I am writing to you now from Ben Gurion airport, all packed up and with one final bag of trail mix put together from my favorite spice shop in the shuk. When I go through Israeli airport security, my fiance, Adam, knows how much I usually love the interrogation and level of detail the security people demand. Sure! I’ll tell them why I went to Morocco and who I traveled with in Jordan, and why I interviewed Iranians in Israel–even if it means an additional 45 minutes of waiting in lines, being escorted to different lines and counters, answering the same questions over and over.
“Where did you live in Israel?”
“Well, first we lived in the German Colony, then we moved to Nachlaot, which was much better because it’s younger, there’s more to do, more stimulation, the shuk, more–“Do you have family here?”
“Well, no, not yet. I hope one day my family will move here because I love living here but I really miss them a lot when–Why were you in Morocco and Jordan?”
This time though, choking back tears while alone at the airport, the questions felt taunting, like a playground bully who whispers the wrong answer into your ear after the teacher has asked you to perform quick arithmetic on the spot.
“How do you pronounce your last name?” “Wilner.” “Do you have an additional photograph ID?” “Yes.” “Why were you in Israel?” “I was just visiting a bit.” Inside I was screaming, “It’s me, friend! What’s with the formality? We’re mish-puh-chuh (family, as my dad would say) now!” Yet she kept fighting me! “What did you do here exactly?” Would you please show me your signature?”
I’ve made it to the gate now. And I am avoiding eye contact with everyone (especially the one person I know whose sitting nearby me) so I don’t have to face where I’m going, why I’m leaving, how I feel about leaving or whether I will be coming back. I’m about to board the plane, and then it will all actually be real. I will really have left behind my apartment, friends and glorious little kitchen where all this cooking magic began. New people will move in, open my fridge, fill up my cabinets, and bake in my oven without knowing me or the laughter that surrounded our dining table. But I still have all my buddies at the shuk who gave me warm goodbyes: Nahit, Noam, Shabbtai, Yosef, Shalom, Coby and Uzi. The red bell pepper man, the two guys who let us take some engagement photos in their vegetable stall and Roni, my generous Hamutzim friend. These are very special things I am taking with me.
So, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m slow on the posting this next week. It’s because I will be in transit. But I have something really wonderful to tide you over. This is a delciously dark chocolate cake, moist, smooth and very intense. There is no special significance why this recipe is today’s posting, other than it is a representation of my kitchen the last few days living in Israel: half-empty spice jars, several half-eaten chocolate bars and a lone orange. So I bring you a delicious recipe, missing some of the “normal” cake ingredients but unique and flavorful on it’s own. And maybe it’s a little bit like my life right now, too: missing some things that have become “normal” in it but still coming together just fine…maybe just as good.
What you need:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c canola oil
3/4 c date honey (or you can use sugar)
3 large eggs
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tblsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
ground pistachio for garnish
How to do it:
Preheat oven to 375 F and butter a 9-in round baking pan. Line the bottom with a round of wax paper and butter it.
Chop chocolate into small pieces. Create a double boiler and melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring, until it’s all smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the date honey/sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs, orange zest and vanilla and combine well. Pour 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate. Cover with your favorite frosting. I did a chocolate-honey-cinnamon frosting. Enjoy! (For the frosting, I just made it up, but it was about: 1 c powdered sugar, 3 tblsp vegetable oil, 3 tsp cinnamon, and 2/3 c cocoa powder–you’ll have some left over).