My opening speech for my Cooking Sessions / Oksana

Shalom

My name is Oksana. I come from a small place in Israel called: Moshav Kadesh Barnea.

“Moshav” is a small village. Our Moshav is located in the Israeli desert, on the south of Israel. We are 55 families in the Moshav.

I am married to Chami and we have 4 daughters: Yulia – our eldest – is Twenty two (22), Gali – is Thirteen (13), Tamar – Eleven (11) and Michal is four (4).

Oksana's cooking session, Munster, Indiana, USA

I love to cook !

I always loved it and I cooked since I remember myself.

I was born in the city of Vitebsk in Belarus.

European food. Lots of “Kartoshka” – which is the Russian word for Potatoes.

My grandmother – Nadia – woke every morning and she would put on pastry.

If I asked her “Babushka, what will you make today ?” she would answer: “I did not make up my mind yet. We’ll see what will come out“.

And it would come out !

Sometimes Pirashki – which is stuffed pastry, baked and fried, and sometimes Bellini – which looks like French Crepe, but much thicker. Sometimes rolls with good things inside.

Kansas City Sonshein

Fresh fruits and vegetables were – of course – only on summer.

That’s why in the summer we were making lots of jam for the winter.

When people ask me today how do I know how to make Jams,

I answer: I grew on Jams.

As a child I lived in Kazakhstan, in a classified army base that I cannot even visit today.

The food was completely deferent.

Strong tastes, hot and spicy Asian food.

Nomads’ food: Casseroles, Porridges, Grilled meat.

munster. IN

My mother liked this food a lot.

We always had the local salads in our fridge: Hot cabbage salad and Ajika – a paste of red peppers hot as fire.

I learned in Moscow. It was in the high institute for Geology. I learned to be an Economy Geologist. If you ever find oil near your house – call me.

Moscow is a big and lively city !

It’s got everything.

It was there that I discovered the Armenian food, the Georgian food, the Italian and the French food.

And of course McDonald’s. Till today I remember the long lines that you had to stand for getting a roll with a patty. But an American one !

When I started to cook for my family, I discovered that in my own kitchen everyone feels at home. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Moscow on its all aspects, are all part of my kitchen and my dishes.

על השולחן תפוחי אדמה

About twenty years ago I made Aliyah to Israel. It means I immigrated to Israel.

I was surprised to see how much Israeli food was deferent and yet similar to the ones I knew.

I found that the extra hot paste that my mother used to make back home is called in Hebrew “Zchoog” and it came to Israel from Yemen.

I found that the fried puff pastry that used my fast food as a child, they call in Israel Melawach and he also made Aliyah from Yemen. At home we ate it with sugar and in Israel they eat it with tomato paste.

Pastry stuffed with potato puree or meat is in Israel sometimes a Ravioli and sometimes it is Krepalach and I knew it as Pilmeni.

And then I got to lunch time in a Kibbutz on the Galilee Mountains called Cabri.

על השולחן טארט גבינות עיזים

Kibbutz is a unique Israeli invention: a small kind of a village based on the ideals of Socialism, cooperation and equality. It means that everybody is eating in the same place and is eating the same food.

I learned Hebrew there and on this lunch they served meat balls. Very much similar to the ones my mother made.

It took me only one bite to see that there is a mistake and that they forgot to put the meat inside. And then they told me that for the residents it is a happy day when they serve those balls that are made of Humus and are called: Falafel.

And I wanted real meat balls so much.

Step by step I discovered all the variety of Israeli Food. And I love it.

On my culinary journey I had few more stages.

על השולחן טראפלס

When I met Chami, he invited me to a restaurant and he recommended on skewer of fried Halumi cheese. I thought this was the best dish in the world.

Later on goose liver was the thing for me and I made lots of dishes with it.

Today I can say that the food I love most is Home cuisine.

Now, home cuisine is Israel, as all other things in Israel, is a complicated thing.

What I mean is food that you cook and you eat in everyday life. Where you use available ingredients, not expensive ones and that it doesn’t take hours to make.

Home foods pass in the family. Some of them we learn from our neighbors, friends and even from our kids.

Home cuisine in Israel is so much diversified.

We have a Moroccan food, Persian food, Russian food, Jewish food Algerian Iraqi and lots of other foods.

There is an exciting dialog among them.

On one family meal I sometimes find: Chrayme – which is hot fish in tomatoes that came from Morocco; Stir fried chicken in Chinese style; Kneidalach soup from Poland, Green rice from Persia and for dessert a chocolate soufflé or cream broole, directly from Paris.

* * *

על השולחן סלמון ברוטב רימון

Israeli Home cuisine will always have strong and clear taste: Lemon, Garlic, Fresh Herbs and Olive Oil will always play a central role among the recipes.

* * *

In Israel we eat many vegetables. There is a whole world, from vegetables salad to delicious cakes made of vegetables.

The queen of vegetables is the Tomato of course.

We eat tomatoes with everything: Salad, Pasta, Soup, fish and others.

The king of my kitchen is obviously the Eggplant. I don’t know any place where the Eggplant gets that kind of respect like in Israeli kitchens. With Mayonnaise, In Tahina, roasted and we even have Eggplants Jams.

על השולחן מרק עגבניות שרי

In my kitchen are always some salads that I prepare every few days and it is very easy. I can use them to make meals for the family and for guests.

Of course, one of the most unique issues about Israeli kitchen is the Kashrut.

In Israel, everyone has his own perception about what is Kosher and what is not.

When I have guests that I do not know well enough, I will mostly make a meal that will not contain non-kosher meats and there will be no diary desserts.

The Israeli home cuisine is developing all the time. It is open to new flavors and anyone can find his own tastes in it.

On our journey around the world I enrich my kitchen with new special recipes that I collect from the people whom I meet and cook with.

I would like to learn from you about the food that you make at home. What you love to eat and the food that you remember from your mother’s kitchen.

With love. Oksana.

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