As I once wrote in the preface to a book: "Amid horror, there can be humor."
At a recent Shabbat lunch, talk turned to that awful period in the mid-1990s when traveling on our buses amounted to an act of heroism, given the regular attempts - alas, many successful - to blow them up.
"I was on a bus to Tel Aviv," one woman guest recalled, "when the man sitting next to me put his attache case on his lap and opened it, revealing three or four large knives.
"I didn't know what to do. But it was clear I had to do something. Finally, I took a deep breath, and said: 'That's a nice case you have there. I haven't seen one like it before.'
"'Thank you,' replied the man, adding, 'You seem a little nervous.'
"'Well,' I said, 'this is the first time I've sat next to someone carrying several knives around with him.'
"Said the man, 'I'm a shochet [ritual slaughterer].'
"'What would you have done in my place?' I asked.
"Answered the man: 'I'd have been over by the driver in about five seconds, reporting on you.'"
POTATOES are one of our most loved foods, says British cooking maven Nigel Slater in Real Fast Food. "I often make this dish with leftover cooked potatoes. Floury potatoes will fall apart slightly as you toss them in the olive oil, and somehow the dish is better for it."
Serves 4 as a side dish.
POTATOES WITH ONIONS AND OLIVE OIL
1 kg. floury potatoes
4 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
100 ml. (5-6 Tbsp.) olive oil
small bunch of fresh parsley, roughlychopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Boil the potatoes in their skins. They are cooked when the point of a knife goes into them easily - about 20 minutes. Drain, and cut them up roughly into bite-sized pieces. Keep warm.
In a shallow pan fry the onions with the garlic in the oil for 5-7 minutes, until soft and shiny. Throw in the parsley and add the salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes in the onions and oil and serve when bubbling.
'A NIGERIAN friend gave me this recipe," writes Mary Cadogan, author of Vegetables. "She claims it is the best way of cooking sweet potato. If you prefer a less hot flavor, omit the chili seeds."
CHILI SWEET POTATOES
750 gr. sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red chili, sliced into rings
salt to taste
parsley sprigs to garnish
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes until softened and slightly browned. Add the chili, together with its seeds, and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the sweet potato and stir well. Add enough water to come halfway up the potato and bring to the boil. Add salt, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until just tender.
Remove the lid and boil rapidly until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Serve hot, garnished with the parsley. Serves 4.
MY COLLEAGUE Helen Kaye sent me "a recipe to die for." With that sort of introduction, how can I not share it?
1 ripe mango, not too soft
1-2 containers yogurt (depending on size of mango)
2 Tbsp. 5%-fat cream cheese
1 Tbsp. sour cream (shamenet)
a squeeze or two of lemon juice (optional)
Process everything until smooth, and refrigerate. "The result is like mango mousse," Helen says. "It tastes rich - but without the calories.
ONE OF the great things about a Shabbat meal invitation is that you never know whom you'll meet around the table. At a recent Shabbat lunch I spoke to a woman who told me she works as "a lifestyle counsellor, with an emphasis on food education."
We chewed over a number of topics, including fish oil with its healthful omega 3, at which point she mentioned that omega 6 is also very important for good health. This, I learned, is to be found in flax seeds (pishtan) - "and hemp seeds if you can get them." She recommended two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day, plus four of ground hemp, sprinkled over cereal, salads or yogurt. Hemp, or cannabis, is kaneh-bosem in Hebrew. (Fortunately, or not, you don't get high from consuming the seeds or their oil.) Enquire at your health store.
For maximum benefit, refrigerate the seeds and, ideally, grind them in quantities sufficient for one or two days only.