have one request, guys:
Bring some more wine, please! Or at least some Pastis! Truth be told, I’m not a beer-drinkin’ kind of girl.
But that’s just being petty, really.
I’ve even made a convert of Alon! If we don’t go there every Friday afternoon for lunch, he sulks and pouts, whines and complains, and generally makes my life miserable, until we get there!

Alon is drinking too much as usual

Well- as all of you know, at any given time, there are only 5 restaurants which I will sit at, happily, and recommend in Tel-Aviv, and since Yoshi closed a while back, there had only been 4-
Until La Maison came along, and jumped on in to the Elite Top 5!!
And to that, I say- Welcome, Boys, and Long May You Reign!!

La Maison
Tchernikovsky #1 (near corner of Allenby)

03) 620 6022

The Incomparable Peter Norman

For those of you who watch “Duet”-
There is one episode which was devised by the producers to cover-up a disastrous pilot, (nothing to do with me!!)
where I must introduce the episode by saying:
“This is an unusual Duet..because this time, it’s not my story..”

And so I will say this again.. but yet, in a way, it is my story, because it is the story of when Rima met Peter..
A chance meeting which, in fact, changed my life.

So, it began about a year ago, we were sitting around the house on Saturday, and the phone rang.
It was Yomi Levi (you remember, one of my best friends, who, along with his brother, owns and runs the best Turkish specialty shop in Tel-Aviv.. מעדניית יום טוב at 43 Levinsky..)
”Wake up!” he said, “We are going to Herzliya to eat at a great Turkish place! I’m picking you up in an hour!”
So what to do except get ready to go??

An hour later, Yomi arrived at our door, and with him was a drop-dead gorgeous man who looked like some sort of cinematic fantasy hybrid between, say, George Clooney, and a young Sean Connery..

Yomi introduced us, saying “This is Peter Norman- the famous Swedish chef everyone has been telling you that you must meet- he popped by, and decided to join us for lunch!”

Now, of course, I was overjoyed.
Because, actually, for months, I had been hearing “Chatter” (as they say in the C.I.A and Mossad when referring to receiving  high-quality buzz about someone-) about the fabulous Peter Norman- a crazy chef and stylist of mythological talent, who for reasons unknown, had decided to leave his pastoral farm in Sweden and move to Israel..
And in fact, I had been scheduled several times to meet him and due to one arak thing or another, just never happened..

Well, never mind. He came into our house, a book in his hand, introduced himself..
And it was that old cliche you always hear..”I felt like I had known him my entire life”. But it was true.
The book he had brought to me was in fact a copy of his book, “the PINK Cookbook”

http://www.lundlund.com/food-stylists/peter-norman/biography

Now, as all of you know, I do not read, or own, any cookbooks. But this one was different.
Not so much a cookbook, this was the single most aesthetically beautiful piece of food art I had ever seen.
And what made it even more striking to me was, the same time as I had been travelling the world, to 13 locations, filming “Duet”- Peter had been travelling the world- to 13 locations- shooting on location each chapter of his book.
It was remarkable, and his book took my breath away- And it still does.

Within hours of meeting, (Well, the place in Herzliya was closed!) we were all sitting at a steak house in NeveTzedek- (Makom shel Basar, to be exact, and I actually happen to really like this place- site : http://makomshelbasar.rest-e.co.il/)  Eating steaks, drinking countless bottles of wine, talking about travels, life, food, adventures, as if we were lifelong friends just reunited after a few months of travels apart, comparing stories..

That night (which in fact happened to be Peter’s birthday) ended up with us all over at Peter’s place-
(A beautiful, welcoming oasis of impeccable taste, refinement, and beauty, in the middle of Tel-Aviv)
drinking Swedish Aquavit, downing frozen vodka, eating caviar, dancing around the room to Brazilian remixes of 70’s disco classics, and generally having the time of our lives!!

And that was the start of our friendship.
From that day on, we trawled the markets of Tel-Aviv, ate countless dinners in his beautiful home, gossiped, planned menus, brainstormed ideas for all kinds of projects, cooked and ate beautiful meals, and of course, drank endless bottles of wine..

Peter, as is his nature, that is to say, he is a true citizen of the world, and follows his heart fearlessly, and purely, has moved away to Mexico City, just 2 weeks ago, with his partner, who we all fell in love with as he did..

And I will say this-
My life, and in fact, all of Israel, became a duller, and poorer place the day he left.
I have never met someone like Peter before- Full of charm, grace, laughter, wit, generosity, empathy, and blazing talent- Yet without one bit of the pretentious ego or narcissism that plague many in our field, with far lesser gifts than his..

I know I will visit him many times in beautiful Mexico,  a country which is also one of my true loves..
Strangely, in another part of my life, I was sure I would move there to live one day.

And I know he will be back to Israel many times, too, as the dust of this strange land has gotten under his skin, and will never allow him to turn his back completely on this place..

Meeting Peter was one of the rare occurrences which even fleetingly, make me believe in a higher power-
One which brought us together in order to experience life all that much more fully.

Miss you Peter

Rima Olvera & Peter Norman’s Grilled Fresh Shrimp with Tarragon and Pistachio Butter

20 large fresh shrimps, cleaned by cutting through the back of the shell with scissors, removing the sand vein, but leaving the head attached (if you simply insist on it, you can remove the heads, but they look and taste much better with them on..)

Carefully butterfly the shrimp tails (open them, but leave the shell whole from the back to hold the butter while roasting..)
2 sticks (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened,
3-4 cloves fresh garlic,
1 bunch fresh tarragon leaves,
about 1/4 cup fresh flatleaf parsley,
splash of Pastis, Pernod, or white wine,
zest from 1 lemon,
several turns fresh ground black pepper,
1/4 cup of shelled crushed pistachios,
big pinch sea salt-
Process all in food processor.
Spread each opened shrimp tail (look at photo) with a thick layer of the butter, and roast on top rack of oven, on hottest temp/”broil”, for about 4-5 minutes.
Serve immediately, with fresh lemon wedges (Meyer’s if available) nice sourdough bread, a frisee and lettuce salad, and a few bottles of crisp, dry white wine (like Sancerre, or good unoaked Sauvignon Blanc)

Rima Olvera & Peter Norman’s Grilled Fresh Shrimp with Tarragon and Pistachio Butter

IMG_2438

 

20 large fresh shrimps, cleaned by cutting through the back of the shell with scissors, removing the sand vein, but leaving the head attached (if you simply insist on it, you can remove the heads, but they look and taste much better with them on..)
Carefully butterfly the shrimp tails (open them, but leave the shell whole from the back to hold the butter while roasting..)
2 sticks (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened,
3-4 cloves fresh garlic,
1 bunch fresh tarragon leaves,
about 1/4 cup fresh flatleaf parsley,
splash of Pastis, Pernod, or white wine,
zest from 1 lemon,
several turns fresh ground black pepper,
1/4 cup of shelled crushed pistachios,
big pinch sea salt-
Process all in food processor.
Spread each opened shrimp tail (look at photo) with a thick layer of the butter, and roast on top rack of oven, on hottest temp/"broil", for about 4-5 minutes.
Serve immediately, with fresh lemon wedges (Meyer’s if available) nice sourdough bread, a frisee and lettuce salad, and a few bottles of crisp, dry white wine (like Sancerre, or good unoaked Sauvignon Blanc)

 

Hope you enjoy this as much as Peter and me!!!

IMG_2441-1

Omnivore Gastronomic Society and Supper Club- tonight with Alona Vineyards!

I decided that I will start putting up the menus from my monthly members-only Supper Club here on my blog..
Ok, maybe not all the full menus, all the time, because let’s face it, I happen to be an ego-driven megalomaniac who is convinced that other chefs will rip off my ideas..
But, I will post some of them, I promise, and add photos from the dinners the next day..

Tonight happens to be a Wine Pairing Dinner, with one of my favourite Israeli boutique wineries, Alona Vineyards, and I wanted to create a menu that captures all the delicacy, yet, well, let’s not beat around the bush-
Bombastic Israeli Strength, of these incredible wines- using all the ingredients from the region.

So with no further ado- I present the menu for tonight’s dinner:

Omnivore Gastronomic Society and Supper Club

Presents on Thursday, April 15, 2010, at 8:30pm

“Symphony in shades of Grape”

A very special Omnivore featuring the beautiful wines of Alona Vineyards.

The winemaker will be in attendance.

A Delicate Salad of Crispy Duck

with confit strawberries, fresh herbs, and cardamom and rosepetal dressing

Wine: Alona Rose, 2008

Goose Liver “Bijoux”

Tiny profiteroles filled with goose liver, cherries, pistachios, spices, star anise and black tea syrup

Wine: Alona Merlot, 2008

Rare Beef Filet with Tempura Sage Leaves

Corn and white truffle fritters, artichoke and enoki mushroom salad

Wine: Alona Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2008

Red Tuna “Kubeh”

Moroccan black olives, cured anchovies, tarragon, oranges, and green almonds

Wine: Alona Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2008

Lamb Chops with Aniseed Crust

Goats cheese and mint crispy Yemen pancake turnovers, grilled grapes, and figs in balsamic

Wine: Alona Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2008

DESSERT:

Caramel au Fleur de sel Tarts with Brulee Figs and Mint Ice Cream

Friday Fish Club

First of all, let me apologize for the long time since I posted, but I have a good excuse: I was busy!!
(Busy eating food, drinking wine, riding my bike around, cooking at Omnivore, and generally enjoying life!!)
So I hope you will forgive me, and I’m sure you will, when you hear about the surreal, unexpected, and excellent FRIDAY AFTERNOON FISH CLUB which I was privileged enough to have been invited to a few weeks ago-

It happened that (as usual, on Fridays) I was sitting at Gabe’s, surrounded by the incomparable companionship of about 50 sabras, geezers, hipsters, artists, drunks, arsim, and other upstanding members of society, all half-smashed on cheap arak and beer at 1pm in the afternoon- and one of these citizens happened to be Shlomi- the architect of the Friday Fish Club…

And the conversation went something like this:
Shlomi and Entourage: “Hey- you’re Gabe’s friend, right? The chef?? You like to eat fish??”
Rima “You’re kidding, right?! I LIVE to eat fish!!”
Shlomi and Crew: “Ok!!  then come to xxxxxx car garage, at xxxx st, in Holon, next Friday!”

And so I went.
With a few pals, and Alon, who, like me, is not one to let a fish of any size, be the one that got away.

First of all- This place happened to be in an actual car-repair garage, in Holon. Which if you will excuse me for saying so, is not exactly the place I would expect to go to if I were looking for a great fish eating experience.
But never mind!!
As a matter of fact, some of the best food I have ever eaten, in places all over the world, has been found in unexpected places like these-
so take a word of advice, and never miss an opportunity to discover some hidden treasures in secret places…
You might discover something amazing,  as I did that day, such as:
Home- made Bottarga, smoked baby sardines, fried tiny barbunia, cooked in an empty oil- drum, over a fire of wood scraps from the wood shop next door,

cured mackerel in allspice and vinegar,  fresh salted anchovies, and a madly tasty rice and fried liver pilaf made by a Georgian (Former Soviet Republic Georgia- not Georgia, the state in USA) !!!

Oh , not to mention, a whole fresh salmon fillet with sage and almonds crust. (made by ME)
here’s how to do it:

(I like to make this with a whole salmon fillet, leave the skin on, but de-bone, spread the pesto on top, but also good on salmon steaks or other fish too)

take 1 bunch fresh sage (leaves only) put in food processor w/
juice from 1-2 big lemons
splash of rice vinegar
some hot green chiles, like jalapenos, to taste
coarse sea salt  to taste
black pepper
demerara- pale brown sugar crystals (“sugar in the raw”) (or light brown sugar-)about 4 big spoons

fresh garlic- about 4 cloves
handful of fresh parsley leaves, about 1/2 bunch, leaves only
splash olive oil, plus about 1/3 cup canola oil
Blend all to paste.
Add:
about 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
Pulse to blend nuts into the paste.
Adjust balance with sugar, salt, lemon juice.
Spread a thick layer of this mix on salmon steaks or fillets, roast in oven at hottest temp til golden on top.. a whole large side of salmon will take about 25 mins. Steaks or individual fillet pieces, about 7 mins.

Well, back to the Fish Club:

When we arrived, we saw the doors to the car-repair garage open, and a huge table set up inside- covered with paper, big bottles of cola, beer, and arak-


And about 15 tough-looking guys all sitting around both the table, and standing around outside, next to the oil- drum fish fryer and grill, shouting, drinking, playing music, cleaning and cooking fish, and in general, having a hella good time.
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1agsx_louis-jordan-saturday-night-fish-fr_music

We of course jumped right in, and although my salmon was looked at suspiciously at first, as it was brought on a “fancy” Moroccan platter, and not an aluminum disposable baking tray, but as soon as they took a bite, it was deemed acceptable, and everyone dug in! In fact, they even asked me how to make it!
Arak was flowing like water! Fish bones were flying! handmade Bottarga, which costs about 100 dollars+ a pound in a shop, was being passed around like chips!!
(Bottarga is either made from tuna or grey mullet caviar, salted, pressed, and considered by connoisseurs of really good caviar products and fish, to be one of the world’s great delicacies. And I agree.
(Make some spaghetti- AL DENTE of course!! – add a load of fresh garlic, olive oil, cracked pepper, fresh chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon, and grate Bottarga over the top- and you will  cry tears of joy!!!)
ok.. ok…  this pic (which is not mine) has fresh oysters also, which is also excellent.. but not necessary…

Piles of delicate fried baby barbunia ( Mediterranean red mullet) were being dumped on the table!
My cute single girl friend was getting phone numbers right and left from the guys!
I had a whole bottarga in one hand, and a water glass full of arak in the other! Heaven!!

Well, listen. This sort of thing isn’t for everyone.
I mean, certain people I know, in fact one of them happens to be one of my best friends, and their first name begins with an O and their family name begins with an A,

might  prefer to sit at Montefiore, sipping a martini and eating frozen shrimp for 200 shekels a dish, and you know what?? I myself don’t mind that myself once in a while
Well, I mean, I mind the frozen shrimp, but they make a pretty good martini over there.
But still!! He just doesn’t know what he’s missing by never setting his foot at a place like the Fish Club, or Gabe’s!!

And this was THE REAL THING!!!! “Without Salt” as they say around here! Hardcore!!
Shlomi and the boys were perfect hosts, and the fish was sublime.
I just wish I would have brought my salmon in an aluminum disposable tray.  Next time.

So call me if you want a recommendation to get into this exclusive club!!!!
And bring arak.  After all, I will definitely be there, and I don’t drink beer.
So be warned.
See you over there one of these Fridays soon. (it’s once every few weeks. Gabe’s otherwise!!)

The Best Damn Risotto I Have Eaten In (17) Years!!! thanks, Il Pastaio!!

This is just a “short” note to discuss a risotto I ate last night at Il Pastaio,
which for lack of a better word, was @#$% ing Transcendent! Ethereal! Sublime! Exquisite! Celestial!!

il pastaio

Il Pastaio

In any case, you get the point that it was delicious.
It was this:
Lemon and Saffron Risotto.
The Arborio rice was al-dente- perfectly so.
*Note to TLV “Chefs” – You DO NOT make risotto by putting rice and water into a pan, covering it, and walking away. Testo di Cazzo!!!!!
You must STAND THERE AND STIR IT, CONTINUALLY, THE ENTIRE TIME.
And PS. remember the Italian saying of how to make perfect risotto:

“Rice is born in water, and dies in wine”

This means, add wine to the rice in the pan first- before anything else!
Not water, or  the old Israeli favourite- powdered chicken soup concentrate.
I’ll give you guys this helpful tip free of charge!!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arborio_rice

It was FLAT- which by the way, is EXACTLY the way it is supposed to be!
You aren’t supposed to be able to stack up risotto up in a tall pile!!
(i.e., unlike the SPACKLE which is passed off as risotto everywhere else in Tel-Aviv- soggy, mushy, filled with butter, cheap cheese, and believe it or not usually cream too, and so thick it can be and usually is, put into ring-molds and formed into solid, nasty, mountains- and usually served with some more crap piled on top of that, I might add!!)

It was filled with the delicate taste of both fresh lemons, and the ephemeral fragrance of a very special type of saffron.

saffron

Saffron Harvesting

Which comes from, well, let’s just say:
“A Nation with whom Israel does not have Diplomatic Ties with”.
It is the best saffron in the world, and if you happen to watch the Istanbul episode of my show, Duet, (here’s a promo clip from here. The clip is in Hebrew, sorry.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=142785493139&ref=mf

The show itself however is in English.
If you happen to live in Asia, Europe, Russia, or Israel, you can see it on tv.
If not, ask GRB media, which is the US distributor, to release it in the US. Thanks!!

There you will see me comment on finding some of it in the market there.
NO ONE here, other than me, uses this stuff, and instead uses the cheap,
C-grade Spanish saffron which has an unmistakably bitter aftertaste.

Did I mention the slight creaminess of EXACTLY the right amount of Parmigiano Reggiano?!

parm

Parmigiano Reggiano

The colour of that heavenly saffron shining like the golden rays of a sunset in Paradise?!
The sighs of sensual delight as we all devoured every last grain of rice and then felt like picking up the plate and licking it?!

Well, in any case, the last time I had a risotto that perfect, it was made by the blessed hands of my legendary saute cook, “Manny”  (Manuel)-
A tiny, aggressive, Yucatan Mexican Mayan Indian, who happened as well as being one of the best line cooks I ever had the privilege of working with, was a true master of the art of making a perfect risotto, had a wicked and cynical sense of humour, and was also married to a 6- foot tall Irish redhead who loved to drink  and fight almost, well, ok, even more, than Manny himself.
What a Legend!

But I digress: the risotto, made by Manny, that had been burned into my memory as being the best I ever had, up until last night ,
(And p.s. this includes the dozens I have eaten all over Italy)
happened to have been a wild mushroom risotto, made with a mix of pristine wild chanterelles,  lobster mushrooms, and porcinis, from the forests of California, and hand-delivered by a bear of a guy who looked like he himself lived in a hollow log in the same forest his precious mushrooms were collected in!!)

shrooms

Wild Mushrooms

Manny, “En Camote” (deep in the S**T ) of a particularly vicious service which included, among other things, tickets rumbling out of the printer like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, RH half-drunk on a bottle of red wine hidden indiscreetly behind the waiter’s buzzer, yet nonetheless expediting perfectly the seething mass of aggression, stress, and fiery madness that was an  Enrico’s Friday night dinner rush-
enrico's
And in the middle of this mayhem, Manny passed down the line to me, as I was working my usual station on the grill, directly in the malevolent, tractor-beam like glare of RH, the leftover remains from a pan of that mythological risotto.
I stuck a spoonful of it in my mouth, in between throwing on the grill a frightening number of duck breasts, tuna steaks, boneless quail, and god knows what else the Evil Expeditor had mercilessly called to me all at once..
And I tell you when that risotto hit my tongue I heard a heavenly chorus of Angels singing!

angel

The singing Angel actually didn't look like this. but this picture is more interesting

About 20 minutes later, a waiter comes running in, risking the Wrath of RH by showing his face in the kitchen without being buzzed- warning us that a table of Italians were on their way to the kitchen and they wanted to speak to the chef about the risotto they had just eaten.

“WTF?!” I remember thinking, “what in the name of Batman’s Mother does anyone have to say about the risotto?! It was perfect!”
I turned my attention back to the grill, whose entire surface was by now completely covered, with not a centimeter to spare- yet nonetheless didn’t prevent RH from calling me another 9-10 items which he could see with his own eyes I couldn’t possibly fire, yet still earned me a withering comment referring to my clumsy ineptitude, or something of that nature.. and a dirty look, too!

look out2

A few seconds later, 3 Italian guys who looked like they just rolled out of their Villa in Sicily, burst into the kitchen :
“Who made that risotto?!” they demanded, looking around aggressively.

sicilia

Sicilian Villa

RH turned and fixed them with a scowl frightening enough to turn your blood to ice- and sad “That guy”- pointing to Manny, who at this point was 12 saute pans deep in the middle of a typically colossal fire of orders-

What happened next was a shock, I’ll tell you-
That was 17 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday!
These 3 Italians jumped behind the line, grabbed Manny, and one after the other, kissed him on both cheeks- shouting that they had made a bet that the only person who could have made that perfect risotto was an Italian- and that the waiter told them that not only was Manny NOT Italian- he was a Mayan Mexican Indian- and they had bet him 100$ each that he was lying-

After shaking his hand and giving Manny 100$ as well, they went out of the kitchen in search of the waiter, who had just made a hefty bonus for the evening.. and who Manny himself searched out after the shift to demand a 50% cut of the proceeds that the waiter had earned due to his risotto skills…!!
Well, anyway, as usual, I seem to have gotten distracted, but the point being, is up until last night as I said, Manny’s Risotto was the best I’ve ever had…

So enough of this talking.
Get your A** over to Il Pastaio this instant, and ask Tel-Aviv’s incarnation of Manny- (Moshe- who is chef Itzaac’s sous-chef, who I demanded to meet last night and basically did to him what those Italians did to Manny years ago-)
to make you a risotto- ANY damn type he decides to make-
Although I would highly recommend asking, or outright begging, if necessary, for that saffron and lemon risotto, which I will be dreaming of, with lust and desire in my heart, until next time I am there to eat it again!!!!!

http://www.ilpastaio.co.il/pasta_ita.html