Monday, April 27, 2009

Quest for oil

I'm hosting a very small Shabbat dinner this weekend. Not in my apartment, which as we know is unfit for human habitation. A new-ish friend of mine lives around the corner, and she suggested we throw a potluck. Since her apartment only seats six, I volunteered to do all the cooking; she'll take care of the challah and dessert, since I don't bake very often.

What to serve? Well, since two of the guests are vegetarians, I decided to make quiche, which I'm good at. Or used to be -- it's been years since I've made one. I didn't want to drive myself crazy, so I decided I'd make two quiches (spinach/garlic, broccoli/cumin), baked sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and two salads -- Israeli salad with chickpeas, and Weird Salad.

I invented Weird Salad, and I'm proud of it. Years ago I was invited for a meal and asked what I could bring. The host wasn't sure if another guest was bringing vegetables or a green salad; their last conversation was apparently somewhat ambiguous.

"I'll bring a weird salad," I said, "something unique, so that if someone else brings a green salad, it'll still be different." Then I went to the supermarket to scout out ingredients.

The base had to be romaine lettuce -- most West Side Shabbos salads are based on iceberg. What unique things go well with romaine? Avocados, sure. And they were on sale. I saw a can of hearts of palm and grabbed that. And I saw a bottle of garlic olive oil. It was kosher, so I took that as well. I had balsamic vinegar at home. So I assembled those five ingredients and came up with an amazing salad. Everyone loved it.

I've made Weird Salad on several other occasions, so I thought it would be fun to serve it this Shabbos. Problem: my local supermarket no longer stocks kosher garlic olive oil.

That was annoying, but I figured I could just cut up some garlic, marinate it in olive oil, and use that. Which I reflected in my next Facebook status update:

Ayelet is annoyed at the lack of kosher garlic-infused olive oil. I have to do EVERYTHING myself...

Well, it's not quite that simple. A friend of mine let me know that making your own garlic-infused olive oil can lead to botulism. Weird Salad has only five ingredients, and none of them are botulism. So I decided to search for kosher garlic-infused olive oil. After all, I'm on the Upper West Side, home of as many foodies as Orthodox Jews. Surely Fairway has kosher garlic-infused olive oil.

Surely not. Neither does Zabar's, or Food Emporium, or Broadway Farm. Or Kosher Marketplace. Or Supersol.

Dr. R and I had discussed me starting a modest little exercise program -- ten minutes a day -- after Pesach. The bad cold I contracted in Israel delayed the onset of this program. I suppose I could have started yesterday but I wasn't in the mood.

Well, I made up for it today. I trudged from store to store for about an hour and 45 minutes, looking at dozens of bottles and cans of olive oil from all over the world, until I finally found kosher garlic-infused olive oil in a store I haven't patronized in years. It's about nine blocks away from my apartment, which in Manhattan might as well be nine miles.

I was so happy and relieved, I bought about 10 pounds of locally grown apples as well as the oil. Maybe I'll cook the sweet potatoes with apples. Not sure yet.

The store's layout has changed, and apparently I misunderstood how to stand in the checkout line.

"There's a line," barked a woman as I hesitantly approached one of the cash registers. I thought I'd gotten there before she did, so I walked over toward in front of her.

"I was here first!" she snapped. Oh-kay. I walked behind her. "Thank you," she hissed.

I held back from saying, "Apparently you need something to cling to, and I guess line etiquette will do ya...." But I wonder if I react that unpleasantly when I'm on line and other people seem to be trying to get in front of me. Food for thought.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. The food sounds delicious but what the heck are LOCALLY grown apples? You live in New York city. Kinda like getting fish from the Hudson?

  2. I am not a vegetable eater. I'm just not. But the food you're describing still sounds divine.

    Bon appetite.

  3. Locally grown apples come from Long Island or Westchester as opposed to New Zealand.

  4. Only on the Upper West Side would a meal for six be described as very small!