Pascale’s Kitchen: Shavuot meal with the ambassadors

This year it will be different, special, delicious and interesting, since it is the result of a delicious and interesting culinary encounter.

DINING AT Debbie's: The global contingent. (photo credit: EITAN WAXMAN)
DINING AT Debbie's: The global contingent.
(photo credit: EITAN WAXMAN)
 Shavuot is a clean and white holiday, full of vegetables, fruits and milk-based products from Israel. Just before the evening of Shavuot, I thought of suggesting that you prepare a selection of delicacies that can fit wonderfully into the menu we will prepare for the holiday. This year it will be different, special, delicious and interesting, since it is the result of a delicious and interesting culinary encounter.
I was invited to a pre-Shavuot dinner at Debbie Matzkin’s house in Tel Aviv. Debbie has a fascinating life story. She was born in New York to a noble family, grew up in a mansion in Colombia and traveled around the world until she met Giora Matzkin, married and had two daughters, Hannah and Ilana. Debbie divides her life between Tel Aviv and Miami. She is very fond of cooking and traveling the globe, which allows her to explore different flavors, raw materials, foods and cultures. It is also her way of meeting cooks and chefs from around the world and learning from them.
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here>>
Matzkin is a member of various culinary and cultural committees. She conducts cooking workshops and believes wholeheartedly that only food can pave the way for world peace. 
She explains, “Food helps to connect people. We all eat and food is the basis of life. The eyes are the windows of the soul and food nourishes the soul. Food gives satisfaction to the soul. If the soul is happy and the stomach is full of food and satiety and satisfaction, we have nothing to argue about. It’s the simplest and most correct thing.”
In addition to her many occupations, she is a member of the IWC (the International Women’s Club of female ambassadors and the wives of diplomats) and often hosts them at her home for various meals, especially during Israeli and Jewish holidays. This is her way of exposing the diplomats and the ambassadors to the customs and traditions of the Jewish people, with the goal of introducing them to the Land of Israel through the meals she initiates. In honor of Shavuot, Debbie held such a meeting at her home to which I was invited, with the following people attending the meal, accompanied by music from Moshe Lahav.
– Margarita Manjares Herrera, ambassador of Colombia to Israel,
– Leonardo González, secretary of the Colombian ambassador,
– Anjan Shakya, ambassador of Nepal to Israel,
– Anna Magierowska, the wife of the ambassador of Poland to Israel, and
– Tirza Brody (wife of basketball player Tal Brody) and Daniela Oren, old friends of the Matzkin family.
Debbie has met fascinating figures from Israel and from around the world who have opened doors to a variety of culinary worlds. She loves people and loves to entertain. Aesthetics is a key word for her, and she loves to design hospitality tables.
When Debbie prepares for a particular guest at her home, the menu is constructed in the opposite way from the familiar and well-known. She jokes, “First I design the table according to the number of guests who are supposed to attend the meal, and then I understand what I’ll serve at the meal.”
Debbie has an active culinary website at DebbieMatzkin.com. She is the author of Fall or Fly, in which she reveals the journey of her tumultuous, beautiful and exciting life, and her great love of cooking accompanies her at every stage. Her second book, Food, Hospitality and Love, was published recently. The meal that she chose to prepare was based on impressive dishes. They are easy, quick to prepare (for quick preparation, some of the recipes require preparation several hours in advance or the evening before), simple, colorful and interesting.
At my request, Debbie gave me the recipes served at the pre-Shavuot meal. They are presented here in the hope that you will incorporate them into your holiday meal.
Chag sameach!
Green, red and white salad (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)Green, red and white salad (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)

GREEN, RED & WHITE SALAD

A refreshing salad with touches of sweetness.
Serves 4.
1 500-gr. package baby spinach 
200 gr. dried apples sliced into strips or fresh peeled apples soaked in lemon juice (continued)
1 cup sliced strawberries
½ cup chopped walnuts
200 gr. crumbled feta cheese
½ cup blueberries
½ cup canned chickpeas, drained
Dressing:
3 Tbsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. olive oil
5 Tbsp. silan
3 cloves crushed garlic
3 Tbsp. berry vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the spinach leaves, dry and set aside. Arrange all the salad ingredients in a serving bowl in layers. Place all the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized jar, close and shake well. Add the sauce to the salad bowl right before serving and stir.
Difficulty level: Easy
Time: 15 minutes
Status: Dairy
Pear, caramelized onion and fig-jam tart. (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)Pear, caramelized onion and fig-jam tart. (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)

PEAR, CARAMELIZED ONION AND FIG-JAM TART

Makes a 40 cm. x 40 cm. tart.
Onion layer:
50 gr. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions sliced into thin strips
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
½ Tbsp. thyme leaves
Tart:
50 gr. melted butter
6 sheets of phyllo dough
6-8 peeled pears cut into thin pieces (on a mandoline slicer or with a knife)
200 gr. crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp. fig jam (not required) diluted in a Tbsp. of hot water
In a pan, melt the butter and oil. Add the onion strips and fry over a low flame while stirring until golden brown. Add the sugar, vinegar and thyme leaves while stirring until the sugar dissolves and a caramelized onion jam is obtained, about an hour to an hour and a half.
Place the first phyllo sheet on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and brush it with the melted butter. Place another phyllo sheet on it and brush it the same way until all the phyllo sheets are used. Arrange the pear slices in rows on the layer of phyllo sheets as they overlap. Brush the pears with the melted butter and sprinkle crumbled blue cheese over the pears. Spread the onion jam over the cheese.
Bake in an oven preheated to 180ºC (356ºF) for 35 minutes for even and beautiful browning. Remove and brush with diluted fig jam.
Difficulty level: Easy
Time: About 2 hours (due to the time needed to prepare the onion jam)
Status: Dairy
Ombrina in cinnamon and vegetables. (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)Ombrina in cinnamon and vegetables. (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)

OMBRINA IN CINNAMON AND VEGETABLES

Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1 large onion
8 cloves of garlic
2 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
1 spicy red chili pepper
¼ cup olive oil (continued)
1 small package (100 gr.) of crushed tomatoes
A pinch of salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1-2 cups water
8 pieces grouper
Peel and cut all the vegetables into small cubes. Heat olive oil in a large pot, add all the chopped vegetables and fry for about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices. Mix and add the chickpeas. Pour a cup of water in and cook for about 5 minutes. Pour ½ to one cup of water and cook for another 5 minutes. Arrange the pieces of fish comfortably in the pot. Shake the pot so the sauce coats the fish and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.
Difficulty level: Easy
Time: 30 minutes
Status: Pareve
Cheese soufflé (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)Cheese soufflé (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)

CHEESE SOUFFLÉ

Make in 20 cm. heat-proof soufflé pan.
For greasing pan:
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. ground Parmesan cheese
For soufflé:
¼ cup melted butter
5 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. dry chili
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1¼ cup 3% milk
¼ cup dry white wine
6 separated eggs
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1½ cup ground Gruyère cheese
Spread the soufflé pan well with butter and sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese on the bottom and sides.
For the soufflé, melt the butter in a pan over a medium flame. Add the flour, chili, nutmeg and mix lightly until bubbles form, about a minute. Be careful not to burn it.
Gradually and slowly pour in the milk and wine. Stir for 2 minutes until simmering.
Remove from the flame.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with salt and black pepper and add to the thick sauce. Stir and add the cheeses and fold gently.
Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer until a stable foam is obtained and fold it into the cheese mixture.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC (392ºF). Transfer the batter to the butter and Parmesan-lined soufflé pan. Lower the oven temperature to 185ºC to 190ºC (365ºF to 374ºF) and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until well browned. 
Difficulty level: Easy
Time: 1 hour
Status: Dairy
Cheesecake garnished with fruit. (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)Cheesecake garnished with fruit. (Photo credit: Eitan Waxman)

CHEESECAKE GARNISHED WITH FRUIT

Use well-greased 26-cm. springform pan.
2 packages 9% cottage cheese
2 packages cream cheese, Philadelphia preferred
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup cornflour (corn starch)
2 packages sour cream
100 gr. melted butter (continued)
¼ cup finely ground pecans
For garnish:
¾ cup strawberry jam
Package of washed and cleaned strawberries
½ cup blueberries
2 peeled kiwis, cut into quarters
Pass the cottage cheese through a sieve to create as smooth a texture as possible. Transfer to an electric mixer bowl, add the cream cheese and mix on low speed while gradually adding the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cornflour, sour cream and melted butter. Mix into a uniform batter.
Wrap the baking pan tightly with aluminum foil. Sprinkle the ground nuts in a pan over the bottom and sides. Transfer the cheesecake batter to the pan.
Fill boiling water in another mold that can hold the mold with the cheesecake. The boiling water should reach up to half the height of the cheesecake mold (bake with a bain-marie).
Bake in a preheated oven at 165ºC (329ºF) for 70 minutes. At the end of baking, leave the cake in the oven with the door open for half an hour. Remove the cake, cool well and remove from the pan.
Spread the surface of the cheesecake with an even layer of strawberry jam, arrange strawberries over the cake and sprinkle the blueberries over it and keep the kiwi quarters in the refrigerator until served.
Difficulty level: Medium
Time: 1.5 hours
Status: Dairy
Translated by Tzvi Joffre.