Some Like It Hot: Harif / Harissa


Harif (Hebrew – means “sharp”) or Harissa (Arabic) is our Red Hot Sauce. Chili Arbol gives it its red color. It is fiery but flavorful.

I make my sauce in a VitaMix, which blends it a little more than the traditional methods, giving it a beautiful burnt orange color. I usually soak the peppers overnight before blending, but on a recent occasion I forgot to pre-soak them and found that I could accomplish almost the same thing by covering them with water in a pot, bringing it to a boil and letting them sit for 20-30 minutes.

(Makes 1 pint)


  • Chili Arbol, Dried, 1 Qt., soaked and drained
  • Garlic, 2 TB
  • Sea salt, 1 tsp
  • Coriander, 2 tsp
  • Caraway, 2 tsp
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup


  1. Soak chilis overnight in a quart container filled to the top with chilis & water. Drain and squeeze. Alternatively, place dried chilis in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat and let sit for 20-30 minutes, drain and squeeze.
  2. Add extra virgin olive oil to VitaMix.
  3. Put garlic into VitaMix (2 TB chopped or a small handful).
  4. Add soaked and squeezed chilis.
  5. Add all seasonings.
  6. Run VitaMix until tangerine colored paste is achieved. May have to push material into blades until all is pulled into the vortex.
  7. Scrape bowl as thoroughly as possible into a 1 pint – 1 quart container.
  8. Wash VitaMix bowl by filling 2/3 with hot water and adding a small drop of dish soap and blending. This will remove all hot sauce from the blades.

Some Like It Hot: Z’hug

I made and offered two hot sauces when I started in the food business: Z’hug and Harif. For those who like it hot, either of these sauces is a wonderful accompaniment to a meal.

Gutturals are difficult for Americans. Staff and customers came up with so many delightful variations on the pronunciation of z’hug, including “zee-hug”. Finally we settled on referring to the sauces as Green Sauce or Red Sauce if they preferred Harif / Harissa.

Z’hug is a Yemenite Jalapeno-based hot sauce, hence “green.” I make mine in a food processor. The following will make about one quart, so you may want to halve or quarter the recipe, depending on the amount your machine will process evenly.

(Makes 1 quart)


  • Garlic, 1/4+ cup (a big handful)
  • Cilantro, 1 large bunch, chopped
  • Jalapeño pepper, 12 lg, chunked
  • Sea salt, 1 tsp
  • Cumin, 1 tsp
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 4 TB


  1. Put garlic into food processor first, then chopped cilantro, then chunked jalapeño.
  2. Pulse 20-25 times until all is evenly chopped.
  3. Add all seasonings.
  4. Pulse 2 or 3 times more and push down side of processor container until all contents are evenly chopped.
  5. Add 3-4 TB olive oil and pulse once or twice more.
  6. Move into a one quart storage container.


Black Bean Soup

(Makes 1.5 Gallons)


  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 cup
  • Spanish Onions, 1 lg., small diced
  • Garlic, 16 cloves (2 TB minced)
  • Carrots, 1/2 lb., small diced
  • Celery, 5 lg. stalks, small diced
  • Red bell pepper, 1 lg., small diced
  • Black beans, 3 lb.
  • Plum tomatoes, 1 lb. petite diced (about 8) or one 19-oz. can petite diced)
  • Tomato paste, 1-6 oz. can
  • Water, about 4-5 quarts
  • Salt, 1 TB (to taste)
  • Cumin, 2 TB
  • Hot chili powder, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Hot paprika, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon or lime to taste
  • Cilantro and red pepper garnish


  1. Prepare the beans – read my post:
  2. Add extra virgin olive oil to another pot, covering the bottom to about 1/8″.
  3. Add onions and garlic to saute briefly.
  4. Add diced veggies and saute briefly until softened.
  5. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Simmer for a moment or two and remove from burner while preparing beans.
  6. Drain cooked beans in a colander over a bowl to capture cooking liquid.
  7. Measure the cooking liquid and add 4-5 quarts to the tomato and veggie mixture along with the beans (add less to start if you use the blanch-soak method of bean preparation).
  8. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the soup until all has blended together well, beans are very tender and soup has reached desired thickness.
  9. I usually mash some of the soup with a potato ricer.
  10. Add lemon or lime if desired.
  11. Adjust liquid and other seasonings.
  12. Garnish with chopped red peppers and cilantro and serve.



I love babaganoush with its creaminess and fresh taste. I used to make mine with labne, a Middle Eastern yogurt spread, but this vegan version, made with Tahina Sauce, is just as creamy and good.

Although a good variety of smoked paprika will give a beautiful smoky flavor to the babaganoush, smoking the eggplants rather than running them under the broiler will accomplish the same.

(Makes about a quart)



  • Eggplants, 3 lg.
  • Tahina, 1/2 cup
  • Lemon, ½ juiced (up to 1 TB)
  • Garlic, 1 tsp., (or 2 cloves, minced)
  • Sea salt, 1.5 tsp.
  • Cumin, 1.5 tsp.
  • Szeged hot paprika, ½ tsp.
  • Smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp. (Opt.)
  • Parsley, 1-3 oz. (start with 1 oz., add until the mixture has a beautiful light green cast)


  1. Roast eggplant with peels on under the broiler to blacken skin (about 15 minutes, turning every five minutes).
  2. Cool eggplant.
  3. Remove skin from flesh, and drain thoroughly (an hour is best, but at least while preparing the remainder of the recipe).
  4. Place roughly chopped parsley in a food processor bowl. Process until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides. Set aside.
  5. Mince garlic in processor.
  6. Add cooled, peeled, drained eggplant to processor bowl with garlic.
  7. Add Tahina Sauce, lemon juice and seasonings to the processor bowl with eggplant and garlic. Pulse all until barely mixed. DO NOT OVER-PROCESS. It should have texture.
  8. Taste, and add hot paprika as desired (or not) — and add parsley as desired. Pulse once or twice to mix in.


9. Spread on a dish for serving, garnish with extra virgin olive oil, Tahina Sauce, parsley or paprika or sumac or za’atar and enjoy.

Salad for breakfast

My favorite ingredients for Israeli/Jerusalem Salad: tomato, cucumber, red bell peppers, avocado, red onion . . . and sometimes I add a little finely chopped cilantro.

“The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition” …Nick Seitz

Finding a breakfast cereal without sugar can be challenging. Finding one that doesn’t taste like sawdust even more so. I propose a solution to this problem: an Israeli-style breakfast.

I visited Israel for the first time almost 40 years ago. Israel is one of those places that floods one’s mind and senses with thoughts and images. It resonates with the voices of its history and culture, voices which have become part of so many of us through biblical literature although we may have never been to Israel.

One of the most memorable experiences I had on that first visit was totally unanticipated: an Israeli breakfast. Originally a very simple meal, Israeli breakfasts have become famous. Many contemporary restaurants specialize in elaborate versions of it.

Israeli breakfasts originated with the halutzim (early pioneers). Quickly prepared from local ingredients, the meal featured a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onion and perhaps avocado, dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Other typical components of the meal were soft cheeses, hard boiled eggs, pickles, olives and bread. Beans in the form of  hummus (a chickpea “dip”) or ful (fava beans) might also be part of the meal. Ful is the breakfast food of choice in Egypt and is served up with lemon, chopped garlic, onions and olive oil.

When I returned home from that first trip, I began to make a simple version of the Israeli breakfast every morning. Although my knife skills are unfortunate, I became proficient in the small dice typical of an Israeli or Jerusalem salad. We sometimes enjoyed dicing contests to see who could make the salad most quickly and with the most precision.

I love to make Israeli Salad. Because of its precision (some would call it tedious), it requires focus, especially if you don’t have great knife skills. For me, it’s “vegetative,” that is, a meditative exercise involving beautiful vegetables:


(Serves four along with other breakfast items)
Plum tomatoes, 6 ripe but firm
Pickling cucumbers, 2-3 or Persian cucumbers,* 3-4
Green onions, 2
Red bell peppers, 1-2
Avocado (opt.), 1-2 ripe but firm
Cilantro (opt.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

*Pickling cucumbers are preferable because of their finer grain and because they require no deseeding. Persian cucumbers are even better where available.

Although not necessary if the salad is eaten immediately, deseeding the tomatoes extends the time the salad will last without drowning in its own juices. Cut all the veggies into a uniform 1/4″ dice. Chop the onions and cilantro. Add extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

VIDEO #1: For a demo of the dice, see the video my son created of himself preparing Israeli/Jerusalem salad in my cafe (mandolin optional – I do it by hand):

VIDEO #2: Here’s one more video – a session I did at our Woodstock Farmers Market on the Israeli Breakfast. I’m a good deal slower and less expert than my son, but here’s the good news: if I can make this salad, anyone can! –

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Israeli White Bean Soup

(Makes about 1 gal.)


  • Olive Oil, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic, 1 TB
  • Spanish onion, 1 lg, petite diced
  • Celery, 2 lg stalks, bias cut
  • Carrots, 2 lg, bias cut
  • Potatoes, 5 size “A” potatoes, 1″ dice, skin on
  • Cumin, 1 TB
  • Tomato, 8 lg plum tomatoes, petite diced, or one  28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste,  3 heaping TB or to desired thickness
  • Salt, 2 tsp or to taste
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped
  • White beans (Navy Pea Beans or Canellini), 2 lb. dried
  • Water, 3 quarts to start


  1. Add olive oil to a pot large enough to hold the entire soup, and saute garlic.
  2. Add petite diced or chopped onions and sauté.
  3. Rinse beans well, and put in pot to cook with fresh water to cover, about 3 quarts. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer, cover pot and cook ’til beans are almost tender.
  4. Add celery and carrots cut on the bias. Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding more water if needed.
  5. Add potatoes, diced tomatoes tomato paste, and continue to simmer until the potatoes are barely tender.
  6. Add remaining seasonings and water to desired thickness, and bring soup back to simmer.
  7. When finished, the soup should be thick with veggies and beans but with enough broth to be soup.
  8. Add chopped cilantro at end of cooking process, and remove from heat.

Feeding the Soul: Veggie Cholent

Veggie Cholent

I am interested in the spiritual value of rituals.

When my grandson was born, I said, “We need a ritual!”  Sunday breakfast became that ritual.  Over the years, details have changed, but the basic activity remains. 

Sunday breakfast has layers of meaning, different for each of us.  Some meaning can be expressed in words…some not.  Therein lies the value of ritual as non- or pre-verbal meaning. 

So it is with Cholent (Yiddish) or Hamin (Hebrew), meaning “hot.” Cholent is a stew prepared and put on to cook before the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday and enjoyed as the midday meal on Saturday.  It is a way to enjoy warm food without violating the prohibition against cooking on the Sabbath.

Cholent has a very special meaning for me.  I am not a multi-tasker, yet I am usually doing at least three things at once.  I am distracted and hardly feeling nurtured. 

When I sit down to eat my cholent with friends and family, though, I am in a different space.  Something miraculous happens while the cholent is left untended — then this gift arrives effortlessly on my table. I am nurtured by it.  Enjoying cholent is a ritual that has layers of meaning beyond its taste and the fact that I eat it on the same day at the same time each week. 

Making cholent has itself become a meaningful ritual activity.  I gather ingredients and put them together.  I anticipate the miracle that will happen overnight in that pot and the pleasure I will experience when I am able to share the miracle with others the next day. 

This year my son gave me the gift of time by helping with some of the cooking in my Cafe.  In return, I gave him the gift of preparing cholent each week.  As I eat it, I can taste the layers of meaning it is taking on for him.  This is “cooking with love,” feeding the soul while feeding the body.  Soul food.

There are many ways to make cholent.  Here is my way:

(Makes 2 Gal. – halve the recipe unless you have a really big crockpot!)

  • 1 TB Garlic
  • 3 TB Ginger
  • 2 TB Cumin
  • 1 TB + 2 TSP Salt
  • 2 Tsp Hot Paprika
  • 1 Lg Spanish Onion cut in 1 in. chunks
  • 2 Lg or 3 Sm Potatoes (Idaho), peeled & cut in 1 in. chunks
  • 2 Lg or 3 Sm Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 LB Dried Beans (Kidney, Pinto, White Pea)
  • 1/2 LB Dried Chickpeas
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Barley
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Berries
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 12 Eggs in the shell


  1. Mix all ingredients except eggs in a crockpot bowl.
  2. Add water to an inch above mixture.
  3. Tuck whole uncooked eggs in the shell into the top of the mixture, making certain they are fully submerged.
  4. Wrap foil tightly over top.  Put lid over foil.
  5. Turn pot on medium. Cook 10-12 hours or more.
  6. Remove eggs, rinse and shell.
  7. Arrange peeled eggs on top of cholent.

Here’s to joy-filled, soulful eating!

Red Cabbage Slaw

Red Cabbage Slaw
Red Cabbage Slaw

On Friday evenings, I enjoy the first meal of the Sabbath. I like to prepare a table filled with colorful and delicious salads to tantalize my guests and add to the joy of these occasions. For years I made these salads weekly in my home. Now I offer them daily in my Cafe.






  • 1/2 lg. head red cabbage
  • 1/2 sm. red onion
  • juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. Szeged (Hungarian) hot paprika (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise


  1. Petite dice the cabbage. Here’s how I cut the cabbage when I do it by hand: Cut thin slices of cabbage. Stack three or four at a time. Cut through the stack in thin strips. Cut in a perpendicular direction across the stack of strips. When all the cabbage has been cut this way, it may require a little bit of additional chopping but probably not if you keep your gridwork strips thin enough. Place the cabbage in a bowl.
  2. Petite dice the onion. Here’s how I do that: Cut off the ends of the onion. Remove the outer layer. Cut the onion in half between the cut ends. Place the flat side of one half down on the cutting board. Cut across the onion in narrow strips, holding the onion together as you work. Turn the cut onion 1/4 turn and cut across the onion in narrow strips, forming a gridwork. The shape of the onion itself will leave you with a very small dice. Add the onion to the cabbage in the bowl.
  3. Chop the cilantro, and add to the cabbage and onion in the bowl.
  4. Fold in seasonings and mayonnaise to taste. It will vary with the amount of raw product and your preference. I like my salad to taste slightly tangy from the lemon but not overly tart – and to be zesty (from the hot paprika) but not “hot.” Start with the smaller amount of lemon, salt and hot paprika, and increase until it’s perfect for you. You can always add seasoning, but you can’t reduce it!


For a vegan version, this salad can be made with extra virgin olive oil instead of mayonnaise.  Add 1/2 cup EVOO in place of the mayonnaise and bump up the lemon a bit.


Dill Potato Salad

Dill Potato Salad
Dill Potato Salad

On Friday evenings, I enjoy the first meal of the Sabbath. I like to prepare a table filled with colorful and delicious salads to tantalize my guests and add to the joy of these occasions. For years I made these salads weekly in my home. Now I offer them daily in my Cafe.


  • 12 Idaho potatoes
  • 3 green onions
  • 6 coarsely chopped Middle Eastern pickles in brine
  • 1 red bell pepper, petite diced (the original recipe called for a can of peas & carrots, drained)
  • 1 TB sea salt
  • 1 tsp Szeged (Hungarian) hot paprika
  • 1 cup mayonnaise or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill


1. Peel potatoes and place them in cold water while working on the rest of the salad.
2. Dice the potatoes into 1/2″-1″ pieces. In the Cafe, I can use a machine for this process. At home, I do it by hand by cutting slices across the potato, stacking the pieces and cutting through the stack in a grid-like pattern. I try to keep the cuts as even as possible. Return the diced pieces to the bowl of water.


3. When all potatoes are diced, bring 2 quarts of water to the boil in a 4 quart pot.
4. Drain and add diced potatoes to the boiling water. Lower heat to simmer until potatoes are tender.
5. When potatoes are tender, place into a colander and drain. Put colander into a larger bowl filled with ice water. When potatoes are cold, drain the water.
6. Place drained potatoes in a bowl. Add all chopped veggies (green onions, fresh dill, pickles, red bell pepper) and sprinkle seasonings across the top.


7. Spread mayonnaise across the top.
8. Gently fold all together. Adjust seasoning.

For a vegan version, see my Lebanese Potato Salad.

No-Meat Loaf

 I started this meal with a recipe from Chow Vegan on Pinterest (Home-style Vegan Meatloaf). I noticed there was a discussion associated with the recipe about a gluten-free version (the original was not gluten-free).  I came up with the following by substituting flaxseed and water for the breadcrumbs and using Tamari wheat free soy sauce. Although I am not personally gluten-free, many of my customers are, and when it’s possible to make something taste just as good without gluten, I try to do it.


  • 2 lg onions
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 8 carrots
  • 4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1+ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsp oregano
  • 3 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB salt
  • 8 TB Tamari wheat free soy sauce
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup reserved chickpea liquid
  • Organic catsup


  1. Wash and dice the onions and celery and saute in extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Wash and chunk the carrots and process with the garlic until they are in small pieces (not pureed).  Add the carrots and garlic to the onions and celery and continue to saute.
  3. Add seasonings to mixture in the pan.
  4. Cook the chickpeas until al dente (fairly soft).  Drain (reserving liquid) and pulse in the processor until they are a rough chop. Place in a bowl.
  5. Stir the veggie and seasoning mix into the processed chickpeas and mix well.
  6. Add flaxseed to veggies, seasoning and chickpeas and mix well.
  7. Add reserved chickpea liquid and salt and mix well (you can start with a reduced amount of salt and bring it up to your taste).
  8. Form into loaves and coat with a good, organic catsup.
  9. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 475 degrees for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven.  Place about 2 tsp catsup on top of each loaf and spread over top and sides.
  11. Remove each loaf carefully from the baking sheet with a spatula and turn to the opposite side.  Place about 2 tsp catsup on top of each loaf again and spread over top and sides.
  12. Return loaves to the oven to bake another 15 minutes or until the catsup has darkened some.
  13. Remove the loaves from the oven and, using a spatula, from the pan to a serving platter.
  14. The loaves are most attractive when they are cut.  They will cut more easily with a serrated knife when somewhat cooled – best if cold. They can be served cold or warm.


This recipe yields 28 1/2 cup mini-loaves.  Extra loaves can be frozen for another occasion, or the recipe can be reduced to 1/4 quantities for a family meal.