Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shwarma - A Taste of Israel! Plus bonus: a review of Fresh & Easy by Leah Schapira with her Pita & Falafel recipes!!!

Shwarma Matten style!
When I’m not here at home in Chicago, my favorite place to be in the whole wide world is ISRAEL!!  When the plane lands at Ben Gurion airport, I really feel as though I’m coming home to the land of my ancestors!  I love the holiness of Yerushalayim – praying at the Kotel, visiting lifelong friends that have moved to Israel and made Aliyah, and of course being able to eat in nearly every restaurant in Jerusalem – because they’re almost all Kosher!  We love going to the outdoor shuk – Machane Yehuda, with its crazy chaos and amazing and unusual foods at bargain prices.  Even going to the local grocery store the Supersol (yes…I did remember to bring my Supersol frequent shopper card with me!) is an experience checking out all the new and interesting products as well as the familiar ones (like Heinz ketchup and Wacky Mac with Hebrew labels!).

Ben Yehuda's Moshiko's
Last week I had the privilege of going to Israel with my son.  It was an incredibly short trip – less than a week in Israel.  Our first order of business after checking into our hotel, is a family ritual – going to eat Shwarma!  I am a huge Shwarma fan, and no one makes Shwarma like Moshiko on Ben Yehuda in Jerusalem!  For those of you that don’t know, Shwarma is very similar to gyros. In addition to spit roasted lamb or turkey, the Shwarma’s in Jerusalem have your choice of hummus, charif (spicy sauce – we love charif!), and any combination of salads, pickles, french fries, and sauces – such as techina (I love techina!), all wrapped up in a large laffa (a huge pita like wrap).  I always ask for extra charif and techina and hope that the Israeli guys behind the counter don’t make too much fun of my Hebrew!  This year’s Shwarma didn’t disappoint – it was awesome!!  We even went back a second time the night we were leaving Israel!

It's Shwarma!!!
After all the walking we did, I didn’t feel too bad indulging in a few Marzipan incredible éclairs and rogelach (the best I have ever had anywhere), Aroma’s excellent hot chocolate (made with pieces of milk chocolate on the bottom of the cup!), lots of pizza, the best spicy hamburger ever at the Burger’s Bar in the Old City (we were on a budget!), and incredible Asian Teriyaki Salmon Pasta at Spaghettis in the Mamilla mall. 
Look for this sign for the best eclairs and rogelach in the world!!!
 Fresh spices in Machene Yehuda!
 I told you the Asian Teriyaki Salmon pasta was awesome!
Aroma hot chocolate - SO chocolatey!!
Burger's Bar Spicy Burger with everything! AMAZING!
English words written in Hebrew...can you guess what this says???
So, after such a short trip and not really being ready to leave Israel, I decided to bring a little bit of Israel to Chicago this week.  When shopping at the Supersol, we found packages of Shwarma Seasoning/Spices.  I was so excited I bought two!  Shwarma’s for the Chicago Matten family!!    I put together a whole Shwarma bar with chopped cucumbers and diced tomatoes (thanks Hindy Chopper!), hummus, techina, charif (of course!), pickles and French fries.  I cheated a little and made the Shwarma meat with dark chicken instead of turkey or lamb, because I knew it would cook relatively quickly and also was easy to get at my local butcher.  I coated the chicken with a little oil, a few tablespoons of the Shwarma seasoning, and baked it on a low temperature to keep it moist.
My family went crazy over them!!  They each got to pick what they wanted to put in their “Shwarma Laffa” just as if they were in Moshikos.  I had mine without the large laffa pita as a salad and it was still great.  Fantastic!  Now at least our family will have Shwarma’s to tie us over until our next trip to Israel!!

BTW….We also finally got to meet my favorite editor, Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith, who kindly gave us a tour of the Aish Hatorah facility in the Old City, and showed us the spectacular rooftop view of Jerusalem.  The view is incomparable, and if you’re ever in the old city I strongly recommend taking the stairs up to the top of Aish.
The breathtaking view of the Kotel (Western Wall) from the
top of the Aish Hatorah building in the Old City of Jerusalem!
Also...don't forget to check out the Kosherfest product of the week below: Fast & Easy by Leah Schapria!!
2 ½          pounds                               dark chicken, trimmed of fat
  1            tablespoon                          olive oil
  2            tablespoons                        Shwarma spice 
                                                         (plus more for covering missed spots)
                                                         non-stick vegetable oil spray

  1            large                                  onion, thinly sliced
  1            tablespoon                         olive oil
  1-2        pounds                                french fries -- baked
  16         ounces                                 hummus
  8           ounces                                 techina
  4           small                                   cucumbers, chopped (I use the Hindy Chopper)
  2           medium                               tomatoes, diced
                                                          pickles, sliced
                                                          coleslaw (optional)
                                                          schug – crushed red pepper paste-“charif”(optional)
  8            large                                   laffa pitas

Preheat oven to 275° F.   Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick vegetable spray.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss chicken with one tablespoon of olive oil and Shwarma spice, coating chicken completely.  Evenly place chicken on prepared pan. Sprinkle additional Shwarma spices on any parts of the chicken that weren't coated.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, then shred into smaller pieces.

In a medium skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add onion and sauté until golden brown and slightly caramelized.  Set aside.

Place one laffa on a flat surface.  Spread with 2 tablespoons of hummus, then schug (optional), then top with chicken, vegetables, fries and any other additional desired toppings, ending with techina, leaving around 5 inches of empty laffa on the bottom.

Fold the bottom of the laffa pita over the filling, then fold one side over and roll into a laffa wrap.  Eat warm!

 All the ingredients to start....
 Bake the chicken slowly so it's moist...
 Sauté the onion until golden...
Dice the vegetables with the Hindy Chopper!
Cut up the chicken....
Is it Matten's or Moshikos?
Can you tell the difference?
Ok...this one's Moshikos!  It's SO GOOD!!!
 Here's the Matten version you can try at home:
First hummus on the pita...
Then the schug "charif"....
Now everything else!!! YUM!!
Rock & Roll time!
Now...can you tell which is Moshkos?
They just can't wait!!!

Kosherfest Product of the Week:  Fresh & Easy by Leah Schapira
One of the most exciting aspects of going to Kosherfest 2012 was getting to meet the great Kosher food writers of our time.  I was privileged to meet and speak to Leah Schapira who was introducing her new cookbook: Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking.  It’s a wonderful cookbook!  Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful full page photograph, and every recipe is better than the next – mouthwatering and easy to make.  The recipes are also accompanied by useful notes and tips as well as interesting stories.

In honor of “A taste of Israel Week” in the Matten household I’d like to share with you two recipes from Fresh & Easy (reprinted with permission).  Next to Shwarma, what could be better than homemade falafel?  Leah Schapira makes it Fresh & Easy!!

Pita (Yield 8 Pitas)
2 ¼         teaspoons                          dry yeast
1 ¼         cups                                  warm water
1             tablespoon                         sugar
3             cups                                   flour
1 ½         teaspoons                           salt
2             tablespoons                        oil

  1. In a mixing bowl, place yeast, water, and sugar.  Add the flour and mix for 30 seconds.  Add salt and oil.  Mix on medium speed for 8-10 minutes.  If the dough looks too dry, add up to an additional ¼ cup water if necessary.
  2. Lightly coat a bowl with oil and place the dough inside.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel.   Let rise 1 ½ hours.  When the dough has doubled, punch down and divide dough into 8 pieces.  Roll each part into a ball. 
    Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and insert an inverted baking sheet or pizza stone.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  5. Lightly coat your working surface with flour.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the balls of dough to 6-inch circles.  Lightly dust both sides with flour.  If you have trouble rolling out the dough, let it rest an additional 10 minutes and try again.  Cover the dough circles until ready to bake so they don’t dry out.
  6. Throw 2 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven, and place 3 dough circles on top of the inverted baking sheet.  Bake for 405 minutes.  Pita should puff up.  Remove carefully and let cool.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Falafel (Yield  75 Falafel Balls)
1              pound                               dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
                                                         water for soaking
1              head                                  garlic, peeled (12-14 cloves)
1              medium                             onion, quartered
3                                                       eggs
2              tablespoons                       dried cilantro leaves
1              teaspoon                            black pepper
1              scant tablespoon                salt
1              tablespoon                         baking soda
1              tablespoon                         ground cumin
2              tablespoons                        flour
1 ¾ - 2  cups                                     water
1              cup                                    breadcrumbs (or more as needed)
                                                         oil for frying

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in water.  For a quicker soak, place the chickpeas in a pot.  Add water until the peas are submerged beneath two inches of liquid.  Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let stand for 1 hour.  Drain.
  2. In a food processor or with a grinder, grind chickpeas, garlic, and onion.  Place mixture into a large bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  3. Fill a pot halfway with oil.  Heat oil over medium-high heat.  Form batter into tight balls with a small ice-cream scooper.  Test-fry one ball; if it falls apart, add breadcrumbs.  Slip balls into oil, a few at a time.  Do not crowd.  Fry until golden on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Drain on paper towels.

Look for additional information about Edible Experience Kosher Everyday at,, Mishpacha Magazine’s Kosher Inspired Magazine,
The Chicago Tribune Syndication,
 or on Facebook at Edible Experience by Sharon Matten.

These recipes are for sole, personal use of visitors to Sharon Matten -Edible Experience Kosher Everyday. Edible Experience Kosher Everyday recipes are for your enjoyment but are not to be posted or reprinted without express permission from Sharon Matten. Thank you!!

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