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So I made Kitchen Surprise tonight, and it turned out to be quite good.  So I'm writing it down, before I forget how I managed it.  I apologize that this sounds more like a revolutionary outrage than a recipe, but the production was quite exploded, in fact.

1 full chicken breast, trimmed and sliced thinly
2 Tbsp miso
2 tsp mirin
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp flour
100 grams pine nuts
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 zucchini (small), cubed
1 pt. mushrooms, quartered/halved, depending on size
1 onion, quartered and separated
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp vinegar
Leaves from 1 large bunch basil (discard stems)

Mix the chicken breast, miso, mirin, vinegar, and flour in a bowl and allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.  Toast the pine nuts in your wok with a small amount of oil.  Set them aside, and then stir fry the chicken mixture.  Once the chicken turns white, set it aside also.  Now stir fry all of the vegetables except the basil.  Once the carrots get to that magic point (you know, crunchy, but not too crunchy?), add in the hoisin sauce and more vinegar.  Then toss back in the chicken and the pine nuts, and mix everything together.  Then add the basil, and stir until just wilted.  Serve over rice, and in retrospect, I should have put some of these crunchy chickpea flour noodles that I found at the asian market (ok, east asian, I suppose they're all asian) on top.  I'll do that tomorrow.

Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have in the house - a sweet potato had a rather narrow escape when I realized I'd already made too many vegetables.  Also, all quantities are strictly approximate.

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Fall Travel

14-10: TLV->WAW->JFK->EWR->STL
19-10: STL->EWR
29-10: JFK->WAW->TLV

There's some kind of shin-dig (hoe-down? <noun>-<unrelated verb>?) scheduled over the weekend while I'm in STL.  And of course there will be meals to have and drinks to drink and people to see while I'm in NYC.

But if you can read this, it would be great to see you. Let me know if you want to hang out.

Stonewall

Yesterday marked the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, widely accepted as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. The first Gay Pride march in New York City (held the next year, in 1970), was called a "Gay Liberation" march.

Every year, at this time of year, I reread the wikipedia article on the Stonewall Riots. It's kind of like reading the Christmas story on December 25th. As much fun as gay pride is (and oh, man, is it a lot of fun - if you've never been to one, you should go...even if you're not gay, there's something tremendously affirming about the message of freedom), we need to remember that Gay Pride isn't about Abba and sequins, high heels and lesbians on motorcycles. Of course, we all enjoy that - but gay pride is about a lot more than that.

On June 28th, 1969, a collection of men, women, and queens were hanging out at a gay bar in the West Village of New York called the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn was run by the Genovese family - in fact, most of the gay bars in NY were run by the mob, since it was illegal for same-sex couples to dance together in public, or for anyone to cross-dress, let alone the horrors of sodomy which they were clearly contemplating. The mob paid off the cops, but the cops still raided occasionally, to keep up appearances. The cops would seize the booze, arrest the queens, and send everyone else on their merry way. On June 28th, something went wrong.

That night, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused to go quietly. A mob gathered around the bar. The cops hit a lesbian with a billy club, a drag queen hit a cop with her purse. The police barricaded themselves in the bar, waiting for reinforcements. The gays sang, started a kick line, the cops fought back.

It's not really clear why this happened on June 28th - what the police were doing wasn't significantly different from what they'd been doing for years. Somehow, this crowd of queens decided that they'd had enough, and that they didn't have to take it any more. Of course they still did - the mob still ran the bars (although the stonewall closed soon after, and didn't reopen until 1990), and the police still raided them. But something changed that night - the gays recognized that they deserved freedom, that they deserved the right to live openly. They realized that they weren't doing anything wrong.

New York struck down its sodomy law in 1980, legalizing homosexuality. It became illegal to discriminate against homosexuals in 1996, and we were added to hate crimes legislation in 2002. And last Friday, it became legal for two men or two women to marry.

42 years isn't that long of a time. It's amazing how far we've come. Of course, there's still a lot to do - in many parts of the US, you can still be fired for being gay, or denied housing, insurance, or other benefits. In a lot of the country, we're still second-class citizens. But in one state - my state, at least legally - we've come very, very close to equality.

Imagine if you could've stopped that drag queen hitting the cop with her purse and told her that 42 years from then, that same street would be filled with throngs of people celebrating equality, and that the police wouldn't do anything except direct traffic. And all because they decided they were tired of being told that there was something wrong with them; that their love wasn't every bit as beautiful as anyone else's.

I hope everyone had a wonderful pride, and that you did something to make the world a better place during it. Because that is what this is about. Everyone has the right to love, and the government cannot stifle that. No matter how hard they try, love is going to win.

Thank you, New York. I've never been prouder to be a New Yorker or a gay man than I am this week. Governor Cuomo had better start getting ready to run for president in 2016, because I'm voting for him even if he doesn't run.

Happy Pride!

The Border Situation

I don't like to discuss the political situation here, mostly because of my own postcolonial guilt (America and Europe created a lot of the problems that are here, and I feel like maybe it's time we gave someone else a chance to try their hand). That said, I think my perspective has grown and changed a lot in the time I've been here, and recent events have highlighted it.

A lot of things are going on in this part of the world - Egypt has something which is starting to look like a Democratic government, Hamas has started behaving more like an actual government in Gaza, Jordan has essentially pacified its people (to some degree), while Syria continues to erupt in violence. Other than some isolated incidents, the West Bank has been largely quiet since I've been here.

I think there's this idea in the west that the Israeli-Palestinian question is somehow isolated - that the only two parties involved are these two groups. But the actual situation is a lot more complicated. There are Palestinian refugees in all of the surrounding nations, and those states have very complicated relationships with their refugees. What's happening in the Golan is a prime example. If you haven't heard, Syria allowed protestors to storm the border yesterday, resulting in an IDF response and the deaths of 22. In related news, Syrian forces gunned down 38 of their own citizens in the northern province of Idlib.

Israel has served as a very convenient distraction for the region's dictators over the last 60 years. That's one of the reasons things are such a mess here...it's a proxy war between about a dozen countries. But it's also part of the reason that there is hope.

Hezbollah, now part of the Lebanese government, stopped it's people from participating in the protests yesterday, to avoid inflaming tensions with Israel. Both Hamas and Fatah in the occupied territories did the same. Egypt has opened the border crossing to Gaza, but doesn't seem to have allowed the flood of unregulated travel that Israel feared. Israel has been doing its best to avoid the kind of explosive air raids that it was famous for in the 80s and 90s. With the exception of Syria (Assad just wants to distract his own people however possible), it seems as though their might be a genuine yearning for peace on all sides...it's still a long way away, but at least people are taking measured stances rather than acting rashly.

Of course, other than being security searched a few times a day, none of it really bears on day-to-day life here. People just go on with their lives...I rather suspect the same is true in the West Bank, or in Gaza, or in Lebanon...most people just want to go on with their lives.

Again, just my thoughts - I'm sure others disagree. But I find myself in the position of a western liberal gentile who's rather fond of Israel. I'm probably going to be disagreed with a lot in my life :)

Recipes from Jorge's Visit

Ok, I promised Gabe I would post recipes, and she won't leave me alone about it, so I guess I have no choice. Since I'm not terribly useful at work this morning (I doubt many people are in Israel this morning), this is a great opportunity.

First, off, Jorge's legendary Black Beans (text in italics is my witty commentary):

Jorge's Frijoles Negros

Sauté until crisp a nice piece of Salted Pork I use a block about 2 inches by one inch by one inch cut in small pieces. I haven't found salt pork here yet, so I usually use bacon. For the dinner party, we used 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, to make it kosher. But it's better with pork.

Remove crispy pieces of salted pork retain fat
Add: finely chopped
Garlic 3 or 4 cloves
Onions 1 Medium
Cook these for a couple of minutes and add
Green Bell Pepper I never use this, because it makes my guts rumbly. But this should be 1, minced or chopped very small
Cook for another couple of minutes
Small can pimentos (puree) We didn't use this here, either - I haven't seen pimentos in Israel.
Small can tomato sauce (use sparingly)

Once the above ingredients are ready Add:
The mixture from above (usually called sofrito in Cuban cooking)
1.5 pounds of black beans pick through to remove rocks.
Throw in crispy salted pork pieces
10 can low sodium beef broth use water if you don't have beef broth, but it's much better with the broth
Dash red wine
2 bay leaves
Ground cumin Several teaspoons - cumin is a key flavour
Cuban oregano (will be hard to find – I grow it, I am sure you can substitute) He's right - I have yet to find any. So I don't add this - you can use regular oregano
Ground coriander 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
Pepper About 1/2 tsp
Dash Tabasco
Pinch sugar
A squeeze of lime juice (optional) Unless you live in Israel, the land without limes. It is a sad place

Once the pressure cooker reaches pressure then cook for 50-60 minutes.

Once it is safe to open it, open it. Check for consistency. If still too watery, cook on the stove top to reduce and thicken. A trick to thicken them quickly is to remove a small amount of the black beans and mash them well or put them through a food processor and add them back in (I just mash them up in a bowl - it works like a champ).

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, then you are not Cuban (EXPURGATED). Every Cuban kitchen has one. If you don’t have one, use the traditional method of soaking the beans overnight. And without the pressure cooker, they need to cook for about 2-3 hours. But they're so very worth it. Don't ask what was expurgated. I definitely recommend the pressure cooker - it cooks unsoaked beans in about an hour.

Next up, the chicken - it was very simple, but sometimes that's best.

Chicken with Lemon Mojo

1 whole chicken, cut up (they'll do it at the store for you, but I have no idea how you say "cut up" in Hebrew. So not ready for my first knife fight)
6 lemons
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Juice the lemons, mince the garlic, and combine all of the ingredients in a bowl (except the chicken. In a large sealable container, place the chicken and cover it completely with the mojo (the Cuban word for "oh my god, this stuff is good. I want to eat it with a spoon."). Marinade for 8 hours or overnight, turning to make sure everything is covered (we only marinaded it for 8 hours, and it was incredible...it's even better overnight). Drain off some of the marinade - I left about 1/2 inch in the bottom of the pan, and roast in the oven at 200 Celsius for an hour.

And the salad!

Salad Israeli-Cubani

3 cucumbers
3 tomatoes
2 yellow nectarines
2 avocados
Handful cilantro

Dice everything except the avocado, mix it together. You want to do this a few hours before serving so that the flavors can mix. At the last minute, dice the avocado and mix it in.

And of course, the Papas Rellenas

Papas Rellenas
5 pounds potatoes
3/4 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Small can tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup olives, sliced
2 tbsp capers
Bread crumbs
Eggs
Flour
Oil for frying

In a frying pan, brown the ground beef. Remove from heat and drain the liquid. Set aside. Now heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and onion until transparent. Add the ground beef back in, the tomato sauce, and red wine. Mix well and reduce until the mixture is moist to the touch but there is not liquid remaining in the pan. Add the olives and capers and mix well. This is picadillo - it will form the filling. Set it aside to cool.

Now peel all those damn potatoes, chop them, and put them in boiling water, like you were going to make mashed potatoes. When they're soft, drain the water and mash the potatoes. Now the fun part: while the potatoes are still hot, just cool enough to touch without a trip to the hospital, take a spoonful of them in your hand and shape it into a patty. Make a small depression in the center and fill it with picadillo (it's normal to curse and move the patty from hand to hand). Now cover the picadillo with more potato, and shape the whole thing into a ball. Set it on a cookie sheet to cool and repeat until you run out of potatoes.

After the balls have cooled and hardened, prepare four shallow bowls: two with 1-2 eggs, well-beaten; 1 with flour; and 1 with bread crumbs. Take each ball, dip it in egg, then flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. This gets messy fast, so it's best to have two people have them each use one hand for each bowl. Set the completed balls on a cookie sheet and repeat.

Now you heat the oil, fry them, and serve them hot. They're pretty delicious, so you'll decide to make them again, even though they were a pain in the ass.

I can't really post a recipe for dessert, because it's just the Nestle toll-house cookie recipe, made as bar cookies. There's something about Israeli chocolate chips and the margarine that they use here that causes it to turn into something more fudgy, like a brownie.

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חג שמח

It's been a helluva weekend already, and I'm only halfway done. Which is good, because it's been a long time since a holiday (living in Israel makes you understand why the US celebrates MLK day and President's Day in those dark holidayless months of winter).

Thursday night I unsuccessfully tried to get to yoga (apparently, there was a suspicious package in the park near my studio...never forget your backpack anywhere in Israel, as it is considerably more likely to be detonated than returned). This was ok, as it gave me time to focus on my hamantaschen.

For those of you who aren't down with the Old Testament, every year at Purim, we (by we I mean Jews and those who attend Jewish potlucks) make delicious cookies called Hamantaschen (in yiddish, at least - in Hebrew we call them Haman's Ears...maybe that's what the yiddish means too, but I'll be damned if I'm going to learn yiddish). Basically, Haman was this jerk who tried to convince his king to kill all the Jews, Esther was the fetching Jewish lady who convinced him not to, and so we celebrate the holiday by dressing up in costumes and eating cookies. Basically, it's Halloween with a little bit more narrative support.

Anyway, I made an appallingly large batch of hamantaschen, using Epicurious's recipe and my own fillings. The two fillings were passionfruit-basil and apple-fennel-cinnamon. I thought the passionfruit-basil were better, but they looked awful...I think the filling needed to be thickened more.

Passionfruit-Basil Filling
6 ripe passionfruit
1/4 cup fresh basil (finely minced)
1/4 cup sugar
Flour or Cornstarch to thicken

Scoop out the insides of the passionfruit (seeds and all), and mix it with the basil and the sugar. Put it on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it boils. When it does, add the flour and thicken the mixture. I think you probably want to get it to the point where the spoon will stand in it...mine was too thin and melted through the cookies.

Apple-Fennel-Cinnamon
2 pie apples (I used Granny Smith)
1 bulb fennel (finnocio)
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup water
Flour or Cornstarch to thicken
2 tsp cinnamon

Dice the apples and the fennel, add the sugar and water, and heat it over a medium flame to boiling. Thicken it with the cornstarch. Remove from heat and add cinnamon to taste.

I made the fillings and the dough on Thursday because Friday promised to be busy. Since I'd missed yoga on Thursday, I woke up early and caught the 7:30 class...which rocked. Purim is essentially a carnival holiday, and we had a rather carnivelesque class. We ended up doing a lot of inversions (including an assisted headstand to wheel, which is kind of terrifying and awesome at the same time). After that, I met up with some friends to go hiking in the Hanita National Forest. It was a beautiful day for a hike, and I got some great pictures. The highlight of the day, though, was in the playground. They had a giant wooden wheel which spun...while you ran inside of it. If this doesn't sound like the best thing ever to you, I don't know what's wrong with you.

Anyway, we ended up hiking somewhere between 10-15 k, so it was a pretty substantial day. After that, I went home to bake the cookies for the night's potluck. The potluck was also a lot of fun, and I got to play shabbos goy when the power went out...the host keeps the sabbath, so he was unable to light candles (or to impose on anyone else to light a candle) - but if you can find a goy who's willing to light candles...without being asked...it's ok. It's very strange when someone is trying not to ask you to do something.

Anyway, we survived the brief outage, and I headed home (exhausted) soon after. This morning, I woke up and painted my room. You see, when I moved into this place, my room was this hideous yellow color. There are many things I can abide, but I cannot abide yellow. So after a few hours of diligent application, it's now a lovely turquoise. I'm also a lovely turquoise, but one must make sacrifices.

I was planning on being busy painting all day and tomorrow, but apparently it didn't take as long as I'd planned. Maybe I'll go to the beach this afternoon. It's a hard life, kids.

Born This Way

Remember back in the good old days, when people used to listen to coded messages in Beatles songs? Well, I was showing my BFF the Born This Way video, and we were talking about the whole Madonna controversy.

So if you haven't watched the video yet, watch it now. I mean, honestly, if anyone should be pissed off about expropriation, it's David Lynch. But I digress.

So apparently Madonna is cool with all this stuff, which got us wondering to why - my BFF, who can actually do the whole music thing, confirmed that it's "Express Yourself".

So why would madonna be cool with it? And that's when we realized...Gaga is a clone. The first in an army of clones. And they're taking over the world, in some kind of epic alien space battle. That's why Madonna doesn't care! Because she is Gaga - and Gaga is she. It's all there in the song.

I, for one, welcome our polysexual androgynous choreographed overladies. The Earth is going to be so much cooler once the army of Gagas takes over. It'll totally be like North Korea, but with better choreography.

More hiking!

So I did another section of the Israel Trail today - this one from Netanya to Herzliyah. Now, for those of you not familiar with Israeli geography, this one was more of a cakewalk...the trail goes along the beach almost the entire way. The hiking isn't always easy (there are some rocky sections), but most of it is flat - so I managed to do about 20 km in 4.5 hours.

The blazing wasn't as good on this section of the trail - basically you had to know to follow it along the beach...it was really only blazed on the bits where it left the beach. But there wasn't really anywhere else to go (except straight up 10-20 m cliffs), so that wasn't a huge problem. Plus I read the entire section on this bit of the trail, and translated all the words I didn't know - so good for my legs, and good for my Hebrew.

Pictures are available, as always, on facebook.

Molé Israelit

Ok, fox_c asked for it, and I responded with a flip (though technically correct) answer. So instead, here is a slightly less flip recipe:

Molé Israelit

1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tsp cumin
3 Tbsp tahini
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tsp salt
1 Tbsp soup powder (bouillon)
1 onion (minced)
10-15 dried thai chiles (minced)
1/2 bar dark chocolate
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 chicken cutlets
Vegetables
Rice

I used chard and tomatoes, but just because that was what was in the refrigerator. I also served it with an avocado, because - well, christ, why the hell not? I mean, put enough avocado on it, and I'll eat anything. Anyway, recipe.

In a large pan, sauté the onion and chiles in the olive oil. You can also roast any whole spices in the same pan. After everything is good and cooked, put it in a bowl and mix in everything else (except the chocolate, chicken, vegetables, and rice). If you have a food processor, now would be an appropriate time to use it. You'll also want to add a bit of water, until it has a thickness approximating facial mud. I added about a quarter cup.

Sauté the chicken cutlets in olive oil - I seasoned them with a little salt and pepper, but it wasn't super necessary. Once they're cooked through, remove them from the pan, leaving the juices and the olive oil. Into this, drop your giant molé patty and cook, STIRRING CONSTANTLY, over low heat. Stop stirring it, and I guarantee you it'll stick to the pan in about 15 seconds. After you've got it good and heated through (it'll start to thin some as the tahini releases oil), add the chocolate. Continue stirring until the chocolate has melted and the whole thing has turned a glorious brick red. Serve the chicken and rice with the molé on top. Put it on the vegetables too - hell, I'd rub it all over myself if it weren't for the burning. Luckily, avocado doesn't burn when you rub it all over yourself. I've heard.

All amounts in this recipe are approximate, and you should just do what feels right. If what you do matches pretty well with what I did, I assure you it will be delightful.

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Red Rice Salad in Israel

So I have a potluck to go to tomorrow, and unlike past potlucks, I actually get to bring a dish to this one (unfortunate alphabetical allocation relegated me to providing beverages in the past), and so I'm making red rice salad.

Now the recipe for red rice salad wasn't even easy to pull off in NYC, and it's even trickier here. Cooking in Israel always makes me feel like a wizard (most things make me feel like a wizard, but that's a different issue), because I spend a whole today gathering ingredients before I can make it. I ended up buying the ingredients at 6 different shops - two supermarkets, the produce store, a bulk food shop, the east Asian market, and a produce stall in the shuq.

And it's totally going to be worth it. It's a good thing I already know how much I love this recipe, or I can't imagine putting this much effort into it.

Of course, I also got a good walk on a beautiful February day. It's 21 degrees today, and it's supposed to be 25 tomorrow. I'm thinking about going to the beach. Life is good.