Sunday, March 20, 2011

Haman´s Something

My dad and my grandfather called me on skype today, "We're watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mommy and Grandma are in the kitchen making hamantaschen. I love getting calls like that. Today is Purim, and a couple of days ago I made hamantaschen, too, which I've been making with my mother since I was probably 2 or 3. It makes me feel connected to my family even though I know I'm a good 8 countries away. I gave the hamantaschen out this week to friends, explaining that they are "Jewish cookies" and that we make them for a holiday where someone tried to persecute the Jews and didn't succeed (as opposed to Hannukah and Passover...) 

My dad didn't call to tell me about hamantaschen, though; he called because he's worrying, as he is wont to do, about me having insurance coverage next month when I'll be in the states (some parents worry about their kids doing drugs or not having a job; my dad just worries that I have health coverage). We've been looking into plans, and all I can say is I've been out of the country too long; I can't get over how expensive health care in the states is. In Argentina health care was free; you show up at the hospital (granted, very early in the morning), and you get an appointment that same day to see any specialist you like. Here in Colombia, I get health insurance through Felipe as his "partner", who has access to it as a citizen. Between the two of us we pay 33 dollars a month, which mainly covers catastrophic events. But doctor's and dentist's appointments cost a dollar, and treatments like silver fillings are free (a resin filling costs 12 dollars).  I haven't been to a doctor yet, but the dentists here seem to be more thorough than American ones (Colombians take really good care of their teeth) so I find it hard to buy the "well you must be getting what you pay for" argument that Americans love to use to justify our nutso health system. In other news, I hear that Ann Coulter doesn't think radiation is a bad I'm mostly just grateful that politicians have so much control over healthcare in the U.S.

But let's return to one of the reasons why I know how much resin fillings cost in multiple countries: hamantaschen, also called "Haman's ears" (orejas de Haman) in the Jewish Spanish-speaking world. As I said, I've been making these cookies for a good 20 years (and yes, I do feel old saying that). When I worked as a waitress in a fancy-shmancy restaurant in Philadelphia, the pastry chef, who had worked many springs in bakeries that cater to the Jewish community, asked me to teach him how I made them. My recipe has evolved over the years-- I started out with my mother's, which is oil-based, making it pareve, and certainly more traditional (serving butter cookies to Orthodox Jews screws the chance of having meat in the meal). But I prefer the taste of butter, and my family is vegetarian so it hardly matters. I also add orange zest and a bit of juice to the dough, which is not unorthodox in the scheme of hamantaschen but not a constant either. My mom always makes three fillings: prune, apricot, and cherry. I love prune and apricot but could always do without the cherry; I often make a date filling, and poppy seed is great too. The form is a matter of practice- hamantaschen means "haman's hat", so the goal is a 3-cornered hat shape. I find it a bit harder to visualize them as ears but hey, whatever floats your barco.


8 oz. (225 g. or 2 sticks) butter, room temp.
5 oz. white sugar
5 oz. brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
zest of 1 orange
2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 eggs
1 lb. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until the butter has lightened in color. Add in the vanilla bean and orange zest and mix well. Add in the orange juice and continue mixing. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together directly into the bowl and mix lightly just to incorporate. Press the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and leave it to chill in the fridge until firm, an hour or so. 
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Once the dough has chilled, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 in. Try to re-roll as little as possible; minimal handling of the dough will keep it from getting tough. Cut out circles with a 3 in. diameter cookie cutter (or with a glass), remove the circles to a cookie sheet, leaving 2 in. between circles. Gather the remaining dough into a disc, rewrap it in plastic and put it back in the fridge. Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each circle. 

Pinch the top together, then bring the bottom part up and pinch it on both sides to form a triangle, leaving a 1-in. opening in the center with the filling showing. Bake for 8-10 min., until the edges start to brown. Roll out and bake the rest of the cookies.

Prune/Apricot Filling

1 lb. (500 g.) prunes or apricots
1 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Process all the ingredients together until smooth.

Orejas de Haman

225 g. de mantequilla, temperatura ambiente
140 g. de azúcar blanca
140 g. de azúcar morena/rubia
1/2 vaina de vainilla, o 1 cucharita de extracto de vainilla natural 
cascara rallada de una naranja
2 cucharadas de jugo de naranja (exprimido) fresco
2 huevos
500 g. de harina de trigo común (tipo 000)
1/2 cucharita de sal
1 cucharada de polvo de hornear
relleno (receta abajo)

En un bol grande, bate la mantequilla y los azucares hasta blanquear. Echa la vaina de vainilla y la ralladura de naranja y mezcla bien. Echa el jugo de naranja y sigue batiendo. Echa los huevos uno a la vez, mezclando bien después de cada uno. Tamiza la harina, sal y polvo de hornear juntos directamente al bol y mezcla suavemente solo hasta que no veas mas harina. Con las manos, forma un disco con la masa, tapalo con plástico y guardalo en la heladera hasta que enfrie y endurezca la masa, aprox. una hora.

Precalienta el horno a 180ºC. Cuando la masa esté fria, estira la masa a 0,5 cm de gruesa. Trata de minimizar la necesidad de volverla estirar mucho, se puede dañar la textura de las galletas si se maneja demasiado. Con un vaso o un molde para galletas de 7,5 cm corta círculos y llevalos a una bandeja para hornear, dejando 5 cm de espacio entre los círculos. Junta la masa restante en un disco, tapala con plástico nuevamente y vuelve a guardarla en la heladera. Coloca 2 cucharitas de relleno en el centro de cada círculo de masa. 

Une los bordes formando un triángulo y dejando un hueco de 2 cm. en el centro para que se vea el relleno. Hornea durante 8-10 min., hasta los puntos empiecen a dorar. Sigue el mismo proceso con el resto de la masa. 

Relleno de Ciruelas Pasas/Damascos Secos

500 g. de ciruelas pasas o damascos secos

1 taza de jugo de naranja exprimido 
1/2 taza de azúcar blanca
1 cucharada de canela molida 

Procesa todos los ingredientes hasta que tengas un puré suave.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Discontented

Unfortunately it seems I'm a good example of why human beings have a hard time being happy. The logical person would think that happiness if achieved by getting what you want. When my sister and I first got to Argentina, all we ate were alfajores and dulce de leche ice cream. She even tried to talk the bakery back in the states where she worked to start making alfajores. But then after awhile, after my 10 millionth alfajor, I kind of stopped thinking about them. As Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks put it, how can I miss you when you won't go away?
Or maybe it's just a matter of taking for granted the things that are always available. In Argentina every corner kiosk sells at least 10 pre-packaged varieties. Felipe would sometimes buy a couple of chocolate-covered ones on the way home for merienda (afternoon snack), or occasionally we'd buy huge, crumbly alfajores de maizena walking around the city (the best ones being from Parque Centenario, 3 for 2 pesos, about 50 cents). But we never had any desire to make them at home, until now, 3000 miles away.

This type of alfajor can be found in bakeries in Buenos Aires-- they often sell coin-sized ones as well as these larger, one-per-(reasonable)-person ones. The buttery cookies and chocolate covering make it perfect with coffee, for your afternoon merienda. The sandwiches can also be made without the chocolate covering.

Chocolate-Covered Alfajores
     adapted from todo caserito   

500 g. all-purpose flour 
125 g. powdered sugar
½ tsp. salt
9 oz. (2 sticks + 2 Tbsp., or 250 g.) butter, cold and in large cubes
1 egg
1 egg yolk
zest from 1 orange
about 2 c. thick dulce de leche, jarred or homemade (if it's runny, cook it over low heat, stirring constantly, until it has thickened and mounds on a cold plate)
14 oz. (400 g.) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

In a food processor, blitz the flour, powdered sugar and salt together briefly. Add the cold butter and blitz again just until you have a sandy-looking mixture. (If you don't have a food processor, combine the flour, powdered sugar and salt, then cut in the butter until the mixture looks sandy.) In a large bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk and orange zest just to break up the eggs a bit. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and stir lightly just until you have a dough that just sticks together; don't overmix. Gather everything into a ball and press it into a disc. Wrap with plastic and put it in the fridge to chill at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 360ºF.Unwrap the plastic and lay it out on the counter. Roll out the dough on top of the sheet of plastic (this will help it from sticking) to a thickness of 1/4 inch, working quickly-- due to the amount of butter in the dough it will become unmanageable if your kitchen happens to be a bit warm (if this happens, just gather it back up and let it rest in the fridge again until thoroughly chilled. With a 2 in. diameter cookie cutter, cut out circles in the dough. Use the plastic underneath to help remove the circles to a cookie sheet. Gather up the dough left over after the cut outs into a disc, rewrap it in the plastic, and place it back in the fridge. Bake the cookies for 8-10 min., until their bases are very light gold.
Let the cookies cool. Take half of the cookies and place them face down. Spread 1½ tablespoons dulce de leche on each cookies, then cover each with a plain cookie, face up. Heat half the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler (a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water works too, just make sure the steam doesn´t touch the chocolate) just until melted. Lay out a large sheet of wax paper. Dip each sandwich in the chocolate, using a fork to retrieve it and letting any drips fall into the bowl before you remove the sandwich to the wax paper. Melt the rest of the chocolate and dip the rest of the sandwiches. Let the chocolate harden. If you´re in a hot climate you might need to refrigerate them. These alfajores are best the day after they're made; the flavors need a little time to meld into each other. Store them in a sealed container.
Makes about 24 filled alfajores.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friends Forever

When I was in college, I nurtured a not very well hid obsession with Reed's Ginger Beer. I was living in Santa Fe, where health food-ish stores are what college students consider a fun afternoon outing. One day after a trip to Wild Oats, in my not-thinking-before-you-speak headspace I told my friend Ben, "Man, I love ginger beer even more than I love you," which, surprisingly enough, didn't go over so well. I can hope that I've gotten more tactful since then, and I moved away from Santa Fe 6 years ago; I also haven't had ginger beer in a long while (I've never seen it sold in South America, and I wouldn't count the occasional Canada Dry on the plane as ginger beer). Last month, however, I came across a homemade ginger beer recipe. It was uncomplicated and low-tech, and a batch was made immediately. And then another, larger batch was made the next week. All I can say is that my relationship with my loved ones will never be the same, though perhaps I'll keep it to myself this time.

The original recipe call for fancy glass bottles, but as pretty as I think flip-top bottles are, I don't currently have room for them in my budget; they also have the nasty habit of exploding if you get the carbonation off. Reusing a 2-liter plastic soda bottle works equally well, with the added benefit that you can tell when it's reached carbonation once the bottle is hard.

By the way...if you ever go to Santa Fe, make sure to check out The Teahouse (disclaimer: I used to work there) but more importantly Ten Thousand Waves (Japanese baths in the mountains). Oh and Harry's Roadhouse for mouth-searingly hot, ridiculously delicious enchiladas. Great, now I need a visit.

Ginger Beer
     adapted from Jeffrey Morganthaler

6 oz. ginger (to extract ½ c. of ginger juice) 
1 c. (8 oz.) lemon juice, from around 8 lemons, freshly squeezed and strained for seeds and pulp
1 ½ c. sugar
6 ½ c. (52 oz.) water
¼ tsp. active dry yeast

Heat 1 ½ c. water with the 1 ½ c. sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. (You just made simple syrup.) 
Peel the ginger-- I find it easiest with the edge of a spoon. If you have a juicer, juice the ginger; if not, grate the ginger, or process the ginger finely in the food processor. Press the ginger through a fine strainer (one side of a large tea ball place over the mouth of a cup works) or place the grated/processed ginger in a few layers of cheesecloth and squeeze as much juice as you can out. You are going to need a ½ c. of ginger juice.
Using a funnel, pour the syrup, the ginger and lemon juices, and 5 c. water into a clean 2-liter soda bottle. The liquid shouldn't be hotter than tepid; if it is, let it sit until it has cooled down. Add the yeast. Cap the bottle and place it in a dark and warm place (I put it under the sink). After 2 days, check to see if the bottle is hard. If it isn't, check every 12 hours until it is, then immediately refrigerate it. It carbonated itself! Isn't that cool? Drink ginger beer cold with ice, or add some dark rum to make yourself a Dark and Stormy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A la boliviana

As you may have noticed in the world "map" according to Argentines I put up awhile ago (I write "map" in quotations though I know all maps are subjective...this site is an awesome way of exploring this), Argentineans think of Bolivians principally as uneducated laborers, mainly domestic workers and vegetable sellers. You don't often hear the same rancor towards them that you do towards Peruvians-- I can't count the number of times Argentines have told me that Peruvians come to Argentina to steal-- whereas Bolivians are considered hard workers, though they also tend to be looked down upon in Argentine society. In some ways many Argentines' relations to Bolivians remind me of many Americans' relations to Mexicans.

A Bolivian classmate of mine named Karla, who is a doctor, works for an HMO doing ambulance calls. She told me that often when she gets to the house, they open the door, look her up and down and say, "you´re the doctor?" She´s a very composed person, so she told me she just calmly replies, "yes, good afternoon, would you like me to take a look? If not we'll be on our way." She said they generally chill out, though the nicer the house, the more jodido the people tend to be."People always assume I went to medical school here," she told me. "They're always surprised that we have universities in Bolivia." 

I had told her that I wanted to try Bolivian food but had never had the chance; though there are more Bolivians than Peruvians in Buenos Aires, for whatever reason Peruvian restaurants are much easier to find, at least inside the city limits. We started talking about cooking, and a couple of weeks later she came to my house; the plan was to make a Bolivian meal with American dessert. We went to the market and bought plantains, meat, vegetables, eggs and olives to make stuffed sweet plantains, and pears to make an upside-down cake. Karla took out her apron and knives (!) and began chopping onions, using a plastic bag to cover her fingers holding the onion. "If I don't do this, patients ask me if I cook a lot because they can smell it on my fingers when I examine them," she explained. I love watching people from other cultures cook for the first time-- everyone has their own rhythm and techniques. She began to do three things at once: steam the plantains, make the sauce for the filling, and cook the meat. I tried to help but to be honest I mainly just asked a lot of questions. What began to take shape was exactly the kind of South American cooking I love-- sweet ripe plantains on the outside, a savory meat and vegetable filling, with sweet and salty pockets due to the raisins and olives. It's fried but not greasy, as the batter protects the plantain from soaking up the oil, and the filling is already cooked. One large stuffed plantain + green salad: perfect meal for me.

The filling here is made with meat, but I would bet any kind of farmer's cheese or mozzarella would work great instead...and now that I think about it, a fresh goat cheese would be fantastic.

Bolivian Stuffed Sweet Plantains

4 ripe plantains (they should be completely yellow)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ med. onion, or 4 scallions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes (opt.)
freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. cumin
1 med. tomato
4 oz. ground meat
¼ c. peas, fresh or frozen
1 hard boiled egg, very coarsely chopped
handful green olives, very coarsely chopped
¼ c. dark raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 min. and drained

For the batter: 
1 egg
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. sugar

oil for frying

Cut the stems and bottom nubs off of the plantains, then half them, leaving the skin on. Steam the plantains (in a steamer basket over water, in a pressure cooker or in a covered pot) until they are completely soft. The plantains will be very hot; as soon as you can handle them, slip them out of their skins and mash them all together until you have a smooth mixture.
While the plantains are steaming, prepare the filling. Over medium-low heat, heat the oil in a medium saute pan and add in the onion. When the onion has softened, after 5-8 min., add in the garlic, red pepper flakes, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper and ½ tsp cumin. Let cook, stirring occasionally, another minute or two, and then add in the the tomato. Once the tomato has mostly broken down, add in ½ c. of water. Leave the mixture simmering over low heat.
In a dry pan, cook the ground meat over medium heat. Add in ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. Add in the tomato-onion mixture and the peas, stirring to combine well. If the mixture is liquidy keep it simmering until it´s moist but not soupy. Taste for salt. Stir in the chopped egg, olives, and raisins.
Take a 1/3 c. portion of the mashed plantains and flatten it out into a 6-in. circle on top of a sheet of plastic wrap. Add 2 Tbsp. of the meat filling to the center of the circle and the use the plastic wrap bring up the edges of the circle together to form a continuous ball (without letting the filling break though). Use the plastic to help seal the edges together. 
Make the batter: beat the egg with the flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Heat 2-3 in. of oil for frying in a smallish pot over a medium-low flame. When the oil sizzle immediately if you drop a bit of the batter in, dip the ball in the batter, turning gently to cover on all sides, and fry one at a time, turning and basting with oil. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon when well-browned but not burnt. It´s traditional to serve this with rice on the side (this would work well); I like it with something fresh and acidic, like a green salad with avocado and a cilantro-lime dressing.  
Serves 4.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


If you were to give my dad the choice of having his next meal anywhere in the world-- let´s say we have access to an instant travel machine thingy, Star Trek-style-- I´d be willing to bet a good amount that he´d choose Tel Aviv, more specifically the kitchen of my Israeli cousins´ Persian safta (grandmother). My cousin Sharon brought me over there one Friday night when I was in Israel a couple of years ago. Her grandmother patted me on the chest while speaking to me in Hebrew (which I don´t speak), then proceeded to pull out some 10 different dishes of Persian food, all made in quantities to feed the Israeli army. I just nodded and starting eating, half hoping that she would pull out a length of string and tell me that my eyebrows needed to be shaped; I had been hearing about her crazy stringing skills and her habit of putting them to good use with my cousins for years. As that would have been inappropriate as it was Shabbat family dinner, and she didn't, you know, know me, I focused on my mountain of food, and finally understood what my dad had been raving about all these years. And I had some questions, too: How does an 80 year old lady make so much food? Why can't everybody cook like this? How do I make (at least some part of) this?

I asked Sharon's sister if she had asked her to teach her to cook. She doesn't want me to because she says I'll do it wrong, she answered, rolling her eyes. There went that.

But last spring when we were in Detroit for another cousin's Bat Mitzvah, Sharon brought a tupperware full of her safta's memulaim for my aunt. On the plane. From Israel. Memulaim can mean any stuffed vegetable, although in this case they refer to stuffed grape leaves and onions. They are delicious. She had sent them uncooked, I assume so they would be fresher to eat. I came into the kitchen as Sharon was putting them on the stove to cook in a mixture of water, lemon juice and oil, placing a tight fitting plate inside the pot and pressing down on the rolls, then covering the hole pot with its top. I think I put too much oil in, Sharon said...I have her recipe written down somewhere...Wait, she gave you the recipe? I thought she wouldn´t give you guys recipe. Well, she explained this one to me. Can you send it to me? It´s in Hebrew...I can translate it for you though.

And so here we are, or here I am rather, magically finding fresh grape leaves at the supermarket in Cali, rolling memulaim and explaining the recipe (that definitely has its origin not in Hebrew but in Farsi) in Spanish. I just heard about a cookbook called“A Russian Jew Cooks in Peru”and it gave me the strange desire to come up with some variation thereof. My Jewish Momma Eats Cake in Tijuana? (Note that substituting“eats cake”for lots of other things that may sound better suited to Tijuana doesn't mess up the rhyme and has lots of entertaining possibilities.) A Gringa Judia Bakes in Colombia? I may have to enlist my brother's help, who sent me his free-association procrastination Skype poetry the other day: 

                                            penchant for disenchantment
                                            giving up hives for ant-lent  
                                            fulsome pinchin' kidney stone
                                            lots of lots of skin tone
                                            scan phone
                                            futuristic dystopian
                                            robotic fallopian
                                            tubes like the internet
                                            jet set no pets 
                                            step class no pecs
                                            boredom no sex

And with that, I give you memulaim:

Memulaim (Stuffed Grape Leaves and Onions)

24 grape leaves, fresh or jarred
6 small white onion (choose ones with an oblong shape), peeled, tops removed, with one lateral cut that only goes as deep as the axis of the onion, not all the way through to the other side
8 celery stalks with leaves
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 c. short grain rice (I tried medium grain the first time because that's what I had around-- it's definitely better with short grain)
½ tsp. black pepper
1½ Tbsp. salt
1 c. fresh lemon juice
¾ c. water
½ c. vegetable oil

If you are using fresh grape leaves you will need to blanch them. Cut off the stems without cutting into the leaf. Bring a large pot of water to boil, turn off the heat, and immediately throw all the grape leaves in. Leave the leaves in the water for 5 minutes, then remove them with a strainer. Spread them on a kitchen towel to dry.
If you are using jarred leaves, rinse them in cold water, then spread them on a kitchen towel to absorb a bit of the water.
Place the onions in a small pot and pour boiling water over them to cover. Leave them to soak 10-15 min. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the garlic, tomato, rice, pepper and salt. Chop half of the celery leaves finely and fold them into the rice mixture. Push out the root of the onions, doing the best you can to keep the layers from tearing. Try to keep the 2 outer layers of onion intact to be used as wrappers. Take three of the onion centers, cut off the root, finely chop the onion, and add it to the reice. The other three onion centers can be saved for soup, stock or a salad where you want a less aggressive onion-y taste. Line a medium pot with a couple of grape leaves, then make a layer of celery stalks. Taking a grape leaf with the rough side facing up, put a tablespoon of the rice stuffing in the middle, and roll each leaf up like a burrito, folding away from you the part closest to you first, then folding in the sides before rolling up the leaf away from you. Place the rolls in the pot on top of the celery layer, seam side down. Stuff the onion and roll it up. Pack all the rolls in tightly, with multiple layers, with the grape leave rolls making up the lower levels and the onion rolls on top. Put the pot on medium heat and add the lemon juice and water. Take a plate that is just smaller than the circumference of the pot and press it face down so that everything is very tight. Keep the plate in there and put the lid on the pot. When it boils, lower the heat to minimum, add oil, put the top and plate back on, and cook for 45 minutes. Check to make sure the rice is done. Remove the memulaim and let them cool down to room temperature to eat. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge covered with plastic wrap. Makes about 20 stuffed grape leaves and about 12 stuffed onions.


Si ofrecieras a mi papa la opción de elegir donde en el mundo se iba a comer su próxima comida-- digamos que tenemos una maquina de viaje instantánea, estilo Star Trek-- yo apostaría una platica que iría a Tel Aviv, específicamente la cocina de la abuela persa de mis primas israelitas. Cuando estaba en Israel hace un par de años, un viernes por la noche mi prima Sharon me llevó allí. Su abuelita me golpeaba suavemente el pecho mientras me hablaba en hebreo (de lo cual no hablo) y después se puso a sacar algunos 10 platos diferentes de comida persa, todo hecho en cantidades para alimentar al ejercito israelita. Yo solamente asentaba y empece a comer, con esperanzas de que ella sacaría un hilo y diría que mis cejas necesitaban mantenimiento-- hace mucho años que escuchaba de sus habilidades con hilo para depilar y su tendencia de utilizarlas sobre mis primas. Esto hubiera sido inapropiado pues estábamos en plena cena familiar de Shabat, además que ella, pues, ni me conocía, yo me enfocaba en el montón de comida que tenía frente a mi, y por fin llegue a entender de que hablaba mi papa todos esos años. Y también me generó algunas preguntas: Como puede ser que una viejita de 80 años haga tanta comida? Porque todo el mundo no puede cocinar así? Como hago (por lo menos una parte de) esto?

Pregunté a la hermana de Sharon si le había pedido que le enseñara a cocinar. No quiere que lo haga porque me dice que lo voy a hacer mal, me dijo, haciendo una carita. Bueno, ya fue.

Pero la primavera pasada, cuando estábamos en Detroit por la Bat Mitzvah de otra prima mía, Sharon trajo una vasija llena de los memulaim de su abuela a mi tía. Los trajo en el avión. De Israel. Memulaim puede significar cualquier verdura rellena, pero en este caso se refiere a hojas de parra y cebollas rellenas. Son deliciosas. Se los había enviado crudos, supongo para que estuvieron mas frescas a la hora de comerlas. Entré a la cocina mientras Sharon estaba poniéndolas a cocinar en una olla con agua, jugo de limón y aceite, colocando un plato para hacer presión encima de los rollitos y después colocando la tapa de la olla. Me da la impresión que eche demasiado aceite, me comentó...sé que tengo la receta por aquí en algún lado...Como así? Pensaba que ella no les compartía sus recetas...Pues, me explicó como hacer estos. Me la mandas? Esta en hebreo, pero te la traduzco al inglés.

Así que me encuentro aquí en Cali, que por milagro conseguí hojas de parra en la 14 supermercado, envolviendo memulaim y traduciendo la receta (que seguramente tiene su origen en farsi) al español, muy lejos de Tel Aviv pero a la vez con alguíto de allí, una versión de Star Trek baja tecnología. Así que aquí les dejo la receta:

Memulaim (Hojas de Parra y Cebollas Rellenas)

24 hojas de parra, frescas o en conserva
6 cebollas blanca chiquitas (elige cebollas mas largas que anchas), peladas, sin la parte seca de arriba, con un corte lateral que vaya hasta el axis de la cebolla, no hasta el otro lado
8 tallos de apio con las hojitas
2 tazas de arroz corto (arroz de grano redondo)
4 dientes de ajo, picados chiquito
1 tomate grande, picado chiquito
1 ½ cucharada de sal
½ cucharita de pimienta negra
1 taza de jugo de limon fresco
¾ taza de agua
½ taza de aceite (yo uso aceite de girasol)

Si estás utilizando hojas frescas, hay que blanquearlas. Quitales las ramas sin cortar la hoja. En una olla grande hierve una cantidad generosa de agua. Al hervir, apaga el fuego e inmediatamente echa las hojas a la olla. Deja las hojas durante 5 minutos en el agua, después sacalas con un colador. Abre una toalla de cocina sobre la mesa y separa las hojas allí para secar un poco.
Si estás utilizando hojas en conserva, pasalas por agua fria y después separalas sobre una toalla de cocina para absorber un poco del agua.
Coloca las cebollas en una olla chiquita y echales agua herviendo hasta que las cubra. Dejalas remojar allí 10-15 minutos. Mientras tanto, en un bol mediano combina el arroz, el ajo, el tomate, la sal y la pimienta. Pica la mitad de las hojitas de apio y echales a la mezcla de arroz. Empuja la raíz de la cebolla para que salga, tratando de que las capas de cebolla no se tiren. La idea es que las dos primeras capas de cebolla sean utilizadas como envueltos. Toma 3 de los centros de cebolla, quitales la raíz, picalos chiquito, y echalos al arroz. Guarda los otros centro de cebolla para echar a sopas, caldos, o ensaladas donde quieres que la cebolla sea menos picante.
Cubre el fondo de una olla mediana con un par de hojas de parra, después haz una capa de los tallos de apio. Toma una hoja, y con la parte suave boca abajo, coloca una cucharada de la mezcla de arroz en el centro y envuelve cada hoja como si fuera un burrito, doblando primero la parte mas cerca a vos hacía afuera, después doblando hacía el centro los lados, después envolviendo el rollito hacía afuera. Coloca los rollitos en la olla encima de la capa de apio, la raya boca abajo. Rellena la cebolla y envuelvala. Empaca los rollitos estrechamente, en varias capas dentro de la olla, con los rollitos de hojas de parra en las capas abajo y los de cebolla encima. Pon la olla sobre fuego medio y echale el jugo de limón y el agua. Agarra un plato de circunferencia un poquito menos ancha que la de la olla y metelo haciendo presión, boca abajo, sobre los rollitos para que todo este bien empacado. Deja el plato allí y coloca la tapa a la olla. Cuando hierva, baja el fuego al mínimo, echa el aceite, devuelve el plato y la tapa y cocina durante 45 minutos. Fijate que el arroz esté cocinado. Quita los memulaim y dejalos enfriar a la temperatura ambiental para comer. Si tenes sobras, guardalos en la nevera tapada con plástico. Rinda aprox. 20 rollitos de hoja de parra rellena y 12 rollitos de cebolla.