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Hanging around people's kitchens while they're making food can be profitable. Invited to Shabbat lunch by my friend Alice, I offered to help chop things for the green salad she always does so well.
All went pretty unremarkably until she took a medium-sized cucumber out of the fridge, washed it, then proceeded to attack it with a fork, dragging the sharp tines down the whole length of the vegetable, all the way around.
"The skin needs to be in good condition," was her only explanation.
"Does this qualify as cucumber abuse?" I asked, never having seen the like of it before. I got a sphinx-like smile in return.
"Well, it's definitely dead by now," I observed, "so I'll go ahead and slice it."
The surprise: Each thin cucumber round had a lovely notched edge, making it look like a stylized flower-head - nice when you want to make an impression.
Alice's salad dressing was no surprise since I've already adopted the idea: Take an almost-finished jar of jam - any berry jam is good; I use the kind with no added sugar - and shake it up well with oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. This dressing is wonderful mixed into a garden salad.
BRITISH cooking maven Nigel Slater likes avocados, and why not? Their oil is the "good" kind and their taste is luxurious. This snack's from Real Fast Food:
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1 ripe avocado
1 Tbsp. wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil, or 1 each olive and nut oil
salt to taste
1 small onion, cut into thin rings
Toast the bread. Halve the avocado, and peel and stone it. Slice the flesh thickly. Mix the vinegar with the oil or oils, and add the salt. Place the avocado on the bread and add the onion. Spoon the dressing over everything.
HEALTHY eating is great, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy a luscious dessert once in a while. The trick is to ply your guests while taking just a small portion yourself. This recipe comes from Mother and Daughter Jewish Cooking by Evelyn Rose and Judi Rose, and has "stood the test of four generations of good Jewish cooks." With a non-dairy version using 225 ml. of coconut milk and 125 ml. of water in place of the milk, the recipe "has become too useful to miss.
"As it separates into a creamy sauce topped with a light sponge, it's essential to use dishes of the right size. It is delicious served with a sweetened fruit puree such as strawberry, apple or tinned apricots."
LEMON DAINTY WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE
25 gr. soft butter (or margarine)
175 gr. caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 large eggs, separated
6 Tbsp. plain flour
1â„2 tsp. baking powder
350 ml. milk
For the sauce:
450 gr. ripe strawberries
75 gr. sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Grease an oven-to-table casserole dish at least 5 cm. deep and of 2-liter capacity. Half-fill a roasting tin with boiling water, put it in the oven and preheat to 180 .
Put the butter, 125 gr. of the sugar, the lemon zest and juice, egg yolks, flour and baking powder into a food processor or blender, and process until creamy. With the motor running, add the milk (or coconut milk and water) through the feed tube and process until evenly mixed.
In a large bowl whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Whisk in the remaining sugar, one teaspoon at a time. Gradually pour the yolk mixture onto the meringue, folding the two together with a rubber spatula until evenly blended. Pour gently into the prepared dish and place in the pan of hot water. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to a gentle touch.
Sauce: Put the fruit, sugar and lemon juice into a food processor or blender and process for three minutes or until the sauce has thickened and no sugar crystals are felt.
Serve at room temperature 1-2 hours after baking, or well chilled. Spoon into individual bowls and pass the sauce around.
MY SISTER-in-law, Renata, left a clever idea behind her when she returned to the UK after a recent visit. Save the metal lids from pickle and other jars and lay them, smooth side up, on your Shabbat hotplate as a base for any dish that is likely to overheat.
"You'll get hot food, not burnt food," she said. "All my friends do it."