hand-crafted chocolate bars


I think my purpose in life is to make chocolate bars. I would love to make honest good dark chocolate bars for living. Just like those crafty bars Dick Taylor or Dandelion make. I’m salivating just thinking about pure, rich, slightly bitter and mildly sweet chocolate. I prefer chocolate that is made with two or three ingredients, cocoa and sugar and without emulsifiers or artificial flavors. A high quality dark chocolate could easily convert you from being a milk-chocolate person to a dark-chocolate person.  Continue Reading…

French lentil and mushroom soup

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Who the hell makes a lentil soup when it’s eighty-something degrees out?……………… I do

 I was craving something warm and earthy. Luckily or lucky my guests, the temperature in Los Angeles in the evenings gets cooler. 

I adapted this recipe from Green Kitchen Stories blog. Their recipe call for Chanterelle mushrooms but (a) I didn’t have any and (b) the price here for one pound (half a kilo) chanterelles is $42. I’m sure it tastes divine but the the humble crimini mushrooms make a good job as well.   Continue Reading…

vegetable tagine with chermoula sauce


Chermoula is a marinade that North Africans use in their cooking. It is usually used to flavor fish or seafood, but it can be used with legume and vegetables. Very healthy. 

It’s strange, for someone who grew up in a Moroccan home, I only discovered chermoula  in my early twenties. I discovered it in Mogador, not the Moroccan city, where my grandmother was born but the Moroccan cafe/restaurant in the East Village in New York.

Café Mogador is where I started to embrace my Moroccan roots. I was amazed by how our friends were fascinated by the north African cuisine that for me was trivial and barbaric. 

My mother did cook and braise many dishes with the chermoula ingredients but she didn’t grind them into a paste. Grinding the herbs and spices together creates a pesto like sauce that has a strong and rich flavor.  Continue Reading…

Chocolate mousse


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Really, Shelly? Avocado? Come on.

Why not? Avocado is a fruit. In South America they eat avocado with sugar, so why can’t it be good with chocolate?

I knew it. I knew she wouldn’t approve this recipe. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience I have as a cook, my older sister continues to distrust my abilities in the kitchen. Just once I would love to hear, “It’s probably delicious or I would love to try it or you’re strange but you’ve travelled the world, you have eaten in countless restaurants, and you practically live in the kitchen, so you must know one or two things about food!”

I love my year-and-a-half-older sister to death. She is my best friend. Over the years I’ve learned to take her skepticism with a grain of salt. She is a great cook and a foodie but she has rules about food and always has. It’s weird, though, because my sister is generally open-minded and always happy to learn new things.

When my mother and sisters lived in New York we used to eat a lot together so when they came over to our house for dinner, I would hide some small details about the dishes. For example I wouldn’t mention that I used spelt to make bread instead of bread flour, or olive oil instead of butter in cakes.

I wouldn’t dare to make Moroccan food for them because I knew that they would disapprove the little twists I give to years and years of traditional recipes. I always let them eat first, then, one hour or a day later I would confess. Never right away because high chances that they would immediately take back the “It’s delicious!” and say “Yes, I did taste something that didn’t belong,” or, “It’s good, but if you made it with regular flour, it would taste much better.”

Actually, in the last couple of years, my mother has become my biggest fan (The problem is that now she wants me to cook for her all the time but I want her to cook for me.) My sister slowly and maturely is learning to appreciate my bold cooking. She won’t admit it, but I know that if she could she would stop by my house everyday to eat my food. And she would probably love this avocado mousse and maybe admit that it’s so good.   Continue Reading…

Roasted sweet potato salad with tahini


The first time I had this salad was at a Thanksgiving dinner with our beautiful – literally beautiful – friends, Isabelle & Serge.

The food that night was delicious but I was mostly attracted to this salad. I was charmed by the combination of sweet potatoes, their tenderness and the spicy, crunchy onion and, the nutty flavor tahini. I made sure that it stays on my side of the table. 

Since Serge gave me this recipe I’ve made it at least five times (at some point we started to get sick of sweet potatoes in general; We have been eating them almost every day for a month to improve some digestion problems that I had.)  Continue Reading…

Braised chickpeas with amaranth



There’s a traditional Moroccan fish recipe that my mother, and the rest of the Moroccan Jews around the world, without exception, make every Friday for Shabat dinner. It’s called cooked fish. Basically, it’s a fish (such as Branzino or Sea bass) cut into pieces and braised with whole garlic cloves, red or green hot peppers, lots of cilantro, and paprika that was mixed with oil. Sometimes they would add carp roe to the dish, which I loved as a kid because they were crunchy. I’ve never met anyone, who grew up in a Moroccan home that doesn’t get nostalgic about this dish. If you ask them who makes it the best, they will all say my mother or grandmother
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Omelet with fresh herbs


“No iPad today.”

“But why not?”

“Because you don’t use your brain anymore.”

“Yes I do.”

“Not enough.”

“Okay, so can I use the computer?”

“No, Daddy said no electronics today.”

“What if I clean my room or take the garbage out, can I use it then?”

“No.” Continue Reading…

Rice salad with swiss chard and barberries


Before I say anything about this rice bowl/salad, I want to get something out of my system.

Hi, my name is Shelly and I am addicted to TED talks.

It started after I turned forty a few months ago. I didn’t mind turning forty, not at all, but my mind did. It felt foggy and confused. It asked a lot of questions and was worried about the future, more than usual. To cope with the overwhelming thoughts and doubts, every evening I turned on the Roku, clicked on the Ted icon and watched people talk about their powerful inventions,  journeys, researches & discoveries; the universities and schools that they founded; how their art projects made a difference in the world; their education revolutions, and more. Continue Reading…

Mexico, Playa Del Carmen


The first time I visited Playa Del Carmen was fifteen years ago (f&#$ I’m getting old!). After spending six months in America on tourist visa, I had to leave in order to extend my stay. In New York I met an Israeli girl who had just gotten back from a month in Playa. She described it as an inexpensive heaven and mentioned that her friend Natalie is still there if I’m interested. How do I find Natalie? I asked. It would be easy, Playa is small. She said. The next day, I walked into an STA travel agency (remember travel agents?) and booked a roundtrip ticket to Cancun (which is about a one-hour drive from Playa). Continue Reading…

Dates and walnuts dipped in chocolate


Would it be terrible idea to send you dates stuffed with walnuts in your lunchbox?

Beyond terrible! Embarrassing! Dates look like cockroaches.

No they don’t! They look like dried fruits. Wait… but what if they are covered with chocolate?

No, they’re still dates.   

I can’t argue with that. If my mother sent me one of those Moroccan marzipan-stuffed dates in my lunchbox, instead of the ever-popular choco (Israeli chocolate-milk-in-a-plastic-bag), I would be absolutely mortified.

Did I really think that covering dates with chocolate would make them look more appealing?!?

Unfortunately these days the only way to make snacks more appealing to children is to commercially package them in some kind of noisy wrapper. My kids always claim that they are the only kids in their school, who don’t have a real snack in their lunch box, so ironic! Continue Reading…

Cabbage and scallion frittatas


Yes, I am alive, and today, after six hectic months, I can finally say, “alive and well.” I survived the move from our two-bedroom-one bathroom townhouse to a three-bedroom- three bathrooms townhouse!. Two-and-a-half bath, technically. Now we each have our own bathroom, almost.

I survived middle school madness. If you live in Los Angeles, you know what I am talking about. Here (like most major cities around the world), if you don’t live in a good school zone you are screwed, unless you get lucky and win a school lottery. Thank God or the universe or both, Leo got accepted to the SAS (School for Advanced Studies) program at our local middle school, which is considered as a good option, and also won two lotteries for two good charter schools. We chose to go with the smaller charter school between the two.

I also survived the long flight to Mallorca and back. I always swear that I will never fly again then a couple months later I find myself squished in economy, cursing my inability to remember how much I hate long flights. It’s the fucking air turbulence, they make me so edgy.

My stomach survived the food in Mallorca. As much as I love Mallorca, I wish it would have been easier to find cafes that have healthier food on the menu. They all serve the same type of Bocadillos (sandwiches);  jamon (ham), queso (cheese), atun (tuna) and the famous tortilla Española. I love the Spanish frittata but the problem is that they fry the potatoes before and so does the tortilla. If you eat it once in a blue moon it won’t kill you but every other day is another story. 

This recipe is much healthier. You can make a large one or if the batter contains a few vegetables, and is heavier, you can make several small ones, so the frittata doesn’t fall apart.  Continue Reading…

Chocolate discs (palette) with hazelnuts and sea salt


The inspiration for these beautiful chocolate palettes (rounds) came from a very chi-chi restaurant cookbook called Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook. I’ve never eaten at the restaurant, but I heard from the friend who gave me this book as a present that Eleven Madison Park is one of the most extraordinary, upscale restaurants in NYC. The cookbook itself is elegant and inspiring but the recipes are neither typical nor practical, they are extremely sophisticated and fancy. I have never followed a  recipe from this book but I’ve concocted many dishes influenced by the brilliant food combinations, unique flavors, and professional techniques. 

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bread pudding with wild berries

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Leo: Mommy, I feel bad to say that my french toast is delicious.

Me: Why?

Leo: Because I don’t want you to feel bad that you can’t eat it.
Me: Thank you, motek (sweetie), don’t worry, I don’t feel bad at all. I’m extremely happy with my baked french toast. It’s probably better than yours.
Daddy: It is.
While Z made the boys and himself a classic french toast, I baked myself a dairy-free version, which looked and tasted more like a bread pudding. Continue Reading…

DIY herbal teas

While ninety percent of the people on earth need coffee in the morning to wake up, I need herbal tea. Luckily, I am very energetic in the morning. The first thing I drink after I wake up is a glass of room-temperature water with freshly squeezed lemon juice. I make myself a cup of herbal tea after I finish my kundalini yoga practice. Usually it’s camomile tea that I mix with a couple of leaves of lemon verbena leaves or rose petals. Honestly, I find the taste of camomile very boring on it’s own. 

Paris & Penne with cashew cream and Butternut Squash


It’s been a long time…

Two days ago I arrived back from a marvelous week in Paris. It was a trip that my mother, older sister and I have been dreaming to do together for years. (Aunt Shuli tagged along.) For my mother and sister, it was the first time so you can imagine how exciting it was for them and how fun it was for me to see their reactions. We had the best time of our life… until the sixth day of the trip. Continue Reading…

Egg-less shakshuka sandwich


I know, it’s oxymoron to call it shakshuka because shakshuka is always made with eggs but it does taste like shakshuka.  The tahini is what gives it the shakshuka flavor. We, Israelis, often eat our shakshuka with tahini. 

You can make plain tahini sauce or green tahini with herb such basil and parsley. 

Be’te’avon! (Bon appetite in Hebrew) 

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Kale and Swiss chard salad


It’s funny how Moroccan jews are so strict about the distinction between Shabat or holiday food and everyday food – my mother never eat Shabat food on a yom chol , a weekday – and vice versa. In my family I’m considered to be a rule breaker. I make this salad/mezze and other Shabat dishes whenever I feel like or whenever I have in hand some leafy greens that I don’t know what to do with. 

You can eat this salad over a bowl of quinoa with some avocado or over a slice of a good bread. 

Continue Reading…

Chipotle Harissa


Harissa with a twist – or as Z calls it “Mexican Harissa.” It’s my mother’s recipe but I decided to experiment so I added two chipotle peppers (I bought a bag at the supermarket in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico but you can find them at any Latino supermarket or online. If you can’t find the peppers,  you can add a teaspoon of ground chipotle instead).  The cheeky chipotle add a magnificent smoky flavor to this North African condiment. 

We love it in sandwiches (avocado toast or any style of egg  sandwich), rice bowls, couscous, tagines, tacos and sometimes to pasta dishes.
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Spicy Tomato salad – Matbucha


You can’t write a post about matbucha (Moroccan cooked salad) without writing about Yeruham. The cooked salad and the small town in the Negev Desert of Israel go together. The aroma of tomatoes cooking with garlic and peppers being charred over an open flame is the aroma of my hometown – on a late morning on every Friday every house and building you walk into would have that smell.

Continue Reading…

Beet Carpaccio


Yesterday was a fucking, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It’s started with a blood test (I hate blood tests, they make me insanely paranoid).

It continued with a call to Cigna, our health insurance. I don’t know what is worse, the part that you speak to a robot for a few minutes until you shout at it “OPERATOR!!!” or the part that the robot transfers you to a human being, that happened to be a robot himself.  

After I was done talking with robots, I had to drive to the bank to get a cashier’s check to send to Cigna. I arrived to the bank without my wallet. Urgh! Accidentally, I grabbed the wrong bag (I forgot that I used the black bag the day before so I drove back home, and grabbed the black bag and drove back to the bank. And guess what?!? My wallet wasn’t in this bag either URGH!!!!!

I didn’t know if I should punch myself hard or laugh at my stupidity. Apparently, I left my wallet on my desk when I removed my insurance card to call the insurance company. Jesus Christ!

The rest of the day continued to be a fucking terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day but at least I learned a few lessons and had a yummy dinner. 

Continue Reading…

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