Tag: Jewish

What I Wanna Make: Passover 2016

Passover 2016 | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerPassover 2016 | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

That’s right y’all. It’s about to be Passover. Bring on the matzo ball soup, the flourless desserts, and the brisket! I know, I know, this charoset is not the most photogenic food. And I realized while making it that to most people, it may not even taste that great. But man, does this stuff bring me back to my childhood.

I only buy Maneschewitz wine once a year because, well, it’s awful. But then again, so is most matzo (cardboard anyone?) and we all know that gefilte fish is possibly the least loved dish on the Passover table. But I love it all. And possibly my favorite thing at Passover, and the thing that I somehow made even when I couldn’t go home for the holiday, is charoset: at its simplest, a paste of chopped apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon. This recipe is one that I found and tinkered with a few years ago, and I like it slathered on a matzo cracker and topped with a heavy dollop of horseradish.

Here’s what else I want to make this year:

Date and Apple Charoset


1 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, and cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups pitted dates (I like Medjool), about 15
1/3 cup sweet wine (Manischewitz is the only authentic way to go)
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Horseradish and matzo for serving


In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pecans and walnuts a few times until you’ve got a coarse meal. Add the apples, pulse a few more times, then add the dates, wine, honey, and cinnamon. Blend until mostly smooth. Add salt and lemon to taste. Chill to serve.

Traveling & Eating in Israel

Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerTraveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Well, I think I’m nearly over my jet lag. Exactly one week ago, I returned from a ten day trip to Israel. A FREE ten day trip to Israel. You see, if you’re Jewish, you’re eligible to go on a paid trip to the motherland – it’s your birthright. These trips started 15 years ago, and so far they’ve taken 500,000 people from 64 countries. Pretty impressive, no? But you have to go between the ages of 18-27, so this summer was pretty much my last chance to go. When I found a culinary themed trip put on by Israel Experts, I knew it’d be the perfect fit.

So let’s get some questions out of the way. Was it a Zionist, pro-Israel trip? Yes. It was led by three (smart, hilarious, kind) Israelis, who clearly have a lot of love and passion for their country. Every trip also does something called a Mifgash, or “encounter” in Hebrew, where they are joined for half of the trip by Israelis their own age. We were joined by 5 soldiers and 2 students. However, we also learned that just because these people love their country doesn’t mean they don’t disagree with decisions made by the government, and feel torn by the conflict in the area. And while we spent most of our time talking about Jewish life in Israel, we also talked a lot about the conflict, visited an Israeli Arab village, and learned about the wars and peace treaties that are very much a part of Israeli history.

Now let’s get on to the part you came here for: the food! Because it was a culinary trip, the focus was equally on history, religion, and food. While we didn’t get to do as much cooking as planned (we were originally supposed to cook for 300 soldiers on an active army base, but it being an active army base, plans change), we definitely learned a lot about the cuisine. Because the country is so young, their food is mostly a melting pot of the cultures that make it up.

Everyone we came into contact with, and even some who simply overheard us talking on the streets of various cities, had an opinion on where to get the best hummus in Israel. We tried tons of it – chunkier, smooth, topped with chickpeas and olive oil, topped with ground meat, topped with mushrooms – and talked about the different styles and varieties. My favorite was at a spot in Jerusalem called Rachmo, just near the Machne Yehuda market. It was smooth and creamy and had the perfect amounts of lemon and tahini, and then it was topped with seasoned ground meat (I’ll guess it was lamb) and all the fat that came with it. We dunked and swirled pieces of pita through this hummus, and I was sad when it was over.

Speaking of pita, I’ve never had such fresh pita in my life. My favorite variation on pita was in Jisr az-Zarqa, an Israeli Arab village on the coast. The village was only opened for tourism in the last year I believe, and some folks recently opened a guesthouse there. They also started an organization where they teach English to high school students. Our tour through the town was led by one of these kids, Mahmood, and he was great. After the tour, we went back to one of the organizer’s house, where we rolled out pita that had already been portioned by his wife. We then topped it with a mixture of za’atar and olive oil, and watched as she popped it into an incredibly hot oven. It came out light and fluffy and still perfectly dense, and the seasoning was perfect, especially when dipped in the labneh and hummus that accompanied the meal.

Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerTraveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler Traveling and Eating in Israel | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Other incredible delicious things that happened: A Druze cooking class, where we learned to make Sambusak (kind of like empanadas), stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, and tabbouleh. And where I first tried schug (or zhoug), which is a spicy condiment! Per the Israeli tradition, by the end of the meal our table was packed with plates.

Burika! This most amazing version of a breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had is kind of hard to describe, but I’m going to try. Wandering through the market in Tel Aviv with my friends was totally worth it, especially when you started to hear the beacon of the cook yelling “Burika! Burika! Burika!” This guy took a very thin piece of pastry dough, kind of like a thin crepe, smeared a spoonful of herbed mashed potato on it, and dropped half into a vat of boiling oil while holding the other half out of the oil, tossed in an egg, and closed it. He let it fry, getting crispy and letting the egg cook before removing it, crunching it up into a pita pocket, topping it with hot sauce (presumably harissa, but I’m not sure), fresh ripe tomatoes, onions, and cabbage, and serving it in a little parchment paper pouch (see photo near the top of the post).

I also discovered Malabi, and am working on getting a recipe that I can share with y’all. There are recipes on the internet, yes, but one of the trip guides said she had a good one, so I’m holding out. Malabi is a custard, a la panna cotta, topped with rose syrup, shredded coconut, and nuts (usually pistachio or peanuts). Some members of my group didn’t like this stuff, but my buddy Russell and I were happy not to have to share with too many others.

Frikaseh: an incredible sandwich I ate in Zfat, recommended by our guide Avigail. Think a middle eastern bahn mi: a fried baguette, stuffed with tuna fish, hard boiled egg, boiled potatoes, preserved lemon, fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Was it funky? Yes. Was each bite different from the one before it? Yes. Was it crunchy and refreshing on a hot day? Oh lord, yes.

A large group of us splurged on our night out in Jerusalem and went to a restaurant called Mona. Because we were a big group, we ended up doing a communal style tasting menu. We drank only Israeli wine (because when in Rome, right?), and ate incredible dishes like squid in curry, beef tartare, spare ribs, and salmon. Plus some exquisite desserts, the details of which I cannot quite remember. Thanks Israeli wine!

Speaking of Israeli wine, we visited two wineries while there (and toured one of them as well), and tasted some delicious wine. The favorite was definitely Barkan Winery. I know grape vines thrive in dry land like Israel, but it will always amaze me to drive through a desert and see as much agriculture as we did – grapes, olives, bananas, citrus, etc. It was really incredible.

Last but certainly not least, I want to talk about the halva. Halva has been a relatively recent discovery for me. I should say, rather, that I knew it existed, but didn’t realize how passionately I felt about it. It turned out that even the pre-packaged industrial halva is good in Israel. But the best stuff looked like a giant cake, with slices of the nutty, creamy, crumbly sweet missing. They would cut you off a giant slab, wrap it in parchment paper, and send you on your merry way. I found it difficult not to each huge amounts of this at once, and my friends are lucky that the two varieties I bought as gifts made it back to Portland safely. Now, to find fresh halva like this here in the northwest.

Overall it was a truly incredible trip. If you’ve ever thought about traveling to Israel, do it. I can’t wait to go back. Be adventurous in your eating. The good stories often hide in a place’s cuisine and recipes.

Fig and Olive Oil Challah

Fig Challah // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fig Challah // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Fig Challah // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

On Rosh Hashanah, I did something really un-Jewish and un-Kosher by making shrimp for dinner. But I kind of half made up for it by making fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. And that makes things kind of ok, right? (Let’s not even talk about the fact that there was no fasting or breaking of fast on Yom Kippur as I had band practice and work, both of which require much sustenance. Don’t tell my Bubbe.)

This challah has been on my “to make” list for so long. I was waiting for figs to be in season (only to realize after I went to the store and bought fresh figs that the recipe calls for dried figs… oops… way to follow your own rules, Annie) AND I’d never made challah before. TERRIBLE JEW, I know. But you know, bread is mildly scary to me, and braided bread that’s supposed to look all shiny and pretty? That much scarier. But a holiday is a good enough reason to man up and do anything, so I went for it. And man oh man, it was good. This recipe is pretty much straight from Smitten Kitchen.

Fig and Olive Oil Challah



2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil, plus some for the bowl
2 eggs
2 tsp flaky sea salt (such as Maldon, which you really should have around because you should be putting it on everything because it is awesome)
4 cups all-purpose flour

Fig Filling

1 cup dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/8 tsp orange zest (I eyeballed this, because you know, who has an 1/8 tsp measure)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper (you’ll only need a few grinds)

Egg Wash

1 egg
flaky sea salt



In a small bowl, combine the yeast and 1 tsp of honey with 2/3 cup of warm water. Stir it up, and let it sit for a few minutes until it gets foamy. In the bowl of your mixer with the paddle attachment (or you know, with a wooden spoon and a bowl if that’s your jam), combine the yeast mixture with the rest of the honey, the olive oil, and the eggs. Then add the flour and salt, and mix it until the dough starts to come together. Once it comes together, switch to the dough hook and let it run on low for 5-8 minutes. Put the dough on the counter for a moment while you coat the bowl in olive oil, put the dough back in the bowl, and cover with saran wrap for an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.

Fig Filling

While the dough is rising, it’s fig paste time. Put the figs, zest, water, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook this fig mixture until the pieces of fig are soft, having absorbed the water and juice, stirring occasionally (should take about 10 minutes). Turn off the heat, and allow to cool for a while before putting it in a food processor and processing until it resembles a paste, like a relatively smooth jam. Set it aside to cool the rest of the way.

Once your dough has roughly doubled, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide it in half. Roll the first half out into “an imperfect rectangle,” spread half of the fig filling over the dough, and roll it up into a long log, trapping the filling within. You’ll want to be careful when you roll out your dough that it still has some thickness to it, as I had a few tears in mine which made everything a little tricky for me. Roll out/stretch the log as long as you can without breaking or tearing it, and then divide it in half. Repeat this whole process with the second half of the dough. You should have four fig-filled ropes of dough.

Next comes the weaving, which I’m not even going to try to explain. Instead, you should head to over to Smitten Kitchen to look at the pictures and read her instructions. I never could have woven it without those pictures. Oy. Once woven up into a beautiful mound of deliciousness, transfer the dough to a baking sheet prepped with parchment paper (or silpat, I suppose).

Egg Wash

In a small bowl, beat the egg for the wash, and brush it over the challah. Let it rise for another hour, but start heating your oven to 375 degrees about halfway into the rise. Before putting it in the oven, brush the challah again with the egg wash, and bake it in the middle of your oven for 35-40 minutes. If it starts to get dark (like mine did), you can cover it with foil for the rest of the bake (like I didn’t). Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving. Tear off pieces with loved ones, and add a dab of butter and jam, if you like. Enjoy.

Restaurant Review: Stopsky’s Deli

This past weekend I was in Bellevue (across the lake from Seattle) visiting my mom. For many years, Seattle has been lacking in delicious Jewish food. I know this because 1) I grew up in Seattle and we would always go try the new deli only to be disappointed and 2) I am a Jewish food connoisseur because I grew up helping my mother and grandmothers prepare food for Passover, Channukah, and Break Fast on Yom Kippur. There is nothing a Jew loves more than their food. But this past weekend, my mom suggested we go to Stopsky’s Delicatessen (Stopsky’s Deli), a new(ish) deli on Mercer Island. So we went.

Stopsky's Deli
Waiting to be seated. My mom might kill me for posting this, but hey, they all look so happy!

First, let me say, the wait on a Sunday morning was long. We waited about 45 minutes, and by the time we sat down I was crazy hungry (it didn’t help that I had gone to the gym to run about an hour and a half before we even left for breakfast). But I would say it was worth it. The menu has some Jewish classics and some Jew-infused breakfast standards. I settled on the Latkes Benedict, while my sister got the corned beef hash, mom got the cured fish plate, and David got a good old egg plate with latkes and “steak-on” (their kosher version of bacon).

Sadly, when the food arrived, we realized the waiter had mis-heard my order and brought me a pastrami sandwich. It was ok though because my actual order came quickly after they discovered their mistake and they even brought me an apology cookie (which made a perfect snack on the drive home to Portland). I was also ok with my food taking a little longer because by the time I got it I was so hungry that I was able to eat the whole thing. And I would have been sad if I hadn’t been able to because it was SO GOOD. Delicious lemony hollandaise sauce, really nice latkes (which are hard to do), and perfect thinly sliced pastrami. Yum.

Stopsky's Deli
Not my food. But the dish on the right is what my sister got.

So the food was great, the service was pretty good (they were very apologetic about bringing me the wrong food), and the space was very cool too. Lots of big windows to let in light, and the main wall in the dining area was covered in black and white pictures of Jews. Pretty great. If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend it!