Ear­li­er this week, Efrat Libfroind wrote about her tribe, cook­ing and self-improve­ment and being a moth­er, a full-time pas­try chef and the only kosher cook­ing stu­dent in class. Her new cook­book, Kosher Ele­gance, is now available.

I didn’t sleep much the night before we start­ed tak­ing pic­tures for my cook­book. It had already been a stress­ful few days. Tak­ing pic­tures meant I final­ly had to decide which recipes were going into the book and which were out. We were not tak­ing any pic­tures which weren’t need­ed – so receipes had to be cho­sen in advance. It was like giv­ing up favorite friends. I love all my recipes. But I had to come to terms with the fact that I need­ed to love some more than oth­ers. Not easy.

Then, I had to shop. I had to get the best of every­thing. Fresh­est, most attractive…because soon cam­eras would be zoom­ing in to every mil­lime­ter of my cook­ing. It had to look good. I shopped in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehu­da shuk. It is an amaz­ing place and it has the most gor­geous food. All I can say is, I must go to the shuk more often.” The best super­mar­kets don’t come close.

After all this, I was toss­ing and turn­ing, not sleep­ing, wor­ry­ing about the big day. I had expe­ri­ence with food pho­tog­ra­phy for mag­a­zines which pub­lished my recipes. And I learned that the best dish­es don’t always appear well in pho­tographs and that it can take an hour (or two) just to get the por­tion to look just like I think it ought to (yes, I am a per­fec­tion­ist). I was wor­ried about what my book would look like.

We start­ed tak­ing pic­tures at 6 A.M. A whole slew of peo­ple were involved: Pho­tog­ra­phers, assis­tant pho­tog­ra­phers, food styl­ists, light­ing staff….and me. I am sure they’d have been hap­py not to have me there – at times I made them a bit crazy – things didn’t always look exact­ly like I want­ed them and I was pret­ty pro­tec­tive of my food – I want­ed the pic­tures to be perfect.

We end­ed close to mid­night that first day. We could bare­ly stand on our feet. All in all, it real­ly was a great day. We did eat a lot of the food I pre­pared, so that was a plus.

Most of the pho­tog­ra­phy took place in my house (except for 2 gru­el­ing ses­sions in a stu­dio). Since my kids would get home from school while we were still work­ing I need­ed some­thing spe­cial to keep them busy. I broke all my rules and gave them mon­ey to go out and buy….junk food. This is not some­thing we do in our fam­i­ly. My kids were thrilled. They are lob­by­ing me to start work on anoth­er book ASAP.

Mediter­ranean Focaccia

Makes approx­i­mate­ly 15 focac­cias, depend­ing on pan size

In this recipe I man­aged to take focac­cia, which is nor­mal­ly roundish and asym­met­ri­cal, and turn it into a per­fect square. The new shape, togeth­er with a rich Mediter­ranean top­ping, makes this dish unbeatable.

Dough:
3½ – 4 cups flour
1 table­spoon active dry yeast
1½ – 2 cups water
2 table­spoons sug­ar
1 table­spoon salt
4 table­spoons olive oil

Top­ping:
3 table­spoons olive oil
1 bunch rose­mary leaves
1 red onion, diced
2 zuc­chi­ni or 1 small egg­plant, diced
1 hand­ful cher­ry toma­toes, quar­tered
2 cloves gar­lic, crushed
1 hand­ful olives

Dough: Put yeast in a mix­er bowl. Add sug­ar and 1/2 cup of the water. Let yeast stand for 10 min­utes. Add remain­ing ingre­di­ents and com­bine until a soft dough forms. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Top­ping: Heat olive oil and rose­mary in a fry­ing pan. Add onion and sauté on a high flame for about 3 min­utes. Add zuc­chi­ni or egg­plant, toma­toes, and gar­lic, and sauté for 5 min­utes. Remove from heat. Dis­card rose­mary and add olives.

Pre­heat oven to 350°F. Press the dough into any sym­met­ri­cal sil­i­cone mold you choose. If you don’t have sil­i­cone molds, you can make tra­di­tion­al­ly shaped focac­cias. (Divide dough into about 15 balls (for mini-focac­cias, divide into 20 – 25 balls). Shape each ball into a flat oval and pierce with a fork.)

Top dough with a gen­er­ous amount of top­ping and bake for about 20 minutes.

Tip: You can sub­sti­tute whole wheat flour for white flour, but you may need to add 1/4 cup water.

Tip: For an even rich­er taste, sprin­kle focac­cias with cubes of feta cheese 5 min­utes before they are fin­ished baking.

Efrat Libfroind is the author of Kosher Ele­gance. She will be post­ing all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.