Home Sweet Home & Tomato Salad with Basil Vin

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A little story about traveling the world + a recipe for a refreshing Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette.

Hi Hello! Wow, it has been a while, hasn’t it?! I took a break from blogging because I’ve been very busy this year! After leaving Israel I came home for a week to visit with family and friends before packing up again and traveling across some of Europe, an adventure that changed how I view life. Now I’m home and employed and super happy to be back in my kitchen. While I was traveling I experienced new foods and cultures and a crazy new way of life, and I’m excited to share a little bit about that chapter with you.

Tsiporah Blog Travels Europe

On the Road Again

I initially went to Europe as an au pair. I arrived in Rome on an unseasonably warm and sunny day for February in Italy. 1/4 of my host family met me at the airport; a man named Mario. I was full of excitement and nerves, but I was mainly really happy to finally be in Italy. I had dreamt of visiting Italy my whole life; my parents and I lived there when I was a baby so I grew up hearing stories of small towns and gelato and pizza.

I was instantly mesmerized by the land; Italy is unlike any place I’ve ever been. The endless green and stark white of snow capped mountains with a wildly blue sky will forever be stamped into my memories.

Tsiporah Blog in Italy

A Scenic View in Italy

The events that followed both broke me and strengthened me, and they led to my greatest adventure so far: two months of solo travel through Europe. The au pair job didn’t work out. I’d love to say that the host family and I simply weren’t a match, but it was more than that. It’s quite a long story but more important is what followed, a magically transformative and healing time in my life.

With an enormous amount of support and love from friends and family near and far, I held my head high, booked a train ticket and packed my bags. In a span of two months I traveled through 20 cities in 8 different countries, an opportunity that may never have come my way had things worked out with the au pair family.

A lot of people along my path made me feel better about my circumstances. One man in Cinque Terre said it best; he was traveling with a companion from home who went to the same university as my sister, which sparked a two-hour long afternoon conversation overlooking the ocean, enjoying locally made white wine. He said to me “sometimes bad things happen in order to lead us to the good things in life,” and he was right.

Tsiporah Blog Travels to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre: I came here to heal

I met dozens of people along the way who helped me and taught me, I saw sights and sat on beaches and experienced new cultures and different people. I struggled and grew and laughed and cried. And I experienced some of the best food of my life.

I’m happy to be back in the kitchen and I’m really looking forward to using some of my food knowledge and inspirations that came from my time abroad. I’ve gained a new appreciation of my home and its local offerings, though I’ll always dream of the colorful outdoor markets across Europe and in Israel. Even though summer temperatures in Phoenix average 100+, our farmers markets are still lively in the early morning, and they’re a welcome reminder of the markets from my travels. Eating abroad made me really respect eating locally, which I intend to carry on into my new life at home.

Mercato Centrale - Florence, Italy

Mercato Centrale – Florence, Italy

A good family friend gave me these tomatoes. They are gorgeous little gems bursting with sweetness and they were locally grown here in Arizona. All tomatoes should taste like this: so full of flavor and goodness, like summer dancing along your taste buds. I knew instantly what I wanted to make with them; a fresh and light tomato salad that I can’t get enough of, dressed with a simple basil vinaigrette that’s easy to whip up in a blender. I used three types of basil in my recipe so that I didn’t pick too many from any one plant in my garden, but you can use any type/combination of basil that you like.

Fresh Summer Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Garden Fresh Basil + a recipe for Tomato Salad with Basil Vin | via Tsiporah Blog

Ingredients

1/2 lb local heirloom tomatoes
1 large handful of fresh basil
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Scant 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped
1 tsp salt, or to taste
Fresh pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut your beautiful heirloom tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to your blender and blend on high until the basil pieces are as small as they’ll get (or until they’re completely blended into the dressing, my blender is just not that cool). Taste the basil vinaigrette for salt and pepper, and adjust to your preferences if you think it needs more/less acidity.

Lightly toss the tomatoes with the dressing. Let the salad sit for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!

This dressing keeps in the refrigerator for a week and is also great as a salad dressing. I imagine it would be delicious as a chicken marinade as well.

Tomato Salad + Basil Vin | via Tsiporah Blog

Happy summer everyone, I’m so happy to be back in the blogging world. If you want to read more about my travels and see some photos I took, head on over to my travel blog here: Nicoblossom Travels. If you want to connect with me in other ways, check out the links below…

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An Afternoon at Irit’s

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I’m lost in Tel Aviv, again. I picked a random street to walk down in the general direction of my destination, and I’m lost, but it’s okay. Wandering just on the outskirts of Shuk HaCarmel, I peer into each shop, my eyes fruitlessly searching for a notebook. Just something small to jot down my thoughts and dreams. I am so intent on my quest to discover new shops and find my perfect notebook that I fail to recognize the street that I’m walking down, that I’ve walked down a few times before. If it wasn’t for the brilliant blue doors and emerald green awning which mark the entrance to her little restaurant, I might have passed Irit’s, but it is the solo outdoor table that catches my eye. An elderly gentleman is seated there, enjoying a tall glass of orange juice. I suddenly snap back to reality as I realize where I am.

Irit's: Tel Aviv restaurant review

I feel a small smile creep across my face as I step into her place. Although Irit likes to keep the radio on, a mishmash of American 90’s, Top 40 and Israeli songs, the real music of Irit’s is the sound of her voice calling over the others. She once told me her age, swiftly followed by the jubilant exclamation that her soul is young! And it is; you can hear it in her voice and see it in the twinkle in her eyes and her glowing skin.

Irit is middle-aged, about the same age as my own Mother, though her cheerful, raspy voice and caring nature leads me to feel as though she is everyone’s bubby.

My intent is to say hello and continue on my way, but soon I am sitting at one of her mismatched tables in a mismatched chair sipping freshly squeezed orange juice prepared by one of her friends, Yosi. Although she is married, I imagine that Irit has many admirers, and Yosi may even be one of them. Irit once told me that she had to turn down many marriage proposals in just one day, and I believe her.

Irit's unique cafe in Tel Aviv

I share the news with Yosi and Irit, although it isn’t really news; I am leaving Tel Aviv in about 10 days, and Israel not long after that. They erupt, as all Israelis do when they hear that the Americayi is leaving.

ARIZONA! boasts Yosi, You are SLEEPING in Arizona! The excitement is here! 

I try to tell him that Arizona can be exciting, but he presses on.

Sometimes (Arizona can be exciting), but here, the excitement is every day!

It’s true, there’s hardly a dull moment here.

Trinkets galore in Irit's tiny restaurant

Fire-Roasted Eggplant with Lemon and Tahini // Tsiporah Blog

I join Irit in her small kitchen and lean over the stove to find out how exactly she makes her fabulous eggplant. Is it low heat? Magic?
Low heat, she tells me, the same low heat used to make lachoch, a spongy and porous flatbread that she makes daily.
Soon I am greeted with a plate of Irit’s eggplant, my favorite dish of hers, along with a fresh pita and the last of the tahini. I am ready to adopt her as my 3rd grandmother.

When I am done, all that remains are 5 little lemon seeds, evidence of the whimsical, erratic method of Irit’s cooking.

Irit's cooking

Irit’s small restaurant is lit by bright daylight pouring in through the two open front doors. The sunlight spills into her small restaurant, and into the hearts of her loyal patrons. Irit is exuberant, always. Everything she prepares is the best I have ever had; the best shakshouka, the best eggplant, the best orange juice. Love is the main ingredient in her recipes, and you can taste it.

Irit’s Smokey Eggplant with Lemon and Tahini

Irit's Smokey Eggplant with Lemon and Tahini // Tsiporah Blog (recipes from Israel)

Ingredients

Love
1 Eggplant
Sea salt – a sprinkle, plus more to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove of garlic, finely grated
Freshly prepared tahini
Parsley, for garnish

Tools + Method

To achieve the flavor of this dish you need to have a flame. Irit uses a gas stove on low heat along with a metal basket to separate the eggplant from the actual stovetop. You can use a cooking grate on top of a gas flame.

Directions

Wash and dry the eggplant. Light your gas stove and place a metal grill rack on top of the flame. Put the flame on the lowest setting and place the eggplant on top of the grill rack. Turn the eggplant occasionally until the outside of the eggplant is very charred and crispy and the inside is very soft.

Smoked Eggplant

Smokey roasted eggplant

Meanwhile, grate 1 garlic clove and juice half of a lemon and set aside.

Once the eggplant is done, transfer it to a plate. Using a small knife, carefully remove the blackened skin from the eggplant. You don’t have to get every single tiny piece of the charred skin; leaving very small bits and pieces enhances the flavor.

smoked eggplant

peeled eggplant

Massage the eggplant with a generous pinch of salt and grated garlic. Then top with lemon juice and a spoonfull or two of tahini and fresh parsley leaves. Serve alone or alongside pita bread to soak up all of the smokey, fragrant juices.

eggplant with garlic and lemon

eggplant massaged with salt, lemon juice and garlic

Smokey Eggplant with Tahini // Tsiporah BlogIf you have leftovers, mash everything up (or if you’re fancy, put it in a Cuisinart) to make a smokey eggplant dip or spread for toast/pizza/spooning into your mouth…

Enjoy!

Discover Israel’s Tasty Side

I first discovered Irit’s little cafe through my work with Delicious Israel. Inbal, the owner of Delicious Israel (and my boss here in Tel Aviv), took me to Irit’s for the first time on a culinary tour during my very first week as her intern. I have since returned to Irit’s many times, and I have Inbal to thank for that. If you are visiting Israel, check out Inbal’s Culinary Tours to get the tastiest view of the country and to discover more hidden gems like this one!
Delicious Israel | PH: +972 525 699 499 | info@deliciousisrael.com

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Russian Pelmeni

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The past few days have been rainy and cold, which left me longing for warm, hearty homemade meals. I’m writing this bundled up in my blankets with a very happy belly, a cup of tea and gratitude for the heater which we finally figured out how to use. As you may have read in my last post, I’m currently living abroad. I share a tiny apartment with my wonderful roommate Noam in the heart of Tel Aviv. It has been hard to adapt to minimalistic living, and please forgive the poor lighting in my photos. I feel confident enough to say that I have mastered the art of toaster oven cooking! I’ve used our little toaster to make homemade pizza, roasted chicken, baked meatballs as well as mini pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. How to Make Russian Pelmeni Our program is mainly composed of other Americans, but I have also made some friends from all around the world. Our Friendsgivukkah (Thanksgiving) table was filled with dishes from America and abroad. We had American sweet potato casserole (without marshmallows), latkes instead of traditional mashed potatoes, traditional roasted turkey and gravy, avocado salad, and Russian Pelmeni. We were all so enchanted by the Pelmeni, which was prepared by my friend Roman and his girlfriend, that the last few were lovingly fought over. For dessert we had mini pumpkin and pecan pies with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries – strawberries are a winter fruit here in Israel!

After dinner (or maybe in the middle of indulging in my 2nd helping of Pelmeni), I asked Roman if he would teach me how to make them. He said he would if I taught him how to make pies in exchange, which of course I agreed to!

Pelmeni are small round dumplings that resemble Italian tortellini. They are typically filled with meat, and their exact history is questionable. They are thought to have been brought to Siberia by the Chinese, and then evolved and spread throughout the region. Depending on where you are eating Pelmeni, the recipe and accompanied sauce can vary from sour cream or butter to soy sauce. Handmade Pelmeni Recipe // Tsiporah Blog Pelmeni is not a quick weeknight meal. It involves (easy) handmade dough, but the most time consuming step lies in gently folding each pelmeni by hand. It took us about a half an hour to 45 minutes to fold enough pelmeni to serve 5 of us, and it was well worth it. The resulting delicate and delicious dumplings were warm and so satisfying on a cold winter’s night. We served ours with a dollop or two of sour cream and a sprinkle of pepper, but we also discovered that it pairs well with a sweet soy BBQ sauce. This shouldn’t be surprising, given Pelmeni’s origins. We had a fun little dinner party with holiday music in the background, the pitter-patter of rain on the windows, and small glasses of Becherovka to accompany our Pelmeni feast. Here is the method and recipe that we used, which I’ll refine once I make it again on my own. This is because we didn’t make the dough with exact measurements.

Homemade Pelmeni

Ingredients

1/2 kilo of ground beef
1/2 kilo of ground turkey, chicken or pork (Pork is traditionally used)
1 onion, chopped very small
3 tsp salt
3 tsp pepper
4+ cups flour
4 eggs
Water and extra flour (you will need at least 1 cup extra flour plus flour to roll out the dough)
2 sprigs rosemary
Sour cream, to serve

Directions

Combine meats in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the onion and add it to the meat with the salt and pepper, stir to combine. Set the meat aside and start on the dough.

For the dough: We made the dough in 2 batches which was easier than making a giant batch, and the dough stayed very fresh and soft.
In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs and whisk together with a fork until it forms a shaggy mess of dough. Then slowly add in enough water, mixing the whole time, to form a wet and sticky dough. From there sprinkle in flour 2-3 tbsp at a time, mixing all the while, until you have a soft ball of dough that is not sticky. Split the dough in to three sections (they don’t have to be even).

Flour your work surface and roll out one section of dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a standard shot glass, cut out rounds of dough (about 1.5 inches across). Flatten the dough a bit in your hand to make it thinner and larger, and then place about 1 tsp of meat in the center of the disc of dough. Fold the circle of dough in half to make a half-circle shaped dumpling. Then, take the two corners and press them together to form the traditional round pelmeni.

Set the prepared pelmenis on a plate. As you fill up the plates, place them in the freezer and grab a new plate. This recipe made about 4 dinner plates of pelmeni. When you run out of your first batch of dough, make the 2nd half and continue until all of the meat is gone.

Making Pelmeni Family Dinner // Tsiporah Blog

A team effort

Once all of your pelmeni are prepared, fill a large pot with water as if you were going to boil pasta. Add the rosemary sprigs and about 1 tbsp of salt to the water and bring it to a boil. Add 1/2 of the pelmeni and cover. Bring to a soft boil until the dough is cooked through. Fish the cooked pelmeni out of the water with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. Using the same water, repeat with the other half of the prepared pelmeni.

Learn how to make Pelmeni via Tsiporah Blog

Roman, our Pelmeni teacher

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh pepper. Enjoy! Russian Pelmeni served with Sour Cream // Tsiporah Blog

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10 Homemade Holiday Gifts

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My favorite kind of gifts to give are always homemade – they make the most wonderful and memorable presents. This Homemade Holiday Gift Guide contains some of my favorite recipes just for this purpose.

I think homemade holiday gifts are even more thoughtful than a store bought gift, especially when they come from your kitchen! I love knowing that someone created a special treat just for me. These are great presents to give to loved ones, friends, and even teachers, neighbors and coworkers. They are perfect for the person who seems to have everything. It would be easy to pick 2 or 3, make a big batch, and then wrap them up to spread some holiday cheer!

10 Homemade Holiday Gifts // Tsiporah Blog

Last year I threw a holiday party and I pulled out all of the stops: white elephant gift exchange, photo booth, ugly sweaters and a cookie exchange! It was amazing, and the cookie exchange was a great way to experience the special holiday treats that my friends enjoy. I can’t create the same winter wonderland in my tiny apartment, but I can enjoy a little piece of it by creating some yummy gifts for my friends and family – and so can you! Put down those candy canes and checkout these 10 gift ideas:

1. Peppermint Hot Chocolate Spoons

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Spoons - Holiday Gift Idea // Tsiporah Blog

Peppermint hot chocolate spoons are a cute and easy gift to give (and enjoy for yourself!). I’ve made these multiple years in a row. The first year I made them for my best friend, and after that she has requested them each year, so I make enough to give to all of my close friends. They’re fun to give to everyone on your list because they’re just so easy! I like to include peppermint marshmallows too.

2. Apple Butter

Apple butter goes well with so many foods, from your morning toast to a sweet and tangy marinade. Your gift recipients will be impressed – they’ll have no idea that apple butter so easy to make! It’s easy to pack in a glass jar with a pretty label .

3. A Box of Homemade Cookies

hanukkah cookies for the holidays

Cookies are one of the greatest and most quintessential holiday gifts. Let me tell you three reasons why I love cookies as a gift: First, I often come home and I want a quick, sweet bite, and cookies are just right for this craving. Second, a box of cookies is nice to have around during the holidays to share with guests who come by. Third, it’s fun to try new cookies that you haven’t had before. To spice up your cookie box, check out these recipes from my family to yours:

Holiday Butter Cookies
Lavender Cookies with Lemon Glaze
No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Vanilla Bean Cookies

4. Homemade Chocolates

These handmade Peanut Butter Chocolates are the perfect gift for your chocoholic loved ones! Plus, the fact that they are handmade means that you can customize them however you like to suit your friends’ and family’s tastes.

5. Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar

Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar - Holiday Gift Idea by the Kitchn

by the Kitchn

I’ve wanted to make this Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar for 2 years now, and somehow I still haven’t. I have had chocolate balsamic before and I think it would make a beautiful gift. It’s great paired with strawberries, or even… dare I say… vanilla ice cream! Yes, my friends. Yes.

6. Apple Cider Caramels

Deb from Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite bloggers, and her Apple Cider Caramels look to die for. I haven’t made this specific caramel recipe before but they’re so perfect for the season that I had to include them!

7. Peppermint Crunch Truffles

These Peppermint Crunch Truffles are a fun play on traditional peppermint bark. Plus, these truffles look super fancy and classy, yet they only have 3 ingredients and they are so easy to make!

8. Holiday Spice Pecans

Sweet spiced pecans are one of the best scents ever. You know what I’m talking about, and so does Melanie at A Beautiful Bite. She says, “You know when you go into the mall and smell that wonderful scent that can only mean that there’s a nut vendor somewhere close by? That heady cinnamon sugar smell..?” THAT is what your kitchen will smell like. Yum!

9. Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee

Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee - Holiday Gift Idea by Sunset

by Sunset Magazine

If you’ve read my blog long enough you’ll know that I love Sunset recipes. Toffee is always welcome in my home, it is one of my favorite desserts! This Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee really could not be better. Seriously. Make this and give it to someone. Or make it and mail some to me!

10. Flatbread Crackers with Thyme & Honey

Lastly, a savory recipe, for your friends and family who don’t like sweets (I know, whaaaat, but these people exist). Smitten Kitchen has created a wonderful flatbread recipe that would be just amazing in a gift basket with some fresh sprigs of thyme, a wedge of good cheese and a jar of local honey to enjoy along with it. This would also make a great holiday party appetizer!

If you are looking for clever ways to wrap up all of these goodies, check out my Gift Giving & Holidays Pinterest board! I also pin holiday inspirations, gift ideas and more. Let’s be friends!
What is your go-to homemade holiday treat? Tell me in a comment!

*A Note on Sharing: If you are going to pin the recipe for one of these yummy gifts, please do so from the original source!

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