Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fast Food

At sundown tonight we, like other observant Jews around the world, begin a 25 hour fast in observance of Yom Kippur. Not surprisingly, all I can think about is food.When I am healthy I find fasting to be a very intense but satisfying experience which is magnified by being in community with others who are in the same place.

Yom Kippur is an intense day and removing distractions (like eating) does help me focus on the spiritual work of the day. I don't have too much trouble fasting apart from the demon caffeine but I've been 100% decaf for months now so I don't expect any raging headaches. However, this will be the first year both of my boys will join me in the fast. As one pointed out, this milestone is the down side of the bar mitzvah. I am concerned about how they will handle and have tried to make sure they go into this well fed and happy--or as happy as teens can be when stuck in services all day long.

When I asked what they wanted for their last meal, brisket was promptly suggested. I ordered a 4 pound hunk of beef from our local natural foods store and sent The Spouse to pick it up the other night. They couldn't find the reserved brisket under his name or under mine, but finally handed him the wrapped meat that had been set aside for "Nice Lady" which I found most amusing. I'm so glad someone thinks so.

I fast best when I've eaten heartily the day before, not just just that final dinner, but the entire day. I craved something substantial but not bland when I woke up on this cool and foggy morning. Remembering the fresh chiles I picked up at the farmers market last weekend, I dug through the sheaf of recipes adorning my refrigerator to find a small slip of paper I picked up from the chile roaster at a different farmers market a few weeks ago. (Yes, we are blessed with an abundance of wonderful farmers markets here in Portland).

The recipe for green chile and potato gratin couldn't be simpler but the results are spectacular. I like potatoes in almost any form (though frozen and reheated is spud abuse) but this preparation yielded an especially fabulous result. The potatoes were lovely and soft with a slightly chewy top surface and the flavor of the chiles was vibrant and delicious. I had a hard time not eating the entire pan today. You'll find the recipe here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Help! My Camera is Possessed!

It was a perfect kind of morning with nothing to do but cook for tonight's dinner in a a leisurely fashion and catch up on some housework. Since I never got to have a proper Rosh Hashana meal, I decided to make this week's Shabbat dinner more festive than usual. It's suddenly rainy and cool here, perfect weather for Elizabeth's Vegetarian Pastitsio which most of my family adores. I started a batch of apple challah and then moved on to dessert. I've never had a particularly good honey cake but they are the classic Rosh Hashana dessert so when Deb posted a recipe on Smitten Kitchen promising that this was unlike all other honey cakes, I took her at her word.

I tweaked the recipe slightly, most noticeably replacing the called for whiskey with rum and Cointreau as that's what I had on hand. Also, after reading all the comments about caved-in tops, I reduced the baking powder by one teaspoon and ended up with perfetly domed, golden, fragrant honey cakes. I was bummed that I failed to oil the corner of one pan properly and a little bit of the cake remained behind. But the unsightly wound in the cake allowed me a taste and yes, this is not like other honey cakes. I was excited to photograh my lovely, golden creations but my camera has apparently been taken over by demons. Not only did it refuse to focus properly, but it kept snapping pictures without my pushing the button, giving me weird images like these:Luckily there are the usual gorgeous shots over at Smitten Kitchen which are much more likely to inspire you to go into the kitchen than my own photos.