The Best Challah: Wood-Fired                 (+The Best Grilled Cheese)

Baking challah in a wood fire oven will change any notions you ever held  about challah.

By Danielle Frum

There are those who love challah, there are others who find the varnish-crusted eggy loaf too insipid, too soggy, and often too sweet.

My family and I have long belonged to the latter camp. For years, every Friday, we would buy two shellacked, knotted loaves. After the blessing over the challah was recited, each family member would take a small, dutiful tug of bread. The birds would get the rest – if the Labradors didn’t grab it first. The waste shamed us, but what could we do? Tradition, right?

Then, one day earlier this summer, I was having coffee with my friend Bruno Francois, who runs the Old Third winery near our Canadian summer lake house in Prince Edward County, Ontario

(FT&V readers may remember his partner Jens’ perfect crepe recipe for Shavuot, our answer to the blintz).  Mid-summer is a relatively quiet period for a winemaker, and the always energetic Bruno now occupied his time with a new obsession: bread-making.  Specifically baguettes.

“I spent six months researching how to make them,”  Bruno said.  

A friend of Bruno’s and Jens’ had recently parked a homemade wood fire oven on their property, and was currently being used to make pizza for weekend wine tasters. After he mastered the dough, Bruno had the brainwave of trying to cook it in the pizza oven.

How good was Bruno’s baguette? The result was like no baguette I’d ever tasted, even in Paris, even in the French countryside. Bruno placed two loaves on the table with a plate of hand churned butter.  I primly suggested I was on a carb diet (true), and would just have a small bite. My husband said the same. Within fifteen minutes there were only crumbs left from the two loaves: we’d ravaged them as eagerly and as thoroughly as any two Labradors falling upon stolen stale challah.

“I don’t care how many pounds I just gained,” I murmered, completely satisfied. “It was worth it.”

At that moment the idea came to me to try making challah the same way – in a wood fire oven.  Maybe with a scorched, rustic crust this weekly bread of affliction might be more like … a baguette? Bruno was immediately game. He’d never made challah before, but that only made it more of a challenge for him.  

We scheduled a day to make the bread and in advance researched multiple recipes for challah.  Despite claims by the authors that theirs was a family recipe passed down through generations of rebbetizin yadda yadda, all the recipes (and results) looked basically the same: eggy Wonderbread. The methodology, too, didn’t differ much between them. But I had a secret ingredient that none of the others had: a super-competitive French baking fiend with a wood fire oven. Bring on the revolution. Bruno and I were going to nail this thing.  And, by Gosh, we did…

Bruno and I with our two-foot long challah, ready for the oven. The challah, brown and ready, and not at all pasty-looking like its baked cousin.

On B-Day, as I called it, I arrived in Bruno's kitchen with the best ingredients I could find, rounded up from local farm markets (fresh eggs, local wild honey etc.) Bruno placed a pair of horn-rimmed glasses on his nose and examined the recipes for challah I’d downloaded. He frowned.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“A serious baking recipe measures the ingredients by weight, not volume – kilos, not cups.”

“Why?” I asked him. If I haven’t already admitted it, I am a wretched baker. It’s all chemistry to me. And I’m lousy at chemistry.

“Basically it’s the difference between things turning out and not turning out,” he said, waving his hand. “A cup measurement is sloppier. There is humidity that can change the volume. So many reasons.”

Bruno rummaged in a cupboard and produced a beautiful set of antique scales. From then on I simply watched him go to work (except to pass Bruno ingredients or tools): He poured, he measured, he frowned again, he glanced at a recipe, scowled, paused, visibly had an idea, paused a second time, adjusted. He noted that the recipes did not allow “for the autolytic process.” I was hesitant to ask for an explanation, but, in the interest of science, I did.

“When you make a baguette, you add water to the flour and let it sit for 30 minutes. This allows the structure of the wheat cell to break down – and to require less kneading.” I passed him some of the Kosher salt that was called for in the next step. He waved it away.  “I don’t add salt until the flour has had a chance to rest in the liquid ingredients. Let’s wait until after the autolytic process.”

Bruno waited for approximately 10 minutes before he was satisfied with the texture of the dough.  “I would describe it as supple,” he said, as I grabbed my pen to write this pronouncement down. Afterwards, there was nothing to do but to wait a couple of hours for the dough to rise.  I went off on a bike ride. On the return, I was delayed by a severe headwind. By the time I’d belatedly arrived, Bruno had already divided the dough and braided two magnificent loaves.  I performed the last step: painting the braids with mixed egg and sprinkling them with poppy seeds.

“Bruno, the recipe said this would be enough for four loaves…” I said a little reproachfully, glancing at his two-foot long twisted masterpieces.

He shrugged. “I don’t know how large challah is supposed to be.”

Somehow we managed to transfer the two huge raw loaves onto his long wooden bread board. We balanced the challah across his lawn and a small country lane to the wood oven, in which Bruno had carefully nursed a fire to reach the correct temperature of 350-degrees. He jerked and yanked the board expertly so that the lumpy dough slid neatly into the fiery oven. Now all we could do was wait and see if the challah would survive the inferno.  Bruno vanished into his tasting barn and extracted a bottle of cider, something his vineyard now makes in addition to its celebrated red, white, and sparkling Pinot Noirs. We nervously toasted the challah, like two expectant parents.

Twenty minutes later, Bruno withdrew a rather scorched looking loaf. We raced it on the board back across the lane and lawn to his kitchen. My son Nathaniel and his visiting college friend, Joe, had just driven up with one of our Fig Tree & Vine “Modern Rustic” challah boards, on which I intended to photograph the finished product.  Their timing was perfect. Their young, hungry eyes gleamed at the warm loaf of bread as we set it on the counter.

 Bruno fetched his bespoke butter.

 Six minutes later the magnificent, two-foot-long challah was but a pile of crumbs and stray poppy seeds. Joe said, “I’m not a ‘member of the tribe,’ but … this was maybe the best bread I’ve ever had.”

And so it was.

Here was challah re-invented – or maybe even challah as it was before the advent of the electric stove: a crusty loaf scorched purple from the heat of the fire, with a sinewy, tasty interior – not too sweet, not too eggy, just …  perfect.  I took some home for my husband, who hates challah even more than most challah-haters.

“It’s still warm,” I coaxed, pushing it at him.  And before I knew it, he’d devoured it too.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have any leftovers. But if you do, this same challah also lends itself to the world’s best grilled cheese – a recipe I’ve also gained from Bruno. It appears below the main challah recipe.

But please note: Even if you don’t have a wood fire oven, Bruno’s recipe will adapt easily to a regular oven. It is the definitive recipe. If you make challah any other way, stop now. I don’t care how many generations of Rabbis it comes from.

Makes four loaves of challah, or two if you're Bruno. Use the best ingredients you can find.

2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 kilo all purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1 1/2 tb active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
25 grams kosher salt
White sesame or poppy seeds for topping

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until just warm. Remove from heat. 

Pour the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yeast, a small amount of the honey and 1/2 cup of the warm milk to the well. Let stand until foamy, approximately 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl quickly combine the rest of the milk and honey, oil, and three eggs. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, about 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring and combining all the ingredients until the dough begins to form. When all the liquids have been absorbed, let the dough rest for another 20 minutes. It is important not to overhandle the dough at this stage. This gives the "autolytic process" the opportunity to start breaking down the cell structure of the dough, and will make for a more elastic dough requiring less kneading, according to Bruno. When this is done, add the salt, stir again, and then turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.

Bruno kneads the dough by placing the two heels of his hands on top of each other, and pushing it forward on the counter, repeating the gesture over and over as if he was trying to pave a road using recalcitrant cement. It gets the lumps out very effectively. When the dough or surface became too sticky, he rejected a recipe's advice to add more flour, and instead sprinkled the dough with a few drops of water. The dough immediately became less sticky and more manageable, without risking, as Bruno observed, "changing the ratio of the flour in the dough."

After 10 minutes of kneading, Bruno declared the dough ready. "I would describe this as supple now."

Most recipes call for the dough to be put to rise in an oiled bowl covered by a damp cloth. Bruno went to fetch what he calls his "fermentation vessel" and returned, rather disappointingly, with a simple large plastic crate, such as you would store files or sweaters in. 

"The dough won't stick to this surface. You don't need oil." He put the dough in the box and covered it with the matching plastic lid. "This helps with the humidity," he explained. "Better than a cloth."

The dough rested 1- 2 hours, or until doubled in size. When it was ready, Bruno punched it down and split the dough in half (for four loaves, divide the dough in quarters), and from there divided each piece again into 6 equal portions (Bruno used 6 braisd per load but you can use 3, too -- in which case just divide the remaining dough into 3 equal portions).  He placed the dough pieces on floured parchment paper, and let them rest another 15 minutes.

By then the dough was ready to be rolled, by hand, into long ropes of equal size and width, tapered at the ends. Bruno did by starting his rolling with both hands in the center, and rolling his hands out in opposite directions over the dough, as if he were running his hands up and down over a keyboard.  

Then he took six of the ropes and braided them into one long enormous loaf -- pinching the ends to seal them and tucking them underneath. Then he did the same thing the other loaf. He then covered them under floured, as opposed to damp, linen cloths and let them stand until they had nearly doubled again in size -- a half hour or so.

When ready to bake the loaves, make sure the wood oven is at 350 degrees (the same temperature you would bake them in an electric oven).

In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg and, with a brush, paint the tops of the loaves. Sprinkle artfully with the seeds.

In wood oven or stove, the load should take about 20 minutes. It's ready when it's golden and a toothpick shoved into the middle comes out dry.


The Best Grilled Cheese 

The same French friend of mine, Bruno Francois, who perfected the above recipe for challah, also taught me how to make the perfect grilled cheese. The key lies in toasting both sides of each slice of bread. In other words, you butter the slices and, before putting the cheese in, toast what will be the interior sides, over low heat in a cast iron pan. Then you add the cheese, assembling it as a sandwich, and toast the outsides of the bread slices while the cheese inside melts. You can cover it with a lid to expedite the cheese melting if the bread is getting too toated.

Leftover challah lends itself well to this method of making grilled cheese. The toasted sides restored a needed crunch to the otherwise listless “crust”; the soft, eggy sweetness of the bread’s interior nicely complemente a melted sharp, salty cheese, such as gruyere (the only cheese Bruno considers suitable for grilled cheese FYI).  

 * * *

Moshe Basson’s “Biblical” Tomato Soup

Basson’s version of his mother’s tomato soup is at the center of his soup-tasting trio.                           Photo courtesy of Eucalyptus.

By Danielle Frum

Every time I go to Jerusalem, I unfailingly reserve one night to eat at Eucalyptus, the restaurant owned by celebrity chef Moshe Basson. It’s housed in an ancient building across the road from the magnificent Jaffa Gate, overlooking the walls of the Old City. Here Basson serves a type of cooking he describes as “a modern interpretation of Biblical cuisine.”

Call it the original slow food. According to the restaurant’s website:

Chef Basson’s passions for biblical culture drove him to research and resurrect recipes, spices, and local and wild herbs that were part of the traditional cuisine, and were neglected and nearly forgotten for centuries. Every dish has its origins in biblical scenes and all the spices and herbs used grow, as in ancient times, in the surrounding hills of Jerusalem and Judea.

At Eucalyptus there is an outdoor terrace from which to glimpse a lit-up view of the old city– but I enjoy as much, if not more, the restaurant’s cellar-like interior with its thickly cut limestone walls and tiled floors. On my last visit, Basson greeted me and my guests at the door -- and immediately forbade us to order from the menu. Instead a parade of tasting dishes began to arrive at our table – each one, as promised, a modern innovation of an ancient or traditional regional dish.

For appetizers there were: Fish falafel in a piquant tomato sauce, with chick peas and coriander leaves; Roasted cauliflower, hot and crispy in Har Bracha tahini; fattouch with vegetables, leafy greens, sumac, mint, wood sorrel, toasted bread.

Along came a trio of soups with some exotic dips on the side, including a pesto made from fresh hyssop, followed by dark, moist figs stuffed with chicken in tamarind sauce. At this point, our eyes, and stomachs, were bulging and still we hadn’t gotten to the main courses! But nor could we resist tasting them when, sure enough, they began to arrive with the same military regularity.

Beef and eggplant stew in a sweet and sour tamarind sauce from my mother's kitchen; Slow cooked neck of lamb with root vegetables stewed in a clay dish; and lastly one of the dishes he is most famous for, King Solomon cous cous. It is prepared in three ways: a vegetarian version with chick peas, braised leeks and five vegetables, or with fish, or braised lamb. When there’s a large crowd, Basson will step out and serve the cous cous personally from an enormous steaming pan.

Just as we were ready to roll over and plead no more food, Basson came out from the kitchen to join as at our table. He is a jovial, large-framed man with a wide, friendly face. He wears his long, silvered hair pulled sharply back in a tidy braid that twists down over his double-breasted white chef’s coat. It gives him an oddly Navajo-like appearance; maybe the Negev is not so very far from the Mojave.

Basson is a leader in Israel’s Slow Food movement, and also the organization Chefs for Peace, which, as the name suggests, attempts to transcend the region’s political issues through food. Like many of the chefs I met in Israel, however, Basson became most passionate about his cooking when speaking of it in connection with his family– in his case his mother, who inspired many of his dishes. I say inspired because apparently she is very secretive about her recipes, and will rarely share them, even with her son-the-famous-chef.
So for example, his mother makes a tomato soup with mint and garlic that Basson has tried to replicate “hundreds of times, but it is still not hers.”

“She won’t tell you how to make it?” I’m amused but somewhat astonished.

“No. She will not give me the recipe,” he replies genially. He turns to one of my guests -- my 13-year-old daughter, who is entranced by the smiling braided man and his storytelling. (It’s this latter quality that made Basson the break-out star of the most recent London-based Gefiltefest, an annual Jewish food festival, in June.)

“For cooking,” he explained to my daughter, “you need a good memory. I started to understand this when I was trying to make my mother’s soup. So you take all the ripe tomatoes – it doesn’t matter how much – and the onions, and you are always checking. But you are ignoring your senses. You realize, it’s not about this much lemon, or this much sugar. It’s all about the scent.”

Capturing the scent of his mother’s soup was the key to Basson’s ability to capture his mother’s recipe – or at least a version of it that satisfied him.

Fortunately, unlike his mother, Basson is willing to share the recipe with others. So here it is!

Serves 6 as an appetizer.

4 tbs olive oil
2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2.5 pds semi-ripe tomatoes, diced
2-3 tbs granulated sugar, depending on the tartness or sweetness of the tomatoes you use
1 ½ tbs Kosher salt
Lemon juice from one medium-sized lemon
1 quart vegetable broth or water
1 tbs fresh thyme

7 whole mint leaves with stems

In a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and fry the onion until golden. Add the garlic cloves and continue to sauté until lightly brown. Add the diced tomatoes, stir, and then season with salt and sugar (according to Basson’s note as to the type of tomatoes). 

Add the lemon juice, water or broth, bring to a boil, and let boil for three or more minutes, until the density and taste is to your liking.

Remove from heat, add the fresh thyme, and use an immersion blender or food processor to blend until smooth.

Return to the saucepan and bring to a simmer for a minute or two more. Add the fresh mint leaves and let cook for another minute. Remove from heat.

Chef Basson suggests letting it sit “for a while” to allow all the flavor to expand.

“It gets better the more it sits,” he advises. “Beteavon (enjoy)!”

* * *

Taizu's Chick Pea Koftas in Curry Sauce, Southern Indian Style 

Chick Pea Koftas in Curry Sauce. Photos courtesy of Taizu. 

By Danielle Frum

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with chef Yuval Ben Neriah of the white hot restaurant, Taizu, in Tel Aviv. Ben Neriah has managed to fuse together the Jewish love of Asian food with, well, the Jewish love of Mediterranean food. I was, admittedly, somewhat skeptical. Faced with the Taizu menu – altogether so entirely foreign I couldn’t even BEGIN to taste the flavors in my head – I couldn’t imagine how Yuval made this work:
Taizu Tartar
Crispy Rice Cone, Black Sesame Seeds, Soy Foam, Flying Fish Roe
Salmon Peking
Chinese pancakes, Hoisin Sauce, Salmon Roe, Micro Celery
Shanghainese Dumplings
Veal Cheeks, Beef Soup, Pstachio Masala, Pomegranate Broth
Black Cod Fish
Tomatoes Honey, Peanut, Crispy Shallots, White Peach
Like, seriously?
“I take inspiration from the street food of five South Asian cultures,” Yuval told me, as we sat one morning in the beautifully designed modern glass-and-wood interior that is Taizu. “Chinese, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and India.”
Was this some longtime affinity with Asian cuisine, I asked him? Why these five cultures? Why street food?
Interestingly, the Israeli-born Yuval had little experience with this type of cuisine. He allowed that he had always been “attracted to Asian food” not least because its appeal to him “is much like storytelling. There is a story to every dish – the layers of sauces, spices, and textures.”
Before founding Taizu, he was the executive chef at the well-known and highly regarded Herbert Samuel restaurant. When the opportunity arose to start Taizu, he followed his dream and spent four months – with two sous chefs – traveling the five countries of interest and experiencing their food cultures.
“Before I started the journey, I didn’t realize that street food would be my inspiration,” he said. “Over there, everything starts from the street.”
This week we are proud to publish Yuval’s recipe for chick peak koftas in curry sauce. When I received the recipe from Yuval I was again skeptical. This was so beyond my comfort zone of cooking -- a lot of exotic ingredients, a lot of chopping. And I had absolutely no feel for how the recipe might turn out.
However I gamely, if nervously, tried it. All the ingredients turned out to be readily available at Whole Foods. Much of the chopping could be done in the Cuisinart. It ended up being way more simple than the recipe seemed at first. And: what a hit. The chick pea “koftas” are delectably moist patties simmering in maybe the best curry sauce I’ve ever tasted. The sauce alone could be adapted to other dishes, such as braised chicken thighs. In any case I urge you to give it a go. Serve with a big bowl of jasmine rice, prepared according to directions on the package.
Serves 6

For the Sauce:

1/3 cups canola oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
5 dried whole chilies, shredded 
A handful of curry leaves if available, otherwise omit
 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
7 shallots finely chopped
5 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 lime thinly sliced
2 tbsp brown sugar
4  plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1\8 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
2 1/2 cups of coconut milk

For the chickpea koftas:

1 1/2 cups chick pea flour (with slightly more, if necessary)
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp lime juice
3/4 tbsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 small ginger bulb grated
1 big white onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeno chili, deseeded and coarsely chopped
Zest of 1/2 lime, grated
1 1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 carrots grated
1 1/2 cups finely chopped leaks
1/2 cup fresh green peas (frozen are fine, if fresh are unavailable)  
For the sauce: 

Heat oil in a large .deep frying pan over medium heat. Add fenugreek, cumin, chilies and, if using, curry leaves and fry until lightly browned.

Turn the heat to high and add ginger, shallots, and garlic and fry for two minutes. Add turmeric and yellow curry and fry for another minute. Add lime, sugar, tomatoes and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes start breaking apart. Add water, salt, and coconut milk and bring to boil.

Turn the heat off.
For the koftas:

Mix all ingredients in a Cuisinart for five minutes.  
Form koftas (golf-sized balls) using wet hands and throw them into the sauce. (*Note: the kofta dough can be moist. If it seems that it is falling apart and won't hold its form, add a bit more chick pea flour.)

When the koftas have been added, bring the sauce again to boil, turn the heat low and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve over steaming hot jasmine rice.

* * *


Super-Tuscan Grilled Rib Steak (with Polish Sides)

Chef at Il Latini Ristorante brandishes the Florentine restaurant's famous porterhouse. We found the same recipe works just as well with a whacking big rib steak. Photo courtesy of Il Latini.

[Editor's note: For side dishes please scroll down.]

By David Frum

Years ago, my family enjoyed one of the great steak dinners of our lives at a restaurant in Florence called Il Latini  The distinctive beef of the Florentine steak, or fiorentina,  is unavailable in North America. But thanks to the coaching of Pam, our genius local butcher in Washington, D.C. (who reigns over the meat counters at Wagshal's), we were able to simulate pretty much everything -- minus the restaurant’s atmosphere of realistic plastic hams dangling over long tables covered in red-checkered tablecloths. 

Start with the cut: The non-Kashrut-observing Italians would use a porterhouse, but we have found a bone-in rib steak works just as well. The thicker the better. Three inches ideal. Don’t be daunted by the seeming huge size of the steak. Once cooked, you’ll slice it into strips for individual service. A 3-inch one-rib steaks feeds at least three people, unless one of them is a boy home from college. 

Next step is the seasoning. We use Schwartz’s Steak and Beef Spice from the famous Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen in Montreal (“Charcuterie Herbraique Montreal, Inc.”), Most steak-grilling snobs will tell you not to add anything more than salt, pepper and olive oil to a great piece of meat, and they are right. Schwartz’s, however, has managed to create that perfect combo of salt and pepper, with a little bit of kick to it that will not offend purists — and yet it creates a lip-smacking seasoned crust. (Fun fact: Schwartz’s was purchased in 2012 by French-Canadian Canadian singer, Celine Dion. I’m guessing she orders crates of the spice flown down to her in Vegas.) It’s available online for $4.75 CDN per bottle just not, alas, through FT&V — or we would have retired by now. 

If the meat is well selected, aged, and butchered, and in the absence of Schwartz’s, the ideal seasoning is very simple: salt, pepper, maybe a little crushed garlic. It should be applied generously, to create a crust. I'll use about one-quarter of a bottle of the rub on one large rib steak.

Now comes the secret ingredient: a cast iron pan. The difficulty in cooking a thick, thick steak on a gas barbecue is that the outside can be charred before the inside is cooked. Here’s the work-around.

Place the pan on the grill even before you ignite. Pre-heat the grill very, very hot, over 500 degrees. The pan will become even hotter. Place the steaks on the grill and immediately reduce the heat, down to about 400 degrees. Close the lid, but stand nearby: if you hear warning signs that fat from the steaks has created a flame, you’ll want to intervene promptly. You’ll want to cook the first side for about 8 minutes, depending on the strength of your grill and the exact dimensions of the steak. 

Then, flip the steaks into the hot iron pan on their opposite side. Cook in pan for about 10-12 minutes, again depending on strength of grill and size of steaks. 

If you have a smaller grill or pan to work with, you can conserve space by starting one steak in the pan and the other on the grill, then swapping them. 

The basic concept is to grill one side of the steak - and fry the other. This double method produces a steak that wraps the seared outside of the classic American barbecued steak around the succulent interior of a steak cooked on the stovetop. 

Remove the finished steaks from the grill and let sit for 10 minutes. Remember that the meat will continue cooking while sitting, so you want to pull the meat from the grill a little before it reaches its desired temperature. Unless you have considerable experience gauging the doneness of meat by eye or touch, you’ll want to use a meat thermometer to ensure that these unusually thick steaks have in fact reached the desired temperature. The Italians eat their beef rare, or 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature. Most North Americans prefer medium rare, 130-140 degrees.  

As soon as the meat has settled, carve on the diagonal into long slices of half an inch or less. As you near the bone, the meat becomes leaner and the slices will of necessity become straighter and smaller. Different people may prefer different parts, or give each guest some of each section for the optimal blend of meat and fat. 

Suggested sides from Anne Applebaum's and Danielle (Crittenden) Frum's cookbook, "From a Polish Country House Kitchen."

  1. Grandpa Ben's Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 to 6. 

2 large seedless English cucumbers
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs chopped fresh dill
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 ice cube
Salt and freshly ground pepper 

Peel the cucumbers. Slice them as thinly as you can with a knife, or use a mandoline (the thinner and more translucent they are, the more elegant the salad). Put in a medium bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients including the ice cube. Allow the cucumbers to marinate in the refrigerator for about one hour. Taste, adjust with salt and pepper if necessary, and serve. 

  1. Beet, Cherry, and Garlic Salad

Serves 4 to 6. 

2/3 lb smallish red beets
1/3 lb sour cherries, halved and pitted
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
For the dressing:
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp grapeseed or other very light oil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.  
Wash and trim the beets and wrap them in foil. (Depending on the size of the beets, you can put three and four together in foil packages.) Place them in a shallow roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until they feel soft when pierced through the foil, but are still firm enough to be grated or sliced. Remove from the oven, open up the foil packets, and let cool. Slip off the skins (they should rub off easily). Cut the beets into thin strips or else grate coarsely. 
Make the dressing: Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. 
When ready to serve, put the beets, cherries, onion, and garlic in a medium bowl and toss with the dressing. Serve at room temperature. 

III. New Potato and Yellow Bean Salad 

Serves 6. 

2 lb small yellow or white new potatoes, with their skins on, thickly sliced
1 lb yellow beans, trimmed
Juice of one lemon
2 tbs Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh dill

Boil the potatoes in a saucepan fillked with salted water to cover until soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Boil the beans separately in salted water, about five minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and rinse under cold water. 

In a salad bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly dribble in the olive oil, whisking continuously until the mixture is emulsified. Toss the potatoes and beans in the dressing, add the dill, and toss again. Serve at room temperature.


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