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I knew it was going to be a good day when the phone rang early one morning and "Anat, from your Internet provider" - via which I also make international phone calls - informed me brightly that not only was the company adding another 10 minutes a month to my free phone allowance, it was also substantially lowering the charge for each paid minute.
"Carry on using us!" she sang, before hanging up.
After pinching myself to make sure this wasn't the continuation of some pleasant dream, I went into the kitchen to try out two great-sounding recipes given to me by a friend.
The first: My friend's parents had eaten this soup, known as Ajo Blanco, while on holiday in Spain and his mother, a very spirited and innovative cook, had worked out how to make it. Despite its exotic "feel," it's actually very quick and easy, and it's hard to believe that there is no dairy content. It is also very healthy.
My friend said his family "are wild about this soup. When my father comes to visit from England, he insists I make it every weekend."
COLD GARLIC "CREAM"
100 gr. blanched almonds
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 Tbsp. wine vinegar
2 slices of white bread, crusts removed (or equivalent bread crumbs)
1â„4 cup olive oil
3 cups iced water
salt and pepper to taste
small seedless grapes (optional)
Put the almonds and the garlic in a food processor and work them around until ground very fine. Add the vinegar and bread and blend until smooth. Leave the processor running and gradually add the olive oil and water.
Transfer to a soup tureen and add the seasoning. Put in the fridge until needed; the soup should be served very cold.
Optional extras: Drizzle a little extra olive oil and/or vinegar over each helping; garnish with the grapes.
THE SECOND recipe, also known as Phooli hui dal, comes from Good Housekeeping Pakistani Cookery. My friend warned: When made according to the recipe, using the chili powder and hot pepper, this dish comes out very fiery. Consume at your own risk!
Since my fire-eating skills are not well developed, I omit both ingredients.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped; or 1 tsp. powdered ginger
1 small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
a little canola oil
1â„2 tsp. turmeric
1â„2 tsp. hot chili powder (or substitute paprika)
3â„4 tsp. salt
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. coriander, finely chopped
250 gr. orange lentils
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
11â„4 cups water
Sort the lentils and cover them with water from the tap. Heat the oil and saute the onion, garlic and fresh ginger (if using) until the onion is translucent. Add the salt and spices (and the powdered ginger, if using), the chili and the coriander. Saute for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is a rich golden color.
Drain the lentils and add them to the pan with the lemon juice and water. Mix well. Cover and cook on low heat until all the moisture has been absorbed (about 30 minutes). The mixture should be dry and soft. Serve over rice or tabouli.
THE LAST item in my June 9 column mentioned the vitamin D that is added to 1%-fat milk but not to the 3% kind. Clinical dietitian Connie Steinberg points out that fat-soluble vitamins A and D occur naturally in 3% fat milk, and so don't need to be added.
But when fat is removed to get the 1% milk, the vitamins are removed as well, and so have to be "added back" to the level found in full-fat milk.
WHEN I'M preparing lots of carrots and cucumbers and find myself with a mountain of vegetable peelings that are going to be tossed, I feel a twinge of regret at no longer being "mom" to a guinea pig quartet named Loli (formerly Lili, when we thought he was a she); Felice (formerly Felix, ditto the other way around); and their offspring, Micky and Vicky, for whom a bagful of carrot and cucumber skins was dinner at the Ritz, with champagne thrown in.
As I dump the bag in the garbage I remember how those long vegetable strips would rapidly disappear down four voracious little throats, like strands of spaghetti being sucked in. It's quite a nostalgic moment.
The rest of the time? I don't miss the little pigs all.