Soothed (a seven-letter word or "bingo") is how I felt for a couple of days last week as I participated in the 6th Scrabble-by-the-Sea national tournament, held at the Dead Sea. However, the feeling of languorous well-being resulted more from the bromine-saturated air at that lowest point on earth than from my Scrabble scores - which, while improving, have a long way to go.
We stayed in a five-star establishment that has recently undergone refurbishment, and while I am not a fan of huge hotels, the room and service were fine - except for an odd setup in the main dining room that evoked amused comment from the younger tournament participants and frustration in some older ones.
Anyone who has stayed in a hotel is familiar with the arrangement whereby you collect your salad starters from one island, move on to a separate station for the soup, another for the hot entrees, and a third for dessert. Usually these are located reasonably close to each other. But in our hotel, judging by the amount of walking that was involved in picking up the different courses of one's meal, the interior designer's aim had been to create a dining room-cum-workout room.
"I'd have liked another helping of dessert," I heard someone remark, "but I'm not crossing the length of a football field to get it."
Though I don't think it fair to subject older or infirm people to such physical effort, there is something to be said for a system that takes calories off at the same time as you're busy piling them on.
FOR AN hors d'oeuvre I've taken to grilling slices of eggplant and serving them almost immediately afterwards, just as they are, accompanied by a bowl of tehina and another one of cooked tomato salad. They've proved popular.
1 firm, fairly heavy, medium-large eggplant, sliced into half-cm. rounds
Arrange the eggplant rounds on a tray, sprinkle with salt and leave for 15-20 minutes to remove the bitter juices. Rinse, pat dry and place on a lightly-oiled baking sheet. Using a pastry brush dab each slice with olive oil and grill for 15 minutes, or until the rounds are just turning brown. Turn them over and repeat the process.
COOKED TOMATO SALAD
a few really ripe tomatoes, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
a few cayenne pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a little oil and saut the garlic briefly. Add the tomatoes and cayenne, stir well and cover the pan. Cook for several minutes on low heat until soft. When cool, transfer to a bowl, add a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and mix.
SOME PEOPLE like their broccoli simply steamed to complement other foods with stronger flavors. For those who want it spiced up a bit, here's Susan R. Friedland's way, from Shabbat Shalom:
SPICY SAUTEED BROCCOLI
11â„2 kg. broccoli
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
crushed red-pepper flakes
salt to taste
Separate the broccoli florets from the stalks. Trim, peel and slice the stalks. Cut the florets into half-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Saute briefly over low heat. Add the broccoli and sprinkle it with the red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add half a cup of water, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for two or three minutes more, until the water evaporates. Serve hot, or at room temperature, with the lemon wedges.
BARBARA, a reader from Netanya, sent me this easy recipe, which she described as "wonderful for a party buffet." Who's the creative Evelyn? She didn't say.
EVELYN'S PICKLED MUSHROOMS
1â„2 cup canola oil
1â„2 cup white vinegar
1â„2 cup sugar (or substitute)
4 punnets sliced mushrooms
3 onions cut in half and and sliced
into half-moon shapes
Prepare 3-5 days in advance. Mix the ingredients well, and remix carefully each day so the pickling is even. Drain with a slotted spoon into a pretty dish.
DURING A bat mitzva kiddush held at my synagogue last Shabbat, I remarked to a friend how attractively a long, white, leaf-shaped bowl was filled with raw vegetables. They had been stacked to form solid blocks of bright color: pepper strips, celery pieces, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes. She recalled another celebration at which red peppers had been topped, deseeded, then placed upright and filled with carrot and celery sticks. A nice idea for a party.