Short Order: Dial-a-dish, and real sponge cake

When I returned last week from three days at one of my favorite spots, the Dead Sea, I found among the usual clutter of accumulated mail a 32-page brochure, done in full color on thick, shiny paper, entitled "What's Your Taste?"

When I returned last week from three days at one of my favorite spots, the Dead Sea, I found among the usual clutter of accumulated mail a 32-page brochure, done in full color on thick, shiny paper, entitled "What's Your Taste?" I had no idea when or how it had arrived, but seeing on its cover a luscious array of eatables - not unlike what I had just enjoyed in a five-star hotel - I scanned it with interest. Lo and behold, this was no food industry production, but a sophisticated and seductive promo for the Pelephone company's new-generation cellphones! It was clever, too, targeting without explanation or apology the most basic of appetites - featuring a different dish, photographed mouthwateringly close-up, on every right-hand page, and a cute new phone model on every facing one. What's more, a recipe followed each dish. Passing over the most calorific offerings, I found two to share: CHICKEN IN SESAME ON A PINEAPPLE BASE 600 gr. chicken breast, cut into fingers or strips 2 Tbsp. soy sauce 1⁄2 cup sesame seeds canola oil 1 fresh pineapple, cut into rings Lay the chicken strips on a dish, sprinkle them with the soy sauce and leave for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Pour the sesame into a shallow plate and dip the chicken until well covered. Heat some oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the strips, turning them over, until done. Arrange the pineapple rings on a serving dish and pile the hot chicken over them. Serve immediately. Enough for 6. GREEN SALAD WITH FIGS, BLUE CHEESE, NUTS & SEEDS 4 cups mixed salad leaves 6 fresh or dried figs, sliced or segmented 100 gr. Roquefort cheese, coarsely grated 2 heaped Tbsp. pumpkin seeds 2 heaped Tbsp. walnuts or other nuts 4 Tbsp. olive oil 4 Tbsp. lemon juice salt and pepper to taste Arrange a bed of salad leaves on four individual plates. Share the figs among them and add the cheese, seeds and nuts. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Sprinkle over each plate and serve. I RECEIVED a lovely cookbook recently called Gatherings: Creative Kosher Cooking from Our Families to Yours. Compiled by the parents of the modern Orthodox Netivot Hatorah Day School in Thornhill, Ontario, the book acquired its name both because gathering to eat is what Jews do on festivals and every conceivable happy occasion, and because its 300 recipes were gathered from the warm Netivot Hatorah "family" ( Here's a soup in which broccoli or cauliflower can be substituted for the asparagus. ASPARAGUS SOUP 3⁄4 cup onion, chopped 2 Tbsp. canola oil 1⁄2 kg. asparagus, cut in 2.5-cm. pieces 11⁄2 stalks celery, cut in 2.5-cm. pieces 1 large potato, peeled and chopped 4 cups vegetable stock or water 1 cup dry white wine 1⁄4 cup fresh dill, or 1 Tbsp. dried salt and pepper to taste fresh dill to garnish In a heavy pot, saute the onion in the oil for about 10 minutes. Stir in the other vegetables. Add the stock or water, wine, dill, salt and pepper. Simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Cool. Puree in the blender, reheat and adjust the seasoning. Garnish. 'WELCOME to Kitsch Paradise," said my friend Shalva as she opened the door to her cozy Jerusalem apartment. And, indeed, the appellation would be hard to deny. A dish of luscious-looking strawberries beckoning on her coffee table were, she explained with relish, "incredible inedibles" bought the day before. Rushing into the kitchen, she brought out a chocolate sponge cake - made of real sponge - topped with (plastic) fruit and cream. Her sitting room cabinets boasted a medium-sized china handbag, a thin tin lady in red-and-yellow-striped tights, and a one-dimensional cardboard plant ensconced in a cardboard pot. Nearby, a pair of smiling velour flower-faces balanced on bright green stems "grew" companionably out of a radiator. Kitsch Paradise, no question about it. But there was also no doubt about the piece de resistance: a giant green Kermit frog wearing white satin ballet slippers sitting cross-legged in Shalva's rocking chair, its arm around a hippopotamus attired in Shalva's late grandfather's black satin bow tie and spectacles. "I bet these creatures come alive when you're asleep," I mused, adding that I would definitely be writing about them - although, as I pointed out, one thing readers aren't likely to see in this column is a recipe for "real" sponge cake. [email protected]